Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

#culture is a hash tag trending topic on Twitter.  I see some great thought leaders on this subject post idea after idea.  I enjoy reading them and sometimes find myself drifting into "Thought World" and losing track of time.  I have to pay the bills somehow so back to work!

While at #shrm13 in Chicago last week, I couldn't help but be bombarded with some more ideas and considerations by the fleet of speakers on hand.  So, as someone who looks to culture often to help with any organizational diagnosis I am asked to do, have my thoughts changed or expanded?

Simply, no, but largely, yes (Uh oh, am I having a moment here?).  Company's are to ask themselves a very simple question - What are we going to be about?  That is the basic question that has to be asked and answered.  Talent is interested in knowing the answer to this question.  Interviewing is not just about the company finding out about the candidate, but the reverse as well.  The candidate wants to see if you know what your company is all about.  Failure happens quickly here.

Organizations who do not know who they are fall apart.  They don't know what initiatives to start and stick with rather than start and know an end to it (it's okay to do this, by the way).  Some companies float aimlessly hoping that whatever they throw against the wall will leave a residue of something that works.  Culture is now defined.  People recognize that their intrinsic worth for the organization is only about "what can you do for me?"

Listen, I know that our employees are there to be productive and to increase the profitability of the company as a result.  That's not a secret to an employee.  However, when it's all that there is, then the culture is established as only being about that.  Depth is lost.  Knowledge investment and the capitalization of it is not a priority.  Organizational attractiveness and vibrancy doesn't exist; the mechanic of the company is all that there is.

So, again, what do you want to be about?  Let me ask this: what difference would it make to your organization if you had employees who were emotionally bought in to the mission of the company?  What if they understood that, while their skills are important to the success of the organization, they were to bring their creativity, passion and openness to work everyday?  And, what if they knew that the company valued those aspects and would take action in light of them?  You see, saying you want an honest dialogue with everyone means very little if nothing ever comes from those discussions.  

I have walked into organizations that encourage open discussion and sharing.  After the meeting is held and heads nod in agreement, it's right back to the same old same old.  Culture is then defined.  The actions of the organization win out every time over pithy slogans in the lobby or a letterhead with the mission statement on it.  If I tell my kids I love them but most of what I do sends a different message, then will they believe me?

Learning new components as to how to deliver messaging around culture or how to consider culture in light of the competitive climate today is fun.  I enjoy it.  However, it builds upon the foundational question that companies need to ask themselves.  When we ask talent to sign on the dotted line of the offer letter, we have to be prepared to honor that commitment in return.  It's our duty to establish what we want to be about and to lead our talent accordingly.  We are the ones who invisibly sign such a contract.

The new employee should not be looked at to fix it for the company.  "Well, if we hire Jennifer then she will get this all fixed" is not fair to Jennifer.  It's a company with lots of people and decision-makers.  We're not spectators.  We, too, are signed and sealed to the health of the organization which includes culture definition.  If organizations take the time to think deeply and act upon this commitment, I believe that there would be a strengthening of market share and global positioning.  

It's time to deliver on this commitment.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Moment Like This

You know, I am going to see Kelly Clarkson next week.  She is awesome.  I don't know if you're a fan of American Idol.  I used to be, especially that first year.  Kelly was the perfect choice and embodied the hopes and dreams of other undiscovered talent.  She gave others a vision for what could be.  She set the stage, literally, for others to shoot for the moon.  And in that finale, when she gets choked up singing her first hit, A Moment Like This, I join her in being teary-eyed and overwhelmed at what had just happened.  

I am very excited to be going to SHRM13 to see her and, hopefully, to sing with her.  She doesn't know it yet, but security ought to know that I am planning on singing backup for one song.  Please don't escort me back to my seat, Mr. Big's cool.  Right, Kelly?  Pretty please?

I don't think it much matters as to whether it's singing or dancing or typing or preparing reports or selling or litigating, when you find the right fit, it's exhilarating.  Finding someplace where you belong is everyone's ideal; we're wired for it.  We want to be a part of a community.  Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs 3rd Stage is Love/Belonging.  We need this engagement level to be met for holistic living and healthy growth.

If you are looking for a job, don't settle on this point.  I know it's easy to say, but I would want to encourage you to find that role that excites, empowers and challenges you.  Be vigilant in finding that role.  Study companies and look for what they offer employees, not just in compensation or health benefits, but in team-building and in knowledge enrichment.  Where can you grow?  With whom would you want to grow?

We would do well to remember that the candidates we're meeting with are trying to find a role.  It's been tough for some of them.  Some may feel like they've been waiting a lifetime for that one special job.  They often try to put their best foot forward and make a great impression.  

In my career, I have a friend, Matt, who has worked for me twice.  I am a couple of years older than Matt (stop laughing, Matt) and we were friends prior to him coming to work for me.  He wanted to work for a company that would invest in him and encourage him to greatness.  Tall order for any company, I know.  What Matt decided was based upon the relationship we had.  He already felt invested into and knew that he had grown as I had coached him a bit.  I knew that he was a hard worker and coachable.  When he secured a job at a company I was working for, he was elated.  And he did this again when I moved to a different company.  We don't work together now, but we still maintain our friendship.  He has used those times when he was invested into as a basis for discerning future opportunities.

