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

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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)

Week Two of the PA Cycle: Writing Week for PAs and Objectives

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Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now that the training has been completed, as I discussed last week, it is time for the supervisors to start discussing objectives and writing the PA for each of their direct reports. I am including a copy of the forms in today’s post.

I spent the past several days dinking around with the forms and made some pretty significant updates from what I regularly use and really like what I’ve come up with. I can keep tweaking this and that but I’m to the point where just I need to get this post written and podcast recorded in order to get both published by Sunday.  So the form may need some further revision in the future.

So here goes.

I have both the Objective Setting Form (OSF) and Performance Appraisal Form (PAF) on a single Excel workbook.  The OSF is the first tab since it is the first document that is to be filled out at the beginning of each year and the PAF tab is the second document since it will be completed after the year is complete and the employee will be evaluated on the objectives established in the OSF earlier.  Also, the forms are tied together and have formulas that transfer information from the OSF to the PAF so you don’t have to re-enter information.

How to fill out the Objective Setting Form:

Page 1 – Cover Page

First, change the logo at the top to your logo and the date in the header by replacing the two XX in the title to the current date.

Second, enter in the employee’s name and title, the manager’s name and title, and the current date.  This information will automatically transfer to the PAF.

Third, read the instructions!  I know, nobody ever reads instructions but I have them anyway and they are important.  This blog post is pretty much is an expanded version of the instructions on the form.  You will need to make sure your managers read these so they understand how to properly fill out the form.

Fourth, is an explanation of the Performance Ratings.  HHHR uses the flowing five point rating scale.

1 – Unsatisfactory. Performance did not meet expectations.  Immediate Improvement is required.
2 – Needs Improvement.Performance met some requirements and expectations.
3 – Met Expectations. Performance met requirements and expectations.
4 – Exceeded Expectations. Performance exceeded requirements and expectations.
5 – Outstanding. Performance consistently exceeded very demanding expectations.

Finally, is the signature box.  This is not to be signed until the objectives have been discussed and agreed upon by both the employee and their manager.  This box is locked and must be filled out by hand.

Pages 2&3 – The Objectives

Here is where we get into the beauty of the process and determine each objective and their weighting.  The first box on page two is where you weight the Core Competencies which are found on page two of the PAF.   This is where the manager and employee determine how important the employee’s core competencies are.  They can be as high as 80% for a new inexperienced employee who has a lot to learn on the basics of the job or as low as 20% for a very experienced high performer where the core competencies are second nature.  When you decide the weighting of the Core Competencies, fill in the white box with that percent.

The next three boxes are for objectives.   Three objectives are the maximum that should be established for a year but there can be as few as one.  It all depends on the employees job description and their experience and competence.

Generally, nonexempt employees will have a higher weighting for the Core Competencies and one or two objectives with small weightings and exempt employees will have lower weightings for their Core Competencies and two to three objectives with higher weightings.  Note that I said “generally”, it all depends on the employee and their job.

For each objective, there is a box to fill out a brief description of the objective.  If you need more space, you just need to unlock the worksheet (the password to unlock is below with the links to the docs) and make the cell larger.

Next, are the Measurement Standards for each objective and a space to describe how the objective will look if  1- Unsatisfactory, 2 – Needs Improvement and up to 5 – Outstanding.  The text you put in each of these boxes automatically transfers to the Objectives section of the PAF.  Go ahead and look, pretty cool, huh? When these boxes are filled in, fill in the weighting which also automatically transfers to the PAF.  Of course, the weightings of the Core Competencies and the Objectives must equal 100% which is calculated at the bottom of page three.

Once the form is filled out and the objectives and weightings are agreed upon by both the manager and the employee, print it out and both sign.  Both should keep a copy and the original given to HR for the employee’s file.

How to fill out the Performance Appraisal Form

Page 1 – Cover Page

First, like the OSF, change the logo and date in the header.  You will notice that the Employee and Manager (Evaluator now) name and title have transferred over.  The only info that needs to be filled out is the Eval Period.

Second, you have to again, read the instructions.  I know, I know, but that’s the only way you’ll be able to complete the form correctly. Again, this blog post is an expanded version of the instructions.

Page 2 – Core Competencies

In this section, carefully read each Core Competency and it’s description and select the appropriate performance rating (1-5) for each by clicking on the cell and using the drop down.  I tell my managers to start at 3 – Meets Expectations as they consider each of their direct report’s Core Competencies and think about whether their performance is better or worse and score accordingly.

