Attending #SHRM19 – Respect Your Organization’s Investment

I attended my first #SHRM conference this year and enjoyed pretty much all of it.  I thought it was extremely well organized, the general sessions were interesting and varied, and I gained a lot of value from the event.

Being that the SHRM 19 conference was held in June, I was planning on writing a blog post about it which would have been your basic this is what I liked and this is what I didn’t like – blah blah blah.

Fortunately, a few days after the conference ended, a SHRM19 discussion thread complaining about the conference app caught my eye and got me thinking about how this thread illustrates part of what is wrong in the HR profession and what may be holding the profession back from being taken seriously by our company leadership. It gave me the opportunity to write something different than the typical conference review.

In the discussion thread, an attendee posted a complaint about how disappointed they were because of the lack of a physical paper concurrent session guide and how using the app will unnecessarily deplete their phone battery throughout the day.

There was a lot of agreement in the thread that SHRM messed up by not having the printed guide, and complaining about battery usage, the app being clunky, and the lack of information available (which was all in the app had they looked).

The SHRM Annual Conference is a serious event where, I assume, our most serious and dedicated HR Professionals attend.  It’s not cheap.  I also assume that the majority of these HR Pros want to be taken seriously by their leadership and contribute to the strategic direction of their organization and even earn that elusive seat at the table. I’m comfortable with this assumption because I hear and read about it almost every day.

So when I hear or see conference attendees complaining about not having a printed guide provided for them and not wanting to adopt and use something like the SHRM19 App, I get frustrated that they don’t see the incongruity of their complaints to what they say they want professionally.

Yes, I know I’m painting with a wide brush and making a lot of assumptions but this is my blog and how I am lining things up to make my point!

Here is my contribution to the discussion thread I mentioned above:

The schedule and all the session descriptions were, and still are, on the home page of the SHRM19 website organized by track and with the ability to print everything. One just needed to take a half hour or so before the conference to read, prepare, and plan.  As an effective professional with the responsibility of the +$3,000 investment my company made for me to attend, I prepared ahead of time.

I also spent a few minutes to download and learn how to use the app which became invaluable to me throughout the conference. And I brought a battery charger with me to recharge my phone late in the day (several vendors were giving them away).

SHRM had it all there for you if you would have taken the time to strategically prepare ahead of time.

As HR Pros who want our profession to be taken seriously we need to be strategic, embrace change, adopt new technology, creatively solve problems, and respect our organization’s investment in our development by preparing.

The hard truth is that if we’re not doing these for the little things when we attend the SHRM19 conference, then we’re probably not doing them for the big things in our organization.

This wasn’t a popular thing to say and I got some pushback but I fully stand by my comments and am even doubling down by posting this on HHHR because I feel so strongly about it.

Maybe because this was my first SHRM conference, I made the effort ahead of time to prepare and couldn’t rely on “the way things have always been done.”  But having a strong business background, I think I would have prepared the same way because I also always consider the cost/investment of every event or activity and, as I said in my comment above, I make a point of respecting my organization’s investment in my development by putting forth the effort to properly prepare so I get the most out of it.

I was actually very impressed by the app.  By preparing and getting to know the app in the days before the conference I learned the following things:

  • I can build my daily schedule but “starring” the sessions I want to attend and the will show up on My Schedule in the app.
  • Most of the sessions had the presentation slide deck attached so I downloaded them to my iPad before each session and followed along during the presentations.
  • I could easily find where to go by using the Navigate button that took me to maps of the Convention Center, the Exposition, and the Westgate
  • I was able to search for Exhibitors and quickly find their booth number so I could visit them.
  • I liked being able to read about the Speakers and discover their speaking time to schedule.
  • I was also able to get alerts on my phone and iPad that helped remind me of events an activities.

The app made my first SHRM conference experience a great one!

When your organization is willing to make a financial investment in your development, you owe it to them, and yourself, to make the appropriate amount of time to fully prepare. By doing so you  maximize the benefits of that investment for both the organization and yourself.

