My Good News and a Pause for HHHR

AdobeStock_75926072It’s been a month since my last post and I indicated on my podcast that week that I had some exciting news to share. I meant to post and podcast about this news much earlier but was simply unable to find the time because of the news.

Things have been a whirlwind since that week!  I accepted a job with Merrill Gardens and their sister company Pillar Properties in Seattle as their HR Director where I will be in charge of the HR function for both companies.  It’s something I’m very excited about as the HR department services both company’s 2000+ employees in seven states.

Since that week in February, I had a lot of work wrapping things up with several of my clients in Denver that I would no longer be able to continue working with due to my leaving the Denver area. In addition, I had to pack a few things and get up to Seattle to find a place for my wife and I to live until we find a place to buy.  I also got stuck in Casper, WY for a few days due to the winter storm that passed through the western states mid month. Not a big deal because I grew up there and we stayed with my in-laws but it delayed my house-hunting plans by a few days!

I eventually made it to Seattle and was able to find a place and as a bonus, am temporarily staying with my daughter and her family and am spending some wonderful quality time with my granddaughter!

So, I’ve had a lot going on the past month and it will be a while before I start posting and podcasting again because I need to devote my full attention on my new job and getting acclimated to the company and all I need to learn and accomplish.

There won’t be a podcast this week since my podcasting equipment is packed up and in storage.

Once I get to a certain place at my new job, I expect to start posting and podcasting again on a monthly schedule.  I love blogging and podcasting but I need to focus 100% on my new job and company!

 

Step Two of Developing an HR Strategic Plan: Conduct an Internal and External Environmental Scan

AdobeStock_92951733This week, I’m introducing the second step of developing an HR Strategic Plan. This is the step where both internal and external environmental scans must be conducted in order to identify and interpret the data that pertains to opportunities and threats in the organization’s business environment.

Being able to identify and understand these threats is essential in developing an effective strategic plan. The two types of scans are defined below:

The first is the internal scan which identifies internal organizational trends as well as the physical, financial, and human assets and determines whether these trends and assets are strengths or weaknesses.

Examples of what to examine in an internal scan include employee interaction with each other, employee interaction with management, manager interaction with each other, management interaction with shareholders/owners, access to resources, brand awareness, organizational structure, individual and core competencies, innovation capabilities, operational potential, etc.

The second is the external scan which identifies and analyzes the external environment in order to anticipate and identify trends, opportunities and threats to the organization.

I recommend three environments that should be scanned and analyzed.

  1. The organization’s industry environment. Examine the competitive structure of the organization’s industry. Take a good look at the competitive position of the organization as it relates to its top competitors. The industry’s history, life cycle stage, and dynamics must be carefully assessed including how globalization is affecting the competitive environment.
  2. The national environment. Examine the whether the organization’s national/local framework is capable of being competitive in the national and global environment.
  3. The broader socio-economic environment. Explore the macro-economic, social, government, legal, technological and global factors that may influence the organization’s competitive environment.

Understanding what we are scanning and gathering data on, next we’ll take a look on how go about collecting that data.

Internal Sources:

  • Annual Reports
  • Business Unit strategic plans
  • Marketing materials
  • Employee surveys
  • Staffing Plans
  • HR and training staff
  • Employee exit interviews
  • Conversations with leadership team
  • Org charts

External Sources:

As I alluded to earlier, the main purpose of the scans is to identify and evaluate the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.

The first element to assessing the organization’s strengths and weaknesses are the competencies that are necessary for the organization to be successful in executing its strategy. The people of the organization are the critical link between the business strategy and the results.

There are specific competencies and behaviors that are needed to successfully implement a strategy within its environment. For example, significantly different competencies are needed for a cost strategy vs a service strategy.

The next element to consider when evaluating the strengths and weaknesses is to analyze the organization’s various management practices. Determine whether the management practices are logically related to each other and capable of producing the critical competencies needed to effectively implement the strategy.

A thorough HR Department assessment must also be conducted. Take a cold hard look at the organizational structure of the HR department and the skill levels of the staff. In addition, analyze and evaluate whether the right processes and systems are in place.

The HR Department needs to know how it will make a contribution to the organization’s business, have the right org structure, have the right systems and processes in place, understand the department’s strengths and weaknesses, how the department is perceived by leadership and employees, and have a plan in place to capitalize on staff strengths and address staff weaknesses.

Strategic HR is all about the relationship between HR leadership and the organization’s business unit leadership. It’s about delivering real business value to all functions of the organization. HR has to be thoroughly involved with all aspects of the business in order to fully understand and appreciate the opportunities and problems the organization and business units deal with every day.

To be taken seriously by the organization’s leadership, strategic HR professionals need to be great business professionals. They should have actual business leadership experience outside of HR, in my opinion. In addition, they should put themselves in positions where they regularly work with key influencers, identify opportunities and provide solutions to business problems, facilitate key meetings, be members of leadership teams, etc.

