Creativity, stories and surprises – why I dig HR!

People ask me why I like working in HR. They seem to think my days are spent listening to complaints and disciplining people – which is actually a very small part of my role (maybe I’m the exception not the rule?). So I thought for a bit of Monday happiness I’d share my favourite parts of working in HR.

#1. Creating weird names for things.
I reflect fondly on the many times my HR counterparts and I sat around brainstorming the name of the next performance appraisal, what theme the next quarter should have or how we could inject the fun into policies. It’s like unleashing your inner Advertising Guru, only you are not a guru you just hope that some random catchy genius will find you.

#2. I get inspired by cool people
Some humans are just god-damn amazeballs. Some of my highlights include: watching people complete qualifications for the first time; seeing coaching in action; getting to know team members with big ambitions; and witty rhetoric with employees who really live the vision, mission and values. I tip my hat to all of you.

#3. I’m continually surprised 
Whether it be people sharing their funny anecdotes with me, or making epic work faux-pas, the laughs never stop when you are in the know when it comes to people’s lives – such a privilege.

#4. I am get great pleasure and amusement out of HR stereotypes
I adore the way HR is portrayed in mainstream media, it’s glorious! The first time I saw Archer and was introduced to the character of Pam I laughed myself silly. I enjoy a good joke about HR and most of all I enjoy smashing the stereotype.

Happy Monday!

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Looking back and forward 2014/2015

In 2015 I’m going to investigate more about….

  1. Communication design principles. Colour, layout, design, writing style, advertising and connection through visual media – I have to know more! I think there is a real gap in the skill set of HR practitioners in this space. Knowing how to craft communications with excellence beyond a boring poster format and policy speak, I think is the most important skill I will continue to learn this year.
  2. Performance Review Cycle Success – that old chestnut. Generally the feel is that people hate completing them, managers hate running them, the administration is a headache and most models don’t scale well.. there has to be a better way.
  3. Photography. This connects with number 1, but I am going to become really good at taking my own photos to communicate my message and the message of projects I am working on.
  4. Mastering Personal Knowledge Management. I think I have a handle on these principles but I want to get really clear on what this means and looks like in practice, then see where I can take it at work and play.
  5. How to find where top performers come from and what (if any) similarities there are between them. I want to go beyond just identifying top recruitment strategies and training and development pipelines. I want to look at top performers and see what they are made off and what similarities there are between them. Maybe it will be a simple finding, maybe not. Either way I am excited for what knowing this information can bring .

In 2014 I learned…

  1. If you haven’t clearly articulated your Vision, Mission and Values the going will get tough. This applies to work and play, if you can’t articulate what you are about, getting stuff done right will be a challenge. I watched the VMV being crafted for multiple businesses this year as well as the articulation of my own. You can’t make the decisions you need to and it’s difficult to make a bold and courageous move without knowing what they are either.
  2. The power of Vision, Mission, Values and “Getting It”. This year I heard the statement “getting it” become part of how we describe performance. People getting it, not getting it for example “they are technically excellent but they just don’t get it”. Getting it is about someone’s ability to really hook into and feel the vision, mission and values of a business and design their ideas and the way they work to fit into that model. Those that Get It are your future leaders, the ones that you will inspire and will continue to inspire you.
  3. Being resilient ensures growth and success. Keeping your cool in tough situations, managing set backs, being told you can’t or that you are not good enough are constants in every part of your life. If you are able to keep going in the face of danger, uncertainty and “haters” it will make you a force to be reckoned with.
  4. The job you do and the boss you work for will be equally as important. My experiences and the stories of others have highlighted this fact this year. Some people can tough out the agony of a great position and a terrible manager or vice versa – but I think fundamentally you will leave or become vey unhappy… sooner or later
  5. Intellectual and creative pursuits will make you better at your job. This year I went on my first overseas holiday and had a raft of other experiences that changed my priorities and energised me to think differently. I read more widely, watched movies not found at your local cinema, played with design principles and made a bigger effort to explore the world around me. Indeed this (I think) has made me better at my job and better in life in general.

Happy New Year!

Tell them what they want to hear

Communication is a big-ticket item in most organisations. How should we communicate this message, where should we communicate it, will they read it .. all common questions.Remove any ideas about significant change management where the communication problem amplifies, let’s look at day-to-day comms in organisations, let’s look at the gloriously undervalued employee newsletter. Newsletters should have lots of meaningful pictures, short summaries about the article and then a link to further information. People will select what they want to read and read on if they want to.