Make Exceptional HR Customer Service Your Culture and Mission

At my company’s annual General Manager meeting a few weeks ago, our keynote speaker was Seattle and retailing icon, Pete Nordstrom, the CEO of Nordstrom Department Store.  Our company president invited him to spend some time talking to us about the importance of customer service and to share some stories about their successful history.

Being a former department store retailer myself and having attended many similar company meetings while I was with The Bon Marche’/Macy’s, I was in very familiar territory as he told story after story about Nordstrom and the retail business.

However, what I found most interesting during his conversation with us was how they went through the process of discovering why their famous customer service rankings were slipping each year even while their sales associates continued to do the same amazing customer service activities.

He explained that after a lot of trial and error along with a lot of research, they ultimately learned that the definition of customer service/expectation had changed.  Their customers no longer considered the way Nordstrom was providing great customer service was as exceptional as they used to. This changed expectation was causing their service survey scores being collected online, which you can read more to find here, to slip lower and lower each year.

What the heck was going on?

Well, it was because of another Seattle retail icon, Amazon.

The employee empowerment, personal attention, and humbleness Nordstrom associates were famous for providing their customers was no longer enough.  In addition, they learned that the  added extra steps in the way their associates approach customers and how they close sales by pushing Nordstrom credit cards, donating to a charity, etc., were not helping with their customers perception and expectation of exceptional customer service.  All these things added to the amount of time and frustration to a customer during what should be a simple sales transaction.

The new expectation set by Amazon has become one of speedy and efficient service.  Customers now expect to be able to quickly find an item, any item, online while sitting in their living room, click a button and expect it to be delivered within one or two days. And even get regular notifications as to where the item is at any given time as it’s being shipped.

As a result of their findings, Nordstrom made a number of fundamental changes to the way their sales associates provide customer service and as a result, their scores are improving.

Welcome to the new expected level of exceptional customer service.

 

How does this apply to HR?

HR needs to keep abreast of current expectations.  What defined good CS just a few years ago has changed.

Similarly to people’s expectation to speedy and efficient service when they are shopping, these same people, as employees, have an equally high level of expectation for quick & efficient, accurate, and cheerful service from HR.

Quick and Efficient – This means we must respond to our emails from the employees we serve within 24 hours, return their phone calls the same day (yes the same day), and respond to their texts within a couple hours. Probably a tall order for most of us but it must be a priority.

Accurate – We must also ensure that our advice and recommendations are appropriate to the situation and the needs of the business.  We must build a high level of confidence with our employees and leadership that we are competent professionals.

Cheerful – Yes seriously (haha).  Being cheerful means being pleasant, friendly, and positive.  I know that can be difficult with all the “stuff” that we deal with all day long but, again, to be taken seriously as an effective professional, our approachability and demeanor are critically important.   We want our employees and leadership to feel comfortable approaching us for strategic advice, employee relations concerns, etc.

As an HR Professional and your HR Department, if you want to be taken seriously within your organization and become a valuable business partner, you’ll need to make the extra effort to provide this new expectation of quick & efficient, accurate, and cheerful service.

If you’re thinking there’s no way I/we can do this, then you won’t and you’ll forever be stuck in the annex along with Toby of The Office whining about not having that elusive “seat at the table”.

If, on the other hand, you are thinking yeah we can and need to do this, and you’re willing to put in the hard work that it will take to make it part of the daily workflow and routine, you’ll earn the respect of your employees and leadership and have a much better chance of earning that seat.

I believe that, because HR serves the organization’s employees and leadership, it is imperative that the members of the HR Team provide exceptional customer service to those employees and leaders.

Regrettably, I don’t think this is common in most HR Departments.

Those of us who are working on developing HR 2.0, however, are making sure that exceptional customer service is the mission and culture of our HR Department.

Effectively Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Do the Blocking and Tackling

Since sexual harassment is currently such a big issue these days, I’m going to talk about the tools I’ve effectively developed and used over the years.  I’m writing this in November of 2017 and you can’t watch TV, listen to the radio, or read anything online without learning about some high profile politician, media personality, or famous celebrity being accused of some form of sexual harassment.

