What Are They Taking With Them When They Go?

When I first considered human resources as a focus in college and as a career path, I always felt the intense desire to be that person that found the potential in others. I wanted to find that perfect person for a company’s needs. I wanted to find that connection and help companies discover a person’s hidden talents that may have been overlooked. I wanted to hone in on those aspects to a person, learn their passions, and help them foster it. I wanted to be the reason why a company had progressive employees. It wasn’t just about talent acquisition for me. It was about improving the internal team. These individuals weren’t going to be just another employee- they were going to be the people that made the difference.

As I got more involved with human resources, I started to realize that in order to succeed, you had to build a relationship. As I thought of my own personal relationships in the past, I thought about the best and worst aspects of them. I recall growing up and having those highly emotional, yet highly destructive relationships. You know, the ones that you feel like you’ve just sunk yourself into a black hole and it will take forever for to build yourself up again. When I matured a bit more, I realized that all relationships don’t last forever and that the best thing I could do is to try to be supportive to the other person in the relationship. Let them build themselves up as an individual so if things didn’t work out, they wouldn’t be left with nothing. They wouldn’t have to start over again.

I feel like these aspects are very similar to an employer/employee relationship. I’m sure we’ve all experienced some sort of negative situation: the employer didn’t care; you hit a glass ceiling; it was a hostile work environment; your employer was underutilizing you; and so on. I’m sure you’ve experienced the times when you were disengaged, dreading to go to work. I’m sure there have been times when you wanted to just give up because it didn’t seem like anyone noticed or recognized your efforts anyway, so why not put in the bare minimum. I’m sure there were also times when you had positive experiences. Maybe you still talk to your previous employers or coworkers. Maybe you also talk highly of them and would have stayed with them if they had the opportunities that matched your professional goals.

As an HR professional, I’m wondering what we’re doing to change these employees’ experiences into a positive one. With the way the world of work has changed, it’s becoming a common trend for employees to move on from an employer within a few years, whether it is voluntary or involuntary. What are we doing to make them feel like they’re a better person and employee by the time they move on? Are we developing those relationships? Are we giving them the resources and tools they need to build themselves up? Are we utilizing their untapped skills so they feel like they’re making the most of their time and effort?

I never wanted my experience in HR to be about “policing” employees. I didn’t want to be the warden of policies and disciplinary action. I didn’t want to be the one putting up so much red tape that employees felt stuck. HR has the ability to do something greater for their workforce. They have the ability to help with career progression. I want to know that my efforts impacted my employees’ lives so when and if they do leave the company, they are leaving with something more than what they came in with.

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Be a Leader Worth Following

Nothing like a little healthy discussion about leadership on #Tchat last week. Of course, there are plenty of leaders out there providing their advice on how to be an effective leader, but I don’t think leader-to-leader advice is the best way to consider all angles. In this chat, we were able to get some employee/follower insights about what we would want out of our leaders. It was very interesting to get their responses and discover the attributes that they value in a leader and also what they think needs some improvement.

Are you missing the mark?

  • Stop walking too far ahead: of course, a leader’s main objective is to pave the way for the future. But are they pushing through the obstacles and trudging ahead without a glance backwards? It’s important to provide direction to your people but you need to also be involved in the group, otherwise you’ll never know if you’re being as effective as you could be.
  • You can dish it out, but you can’t take it: a big thing that is valued in the world of work is continuous feedback. But it shouldn’t only be one-way. Sometimes people need to be led differently. A leader will never know the greatest way to lead his/her people to the best of their abilities if they don’t open up to two-way communication and feedback.
  • No one’s perfect and you’re not an exception: the quickest way a leader can lose faith from their followers/employees is to act like they know everything. We don’t want to hear, “It’s my way and that’s final” or “This is how it’s always been done and we’re sticking to that.” Things in business change pretty quickly and so should you. We will respect leaders who are open to continuous learning even if they experience some failure along the way. Why would anyone want to follow someone who seems to be out of touch with the current state of things?
  • Are you using the tools forced upon us: companies are adopting all sorts of new procedures or technology to help collaborative efforts. Additionally, these things are supposed to help with communication. But what good is it if the people that can make a change (cough, leaders) don’t actually utilize these things? So, basically, we’re wasting our time going through these motions without being heard.

We’re not out there pointing fingers at leaders and telling them they’re at fault for something. Honestly, we just really all want to work together in the best way that we can, which will take equal effort on both our parts. Sure, things can get messy and sometimes our attempts won’t always pan out. But even if that’s the case, are you still a leader worth following?

