Category: Business and Workplace

Life’s Too Short to Live With Conflict

Posted on July 13th, by Donna Rogers, SPHR in Business and Workplace, On My Mind. 1 Comment

Like most, Conflict Management is not my favorite subject. Nor am I an expert as I have my own unresolved conflict currently brewing that I need to heed my own advice on. However, in Human Resources you often need to be a mediator of conflict between coworkers and manager/employee disagreements. Other times you simply have to provide advice to other managers who need to help their employees deal with conflict.  Finally, conflict almost always shows up in the board room regardless of how well we try to avoid it.

So unless you are the king of conflict denial or the queen of pushing conflict under the rug, you may have a desire to fix your conflict situation at the earliest possible opportunity. If not you should…life is too short to live with conflict. If you don’t have a desire to resolve, then get ready for the big explosion that is bound to happen sooner or later. You can be sure someone will get hurt post explosion because something is almost always said that is not meant the way it comes out or is taken.

Some studies say we are about 75% responsible for how others treat us. If the emotion is negative then most likely some of that responsibility is in your reaction to the situation. If you are a person who tends to allow others to treat you in a way that causes inward or outward conflict, it may be time to put them in their place and make them think twice about doing it again. Of course I don’t mean to do this in a negative way because what does that do? It feeds the fire and causes more conflict. So here is a quick list of suggestions I recommend based on my own experience, education, and practice resolving conflict.

  1.  Use Your Words – you cannot resolve anything without expressing how it makes you feel. The key word here is you as in “I”.  Choose words that will express but not shame or blame the other person.
  2. Seek First to Understand Then to Be Understood – this is one of the best Steven Covey habits for exceptional people. If you are always trying to be right and never care to understand the other person(s) point of view, resolution is not in your cards.
  3. Understand Differences in Perception – just because you see a situation one way doesn’t mean others will see it the same as you. Everyone comes from a life of difference and that may be something you are not aware of.
  4. Remember It’s About Impact Not Intent – take responsibility when someone shares that you may have offended them. You may not intend to hurt them but consider that you may have.
  5. Maintain Your Credibility and Respect – this is especially important when your conflict is in the workplace, but it can affect family member relationships for years to come as well when reactions go over the line.
  6. What, What and Why? Feedback Framing – this was a tip from a past boss that has always stuck with me and I even use in disciplinary action documentation at times. Explain WHAT happened then go directly in to WHAT could or should have happened in the future (don’t focus on past) and WHY this new suggestion is a better response.
  7. Restate What You Have Heard – say “What I hear you saying is…” to help the other person understand how you may be perceiving what you said as well as helping you further dive into #2 above.  It’s a clarification technique that slows you down from reacting negatively to something that may not have been intended.
  8. Gain an Understanding of Emotional Intelligence – the higher your EQ is the better able you will be in managing conflict.  The skills can be learned if you know what they are and how to work on them.  Some are above but there are more.  Free EQ tests are available online.
  9. Practice, practice, practice – whether or not you need to practice any of the tips above or something you learn by taking your EQ test, practice it every chance you get.  Set reminders on your phone if you must but keep the ideas on the forefront so you learn to make them a habit when the unexpected happens.
  10. Know When to Give Yourself a Time Out – there are times that you heart starts to race or your blood pressure rises and you can physically feel the signs that you are about to blow due to conflict.  This is the time to walk away and let the other person know you need some time.  The time is healthy for both sides of the conflict to help give perspective and determine a plan for resolution.  


Even if these suggestion are just reminders of what you already know, I hope it’s a good refresher and can help maintain a relationship that may be on the verge of being broken.  Remember, life is too short to carry conflict for long.  Take responsibility now and move forward.  I have lost several loved ones (mom, dad, and brother to name a few) in my life recently who I wish I had hugged one more time than I had fought with them.

Don’t have regrets and make a difference in your life and others.


A Follow-Up Discussion on Workplace Bullying #SHRM16

As part of my blogging team coverage of the 2016 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition, several weeks ago I conducted a Q&A with Catherine Mattice, one of the conference’s concurrent speakers.  The post served as a preview of her session, titled “The Real World: Case Studies of Real Organizations Who Solved Their Workplace Bullying Problems” and gave us some insight into her thoughts on the reality of workplace bullying.  You can read that initial Q&A post here.

