What HR Won’t Tell You

You’re right in your assumption that HR knows things. Sometimes HR folks know all of the things. Because they support the business, they are likely to be communicating with all departments, all managers and Senior Leadership and they know what’s up.

While I personally take the position of being as transparent and honest as possible with all of my managers and employees, there are just somethings I’m not going to tell you. Sometimes it’s because I can’t, sometimes it’s because I don’t want to lean into that shitty conversation, sometimes it’s because I don’t like you and sometimes it’s because I’m lazy.

  1. We won’t tell you if and when you are getting fired. But we do know when the dark mark has been put upon you.
  2. We won’t tell you if the company has plans to eliminate positions or is planning a downsizing. We may tell you the company has hit some hard times, and tough decisions are being made to turn the ship around. That’s code for reductions in force.
  3. We won’t tell you that you are the office douche-bag or the office narc and no one likes you. Though sometimes I really want to tell you. So you’ll just stop already.
  4. We won’t tell you about certain policies of the company because we really don’t want to advertise them. Usually it’s because we know the policy is stupid and we don’t want to answer the hundreds of questions we will get if we remind you. (See: inclement weather policy/office closures and dress code policies)
  5. We won’t tell you if your manager is monitoring your email. But if you are on a performance improvement plan or had a disciplinary warning, you should be hyper-aware that someone in the company is probably watching your email, network and web activity.
  6. We aren’t going to necessarily spell our your rights as workers. That’s what labor law posters are for. Read them and ask your HR person sometime about the FMLA or the FLSA . Know your own rights.
  7. We won’t tell you your manager dislikes you. Though we may want to warn you, we just won’t tell you.
  8. We won’t tell you your candidate referral bombed his or her interview and the interview team resoundingly gave a thumbs down to hiring him or her. We will simply say that another candidate was more qualified.
  9. We won’t tell you when your manager is about to be terminated.
  10. We may not tell you, that you may have the right to review your employee personnel file, depending on your State’s laws and/or company policies. We may not necessarily suggest that you ask your HR team to review your own file periodically (wink, wink).

2017 HR Trends

‘Tis the time of year when you read all of the lists, the Top 10 of this, the Worst of that, the Best of whatever. You have probably also seen more than your fair share of trends for 2017; tech trends, political trends, etc… Following suit, here are my thoughts on the 2017 trends for the HR profession.

  1. HR Practitioners particularly of the Business Partner or Generalist variety must strive to demonstrate both their business acumen and also their HR and employment law knowledge. In 2017, HR Practitioners should stop asking whether certification is required to practice HR (it is not, but) and start getting certified. The profession as a whole needs to own our sphere of knowledge. If any professional thinks they also can be HR-savvy and we in no way differentiate ourselves, the farther our occupation fall towards obsolescence. Further, certified HR practitioners needs to broaden their business acumen by pursuing an MBA or pursuing industry-designations.
  2. HR Professionals should begin to learn the basics of programming, data analytics and become social media experts. These skills are no longer the future of the job, they are are the present and current needs of HR practitioners. As more and more of our profession can be automated combined with the rise of artificial intelligence and augmented reality, bots will be able to do  the tactical stuff we do now as well as interface with employees directly. Additionally, HR should stay abreast of all technology trends and how they may apply to disrupt the HR profession.
  3. Heightened emphasis on the Employee Experience. For several year now, we have been in an employee-driven marketplace. As I do not see this changing in 2017, companies will be challenged to compete for talent based on the employee experience and HR has to take the lead on this. From the time a candidate enters our company vortex to the time they terminate and even beyond, HR needs to review all of its processes, policies, physical space and operations and ask themselves how it positively contributes to the employee experience at their company.
  4. HR will have to take the lead or involve themselves closely as we continue to see the rise of and evolution of the Digital Workplace. HR has to step up and consider how the Digital Workplace challenges traditional notions of management, organizational structure, communication and how we understand the basic concept of work. These ideas should be generating out of HR, we have to become the innovators of the workplace.
  5. Federal deregulation is likely under the Trump Administration so HR will see a lot of change (as usual), and will have to respond accordingly to the repeal and possible replacement of the ACA and how that impacts benefits offerings and health insurance plans. While the Federal government is deregulating business, be prepared to see a lot of activity impacting the business world and workplace at the State-level particularly with respect to the minimum wage, requirements around eligibility for overtime, parental leave laws, deregulation and/or legalization of recreational marijuana, sick leave laws, and more activity around protected classes specifically sexual identity, national original, criminal history and compensation history.
  6. Strategic talent acquisition. Each new role within a company deserves a very specific and strategic recruiting plan, not a one-size-fits-all post and wait for them to come strategy. Employee referral programs and social media recruiting should be maximized to find the right candidates.
  7. Personal Time as a right and not a privilege. The right of the employee to disconnect without adverse employment actions. Recently France passed a Right to Disconnect law, giving employees the legal right to ignore work email when they are off the clock. As wellbeing research shifts to understanding the negative impact to employees of being “on” all of the time, there will be more and more social pressure on companies to enact policies setting boundaries around work time and non-work time.