When designing our communications strategy (including newsletters) why don’t we tell people what they want to hear? There is a big gap between what we want employees to know and what they actually care about.

When I say what they want to hear. What I mean is crafting the message so it fits into what matters most to them. Use your engagement survey to get this information. If not, you could try this amazing idea called talking to people – cutting edge, I know! I could guess that all employees care about anything to do with their pay, changes to operations (that impact them), and any benefits they can get for free (that they value). It’s about filtering your content through the What’s In It For Me looking-glass.

This isn’t a new idea – this is how news stories work. Commercial news stories are developed to hook in to what matters to you. News stories run with the themes of fear, self-improvement, danger and cute animal stories at the end. So to circle back – commercial media is clever because they know what it takes to ensure you don’t change the station. You need to think this way in your communications. Now, I am contrasting video media and written comms here but the message is the same. Write for what your audience wants to hear and make it fit that model.

Most of this time the development of newsletters will sit with HR or if you are lucky you have an internal comms person. This is one of those times where HR practitioners need to look beyond the scope of their HR skills and delve into advertising and design principles. You can’t continue to write for an audience that doesn’t exist – you’re employees do not care about what you have to tell them, they care about what it important to them.

I will continue to muse over this in the coming year…

OD is just HR grown up

Organisational Development (OD)  is what I consider the younger, cooler, more out spoken and rebellious version of HR. OD is inhabited with HR specialists who said HELL NO to boring HR practices and wanted to take on a much broader view of the business. OD specialists are problem solvers and always ask the question “should it be like this?”  and “why are you doing it that way?”.

The evolution of your HR role into an OD role comes from not blindly accepting the status quo. Any HR professional can lift their game and work in the OD space! In my opinion, you are an OD specialist if your role requires you to work accross multiple business units to make work more efficient and improve the employee experience. OD is about developing an organisation to be bigger and better than it was before. Any time you do this it will invariably require some kind of HR Development experience (whether it be knowledge of legislation, adult learning, change management etc).

If you look at OD through my definition then really I do not see that OD deserves to be a separate discipline. I think it’s just HR evolved and eventually OD and HR will be one in the same.

The days of businesses paying for HR specialists to tick boxes are on the way out. We can outsource that stuff – we are now about solving problems. If you are not solving or working on solving a problem everyday, I would start to question the value you add.

I recently read an article in the Industrial and Commercial Training Journal called – Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective. I would recommend reading it if you’ve got the time. It is written from the point of view of an OD Consultant and provides a bit of a framework for getting people to be effective OD Specialists.

It talks about the Challenger Spirit – which is about standing up against the status quo and finding out who is blocking the path to change, echoing some of my initial thoughts. Some of the qualities of the challenger include:

  • taking a broad business view;
  • understanding commercial realities;
  • being prepared to experiment and improvise; and
  • causing some kind of purposeful disturbance.

Sounds just like what HR should be doing, right?

Further Reading

lare Southall , (2014),”Waking ourselves up! Re-examining the role of OD practitioners – a challenger perspective”, Industrial and Commercial Training, Vol. 46 Iss 4 pp. 182 – 187 – http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/ICT-12-2013-0083

Policy snooze stack

I am currently reviewing an induction guide at the moment and I want to ensure that it is the simplest document possible. Only what they need to know, then everything else we can give them along the way. It’s often the simple stuff we actually overlook when someone starts. I have heard stories of new starters not being shown where to store their lunch, where the bathrooms are, how they can access additional uniforms or where they can access their shifts. You know what they got instead – a pile of policies to review and sign.

Snnnnnnnoooooooooozzzzzzzzeeeeeee

So you are telling me that they went through a recruitment process where let me guess, you told them the company was progressive, or exciting, or something else you feel strongly about; then on their first day you sat them down and told them to read a stack of policies. No. No you did not.

There is a better way, but you are going to need to think a little bit harder, stretch yourself and be a bit creative. I know plenty of HR people that tell me that they aren’t creative. Which is crap, because creativity is about taking a concept and changing it up a little bit. We can all do that, we all have something to offer. Use your voice and put it out there.

