Archive for General HR

Repetition and Reruns for the HR Win

when-harry-met-sally-800-75The other day as I lay prone on the sofa flipping through channels I happened upon “When Harry Met Sally.” The last 30 minutes of “When Harry Met Sally.”

Now I’ve seen this movie so many times I feel as if I not only assisted in writing the script but also hung out during filming and gave notes to the actors, picked out the set decorations, and had a hand in Meg Ryan’s wardrobe. I can sing along to every song on the Harry Connick Jr. infused soundtrack. I laugh at the same lines (every time) and usually tear up, right on cue, at the end.

So, naturally, I settled in and re-watched the ending. One more time.

I am, as American University Professor of Marketing Cristell Russell calls it, a “re-consumer.”

In research published by the Journal of Consumer Research, Russell and co-author Sidney Levy (marketing professor at the University of Arizona) explored the motivation of people who go on vacation to the same place year after year, re-watch their favorite TV shows and movies, and re-read the same book over and over again. (note: my top book is Thorpe; I’ve done an annual re-read for at least 30 years).

The authors explored the drivers of re-consumption as well as the psychological and experiential aspects. “We interviewed people in New Zealand and America to determine why they chose to repeat their behavior,” Russell has stated. “We determined that that re-consumption behaviors serve five main purposes: regressive, progressive, reconstructive, relational, and reflective. The reasoning that people had for their repeat behaviors was far more complex than simply nostalgia. For people to take time out of their busy lives to do something over and over again, the motivations required were usually deep-seated and poignant.”

Some people, it turned out, re-consume due to familiarity; their brain signals to them exactly what sort of reward they’ll receive in the end whether that be a good cry, laughter, or relaxation. Others return for a do-over because, subconsciously, they’re using the activity as a measuring stick for their own life. When re-consuming in this manner, a person mentally categorizes the changes they’ve experienced since the first time they sat, as an example, in a darkened theatre watching the WHMS “I’ll have what she’s having” scene.

While people might re-consume unpleasant things (perhaps inadvertently or against their will) they’ll also return over and over and over again to those things that serve a deeper purpose. They may repeat these consumer activities due to affection (“I always watch any Law & Order episode with Chris Noth!”), nostalgia (“Hey honey…this is ‘our song’!”) or for therapeutic reasons (“When I need a good cry I watch “Steel Magnolias”)

Now think about this from an HR perspective; it ties directly into the true brand of the employment experience and the corporate culture at an organization.

If increased retention and higher engagement (as examples) are desired outcomes at your company, then here’s another lesson to take from our friends in marketing.

Speak to the hearts and minds of your employees and they might, just might, continue to buy what you’re selling.

“Baby fish mouth!” Jess (Bruno Kirby)

You CAN Bring the Sexy Back: ‘Branding’ Employee Discipline

dominatrix-mistress-with-her-whipIt seems you can’t click open your web browser without reading something about “Employer Branding.” Or “Talent Branding.” Good stuff to be sure; I think it’s important and critical.

What fascinates me is how we tend to explore this concept primarily from a talent attraction or recruiting standpoint. Oh sure, during the strategy phase of “employer branding” there is cursory attention paid to overall organizational culture and the end-loop/integration to the employee life cycle. “If we recruit these people,” says Mary the HR leader, “we need to think about retaining them.” Well…yeah.

So great care is given to ensuring that the brand carries on throughout the onboarding, performance management and succession planning processes. The Learning & Development team aligns their instructional design and training delivery to the brand. Marketing and recruiting teams work hand in hand and it’s a wonderful and glorious thing.

But you know what’s often neglected in this strategy planning? That which HR is often best known for: employee relations. ER, as defined by our friends at HRCI, is the interaction between employees and an organization (for example, communications, conflict resolution, compliance with legal regulations, career development, and performance measurement).”

For the non-HR types, this catch all category includes:

  • “Joe reports to work 30 minutes late 3 times per week”
  • “Maeve is an insufferable know-it-all who pisses off every single human being in the office”
  • “Bob told a dirty joke in the lunch room”
  • “the VP of Sales has been patting the derrieres of all the female account executives”

So, because this kind of crap goes on in every workplace your local HR Department creates an Employee Handbook/Policy Manual. This is where you find information about how you get paid, EEO statements, and your rights under the FMLA.

