Posts Tagged ‘HR strategy’

Here’s How HR Earns a Seat At the Business Table

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn discusses how HR professionals can earn their seat at the table by building a bridge between their role and the larger purpose of the company.

Do you have a “seat at the table?”  This is an age old question in HR circles and it is basically asking if you are an HR business partner and as such are you and your team delivering maximum results to help your business achieve its goals and strategy?  If you do not have a seat at the table what are you doing to earn it?  If you are just waiting for it to happen I’m afraid you may be out of luck.

HR professionals must ensure that there is a direct connection between the policies, programs, and services they offer and the organization’s larger purpose/picture.  Absent that clear and intentional linkage, HR is just a cost center that goes under appreciated and delivers minimum real value to the business.  In order for HR leaders to take a strategic approach to their work they must first fully understand their business (business acumen) and what the HR implications are to the business.  HR leaders must also be able to articulate their views clearly and concisely to business leaders which often times means taking an unpopular position (managerial courage).  Influence skills are exceptionally important also.

A prerequisite to the above is to ensure, at a minimum, that your HR organization is effectively and efficiently delivering HR services.  Providing good service is the price of admission; if HR cannot operate effectively as a “mini business,” it will be hard to convince others that its input on business issues is worth much.

A good place to start your HRPB journey: Staffing.  HR typically has influence when it comes to how staffing relates to strategy.  In other words, HR needs to recruit and hire X talent, in Y location(s) over a specific time frame in order for the business to perform and execute its strategy and there are many discussions with leaders in that process.  This is often a good place to leverage and increase HR’s role as a strategic partner.  Conversations with senior leaders in this space should be relatively easy to have. Ensure you have solid and meaningful staffing metrics such as the quality of hires, not simply how many hires over a given time frame. Incorporate competencies into your talent acquisition process to help ensure your hires are a “good fit.”  Include senior leaders in this process.

Once instilled in the recruiting process, competencies can easily be transitioned and effectively used in the performance management process to measure “how” employees are doing their jobs. The performance management process is a very effective way to articulate and cascade the company’s strategy and goals across the entire organization and can also be the catalyst for additional strategic discussions with senior leadership.

If you can effectively accomplish the above in your organization, you will have built a very solid foundation from which to grow into a true HR business partner role and earn your seat at the table. Please also review our Learn & GO HR/organizational modules on myCAI to help you in this journey.  If you would like to discuss this journey in the context of your current role and business environment please call Tom Sheehan or myself here at CAI.

For any other questions, please contact our Advice & Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746!

 

Are You Getting Leadership Development Right?

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

leadership developmentIn today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares strategies HR professionals can take to ensure their next generation of leaders are prepared to fill the shoes of their predecessors and lead their business to future success. 

One topic that is a constant point of dialogue for HR professionals is leadership development. The quality of leadership, more than any other factor, often determines the success or failure of an organization. Leadership development helps to improve leadership quality by ensuring that leaders possess the competencies to achieve the organization’s strategy, continue to improve the organizational culture, and strengthen organizational capabilities.

The best investment an organization can make is in the development of its future leaders. Such an investment yields both short-term and long-term dividends. In the short-term, leaders will be better prepared for the challenges they face in their current roles. They will also be more likely to help foster a learning culture if they themselves are an active participant in learning.

Additionally, and more importantly, the risk associated with leadership departures is greatly reduced by improved better bench strength that is a consequence of leadership development. Many organizations fail to adequately develop the next generation of people who will replace individuals in these leadership roles. Making matters worse is the fact that a significant number of baby-boomers will be retiring in the next 5 years.

On one hand, the responsibility for an organizational commitment to developing future leaders begins with the executive team.

On the other hand, HR should own all talent processes and must play a key role in spotlighting the issue and driving the leadership development and succession planning processes.

Forward-looking HR professionals should begin the process by answering these questions:

  1. What are we doing to prepare our next generation of leaders?
  2. Is our pipeline filled with the talent needed to carry out our organization’s strategy?
  3. Who is the ‘person in charge’ of developing our new leaders?
  4. Is leadership development an organizational priority?
  5. How are our top leaders involved?

