I’ve been thinking a lot about legacies lately.
You see, last week I had the opportunity to participate in a unique and amazing experience. In preparation for and in honor of the impending retirement of long time music teacher and director of the Quaker Marching Band from Orchard Park High School outside of Buffalo, NY, a group of current members and band alumni gathered for a surprise final performance and tribute to our leader of so many years and so many graduating classes. The group numbered at 175, encompassed 6 states, and spanned the years 1986 – 2015. I was there, proudly spinning my flag with the color guard, something I hadn’t done in 21 years. The feeling of being a part of such a salute was overwhelming, his reaction was heartwarming, the video and verbal tributes were touching, and I’d be surprised if there were many dry eyes in the auditorium by the end. And that group of 175 people who had never performed together before approximately 7PM that night….pretty darn impressive, from my not at all biased opinion. It was our own version of “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” if you will.
But the theme that kept running through my head the entire evening was that of legacies, and I feel as if it manifested in several ways.
There was first and foremost the legacy that Chris, our band director, leaves behind. When you can get that many people, from all parts of the country, some of whom hadn’t picked up an instrument, flag, or rifle in decades, to drop everything to be a part of a tribute, you know that person has made a lasting impact. The number quoted was 700 people who have been a part of the band over the years, and there were many who were devastated that logistically they just couldn’t be there for this final tribute. Talking to some of the alumni from my era afterwards, we all agreed that being a part of the band was something we would never forget, that was such an important part of our high school years, and the lessons learned still remain with us as adults. I had the privilege of serving as color guard captain my junior and senior years, and those leadership skills learned are certainly still relevant to me as an adult. Chris was our leader throughout this critical, wonderful time in our lives, and as such he was always be remembered for it. Being a part of “QMB” taught us the value of hard work and dedication; resilience and how to bounce back from failure and defeat; and confidence, pride, and that success requires practice, some wrong notes, and more than a few dropped flags. A true legacy that spans decades, crosses state lines, and likely finds its way into the personal and professional lives of hundreds.
The other aspect of legacy that touched me was a little more personal, and that was having had the opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than myself. There was a good sized contingent of alumni from my era that took part, but as I looked around as we were gathered in the gym beforehand and read the nametags and graduation years of others there, I realized how many eras this band has spanned. There were those that came before me, and many, many who came after me. In the four years that I was a member, I helped to set the stage for the success of those who came after, just as those who came before me set the stage for my success. Pretty inspiring when you think about how many people have worn that uniform, marched those football fields, and accepted those awards at competitions across the years. And we all played a part in making the band what it has become today.
If you’ve stayed with me and indulged my walk down memory lane to this point, you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with a human resources blog?”
The truth is, we ALL have the opportunity to create a legacy, no matter what we do or where we work. We often talk about the legacies that teachers or coaches build, but it’s not unique to those professions. As leaders and as HR professionals, we have the opportunity to touch our employees’ and coworkers lives every day. So I ask you, as a leader, as an HR professional:
- Are you helping to create work environments and cultures that encourage failure on the way to success?
- Are you creating environments where employees feel a part of something bigger than themselves?
- Are you personally helping to set the stage within your company for the successes that may come after you are gone, either from your position or from the company itself?
- Is your culture one that instills the values in your employees that you would want them to keep with them and pass on to others?
- As you make decisions that affect your employees, do you make them within the framework and mindset of how they might impact their lives?
When your employees, coworkers, executives, and others you work with on a daily basis reflect on your time with the company and your contributions, what kind legacy will they say you left? I know that I hope mine is even a small fraction of what I felt around me on May 11, 2015.
Band ten HUT!
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development 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.
Leadership skills are one of the many traits needed to be a successful leader. Women have closed the gender gap in entry and mid level positions, but have yet to reach that in top leadership skills. Susan Colantuono calls this the missing 33%, as women still need to be taught business, financial and strategic acumen to fill this gap. These leadership skills enable people to easily and confidently lead others, skills including but not limited to: ease of communication, natural flexibility, an ability to visualize a goal, thinking critically, and the ability to delegate responsibility effectively.
