Monday, January 30, 2012

Moving from Transactional HR to Strategic HR

StrategicLand, where we as HR professionals have wanted to be, for at least two decades. Picture this scenario:

You are the VP, Human Resources for a very profitable company that is growing internationally. You realize to do so, that you need to become more strategic than transactional as far as what HR delivers to the business. The problem is this....the leadership of your organization doesn't understand why HR needs to be strategic. Things are going well...the company is in growth mode and making money. So the question is, "Why change if it ain't broke?"

Tell me how you answer this question. In other words how do you make a business case in this scenario. We know, it's the right thing to do and we can point to anecdotal reasons. But, when budgets are tight and CEO's are more risk adverse than ever, what would be your "case" for taking HR to the next level.

I was delivering some training last week and was kidding with my attendees that I could make a fortune writing business cases for HR leaders. It is a skill that most other functions in the business have, but HR has not been used to this practice.

For me, the business case is a must have and it gives clarity to the issue at hand. The business case assists the writer in formulating the problem, the objectives, the proposed solutions, the timelines, and the resources needed in a succinct and logical way. The decision maker can then make a decision based on fact and expected outcomes.

So tell me....Have you used the business case and how would you use it around moving from a transactional HR department to a strategic one as in my scenario above?

If you comment and send me your feedback...I will send you a business case template of your very own!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Leadership...Where Has it Gone?

Over the last few months I have been so surprised by recent lapses in judgement and leadership. I have to ask, why is this so rampant? Where has all of our character gone?

My first disappointment as of late was the whole Penn State, Joe Paterno scandal. I mean how does someone know about an incident of child abuse and NOT report it to the law. I don't care what loophole existed for working in a University. You have to put your morals and ethics first especially when it involves children. Joe Paterno died a few days ago, his legacy forever tarnished.

When does a Captain of a large cruise ship get off the boat before his passengers? And then try to convince the world that he (and his second in command) "tripped into the life boat?" How does this happen? Wasn't there training, scenario planning, procedures, and policies in place to draw from, when an accident of this magnitude happens?

How does an entire school system cover up a huge cheating scandal all in the name of bigger bonuses for higher performing schools? Teachers changed standardized test scores in order to have high scores that lead to better bonuses and recognition from the school system. This wasn't just one school or one teacher it was hundreds. The victims in this situation were the Atlanta school children.

In the examples above what strikes me as strange is that it wasn't just one person that had a lapse in judgement but multiple people in the situation did the same thing. How does one person's bad judgement rub off on those around him?

I believe the old adage is true, "a person's character comes out when there is a crisis situation." So, that begs the question for me:

Do leaders have character but it just for some reason lapses in a crisis or did the leaders lack character all along?

So, what is the answer? Is it parenting, education, training or religious beliefs? I don't have any research that states that the lack of character is a generational issue. I have heard anecdotally, that some older people feel character is lacking in our younger generation, but in the examples above they were all baby boomers or older.

I ask myself, what can I do. I guess the best we can do is be an example of what a leader should do no matter your role. You can be a leader in the classroom. You can be a leader as a janitor. Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

In this election year, we will hear about candidate's character and examples of their leadership. I encourage you to do your own research and figure out how the candidates have acted in a crisis. Look for their true colors when the going gets tough. I want a President that can call on his values, in a crisis, act like a leader and motivate others to do the same.

All of this made me think of Leadership Development in the corporate environment. I think this training should be scenario based with several simulations of crisis situations. I think in most organizations the environment is basically the same day in and day out. Leadership is most needed in extreme do we train to that?

I wonder how different the "big recession" would have been if we had strong ethical leaders in the banking and real-estate industry?

Monday, January 16, 2012

What is HR's Moneyball Metric?

I finally watched Moneyball this weekend and what a movie that was. Of course, all the way through the movie I am thinking how does this apply to HR and companies in general.

It was so interesting that the team was using anecdotal data to "hire" new players. I loved it when the data geek talked about players potential and hidden nuggets of gold that went unnoticed due to poor batting averages. He pointed out it is not necessarily about batting average, but really about getting on the base. It was a metric in baseball, that no other team was using. Historically, the players with the highest batting averages were making the most salary. Since the Oakland A's had a small budget they had to figure out how to win ball games, within these parameters.