The sum of the scores you select will calculate at the bottom of the page.

Pages 3&4 –  Performance Objectives

Next are sections for the Core Competencies and the three (or two or one) Objectives which transferred over from the OSF. The Core Competencies score, rating, and weighting are all already calculated and transferred over so you don’t have to do anything here. For the Objectives, all you have to do here is select the appropriate performance rating (1-5) by clicking on the cell and using the drop down. The weighting also transferred over. Enter your comments about the objective – explain to the employee why you gave them the particular score for each objective.

Page 5 – Evaluator and Employee Comments

Finally, there is space to make Evaluator Comments. It’s very important that your final comments are consistent with your ratings and should clearly express the Message that you decided on when you were writing the PA. This is where you summarize the employee’s overall performance for the year and explain what they did well and what they need to do to improve for the upcoming year. The Employee Comments box is for the employee to fill out by hand, if they have comments, after you deliver the PA.

Well, that’s it for the Writing Week of the PA and Objective Setting cycle.  Next week I’ll cover off on Deadline Week!

Below are the links to the OSF and PAF for Managers, Exempt Non-Managers, and Nonexempt employees.  Like the training document I posted last week, you are free to use and modify as you see fit for your needs.

Managers: 20XX Manager Objective and PA Form

Exempt Non-Managers: 20XX Exempt Non-Manager Objective and PA Form

Non-Exempt: 20XX Non-Exempt Objective and PA Form

 

Out of the Blue, a Manager Wants to Terminate an Employee. What do You Do?

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’ve all been there. A manager calls us to say they’ve had enough and want to fire one of their direct reports. But we go back and look through the employee’s personnel file and see that there are no disciplinary actions and their performance appraisals don’t reflect a problem.

This is the first time we’ve heard of the problem but the manager, however, has finally had enough of their direct report’s poor performance or conduct and is ready to fire them and move on. But they haven’t done their part and properly supervised their problem employee or documented any of the performance or conduct issues. They spent years avoiding or ignoring the problems because dealing with them is, well you know, awkward and uncomfortable.

Now the puck is in your zone (I’m a hockey dad). You are the HR pro and they expect you to take care of the problems they weren’t willing to deal with.

What do you do?

I’m going to assume you have a progressive discipline policy in place. You just simply need to start the process. Of course, it should have been utilized by the manager before it got to the point they called you. But, as is often the case, that doesn’t always happen.

The progressive discipline policy I use is Dick Grote’s Discipline Without Punishment. I will cover the details of how I have incorporated this method in a later post but simply put, it goes like this: Reminder One, Reminder Two, Decision Making Leave, and final separation. Of course, the ultimate goal is for the employee to make the necessary performance or conduct improvements before the need to take the next step. I will use this method to describe how to terminate a problem employee who the manager has finally had enough of but hasn’t yet documented any of the performance or conduct issues.

First, you need to meet with the supervisor and discuss exactly what the performance or conduct issues are. Find out from the supervisor if they have any documented conversations or criteria that the employee failed to accomplish. Review the past several performance appraisals and look for any statements that are pertinent to the present situation. There usually isn’t any of this documentation in the scenario I presented above but it is still important to double check with the supervisor. Its fine if there isn’t any at this stage because we are starting the process from the beginning anyway.

Second, write up and deliver a Reminder One and title it an Overall Performance (or Conduct) Correction Reminder. Describe, in as much detail as possible the performance and conduct issues where the employee is falling short. This Reminder is not for a specific incident but rather an overall performance correction so there needs to be several examples of where the employee is failing to meet expectations. In addition to the areas where the employee needs to improve, there needs to be steps the employee needs to take in order to improve their performance or conduct. Finally, there needs to be a deadline for immediate improvement. Usually 30 days is an appropriate amount of time. During the 30 days the manager needs to constantly monitor the employee’s performance in order to measure improvement.

When delivering the Reminder One it is important to inform the employee that the goal of this process is to have the employee improve their performance or conduct and not have to go further. But you still must discus the next steps(Reminder Two, Decision Making Leave, and separation) in case there is no improvement in their performance or conduct.