The ability to communicate effectively is absolutely critical in positions of power in an organization, a small team of people, and even for those not in a leadership position. In organizations, effective communication can save time, can prevent misunderstandings, and oftentimes can relax workers beneath you and above you. We’d all like to think we’re the perfect manager but there is always room for improvement. In a small team of people, the ability to communicate effectively can prevent misunderstandings, assist with visualization of objectives, and make things easier to achieve. Individuals who aren’t in leadership positions can use these skills to better present their needs to management. This skill can be developed through regular practice, and doing things to lessen anxiety felt by the speaker.
Leaders who are naturally flexible in a business are able to naturally shift objectives and methods used to achieve objectives. Flexibility is also vital for those not currently in a leadership position. This skill will allow them to be teachable, and always in line with the end goal of management. Overall, employees with flexibility will become an essential element to the business, increasing their job security. Flexibility prevents all employees from getting terribly stressed in a world where plans change, and where things tend to be less simple than they might have appeared initially.
Visualization of objectives enables leaders to have a set destination. It’s also the first thing a good leader should do, so he or she can recognize when they’ve accomplished a goal. How does this benefit those outside leadership positions? Well, visualization enables these people know where they want to go within their professional lives. Do they see themselves as a manager, or even the next CMO? Visualizing this will help them take the steps necessary to get there. This aligns with the known method of focusing on a single large objective and devoting energy to achieving that goal, while taking other factors into account but not losing sight of the overarching goal.
Thinking critically is a useful skill for it enables an intelligent leader to take factors into account. Leaders use critical thinking to troubleshoot in the moment, and to come up with reasonable solutions. Critical thinking is a skill for all members of an organization. When given new tasks and assignments learning the new process quickly is essential for keeping up with the ongoing business. This is a situation where critical thinking skills will help employees be a quick learner. Ultimately this can lead to an increase in trust from management, leading to more responsibilities.
Delegation in the context of leadership refers to the ability to divide labor intelligently and assigning people to the areas they are the most responsible and able to contribute. Make sure you are an effective delegator. Understanding yourself is a part of this skill, knowing your strengths, your weaknesses. This is an extremely useful skill in business and in the professional area, but in terms of the average employee it can also be used to mean the ability to manage time equally and effectively. Delegate your day and what time of the day will be devoted to specific tasks.
At the end of the day, leadership skills should be a part of your professional life in order to progress and lead effectively. Even those who don’t currently have a management position can be devoting time to the development of these skills. Practicing these skills will prepare employees to promotions and strengthen the organization as a whole.
About the Author: JP George grew up in a small town in Washington. After receiving a Master’s degree in Public Relations, she has worked in a variety of positions, from agencies to corporations all across the globe. Experience has made JP an expert in topics relating to leadership, talent management, and organizational business.
Last week I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans with a few friends. New Orleans is one of my favorite cities in which to spend a few days, and I’d been there many times previously. I love to wander the French Quarter, immersing myself in the sights, sounds, and of course the food of the Crescent City. And for all of the times I’ve been there, it seems there’s always something new to discover, something unique that catches my interest.
On this particular trip, my friends and I found ourselves wandering down one of the cross streets a little bit away from the main hustle and bustle of the Quarter, and we stumbled across the sign pictured above, advertising an apartment for rent. Of course we all had a chuckle and each of us stopped to snap a picture of it. I posted my picture to Facebook with the caption, “Apparently here you have to specify.”
Needless to say, we (and many others, judging by the number of passersby who also stopped to snap a photo) were amused by this bit of information shared. Was it a clever marketing ploy? Perhaps. A quirky tactic designed to draw the attention of tourists like ourselves? Maybe so.
But here’s the thing. Tourists like us probably aren’t particularly interested in renting an apartment in the French Quarter, so a fun bit of marketing to draw us in probably wasn’t the intent. This sign was directed at folks with a real interest in finding a dwelling in which to reside. And perhaps for those folks, the fact that this apartment is “not haunted” may very well be valuable information to consider in choosing where to live.
We all found it amusing because generally speaking, most of us don’t need to think twice about whether or not the places we live are haunted or not. We were processing this information from our own individual perspectives, our own realities, through our own assumptions. But in a city as rich in history at New Orleans, and with many well-documented accounts of hauntings (whether you believe in that sort of stuff or not), this information may not only be valuable, but also very necessary in making housing decisions. And in fact, upon further research, one of our friends discovered that this is actually a pretty common piece of information to be included on real estate signs throughout the city.
