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.

Step One of Developing an HR Strategic Plan: Determine and communicate a Vision, Mission, and Values Statement

Last week I introduced the summary of the six steps needed in developing an HR Strategic Plan. This week I will start drilling down into each step in more detail.

This week is step one, determine and communicate an HR Department Vision, Mission, and Values Statement. These three things will help the HR function positively identify and distinguish itself to the organization’s leadership and employees. Always a good thing!

Since private sector organizations don’t publicize their HR Department’s vision, mission, and value statements (because they don’t exist or are just shared internally?) and the Higher Education sector does, I am sharing some of my favorite examples.  Some of the universities have all three and some just have vision and mission statements. I also found and am sharing an excellent list of value statements from the County of San Mateo.

First, the Vision Statement.

The Vision Statement is an aspirational description of what the HR organization wants to achieve in the future. It serves as a guide for choosing current and future courses of action.

Here are some sample HR Vision Statements:

Marquette University HR

The Human Resources Department will be a catalyst; we aspire to be the model for excellence and leadership in human resources, emphasizing strategic and progressive human resource practices, high quality service, efficiency, employee growth and enrichment, and community. We will seek to implement human resource best practices and innovative human resource solutions. We will maintain a dedicated focus on customer service and continuous improvement, and we will remain committed to fostering an environment that sustains Marquette’s tradition of transformational education.

Loyola University HR

Our vision is to be recognized as a preferred employer and provider of innovative and results-oriented human resources services, policies, and systems.

UC Davis HR

We are a model HR organization that inspires all people to reach their full potential where their contributions and discoveries advance our world-class university.

Buffalo State HR

We aspire to build partnerships with management at all levels of the organization to create a campus culture that values all employees. This culture encourages and rewards exceptional performance and continuous improvement, fosters teamwork, and supports balanced attention to work and personal life issues. We provide services of the highest quality in a cost-effective manner while creating a healthy professional environment that fosters respect for both diverse perspectives and a service orientation.

Second is the Mission Statement.

The Mission Statement is a written declaration of the HR organization’s core purpose and focus. It typically remains unchanged over time.

Here are some sample HR Mission Statements:

Marquette University HR

The Human Resources Department creates, encourages, and maintains an environment that supports, develops and sustains the well being of Marquette University’s employees, students, and broader community. We do this by being a knowledgeable, approachable, professional resource in providing quality services in the areas of employee relations, benefits, recruitment and retention, organizational development, compensation, and human resource information management. We develop and communicate sound policies and procedures that balance the needs of employees and the needs of the university while ensuring compliance with federal and state law. We provide strategic leadership, modeling excellence, honesty, integrity, and teamwork. We deliver our services in support of the university’s mission of excellence, faith, leadership, and service.

Loyola University HR

Our mission supports Loyola University Maryland by ensuring human resources services, policies, and systems align with the University’s values, strategy, and mission. These services include:

  • Recruitment and hiring diverse and talented employees
  • Salary and Benefits Administration
  • Employer and Employee Relations
  • Professional Development
  • Organizational Development
  • Human Resources Information Systems Management
  • Compliance with employment related legislation

The human resources mission is best achieved by continuously researching, learning, developing, and delivering innovative results oriented service, policies, and systems for and with faculty, administrators, staff, applicants, and external stakeholders.

UC Davis HR

We promote excellence in people by delivering innovative HR programs and strategies to support One UC Davis.

Buffalo State HR

We support and influence the strategic direction of Buffalo State by providing managers and employees with innovative solutions to organizational and human resource issues. The department exists to provide services which help the college to attract, retain, and reward competent and dedicated faculty and staff who share a commitment to the values of excellence and innovation in teaching, research, and service to students and the community.  We are committed to promoting a quality work environment for our staff that positively influences the education of our students.

*It’s important to note that many people confuse the two.  The Mission is what needs to be accomplished while the Vision is what needs to be pursued in order to accomplish the Mission.  

Third is the Value Statement.

The Values Statement are the basic beliefs and guiding principles for the HR organization that, similar to the Mission Statement, remain unchanged over time.