What frustrates me is how it has become such a “popular” thing to expose all of a sudden.  If we are being honest with ourselves, we all already knew this kind of behavior has been going on for years but nobody ever did anything about it.  At the highest level possible, we had a two term President in the 90’s who we all knew engaged in it.  And we now have a current President who was recorded bragging about it before winning the election. We also all knew about the infamous “casting couch” in Hollywood which has been around since the 1920s and probably even earlier. 

I’m frustrated that our society tolerated it for so long.

It’s about time that women are finally feeling comfortable about coming forward with their stories of harassment. There is no place for sexual harassment in our workplace and private lives. Never has been and never will be.

While all of the stories, so far, have been from women, and I fully recognize that most of the victims are going to be women,  I’m waiting to hear some men start coming forward telling their stories of how they were harassed – it happens to all genders, in every industry, in every socioeconomic status, etc.

In fact, two of my three biggest sexual harassment investigations were with women as the instigators.  So I know it’s only a matter of time before we hear about a woman politician, media personality, or celebrity harassing a subordinate. Let’s not forget how many female teachers, a female dominated profession, are being caught having sex with their male underage students. So it cuts both ways. Both men and women can be deviant creeps.

So how do we stop sexual harassment?  I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how the old traditional ways of dealing with it – an up-to-date policy, training, and investigate quickly and fairly to all complaints – no longer work.  That we must do something different to put an end to it, things like promoting more women and  implementing predictive analytics!

There is no easy solution and, sadly, no matter what we do, sexual harassment will never end.  It is, unfortunately, part of human nature.  Harassment, sexual and other types, have been around since the beginning of time and will be around until the end of time.

The only way to deal with it from an HR standpoint, in my opinion and experience, is to effectively and consistently do the basic blocking and tackling of having a strong and updated policy, conduct training annually and during onboarding, and conducting quick and fair investigations.  

I’ve had a lot of experience handling sexual harassment complaints and investigations.  And I can say that by effectively executing the basics I listed above is the best way of slowing it down and keeping it under control.  It creates a culture that clearly demonstrates that sexual harassment is not tolerated in the workplace and will be quickly addressed.

I have three steps of a Harassment Policy process that I find work best.

First, during onboarding,while reviewing the employee handbook, I stress that there is no tolerance of sexual or any other type of harassment  in our workplace.

When setting up the employee handbook, I make sure the policy is the first one listed so as to emphasize it’s importance. I also make sure I review it, along with our legal council and/or an employment lawyer, at least once every two years (I would do it right now regardless of when it was done earlier because of the current high profile cases in the media) to ensure it’s up to date. It’s also good to make sure the policy is written in plain english, not in legal handbookese that nobody understands.

Make sure each employee’s signee Acknowledgement of Receipt is in their file so there’s evidence that you reviewed the important policies with them.

Second, later in the onboarding schedule, I have a Harassment Training  session.  I will conduct either a live presentation or show them a video depending on the size of the onboarding class. I have two compliance trainings during onboarding, Harassment Prevention and Drug and Alcohol Prevention, and this again emphasizes the importance of our policy by putting such a primary focus on it during their onboarding. AION Recovery Rehab Center provides professional care in this respect.

I also have two mandatory annual all-hands Harassment Prevention training sessions, one for the general employee population and one for the supervisors and managers. I require managers and supervisors to attend the general employee population session so they are seen by all employees to be part of and fully supportive of the process. This also emphasizes to the managers the importance of the policy.

Each of these training sessions has a quiz that I require each employee to take and turn in after we review the answers. This gives you a document for their file that they’ve attended the training session and interacted by taking the quiz. Also make sure the employees sign an attendance sheet and file those sheets with your training materials.

Third and finally, when a complaint is received, I immediately jump into action and start an investigation. I once drove five hours from my office in Denver, CO to a remote location in central Wyoming the same day I received a complaint and immediately started the investigation. I stayed there for two days to interview people, have discussions with management, decide on proper corrective action, communicate our conclusion to affected employees, and conclude the investigation.

I then write up a final report documenting the process of my investigation, who I spoke to and what was said, my conversations with management, and the results of the final decision and corrective action taken.  This document goes into the accused’s file and I like to have a copy in a separate investigation file with other investigations I conducted.  