So what does this have to do with human resources, business, or leadership?
How often in the workplace do we fall into the trap of making assumptions based on our own realities, without really digging into the real facts?
- Do we tend to assume a particular employee or teammate is thinking a certain way….because that’s how we would think?
- Do we assume everyone is motivated in a particular way or by factors x,y, and z….because that’s what motivates us?
- In communicating with employees, do we tend to neglect certain details that might be important to others, because they don’t cross our minds as being important?
- Do we assume that particular female employee wouldn’t want that promotion into that demanding role because she has a young family at home….and surely she wouldn’t want to try to juggle all of those responsibilities?
Instead of striving to understand differences and thinking from a more global perspective, do we tend to fall into the trap of viewing the world through our own lenses?
As fun as it was to stumble across this “Not Haunted” sign, it also provides a valuable lesson in leadership, engagement, diversity, or employee communications. By making assumptions based on our own reality, we could tend to run the risk of alienating, de-motivating, or misleading our employees, our team members, our coworkers. Before we jump to conclusions, it’s critical to take a step back, lose our blinders, and think beyond our own realities, lest we find our actions and decisions haunting us!
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, and currently works in talent acquisition and development 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.
Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is from Susan Axelrod again features a female entrepreneur and her lessons learned about building a business and leading successful teams.
I started my bakery business, Love and Quiches Gourmet, in my home kitchen in 1973, purely by accident; from just one quiche. I was a clueless suburban housewife with no preparation whatsoever for business ownership. My only qualification was my passion for everything connected to food. I was a very good cook and was cajoled into starting the business by a carpool friend, an equally great cook.
We had no plan, we simply started. We made up some quiches, took them to a few local businesses, and before we knew it we had one customer, then two, and then ten. Adding desserts soon followed. By the end of the first year we were servicing about thirty restaurants, and took the giant step of incorporating and moving into our first tiny storefront where we hired one or two employees, and continued to grow.
We were the Keystone Kops Quiche Factory; two steps back for every step forward. My partner cried uncle shortly after so I bought her out and quickly realized this little business had a will and a pull of its own. I wanted to stick around though, to see how the movie ended. That was forty years ago.
I hired an accountant, and started asking a lot of questions of my customers, my suppliers, my newfound mentor, my peers, my competitors (who didn’t know I was watching), … and I learned from my mistakes, a vastly underestimated learning tool. And this was all before the dawn of the computer age. At the time, I was a one-man band; baker, buyer, salesman, porter and delivery guy.
Across the decades, we grew in concentric circles; Metro New York, Metro Tri-State, up and down the Eastern Seaboard, across the Continent, then across the globe. There were as many obstacles thrown in our path along the way as there were victories. There was brutal competition, key customer loss, key employee loss, location moves and so on. But many obstacles were beyond our control; commodity spikes, 9/11 after which the economy came to a dead halt, the Great Recession among them.
When looking back at it all, one thing stands out. It is after 9/11 that the business had its “Aha” moment and we reinvented ourselves and our business model; with Just-In-Time and Lean Manufacturing methods.
But, by far, our greatest achievement was the rebuilding of our organization from the bottom up— with strong high performance teams, and equally strong directors and middle management.
Our employees are our greatest asset and are valued insiders, each skilled in their particular area. We built it slowly through a combination of promoting from within and bringing in outside talent when needed. They are a passionate group— we have the right people on the bus, and in the right seats.
At Love & Quiches Gourmet we have eight teams- Operations, Quality Assurance and Food Safety, Engineering, Purchasing and Logistics, Research and Development, HR, Administration, and Sales and Marketing. These teams are all cogs in a wheel with its members highly dependent upon the other; keenly aware that one weak link can bring it all to a grinding halt. Some companies promote healthy competition… I think teamwork is healthier. And even more importantly, mutual respect and tolerance during conflict resolution (there will always be differing points of view; after all, this is a business and not a love affair).
We communicate with daily huddles, weekly management and executive meetings, team building, ongoing training, and more. We do not talk down to our employees; we need them. Communication is crucial to keeping us focused and all on the same page. By inviting input across the board, the ideas keep coming.