Where to Start

Step 1: Align with strategy

Ensure that the leadership development efforts are aligned to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and strategic plan. Senior leaders also must accept that leadership development is a lengthy process.

Step 2: Create common set of values

Ensure that there is a common set of leadership values and standards that permeate everything the organization does including-  recruiting, hiring, succession planning, and performance management.

A good starting point for the values may include the following:

  • Results Focus
  • Accountability
  • Respect for Others
  • Leveraging Diversity
  • Effective Communication
  • Building Trust

Step 3: Communicate the philosophy

Create a leadership development philosophy statement that defines the principles the organization champions. A leadership development philosophy provides direction for those crafting the plan and a communication tool to help the organization understand leadership development.

Step 4: Agree upon objectives

Make certain that all leaders are aligned to the following objectives:

  1. Make improving bench strength a top priority (including succession and retention plans)
  2. Ensure each leader takes responsibility for developing future leaders
  3. Measure the business results of leadership development
  4. Making learning an organizational priority
  5. Create formal development plans for emerging leaders

Lack of true engaged support from current leaders is one of the key reasons that leadership development fails. Your role as an HR professional is to help senior leaders see leadership development as a strategy as opposed to being the project du jour. Identifying and improving the quality of leaders must be a top priority to ensure a filled pipeline of experienced employees ready to be placed.

For any further questions about how you can support leadership development, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any suggestions as to how to improve leadership development, we’d love to hear them in the comments section!

Key to Employee Engagement Lies in Understanding Human Behavior

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

friendshipatworkIn today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares how getting back to the basics of understanding human interaction at work may be the key to strengthening employee engagement.

Employers spend a lot of time and money on employee engagement strategies, hoping they are doing all the right things to make a positive impact and maintain strong relationships and loyalty among their workforce.  Still, many studies suggest employee engagement on average is low.  This is an indicator that employers are either not doing enough to keep their employees engaged, or what they are doing is simply not effective.

There are some specific and very basic fundamentals surrounding human behavior and how they influence engagement.  Even seasoned professionals can forget from time to time and neglect to stick with these basics which can lead to an ineffective engagement effort.

Examine the fundamental truths below to see how they compare to your engagement strategy. If you are doing one of these, is it working?  If it isn’t, can you change it?  If it is, can you do more of it?

Employment Engagement Truths

  1. All the goodies, gimmicks and giveaways in the world are no substitute for a rewarding work experience.
  2. Spoiled employees, like spoiled children, become childish and entitled.
  3. Every action, no matter how small, can affect employee engagement. An email, an interaction or a simple note can have a definite impact.  Take nothing for granted.
  4. You build, or tear down, employee engagement one conversation at a time.
  5. Ask your employees for feedback on employee engagement and listen to what they have to say.  They are a valuable resource and know best what it takes to engage them.
  6. If you do not ask for feedback or you choose to ignore it when provided, you may not find what creates employee engagement until it is too late.
  7. Do not solicit input from your employees unless you plan to use it.
  8. Engagement is a two-way street.  Employees are not going to care about your goals unless they feel you actually care about theirs.
  9. It is one thing to make an employee feel like they matter, it is another to empower them to actually matter by making a difference in the organization on a daily basis.
  10. Your business is not a rehab center for troubled employees.  You can only do so much.  You are not a therapist, you are a manager.
  11. Avoid feelings of uncertainty among your workforce.  Uncertainty leads to fear and fear tends to focus on oneself rather than the common goals of the team or organization.  Communicate and be transparent as much and as often as you can.
  12. Give specific reasons for any directive.  It is always easier to deal with a “What” when you have a “Why” to back it up.
  13. Focus on what you can control, not on what you cannot.
  14. Finally, look in the mirror and ask yourself what it would take for you to continue to remain engaged in your company.  Put yourself in the shoes of your workforce.