 

So naturally at the conference I took the opportunity to attend her session.  What was immediately apparent to me is just how passionate Catherine is about this topic.  This wasn’t something she was presenting on because it’s trendy or simply a hot topic amongst HR pros right now, she really, truly believes that not only is this a very real issue, but it’s one that can be solved.  Her enthusiasm for the topic came across in our Q&A, but once I had the opportunity to see her actually speak on the topic, and how she at times spoke on the brink of emotion, it became very obvious that this is something she is dedicated to educating, addressing, and alleviating in our workplaces. (One point to note: Catherine herself was at one time the victim of a workplace bully, and that is what initially sparked her desire to start talking about it).

 

After providing attendees with a summary of her own background, experience with bullying, and how she arrived at where she is now with her work against workplace bullying, Catherine described the three characteristics of bullying and the three buckets of bullying behavior.

 

The Three Characteristics:

 

  1. Bullying is repeated. According to research on the subject, behavior that qualifies as bullying typically happens at least once a week over the course of at least a six month period.  Certainly it could vary somewhat from that, but the point is it’s generally not a one-time event (not unlike what is generally recognized as a hostile work environment – it usually has to be severe and pervasive behavior).
  2. Bullying creates a psychological power imbalance. The bully uses his or her voice to “squash” the voice of the victim.
  3. Bullying causes harm. This may seem obvious, but the behavior significantly impacts the victim.  In fact, Catherine cited a fact that often, if not addressed, the behavior continues to a point in which the victim can no longer take it and quits to get away from it.

 

The Three Buckets of Behavior:

  1. Aggressive Communication. In other words, attacking emails, invasion of personal space, harsh finger pointing.  Any sort of communication in which the bully exhibits characteristics of that psychological power imbalance.
  2. Humiliation. These are behaviors that promote social isolation, pointing out mistakes in public, or even – taken to the extreme – hazing.
  3. Manipulation. Perhaps one of the more common bullying behaviors and the most difficult one to identify includes things such as giving impossible deadlines or continually changing deadlines, impossible workloads, and providing (unwarranted) poor performance reviews.

 

Catherine then went on to describe four real scenarios at real companies in which bullying behaviors were present.  I won’t give away all of the details (you just had to be there for that!) but how the behaviors were addressed varied and largely depended on the type of behavior that was present.  Was in one specific individual or a prevalent culture of bullying that was being allowed?  What was the state of communication within the organization?  Was there a distrust of leadership present among employees?  Solutions raged from communication and prevalence audits (in the case of toxic workplaces with individual predominant bullies or an overall culture of bullies); engaging peer advisors and a “peer listening scheme” in environments with a distrust of leadership; committees with members from all levels of the organization where a culture of bullying required a social vision and update to corporate values; and supervisory training, coaching, and mediation.

 

The final thought attendees were left with, and one that is critical for us as HR pros to recognize is this: If someone witnesses bullying and doesn’t speak up, they are not a bystander, they are a reinforcer.  We must create environments where our employees feel comfortable and know how to speak up for each other, and we need to train our managers on creating environments within their control where bullying is not allowed, and how to stop it  if it in fact appears.

 

If we focus on creating a positive workplace, the bullying behavior goes away.   

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


#SHRM16 Day 3 – Why HR Pros Should Care About the Political Climate

Posted on June 22nd, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, HR Conferences, SHRM Chapters and Conferences. 1 Comment

I’m going to preface this by saying I am not a political junkie by any stretch of the imagination.  I generally keep my thoughts to myself and don’t engage in political debate.  However, I was totally and completely RIVETED by Tuesday morning’s keynote at SHRM16.

The keynote paired Fox News’ Tucker Carlson with CNN’s Paul Begala in a lively, and at times heated point/counterpoint discussion on the current political climate, the implications of the upcoming election, and why HR pros should care about it all.