As a private company, there are fewer layers in our decision making which helps us compete with the giants. We are known for our flexibility and receptiveness to new ideas. From the top we set strategic direction, but our teams provide the “meat and potatoes” that bring the results. All 250 of us have “skin in the game”.
I have chronicled my forty year journey in my recently published business memoir, “With Love and Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from the Kitchen to the Boardroom” where I emphasize organizational development in chapters devoted to our transition to lean and mean, next leveling, and company culture, all told from the Love and Quiches Gourmet experience.
We have come a long way, and it has been a great ride. I take pride that it was my product that put quiche on the map, now served on menus all over the world. And it was my devoted, hardworking and experienced team that got us there.
About the Author: Susan Axelrod and the word “pioneer” go together like cake and frosting! As the Chairwoman and Founder of Love & Quiches Gourmet, Susan’s journey has paved the way for women entrepreneurs. She started her business with no formal training, only a passion for food. Coupled with her energy and tenacity, Susan was able to take her small business, worldwide. Today, these desserts and quiches are found in restaurants and retailers around the globe. Susan chronicles her experiences in her blog, Susan’s Sweet Talk and her book, With Love & Quiches: A Long Island Housewife’s Surprising Journey from Kitchen to Boardroom.
Let me start by saying that no, this isn’t some 50 Shades of Grey reference in an attempt to capitalize on it’s odd popularity.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the impact a shortage of women in crucial management and executive levels can have on a company’s culture and treatment of it’s female employees. But I’m not going to spend time in this article going on and on about why this is needed, even though I do believe it is, because ultimately, it makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite. You see, for all my conviction, I don’t want to step up and be in management myself.
I have zero desire to manage employees or a company. None. I don’t want to “Lean In” as it were. I’m not really entrepreneurial minded. It’s not because I am being pushed out by a male dominated industry, wanting to raise a family, or any other legitimate and concerning reason there aren’t more women in executive roles. In the end, management is just not something that I personally want to do.
And to be honest, I’m tired of feeling guilty about not wanting it. On all sides of the issue is guilt. If you have kids but want to work, you are a bad mother/wife. If you don’t push for management you are slacking and are not doing your part for other women. There are no winners in this game; there is only more societal pressure and insecurity that holds us back from living our lives the way we want to. I know I’m not alone in this either.
But as much as we truly do need women in management, important public positions where they make the decisions, management is not the only path to leadership and influence. All women, regardless of their career level, employment status, personal beliefs and convictions, can be leaders in their own way. All women can have influence, even if it is only within their own circle of friends or family. All women can choose to speak for themselves and be advocates for others. Every one of us has that power and should use it. Frequently.
Leadership and influence is not solely for those in positions of power. I don’t have to be a manager to influence the culture and direction of a team. But it sure does help to have someone in a position of power to help back me up. So how about we make a deal? I’ll will be an advocate for other women in the workplace and I will encourage others to do the same, if some of you out there with the desire and drive to be in those positions of power promise to listen to our collective voices and help enact real change. Sound good to you?
About the author: Shauna is an HR professional with a diverse work history, a Master’s degree, and a PHR certification. She is also a huge geek, social media advocate, and infectious giggler. Besides being a co-founder of the Women of HR she also serves as the current Ringmistress of the Carnival of HR and is the former co-host of the HR Happy Hour blogtalk radio show.
Diversity. What does it mean to you (aside from a pretty handy street dance troupe)? It’s an important topic to mull over because the modern workplace is expected to employ a diverse workforce, with HR departments obviously playing a crucial role in the process.
But as with so many valuable concepts, the risk of the principle being lost in the rhetoric and its substance replaced by an empty corporate buzz word is high. As HR employees – dealing with the people behind the labels – it is our duty to clarify the recruitment process we are expected to implement and highlight any practical issues that arise.
Diversity and the ‘tick box’ culture
One of the measures of a diverse workplace is how closely it reflects the make-up of the society in which it operates. This has led to government statisticians compiling lists of percentages where citizens are divided into their ethnic group, gender, sexual orientation and numerous other categories and the numbers compared – often unfavourably – with the make up of the company.
If we’re not careful, this can lead to diversity being treated as another item to be included on a growing list of corporate targets. ‘Do we have a disabled guy? Good. Five per cent ethnic minorities? Great. We’re running at 55-45 gender split though; need to even that up a bit.’