The employee needs to be reminded that it is their responsibility to make the necessary improvement within the 30 day period. You need to meet with the employee on the 30th day regardless if they have made the necessary improvements or not. Hopefully, the employee will get the message, make the improvements needed and the meeting will be a congratulatory meeting. Often, however, the meeting will be to deliver a Reminder Two.
Normally, a Reminder One is delivered by just the manager but because this is an Overall Performance Correction, it would be best if HR is included in this meeting.

Third, if after 30 days there hasn’t been the necessary improvement, you will need to write up and deliver a Reminder Two. It is basically the same as the Reminder One, but just the next and more serious step of the process. Again, this should also have deadline of 30 days for performance or conduct improvement. Depending on the seriousness of the performance or conduct issues and how the Reminder One’s 30 days went, you could shorten the deadline to 15 days. Again, the manger and HR should be present in this meeting.

Fourth, if after the 30 (or 15) days of unacceptable performance or conduct improvement, you will need to take the next and very serious step of writing up and delivering a Decision Making Leave. This is where you again document the employee’s performance deficiencies and what they need to do to improve. The critical step here requires the employee take the next day off, a paid leave, to consider whether they want to continue working for the company. They are required to write a statement explaining how they will make the necessary steps in order to improve their performance or conduct.

They can also decide to resign at this point. If they return with the document describing how they want to continue working for the company and the steps they are going to take to improve, you need to establish another deadline of 15 to 30 days. This time, however, termination will occur if there is no acceptable performance or conduct improvement.

Finally, you now have all the documentation you need to terminate the problem employee with minimal risk. You’ve given them two warnings with the Reminders. You’ve given them a paid day off to make a decision on whether they want to make the improvements necessary to remain employed. If they do, they wrote up their plan. And if they fail to live up to their plan, you have all you need to safely terminate the problem employee.

Mile High SHRM Annual Conference

Note:  I wrote this post last week but ran into some issues that kept me from finishing it up and publishing.  So I’m posting this now, several days late, and will post it’s accompanying audioblog podcast shortly – hopefully.

mhis-logoLast Friday, January 23, I attended the Mile High SHRM (MH-SHRM) Annual Conference in Denver. The theme of the conference was Mile High Adventure – Ascend the HR Summit.  Pretty clever, I think.

There were six tracks this year: Business and Strategy, Compensation and Benefits, Learning and Development, Compliance and Risk Management, Employee Relations, and Employment and Talent Management.  Multiple tracks are always tough.  There are always two or three that I want to attend scheduled at the same time.  Below I’m going to briefly discuss the five I attended.

The conference started off at 6:30AM with a couple of Early Bird sessions.  The Early Bird session I attended was Sal Sylvester’s “Ignite! The 4 Essential Rules for Emerging Leaders.”  Sal is an excellent and interesting speaker and the hour went by very quickly.  His presentation was about emerging leaders who have recently been promoted to supervisory positions.  This is a common issue in many organizations.  People do a fantastic job in their technical role and are promoted into a supervisory position but have no training or skills in dealing with and managing people.  Sal’s presentation also gave us a look into his People First Leadership model and I’m looking forward to exploring the model more deeply in the near future.

I won his book of the same title during a drawing at the end of the session which is a cool thing for a geek like me who loves reading about leadership, management, and HR!

The second session I attended was Gerry Valentine’s “How to Create a Culture of Innovation.”  Gerry is an excellent presenter who really makes you think differently about leadership and innovation.  Gerry gave advice on how HR can partner with senior leadership to drive business results through innovation.  He suggested ways for HR to become key contributors in our company’s mission, objectives, and strategic goals.  He also reviewed what makes some companies great innovators and what keeps others from doing so.

Gerry discussed several strategies to create an innovative vision of the future.  My favorite suggestion is that companies must establish diverse groups of people in order to have “creative abrasion” when it comes to decision making.  I loved the term “creative abrasion” because too many companies are run and managed by people who think and act alike.  This subjects them to “group think” rather than having somebody challenge them with different ways of approaching a situation.

The third session I attended was Amy Shoemaker’s “HR as a Strategic Partner.”  Amy was high energy and very funny.  I enjoyed her quirky sense of humor as she shared strategies to help HR act and think as a strategic business partner.  Her background as a VP of HR in a large company gives her significant credibility.  She suggested some techniques to build and leverage strategic alliances to gain support for HR initiatives and how to understand what CEO’s need from HR and how to deliver it to them.