 

How Is This Not a Thing?

The future of HR is the bot. In fact, I’m not sure if it’s the future or we, as a profession, are just catastrophically behind in the way we leverage technology to further our tactical and strategic purposes. Yeah, pretty sure the latter is the culprit.

In basic terms a bot is a software application that can run tasks that are both simple and repetitive. Just like every other technology, bots have evolved. Add artificial intelligence to bots and you get virtual personal assistants, like Siri.

Next sprinkle in some emotional intelligence to that bot, and you have a new virtual HR Representative that can interact with human employees.

This new virtual HR bot, let’s call him Toby, will revolutionize HR.

Instead of staffing HR help desks and employing an army of employee relations representatives to answer the same mundane questions day-to-day, employees can instead access on-demand a bot from an internal portal or on their mobile device and ask questions that are most relevant to them at that moment. Routine questions that clog our HR inboxes and take up our precious time can be virtually eliminated. Toby can answer questions on where to access employee pay stubs, how much your individual deductible is, and when your self-evaluation is due.

Further, Toby can pinch hit as your on-demand Manager resource. When your managers have pressing questions and concerns such as initiating a status change, or an FLSA question, or a training need, he or she can simply access Toby for exactly the information they require at that moment rather than waiting on their HR Specialist to be available or wasting time sifting through training materials or public drives or FAQ’s to access the information.

Consider the possibilities of using bot technology, Toby in this instance, as your orientation and onboarding specialist. Toby is programmed to communicate with your new hire prior to their arrival, preparing he or she for their first day, assisting them with new hire paperwork and benefits enrollment and being a touch point in that first crucial 90-days of any new hire’s experience with the company.

Toby, our friendly bot, is also available at any time to take first reports of injury, employee suggestions and initial complaints. Toby can also conduct stay and exit interviews. Rather than waiting for a manager or an HR representative to be available, employees can access Toby 24/7 while the human HR team collects all of the data retained by Toby iand allows us to focus more on the overall alignment of HR with the business.

There are probably hundreds of more HR responsibilities that bots can take on to create a successful life cycle for the employee. This idea radically changes the playing field for the skills and competencies that are required of human resource professionals. I’m game, are you HR?

The HR Glass Ceiling

HR has been very busy over the past few decades, very busy trying to figure out how to get ahead, how to reach those upper echelons of corporate leadership and really influence our function’s agenda. Us HR professionals seem to think we have some secret knowledge that if only if we were able to get in the ear of the CEO, we could really influence the success of the company.

It’s like the HR profession has its own glass ceiling to overcome. We’ve tried a bunch of things to chip way at that ceiling and they have failed.

HR tried rebranding efforts calling ourselves the people department or any assortment of silly names. This effort has failed to highlight our value.

For years, HR has hunted for the elusive “seat at the table”.  Meanwhile, through blood, sweat and tears, we have seen every other department, but HR, get that seat and we are still left at the kids table.

HR professionals went the way of consultancies. By being outside of the business, the business would finally realize how much they needed us. Wrong.

 

 

The problem is not the name of our department. The problem is not which seat we have at what table. And the problem is not whether we advise the company as an internal department or externally, as a consultancy.

The problem is gender stereotypes and the perceived value of masculine versus feminine traits in the business world.

The corporate world is traditionally assigned male characteristics and companies’ that show ultra-masculine traits are generally regarded in popular opinion as successful. Highly sought after leaders are goal-driven , confident, non-emotional, aggressive, independent, disciplined, strong, logical and rational. All typical masculine traits.

HR, a historically female-dominated profession, is described as having feminine characteristics no doubt due not only to the gender of those in the jobs but that HR deals with people issues. Successful HR professionals and departments are empathetic, patient, understanding, receptive, nurturing, affective and helpful.

