Building an HR Foundation

Establish your credibility, competence, and trustworthiness

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The most important thing an HR professional who’s moving into a new job or department can do is to build and establish a rock-solid foundation of credibility, competence, and trustworthiness. Today, I’m going to discuss how to do this.

There are two things an HR pro typically does when starting a new job at an organization or transferring to a new department.

  1. They come in with “guns a blazing” and immediately start changing the way everything is done and immediately start introducing HR initiatives. They focus on quickly making a big splash introducing HR initiatives and impressing senior leadership.
  2. They come in and take the time to get and know the employee’s, their team, processes, and culture. They focus on providing outstanding customer service to their client base and getting a good lay of the land and culture before making significant changes and introducing big HR initiatives.

Yes of course, sometimes you have to come in with “guns a blazing” and get things fixed quickly. The situation, and leadership, demands it because they need things to be fixed, and fixed yesterday. While it seems to make sense at first, it’s not. It will mostly cause significant chaos and business disruption. It certainly does not establish the credibility, competence, and trustworthiness for the new HR pro!

The best and most effective way for the HR pro to establish their credibility, competence, and trustworthiness in the eyes of their new company/department is to take the time to get to know and understand the team, processes, and culture before making any drastic changes. Build that important and critical foundation.

Remember, Human Resource pro, you are dealing with humans and, as such, you need to build a foundation of relationships first before you will be able to accomplish anything with any credibility and trust. Everybody in your organization is watching what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Start building a solid foundation so that you will be seen as a credible HR expert. Make sure there are minimal mistakes made with the basics like payroll, benefits, answers about polices, etc.

Here are the steps I recommend to build a strong and stable foundation that will establish your credibility and ability to effectively manage the HR function in your new organization. I think we all know this but often forget as it is the blocking and takleing.

  1. Most importantly – get to know the team. Get out of your office every single day and CIRCULATE around the office(s), store, plant, etc. and chat with your fellow employees. Learn your employee’s names and what’s important to them both personally and professionally. This helps them see HR as a part of their team, not the Grim Reaper that only makes an appearance when something bad is about to happen.
  2. Study and know the employee handbook (I know, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and other policies and procedures. You’ll need to be able to answer policy and procedure questions from employees as you circulate and as they come by your office/desk.
  3. Dig into the HRIS and make sure all the data in there is complete and accurate. It often isn’t. Make sure it is so that everything that feeds from the HRIS (payroll, benefit integration, etc) will also be accurate.
  4. Become the expert in the health and retirement benefits your organization offers. Make sure enrollments are completed with 100% accuracy. Build great relationships with your brokers and ask lots of questions.
  5. Respond quickly, accurately, and politely to all manager and employee requests and questions. Remember, you are a service organization supporting the other functional areas of the organization. Don’t ever be condescending because you think they should know the answer. You are the HR expert, not them and they are coming to you for your expertise – the reason you have the job!

By doing these five basic steps, you build the foundation of a successful HR function in your new organization. These are the basics that will establish you as a credible and trustworthy HR professional in your employee’s eyes.

Yes, I know every senior HR professional, and leadership team, wants to do the exciting strategic stuff but without that important foundation, the strategic HR initiatives will fall flat because you will not have the credibility and trust from the very people who need to buy in to those initiatives.

You absolutely must have a solid and effective foundation in order to effectively build the strategic framework that your leadership, managers, and employees will embrace. This will ensure your success in your organization and allow you to more easily have your strategic HR initiatives be successfully adopted.

What are Metrics and how to Avoid Common Mistakes When Working with Them

Seventh Entry in the Metrics and Analytics Series

Now that we’ve spent several weeks in the Metrics and Analytics Series defining what analytics are and discussing several real world applications, I want to spend this week reviewing and defining metrics and some common mistakes when using them.

Let’s start out by defining what metrics are according to Jac Fitz-Enz in his book The New HR Analytics. According to Fitz-Enz, metrics “are numbers that indicate how well a unit or an organization is performing in a specific function.” Rather than relying on anecdotal evidence, metrics provide context to where we can analyze performance much more accurately.

These metrics come in the form of percentages, ratios, complex formulas, or incremental differences and can be either individual or aggregated. We can also track them over time in order to show trends.

The data for the metrics are found in both internal and external sources. Internally, the data are payroll, employee surveys, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, HR functions, marketing data, sales data, and financial statements. Externally, the data are common benchmarks in your industry, national and local labor market trends, salary surveys, actions from competitors, workforce demographics, and government reports.

In addition, the data collected is both quantitative and qualitative.

Quantitative data are the numbers. Examples of quantitative data are retention rate, overtime, training & development hours per employee which can be found in most HRIS systems. Some other examples are tracking the number of daily employee-client interactions, the number of units an employee produces, etc. These data can be used to rank employees to award bonuses, raises, and promotions for those who excel as well as offer additional training and coaching or discipline employees who are falling short.

Qualitative data are actions and behaviors that are observed. There are no numbers involved which means the data are subjective. Often these data are collected via employee surveys, interviews, and observations. Examples of qualitative data are why employees stay or leave an organization, the value of teamwork in an organization, the effectiveness of how a supervisor manages her direct reports, etc.

It’s also very important to avoid making certain common mistakes when working with metrics. HR Professionals need to show that we understand what we are talking about and how we analyze and report them as they contribute to the improving the business. I have summarized the following common mistakes from the The New HR Analytics.

  • Confusing Data with Information – Don’t bury yourself in data thinking you will find some valuable information simply from gathering it. You will need to know what you will do with it once you have it.
  • Valuing Inside Versus Outside Data – As Fitz-Enz says “…no one in the organization cares what is happening with the human resource function. All they want to know is what value HR is generating for the company.” Don’t get hung up on the HR activities, instead focus on the employee activity and how it impacts the organization.
  • Generating Irrelevant Data – Metrics must be able to effectively answer relevant business questions so the focus must be to collect and report only data that is important to the business. Learn and understand what metrics are important to your organization.
  • Measuring Activity Versus Impact – Don’t collect and report data that doesn’t show some positive or negative effect. Just reporting costs, quantities, or time cycles without describing their effects on the business is ineffective and a waste of everybody’s time.
  • Relying on Gross Numbers – Try to avoid averages as they mask the effects on the business. Analyze the mean, median, mode, and the percentile in order to determine if the data points are spread out in a wide range or are bunched up around the middle.
  • Not Telling the Story – After collecting and analyzing the data, make sure to tell the story of what happened, why it happened, when it happened, where it happened, how it happened, and to whom it happened.  Never report something if it doesn’t tell a story.
  • Analysis Stagnation – What are the implications of the data and what are you going to do with it? If the data and the story are compelling enough, determine how to get management to take action in order to solve the identified problem or exploit the identified opportunity.

I encourage you to take another look at these common mistakes and do what you can to avoid them. As I mentioned, HR Professionals must, in order to be take seriously, be able to understand what we are talking about and how to effectively analyze and report our data in order to positively impact the business of our organization.

I invite you to take the survey located at the top of the sidebar on this week’s post about metrics and some common mistakes about them.