The next session was the keynote.  This year MH-SHRM had a panel discussion titled “A Mile High Culture at Work: How to Drive Business Performance Through Culture.”  It was held before lunch as opposed to the end of the day as was done in years past.  I was unable to attend this session because of a conference call I needed to be on.  I’m disappointed I missed it since I heard a lot of folks enjoyed the keynote and were talking about it afterwards during lunch.

I attended the “Labor Law Landmines and How to Avoid Them” in the fourth session.  Three lawyers from Fairfield and Woods gave this session, and one of them, Colin Walker serves on the MH-SHRM board with me.   Each lawyer tackled a topic:  Internal Investigations, Independent Contractors, and Medical Leave.  I was a little concerned about this one since sessions on legal topics by lawyers can be pretty boring.  But I actually found this session to be very good and enjoyed the three presentations and gained some value from each, particularly Internal Investigations and Medical Leave.

The final session I attended was Kristy Smith’s “Tools and Techniques for Managing Employee Relations Issues.” Kristy also had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed her presentation.  She introduced us to the STAR/STAR-AR feedback method to assist in employee relations and foster employee engagement.  Below is a very brief summary of what each letter in the acronym stands for.

ST = Situation or Task.  What was the problem, opportunity, challenge, or task?
A = Action.  What action was taken?
R = Results.  What results did the action lead to?
AR = Action and Results again.  Revisiting Results and Action after explaining the desired results.

Those were the five sessions I attended.  I also spent a good bit of time in between sessions visiting the vendors in the exhibit hall learning about the products they were promoting.  There were several that were very interesting that I plan on exploring in more depth.

So overall, an excellent HR conference.  I gained a lot of practical knowledge that will help me in my day to day work and in my career.

I also want to recognize all the volunteers who worked many long hours to pull this together.  They did a fantastic job and should be very proud of the work they did.

The Importance of The Morning Greeting

My favorite podcast, Manger Tools, recently released an episode titled The Morning Greeting. I liked the episode because it speaks to an important activity I learned many years ago working as a store manager for the Bon Marche (now Macys).

Basically, it is simply the act of saying good morning to each of your direct reports every day and the positive impact it generates.

Mike and Mark go into quite a bit of detail on the mechanics of how to greet direct reports which I found humorous.  I know there are many managers who find it difficult to circulate and greet their employees so I understand their need to go into detail.  It came naturally to me early in my career as I observed  effective managers I worked with and as I developed my own style.

When I was in retail, I would make the point of circulating through my store every morning and greet each of my employees (direct reports, sales and sales support associates) by name.  Sometimes I would cruise by their department, wave and say “Good morning, Joan!” and sometimes I would  stop and chat a bit – either about business or personal stuff or both, depending on what was going on in the store or in their lives.

I would also make a point of circulating through the store as I left for the day, catching the late shift,  and say “Goodnight!” to each employee by name.

Each time I started in a new store, I would immediately begin my greeting activity and quickly learn every employee’s name along the way.  I was told I was the first store manager who did this and/or even knew their names.

I often startled new employees when I would approach and greet them but they quickly learned I was OK and approachable.  While I did much more than just “the daily greet” to my employees, this simple activity was a significant factor in creating a tremendous amount of trust and loyalty among my teams.

In my current job as an HR leader, I have five direct reports but  still make a point of greeting all 16 employees, by name, in my office every morning.  I also do the same when I visit the mine or the Wyoming office.  Similar to when I was a store manager, sometimes its just a quick greeting with a wave or a chat for a few minutes.

As a result, I am on friendly terms with everybody in the office and know and understand a lot of what is going on at many different levels.  This allows me to do my job, as the HR leader in my company, more effectively and provide greater value to my company.  More importantly, knowing my co-coworkers as I do helps me enjoy my job more.

I would challenge all HR leaders and managers, even Mike and Mark who said it isn’t realistic or practical to greet 30 people every morning, to take the time to greet all their direct reports and steps even if there are 30+ of them.  I did it in a 60,000 square foot store with nearly 30+ people working during any given shift.  The time you take to do this is nothing compared to the value you derive.

It is a simple and powerful management activity.

A Story About Motivating Star Performers (and How I Goofed)

This story goes back to when I was a General Manager for a large department store chain, The Bon Marche (now Macys).

It was the Christmas season, the most important time in retail, and my number one producing Department Sales Manager (DSM) requested a day off that fell on the same day as a very important sales event.  It was for her six year old son’s birthday.