This was the second keynote that paired two speakers together, in both cases with individuals that would seem to be more different than alike, but in the end pulled together some common themes.   Though Carlson’s and Begala’s political leanings were glaringly on opposite sides of the spectrum in most cases, the dialogue was, as I mentioned earlier, riveting, and both came through with some common themes for the HR professionals in attendance.

So why exactly should we care and be paying attention to the state of politics in today’s world?  Well, the simple answer is this: our organizations are a microcosm of the nation at large, and what’s happening in the larger electorate is also happening in our organizations.  So what are some of those things that are happening?

 

Median Income Has Stalled

Our middle class is under unprecedented economic pressure, and income equalities exist throughout the nation.  Median incomes have stalled for a large proportion of American citizens, and without a thriving middle class, it’s difficult to have a thriving economy.  For many of us, a large percentage of our workforces very well may fall into this struggling middle class (if not even lower middle class for those with a large percentage of hourly wage workers).  Income/finance concerns are very real to these folks.  Do we recognize that?  Are we aware and sensitive to their realities of working paycheck to paycheck in some cases?  How in tune are we with the reality of the makeup of our workforces?

 

An Explosion of Diversity

In both the larger electorate and within our organizations, there is a fundamental shift in the makeup of those populations.  The new electorate has a much larger percentage of younger people, people of color, and unmarried women than ever before, and that diversity translates over to our workplaces.  The challenge is that there are still people, including people in our workforces, who have a difficult time adapting to these changing times.  It doesn’t make them bad people, it doesn’t make them “haters” or “bigots,” in many cases it just makes them people with a difficulty adapting to change or shifting the view of reality they’ve just always known.  As HR pros, we have an obligation to promote diverse and inclusive workforces, and help those that struggle with adapting learn to adapt and accept the new reality (at least in the workplace – we can’t control what happens outside of work!)

Tucker Carlson noted that people generally are not wired to handle the current pace of social change, and the single largest failure of the “elite” is not recognizing that fact.  I wonder how many of our organizations are guilty of this very thing?  Do our leaders recognize those that are struggling?  Though it may not be possible to slow down the pace of change, what can we do to help our folks accept it?

 

Your Background Shapes Your Outlook

The final point to be made is that where you live has a profound impact on your outlook.  If you were raised in, or now live in a fairly affluent area, that reality shapes how you see the world and the issues that matter to you.  However, most of our organizations include a cross section of people from all walks of life…are we as HR pros and leaders equipped to be able to understand their versions of reality?  What matters in an affluent area varies greatly from the issues that matter in Middle America, and that varies greatly from lower income/impoverished areas.  Many of us in leadership positions may tend to bias towards the view of a more affluent populations, but can we put ourselves in the positions of those with a very different world view?

So much food for thought and points to ponder for everyone in the room Tuesday morning.

 


Checking In From #SHRM16 – Macro & “MikeRowe” Breakthroughs

The 2016 edition of the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Expo is well underway.

The annual pilgrimage of 15,000 human resource pros to experience everything HR related kicked off with a Sunday opening general session featuring Alan Mullaly (of Ford and Boeing fame) and “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe (who was, for the record, the most entertaining keynote I can remember in recent years).  What was seemingly an odd pairing to speak together turned out to be a wonderfully complementary approach to breakthroughs (which, incidentally is the theme of SHRM16).  We’ll call it the Macro and the “MikeRowe” approach.

 

The Macro Approach

Alan Mullaly began with a narrative about his days when he took over the Ford Motor Company.  At that time, the company was losing $17 million dollars, no sign of success by any stretch of the imagination.  However, if one were to review their business charts, everything was marked as “green,” meaning all was well and good and on target.

What?

The approach that Mullaly went on to describe involved an intense focus on people.  In fact, he cited Human Resources the biggest competitive advantage an organization can have, as it’s their role to managing the resources – the people – that make things happen.  Nice to hear from a successful CEO, isn’t it?  He talked about first and foremost about being honest about your failures.  Blissful ignorance is not going to help your bottom line, and if your people don’t understand the reality, they aren’t going to know what needs to be worked towards.  Then you need to believe in your people to get the job done.  You either believe or you don’t believe, and if you don’t, you better get to a place that you can.  The next question is does EVERYONE know the plan to accomplish the goals that need to be reached?  Communication and setting of expectations is key.   Then empower them to listen, help, and respect each other and understand their role in working towards the necessary outcome.  Lastly, make sure they feel appreciated for what they do.  His approach was everything we as HR pros should already be practicing and preaching, but to hear it from someone as successful as Alan Mullaly really drove it home.