Here we stray into that contentious issue of ‘positive discrimination’, and whether it is ever right to recruit someone on the basis of their age, gender, sexual orientation or cultural background. Whatever your position about that, it is a very real dilemma that the Human Resource department has to grapple with – diversity in the real world rather than a utopian concept.
Do we still have an appetite for diversity?
Recent world events have even cast doubts on the value of diversity itself. Struggling economies have led to high levels of unemployment and the accusation by some disgruntled citizens that their jobs are being taken by people from minority backgrounds. And there is no doubt that recruiters in many fields have sought to actively import talent where there is a perceived lack of it from amongst the local employment pool.
With the media highlighting the negative aspects of muticulturalism and the dangers of excessively liberal policies, and the rise of nationalist parties in the political sphere, even the politicians’ are displaying quite schizophrenic behaviours as they reflect the public’s ambivalence over diversity.
Companies as diversity in action
The modern workplace, to varying degrees, mirrors the situation in society at large. People from different backgrounds come together for a common cause and while there are inevitably culture clashes and disagreements there is also a lot of solidarity and shared identity. A company’s success seems often to be related to the extent to which its workforce has been integrated, enabling everyone to pull together. But is there more that a diverse workplace can offer up?
Attack of the Clones
In our drive for diversity, we must ensure that the people we recruit are given the support and freedom to actually express their unique qualities and perspectives. In a modern workplace we need to utilise the full richness of each individual’s experience and tap into their irreplaceable skills and strengths, if we are to remain relevant and competitive as a unit.
Employees are not just representatives of particular demographics in society, they are living, communicating windows into the minds and hearts of the people who share significant elements of their background. If one of our employees uses a wheelchair, he or she will be invaluable in assessing how accessible our company is to other wheelchair users. If a female employee objects to the chauvanistic workplace culture then ignore her at your peril. It is highly likely that sexism is coming across in our products and services, alienating women in society.
In some ways, a diverse company is a gift which gives us the opportunity to interact with society at a deeper, more inclusive level. But we must still make the most of the richness at our disposal by treating employees as respected individuals. Otherwise we risk creating a sham diversity rather like the clone troopers in the Star Wars stories. Here, the individual troopers are largely identified by surface differences alone (hairstyle, uniform trim, etc.) to compensate for the fact that they are all cloned from one source.
Is diversity still on the menu? Absolutely, but only the best restaurants can combine all of the flavours into one appetizing dish.
About the Author: Nicole Dominique Le Maire has gained a reputation as a highly valued leader within the female business and Human Resources Industry. As a multi-talented woman entrepreneur and a global people connector, she is also the co-author of two books, including “The Female Leader.” As a result, she has gained tremendous experience guiding startups and entrepreneurs which has supplemented her MBA, MAHRM, and MCIPD and this has catapulted her to become one of the top leaders in the Human Resources industry. Get in touch via twitter @NicoleLeMaire or one of the business websites, humanresourcesglobal.com, newtohr.com, thefemaleleader.biz
Throughout the years, women have faced – and continue to face – numerous challenges when it comes to succeeding in business. Yet despite significant challenges, female leaders are becoming more and more common – and they’re making a positive and powerful impact on society.
What are some characteristics that great women leaders share? We’ve put together a list of 5 of the best traits of powerful female leaders, as well as a few inspirational quotes from real women who are paving the way for future generations – in politics, business and beyond.
“Hope and change are hard-fought things.” – Michelle Obama
1. They work hard
Women who excel in leadership roles have a clear vision of what they want and what they need to do to get there. Their personal and professional goals are important to them, and obtaining success (whatever that means to them) is at the top of their list. They’re aware that it takes hard work and commitment to succeed, and they’re willing to work to achieve it.
Women leaders often need to juggle multiple roles or balance different areas of life in order to focus on their careers and professional aspirations. But they know with complete clarity what they want, and they’re willing to do what it takes to get there. The enthusiasm and strength these women possess is apparent to all who meet them, in both professional and personal settings.
“It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from. The ability to triumph begins with you.” – Oprah Winfrey
2. They recognize their own strengths (and weaknesses)
Great women leaders have a strong understanding of their own gifts, and they understand the significance of these strengths and the role they play in their ability to succeed. Great leaders know what they can do well, and they use these assets to their advantage to help them excel in what they want to do.