Being a hard driving and competitive store manager who had to obliterate his sales goals, I denied her request and told her she had to work. We had big numbers to make, by god!  She dutifully worked that day but her energy and enthusiasm was noticeably less than normal – a condition that continued on for several months afterwards.

Looking back, I realized what a hypocrite I was.

I had always preached “family first” but denied her the day with her son on his birthday.  She always worked hard and effectively every day and was my top performer is sales, credit, and customer service month in and month out.  But my short sighted quest to make my sales numbers on one single big sale day ended up costing me so much more.

Her morale was dashed and she became disengaged – my number one producing DSM – and I know it cost me more in sales numbers over the long run than what it may have cost me had I let her have the day off.  She remained noticeably disengaged and unenthusiastic about her work for several months after.  Her performance numbers slipped, affecting the total store’s numbers.

Not only that, my credibility was damaged with her and the rest of my store team.  I learned a hard lesson about how not to treat a star performer. I certainly should have allowed her to have that one day off and she would have come back an even a stronger and more engaged DSM because I would have shown confidence and trust in her team and her preparation.

Several months later, I told my star DSM that I used this story in a presentation I gave a at a store manager meeting. She was a bit embarrassed but I could tell it meant a lot to her that I was willing to publicly share my mistake with my peers.  It helped repair our relationship and restore trust.  About a year later she returned from a DSM training week in Seattle and told me that the Director of Stores (my bosses boss) shared my story about her and the mistake I made to her entire DSM class.  She loved the fact the story had such an impact and was being used to help train the managers in the company about engagement.

In my time as a department store General Manager, I found that the Pareto Principle applied in many aspects of my job including my management team. Twenty percent of my management team produced eighty percent of my store’s performance results.  My star performer above was in that twenty percent and by showing insensitivity and a lack of trust in her, I damaged a certain level of her ability to produce the eighty percent of the performance results that she normally achieved.

I should have allowed my Star to have the one day off to celebrate her son’t sixth birthday.  I should have trusted her preparation and her team to make her goals for the day without her being there.  I seriously goofed.  And it cost me.

Just Because You Say You Have an “Open Door Policy” Does Not Mean You Have an “Open Door Policy”

A while back I was working with a manager who was frustrated that her direct reports and their direct reports were coming to me with their workplace concerns and problems.  She called for a meeting with me and her boss to discuss and they both questioned why her people were contacting me instead of her.

After all, she said, she told her team she has an “open door policy”.

My response?  Just because you say you have an open door policy does not mean you actually have an open door policy.

It takes consistent effort, hard work and time to have an effective open door policy.  You have to spend time every single day getting to know your people and allow them to get to know you.  You have to build their trust and earn their respect and the best way to do this is to develop a professional relationship with the individuals of your team.

It is something I am very good at and why I won so many store performance awards when I worked at The Bon Marche’/Macys.  I wasn’t going to apologize for my ability to gain the trust of the employees I mentioned above and lower my level of performance.  The manager would need to up her game – something I would help with, of course.

When I was a store manager, I knew every one of my employee’s names and made an effort to acknowledge them every day or two.  At one point, I had 100+ employees working for me but I still made the effort.  I tried to spend the time out on the floor and talk to them about their job and a little about what’s going on personally.

I do the same in my current job as Sr. Dir of HR – I circulate through the office and try to spend time talking to each employee a couple times a week. When I’m at the mine site, I work the office and the plant and  drive around, stop and talk to the crew members who are working at various locations throughout the property.  It’s important to note that I actively listen to them when communicating.  You would be surprised about what you will find out! Employees want to be heard and they will tell you exactly what they are thinking once they understand that you can be trusted.

An open door policy is hard work.

But its hard work that will make so many other elements of your job easier.

A Manager’s Most Important Responsibility

What is a manager’s most important responsibility?  It’s quite simple, actually.

The most important responsibility of any manager is to hire the best people they can.

Think about it.

What happens to everybody’s workload when a manager makes a good hire?  We love it!!

A good hire makes everybody more productive by allowing them to continue their work while being competent enough to do their own. A good hire is somebody who others enjoy working with creating a positive work environment which increases morale and production. It’s motivating when the new hire fits in well  and effectively contributes.

What happens to everybody’s workload when a manager makes a bad hire?  We hate it!!

