Speaking the Language of Business for Strategic HR Professionals

AdobeStock_101865782This week I’m returning to discussing strategic HR and am going to define some important business terminology Strategic HR Professionals must know in order to be taken seriously by their organization’s leadership.

This is not a comprehensive list but simply some basic business terms that relate to developing an effective HR strategic plan.

The first term is Business Strategy.  Business strategy as defined by Michael Watkins of the Harvard Business Review is the following:

A business strategy is a set of guiding principles that, when communicated and adopted in the organization, generates a desired pattern of decision making. A strategy is therefore about how people throughout the organization should make decisions and allocate resources in order accomplish key objectives. A good strategy provides a clear roadmap, consisting of a set of guiding principles or rules, that defines the actions people in the business should take (and not take) and the things they should prioritize (and not prioritize) to achieve desired goals.

The definition implies that a business strategy can be looked at from the perspective of creating shareholder value, competitive market position, and creating a strategic advantage within the constantly changing business environment.  

This constantly changing business environment is influenced by things such as national and local politics, regulatory agencies, the economy, customers, suppliers, competitors, technology, economic trends and current and potential markets.

The second term is Strategic Intent. The business strategy, described above, is built upon the strategic intent and is defined by the website Simply Strategic Planning as the following:

Strategic intent is a statement of the course that the management of an organization plans to take the enterprise in the future. As many people as possible should understand these intentions. Then everyone can work consistently to achieve the corporate purpose.

Statements of intent aim to be more explicit than the usual directional statements. Most mission and vision statements point the way forward only in general terms. Sharp statements of intent can provide more clarity about what to do in the near future to achieve the vision and/or mission. Such statements convey the flavor of the strategic decisions taken through the planning process

In order to determine an organization’s strategic intent, the following questions must be answered: who we are and what we are trying to accomplish, what business are we in, what is our mission, what is our vision, what are our core values, how do we compete, and how do we add value to the marketplace.

The third term is Strategic Focus. A good description of strategic focus comes from Ann Latham at Forbes where she writes the following:

A good strategic framework provides focus by limiting the number of directions the organization runs. You’d be foolish to try to extend all your products while simultaneously expanding all your markets while also ramping up capacity or shifting your business model to include new types of production, sourcing, sales, delivery, and partnerships. This isn’t just an issue of capacity. It is also an issue of risk, learning, complexity, and credibility.

A great way to identify an organization’s strategic focus is to take a close look to the classic Generic Strategies by Michael Porter where he identified three strategies that address the question of how value is added by an organization.

These three approaches are cost leadership, differentiation, and focus as described in this article by the Institute for Manufacturing:

Cost Leadership

In cost leadership, a firm sets out to become the low cost producer in its industry. The sources of cost advantage are varied and depend on the structure of the industry. They may include the pursuit of economies of scale, proprietary technology, preferential access to raw materials and other factors. A low cost producer must find and exploit all sources of cost advantage. if a firm can achieve and sustain overall cost leadership, then it will be an above average performer in its industry, provided it can command prices at or near the industry average.

Differentiation
In a differentiation strategy a firm seeks to be unique in its industry along some dimensions that are widely valued by buyers. It selects one or more attributes that many buyers in an industry perceive as important, and uniquely positions itself to meet those needs. It is rewarded for its uniqueness with a premium price.

Focus
The generic strategy of focus rests on the choice of a narrow competitive scope within an industry. The focuser selects a segment or group of segments in the industry and tailors its strategy to serving them to the exclusion of others.

The focus strategy has two variants.

(a) In cost focus a firm seeks a cost advantage in its target segment, while in (b) differentiation focus a firm seeks differentiation in its target segment. Both variants of the focus strategy rest on differences between a focuser’s target segment and other segments in the industry. The target segments must either have buyers with unusual needs or else the production and delivery system that best serves the target segment must differ from that of other industry segments. Cost focus exploits differences in cost behaviour in some segments, while differentiation focus exploits the special needs of buyers in certain segments

In order for an organization to be successful and grow, it must have a business strategy that excels in all three of these strategies, not just one or two.  All of the organization’s operating and management systems, which include HR, must support all three of these approaches.

Bottom line, for an HR pro to be seen as an effective business partner, they must fully understand such important basic business elements such as the operations of the organization, its sales/revenue LY and YTD, its profit margin, how those margins compare with competitors and industry, its cash flow, its growth rate, the metrics leadership tracks, and the top initiatives of each of the members of the leadership team.