Dealing with National Politics in the Workplace

You can’t get away from it these days. It’s all the media is talking about, it’s all over our social media feeds, it’s on all the award shows and entertainment programs we’re watching, it’s overheard in the stores and coffee shops we are visiting, and it’s in our workplace. Political discussions are everywhere and we are more politically polarized than I’ve ever seen in my life.

With today’s massive megaphone of social media and the 24 hour news cycle, many people have expressed their passion about the political issues and their candidates. And there’s something to offend just about anybody with the current hot-button issues such as race, class, gender, abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, terrorism, religion, etc.

I would venture to guess that we have all witnessed some very heated exchanges between family, friends, and coworkers regarding today’s political climate. I’ve seen people I respect and care about say or write some pretty horrible things about others based simply on their political beliefs.

People are more polarized in their positions like I’ve never seen before and those positions are making their way into the workplace and affecting morale and productivity.

In addition, many of today’s issues swerve into employment law. Political discussions about issues that affect working conditions such as minimum wage, equal pay, and paid leave might be protected by federal law.  While, on the other hand, political discussions about race, gender, and religion may lead to harassment or discrimination claims. And it only takes one person to pop off during a heated discussion and alienate another employee and/or cause a hostile work environment or a potential harassment claim.

I make it a practice not to discuss politics at work – especially these days. I hear enough of it on my Sirius radio when I commute to and from work and when I’m home trying to catch up on the news. Frankly, I’m exhausted of it all and don’t want to have to deal with it when I’m at work.

But, I’m HR, so I have to deal with it at work.

As such, I’ve come up with a couple of proven recommendations to help keep things under control.

First and foremost, HR must remain neutral. This is my number one recommendation. Whatever your beliefs, HR must be neutral and not take a side in a disputed conversation about politics. HR absolutely should not engage in a conversation with other employees expressing their political opinions and joining in with them bashing a side. I guarantee that you have employees on the other side who will hear or overhear what you said which will erode your credibility with them.

The purpose of your neutrality allows all of your employees to feel safe coming to you with their concerns about potentially uncomfortable or hostile political conversations they overheard or were part of. It’s HR’s job to make sure employees feel safe to surface any concerns they have from conversations they’ve had or overheard that make them feel uncomfortable or offended.

Second, Establish and communicate ground rules. Meet with your senior leaders to determine what political discussions your organization is willing to tolerate/accept at work. Will you ban it entirely or will you allow some as long as their respectful, appropriate, and inclusive of all beliefs?

Once you have that established,  conduct an all hands meeting and follow up with an email reminding your employees to be professional, respectful, and tolerant of other employee’s political beliefs. Remind them of the process for airing their complaints and how they will be dealt with and what the consequences will be for violating these ground rules. You must, as HR, clearly communicate to your employee population where you draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. You can’t be ambiguous.

It’s also important to understand that you can’t ignore the issue at work. Ignoring it will only make the situation worse because these conversations may escalate into profanity and direct threats. Other employees who want to stay out of these discussions may also be unwillingly dragged in.

When you overhear a controversial political discussion happening at your workplace, and you’ve established the accepted ground rules, you simply remind the employees engaged in the conversation that they are not behaving in an acceptable manner (professional, respectful, or tolerant). If they continue after your reminder, you simply begin your organization’s disciplinary process.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you keep your workplace professional, respectful, civil and ultimately productive!

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Getting the SHRM-SCP Certification

shrmcertification_logoLast week, on Monday, January 5, 2015 I logged into the SHRM Certification website to take the Online Tutorial Pathway that would earn me the SHRM-SCP certification.   The first thing I had to do was create an account to the SHRM Certification Portal.  This is different than the SHRM membership so new login credentials must be established for the certification site.

As I created my account and registered, I noticed the website was very slow – probably due to the heavy traffic on the first day the Online Tutorial Pathway was available.  Shortly after registering, I received an email notifying me that my profile had been successfully set up.

It took a few hours before I received the next email granting me access to the Certification Online Tutorial explaining the tutorial process with+ the following:

Accessing the Tutorial:  The tutorial can be accessed online via the URL below. Please note that you will have 10 days to complete the tutorial, with the ability to save your progress. The tutorial requires a current version of Adobe Flash to run. If you are having issues launching the tutorial we recommend accessing the course in Chrome.

What is the tutorial?:  The SHRM Certification Online Tutorial Pathway is an educational program, and not a text/exam. Activities found in the tutorial will not be assessed or assigned a score.

Duration:  The tutorial will take approximately one hour to complete.

Completing the Tutorial:  Upon completion of the tutorial, you will receive a confirmation email with information regarding next steps.

Existing Credentials:  You do not have to give up any existing HR Generalist credentials by participating in the SHRM Certification Online Tutorial Pathway.