A bad hire creates more work for everybody as they compensate for the poor performer.  A bad hire can also create a poisoned work environment leading to poor morale and reducing overall production.   A bad hire can make good employees flee the organization if nothing appropriate is done to remedy the situation.  We’ve all made bad, if not horrible, hiring decisions in our career.  I certainly have and have paid the price.

As an HR leader, it’s vital that we train and coach managers on how to effectively recruit, interview, hire, develop, and retain great employees.

So many managers “shoot from the hip” when it comes to these critical steps.  Sure they get it right sometimes and justify their methods by focusing on when they did well.  If they were honest with themselves, however, they would say they got it wrong more than they got it right.

With the huge impact a good or bad hire can have on an organization a manager’s most important responsibility is to hire the best people they can.

How my Presentation Helped me Narrow the Focus of Hard Hat HR

Last week I delivered a presentation to a group of HR executives at Innovative Career Consulting and told them the story of  how I created my online brand presence.  Turns out, a couple executives at ICC were impressed with how I was branding myself and HHHR so they contacted me and asked me to speak to their group about how I am doing it.

The request was completely unexpected and on very short notice – I only had two and a half days to prepare something completely from scratch!

Remember, I only re-launched Hard Hat HR a couple weeks ago and am in the beginning stages of building it.  Delivering presentations is certainly one of the activities I intend to do but I was completely caught off guard by their request and certainly not ready.

But my attitude is and always has been to take whatever opportunity given and make the best of it.  I would have to make myself ready.  Who knows when the next opportunity will come or where this opportunity will lead?

So I went into deep dive mode and, in following two mornings and evenings, I built the presentation with enough time to rehearse it a half dozen times.  Whew!  Of course I was nervous when it was time to deliver the presentation but once I got going, my enthusiasm and passion took over and was able to comfortably deliver some real value to the group at ICC.

The group was fantastic and engaged throughout  and asked some great questions – many of which have given me several ideas for new material for HHHR!   One question in particular really made me think.  A gentleman asked what was the main focus or specialty for HHHR.  I didn’t have a good answer for him except to say “HR Strategy and Tactics”.   I’m actually OK (but not really excited) with that answer but the question still made me think a little harder about what direction I want to take HHHR.

That thinking led to the conclusion that the group consisted of HR leaders who were looking to me for advice and seemed interested in what I was delivering.  So why not concentrate my efforts on delivering advice and content to HR leaders and those who aspire to be HR leaders?  Boom.  That’s it.  And that is what I will do.

As of today, my new title/focus/brand is “Hard Hat HR – Human Resource Leadership Strategy & Tactics.”

In closing, I want to sincerely thank the good people at Innovative Career Consulting for giving me the opportunity to speak to their group last week.  Not only did it give me the opportunity to help a fantastic group of HR leaders, it gave me some great new ideas for the future direction of HHHR!

Improve Communication – The Best Way to Increase Morale and Engagement

The best and most effective way to increase employee morale and engagement is to improve communication. this Accountemps survey of 300 HR Managers, the number one cause of poor morale is a breakdown of communication.  “Lack of honest, open communication” comes in as the number one response at 33% with “micromanaging employees” coming in second at 18%.

According to the survey:

“Managers can be doing everything right, but if they’re not including employees in the information loop, staff engagement could suffer,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies®, 3rd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). “To improve communication, keep team members apprised of company goals and performance, and encourage them to ask questions and offer feedback.” Messmer added, “Fortunately, morale problems can often be addressed relatively easily. Improving workplace communication is one of the most effective — and one of the least costly — ways to combat the problem of a disengaged workforce.”

Based on my own experience, I can say that Mr. Messmer is spot on.  I have worked for organizations both excellent and terrible in their communication.  It was fun and exciting working for an organization that openly shared and communicated.  On the other hand, it was frustrating and depressing working for an organization that kept everything “secret”.

As a General Manager, I worked hard communicating to my team – and it is hard work where many managers fail – as evidenced by the above mentioned survey.  I led operations of over 100 employees to multiple performance awards and attribute much of that success to regularly and consistently communicating our strategies and progress to the team.  They bought into and, as a result, were fully aligned towards executing the strategies and took each of my operations to the highest award in the company, Store of the Year.  That award is very difficult to earn and to do it twice in two separate locations is nearly impossible.  It could not have been done with open, honest, and consistent communication.