Here are some examples of Value Statements:

Loyola University HR

Our values are guided by our Jesuit traditions and history of excellence, integrity, honesty, diversity, community, justice, service, leadership, discernment, and learning

UC Davis HR

Excellence as the standard for measuring the quality, timeliness, and consistency of our service.

Integrity at the core of all we do to provide service that is trustworthy, reliable, and fair.

Compassion in our service to faculty, staff, and students who have committed to building a better world.

Diversity to advance an inclusive and respectful culture.

County of San Mateo HR

  • Promote Honesty, Integrity, and Trust: We honor our commitments and conduct business in a manner that promotes fairness, respect, honesty, and trust.
  • Celebrate Teamwork: We encourage the diversity of thoughts, experiences, and backgrounds and celebrate participation and partnership in all of our endeavors.
  • Encourage Communication: We solicit the input of others and strive for transparency and inclusiveness.
  • Focus on Our Customers: We have a passion for service and are committed to knowing our customers’ business, anticipating their needs, and exceeding expectations.
  • Embrace Change and Innovation: We are open to possibility and foster creativity and risk-taking to support continuous improvement.
  • Champion Employee Development: We are committed to maximizing the potential of every individual and to support and promote the County as a learning organization.
  • Model Leadership: We lead by example and advocate equitable treatment in our behaviors, policies, and practices.
  • Produce Quality Results: We believe those we serve deserve excellent service, a safe, productive, and healthy work environment, and quality results.

As soon as the vision, mission and values statements are defined and established, HR must communicate and share them throughout the organization.  

If done effectively, the HR Department will gain a great deal of credibility, respect, and can ensure their place in the organization’s strategic planning and implementation process by consistently following and living up to their established vision, mission and values.

Introducing the Steps on How to Develop an HR Strategic Plan

AdobeStock_103199139The HR function in any organization has a great opportunity to connect to and add measurable value to the bottom line of the business. Developing an HR Strategic Plan is a difficult and complex undertaking but one that will be well worth the effort in establishing HR as an important and valuable function of the organization.

Since the ability of an organization to establish and maintain a competitive edge depends almost entirely on the quality of their workforce and the people management processes, being able to develop an effective HR Strategic Plan is crucial to the financial success of the organization.

There are six steps involved in developing an HR Strategic Plan that I’m listing below and will review much more in-depth in the following several weeks/months.

The six steps are:

  1. Determine and communicate a Vision, Mission Statement, and Value Statement for the HR function. These three things will assist the HR function in identifying and distinguishing itself to the organization’s leadership and employees.
  2. Conduct an external and internal environmental scan of the organization in order to identify opportunities and threats that might affect the organization in the future. Understanding how these opportunities and threats might affect the organization in the future is critical to creating an effective strategic plan.
  3. Establish and align HR strategies and goals in order to provide the direction that will guide the organization towards achieving its long term objectives.
  4. Develop action plans and assign accountabilities designed towards moving the planning process from the long term to the shorter term goals necessary to achieve the strategic goals.
  5. Execute the plan and monitor its progress in order to ensure that the plan stays on track. HR is responsible for developing, communicating and supporting the HR strategy implementation with the responsibility of actually implementing it residing with the line managers. Changes may be necessary with shifts in the business environment.
  6. Evaluate the plan’s results by measuring the success of the HR initiatives and identify things that worked or didn’t work. The evaluation establishes the foundation for additional HR strategic and business plans.

An organization’s HR strategy should never be separate from its overall business strategy. It should always be an integral part of all the organization’s strategies that require people to implement them, obviously. It requires HR’s thorough understanding of the organization’s business. With that understanding, HR programs and practices can be identified that will help the organization successfully execute its strategy.

The HR strategy must be externally aligned with the business plan in addition to being internally aligned for the HR programs and practices to support and complement one another. And in order for any HR strategy to be successful, HR must build relationships with, and gain the support of, the line managers who will ultimately be responsible for carrying out the HR practices and ensuring the success of the HR strategy.

That’s this week’s brief introduction of the steps on how to develop an HR strategic plan. In the coming weeks, I am excited to explore each of these steps much more in depth.

What is a Strategic Plan?

This week I’m going to talk about what exactly a strategic plan is.