Conversely, great women leaders also know their own weaknesses. Instead of letting weaknesses limit them, however, great leaders surround themselves with people who can support them and make them better.
“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be.” – Rosalynn Carter
3. They take risks
The greatest women leaders are confident in making decisions, even when those decisions are difficult or represent big risks. They rarely procrastinate or hesitate, and they are are remarkably assertive and influential. They don’t wait for direction – they jump in and get things done. They’re known for coming up with innovative solutions, because they aren’t afraid to take big risks or question rules and regulation in order to get the results they want.
Perhaps most importantly, as Margaret Thatcher reminds us below? Great women leaders aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers when it comes to getting things done.
“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.” – Margaret Thatcher
4. They welcome change and challenges
Successful women leaders don’t just embrace challenges – they face them head-on. Moreover, they are excellent listeners, they seek out feedback, and they are genuinely interested in what others have to say about the issues they are faced with. Highly respected women listen to multiple points of views before they decide on the best possible decision.
Great women leaders welcome challenges, but they also welcome change. Women who are frontrunners in any industry embrace change, because they know that true progress can only be achieved through adaptation and innovation.
“I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.” – Nadia Comaneci
5. They have a strong desire to make a difference
All great leaders, regardless of gender, should be kindhearted and giving of themselves. This is a trait that’s even more evident in great women leaders, in every field and from all walks of life. Truly successful leaders not only have an incredible desire to lead, but also to help others and make a difference.
The most successful female leaders believe in the value of paying it forward, and they practice what they preach.
“I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness.” – Mother Teresa
What characteristics do you think great women leaders share?
We women in HR definitely have plenty to say about what managers can (and should) do to be more effective.
In fact, we’re often so overwhelmed with what a few of our business or functional managers did and didn’t do, that we don’t know where to start. I have worked in the HR field, as a consultant in the areas of performance management and leadership development, and have plenty of crazy stories about leadership gaps observed by HR generalists–mostly women. These gaps range from legal exposures of all kinds to managers de-motivating, or failing to develop and retain employees. Although the outliers are only a small percentage, most leaders we know could do a lot better at the things we know most about.
After researching and writing a book about workplace feedback, I am giving myself feedback about how I give feedback. Over the years, I have learned a lot.
A few important conclusions:
1. I wish I had been more honest and directive in my earlier days of HR consulting. When leaders asked me to do something that I thought wasn’t such a great idea, I was too accommodating, figuring my role was to “support management” by helping them do what they wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong; I never accommodated anything illegal or immoral. It was more like I said OK to things like training supervisors and low-level managers in a particular leadership skill, but letting the top executives get away with no training, buy-in or evidence of the skill themselves. Later, I pushed back at hare-brained requests and said–“Based on my experience, this won’t work.” My advice: Say what you know, loud and clear, upfront. I promise you, you will be MORE, rather than less respected for it. Of course you will give a business rationale, but don’t hold back your expertise.
2. I need to spend more time coaching leaders, because change is hard. Explaining everything once or twice won’t work. If they are adopting a new mindset and new behaviors, they will need many, many visits with you, to talk through what they are trying, what works, what doesn’t work, and how to address the setbacks. Focus each conversation on one or two things they plan to do differently, not a whole universe of competencies that would require a personality transplant. My advice: Plan a series of many incremental coaching conversations with leaders you are helping.
3. What I know from the HR field is beneficial to business and I need to shout that from the rooftops! People from other functions tend to roll their eyes when the topic of HR comes up. Part of that is something we can change, if we do a better job of linking everything we give feedback on to their specific goals. I used to think that things like performance development and career development had obvious benefits for a leader’s goals, but I know now that I need to explain that linkage in no uncertain terms. For example, a manager’s feedback to employees, done earlier and more often, helps people learn from mistakes and positively impacts the team’s goals. Duh! We need to repeat that and explain it in a way that each leader understands. My advice: Be the one responsible for communicating the linkage of people strategies to business success.
4. I will not always receive an immediate pat on the back for what I recommend, and that’s OK. What I learned is to align my work to my knowledge and experience about what optimizes the business through people. When I have done this, I have actually received MORE kudos than when I agreed with a suboptimal approach. Whether it was in the area of hiring right, designing a better leadership program, or facilitating a strategy session, everyone got better results when I trusted my expertise. My advice: Be your own positive reinforcement for your decisions and recommendations, and others will follow!