Before you invest an inordinate amount of time and money into expensive employee engagement practices, see how getting back to the basics will work for your business. Stick to these simple truths and you may find that higher employee engagement is attainable without all the headaches of those expensive strategies!

For more information on engaging your workforce, please contact our Advice & Resolution at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

The Key to Aligning HR to Your Business? Understanding Your Corporate Strategy

Thursday, February 11th, 2016
Doug Blizzard, VP of Membership

Doug Blizzard, VP of Membership

In today’s post, CAI’s Vice President of Membership Doug Blizzard discusses the importance of setting a corporate strategy to begin the process of aligning HR to the business.

I’ve talked with several senior HR executives recently about a conundrum they face.  They want to align HR to their business, however there doesn’t appear to be a business strategy in place to align HR to.  When they inquire about said strategy they hear things like “we are pursuing a growth strategy” or “our primary strategy is reflected in the budget” or even better “the world is changing too fast to really have a formal strategy.”

I’m not here to make the case for aligning HR to the business.  That case has been made a hundred times over and there are thousands of companies that have figured that out and they lead their industries every year.  I’m also not going to talk about how you can align HR to the business.  That’s a much broader subject.  Click here for more on that or see the reading list I prepared for you below.

I do want to talk about the first step in aligning HR to the business and that is setting a corporate strategy.While more enlightened companies have given HR a seat in the boardroom and the opportunity to help shape their corporate plans, the vast majority will expect HR and other departments to fall into line once a business strategy has been mapped out.  And some number of those companies don’t have a formal corporate strategy, particularly smaller companies in growth mode.

Here are three steps you can follow to help you understand your corporate strategy:

First, just because you haven’t seen a corporate strategy doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Unfortunately many companies don’t involve HR and some don’t trust or value HR’s contribution to the strategy.  Other companies hold corporate strategy very close to the vest.  It’s easy to go negative and second guess executives when you feel uncertain about how and why decisions are being made.  Check your own negative attitude and pursue further.

Second, the most straightforward and perhaps logical path to understanding corporate strategy is to just ask the CEO.  If you can talk to the CEO by all means do so.  Be prepared however to explain why you need to know.  The simplest explanation: I need to understand where we are going so I can make sure our workforce has the skills and competencies necessary to both get us there and keep us there.  Also I need to make sure we have the necessary leadership, culture, work systems, performance capabilities, rewards and incentives and governance to achieve our goals.    Now of course if your company doesn’t look to you to do any of the things I just mentioned then your bigger issue is building credibility for the HR function.  Click here for ideas on how to do that.

Now the CEO may not give you a formal plan so be prepared to ask questions to help you shape the HR implications of the ideas he/she has in their head.  Which brings me to an important point, asking the CEO about strategy isn’t a hallway conversation.  You should schedule a meeting.  If you don’t report to the CEO, by all means talk to your boss first.  They may have all the answers you need, or they may block you.

Third, if you’re unable or unwilling to talk to the CEO, or your boss doesn’t like the idea and can’t provide any insight, what can you do?  Well if you’re a publicly traded company you can find information in annual reports, investor statements, etc. Here are some other ways you can uncover your corporate strategy complements of CAI friend and world renowned HR thought leader Dr. David Ulrich:

  • Read positive and negative analyst reports
  • Read magazines, newspapers and articles about your company
  • Read magazines, newspapers and articles about your industry
  • Attend industry trade shows
  • Master internal market reports
  • Learn how internal market reports are generated
  • Visit customers in their buying context
  • Visit customers in their product or service utilization context
  • Study competitors in detail
  • Be personally involved in market research
  • Track financial analysis of market segments
  • Attend marketing meetings
  • Attached product development meetings
  • Attend sales meetings
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address training programs
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to attend training programs
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address management meetings
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address HR meetings
  • Invite customers, analysts and shareholders to address meetings of line operators
  • Know what you don’t know

Your company desperately needs to have HR strategies woven into every fabric of the business.  Your path to do that may be difficult but it’s worth it.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to myself, or Rick Washburn orTom Sheehan for help in aligning your HR practices to your business.