The Problem with Performance Appraisals

Oh yeah, another article about it...

Nearly everybody hates performance appraisals. It’s a topic that has been written about and discussed ad nauseum by just about everyone in the industry.  It seems like everybody is trying to come up with a fancy and shiny new system.

I’ve written about how to do them and how to make them better several times.

And this week I’m going to add one more article into the mix based on a podcast I listened to the other day.

The podcast is Manager Tools (Mark and Mike) and this week’s episode is titled “Don’t Get Rid of Your Performance Review”.  I was fascinated by their take and ended up really studying what they had to say by listening to it several times and studying the show notes (available only to licensees).

Now they are big believers of performance appraisals, but only if done effectively, of course. They think organizations getting rid of them is ridiculous.  And I agree.  

They, like most, think that the system is broken and place a large part of the blame on HR, the owners/managers of the system, because we “regularly talk them (the appraisals) down” in our organizations. I certainly agree with this statement as I hear it at every SHRM meeting I attend.

HR also likes to change the form every couple of years so that they can show a big project initiative accomplished for their annual appraisal. But, unfortunately, changing the system seriously damages the ability for the organization to collect the all important trend data we need to to make important personnel and succession decisions.  

They give a nice bit of history about performance appraisals. Some version of performance appraisals have been around for thousands of years, according to my research, but Corporate America started borrowing heavily from the Army’s system shortly after WWII, according to Mark. The rapid growth of these organizations necessitated a system to help them grow so they looked to the US Army as the model.

In the Army, appraisals were never intended to be seen by the person being evaluated. They were only seen by the evaluator and his superiors. The purpose of the appraisal was for succession planning should the ranking officer be killed in battle. The Army, of course, would need to know who would be the next up to take command, a pretty important thing, right?

There was, frankly, no need for the appraisals to be shared because the Army had the system in place where soldiers received ongoing and constant feedback about their performance and conduct. There was never a question and soldiers always knew where they stood.  

Organizations who adopted the system soon realized, however, that their managers did a very poor job of giving their direct reports regular ongoing feedback so the “obvious” answer was to start sharing the performance appraisal with them. It was felt that they should at least get some sort of feedback at least once a year.

Rather than organizations training and following up with their managers to provide ongoing regular feedback and building relationships with their direct reports, they took the easy path of just requiring the annual performance appraisal.

Now while Mark and Mike put most of the blame of why the system is broken onto HR and only a little on managers, I would say it’s evenly split between the two. I’ve been in both shoes and, honestly, HR can only do so much especially when managers don’t fully support the system. (Maybe because HR has screwed it up so bad? I don’t know)

I would love to have the managers I support give ongoing regular feedback to our direct reports and the performance appraisal simply be an end-of-year summary that won’t be a surprise.

It is my experience that most managers don’t want to do the difficult and time consuming work of building effective professional relationships with their direct reports in order to establish trust and credibility. I wrote about a similar topic with HR having to build a foundation to establish trust and credibility.  Managers need to do this with their direct reports.

Remember the purpose of the performance appraisal is Talent Management and Succession Planning.

While it’s now very trendy these days for HR departments and companies to dump the performance appraisal, ironically, they are replacing them with regular ongoing feedback. They are, hopefully, training their managers to effectively deliver this feedback and building relationships  in addition to monitoring it. This goes back full circle to the Army officers who were trained to give regular ongoing feedback to their soldiers.

The only way to fix performance appraisals is to train your managers to build effective relationships and give effective regular and ongoing feedback to their direct reports. Senior leadership and HR must also monitor and measure that it is happening ( remember – what gets measured gets done). Then conduct the annual performance appraisal as an additional measurement of your talent management and succession planning strategy.   

This was part one of the Manager Tools podcast series on Performance Reviews and after reading the show notes there is a lot of other good stuff I will review and comment on in the coming weeks.

An Interesting Alternative to the Traditional Annual Performance Appraisal

Adobe's Check-in Performance Approach

It’s a new year and now that the holidays are over, it’s time to start thinking about everybody’s favorite topic – THE PERFORMANCE APPRAISAL!

Yay.

I’ve written extensively about the traditional annual performance appraisal and believe there is a place for it in certain organizations but I also think it’s time to explore something new and innovative that will be more effective in today’s modern workplace.