 

The “MikeRowe” Approach

Mike Rowe then came on stage and entertained the crowd with his hilarious and vividly detailed description of hosting “Evening Magazine” (his former show) in the sewers of San Francisco that ultimately led to the creation of “Dirty Jobs.”  Amongst descriptions of everything you’d expect when talking about sewers (there was much simultaneous laughing and cringing in the room), he talked about having a “peripeteia,” a concept used in fictional narratives that essentially means a change in fortune or change in direction.  Call it a breakthrough of sorts.  In the filth of the sewers of San Francisco, he realized that there are unsung heroes in all manners of work who not only do what most of us would never dream, but many do it happily….more than can be said for a large percent of the unengaged workforce today if we’re to believe the statistics.  His peripeteia led to the creation of “Dirty Jobs” where he highlights many of these such people.  He took his message further by encouraging the HR pros in the room to find their own peripeteia and breakthrough the fundamental disconnect with work that’s present in so many organizations.  Many of our organizations don’t value all work equally, yet the job that everyone does is important and ultimately drives organizational success.  How do we as HR pros recognize this, and ensure that everyone is valued for what they contribute, no matter how “small” the job?  This particularly resonated with me, coming from a retailer with over 16,000 employees.  The cashier that regularly waits on the same customer in a small, rural community is just as important to overall company success as the Category Managers at the corporate office or the District Managers in the field.  In their own corner of our organizational world, they make a difference.  Do they know that?  Are they recognized for that?  Do we as HR pros do enough to ensure this?

The theme of everyone contributing to organizational success and the importance of communicating and recognizing that was the thread that tied the two speakers together in my mind.  And it was also my biggest takeaway from Sunday’s session.

 

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.

 

 

 

 


Understanding the Reality of Gender Discrimination in Performance Reviews

Posted on June 14th, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

The act of reviewing an employee’s performance regularly and objectively has many benefits. The assessment can help the employee gauge their progress and make appropriate adjustments to the way they approach their work. Ultimately, this can lead to a motivated, skilled and active workforce.

With this in mind, it is clear that having objective and constructive performance discussions is something every organisation should work toward. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Managers carrying out the reviews are human beings, and as such are subject to both conscious and unconscious biases. Even those who believe themselves to be completely egalitarian can still be guilty of unwitting bias based on preconceived stereotypes, as was demonstrated in a series of Implicit Association Tests carried out by Mahzarin Banaji. Often, this prejudice is levelled at women.

 

The impact of gender discrimination on employees

Given that a favourable performance review can affect an employee’s chances of progressing within an organisation, the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed. An employee who feels unfairly treated will be demotivated, so it makes good business sense to try and remove unconscious biases wherever possible. Hidden biases such as gender discrimination, according to Caroline Simard, the director of research at the Clayman Institute, also create “cumulative disadvantage over a woman’s career over time, resulting in lower access to key leadership positions and stretch assignments, advancement and pay.”

Despite this, it has been found in a 2015 study that only one-third of employees feel that gender equality was a priority within their organisation.

 

Addressing stereotypical language

Recent research demonstrates that  female employees are assessed differently to their male counterparts. This difference presents itself both in the language used to describe an employee and the quality of constructive feedback provided.

It was made clear in a 2014 Fortune article that women were much more likely to receive a critical performance review than men. The data collected for the study was analysed by a linguist, who examined both the type and frequency of the words used in a sample of performance reviews. It was found that female employees were much more likely to be negatively described as ‘abrasive’, ‘strident’ and ‘aggressive’  while demonstrating behaviour that, in men, was considered ‘confident’ and ‘assertive’. The linguist discusses how the word ‘abrasive’ was used seventeen times to describe thirteen different women. Only the word ‘aggressive’ was used in the men’s performance reviews, and this was used to praise and encourage. Interestingly, the gender of the manager was not an issue — both female and male managers were generally more negative toward female employees.

