Saturday, February 10, 2018

It's Been a While


"Often when you think you are at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." 
Fred Rogers

The last time I posted a blog post was in late 2016.  I was on the road, I was a consultant, I was a business owner.  I was 52.

Fast forward to February 2018, I am a CHRO for one of my former clients and I love it.  I get asked the question at least once a week, "Why did you go back to corporate life?'

I get asked that question a lot by my former consultant colleagues.  As an external consultant, the mantra goes something like this, "I could never go back to work for corporate America."  I said that many times during my consulting career of 20 years.  I can remember saying something similar to my business partner and now dear friend Barbara Hughes, "I would rather scan groceries than work at corporate."  I guess I'd  better call Publix, because here I sit, an employee of a very fast paced, growing business in Atlanta, GA.

The reasons are many, but the stars just lined up at the right time and I am so glad they did.

These reasons are in no particular order-

Reason #1-I know the company.  I had been consulting for them since 2009, and I knew their CEO, their Executive Team, their culture and their challenges.  I like them a lot.  The company has a family feel, and I like that and so do our clients and members.

Reason #2-I want to actually see the end results of projects, recommendations and ideas.  So many times as a consultant, you come up with the best plans but never get to see the end result.

Reason #3-I would not have to live on an airplane and in a Marriott.  I was getting a little tired of being a road warrior.  I was really enjoying my time off at the lake with family and friends.  Travel was becoming more difficult and less fun.

Reason #4-I have figured out that I really like to "fix things" and "problem solve" and "teach people" how to increase their performance at work.  These things take time and you usually can only do these in the short term as a consultant.

Reason #5-I need to be home in Atlanta.  My family needs me.

So, for these reasons when my client asked me to come onsite last December to focus on their benefits challenges, I said yes.  And then, eight months later,  I said yes when they asked to be their CHRO in August of 2017.

I do miss all my consultant friends.  But, we do stay in touch and hopefully we will continue to collaborate just in different roles.

It's been a crazy, fun ride so far.  I thought it would be interesting to dedicate this blog to the real issues that a CHRO deals with, what keeps me up at night and how a growing business navigates its own growth pains.  I say on a weekly basis, "I need to write a book" well this is the next best thing.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Data Driven Approach to Culture Change

I have had the pleasure of contributing to Halogen's Software's TalentSpace blog for the last few years.  They are nice to still ask me to write!

Check out how YOU can take a data driven approach to culture change here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

5 Ways to Deliver HR Services at Lightening Speed

I have noticed over the last year that expectations for speedy HR delivery has increased.  In past years, it was ok to say that an HRIS implementation will take 18 months and a compensation review would take 6 months.  I have been involved with both projects recently and the expectation has been cut in half.  As a consultant, my client feels these pressures, which for me, becomes hard to strike a balance between what the customer wants and how to best deliver a quality project on time and on budget.

The drivers behind these expectations seem to be born out of the organization's business needs.  The business has to deliver quicker, smarter and on time and so should HR.  Another source that impacts the expectation around HR service delivery is our own profession telling us to "be more strategic."  Its hard to be strategic when you are mired in inefficient processes and legacy technology.

As I look back over the last year's worth of projects and customers, I have noticed five common themes in terms of making sure HR service delivery is successful:

1) Does leadership support HR's vision for effectiveness and efficiency?  Business leaders just want things done correctly and timely.  Timely usually means today or even yesterday.  HR must be able to articulate the value of improving service delivery and WHY it matters to the business.  A business case is the best tool for this type of communication.

2) What is the current state of HR delivery?  Be careful what you ask your customers.  A simple survey regarding performance and importance of HR services can be a huge eye-opener.  For example, you ask managers what they value most from HR, and they respond management training but give HR a needs improvement.  What do you do?

3) Is there opportunity for process improvement BEFORE any technology solution is considered?  Do not automate bad processes.  If you have a recruiting process that is cumbersome and paper intensive, automating that process to "paperless" won't make it a better process.  If you automate multiple approvals with complicated routing, you will be at the same exact place you started, minus a huge stack of requisitions.

4) What is the impact to employees?  If any HR process changes, HR needs to explain the WIIFM clearly to employees.  When you announce an Employee Self Service approach, do you think employees think that benefits them or HR?  I have heard comments like, "what is HR doing now, that they aren't processing my W-4's?

5) How will I know HR is successful?  Calculate the ROI.  Period.  End of story.  In addition to ROI make sure you have a very good set of HR metrics coupled with analytics that point to HR efficiency, effectiveness and HR IMPACT!!!!

I believe my job is to be able to support HR leadership in the five areas above.  Its difficult to manage all of these balls in the air, but I love it.  I enjoy working in this profession that is changing rapidly both in terms of expectations but also skills sets and definitions for success.  I say, "Let's be more than an HR business partner, Lets be a BUSINESS LEADER, that just happens to get HR!"