There’s a lot of talk about scrapping the performance appraisal altogether. I’m starting to believe that the traditional annual PA is becoming obsolete in today’s modern workplace. There still needs to be some sort of tool, however, to set employee objectives and expectations and then to measure how the employee did against those expectations.

Today, I’m going to explore an alternative to the annual performance appraisal that, in my opinion, is one of the better systems. I did some research and landed on one that seems to be the best, Adobe’s Check-in Performance Approach.

There are three components that make up the Check-in Framework. It’s important to note that the Framework emphasizes that it is the employee’s responsibility to take ownership of their career. I love this approach because it aligns very closely to a similar feedback system I’ve been using and refining in the field for years called Responsibility Based Performance, something I will write about in the future.

1. Expectations, which is driven by the manager. This is where the manager works closely with the employee to establish the employee’s expectations and goals. The manager also helps the employee clarify their role, responsibilities, and success criteria throughout the year.

The first step in any sort of performance appraisal discussion is the need to establish clear expectations and objectives. The Check-in Framework is no different. Employees want to know exactly what’s expected of them and how their performance aligns with the organization’s objectives.

Employees and managers need to meet annually to establish and outline the employee’s objectives in writing. The objectives should be clear to both the manager and employee on what needs to be accomplished and how it should be accomplished. Once the objectives have been agreed upon, they will need to be reviewed and refined throughout the year. The frequency of this periodic review will depend on the department or business unit.

In order to hold everybody accountable to this Framework, employees will need to be surveyed several times throughout the year to make sure they have set expectations with their managers and are having regular follow-up meetings to review and refine their objectives. It is also critical that senior leaders show their support for the program and are following up to make sure this is happening.

2. Feedback, which is driven by both the manager and the employee. Feedback is the key to the entire Framework and will require the most amount of training. This is where both the manager and the employee give and receive ongoing feedback. The manager also provides ongoing and timely feedback that recognizes good performance and works to improve and address performance issues.

Again, feedback is the key to the entire Framework and is the most difficult component to get right. It will require quite a bit of training of the organization’s managers and follow-up by HR in order to get it right. The goal with the feedback component is to have employees at all levels of the organization give and receive feedback.

Feedback needs to be timely and relevant to the needs of the business and the employee. It needs to be given with the honest intention of helping the employee understand that they are doing a good job or that they need to improve. Remember also that feedback should be both positive and constructive.

If employees are not meeting their objectives or performing up to their expectations, they will need to enter into the organization’s corrective action process.

Adobe uses the Specifics, Ask, Impact, Do (SAID) model of giving feedback.

Specifics – State what the person has or has not done by using concrete examples.
Ask – Ask open ended questions to understand their perspective. (How do you see the situation? Did I contribute to the problem in some way?)
Impact – Express the impact on the business, team, or you. When framed as a means to reach a specific business goal, it becomes an opportunity to solve a problem or understand how their actions impacted the business directly.
Do – State what needs to continue or change.

I also strongly recommend taking a look at the Manager Tools Feedback Model for advice on how to give effective feedback. It’s similar to SAID but leaves out the Ask element.

Its also worth taking a look at my friend Morag Barret’s recent article on delivering tough feedback.

Again, to hold everybody accountable, employees will need to be surveyed throughout the year to make sure they are receiving regular feedback from their manager. Senior leadership will also need to support and follow up to make sure this is happening.

3. Growth & Development, which is driven by the employee, supported by the manager, and enabled by the organization. Here, the organization and manager must provide opportunities to the employee to develop and increase their skills, knowledge, and experience in their current role. These opportunities, of course, must be aligned with the business needs of the organization and the employee’s individual ambitions.

The organization must provide a work environment that encourages and helps employees grow and develop their skills and knowledge as it relates to the organization’s business. Giving them different job experiences, providing training and opportunities are ways to help employees expand their skills in their current roles and to develop them for future roles within the organization.

The skills and knowledge that are being developed must, of course, align with the needs and objectives of the organization in order for the employee’s growth and development to be relevant and actionable.

The organization should create a form that will help employees communicate their interests, career goals, and professional aspirations. The employee and manager should discuss these so that the appropriate opportunities can be provided by the organization and supported by the manager.

Once again, to hold everybody accountable, employee surveys will need to be taken to measure the effectiveness of the Growth & Development component as it relates to employee engagement.