 

Addressing unhelpful, critical reviews

The study mentioned above also reflects the reality that when men are given negative reviews, there is generally a constructive element to be found. Should they be found lacking in certain areas, they are given clear instructions on how to develop their skills to perform better in the future. The feedback provided to women, conversely, was more negative and far less specific. They were notified of areas where they were not performing as desired, but they were not given the tools necessary to improve. Such behaviour not only does the employee a disservice, but it also guarantees that the organisation does not reach its full potential.

 

How HR can eliminate gender discrimination in performance reviews

In an ideal world, all biased behaviour, both conscious and unconscious, would be eliminated overnight. Unfortunately, this is impossible, but equality is certainly something we can work toward in order to ensure a fairer, better functioning organisation. It begins with addressing the issue head-on and promoting a conscious awareness regarding gender bias.

One method of tackling gender discrimination is to encourage managers to be mindful of their language. Words used in a performance review should be constructive and objective. Judgemental and emotive words should be avoided, and the review process should prioritise communication both ways. Open communication allows the employee to respond, while providing a balanced and accurate view of the situation.

In a similar vein, the HR department could benefit greatly by introducing a means of providing anonymous feedback to employees. This system enables staff the freedom to report behaviour that they are uncomfortable with, without the possibility of facing any personal repercussions. Such feedback may highlight important and concerning issues when it comes to the running of an organisation; for example, it may come to light that the staff believe that men are consulted far more regularly than women when it comes to important business decisions.

Managers should also ensure that their reviews are specific. The evaluation of the employee’s performance should be considered against agreed objectives, behaviours and values. In this way, performance reviews are less subjective and a far more fair way of evaluating performance.

 

About the Author: Stuart Hearn heads up a team who designs innovative performance management software. He has been working in the HR sector for over 20 years, previously working for Sony Music Publishing and co-founding PlusHR.

 

 


Zenefits and the Compounding Effect of Cultural Assessment

Posted on May 31st, by Rita Trehan in Business and Workplace, Workplace Culture. No Comments

Culture is one of the easiest things to blow off when it comes to organizational investment. You build it, and you just sort of place policies and procedures to make sure it works, right? When HR managers shout from the rooftops that corporate culture can be the downfall of an organization (or at the very least a huge stumbling block) if not properly cultivated and managed, we’re quite often met with an exasperated response. Not THAT again. And yet, when the company stumbles and falls over said block to the tune of millions of dollars, it’s most irritatingly a malady that could have been avoided. There is nothing that guides a company to it goals and beyond quite like a dynamic, properly-cultivated corporate culture, and a perfect example of this has recently hit the news: Zenefits.

 

This darling of Silicon Valley shot through the uprights not unlike a good number of its start-up constituents: former CEO Parker Conrad Valley’s billion dollar startups, peaking last year when he was able to raise $500 million for a corporate valuation of $4.5 billion. Announcing itself as the fastest-growing software service ever, based on a free cloud-based HR platform for small businesses around the U.S., it makes the majority of its income from commissions when clients use their platform to purchase insurance. The model was genius, and the corporate culture was constructed to obtain those sales by any means necessary.

 

There was only one big problem: they’ve been accused of partnering with quite a few salespeople without the proper license to sell insurance, and reportedly skirted quite a few laws that would make for the legal sale of insurance products. That’s not just a small pebble they stumbled over; that’s a gigantic legal boulder that’s put them under the watchful eye of the Federal government and downgraded them as an investment. Conrad has stepped down, and the former COO, David Saks, has taken the helm. One of the first things he did was address the errors in culture that led to their current state. He’s quoted in a Forbes article as having sent an email with the following text:

 

“We must admit that the problem goes much deeper than just process…Our culture and tone have been inappropriate for a highly regulated company. Zenefits’ company values were forged at a time when the emphasis was on discovering a new market, and the company did that brilliantly. Now we have moved into a new phase of delivering at scale and needing to win the trust of customers, regulators, and other stakeholders.”

