Sunday, May 23, 2010

10 Lessons Learned in the Quest to Become Strategic in HR

I am rereading the book "Roadmap to Strategic HR: Turning Great Ideas into a Business Reality" by Ralph Christensen.  I believe I have read this book about 3 times.  I always learn something new every time I revisit the book.  As I continue to work with HR Departments on strategy and structure,  I have found that no two situations are the same.  I find myself going back to tried and true principles and theory as my foundation when transforming HR departments from transactional to strategic.

Here are some of my lessons I have learned over the last several years working with HR Departments that chose to go through a dramatic change by moving to a strategic "Business Partner" approach to HR:

1) Buy in from the top is absolutely REQUIRED without C-Level support, do not move forward.

2) Be sure to understand your company's definition of strategic as that means different things to different people.

3) You can't be strategic if HR is  not intimately involved with the organizational strategy.

4) You HAVE to do the basics right.  If you can't get people paid correctly then you lose credibility which is necessary to participate in strategic discussions.  

5) Don't start with the HR organizational chart.  Don't start moving boxes around until you understand what HR services your customers need and want based on strategy.

6) Make sure line management is involved in the redesign process.  Managing talent is everyone's job, so get line management involved with HR programs, policies, procedures, etc.  (Christensen discusses this at length in his book)

7) Make sure when leadership says they are ready for change, that they REALLY are ready for change.  Change is hard, it takes time, and a lot of energy.  So many times, I hear leaders SAY they want change, but their ACTIONS demonstrate they are really more comfortable with the status quo.

8) MEASURE what matters to your organization.  It's hard to be strategic unless you know how the strategy is working and which areas need a course correction.

9) Research what other companies are doing.  Don't try to replicate another organization's strategy or structure, but understand the lessons and successes.

10) It's hard for HR to be strategic in a vacuum.  HR needs to be in the line of site with a C-Level person.  I think it is critical for the top HR person to report preferably to the CEO.  To be able to hear what keeps the CEO up at night, from the horse's mouth is invaluable.

What are some of your own lessons?  Please share your experiences by commenting below.

Monday, May 17, 2010

It's NOT My Problem! Oh Really?

Think about almost any organizational issue you currently have.  I would almost bet that 90% of the root cause of the issue is a "people-related" issue.  Think about these examples:

You (HR VP) are in your weekly executive meeting and you hear that sales are down for the first quarter.  Sales have been creeping up for the last two quarters as the country eases out of the recession.  Your company had forecasted a 3% increase and instead you had a 5% decrease.  You as the HR VP could say, "That is a sales issue."  Instead, being the business partner you are, you ask some really good questions like:

1) Did customer needs shift?  If so, are the sales people aware of those shifts?  (training and communication)
2) Where in the sales cycle are sales declining?  Leads, proposals, closes, etc.  Has there been a change in sales people or new people added to the team? (training and process)
3) Are our solutions not meeting our customers needs?  What feedback are salespeople receiving from customers?  Do we need to create new solutions? (product development)
4) Are our sales people doing their homework on the customer, industry and competition?

Consider another example:

You (HR VP) are in your weekly executive meeting and you hear the company is losing business because of ship times being longer than the competition.  Instead of considering the issue an "Operations Problem" you ask the following:

1) Have we analyzed our shipping process to determine where the bottlenecks are?
2) Can we negotiate better terms with our freight vendors?
3) Can we study our manufacturing processes to determine if we are as efficient as we can be?  (lean principles)

In the examples above HR is involved in the problem solving, thus becoming part of the solution that will lead to a better result.  If you start with the problem as being a symptom, and it usually is, then you can peel back the onion to get to root cause.  And since we are mostly a service based economy, the answer is usually a people issue.  Now, that is being strategic and adding value!

In his book, Roadmap to Strategic HR, Turning a Great Idea into a Business Reality, Ralph Christensen states:

It is not enough to be present at the table just as the "expert on people issues," to sit and wait until a "people problem" comes up, and then get engaged in the discussion. 

I think it is a fair assumption that most all business issues are people issues so get in the discussion early and watch what happens.

What is your experience with business issues and problem solving?  Do tell....

Monday, May 10, 2010

Managers and Appraisals: Why Don't They Get Along?

There is always so much written on employee appraisals. I read that some individuals think they should be trashed, others think they need a total revamp, and some managers just don't like the process at all.

So, how can HR professionals create a tool for our end-user (managers) that works for them and HR?

First, let's think of the typical manager. "What is in it for him" to utilize an employee appraisal? (WIIFM)

1. His employees will be more motivated IF their actual performance was rewarded in a way that is meaningful to the employee.

2. His employees in turn would be more productive, reaching goals, making the manager's department successful.

3. His employees would understand expectations thus performing to those not wasting time on tasks that are out of scope.

4. His employees would be more engaged. Research shows that employees need to understand expectations, how they are performing, and where they are going in terms of career to have the highest engagement levels.

5. His employees would be developed thus increasing his department's/division's skill sets leading to more expertise and perhaps higher performance.

By "selling" the process in terms of the outcomes for managers seems like a great way to get some buy in. Today, appraisals are positioned as that necessary piece of paperwork in case we need to fire someone. That is not the intent but somehow the process has lost it's original purpose.

We can also equip managers for success in the performance management process by:

1) Making sure they are trained on the process and understand the steps and timing and WHY that is important to the organization.

2) Making sure managers are trained on the appraisal form and how to use it to accomplish outcomes listed above.

3) Making sure managers understand your ratings and what behaviors constitute each category. (i.e. exceeds expectations, meets expectations, etc.)

4) Making sure the process is easy to use. Talent Management technology is very affordable now, even for small companies. These solutions take the "cumbersome" out of the process.

I say don't get rid of the appraisals, get managers excited about them!

How have you engaged your managers in the employee appraisal process? Please share your thoughts with us!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

10 Keys to Success for a Small Business

This week I am very proud to say that our small business reached its teenage years. Our business turned 13 years old on May 1st. I have to say I feel particularly proud this year, as the last few years have taken down businesses big and small. I have had several of my smart and savvy colleagues (Tamara O'Neill and Bob Littell) ask myself and my business partner, Barbara Hughes, "What are the keys to your success?" Wow, what a question. After we pondered for awhile, here is what we concluded:

1) Shared values-Although we are very different people we have a core set of values that are shared, like integrity, work ethic, financial philosophy, etc.

2) You can't be everything to everybody. We had to figure out what we were good at, what we had passion for and do that. Thank goodness people pay us for those things.

3) Razor focus on the customer-The customer is the center for everything we do.

4) Hire great employees-we have been fortunate to have REALLY smart people help us in our journey.

5) Form strategic alliances and partnerships. (see number 2). When customers ask us for things that aren't in our sweet spot we can refer them to our valued partners. (Omega HR Solutions, Phillip Blount and Associates, WOW Transformations and Evolution Management)

6) Always reinvest in the business-Your business can't thrive unless you keep investing and improving.

7) Over deliver-We strive to go beyond expectations with our customers. Sometimes it is the little things, like a personal one on one meeting, or an extra report, etc.

8) Never think small-We act like and think like a big business.

9) Our brand is very important to us. We make sure we think about our perception at all times.

10) WE HAVE FUN!!! Sounds corny but we do. It is crucial to laugh and love what you do.

I do have a few others, but I did say "10 Keys." Thanks to all our many valued supporters, clients, friends, employees and colleagues. It's been a great 13, looking forward to the next 13.

What makes your business successful? Tell me by commenting below!