I really like this Framework and would love to help an organization implement a version of it. It’s an innovative system that would be very effective measuring employee performance and developing employees in today’s modern workplace.

As a reminder, last week I started a new feature called the HHHR Weekly Survey (using SurveyGizmo) where I survey my readers and listeners on the current blog post and podcast. Remember to take the survey I’ve included for this post which is located on the top of the sidebar or can be found by clicking here.

Week Six of the PA Cycle: Delivery Week

ID-10040852We’re getting near the end, Crew! This week is when the managers actually deliver the Performance Appraisals to their direct reports and finalize the upcoming year’s Objectives. This is the reason we did all the work the past five weeks! This is where it all comes together.

Let’s start off by explaining what employees expect from their PA. Every employee who works for a manager and organization wants the answer to three basic questions and during the Delivery Week, all three of these questions are answered as described below.

  1. The first is what do you expect of me? This is answered by establishing and finalizing the upcoming year’s objectives.
  2. The second is how am I doing at meeting your expectations? This is answered by delivering the PA based on the previous year’s performance.
  3. Finally, what do I need to do to meet expectations? This is answered when giving feedback during the objective setting and delivery of the PA on what the manager expects from the employee to meet the expectations of the manager and the organization.

In the HHHR PA Cycle, these three questions are answered at the beginning of each year, when managers sit down with their direct reports and discuss their objectives, expected behaviors, and key job responsibilities. This is done through establishing the employee’s Objectives during the PA cycle. During Week Two, Writing Week of the cycle, managers meet with their direct reports and start the discussion of setting objectives for the upcoming year. I will discuss the specifics of how to establish objectives in a later post.

An effective performance appraisal system is an important tool that gives the senior leaders of an organization the information they need to allow them to make some very important human capital decisions such as:

  • Which employees deserve a raise based on their performance over the previous year? Which employees shouldn’t?
  • Which employees should the organization promote? Can the organization promote them? Is there a position in the organization now or will there be one in the near future? If not, how can the organization retain these employees until there is a position?
  • What’s the depth of the organization’s internal talent? Are there people with the skills, experience, and/or potential the organization needs for the future? If not, what are the organization’s plans to hire or develop these people?
  • Who are the organization’s best performers and what are the plans to retain them? If no plans, it needs to be seriously discussed.
  • Who are the organization’s weakest performers and why are they still employed? Are any of them salvageable? Has their poor performance and conduct been documented? If not, why not?
  • And most importantly, in my opinion, an effective performance appraisal system requires managers to inform their employees of exactly what is expected of them and how they are doing at meeting those expectations.

It’s a moral obligation.

Employees who don’t know what’s expected of them and how they are doing at meeting those expectations are not engaged and not nearly as effective as they could be. Unfortunately, this may be the one time in an entire year when an employee gets feedback on their performance from their manager.

In small organizations, there typically is not much of a training budget for “silly” things such as management training so this leaves a lot of your managers without the tools to provide effective feedback throughout the year. HHHR will provide some of those tools in the future but for now, the best tool we have is the annual Performance Appraisal where providing feedback at least once a year is better than nothing.

Since we are talking about the week where your managers are delivering the PA to their direct reports, here are some important steps to remind your managers to take in order to make the process worthwhile and effective for them, their direct report, and the organization.

  • Schedule and clearly communicate the time and place of the meeting with the employee. Do not call them into your office without warning and deliver the PA. Give them time to think about and prepare themselves. This should be an interactive two-way discussion. It’s not fair to ambush them with their PA. You’re doing all this work so that the employees perceive the process is fair, so don’t ruin it by not giving them a heads up.
  • Schedule at least a half hour for each PA. This should give you plenty of time to review the PA with your direct report without being rushed. You owe them that time so give it to them. Some of your PAs might take an hour and you probably will know which so schedule appropriately.
  • Sit on the same side of the desk or table as the employee, if possible. Don’t play the power game during this meeting where you are behind your desk in an elevated chair looking down at them while you deliver the PA. Get out from behind your desk and sit next to them. It shows respect which they will remember.
  • Do it in an office with the door closed, if possible. I understand that this may be difficult in some office environments but do everything you can to deliver the PA in a private room with the door closed. Nobody wants to have other employees overhear their PA being delivered to them.
  • Hibernate your computer, mute your phones, and dedicate 100% of your attention to the employee. Eliminate all distractions for this period of time and focus on your employee. The PA is very personal, show them the respect.
  • At the meeting, have two copies of the PA, one for you and one for employee. They need to be able to read the PA while you are going through it with them.
  • Establish some ground rules and before starting the meeting and review them with your direct report. Below are a few examples:
    • Promise to start and end the meeting on time but your willing to extend the meeting if needed.
    • There will be no comparisons to other employees.
    • Both of you promise to remain professional throughout the meeting.
    • Either of you can end the meeting or take a break at any time
    • Both of you promise to listen actively to each other when speaking.
    • Encourage your employee to ask questions if they don’t understand anything.
  • Review the message you want the employee to take from the meeting and make sure they clearly understand it by the end of the meeting. (More on this in a future post)
  • Show your employee the respect they deserve during the meeting.