 

As someone who has made a career out of designing adaptable, successful corporate cultures, I feel that they could have benefitted from strong HR. As Saks stated in the email, the culture that founded the company is very different from the one that will right the ship and keep it afloat. Where it appears the first epoch of the company’s history could be best summed as “by whatever means necessary,” it safe to assume that through careful corporate assessment and an in-depth look at their culture and the talent that supports it, it will most likely evolve to “with our shareholders and customers at the center of whatever we do.”

 

When speaking of corporate culture, a static approach is never best. You don’t just build it and let it go, letting it self-maintain with performance evaluations, retention and turnover. It must be constantly assessed against the market, customer satisfaction, internal goals, and staffing needs. While the vision, mission, and values of the company remain standardized for long periods of time, corporate culture is an ever-evolving means to accomplish your objectives. It drives, incents, connects, and deploys your resources of a human variety, and without the proper tools to monitor it — and the sense to pay attention to red flags once they’re raised —you will meet with obstacles that are unpleasant. Most important, they can usually be avoided.

 

The proprietary culture assessment tools I’ve developed from years of experience paired with recent technological advances act as a canary in a coal mine. They’re capable of assessing the culture from all aspects, and paired with market information and 11 other data inputs (13 in total), they can give you a 360-view of your company that can warn of disasters such as these along with other issues, such as turnover/employee defection, potentially derailing internal disconnects, and so much more. You need to monitor corporate culture effectively and often, and I have the tools that can accomplish this and so much more.

 

More than ever, companies must truly look deep inside their ranks to ascertain what is going on. It’s no longer sufficient to simply rely solely on client and employee engagement data to give you a view of what’s happening with your company; this type of insight only scratches the surface at best. Most employee engagement data tell us 86% of people are disengaged, which is a warning sign within itself. Don’t you want to know why before that expense and productivity issue hits your bottom line? I know I would.

 

I believe that companies need to take on the issue of culture more than ever before. Dig deep and use tools like my Capacity Framework to connect deep, disparate data for a powerful, actionable source of information: customer data, engagement data, exit interview data, performance data and metrics, talent data and more. Prioritize your corporate culture, and take action on this type of data, outlining the top strengths and challenges for your company. It’s only by connecting all the dots that you will truly paint an accurate picture of what’s going on in your organization, and armed with that knowledge, you can take action and manage your culture as you would any other asset within your company. For it is an asset, perhaps your greatest, and it must be constantly minded as if it could tear your company apart if mismanaged.

 

Because the truth is — and this Zenefits example is an illustrative example — it most certain can.

 

About the Author: Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.


A Conversation on Workplace Bullying #SHRM16

I will once again this year be attending the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22 as part of the social media and blogging team.  Along with our usual previews and coverage, ahead of the conference each member of the team will be conducting a Q&A with one of the conference session speakers.  I chose Catherine Mattice, who along with her company Civility Partners, strives to educate and address the topic of workplace bullying.

Catherine and I chatted about why she chose to dedicate her career to workplace bullying, why it’s a very relevant topic for today’s human resource professionals, and what to expect from her session at #SHRM16.

Read the full Q&A over at the SHRM Blog.


Organizations vs. Humans – Are We At Odds? #WorkHuman

Posted on May 20th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, HR Conferences. 2 comments

The sign of any great conference is when you continue to mull over the ideas with which you’re presented and the concepts you learn even after the event itself is over.  It’s now a little over a week since WorkHuman 2016 wrapped up, and I’m still contemplating much of what I heard.

The event closed on Wednesday afternoon with a keynote from business thinker and author Gary Hamel, in a session titled “For Human Being to Thrive at Work, Bureaucracy Must Die.”  The closing keynote spot at any conference can be an unfortunate place on the agenda, as many attendees tend to cut out early to catch flights home.  That just did not appear to be the case for most at WorkHuman, and we were treated to an energetic, entertaining, and very relevant message.

The overall theme of Gary Hamel’s keynote was that the design of most of our organizations is in direct conflict with human nature.  He offered the following three truths:

  • Humans are creative, most of our organizations are not
  • Humans are adaptable, most of our organizations are not
  • Humans are passionate, most of our organizations are not

And because of these truths, most of our organizations are less human than the people that work within them, and therefore waste more human capacity than they use.