The same reason women hit the glass ceiling is the same reason why HR isn’t taken as seriously as the IT department or the sales department or any other revenue generating department. It’s because traditional feminine characteristics are not valued in the business environment. They aren’t perceived  as the cold, hard traits that boost the bottom line, build profit and make shareholders happy.

This is not to say that HR should whine and sit idly by doing nothing because the culture holds us back. Oh no, HR needs to be disruptive. We need to push back. We need to be fuckin’ smart and demand that people respect our value. Once more minorities, millennials and Gen Z are sitting on corporate boards and in government, and once CHRO’s are legitimately considered as successors for CEO jobs, HR will no longer be seen as a department to tolerate but a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Quality of Hire

Experiencing some buyer’s remorse with your latest hire? It’s probably your recruiting and selection process. Like most employers you have sourced candidates using various resources & methods, reviewed dozens of resumes for required and preferred competencies, experience, and skills, then phone screened, then interviewed (using behaviorally-oriented questions, of course), then maybe final interviewed and then made a decision. You set your expectations high because the candidate nailed the interview and you are confident in the criteria with which you made your selection decision. Within 60 days, the general consensus is your new hire sucks. Is this result really any wonder? The current recruiting and selection process outlined above has no proven correlation to the quality of your hire. It never has and it never will. Your good hires were based on sheer luck of the draw.

Think about it. Everyone can be a super-genius, rocket scientist with an MBA, a PhD and an MD on paper, right? Since all recruiters and hiring managers ask the same routine questions over and over in interviews, candidates have had practice crafting really good answers. And almost everyone in the world knows you bring your A-game to the interview. Combine several hours of a polished, charismatic and well-rehearsed candidate with all of the interviewer biases known to man and subjective, gut-level decision-making based on interview answers about PAST behaviors and successes, and you have a situation ripe for bad decision-making.

If you and your company are serious about spending your efforts, energy and money to hire the best and brightest, banish your antiquated recruiting and selection process today and replace it with a process that actually provides you real information and data to base your most important decisions upon.

  1. Beef up your referral sourcing methods, not only with your current employees but specifically your high-potential employees and your successful business partners and vendors. Referrals are built-in references. Not to mention no good employee wants to tarnish the reputation of the one who referred them, so you have a built-in back stop against crappy performance and behavior. Tap your high-potentials, as I suspect they run in circles with people similar to them. Don’t forget to ask your company vendors and other business partners for their referrals. Make the referral bonus meaningful determining its value position-by-position and by the level of difficulty of finding qualified candidates for that position.
  2. We live in a knowledge economy and we need knowledge workers. How do we test knowledge? Cognitive tests of course. We can train skills but we can’t increase intelligence. Also, require transcripts from your candidates transcripts will show you what classes the candidate took and their individual grades in each class. Does the candidate’s education show a history of taking challenging courses or 101 courses. Decide if you like to see candidates who have taken really hard courses and earned B’s and C’s or candidates who have taken “Rocks for Jocks” and bowling classes and earned A’s.
  3. Incorporate aptitude screening. Require work samples from your candidates. Or, for the final round of interviews, define a fictional business problem or challenge and ask the candidate to write a white paper or develop a short presentation. The interview becomes the presentation or delivery of the white paper. Interviewers base their evaluation on how well the candidate presented his of her ideas, the ideas or solutions themselves and an in-depth review of how the candidate went about preparing for the exercise.
  4. References. In my opinion, we do not give references the attention they should receive. Candidates should bring several references- character, educational and professional. HR should have a robust process around gathering reference information, crafting really good questions for references by determining what information you are looking for or is important for the job and documenting the answers.
  5. Build in a character test. I’ve read about companies that involve everyone from the driver, hotel concierge and receptionist into the interview process by creating scenarios that the candidate responds to and the interview team is provided feedback from these participants. Was the candidate courteous, respectful, professional and polished in their interactions with everyone? Or were they rude, arrogant, or discourteous when they thought no one was looking?

The current recruiting and selection methods have not proven valid. Dump them and get creative with your organization’s steps for finding quality hires.

Imperfect HR.

Some of the most talented HR professionals I know, diversity certified and all, are also some of the most bigoted people I know. Yes, it’s true. HR professionals are racist, sexist, xenophobic, classist or any other -ist, there is. We drink, we smoke, we do drugs, we swear, we commit crimes, we talk behind people’s backs, we are unethical, we are registered democrats or republicans, we know what “Netflix and Chill” means and the list goes on.