A strategic plan is a written statement about the future direction and goals of an organization or HR department based on an analysis of the organization’s current status, strategy, strengths, limitations, threats, and opportunities in the current and future business environment.  

An effective strategic plan helps the organization understand where it is now, where it would like to be in the future, and how it’s going to close the gap between its current reality and the desired future status in order to get to where it wants to be. An effective strategy is also essential when it comes to customers, as to grab and hold on to customers one must ensure to provide them with top of the line, quality experience, as this not just builds goodwill but also brand loyalty within the customer for the brand. If you want to know more, click on Salesforce for your complete guide to customer experience. 

All good strategic plans support the organization’s vision, mission, and values as well as identify its strategic goals and needed resources.

Since I brought it up, let’s take a minute to define vision, mission and values even though most readers probably already know but it never hurts to revisit the definitions.

An organization’s vision statement provides a clear perspective of what it wants to have happen in the future. It includes a description of its operations as well as a compelling explanation of how the organization will look and function once the strategic plan has been implemented.

The organization’s mission statement is a clear description of it’s overall purpose. It identifies the essential reasons the organization exists and the principal products and services it provides to the marketplace.

Finally, the values of an organization represent the key core priorities of it’s culture. It’s what drives the organization’s priorities and how employees honestly behave.  An organization’s values typically remain the same over time.

A complete business strategy is made up of three parts – an operations strategy, a financial strategy, and most importantly IMO a people strategy.  I’m focusing on the people strategy, or HR Strategic Plan, as it provides the foundation of all the other strategies with the ability to identify, build, and reinforce the organization’s capabilities.  

The justifications for creating an HR Strategic Plan are that it provides a solid framework for value-added action, helps establish priorities, allows for the all important measurement of results, and creates a way for reallocating resources from the organization’s low producing activities to its high producing activities.

In addition, it helps increase and improve HR’s credibility within the organization by showing its positive impact on the organization’s bottom line. Which is always a good thing especially since, as I recently mentioned in a previous post, HR is still thought by many business leaders as pretty much an administrative function that operates separately from the rest of the other functions in the organization

In order for HR to take on a strategic role and be a strong strategic business partner, it must be represented in the leadership of an organization and be involved in defining the organizational issues before the strategic decision are made.  HR must be involved in turning those decisions into a set of organizational actions.  

According to my favorite HR thought leader, Dave Ulrich, there are several things an HR professional must do in order to be an effective Strategic HR Business Partner:

  • Understand and communicate that improvements are typically very difficult and complex and will take time to accomplish so watch out for quick fixes as they are typically very seductive but rarely work.
  • Align the HR Strategic Plan with the Business Strategic Plan which will ensure HR being seen as adding value to the organization.
  • Keep the strategic plan top of mind instead of shelving it and forgetting it.  The plan must be executed and managed in order to be effective.
  • Create a Capabilities Focus within the organization.

I want to focus a little more on that last bullet, Capabilities Focus, since the first three bullets are fairly self explanatory.

Capabilities are an organization’s ability to effectively manage its resources in order to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. They are anything the organization does well that improves business and creates a competitive advantage in the organization’s marketplace.  

Strategic HR Professionals are able to effectively identify and improve an organization’s capabilities that will help execute the organization’s strategy and leverage new products and services.

Some examples of organizational capabilities include knowledge, innovative designs, adaptability, cost competitiveness, and strong leadership.

Defining deliverables and showing how they can be measured and what actions need to be taken is critical in the strategic planning process. The Strategic HR Professional must focus on the deliverables which are, in other words, value added results.

The HR strategic plan is developed from looking, listening, questioning, clarifying and knowing what needs to be done.

The plan must include ways that HR can help the organization add value to its key stakeholders (employees, customers, and investors), improve organizational capabilities, improve employee competence, fulfill regulatory compliance, determine processes and activities that can be retained or outsourced, and align HR programs with organizational goals.

My next post in this series will discuss how the strategic HR Professional must be able to speak the language of business and define a few important strategic business terms that will need to be understood. Then after that, I’ll get into the steps of how to actually develop an HR Strategic Plan.