Monday, January 18, 2016

Creating Performance Metrics is Just the Beginning

Many times over the last two years I have worked with clients that wanted to create performance metrics for their organizations.  The clients have often thought that once you have these metrics the skies are blue and everything is done.  Well, unfortunately that can’t be farther from the truth.  Once performance metrics are created, organizations automatically set the expectation that “things are different” and we are now “accountable.”  What if the culture is one where metrics have not been important and performance is not a top priority?  The next issue after metrics are created becomes that of the potential of uncovering inefficient processes.  Now what? Who is in charge of re-engineering that process?  Who is going to make sure our culture is performance based?

The key is to make sure when you are considering creating performance metrics whether in HR or any other function in the organization that you use the best practice of including change management and process improvement in the initiative.  All three parts are essential for metrics to be successful. 

I had the honor of discussing this three-pronged approach with two very smart colleagues of mine, SusanHagood, Evolution Management, Inc. and AliciaButler Pierre, Equilibria, Inc.    Susan is a subject matter expert in the area of Change Management and Alicia in the area of process improvement.  Below are some of their observations regarding the need to take a more holistic approach when creating performance metrics.

Change Management
In todays ever changing business environment change is becoming the norm for most organizations.  I think about my clients and it’s easier to count the ones that DON’T have a change in progress. 

When embarking on establishing performance metrics organizations are best served when changes to people, process and practices are considered and acted upon.  .  Metrics can uncover inefficiencies, skill gaps and production issues.  With this in mind, employees need to understand WHY the organization is moving in a direction of higher performance.  The need for clarity is probably the one of the most basic components of change.  Explaining the WHY behind the WHAT goes a long way with employees.  This message needs to come from the top down and not be in “consultant speak”, but in words that employees can relate to. 

In order to get buy in from employees on the upcoming change Ms. Hagood suggests:

“From a change management perspective, it’s important to invite the employee to share their ideas about the efficiencies and continuous improvement of their roles and responsibilities.   They are on the front line – what does it take to be successful? What would make the work easier, faster, and more customer-focused?  It’s very important with any personal change that is going to be required of an employee that they understand why the change is necessary and that they have a voice in what that change will look like.  Encouraging the dialogue and planning that supports change planning can be very motivating and exciting to the employee – just the type of engagement the employer is looking for”

Ms. Hagood, discusses the importance of communications throughout the change initiative:

“During times of change – remember to communicate as frequently as possible through as many avenues as possible, since employees may not be exposed to certain messages.   You can’t communicate too much.”

To read more from Debbie King also from Evolution Management and Susan on change click here. 

Process Improvement

Many times as organizations will measure cycle times, backlogs, quality and customer service, which can point to a need for process improvement.   When this is the case it’s important to keep in mind, the process owner. 

According to Alicia Butler Pierre, “Process owners have the responsibility of ensuring that: 1) the process works, 2) people know the process and how to follow it, and 3) the right metrics are being used to track performance. “

When asked, “How would you ensure that the metrics are used to actually improve the process?” Ms. Pierre offered this insight:

“Processes and metrics go hand-in-hand and both should be tied to performance evaluation.  Otherwise, they will simply sit on the shelf and collect dust.  Processes are intended to be fluid, not static.  In fact, the lack of change usually means the lack of innovation and growth for the organization.  If you aren’t measuring, then you aren’t improving and if you aren’t changing, then you aren’t growing.”

“The Six Sigma methodology offers a proven formula to ensure processes and their associated metrics are used for continuous improvement.  It includes using historical data to first define a baseline or expected level of performance of a process.  Afterwards, you can measure and track metrics on a graph to monitor upward or downward trends.    Upward trends could indicate a rock-star performer.  Downward trends could indicate that either the process needs to be improved or the performer may need additional training."

Using the right metrics along with a solid change management plan allows Process Owners to identify when poor performance is the result of a process or people-related problem.  To read more about this, click here.

Metrics are designed with continuous improvement in mind, whether it is people, process or practice related.  Having sound change management and process improvement principles will ensure successful measurement outcomes. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Don't Forget This Important Stakeholder Group in Your Change Plan!

Susan Richards,  Managing Director, Steelbridge Solutions, Inc is our guest blogger this week.  Susan has extensive experience leading change in organizations and for clients.  Susan has been a consultant specializing in the HR space for 20+ years.  Her methodology for change management is both simple yet effective.  Educate your stakeholders on the change and let them know what to expect before, during and after the change.  I am honored to work with Susan on change projects as a learn so much!