And nestled in amongst all those nuggets is the section that let’s you know what will happen if YOU are the one telling dirty jokes in the lunch room. But there’s often no attempt to think about brand here; this section of the handbook/policy manual/rule book is often given an authoritative sounding title like Code of Conduct or Company Rules.

Included in this section you will learn that when your manager does need to have a discussion, you may be facing:

  • A Corrective Action Notification
  • The Disciplinary Procedure
  • A Counseling Report
  • The Progressive Discipline Process
  • A Verbal Warning, Written Warning, FINAL Warning

Jesus.

And you’re given this on your first day of employment.

So even in the midst of all the #culture and #transparency and #WeAreFamily hoopla that connects your candidate/applicant experience to your NEW/NOW employment experience, you are slapped right up side-the-head with something that was left out of the employer brand strategy conversations.

HR professionals as tyrannical police agents? Moms? Headmistresses?

Dominatrixes?

I’m not saying we downplay important information by bathing it in sunshine and serving it up with lollipops and cotton candy. I am saying that HR teams, when working on an employer branding strategy need to connect all the dots. Language is important and the branding of your employee relations (discipline!) approach is just as critical as the branding of your career site.

So…what’s your brand?

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credit: image

The ennui of the average worker

60s-smud-office-470Once upon a time people worked in offices like this. Desks lined up in neat and orderly rows. Handbags tucked securely inside drawers. Open concept…well, for some of the employees.

As this picture dates from the 1960’s, my guess is this was where the gals in the secretarial pool sat. The fellas, no doubt, had plush and luxurious offices with windows.

I am worn out just looking at this picture.

Now for all I know these busy employees were doing stimulating and enthralling work. Maybe they were processing multi-million dollar wire transfers to exotic foreign lands or solving complex engineering problems.

Perhaps Beatrice there (2nd desk, cat eye glasses, bouffant hairdo) read The Feminine Mystique and realized she too suffered from ‘the problem that has no name’ so she marched out and got a job a few years ago.

At first it was fun. There was something new to learn every day and she was thrilled, beyond belief, to feel productive and empowered. She learned to operate that fancy multi-line telephone on her desk and initially found the endless repetition of running adding machine tapes hour-after-hour somewhat soothing. Mr. Jones, her boss, was very nice to ‘his girls.’ which is how he referred to Beatrice and her coworkers Enid, Maeve, Wanda Mae and Gladys. He (well, his wife) made sure the girls got a bouquet of flowers on their birthday to place on their desk, and he never (ever!) raised his voice; he didn’t want to upset anyone lest she be having her monthly female visitor.

But then boredom set in. Excruciating, teeth-numbing, soul crushing boredom.

Beatrice, after several years in her job, has moved from satisfaction to the point of contentment. But this is not contentment that resulted, as one might have anticipated, in continued happiness and acceptance. Rather, it resulted in further listlessness. Restlessness.

Ennui.

Beatrice became what we call today, 50 years later, a ‘disengaged employee.’

Disengagement at work is not always due to compounding negative forces; it can just as easily arise due to ennui.

Perhaps that’s a ‘problem that has a name.’

 

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image of 1960’s workspace via Sacramento Municipal Utility District

I’m from HR. And I’m Here to Help.

clipboard galI really am.

But I understand why you may not believe me.

Over the years, perhaps, you’ve had frustrating interactions with poker-faced human resources ladies desperately clinging to antiquated policies and procedures.

It’s entirely possible that an HR Business Partner, who, according to your company collateral is supposed to ‘build coalitions and effect change,’ only brought about frustration by tossing up roadblocks and obstacles.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the last time you had a positive interaction with HR was when you ate donuts and played games in New Employee Orientation and it’s been all downhill since then.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret…

Many HR practitioners are not, deep down, the black-hearted trolls they appear to be. Many of them absolutely DO want to help employees, applicants, managers, and leaders.

Oh sure, there will always be prissy, useless, nasty or power-hungry HR practitioners. There will also always be jackholes who work in sales, nerds without social skills who work in IT, and narcissistic (and impossibly attractive) people who work as pharmaceutical account executives.

And you thought of someone you’ve worked with, met at a social function, or heard about who fit every one of those stereotypes. Didn’t you?

Look…a vast number of the gals and guys who work in human resources begin their career filled with dewy optimism; they want to make a difference in an organization by working with and through people. Many want to move from prescribing activities and enforcing rules and begin working as full partners in the influencing of business outcomes.

They’re from HR.

And they’re here to help.

Please let them.

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image via Roger Wilkerson