Well, we have now completed Delivery Week and we have one more week to go in the PA cycle – Deadline Week for Final PAs and Objectives.

Week Three of the PA Cycle: Deadline Week for Preliminary PAs

ID-100211897

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Last week, I introduced the Objective Setting and PA forms and explained how they work together and how to fill them out. This week, the managers are finishing up with writing their preliminary PAs and turning them in. When turning them in, I have each manager email me the Excel copy of their PAs. Believe it or not, before I specified that I want the Excel copy emailed to me, I had managers scan or convert them to pdf and even scan their handwritten PAs to me. The lesson here – be specific about how you want them back. Tell your managers exactly how they are to return their preliminary PAs back to you.

The reason I ask for the preliminary PAs is because the next week I will start building the Talent Review Meeting notebooks in preparation for the Talent Review Meetings – the most effective part of the cycle. The reason I want them back in Excel is because I review each one before printing them out for the notebooks to ensure they are done correctly and to fix any issues that I see.

And believe me there are issues. Each manager has a different level of proficiency with Excel which will become very obvious while your reviewing their PAs. This is just the way it is and I can’t change their proficiency so I just correct what needs to be corrected. I want to point out that I don’t change any scores or comments, I just correct any misspellings and fix things that were done incorrectly.

Now before I review each PA, I need to set up a system that keeps everything organized. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be organized during this part of the process.

The first thing I do is create a checklist, of which I’ve attached a template to this blog post. Keep this checklist updated every single day because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself making embarrassing mistakes — trust me, I know!

The checklist is fairly simple and contains six columns:
1. Manager: Manager’s name
2. Employee: Employee’s name
3. Prelim PA: The date I receive the Preliminary PA via email from the manager
4. Sent to Print: The date I print the Preliminary PA to make the TRM notebooks
5. Final PA: The date I receive the final signed PA from the manager
6. Objectives: The date I receive the final signed Objectives from the manager

I pull the Manager’s Direct Report list from our HRIS and add columns 3 through 6. I also color code each manager and employee to their physical location in the company which I’ll explain next week when I discuss prepping for the Talent Review Meetings. So for the purpose of today’s post, I’m only concerned with the Prelim PA column and will discuss the other columns in future posts when they are relevant.

After creating the checklist, I create a folder in my Outlook titled 20XX Objective and PA Cycle containing sub-folders of each manager (click here to see how to create sub-folders in Outlook). So as their emails come in, I have a place to file them when I process my email during the day. I use this method as a placeholder for their PAs until I can get to my scheduled block of time to start the real processing and organizing. If I don’t do this the email may get lost or deleted and I have to ask the manager to resend which is kinda embarrassing.

Next, I block out time each day this week to process and organize the PAs that have come in. I do this by opening each email and copying the PA to a file on my hard drive.

Similar to what I did in Outlook, I create a file on my hard drive for each manager with three sub-folders:
1. Preliminary folder: Where the PAs sent to me this week are filed
2. Final folder: Where the final delivered and signed pdf PAs are filed
3. Objectives: Where the final signed pdf Objectives are filed

Again, for the purposes of today’s post, I am only concerned with the Preliminary folder and will discuss the other two folders when they become relevant in future blog posts.

Next let’s talk about the deadline date. I always make Wednesday the deadline. Why? Because if I make it Friday, I will get a flood of PAs sent to me late on Friday afternoon as I’m trying to wrap up my week and prepare for the next week. By making the deadline Wednesday, you’ll get approx 70% of your PAs turned in by that day. The remaining will trickle in and you’ll have approx 95% of them in by Friday. The remaining 5% will be the chronic procrastinators and no matter what you do, they will always be late and last minute.