In a LinkedIn post about communicating organizational change, Maya Orbach points out that most organizations spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy on leaders and top management. Ideally, every employee is a target for change messages; however, scarce resources usually make that impractical. In that situation, Orbach suggests that companies focus on three important audiences: future leaders, social hubs, and vocal members. These informal groups are influential, and you can count on them to spread the word. 

Orbach is spot-on with her priorities, but we would add another critical group—your project team. Just because you've assigned them to your Merger Task Force or entrusted them with your Talent Management Implementation, you can't assume team members have bought in. It's rare that an organization-wide initiative has unanimous support, even at—especially at—the leadership level. When the project moves forward in spite of objections, the naysayers don't automatically climb aboard.  They go underground, where they can scuttle your multi-million dollar project faster than a bomb in a battleship.

Since most project teams represent organizational functions and business units, they will most likely be a scaled-down version of your company's political and power structure. If everyone in your organization is happy and cooperative, you can stop reading now. But if the VP of Finance and the Marketing VP clash like stripes and plaid, or if business unit leaders regularly butt heads over strategy and headcount allocations, chances are that their delegates on the project team will be at odds, too.

Healthy differences and vigorous debate can be constructive, but ugly, open attacks waste time and divert attention from the task at hand. Even worse is covert infighting, when team members pretend to get along while they act as spies for their sponsors. They'll agree to an important decision—until they report back and their boss blows a gasket. Next time you meet, guess what? They will openly disrupt the consensus. They may act as a chronic roadblock, interfering with progress in general, or they may object selectively to any recommendation made by their boss's opponent. In extreme cases, they will keep quiet until it's time to launch, and then sabotage the results.

Intra-team rivalries or disagreements may emerge because sub-teams have different perspectives or competing agendas. For example, the project team is eager to complete tasks and meet deadlines, demonstrating tangible outcomes. The change sub-team, on the other hand, moves more slowly with less tangible results. Other issues relate to team members who may be threatened by the presence of a consultant or even a cross-functional team, especially if the project or initiative encroaches on their area of responsibility. Some members may believe nothing needs to change and their time could be better spent on other activities.

The list goes on…so what can you do? Awareness of the potential problem is critical. Having a project governance structure that includes clear guiding principles and ‘rules of engagement’ for the project team and leadership is a huge step in the right direction.  Treating the project team as a separate audience/stakeholder group is another solution, as well as hiring specialists who understand team dynamics and periodically meet with the team to head off developing issues. I would love hear from you. What are you doing to ensure this very important audience is on board for the long haul?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why is BEING Strategic so Hard?

Many professions besides HR talk about being strategic.  I was speaking with an operations manager on a plane last week and he said that he was told he needed to be more strategic.  Why is it so hard to do?  It finally dawned on my this year that I'm not sure what "being strategic" means.  Do you sit around and think big thoughts?  Do you run scenarios all day to see which ones are right for the business?  Do you conduct external scans until a big idea comes?

I believe its more about THINKING strategically than just BEING strategic.  I can get my arms around thinking strategically.  According to Forbes magazine:
First of all, what exactly is “strategic thinking?” To think strategically requires founders and key team members to continually assess your business and your industry, and to apply new business insights. The goal is to use these insights to reinforce a company’s differentiation in the marketplace to achieve competitive advantage. You need to think strategically before your team can move on to the long or short-term strategic planning. You need both of these to make smart decisions on a daily basis. If you don't know where you're going, you'll have a hard time getting there!
I love the above definition and I think it applies to all functional areas of a business.   Thinking about HR for a moment, I believe you can apply the concepts this way:

In order to assess the business and apply new insights HR must:

  1. Understand that insight comes from taking what you know combined with key data, turning that into information and developing something that is relevant to the business.  I believe HR has struggled in this area due to the slow adaptation of metrics and analytics as tools to obtain insight.  
  2. Use critical thinking skills to be able to make connections between external and internal factors that lead to insight for the business. 
  3. Insight comes from understanding one's business inside and out.  Enough said.
If you don't know where your going, you'll have a hard time getting there unless HR plays a key role in strategic execution.  
  1. By being involved in the strategic planning process HR can lead the communication efforts on what the strategy means and WHY it is important to the business.
  2. HR has a perfect tool for setting strategic goals and cascading those down to the front line.  It's all about performance management.
  3. Because strategy fails most of the time at execution, HR can use its change management and communication skills to make sure the strategy is understood and executed.  
I guess the question is can you learn how to think strategically?  I have my opinion what's yours?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How HR Can Transition from Business Partner to Business Leader

I have the honor of being a writer for Halogen's TalentSpace blog.  I have written a two-part series on HR Business Leadership.  I believe HR can be a business leader that just happens to be great in HR!

Click here to read part one.