Tag Archive for employee

Yours, Mine and Ours

don-and-blankenshipI think we can all agree that language matters in the workplace. Often this is a culture indicator; the leadership team at the silk-stocking law firm may (in public at least) be formal and circumspect – “Miss Blankenship, will you please come in here and bring your steno pad?” The dudes running the tech start up down the street however embrace my favorite four-letter word and freely interject this vivid descriptor into any and all conversations – “What the f’ing hell is going on with this f’ing beta test?”

Language also reflects how we view and treat our employees – sometimes in subtle ways.  This struck me the other day after separate conversations with two different leaders from two wildly divergent industries. Fellow A spoke of his team in the context of “we” while Fellow B referred to his staff members as if they were his possessions.

Ours vs. Mine

It struck me that Fellow A came across as inclusive; exhibiting a spirit of “we’re all in this together.”  Fellow B, on the other hand, came across as a total dick. Everyone in his glorified solar system orbited around him; he could scarcely speak of others without relying on his own title and elevated function to describe their jobs.

Do your leaders or managers say:

  • my administrative assistant” or “the department’s administrative assistant”
  • my A/P clerk” or “our A/P clerk”
  • my HR Rep” or “the company’s HR Rep”

Does it sometimes make sense for a bona-fide denizen of the C-suite to say “contact my assistant to schedule that?” Sure. Although saying “contact my assistant Ida to schedule that” (use her name!) recognizes Ida as a self-sustaining and productive member of the team and not merely an entity that exists solely for the continuation of Mr. C-Suite’s exaltation.

Know what I mean?

This isn’t Mad Men anymore – “My girl will take your coat.” “My girl can get some coffee for you.”

Oh well, it’s 2 pm. Freshen up my drink won’t you Miss Blankenship?

Using Employee Feedback to Drive Breakthroughs

guy at concert .. armsLast week I teamed up with the folks at ClearPicture to present a webinar on “Using Employee Feedback for Business Improvement.”  As we were speaking to an HR audience we focused on what many in human resources are familiar with – gathering employee feedback as part of an employee engagement survey.

We who work in the HR sphere can scarcely turn around without hearing, reading and talking about employee engagement yet even though we discuss this topic ad nauseum we still struggle to come up with a common definition ourselves; for purposes of the webinar we opted to use a definition from author Kevin Kruse “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.”

While we used the employee engagement survey as an example our webinar was not about engagement. Rather we talked about how HR professionals should approach any feedback process with a goal of gaining insight that can lead to business breakthroughs. Desired results are organization specific of course and will depend upon one’s industry, customers and organizational strategies.  Organizational goals often include revenue growth or cost-savings but could just as easily be superior project performance, better decisions or even, for government entities or non-profits, how to solve problems that concern citizens/constituents.

Our goal as presenters was to ensure that HR professionals view an employee feedback process in a holistic and enterprise-wide way – whether they have 200, 2,000 or 20,000 employees.

Five Step Process

Clarifying the purpose – At this stage it’s important to set the context and clarify the purpose for gathering feedback.  Answer the when, why and for what reason questions at the outset; include the compelling needs for gathering the data and explain how those needs are tied to organizational goals.

Gathering feedback – Determining the manner in which feedback will be gathered is critical in order to meet the needs of the audience. Several things come into play at this stage including determining the mix/types of questions (i.e., open-ended vs. closed-ended) as well as encouraging employee participation by thinking ‘like a marketer’ – crafting the right message and going to where the employee audience gathers which may include mobile, social or via some sort of gamified technology.

Analyzing the data – For the most part HR practitioners are not trained statisticians but they must put on their statistician hat (or work with someone who can assist them) at this stage in order to accurately review quantitiave vs. qualitative data and also to ensure they don’t fall into traps around causation or correlation or making invalid comparisons between seemingly related pieces of information.

Correlating the data – Remember how we talked about this feedback process having an enterprise-wide focus?  This is the stage where it truly becomes one. HR professionals should look beyond their traditional sources of HR data (HRIS, ATS, LMS, etc.) and link not just HR data and the feedback data but also see how data gathered from other parts of the business fits into the whole.  Questions to ask may be: What are the sales numbers for the company and how does that match up to the organizational hierarchy? What about customer or service trends?  How is shipping of product handled?  Do we have a call center where number of calls per day, customer satisfaction and time-spent-on-calls is tracked?  HR practitioners know that in those functional areas the leaders are tracking it all and now is the perfect opportunity to dive into the human/people elements related to these business operations.

Taking action – The biggest complaint from employees is that whenever feedback is asked for nothing is ever done so this final step is where communication should go into hyper drive.  While taking action includes setting goals, monitoring progress and holding people accountable it also includes ensuring that employees get answers to:

  • “what do we (leaders) know now that we didn’t know before” and, most importantly
  • “Who will be responsible?  When will it happen?  How will we monitor it?  WHO will do WHAT by WHEN?”

Three Key Items

Throughout any feedback process (such as an employee engagement survey) it’s important to:

  1. Have a purpose that is aligned with organizational strategy
  2. Communicate and clarify
  3. Take action by following through and following up

You can check out the presentation slides here. As an HR professional you can guide and influence organizational leaders in meaningful ways that can lead to successful business outcomes, improvements and breakthroughs.

From Informing to Engaging: Communicating Effectively in Organizations

colour office chairs 3dThe Trickle-Down Method

Once upon a time the flow of information in organizations followed a fairly predictable course; executives announced a new program, initiative or product and dictated the content to an administrative staffer who passed it on to a corporate communication staffer who fine-tuned the announcement. The memo (remember paper memos?) was typed up and cascaded down via the organizational hierarchy. Then, depending upon the strategic importance, an all-employee meeting might be called after which individual managers followed up and answered questions within their teams and departments.