I like getting the bulk of the PAs in by mid-week. That way, I have the time I need to process and organize them.

So now that we have our checklist, have set up sub-folders in Outlook, and folders in our hard drive, we can start the processing or organizing.

As the PAs come in and when I move them to their appropriate Outlook sub-folder, I check them off on my checklist by entering the date they were sent to me. I like to have the data of which managers are able to meet the deadline and which are not.

On Thursday morning, I schedule a block of time to review and correct each PA. I also send out an email to each manager who hasn’t sent in their PAs gently reminding them that the deadline was yesterday. I repeat the email on Friday and then again on Monday and Tuesday the following week. This generally brings in most of them, except for the chronic procrastinators, of course, who will typically get them to you the morning of the TRM!

Well that covers off on the Deadline Week for Preliminary PAs. Next week I will discuss how to prepare for the all important Talent Review Meetings!

Below is the link to the HHHR Objective and PA Checklist template.  You are free to use and modify is as you see fit for your needs.

HHHR Checklist Template for Objectives and PAs:  20XX HHHR Checklist Template for Objectives and PAs (Example Organization)

The Mommy Track Bias

In a recent article over at SHRM, they discussed the bias against women and men (but mostly women) trying to re-enter the workforce after taking time off from their careers to stay home and raise their kids.  Most hiring managers and HR tend to think these women have lost their edge in their industry and are, therefore, not strong candidates. They are passed over during the hiring process for candidates who have not taken the time off to raise their kids.  I think this bias is wrong and have first hand experience that supports my belief.

I’m pleased that the article is supportive of these women and discuses the positive attributes and skills that stay-at-home parents acquire during their time raising their kids.

…some HR experts argue that stay-at-home parenting actually imparts skills that prove valuable in the workplace, such as patience, persistence, creativity and reliability.

“Careers for men and women, parents or not, are no longer linear, and an accomplished woman who took a career detour to devote herself to motherhood can still be an incredibly valuable hire,” said Marisa Thalberg, founder of executivemoms.com, a networking site for working mothers.

Matt Brosseau, chief technology officer and head recruiter at Instant Alliance, an HR staffing and consulting firm, noted that “there’s a level of patience and creative problem-solving you can gain only from dealing with a toddler.”

“When parenting, you are often forced to negotiate with someone who may not be reasonable, and that’s a good skill when dealing with unreasonable clients and others,” he said.

In my time as a store manager at Macys, I hired many women who had taken several years off to raise their kids.  The article does claim the retail industry is easier to assimilate than industries such as law, medicine, and IT.  I can easily say almost all of the return-to-work moms turned out to be fantastic hires and very valuable employees.  Many of them ended up being managers for me who have since gone on to very successful careers.  One in particular, is a regional director for a large specialty retail chain store who has thanked me many times for giving her a chance when she was re-entering the workforce.  Several others are now business owners or are in mid to high level management positions within their organizations.

I completely agree with the experts quoted above who emphasize the positive attributes gained by those who raise their kids. In addition to what they say,  stay-at-home parents learn how to juggle multiple priorities while being constantly distracted.  They have strong interpersonal skills in being able to negotiate and deal with difficult people.  They have learned how to manage difficult situations while instilling a sense of fair play.  They have learned how to motivate people to be their best.  And having and raising kids matures and humbles people.

These are all attributes and skills that are valuable in any workplace!

I want to include my wife who recently re-entered the workforce, in retail, after many years of staying home and raising our kids.  Its interesting to note that there were significant changes in technology that she had to deal with and learn but the core basics of retail are still the same.  It took her a little time to catch on the the technology changes but she did.  Along with her outstanding leadership ability, her selling skills, great customer service, and credit production, she is now a very valuable and highly desirable employee.  Her boss has tried to promote her several times but she isn’t quite ready to take that step yet but I know she eventually will and will be very successful.

Bottom line, hiring people who took time off to raise their kids is not as risky as most people think.  Any parent who has raised or is raising their kids should know how difficult the job is and the skills that are developed while doing so.  Sure, there will be a learning curve at first but there is with all new hires.

The bias against people who are trying to re-enter the workforce after raising their kids should end.  Employers are missing out on very skilled, motivated, and dedicated employees by passing them over.