For additional guidance about how to craft your business strategy, please contact our Advice & Resolution at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any suggestions about ways to align HR to business strategy, let us know in the comments!

Good Strategic HR Discussions? Or Just Dead Ends?

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

Back in 2005, Fast Company magazine published the now famous (or infamous depending on your perspective) article entitled “Why We Hate HR.”  The basic premise was that HR professionals are good at transactional “administrivia” like pay, benefits and retirement (all functions that are being outsourced) but lack the skills (or interest) necessary to play a more strategic role in managing talent.   Since then, thousands of articles, presentations, webinars, conferences and the like have advised HR professionals on what they need to do to “get a seat at the [executive] table.”  Most advice, while good, follows a few key themes and in my opinion either distracts our attention or confuses us.

Theme 1: To get a seat at the table, you must talk the language of business. If you want to be taken seriously you must understand financial statements, gross margin, EBITDA, return on investment, depreciation, cash flow, retained earnings, etc.  These terms are important, and I agree that HR professionals need to improve their business acumen, but just because you can explain how to play the game doesn’t mean you will be able to play the game or even be put in the game for that matter.

Theme 2: To get a seat at the table, you must align HR Strategy with business strategy and overall think and talk more strategically. Ever sit through a presentation on HR strategy?  I’m an educated man, but frankly, I don’t understand half of what they’re talking about.  I hear a bunch of words like synergy, value added, key performance indicators, knowledge base, alignment, etc. and of course a bunch of fancy charts and diagrams.  In the Fast Company article Keith Hammonds describes an HR strategy presentation he sat through: “There is mention of ‘internal action learning’ and ‘being more planful [sic]in my approach.’ PowerPoint slides outline [the company’s] initiatives in performance management, organization design, and horizontal-solutions teams.  [The presenter] describes leveraging internal resources and involving external resources — and she leaves her audience dazed. That evening, even the human-resources pros confide they didn’t understand much of it, either.”  Strategy is very important, but we’ve overcomplicated it and we spend way too much time trying to describe what “IT” is and how we need more of “IT.”  People in the real world don’t have time for that.

Theme 3: To get a seat at the table, you must become certified and the more initials the better. PHR, SPHR, GPHR, CEBS, CCP, MBA, etc.  Isn’t it funny how some of the most successful people in the United States never graduated from college?   People like Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison and Richard Branson to name a few (I know a few of them later earned honorary degrees – but you get the point).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of higher education and have a few initials myself (MBA, SPHR), heck, we even have a highly successful HR certification prep course here at CAI, but that alone will not help you get, or keep, a seat at the table or to become more strategic.

Theme 4: To get a seat at the table, you must implement HR Metrics. To get a seat at the table, you must develop a robust HR scorecard and track those key performance indicators that result in HR success.  Turnover, absenteeism, time to hire, cost to hire, HR as a percentage of payroll, etc.  While I’m a big fan of numbers (thanks to my mom the accountant) and I firmly believe what gets measured gets done, developing really good and relevant HR metrics is hard and tracking them even harder.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t develop them, just don’t start here.

Theme 5: Forget it, you’re not getting a seat at the table so complain about it – blame the company. I hear a lot of HR professionals complain about their companies, their management teams, the CEO, etc.  “I would love to be more strategic but my company just doesn’t understand the value of HR” or, “We don’t have the money to spend on training, day cares, health care centers and the like.”  So basically, it’s the company’s fault you’re not more strategic. Fortunately, there are plenty of HR support groups out there to help you refine and develop your own sad story if you are so inclined.

Ok, so with all the books, articles, presentations, consultants, etc. out there telling HR professionals how to be more strategic, how to get a seat at the table, and how to be a key business partner, why is it that many still aren’t?  I’ll address that in my next post.

Photo Source: U.S. Department of Defense