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Interns Should be More Than Your Coffee Lackey

Many years ago, interns used to be called “apprentices.” In these roles, the mentor would teach the apprentice how to do the job, provide details about the industry, and give a realistic expectations. The mentor took time to add value to the individual they were teaching and, as a result, allowed the individual to gain skills and knowledge to perform well once they were ready to start their career. In present day, interns are joked to be the “coffee lackey” or the “errand runner” for the company they’re “working” at. Sadly, these terms came about because some companies have delegated these tasks to the individuals who initially came there to learn. But how is getting a coffee order right going to help anyone?

As a support system and mentor for some of my interns, I often have a weekly call with them to discuss some of the things they’re learning from the team/department they’re interning in. I’ll attempt to answer any questions, build a support system, and offer some guidance. Of course, I’m always intrigued to hear about their previous interning experiences compared to their current ones and also to hear about their dislikes and likes from each experience. Needless to say, it shocked me when I heard that there are plenty of times when these interns literally were delegated the bare minimum. They’d tell me that these situations didn’t allow them to learn anything useful and that they felt like they wasted their time. More importantly, their experience at the company made them want to rule it out as a potential employer down the line.

What bothers me about this situation is the fact that we’re not doing anything or anyone justice if we aren’t utilizing our interns the best that we can. These interns come to companies in hopes to get a realistic view of what the world of work really is like. They came to put their school studies to practice and build their skills in ways that textbooks and classrooms can’t provide. They’re making a conscious effort to build their resumes so they are an attractive candidate once they’re ready for full-time work. They came to your company because they potentially wanted to build a relationship so you could consider them once you had a relevantjob opening. And how are they repaid for their effort? By having companies waste their time and make them feel expendable.

Here comes the irony: I often hear recruiters and hiring managers complain that there isn’t enough good talent for their entry-level positions. The reason for this is because some companies have turned internships into an opportunity to have someone do the unfavorable tasks that they don’t want to do rather than actually mentoring them. This could be an opportunity to allow them to reach their potential. As a company that has internship programs, it’s your responsibility to help build the talent for the future workforce. If you want great employees coming out of college, then it’s imperative for you to help them build their skills at a time where they are eager and inspired to learn.

Interns come to companies with natural motivation, desire to learn, drive, and ambition. They’re hopeful for their future and are looking up to their mentors to guide them in the right direction. Essentially, mentors of the internship programs are the ones who are helping shape our upcoming workforce. What are you doing to help contribute?

If this topic interests you, be sure to join in or listen to the #InternPro radio show.

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Do You Have an Internal Employer Brand?

 

Last week, I took a trip out to Seattle to spend some time working, exploring, and learning about the city. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Amazon.com, one of the many corporate campuses that are located in the area. I had never explored a “campus” in the past but I’ve always been extremely eager to get a first-hand experience after reading the many articles that are out about it. Needless to say- I was impressed. But I wasn’t just impressed by the immensity of the campus, I was blown away by the branding located around the campus which had me thinking about the whole “employer branding” thing. I know HR is struggling to implement a strong brand to attract external candidates, but what about their internal brand?

One of HR’s main functions is to recruit and attract quality talent to their organization but it’s also about retaining the talent that is currently there. What are we doing to keep our employees engaged and loyal to our organizations? Competitive compensation isn’t going to be the only option to keep an employee from walking. Maybe you aren’t an enormous organization like Amazon.com, Google, or Linkedin who are notorious for having awesome internal brands, campuses, and culture, but there are ways to adopt some of these things to fit with your organization:

  • What vibe does your workspace give off?: One of the most notable things I think of when it comes to campuses like these are the different workspace options that are available. Yes- I said OPTIONS. Their offices are not set up with jail-like cubical rows with the occasional office or conference room here or there. They have open spaces, co-working options, lounge areas, and unique personalities. Perhaps you don’t have the space or budget to create these areas but there are plenty of ways to create an open environment that seems welcoming and non-restrictive.
  • What internal recruitment marketing do you have in place?: As I was riding an elevator in one of the Amazon buildings, I noticed a vibrant poster marketing one of their departments that currently was recruiting for Software Engineers. One side of the poster showed a man sitting at a computer with the saying, “This is what it looks like to work on my team.” The other side showed an imaginative, creative, and fun scene surrounding the man at the computer with the saying, “This is what it FEELS like to work on my team.” Below both posters had the team manager’s contact information that you could rip off and take with you. I absolutely loved it. Amazon is huge so having marketing options like that could really make it easy to recruit for internal candidates that didn’t know about your team. Makes sense for a company that’s as large as that, right? Here’s the kicker- even employees in small organizations admit that they aren’t aware that specific jobs exist or they don’t know about internal job openings within the organization. This can be a huge issue, especially since many employees leave their company because they feel like they have no internal mobility options. That situation might not be true and their perception of this might just be due to lack of information.
  • Are you too scared to adapt?: I understand the phrase, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And that phrase is a perfectly reasonable one. If your company is functioning fine, there is no reason to fix it but what about offering more options? Compensation isn’t the only thing that can retain your employees, sometimes other options can be the deciding factor: telecommuting; flex work; tuition reimbursement; on-going training; co-working; employee engagement initiatives; and so on. Your competitors are coming out with really cool options to provide to their employees. Don’t let them beat you out because you were too scared to adapt to the changing world of work.
  • Is it a place of hierarchy or community?: There most definitely needs to be order within an organization but top down communication doesn’t really work as well as it did in the past. Your employees want their voice to be heard, they want to make suggestions, they want to contribute, and they want to build relationships. I’ve worked in an organization where the President and Directors are extremely open to two-way communication. They make it very easy to hold conversations, even to the point where interns aren’t scared to make suggestions or hold a casual conversation with someone higher up. It has created a great sense of community within the organization which has helped it be more progressive than other companies who haven’t adopted this.

Your employer brand isn’t just about convincing external candidates that your company is a great place to work, but it’s also about making sure your current employees also love working there to the point where no other company or job offer seems more attractive.

Pairing Formal with Informal Learning

Let’s face it- everyone learns and retains things differently. We learned about this fact during our school years and it still holds true in our professional careers. Some people learn at a faster rate than others. Some gain more from classroom teaching than hands-on training. The point is, one size does not fit all when it comes to learning and development and it would be wise for organizations to recognize this fact to ensure their training initiatives are more effective.

First off, get your formal learning in check. With technology advancing our ability to have more options to be trained, it’s important to remember that formal learning doesn’t have to require people to be trapped in a four walled room. Break down those walls and incorporate new ways to do formal training that goes beyond traditional classroom training. Personally, sitting through 8 hours of classroom lectures did not always help my understanding or retention (not to mention, my attention span). Break up the lectures with some additional learning opportunities. Maybe have your training classes go out in the field or interact/collaborate with people who already do this role within the organization. Let them see formal learning be put into action.

Secondly, it is important to remember that informal learning is necessary, too. Like stated earlier, people all have different learning styles so forcing them to only learn in a handful of ways might limit what they gain out of the experience. Breaking up your formal learning can only go so far so it’s up to you to encourage and empower employees to take initiative for their development. Give them suggestions on what they can do for their independent learning efforts. Let them interact with people in the industry so they can see how to put these trainings to good use. Allow them to join webinars or go to professional social networking groups. The learning world is their oyster.

I will tell you that I personally gained a lot from my informal learning. I often feel like the social media HR groups I’ve participated in (such as the Twitter chat, #Tchat) or the networking calls I had with people I’ve connected with have helped me gain so much more than majority of the training I’ve formally had from employers or schooling. Even researching topics and information to write the posts on my blog have helped me learn an extraordinary amount. I made it a point to ensure I was still learning even when in between jobs so once an employer took a chance on me, I could bring something extra to the table. Even after being employed, I still make the effort to regularly include informal training to accent the formal training I get from my employer. Some of my informal training has even sparked new ideas that will help us offer more to our clients and prospects. It’s even helped our internal team work more effectively.

As an employer, what are you doing to add more to your teaching and training? Have you ever considered informal learning as being a valuable option?

More Links:

Igniting Social Learning #Tchat Preview

Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap

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Are you a Leader of Collaboration?

In last week’s #Tchat, we discussed the different between collaboration and polarization and the ways it was used in the workplace. Many contributors gave great examples of situations they’ve come across, their understanding of the two, and the reasons why they feel that an organization promotes one or the other. So, as usual, I’ll spend today’s blog post sharing all the input that this great community had offered through the hour long chat.

First off, let’s discuss the difference between the two. Collaboration is often considered the “coming together” of people and ideas to achieve a specific goal or purpose. It can easily be described as teamwork. Polarization is when individuals work individually towards a goal and/or do not share in the teamwork.