You are a talented leader in your field. Allow yourself to fully contribute to your organization’s goals, through HR!
About the Author: Anna Carroll, MSSW, is an organization development consultant, facilitator, coach, and speaker. She designs and leads training and group planning experiences and creates learning tools and assessments to speed up group success. Most recently Carroll has focused on the power of feedback loops and how leaders and team members can overcome their barriers to exchanging valuable feedback in the workplace. Her book, The Feedback Imperative: How to Give Everyday Feedback to Speed Up Your Team’s Success, was published in July 2014 by River Grove Press. Her website is www.EverydayFeedback.com. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband Michael Wilkes.
It’s about a week and a half since the 2014 version of the HR Technology Conference wrapped up in Las Vegas. I once again had the opportunity to attend as part of the social media & blogging team, my second time attending the full conference. I continue to be impressed by the sheer size of the conference, as well as the variety of topics and tracks available. It’s a conference that’s not just about seeing new technologies or new iterations of existing technologies available to help with our HR needs (though there is plenty of that if that’s what you’re looking for). But it goes beyond that to offer insights into HOW various companies are leveraging the technology available to address their HR challenges, and WHY we, as HR practitioners, need to be not just aware, but knowledgeable enough to be able to make recommendations as to how our organizations can leverage existing and yet to come technologies to maximize the effectiveness of our employees and drive success for our companies.
I have to admit that I walked away from this year’s conference a little overwhelmed. You see, I come from an interesting, dual viewpoint. In my day to day job as it currently exists, I don’t have much opportunity to work with or make decisions about the technologies we currently have in place. So to take what I hear and learn about at the conference and put it into perspective from a real-life, day to day, life in the trenches outlook becomes a bit of a challenge. But as a blogger, and someone who is (at least I like to think) a big picture and future focused thinker, I’m fascinated by what’s happening in the space. So this conference becomes a place where I’m soaking in as much as I can for my own benefit, while at the same time trying to pull it all together, step outside of my day-to-day responsibilities, and think about and share what I’ve learned from a much bigger perspective. And that can be a little overwhelming, but in a very good way.
You see, that feeling of being overwhelmed is a sign to me that it’s critically important for me to be at this conference. And it’s a sign that it’s probably important for many more HR practitioners, who are not that much different than me, to be there as well. Because even though we might not be responsible for technology in our day to day jobs now, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t become more knowledgeable. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make it our business to understand what’s out there and how it could make us more efficient and effective. Maybe more of us need to take the reins in our organizations and help drive decisions about how technology could and should make our processes and functions better drivers of business success.
Though I didn’t have the opportunity to attend it, there was quite a bit of buzz around the conference and on social media about one of Jason Averbrook’s (Chief Innovation Officer at Appirio) sessions in which he offered this bit of advice and wisdom: “We are all technologists.”
Think about that. What that’s saying is that as HR professionals, we have an obligation to understand technology. We live in a world where technology is everywhere, and is constantly changing, and we have a responsibility to ensure what happens inside our organizations mirrors the reality of the world outside of our organizations. And if we as HR leaders, and our HR teams, don’t have the skills to be technologists, we need to start teaching ourselves and our teams those skills. The HR Technology Conference is a place where we can come to ensure that we stay abreast of what’s happening in the space. Is all of right for every organization? No, of course not. Do we have a responsibility as HR leaders to understand the key trends so that we can make informed decisions about what’s best for our individual organizations? You bet.
Check back later this week when I’ll share some of the key themes I picked out from this year’s show.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR has over 16 years of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, and learning & development, 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.
What does the word “technology” do to your blood pressure when you hear it? How about “digital space?” “Social media?”
Your answer may be different depending on a few things:
- Your age;
- Your geography;
- Your career choice; and possibly,
- Any expectations you’ve been given for using (or not using) technology.
For the record, I’m 53. I’m an HR professional – I am in banking, now for 13+ years, healthcare for 5 years prior, and in small business for 7+ years, with an even earlier working stint in the public welfare sector. I remember when the fax machine came out – I was ecstatic over the ability to move information faster, but had to wait until some of our vendors and clients “caught up” and caught on to the efficiency. I remember when I refused to use a computer mouse – I told my husband, “why should I, when I have all the function buttons memorized?” Remember F1, F2, F3?