After all, we are human. And we live in this world. And we are exposed to the same things any other human is exposed to growing up. So, just because we chose the HR profession does not mean we are perfect, or somehow immune to stereotypes or don’t act with bias.

So, to HR professionals who act like Ms. Perfect, I must say, that like most people, I want to punch you in the face. No one likes you. In fact, you are the reason why employees hate HR. Because you get all on your soapbox about enforcing all the rules, like your “you know what” doesn’t stink. Act like a human who is imperfect and is accepting of others’ imperfections. You are not in the HR profession to lord over people, or be the work police. You are there to support employees and tell them when what their doing is inappropriate because it’s illegal or against company policy, you are not there to cast ethical judgements.

So, to employees who think HR professionals are some beacon of virtue, I’m here to burst your bubble. We are not. And if most of us tell the truth, we don’t want to be. As HR Practitioners, we understand that our job is to interpret and enforce, where necessary, company rules, policies and procedures, even if we think in our heads those same rules, policies and procedures are dumb. Its the job we accepted when we chose this field.

So, maybe HR professionals are really good at operating in some sort of dissociative state where they can disconnect their personal selves and thoughts from those of their professional selves, to do their jobs really well. How else are we able to shut off the bias and make sound recruiting recommendations? How else do we push that stuff way deep down to be able to investigate someone accused of wrongdoing and make disciplinary recommendations without shattering under the weight of contradiction?

But, eventually, this dissociation will break us. It can only be a temporary mechanism. Eventually, strong HR practitioners will have to go through the process of self-actualization. Eventually it will be too exhausting to have a personal self and a professional self. The two shall have to meet. We have to embrace our flaws and accept ourselves the way we are. Good HR professionals realize they can still be unconventional without needing to shock or disturb people. They become empathetic with the plight of all humans and therefore shed those biases and stereotypes. Really, really good HR professionals also resist enculturation. They use all of their experiences to make their own decisions rather than allowing workplace culture to dictate those decisions. They become leaders, not followers.

 

What Does HR Do?

Type this into Google, and you get 3,880, 000,000 results. Seems like HR does a lot. Let me break it down for you.images

  1. HR “keeps the lights on”- we process payroll, administer benefits enrollment, process direct deposits, answer 401k questions, reset your ADP password, interpret company policies for managers, walk employees through leaves of absence, fix employee PTO balances and gather acknowledgement forms.
  2. HR tries to create an environment where employees feel safe and secure. We make sure there are band aids, that staff is trained in first-aid, we take first reports of injury, we create policies around front-desk security, deliver discrimination and harassment prevention training and monitor the work environment for bullying or violations of standards of conduct.
  3. HR plans social activities, but we don’t like to. In companies, the job of potlucks, holiday parties, birthday celebrations, baby showers, pumpkin carving contests and all-hands meetings usually lands in the lap of HR. Not only does it suck but it totally erodes the value of what a good HR department can do for a company.
  4. HR creates brand strategies. We figure out the value of the organization and what it can provide, package that message and use it when attracting talent to the company.
  5. HR does not terminate employees. Managers do. When managers are not satisfied with an employee, they come to HR. HR asks a series of questions to investigate the issue, determine the cause and make recommendations. If one of those solutions is termination, HR further investigates to make sure the termination is not wrongful. HR may be in the room to witness the discussion, but we do not pull that trigger and we do not deliver that message.
  6. HR partners with management to determine talent needs and develops strategies to find that talent. This is an ongoing and continuously challenging responsibility.
  7. HR covers the companies’ ass. HR practitioners must stay on top of Federal and State Laws,  and County and City Ordinances, interpret the repercussions of those laws on the company and work environment and advise leadership accordingly.
  8. HR helps company leadership develop compensation philosophy. HR takes into account the companies’ financials, the organization’s mission, vision and values and makes recommendations on the company’s direct and indirect compensation and benefits package.
  9. HR mediates disputes in the workplace, disputes between employees, disputes between managers and employees, disputes between leadership and employees.
  10. HR does not deliver disciplinary warnings or performance discussions to employees. Again, these are a manager’s jobs. HR gets involved to help document issues, serve as a witness to the discussion or we get involved when the manager botches it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but is just a sampling, if you will, of what HR does. For those who don’t know.