A pretty sad state of affairs, isn’t it?

Hamel went on to suggest that our roles as leaders is NOT to get the people within our organizations to serve the needs of our organizations, it’s to build an environment with such a compelling purpose that our people voluntarily bring their individual gifts to work every day.  And when they do that, if we utilize those gifts appropriately, they will contribute to the overall success of the organization.  He then promised us seven ways to change the realities within our organizations (but actually only got around to five – probably because he was just so passionate about each one that he spent more time than he expected to on each).

The five ways he touched on were:

  • Get Angry – that our workplaces as so designed that our people are forced to show up but leave their humanity at home
  • Load Up On data – if you want to inspire and lead change, you need to speak to the head as well as the heart
  • Find the Fringe – and then push the boundaries
  • Develop a New Set of Principles – whether it be meritocracy, more collaborative decision making, finding and developing the natural leaders in your organization, or embracing the wisdom of the crowd
  • Reinvent the “How” – enlarge the scope of decision making and embrace the idea that irregular people doing irregular things in irregular ways create irregular successes

Each of these probably each deserve their own post, and perhaps at some point I’ll revisit them, but for now I’ll leave you with this takeaway…

As HR leaders, we cannot be the champions of bureaucracy and the status quo, especially when that status quo runs contrary to the very nature of human beings.  And for many HR professionals that can be a challenge; many by nature and training tend to want to preserve the status quo at all costs.  But that is no longer a sustainable way to approach our businesses and workplaces.  We have a duty to challenge these constructs that really don’t serve long term sustainability or promote great workplaces and bring out the best in our people, the people who make our businesses what they are.

That’s no easy task, and certainly we can’t do it alone, but we can be the ones at the forefront of the change.  The “how” is the difficult part, but these five ideas for changing our realities are a good starting point.

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


Checking in From #WorkHuman Day 1 – Happiness as a Business Strategy?

Posted on May 10th, by Jennifer Payne in Business and Workplace, HR Conferences. No Comments

I’m here in sunny Orlando, FL this week for the 2016 edition of the WorkHuman conference.  Now in its second year, WorkHuman is a concept developed by the folks at recognition company Globoforce, and it’s slowly taking on a life of its own.  Focused on topics like happiness, engagement, and recognition, WorkHuman is all about creating great workplaces that are built to bring out the best in people and harness the power of social connections to drive positive business results.

Right from the moment of arrival on site, it became apparent that this is a different kind of HR conference.  The agenda includes (optional) time for yoga and mindfulness, the colors in the space are bright and cheerful, there was a “cookie wall” (yes, an actual wall covered in cookies for the taking), and the opening event was actually called a “Happy Hour” and not an “opening reception.”

Some might say that sounds a little too “warm and fuzzy” or “Kum Bah Yah” for them, but as we launched into the opening general sessions this morning, there were certainly enough stats and stories shared to prove that focusing on happiness and creating great cultures isn’t just some warm and fuzzy “HR speak” concept with no connection to the reality of the workplace.

The morning kicked off with Globoforce’s Derek Irvine, Vice President of Consulting Services, sharing among other things the following stats:

 

Only 20% of employees have received some kind of recognition within the past month, and that percentage only goes up to about 30% when stretched to a six month time period.  Yet 78% would work harder and 83% would feel more engaged with even a simple “thanks.”

 

Seems like a huge missed opportunity there, huh?  And let’s face it, without engaged and productive employees, no business can be successful in the long run.

We were then treated to an opening keynote with Shawn Achor, renowned Harvard professor, author, and “happiness researcher” in which he dove into some of the science behind happiness, helping to create a business case for the importance of caring about it in the workplace.  He touched on the following points:

 

The power of impact – don’t focus just on how happy an individual is, but rather on their potential to create happiness around them.

There’s a difference between pleasure and joy.  Focusing on pleasure is short-sighted, where focus on joy takes a longer view.  It’s possible to experience overall joy in what you do, even if not every moment generates pleasure.  And happiness is the joy you feel working toward your potential.