After digesting the news, most employees simply went back to their jobs and decided that they would worry about the new initiative when it affected the work they needed to complete. “That’s a sales program,” an employee in the Accounting Department would think. “It has nothing to do with me.”

In this scenario both leaders and employees failed to understand that employees, no matter their role, are business partners for the entire enterprise. We wouldn’t withhold critical information from an external business partner, fail to ensure their understanding, or clarify their role in meeting goals yet many time we have done just that with our internal business partners – employees.

We’ve always known that engaging with our external business partners is necessary for success and now – finally – we understand that engaging with our employees is just as important.

Making Communications Employee-Centric

More organizations now understand that internal communication is an integral component for the reinforcement of their organizational culture; when, where and how they communicate with employees supports the organizational values by which they say they live. When company leaders focus on the manner of their internal communication and take steps to do it with intent, their employees/business partners are much better equipped to understand their role in driving strategy and attaining goals.

When defining an internal communication strategy designed to engage employees there are a few key things that will make sure employees are at the center of the process:

Ensure communication is targeted and timely. Focus on providing the right information to the right employees at the right time. Technology platforms can assist in targeting message by location, language, work groups, or other areas.

Promote interaction. To strengthen a culture of transparency and engagement ensure that conversations are two-way and not just top-down. Effective use of social business tools allows dialogue to open up and encourages informed and relevant conversations between leaders and employees and across organizational silos.

Consider format and platforms. Ensure that communication platforms are easy to access and tailored to the internal audience; desktops, tablets, and mobile-enhanced platforms can all be used to further goals of promoting conversation and encouraging feedback.

Measure engagement and interaction. When launching an internal communication strategy the most important step is determining how it aligns with strategy and how success will be defined and measured. There are numerous ways to monitor, measure and track not just consumption of information but also interaction and ultimately engagement.

While leaders may outline strategy, the employees are the ones who execute on the strategic vision or initiatives of the organization. Having genuine, honest, two-way dialogue allows individual employees to truly understand their role in furthering business goals and strategies.

 

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This post originally appeared on Bizzuka’s Big Idea blog.  Bizzuka provides custom Web site designinternet marketing, and intranet development services for small and medium sized business throughout the United States. In addition, Bizzuka is developing a syndicated messaging system which allows workforce communications to cut through the noise and deliver information effectively and promptly.

Employee Relations: HR’s Red-Headed Stepchild?

danny bonaduceOnce upon a time on the heels of the Industrial Revolution we heralded the birth of the Personnel HR profession.  Industrial Relations begat Labor Relations with its accompanying cliché: a smoke-filled room laden with labor bosses and cigar-chomping industrialists hammering out a collective bargaining agreement.

As our profession matured we began to use the phrase Employee Relations in order to provide differentiation from the Labor Relations connotation (unionized workforce) and provide us with a term to use when referring to the management of the employment relationship in a non-unionized workforce.

Yet even as Employee Relations matured into young adulthood and then into a comfortable middle-age a number of organizations continued to “relate” to their employees as if they were still huddled around that bargaining table with overflowing ashtrays at the ready. The mindset that people are resources widgets – product in/product out – and can be expected to work according to bullet points, mandates and according to a rigid set of parameters just never left the room.

And therein lies the tension; it’s this area of human resources that puts the thought, in the minds of many, that HR is nothing more than the enforcer of draconian policies and creator of byzantine processes.

It’s quite sad actually; ER is one of the foundational – and necessary – building blocks of what we do.  From within this area flow organizational expectations, support for employee rights (and responsibilities), and safeguarding the workplace for those who may be vulnerable if working for unscrupulous or downright evil people.

On the surface, however, Employee Relations is nowhere near as sexy and glamorous as some other functional HR disciplines; Recruiters get all the flash and sizzle, Compensation pros get to deal with incentive program design, and even the Risk Management/Safety folks get to oversee cool stuff like immunization programs.

Take a glance at most any Employee Relations Specialist job description and you’ll find words and phrases like “enforce,” “work-related problems,” “investigate,” “inspect,” “administer and interpret” and “grievance.”   Ugh.  Certainly no one wants to go into HR and be faced with those sorts of responsibilities; do they? After all, there’s not one single mention of “candidate experience” or “employer branding” anywhere………

But it’s important.  Just not snazzy sounding.

Employee Relations merely needs to be – and can be – glammed up a bit. Much as Madonna continues (still!) to reinvent herself after decades in the industry, so too can this important cornerstone of the HR profession.

Does it need a name change?  Not really; it didn’t really ‘take’ when Madonna tried to get everyone to call her Madge.   Rather – we need to adopt a new mind-set, adjust our attitude and get a new PR strategy.   The role of the ER professional should be one that’s proactive not reactive.  It’s a job that requires one to realize that what one can do does not necessarily mean it’s what one should do.  And it’s critical that the focus be on providing informationnot punishment.

So I want every HR practitioner to let the vast amounts of knowledge around related laws, regulations and directives filter through two parts of their own cognitive realization before the words – when rendering a decision – come dripping out of their mouth;

PART 1: keep in mind the unique values, mission and culture of their particular organization

PART 2: keep in mind their own status as a human being

Plus it’s 2013.  Y’all haven’t been allowed to smoke cigars in the Board Room for decades.

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I realize the phrase “red-headed stepchild” is somewhat of an Americanism although our friends in Canada and the UK are also known to use it to some degree.