With the world moving so quickly, it would seem as if though a collaborative approach would be best for business. Having diverse thinking and additional teamwork can ensure that projects and goals are efficiently completed. Additionally, this can avoid groupthink or stale ideas, among other benefits. But why does collaboration seem to be a struggle within the workplace? How can we create a culture of collaboration? Leaders: it’s time for you to step up and start encouraging it.

Some ideas:

  • Follow the leader: as a leader, all eyes seem to be on you. This would be a perfect time for you to encourage collaboration by actually participating in collaboration meetings and situations yourself. Be transparent about it. Show your team that much can be done if you take the time to work with others. At the end, give them the results and tell them that it was accomplished because each member of the group played a crucial part.
  • Participate: take the time to make your rounds and participate in some of the meetings and groups that your workers are involved in, even if it’s only for a few minutes once in a while. Ask questions; learn about which each member is contributing; and give feedback.
  • Create a connection: I know sometimes it can be hard for a leader to know everything about their employees and their unhidden talent/potential. However, if you can have their department managers take the time to learn these things; it can open up opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, have department heads meet with each other to discuss projects or needs going on within each department. Allow the managers to inform the other dept. heads about their employees that might have a skill that can be useful for their needs.
  • Welcome in the devil’s advocate: as mentioned earlier, it’s important to have diverse thinking within a group to ensure that there isn’t any groupthink. Having an alternative perspective or opinion can help others in the group consider additional options or review the situation from all angles. However, make sure your devil’s advocate presents these thoughts in a constructive way rather than a way that will put everyone on the defense.
  • Review your policies: technology has been a great tool to have within the organization but many companies have policies in place that make employees fear using it. Are your policies discouraging employees to utilize it to their best potential? If so, take time to review and revise the policies. If that’s not a feasible option, then take time to clarify any part of the policy so employees feel more comfortable using the technology for communication and collaboration.

Polarization may have occurred when the economy took a turn for the worst. People felt the need to keep their cards close to heart and protect their jobs by having an “every man for themselves” mentality. They may have felt that showing their employer that their sole efforts were directly correlated to an end result can give them a sense of job security. Also, with limited job openings in organizations, workers may have felt the competitive pressure to stand out against other employees for a promotion. All of these situations are understandable but it’s not doing your business any good if you allow that to be the norm. As a leader, make it your effort to create a collaborative culture.

If you enjoy topics like this, be sure to check out #tchat on Twitter- Wednesdays at 7pm EST.

More Links:

Smart Leaders Collaborate

Collaboration Mojo Meets Basic Instinct: #Tchat Recap

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Leaders: Find the Connection

Today’s post might be a little more about opinion than it is facts- and that’s completely fine with me because sometimes we need a little thought provoking blog post to get us all thinking. As I thought about some of the best and worst leaders I’ve dealt with over the years, I considered some of the qualities I appreciated in the leaders I truly felt strongly for. There are a few people in my life that had made me believe in them and their goals. Call me a skeptic- but this is something that’s hard to accomplish with me. And I’m sure many of you have dealt with the ups and downs caused by the economy, so there are probably plenty of you out there that are feeling the same way. So what qualities of a leader made you not have your doubts about them?

For me, it’s all about a leader that can take the time to find the connection. In my crazy and idealistic mind, I truly believe that everyone has something to relate to with someone else. Tiny things or “Hey! We’re practically twins!” things are what can really help build a relationship between others. Sometimes, leaders almost seem unattainable because of their status or how busy their schedules are that many of us never really get to know our leaders for who they are and they don’t get to know us, either. So how can we put our faith in our leaders if we feel like we’re following blindly? Will this person lead us over a cliff? And how can leaders expect to gain the allegiance of their followers if they don’t even know what their followers value?

Ok, I get it- leaders are busy but that’s no excuse for them not to make a periodic presence to help build a connection. Whether you are running a 2 person start up or a Fortune sized company, you need to make the effort. Relate to people, find the connection, and make them feel like “my leader really gets me.” I don’t care if it’s every day, once a month, or once a quarter- you need to make that effort. Unfortunately, over the last few years, the changes in the workforce have weakened loyalty among employers/employees. If the loyalty and devotion isn’t there, then how can you expect to get the best out of your workforce? Are they 100% in or are they 50% in and 50% securing other options if things go sour?

The best leaders are the ones that get involved. They’re not always the singer on the stage in front of their loving fans. They’re the ones that dive into the crowd and get in the middle of all the action. They take it all in, listen, and emerge themselves in the bigger picture.

Leaders- isn’t it time we did this together?

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