As you can see, I will always drop what I’m doing and immediately start an investigation when I get a harassment complaint because harassment is the most toxic workplace situation. It creates all sorts of serious legal, morale, productivity, ethical, safety, and many other similar problems. Problems that I can head off if I address the complaint immediately.

While it’s important to keep the investigation as confidential as possible while on site, we all know that the grapevine will communicate why you’re there and what you are doing.  Employees will see the corrective action and understand why.

This final step of a quick and fair investigation followed by the appropriate corrective action, if warranted, sends the strongest message possible to employees that harassment is not tolerated and will be dealt with swiftly. And it only really takes one or two instances to send a clear message and make a positive impact on the culture.

Now, remember, these steps will not completely eliminate harassment but they will go a long way in significantly reducing it to the point there will only be a few cases.  

But you have to do the day in and day out blocking and tackling consistently in order to minimize harassment and keep your company culture one that makes it clear it’s not tolerated.

Veteran’s Day Thanks

Bill

Capt. Bill Boberg in Vietnam

There will be no Audioblog Podcast today but I wanted to take a moment to write about Veteran’s Day and recognize both my dad, my grandpa, and all veterans on this very important holiday.

Tuesday, November 11, is Veteran’s Day in the United States.  The day is set aside to recognize and honor those who have served in the United States Armed Forces.  The day was originally set aside as Armistice Day, recognizing the last day of World War I – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

President Wilson proclaimed the first holiday on November 11, 1919.  Armistice Day is still recognized in many parts of the world but the day evolved into Veteran’s Day in the US in 1954.

First, I would like to recognize my dad who served in the Viet Nam war back in the late 1960s.  He spent a year there as an officer with a Combat Engineer Division.  He doesn’t talk about the time he served there but I know he was proud to have served his country.

Next, I would also like to recognize my grandpa who served in the Polish army officer during World War II and was captured by the German army during the 1939 Blitzkrieg of Poland.  Although he didn’t serve in the US Armed Forces, he was an Allied veteran and suffered in a German POW camp for six years.  He immigrated to the US immediately after the war and was a proud American until the day he passed away in 1986.

Group 1942

Col. William Zweck (center front) with his fellow POWs in 1942

Finally, I want to recognize all veterans for their sacrifice and for serving the United States and protecting our freedom and liberty.

Respect for HR

I came across this blog post – Why Do We Seem to Hate All the Things that Make HR Great – on TLNT over the weekend.

I can tell you I don’t hate the things that make HR great.

Having been a General Manager for Macys for approximately 15 years, I found the soft skills and people smarts are what made me and my management style effective and productive.  A critical part of being a “business person” is to have the soft skills.

Peter Drucker has been writing about these skills since the 1930s and those who read and practice his recommendations are usually very successful.  I understand that there are many in management who don’t consider the soft skills important but that is to their determent.

HR needs to embrace these soft skills and have the courage practice and promote them every chance we get with those in the the other parts of the business.  We should never apologize for being HR and should take our roles as strategic contributors seriously.  We need to speak up when we see something that needs to be addressed from an HR standpoint.  We need to be just as assertive and confident as those in Accounting, Finance, IT, and Management.

We need to act like we belong because we do.

Respect for HR

I came across this blog post – Why Do We Seem to Hate All the Things that Make HR Great – on TLNT over the weekend.

I can tell you I don’t hate the things that make HR great.  Having been a General Manager for Macys for approximately 15 years, I found the soft skills and people smarts are what made me and my management style effective and productive.  A critical part of being a “business person” is to have the soft skills.  Peter Drucker has been writing about just such skills since the 1930s and those who read and practice his recommendations are usually very successful.  I understand that there are many in management who don’t consider the soft skills important but that is to their determent.

HR needs to embrace those soft skills and have the courage practice and promote them every chance we get with those in the the other parts of the business.  We should never apologize for being HR and should take our roles as strategic contributors seriously.  We need to speak up when we see something that needs to be addressed from an HR standpoint.  We need to be just as assertive and confident as those in Accounting, Finance, IT, and Management.

We need to act like we belong because we do.

This is re-posted from www.RichBoberg.com