Monday, August 31, 2009

5 Ways HR Can Poise a Firm for Growth?

I have the great pleasure of working with many small to medium size clients over the past few years. As my partner and I were discussing their similarities, we concluded that the firms we had been working with had very aggressive growth goals, yes even in this recession.

So that really made me stop and think...

Sometimes companies are doing just fine, making similar profits and revenues year to year. Then, something happens, someone desires to "get to that next level." In our experience the next level requires a different mindset and tools from operating under the status quo.

How can HR assist their company when growth is the goal?

I think HR is key when growth is the mantra. To grow means to perform higher and better. In order to perform better you need infrastructure and tools to be able to do that assuming motivation and engagement are high.

So HR's job becomes:

1) Growth plan communicator-After the CEO has set his/her vision for the future HR needs to make sure everyone knows what that means for their role. How does their role fit into the plans for growth?

2) Pay for performance czar-All performance management tools and salary structure has to reflect new growth goals and objectives. Commissions may need to be adjusted, performance appraisals rewritten and policies adjusted.

3) Talent scout-Make sure the best talent is acquired and retained. Understanding who the high performers are an making sure their experience is positive.

4) Manager's Coach-Provide managers tools, feedback and training to become GREAT managers. Times of growth are chaotic, a manager's job becomes one of coach and communicator. Make sure they have the skills and abilities to be successful.

5) Engagement Monitor-Track and take action on engagement data understanding who is committed to the organization and why. Also, find out why employees are disengaged and fix those issues quickly. In growth mode, there is no time for poor performance or morale busters.

What other roles for HR have you observed or served in when in growth mode?

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Does the CEO want from HR Today?

We seem to be hearing signs that our economy may be heading for recovery.  I wonder what our "new normal" will be for businesses in the aftermath of the worst economic situation our country has ever gone through.

I then think about if  the expectations for HR will be different than they are or have been.  Does the CEO need something different from HR?  Over the last month I have spoken to many HR professionals on the topic of HR Metrics that Matter.  I always ask the question, "Which metrics are important to your CEO?"  Last week, one student said, "I think the CEO will have a different mindset for HR post recession."  Of course, that comment sparked a healthy and lively discussion.  I wanted to summarize our thoughts and see if you had any to add or debate:

1) The CEO will expect HR to make sure high performers are taken care of and the non-performers are fixed or fired.  The idea here is that we will still be trying to do more with less and we want to make sure we retain the best of the best while making sure motivation is not sacrificed when poor performers are kept too long.

2) The CEO will expect HR to measure its performance.  All other departments do, so should HR.
3) The CEO wants HR to make sure that the most productive people in the industry are hired and retained.
4) The CEO expects the top level HR person to also be a business person that understands the customer, the competitive landscape and the company's financials.
5) The CEO wants pay for performance and HR must design all systems accordingly.
What do you think your CEO wants from HR.  I would love to hear your comments and observations. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Can Employee Engagement Lead to Job Growth?

I read a really good article in BusinessWeek, titled, It's Not the Economy StupidI found the excerpt below to be the most interesting:

Based on extensive, long-term research, Gallup has determined that less than 30% of the corporate workforce is truly engaged in its work. That's less than 30% of employees who work with passion and feel a profound connection to their companies. Yet employee engagement leads to increased customer engagement, which leads to real revenues and, eventually, more job opportunities for others.
This article really made me stop and think.  I have always known that a high level of employee commitment/engagement leads to increased customer loyalty which increases revenues.  But I never thought about taking that equation one step further to consider the ramification in our current economic situation.

By enjoying increased revenues through increasing engagement, companies can then hire more people.

So, in today's economic situation it makes perfect sense to PAY ATTENTION to your employees commitment to the organization. 

Another strong argument for paying attention to engagement is that innovation and creativity is higher with engaged employees.  Better innovation and creativity leads to better and improved solutions for customers and the organization.  As a result of the improved solutions, organizations then can sustain a competitive advantage over its competition.

So with the benefit of increased revenues and competitive advantage, why wouldn't you measure and track employee engagement/commitment?

GOT ENGAGEMENT?  What are your thoughts on this topic?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Implementing Strategy Through Employees

Recently we have been involved with several companies that are changing their business strategy.  Whether it is to become more competitive in a once monopoloy like industry by becoming customer focused or if the desire is big growth plans, the bottom line is you depend on employees to switch gears.

The strategy development piece is almost the easiest piece.  You get all the executives in a room for a few days and the new direction is decided.

The hard part is implementing the decision.  Execution is where I think HR can really add value to the organization regarding strategy.  Of course, HR was involved in the strategic planning discussions so that plans can be proactive in nature rather than reactive. 
I think the execution piece is challenging, we have all heard that the best strategies fail due to poor or LACK OF execution.

Listen below to my conversation with Nancy Vepraskas, SPHR regarding how to execute on a customer service strategy.  She uses an effective sports analogy to simplify a sometimes vague concept making it very understandable. (This was an interview conducted outside at a Starbuck's so please excuse the background noise!)

Nancy reminds us that we need to:

1) Make sure employees understand where the company is headed
2) Make sure employees have and understand the skill sets needed for the new strategy if those have changed (look at gaps)
3) Have conversations instead of communication around goals, progress, and performance and do that continuously.
4) Use easy to understand goals that allows employees to know "when they may be losing ground" so they can get back on track. 
5) Understand what excellent customer service looks like in your organization from the customer's perspective. 

What is your experience in this area when changing strategies?  What has worked for your organization?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Should We Care if Employees Find Meaning in Their Work?

YES, I do believe we need to care if our employees find work meaningful.  This is not a verse from a kumbaya handbook either.  There are real tangible benefits to employees finding meaning in their work.  Here is why I care:

1) People by nature need PURPOSE.  Research has shown that when employees understand their contribution in their role to the overall success of the organization they become more committed to the company.  Commitment, as we have been discussing over the last few weeks, leads to higher performance.

2) According to HR Consultant and Blogger, Mike Haberman, employees will commit to their work, if and only if that work is meaningful.  Again, when you have a committed employee, you have one that is performing at a higher level.  This can usually be seen in customer interactions.  We want our employees to be committed and engaged, so that enthusiasm is reflected in the customer experience.

3) Employees need to understand how they are doing.  To keep the work meaningful to the employee they need to understand how they are performing, what they can do to improve, and receive the appropriate reward and recognition for performing in a way that leads to increased results for the company. 

Check out this YouTube video of my conversation with Nancy Vepraskas, SPHR a thought leader in the area of strategic HR and Chairman of the Board for SHRM-Atlanta.  Nancy discusses the concept of employee engagement and how HR can assist with designing meaningful work.

What are your thoughts on employees and meaningful work?  Should we be paying attention?  How have you helped in designing meaningful work for your employees?