Tending The HR Garden


“I praise loudly, and condemn softly.” Catherine the Great said that and it’s not bad advice. HR is overloaded with responsibilities, from minutia to policy issues, yet all tasks are important. HR has a significant role in shaping the company culture and thus the success of a company. Their behavior impacts perception, branding, turnover, and profit by the processes they put in place. How HR manages their role with upper management peers significantly impacts their ability to implement positive changes and morale.


HR continually must balance multiple functions. Two crucial areas are:

1. Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding, and

2. Communication


As a leader, I’m all about empowerment and engaging others. Here are my tips for staying in the loop, managing information, and solving problems at the first sign of trouble to prevent larger problems. HR is in the business people risk management.


Hire the best person for the job, not the most available one.


Recruiters learn to manage the process by asking questions and listening closely to the answers given. Insist on genuine engagement with candidates and co-workers alike. Look directly into a person’s eyes when asking for information. Be direct. Be kind. Speak with purpose and authority. Ask for help when you need it. Say, “Thank you”.


Verify skills and discover what a candidate feels they need to stay at your company 3 – 5 years. Listen to how they define management habits they respect and what motivates them to do a good job and contribute to the goals of the entire operation. Can your company meet the ideal candidate’s expectations?


The typical interview HR has with applicants may not touch on what a candidate believes is significant. In the rush to get to the next task it’s easy to treat candidates like one of the herd. An extra few minutes spent uncovering and discussing the needs and career aspirations of an ideal candidate will go along way to winning them over in a competitive market. Be personable, not gooey or pretentious. Be authentic and sincere.


When 50% of the population says they would change jobs today if they could, taking a few minutes to qualify candidates properly can reduce turnover. Employee retention is risk management.



HR has a responsibility to model excellent communication skills for the whole company. They set the tone. Saying one has an open-door policy is one thing, but being specific leads to actual conversations.


“Tell me when a recruiter contacts you. I want to know! What salary range did they mention? Help me keep our salaries competitive!”


“Tell me when you’re having trouble handling an issue with a manager or co-worker, I can help you prepare for a meaningful conversation.”


“Tell me what you like about our company!”


“Tell me what stinks, what works, and what does not work, not once a year but all the time.”


“What can we do to improve a process? What process in place now slows you down?”


If someone does not feel comfortable going to their manager, having them come to you rather than quitting, informs you of a systemic, or broader issue. Use your expertise to empower employees to have direct conversations within their department. Continue to offer varied communication skill training.


Surveys demonstrate, “90% of people report they experience stress due to ongoing issues with someone who matters at work.”


If HR can help chip away at that problem they will be outstanding.


“Let’s use critical thinking skills to make this a better place to work.”

“If you could improve one thing, what would it be?”

“What would you like to develop about yourself?”


Celebrate success! Yeah us! People love short newsy announcements.


“This many people completed their MBA coursework, congrats!


6 people completed the communication skill-training this month…thank you!”


“We changed a minor process this week (weekly reports are suspended for one, end-of-month report). This will make all our lives easier. It took a multi-department collaboration but it was worth it!” Success breeds success.


“We’re looking to fill 3 positions in engineering. Who do you know with a background in engineering? If each-one-refers-one we’ll have these filled by the end of the week!”


Set the tone. Promote a policy of, “Don’t complain”.


Instead of complaining to a co-worker, let’s fix the problem; tell me!


Sometimes people need to vent. The problem with venting is the negative energy brings down the person who must listen. Encourage people to vent to you. Issues can be identified and fixed once they’re voiced. More importantly, the poison of negativity does not spread to contaminate the ranks.


Negativity is insidious.

Negative talk is a time waster and work preventer. It’s distracting. Empower people to stop complaining and turn the situation around. People grumble when they don’t know how to proceed productively. We’ve all been guilty of this until we learned a better way.


HR can inform employees on how to alleviate stress, and negativity. Continually talk about the benefits of positive thinking, practicing pro-active problem solving, or positive brainstorming. Discuss positive alternatives like yoga, and provide skill training to help employees grow professionally, intellectually, and consciously.


Think and talk in terms of solutions.


Encourage employees to voice their ideas on how to improve processes. Will everything be implemented? No. But studies show when management asks for input, workers feel heard, validated, and believe they made a contribution. They did what they could to help, even if they were ignored, and that makes people happy.


If someone voices a solution to a problem management does not want to acknowledge, and thus they punish or reprimand the one who spoke, communication shuts down. Prevent the ‘us vs. them’ atmosphere. People leave unhealthy, negative environments when the opportunity arises. We are sensitive and want to feel respected and valued. It makes sense.


HR has a powerful role in tending the garden that is the culture and soul of a company. Empower people to contribute more. Demonstrate how to engage and lead by modeling how problems can be discussed and solved. The act of discussion is healthy and productive work. Watch your garden grow!


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About the Author:  Kimberly Schenk is an entrepreneur and executive recruiter. She is author of the book Top Recruiter Secrets and provides recruiter training for organizations and individuals. Get more recruiting tips and tricks at her blog http://www.toprecruitersecrets.com/blog.


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