What it Takes to Have a Dream Company

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Creating the Best Workplace on Earth, they discuss the six attributes that make an organization a ‘Dream Company’.

I think it can be safely said that we’ve all heard about these attributes at one time or another and it never hurts to go over them again.

1. Let people be themselves.

2. Unleash the flow of information.

3. Magnify people’s strengths.

4. Stand for more than shareholder value.

5. Show how the daily work makes sense.

6. Have rules people can believe in.

These are all excellent attributes that will make any organization more effective and profitable.  But it is difficult to achieve because several of the attributes conflict with common practice and some can be expensive to implement.  There is risk involved with change and many in leadership are, understandably, unwilling and uncomfortable to take on that risk.

It takes a very strong and confident leader to lead an organization to fully embrace and practice these six attributes because there will be resistance all along from all levels.  But in the end and if the leader stays the course, the organization will benefit because as the article beautifully states in its concluding remarks:

People want to do good work—to feel they matter in an organization that makes a difference. They want to work in a place that magnifies their strengths, not their weaknesses. For that, they need some autonomy and structure, and the organization must be coherent, honest, and open.

Confusion With HRCI and the New SHRM Certification

Earlier this week, SHRM announced it was launching its own HR certification program.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has announced it will create a competency-based certification program for human resource professionals. 

The new HR certification is based on the SHRM HR Competency Model, which consists of nine primary competency domains defined with behavioral proficiency standards across four professional levels – entry, middle, senior and executive. The new certification is focused on teaching and testing practical, real-life information that HR professionals need to excel in their careers.

Apparently, Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) found out about SHRM’s new program the same time as everybody else.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s announcement that it is launching its own HR certification program took some in the HR community by surprise, including the president of the HR Certification Institute, the profession’s leading certification organization. 

“We’ve had a relationship with SHRM for 37 years and we would have loved for them to talk with us about this, but they chose not to,” HRCI President Amy Dufrane told Workforce. SHRM created HRCI in 1973 to administer certification exams.

I find it odd that SHRM blindsided HRCI with this announcement considering that they created the institute 37 years ago and even share the same headquarters in Alexandria, VA.  There must be something going on between the two organizations that we don’t know about.  You would think they would work together to create/modify/rework the current HRCI certifications.  Maybe SHRM tried and was rejected by HRCI.

While I proudly hold the SPHR certification, I have always thought that HRCI has too many certifications: PHR, SPHR, PHR-CA, SPHR-CA, GPHR, and the new HRMP & HRBP.  Most professions with certifications have just one. It seems SHRM is attempting to address this issue by creating a single HR professional certification which I support.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months…

Adding Value: Align HR practices and investors’ requirements

This is the final post in the series of how HR can add value to investors taken from the classic David Ulrich book The HR Value Proposition.

The final action is to align HR practices and investors’ requirements.  By looking at the company through the investors’ perspective, HR pros can develop a more value oriented HR strategy for the organization.

Ulrich suggests four HR practices to consider when viewing the company as an investor.  These practices focus on senior management.

  1. Staffing: HR pros should try to involve and engage the largest shareholders of an organization in the hiring and promotion decisions.  When looking at these decisions from the investor’s perspective, the staffing process may be more disciplined and rigorous.  Since Ulrich’s book was published, the Dodd-Frank Act has given investors some engagement with the Say on Pay provision.
  2. Training and Development: When designing and conducting leadership programs for senior management, consider how the largest single investor would think of the program if they participated in it.  Would they add to their position, hold, or sell off?  Ulrich believes, and I agree, that investors want the participants to focus on real business issues withing the company, instead of reviewing case studies of other organizations.  They would want the participants to have a clear understanding of actions to take to move the company forward after an open and candid dialog of the challenges facing the organization.
  3. Appraisal and Rewards:  Many organizations tie performance and management behaviors to investor focused rewards by putting a large portion of total compensation into stock based incentives like stock options and RSUs.  The theory is that when managers become investors through stock ownership programs, they will think and act like investors.
  4. Governance and Communication:  This practice anticipates that investors will become more interested in the intangibles contribute as much to shareholder value as financial performance does.  Behaviors like decision making, responsibility allocation, etc.
The goal, of course, is to increase investor confidence in the company’s ability to deliver profitable results through applying these HR practices.
This concludes the series of Adding Value from David Ulrich’s book, The HR Value Proposition.  The six parts of the series are listed below.

Introduction to How HR Adds Value to Investors