Build a training plan, try your hand at e-learning development, make a video, create a user friendly checklist, coach your managers. Time allocated to reading documents should not be your new starters introduction to your community.

Let’s make this practice a thing of the past and move towards integrating what needs to be done, in a simple and user friendly way!

Can we fix it, YES WE CAN!

Why policy and conversation should be bff’s

So I found myself a few weeks ago in a discussion on LinkedIn about the use of uniform policies and this guy wrote something along the lines of ..

We work with adults, treat them like adults we don’t need a uniform policy!

Then plenty of others went on to put in their thoughts cheering him on saying “yeah you just need to have a conversation”. Then I came along and rained on everyone’s parade, then the policy police were brought up and then I decided to step away before I said something foolish on social media.

I feel we look at policy the wrong way because we have built this HR rule book feel as a profession. It’s the brand of like HR walking around looking for what people have done wrong and citing the policy. That’s not what I do for a living, no way! But there was a period of time where this was the perceived image of HR – they were the policy police, smacking people for being naughty. So as we emerge from the dark ages and into the dawn of the conversation and HR being more than a compliance team, let’s not be ignorant and let’s think about what policy implementation has taught us.

3 things that we have learned about policy include:

  1. if all you are good for is reciting policy then your career has an expiry date;
  2. if you smack people with policy they really wont like you, their manager or the business; and
  3. policy is kind of essential to keep you out of court and ensure messages are clear.

Businesses are communities, and like any community there are rules you are expected to follow to be part of it.

Think of the communities you belong to whether it be your family, a sport team or a volunteer group. There are expected standards of behaviour of how you will treat each other.

Sometimes we mess up, someone has a conversation with us to see what the hell we were thinking. Sometimes we really make a mess of things, get a talking to and face the consequences. Same goes for at work.

However work has the high stakes of finance, health and safety and legal obligations, so it makes sense to have some kind of documentation to ensure we are on the same page.

So, what does this mean for you as a HR practitioner or line manager? It means we need to respect the policy and treat it like insurance. It’s purpose is a communication tool to share what is expected from people. It serves as a point of reference when an employee claims “they were never told” or “I don’t understand what you mean”.

Have the conversation using the policy to get your facts right, and really, if it escalates then we can start having the tough conversations, that might include, yes a policy reference.

Delete your LinkedIn contacts – they belong to us!

Ahhh LinkedIn, the great online world of professional networking. Would you agree to delete the contacts you may have made during your employment on departure if it was instructed by a workplace policy or your employment contract? Personally, I don’t know how I feel about this.  However we are starting to see cases where employers feel their departing employees are exploiting the connections they have made during their employment. This is especially true in times where employees leave consultancies to start their own competing businesses.

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Firstly from a learning perspective, LinkedIn provides me an amazing opportunity to follow and connect with people who share great articles and perspectives, some of these people I have met through my employment over the years. Reading posts and engaging with these connections makes me a better professional. I wouldn’t like to think that I would need to delete people out of my learning network just because I happened to meet them as part of my role.  On the flip side, if I was an employer and I knew for a fact that a departing employee was using the contacts they had made through me to poach work or employees I would be furious and I too might want to put my foot down and have some strongly worded contracts and policies drafted. Some of the policy recommendations to manage LinkedIn connections mentioned in HR Daily this week include:

  • Defining solicitation in contracts and policies to include “updating employment details on LinkedIn”;
  • Acquiring a list of a persons contacts on commencement; and
  • Requiring them to delete any contacts they made during their employment as part of the departure process and building in a clause to say they can’t add them again for say 6 months.

I think what we are seeing here is a struggle for business to keep up with a connected workforce and business landscape. People are moving in and out of organisations faster than before, people are making connections, building networks and really starting to recognise that this is where the value is, and this is the new world of work. Business owners naturally want to protect themselves from competition and damages however removing people from LinkedIn wont stop solicitation and poaching, It might make it easier but it wont stop it. Building in phrases such as “you are not to use LinkedIn or any social media outlet to solicit clients or employees that may cause damage to blah blah blah company”, might be all you need, but it isn’t guaranteed to work and the court isn’t automatically going to enforce it.

It’s such an evolving area and with very limited case law to go by it’s going to be interesting to watch the law and business come to terms with this new networked world.