Happiness does not necessarily equal success.  The flaw in that thinking is that our brains constantly recalibrate the definition of success.  The greatest predictor of long term happiness is social connectedness, not achievement or success.  The keys to happiness, potential, and great leadership is making other people around you better.

Nurturing a culture where people not only receive recognition, but also willingly give it creates a powerful force for positive change.

 

I’d agree that he offered some great ideas and wisdom, but our challenge as HR professionals and leaders is figuring how to take these concepts and weave them into the realities of our individual organizations.

I’m looking forward to hearing more thoughts, ideas, and success stories as WorkHuman continues over the next couple of days.  Stay tuned for more updates, including highlights from tomorrow’s highly anticipated keynote from Michael J. Fox!

 

About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.


Do Employees Leave a Company or a Boss? 

Posted on May 3rd, by a Guest Contributor in Business and Workplace, Employee Engagement, Workplace Culture. No Comments

 

There are various schools of thought on what drives employee retention.  Some expert sources like Gallup place an emphasis on the importance of the manager’s role in engaging, motivating and retaining employees.  Other sources suggest that employees rarely leave a job solely because of the boss since there are many other contributing factors such as a compelling strategy, company culture and meaningful work.

Either way, businesses of all sizes are increasingly concerned about employee retention and realizing that high engagement is critical to reducing turnover.  The best employees will leave if they’re not engaged, while the lower performers often stay.  When this cycle continues, businesses struggle to achieve results and retain customers.

According to the 2015 ADP Midsized Business Owners Study the level of concern about employee engagement spiked 25 percent in 2015 after remaining flat since 2012, with two of five midsized employers expressing high levels of concern. So how can companies more effectively engage their top talent?

Here are three tips to help deepen employee engagement and avoid common pitfalls:

1. Nurture a strong workplace culture. Organizations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, organizational fit and strong leadership often outperform their peers and outpace competitors in attracting and retaining top talent.  Key components of a strong workplace culture include diversity and inclusion, a common purpose and a sense of community.

As stewards of company culture, HR leaders should strive to create – and actively promote – an inclusive work environment that champions collaboration and a connection to the local community.  Offering volunteer opportunities to give back to the community and employee recognition programs can help employees develop a sense of companionship leading to stronger feelings of engagement.

 

2. Empower employees to grow their careers. Uncertain career paths are a common pitfall that can result in low employee engagement.  Companies that keep career development top-of-mind by offering employees clear career paths, challenging assignments, mentoring programs and training to nurture their professional skills are more likely to retain top performers.  Ensure employees understand the diverse career opportunities available to them company-wide and the steps they can take to grow within the organization.  And, whenever possible, offer flexibility in how employees chart their individual career paths, such as with job-rotation programs and job shadowing.   Career growth comes from creating opportunities for employees to learn new skills and experiences.  It doesn’t need to be offering opportunities to ‘climb the corporate ladder’.  The ladder has been replaced with a lattice demonstrating the importance of lateral moves in order to grow professionally.

 

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Employees need to hear from their leaders.  An absence of communication leads to a lack of trust in leadership.  Communication is critical to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of the corporate strategy and how their work contributes to successful achievement of the company’s goals.  Having clarity around their company’s strategy and vision becomes the motivation for employees to make the discretionary effort that defines engagement.  Businesses that create frequent opportunities for leaders to communicate with employees – via email, Town Hall meetings, one-on-one interactions or social media help inspire trust.  Ongoing communication needs to honest, real-time, and authentic so that employees understand the bigger picture and feel comfortable sharing innovative ideas to help themselves and their employers grow and thrive.

 

Because employee engagement is strategically linked to retention, HR leaders need to take an integrated approach.  This includes fostering a collaborative work environment with trusted leadership, work with a purpose, and diverse growth opportunities.  Investing in employee engagement ultimately delivers benefits far beyond the bottom line with increased productivity, reduced turnover and long-term retention of highly skilled staff who directly contribute to achieving business goals.

 

 

About the Author: Emma Phillips has more than 20 years of experience leading the design and execution of strategic HR initiatives. As vice president of human resources for ADP’s Major Account Services business unit, Emma and her team focus on attracting, developing and retaining top talent, succession management, performance management, leadership development, change management and associate engagement.