The next morning, before going to work, I clicked on the provided link and proceeded with the Tutorial which took approx one hour to complete.

It was exactly as SHRM said above, an educational process explaining the reasons SHRM is launching their own certification and an overview of the eight behavioral competencies of the SHRM Competency Model and the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge.

SHRM-CertificationAfter the explanation, they had me take a survey answering questions about my knowledge and experience in each of the eight behavioral competencies.  From this they generated my Competency Self Portrait.

The Self Portrait measures your career experience – Early, Mid, Senior, and Exec – in each of the eight behavioral competencies.  A completely filled in sphere means you selected three out of three of the activity statements for that level of experience, a half filled sphere means you selected two out of three, an empty sphere means you selected one out of three, and no sphere means you didn’t select any of the three statements.

As can be seen on my Self Portrait, my weakest category is in Global & Cultural Effectiveness.  This is not a surprise since I don’t have any global or international HR experience.

My strongest categories are in Business Acumen, Consultation and Communication.  Again, this is not a surprise since I have a great deal of experience in these three categories.

I really like the Self Portrait as it shows me the areas where I need to continue to develop.

The next stage of the Online Tutorial was taking a sample exam by answering several questions similar to what is on the actual exam.  SHRM wants to give those of us taking the Online Tutorial Pathway a taste of what their exam is like.  The questions are from “real life” situations describing a scenario with three questions for each scenario looking for the appropriate HR solution.  There are four multiple choice answers to choose from for each question with a best answer, a second best answer, and two answers that are wrong. It’s interesting that they have a second best answer but, of course, the best answer is the correct answer for the purpose of the test.  I’m assuming the regular exam is set up in this fashion.

After taking the sample exam, I finished up the Tutorial and was notified by email that I completed it and would be notified within 72 hours that my certification was granted.  It took about four hours to receive the email notifying me that SHRM had granted me my SHRM-SCP.

Initially, I was pleased but it didn’t seem as important to me as when I earned my SPHR and, more recently, my SPHR-CA.  I had to study my brains out for those and the feeling accomplishment of passing those exams was significant.  However, I did appreciate that SHRM recognizes the HRCI certifications and is offering their certifications to those who have them.

Now that a week has gone by and I’ve had some time to let it sink in, I have really come to appreciate my SHRM-SCP certification and am impressed with how SHRM developed the SHRM Competency Model and the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge.  I am also impressed with their Online Tutorial Pathway.  Except for the slow website which was to be expected on the first day, everything went very smooth and was very professional.

I think SHRM has done an outstanding job with their roll-out of their certifications and I’m proud to now hold the SHRM-SCP certification.

Clear the Decks!

Being efficient and productive is essential to being an effective and successful HR leader.  I like to occasionally share my own personal productivity techniques here at HHHR in the hopes that they may be of some help to my readers and listeners.

Soon after starting my concentrated effort to manage my email three times a day, I started a new organization improvement method of “clearing the decks desk”.

Before I go home for the day, I completely clear off my desk and the top of my filing cabinet.  I file away the papers that need filing and put papers that I am still working with in my desk tray.

This daily clearing the decks forces me to do the filing and organizing that tends to get procrastinated throughout the days and weeks causing work to be forgotten, misplaced, and piled up.  Before I started this effort, my desk was never out of control but it was usually messy and disorganized.

As you see in the photo I leave work with my desk cleared off and when I come in to start a new day, I’m greeted with a clean and organized office that allows and motivates me to quickly get right back to work.

I’m much more efficient and effective and able to produce higher quality work.

As David Allen says in his book “Getting Things Done”,

…our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.

Clearing my desk every evening helps me clear my mind and plan for the next day.

Coming into a clear desk every morning allows me to start the day fresh without any mental or physical clutter from the day before.

It takes discipline and effort to get into the habit but when you make it part of your daily routine, it will pay off with increased productivity and reduce the amount of daily stress at work.

I’m OK With Two Certifications – HRCI and the Newly Announced SHRM Certificaiton

As I thought about it over the weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I am fine with holding two HR certifications.  My SPHR will be more of a knowledge based certification and my “SHRM cert” will be competency based.  I see them as complementing each other and elevating  the professional status of the HR profession as a result.

I’m actually looking forward to reviewing and studying SHRM’s competency based materials and completing the requirements to receive their certification as soon as it is made available.

From SHRM’s FAQ

For Certified HR Professionals 

If I’m already certified, what do I have to do? Do I have to take another exam? 

Beginning January 1, 2015, if you are certified and in good standing, you are eligible for SHRM’s new certification — at no cost — by completing the following by December 31, 2015:
• Document that your current certification is in good standing.
• Sign the SHRM Code of Ethics.
• Complete a brief online tutorial on HR competencies.
Once you go through this process, you will receive the new SHRM credential and will begin a three-year recertification cycle.