I remember calling my husband (he was so tech-savvy back then!) from work so he could teach me this thing called ‘mail merge.’ Once I had a staff of 35 employees, I wasn’t going to type and retype names & addresses in my quarterly employee newsletter. And finally, did anyone delete all those requests back around the years 2002 – 2005 to “connect with your colleague Joe Schmoe” on something called LinkedIn? Yes. I did. I deleted them.
I live in the conservative Midwest, and in a smaller community. Hence, our population in general may be behind in the learning curve and usage of social media. My age group is, too – I’m often frustrated because I seem to still have close friends (who live thousands of miles away) who refuse to use social media. Any of it. I occasionally get a phone call, “did you know that Susie is fighting thyroid disease? No one told me, I’m so upset.” And actually, Susie posted the information herself on Facebook, Twitter, or elsewhere in the digital world. Ce la vie.
At a recent round table of HR banking professionals in my home state, we gathered to discuss HR topics. One of our frustrations was our trade association’s change of communication from a list-serv email to their website. To ask questions and share dilemmas with colleagues, we need to now learn something new. And different. And that is hard – for everyone. We HR professionals had to take a (difficult) look in the mirror and do what we often coach others to do – get with the program, learn new technology, adapt to change. Tough one.
I have to say, even for an “oldster,” I was surprised to hear that some of my HR colleagues still use paper applications when recruiting, aren’t engaged in the digital space, and aren’t on LinkedIn. I believe I also heard some of our collegial competitors still discourage internet usage and social media usage in the workplace. For me, I found that sad – even freely stating that I was NOT an early adopter, and I am still fairly tech-UNsavvy.
I contend that for HR to earn that proverbial seat at the executive level table (aka the C-suite), HR professionals need to be disruptors. Using social technologies can be disruptive and when learned and used in a positive way, a change agent. We need to question the status quo, make some decisions then ask for forgiveness, and we need to step up and lead. Human Resources has been administrative – almost forever, right? The “Personnel” departments of old were there to support operations, process paperwork, deliver payroll, file employee records, administer benefit programs, and write policies.
We still serve some of those administrative needs, but HR can be so much more to the organization. We need to ask the question “Why?” Why are we doing it this way, why aren’t we adapting new technologies, why don’t we invest in an HRIS? From my small corner of the world, we can help drive cultural shifts and mentalities, albeit slowly, and often with much assistance from other business drivers. Some of that comes from learning to use technology – it’s not going away.
Here are some ideas for HR professionals to consider:
- Have an open mind to change. Most of us no longer hand out cash on pay day, and many of us no longer hand out paper paychecks either. We have electronic means of delivering pay, so why wouldn’t we want to move along that continuum with everything HR does? From recruiting to performance management, HR is getting electronically delivered out there in many places – more efficiently, and often more effectively.
- Get social. Take a look, in your off-time, at the social spaces out there. LinkedIn is NOT just a tool people use for a job search. Not anymore. Ease into social media, one place at a time. It can be overwhelming. Join Facebook and just look around for a while. You don’t have to post. Same with LinkedIn – see what other HR professionals are doing in the social space. There are a ton of HR blogs out there, many are fabulous to read, and provide good tips. Seek out one you like and follow them for a bit to get a feel.
To move the Human Resources profession up, each of us has a responsibility to be continuous learners, and mostly, to learn to live in the digital spaces. Good luck! You can do this!
[One of these days, I might even get that blog started…. Yes, change happens slowly.]
About the Author: Dorothy Douglass is Vice President of Human Resources & Training at MutualBank, an Indiana-based financial institution. She began her career with Mutual in 2001 as Human Resources Manager, and is a graduate of Ball State University. She is proud to have been in Human Resources now for more than 17 years and is continuing to “lean in” and working to influence the “people management” side of her organization. She is passionate about managing and developing people; and I have yet to be bored in 13+ years in her current job. She considers herself fairly tech-UN-savvy, though has immersed herself in Facebook and LinkedIn. She’s still working on the Twitter-sphere & has goals to blog more in 2014.