Do we do the same think in HR and/or our organizations? Do we hire for things like, "He went to Auburn." or "She used to work for Bain and Co." Are we overpaying A-players in our organizations just because they have a great batting average?

As soon as the Oakland A's started hiring and measuring against on base percentage there was a huge backlash from the players, the coaches and even the fans. "It's just not how they did things at the A's. They base new talent on gut feel based on many years of scouting experience for the team." So, how did that legacy practice work for them?

Again, is that a similar story to what we do in HR? Do we make hiring decisions based on old policies, practices and measures that are no longer relevant?

What could be a Moneyball metric for HR? For some positions this task is easier than others. For sales, it's a no-brainer...$ of sales. Which metric could we use for new hires? How about existing employees?

Another big lesson for me that was reiterated in Moneyball was the issue of nonperformance. When you have a metric that points straight to performance and winning, it makes the "your fired" conversation so much easier. It becomes literally black and white. "Your number is X and we needed Y." Time to change teams...

If you haven't seen the movie, I encourage you to rent it...I hear the book is excellent as well!

What are your Moneyball metrics you are using to make sure you get the best and keep the best talent?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Is the HR Generalist Dead?

Today I had a very interesting conversation with a few HR consultant friends of mine. We were discussing the status of the external HR Consultant who is a generalist versus a consultant that specializes in particular area of HR.

The consensus was that the generalist in the consulting world is dead. Maybe that is a strong statement, maybe not dead....but on life support.

The reasons had to do with an over supply of consultants that are generalists and the need for organizations to hire subject matter experts that are deep in their knowledge on a certain subject, like compensation for example.

I did raise the question about clients wanting a "one stop shop" approach for HR services. My thought was that HR Executives want to buy from one or two preferred vendors for efficiency and cost reasons.

What are your thoughts on the "one stop shop" theory?

So, then I starting thinking about the internal HR Generalist. What is their status? Dead, alive or on life support?

From my experience, I have seen a mixed bag of HR organizational models. I see larger organizations using specialists at the corporate office and HR generalist in the field. I have also seen the reverse, generalist at corporate and specialist in regions lending support to managers. Of course, these models are dependent on industry, size and organizational strategy.

For smaller companies, I definitely see more generalist then specialist as they have to wear multiple hats.

What are your thoughts on the internal generalists? Do we need to get out our black dresses and suits?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Employee Survey Data, Check..Now What?

Many companies conduct annual employee surveys. The data comes in and is reported on and then we wait for the next year for the next results. The results come in for year 2 and they are exactly the same or in some cases scores have gone down.

This begs the question, what can you do with employee survey data?

Here are some best practices we have used with our clients over the years:

1) As soon as possible communicate high level survey results back to employees. If you have decided on actions that will be taken as a result of the survey scores, then give your employees an overview of those actions. If not, let your employees know more communication will follow when those decisions are made.

2) Make sure you understand which questions (categories) impact employee satisfaction. If your survey has 30+ questions, you need to know which ones impact satisfaction and which ones do not. A regression will get to this information and will prioritize where you need to spend your time and resources.

3) Sometimes, follow up is required to understand what is needed to make scores change. For example, if you score low on internal communications, you need to get to the "why" and the "how to improve." This data is hard to get to in a survey format so follow up is required.

4) Action planning is a must. Period. If you don't spend time by department on how you are going to move scores or sustain good scores, then you surveyed your employees for nothing. Make sure managers are debriefed on their own scores and action plan on them as well.

5) Make sure managers are held accountable for their scores. What measured gets done. If survey scores are not tied to manager's performance it is highly unlikely that anything will change.

6) Use the data. Employee satisfaction data is a very important data set. It can be analyzed with other data to uncover valuable insight. For example, correlating employee satisfaction data with performance scores and turnover can tell you if you are at risk for losing your highly engaged and high performers. Wouldn't that be nice to know?

Bottom line, don't just survey your employees and do nothing with the data. It is a valuable data set especially if acted upon.

What are your best practices when it comes to survey data?