Why isn't that the way it is more often?  Why can't we encourage that type of desire within our teams?  One area of typical failure is onboarding.  We don't do a good job, classically.  We spend so much time sourcing, screening, interviewing, testing, etc., that by the time we find the right candidate, we are exhausted.  "Yay, we are so glad you are here!" is our first day gush to a new hire. And very quickly, that same day, we check out and hope the person stays in the cubicle for the entire day.  That's what we now call a win?

Honestly, it should be more like Kelly Clarkson's win.  We should be enthusiastic about his/her future.  We should decide how to market this person to the others he/she will be working with regularly.  We should consider the deposits of culture seriously; decide on what we want messaging to be.  Leading them on a brisk office tour (just to get it done) is not effective onboarding.  Where is the excitement?  We, too, as a company should be thrilled to have found the right person!

I know that we don't always find the right person.  I know that as a result, our recruitment has become less fun and more task-oriented.  We have relegated the process to filling a role rather than finding the ideal candidate.  I know we talk about strategy and culture, but at the end of the day, we often fall back into a "get 'er done" mentality.  Let's put the brakes on and turn the car around!

Listen, it's not just about the enthusiasm or emotionality of the onboarding, it's about the stability of the company, the suite of training for the new hires and the organizational commitment language observed and heard.  These facets take work and take time, but they will produce a substantial return on investment.  Be long-term in your view!

So, consider how we welcome and introduce new hires.  What should they know about the company after being there for one day?  One week?  One month? Look at that list and decide on how those objectives of learning will be met.  And celebrate all the way through those learning opportunities.  Make the culture more vibrant and healthier.

I am not saying to have fireworks fall from the ceiling like they did for Kelly when she won Idol, but maybe a sparkler wouldn't hurt.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

I Want A New Drug

As a baseball fan, it is tough to hear about the professional athletes using PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) to elevate their game.  The use of steroids and blood-affecting enhancements is a travesty, not simply because it is illegal and a bad example to kids, but because it also takes away from the true intention behind competition and excellence in performance.  It can cause those who are not using PEDs to be seen as less productive or less valuable to the organization. 

The reality is the PEDs have allowed for some incredible results for some players.  In baseball, more home runs have been hit, more bases stolen and more great catches have been made by some good players.  Once PED usage is found to be in play, it's hard to know whether they are good players because they use PEDs or because they really are good players.  Would those players have had such great performance without the PEDs?  It cannot be known for sure.
Many teams, at this point, feel like without the usage of PEDs, they would actually be at a disadvantage.  Let's say you are a good baseball player in college.  Perhaps there is a chance that a major league organization would be interested in you.  Maybe you know some of the other players they are also looking at, and some of them are using PEDs.  Are you enticed to participate?  Wouldn't there be real fear and concern that if you don't, your shot at playing professionally is over?  I know we are made to think that there is enough testing going on to prevent this from happening, but the reality is different.  Some players are using PEDs.

I would like to suggest usage of PEDs in companies.  Not the kind that I just described, but ones that can be just as powerful and as results-oriented.  Let's use Performance Enhancing Dialogue. This would not require anything illegal or any physical testing requirements.  It would not cause negative press when it's found out that your company uses it.  It would not have to be done in dark rooms or in the basement of an athletic training facility.

Using HR PEDs would require, however, time and planning.  It would mean considering fully how each person in the organization fits into the whole.  Obviously, there is no way that each HR professional can meet with each person, so planning takes on a different approach.  Investing in PEDs with management is the key to success.  Along with the executive leadership, HR should approach these planned conversations with a view on the past, present and future.

  • Start with where the manager has been
  • Recall those opportunities of struggle and success
  • Congratulate on growth from experiences

  • What is life today like for this person?
  • How does he/she engage with employees?
  • How has this manager been investing in development of his/her employees? 
  • How is the impact of his/her leadership measurable?
  • How has this person shown fortitude, commitment, passion?

  • What does this manager see as the future contributions that he/she can make?
  • What does his/her department look like in a few years?
  • What process changes would make engagement more effective?
  • How can this manager invest more into the development of his/her employees?

Management will be invested into by HR and senior leadership.  From this, management now has the example of what to do with his/her team.  It becomes a cultural norm and allows for ease of conversation.  The employees will know that the company takes what they do seriously.

Importantly, most of the PEDs conversation is not to be from the negative approach - what hasn't worked, what was missed, what isn't being done.  Instead, the language is much more "glass half full."  This isn't because HR lives in some sort of La La Land, but because the investment in people should push them to the positive through the positive.  If you have someone where the bulk of the conversations would have to be from the negative, then I would ask why he/she is still with the company anyway?  

Clear conversations around performance will enhance performance.  Allow the investment in people to be the "drug" that drives performance at your organization.  Just as athletes on performance enhancing drugs have to keep taking them to remain consistent in performance, so too should the type of PEDs I am talking about be.  Consistency in meeting with those managers and senior leadership is vital.  It cannot be a yearly review.  There is too much time and too much room for poor engagement in a 12-month swing.  Be unapologetically vigilant in ensuring PEDs happen.

While it breaks my heart to hear about athletes, especially for me - baseball players, using performance enhancing drugs, I do not feel the same way about the type of "drug" we should be giving our players.  We should inject encouragement towards goals, affirmation of correct management approach and gratitude for work completed well.  Let's push these types of "drugs" daily.