My HR Journey

How I ended up in HR

I was at a tech industry HR event in Boulder a few months ago and we were all asked to talk about our “HR Journey” – what was it that led us to choose HR as a career. Or what was it that led HR to choose us?

The exercise required that we had to get up in front of everybody and tell our story. We didn’t have much, if any, time to prepare as we didn’t even know we were going to do this exercise. The first “drafts” of our stories were a little rough but then we were allowed to get up again and tell our stories again, and this time they were more polished.

I enjoyed the exercise because it forced me to really think quickly of a story that led me to choose HR as a career. My mind was blank but it came to me as I was walking up to the front of the room to tell my story. Funny how the mind works.

So here’s my story…

I started my career right out of college working for a Pacific Northwest based retail department store called The Bon Marche’ (which is now part of Macy’s). I worked my way up the ladder until I reached my desired goal of being a Store Manager. I loved being a Store Manager and in my 13 years as one, I earned the Store/Store Manager of the Year award twice along with a record number of performance awards during my tenure.

I learned that I loved building consistent high-performing cultures filled with employees who loved doing what they did in a tough, low-paying work environment. In retail, HR is a very important and vital element. It was what I enjoyed the most and I was very good at it and thought I’d do it for the rest of my career.

But there was a particular incident that occurred that led me to seriously consider leaving and focusing on HR as my next career direction.

It was Sept or Oct and a young pregnant woman came in for an interview for the Holiday season. As a Store Manager I always enjoyed participating in the interviewing and hiring process. She interviewed well, I saw that she had potential, and I decided to hire her. I didn’t care that she was pregnant. I only cared that she was smart, enthusiastic, and cared for customers. She would be a great addition to the store team.

Years later, she reached out to me via Facebook and told me how much she appreciated me hiring her that day. I had changed the direction of her life. Nobody else in town would hire her because she was pregnant. To make matters worse, she was single and pregnant and her life was a mess. I had no idea at the time but my believing in her and hiring her gave her new hope.

My team at the store was just that, a team that cared about each other and helped each other. The team took her in and she became part of the store family. She was surrounded by people who cared and she responded by giving us everything she had and became fantastic sales associate.

I’m very proud of the teams I build and how they always cared for and loved each other. That is what I enjoyed most about my job. Building strong high performing cultures of people that loved (or at least liked) their work.  That is why I went into HR so I can help leadership build strong, high-performing teams.

Today, this woman owns her own retail business, has her life together, and is doing very well.  She is also is the proud mom of a beautiful daughter.

Bottom line, the main reason I moved into HR was to use my talent and skills to help organizations create positive, high-performing cultures where people really enjoy coming to work. We spend huge amounts of our time at work and I believe our workplaces should be happy and supportive places where we enjoy being every day.

The ability to create and provide a high-performing culture where people want to be, directly helps accomplish the importance of business goals in any organization. The overall company performance improves, productivity increases, and financial performance improves – all of which produces greater shareholder value.

I want to be able to be a positive influence on employees and, by extension, their families by creating a positive work culture where the employee is happy and feels like they are accomplishing meaningful work.

Frankly, it’s the right thing to do.  And I’m glad I’m able to do it.

The Mommy Track Bias

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hard Hat Values: 1. Nobody Gets Hurt. Nobody.

In my series of five values I call Hard Hat Values I am starting with the most important one – Nobody Gets Hurt. Nobody.

In the Extractive Industries, safety is and should be the most important and top of mind value for all employees in the organization – from the field crews to the executive offices.  Creating a culture of safety from top to bottom sends the message that nobody gets hurt.

You need to have a strong EHS (Environmental, Healty, and Safety) department where the EHS employees are not afraid to make the tough decisions.  I had an excellent EHS manager tell me that when he was at work, he would be the biggest a-hole to ensure the safety rules were followed every day but he would also be your best friend after work.  What kept him motivated was that he did not want to have the spouse and family of an employee who was seriously injured or killed at work look to him and ask “Why?”

In addition to a strong EHS department, every single employee in the organization must be focused on safety, from the CEO up to the Receptionist.  Requiring a “safety share” from all employees before each meeting at all offices and sites is a great way to build a culture where safety is the number one value.