Thursday, August 21, 2014

Freeze Frame

(by +Victorio Milian)

I've worked many jobs in my career. Some I've enjoyed, others I've hated. I'm fortunate at this stage of my life to be involved in a few professional ventures that I really enjoy.

Part of why I'm in a good place these days is that I've found a way to incorporate my creative talents into my work. For example, I've been writing for over five years for various blogs and other outlets. This has provided me with opportunities for my work to appear in magazines, to travel, as well as connect with other great professionals. My emerging interest in photography and graphic design is helping me with my clients and their respective needs. My hobbies and interests have a home in my places of work.

My creative activities also serve as a diary of sorts. It gives me an opportunity to reflect on my growth and development, both as a HR practitioner as well as a person.

I say all this because I recently read a NPR article entitled, 'Got A Hobby? Might Be A Smart Professional Move.' In it, the author, Maanvi Singh, discusses research which reveals that employees who have creative endeavors outside of work tend to perform better at work.

According to the researchers abstract:
We conducted two studies that examined the relationships between non-work creative activity, recovery experiences, and performance-related behaviours at work. Creative activity was positively associated with recovery experiences (i.e., mastery, control, and relaxation) and performance-related outcomes (i.e., job creativity and extra-role behaviours).
A word of caution--it was a study done on a small group of professionals. Also, more research needs to be done on the connection between a person's creative outlet and work performance. Therefore, I wouldn't point to it as definitive proof of a relationship.

For me, however, it does make sense. Particularly as a consultant, I'm more engaged with clients when I can bring my full array of talents to work, even if they're not needed or utilized. And I've learned plenty of things at work that I've applied at home. Also, having a creative outlet helps me to relieve stress and to regain balance.

How can employees figure out how to be more creative at work, so that they can be more satisfied? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Look at yourself. Take stock of the things you like to do, particularly those activities that you may not be able to engage in during work hours. Perhaps you like art, or exercising. Whatever it is, take stock of those things.
  • Look at your job. What type of organization do you work for? Specifically, what are the values and expectations within it? Understanding the type of environment you work within can help you identify whether or not there's an opportunity to explore incorporating creative activities at work. For example, I've worked in environments where my social media activities were encouraged. In others, it was a big no-no.
  • Look at your supervisor. You will have no bigger advocate or obstacle than your immediate supervisor. And that goes for any organizational initiative you may want to implement or adjust.
Finding that professional/personal sweet spot is tough, whether you're a CEO or the janitor. When people are able to clearly articulate and exist within that sweet spot between the two, they (in my opinion) tend to do better at work.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Everyday I Write the Book

Executives are pressured to be budget-minded while increasing sales and productivity.  “Do more with less” is the banner many are forced to hold high while walking across the customer service area or the down the manufacturing line.  The pressure of expanding territory, managing the brand(s), and keeping talent in the building require complicated maneuvering.  While begging, pleading and groveling tend to be our default posture, we can really choose differently and with a better chance for lasting effect.

A detailed, passionate plan is necessary for a Human Resources professional to be engaged in the business process.  We have to sit down and create an action plan with both pre- and post-process details.  This may very well be a daily process.  There are moving parts and market fluctuations that cannot be depended on to remain static.  The dynamic nature of our commerce requires us to be nimble and adaptable.  Write and review processes everyday.  Grab your coffee (or latte or Oprah Chai Tea or whatever it is you like today).

  • Where are the pain points of the company?
  • How did it get this way?  What has to change?
  • What are the expectations for the company as described by the Executive team?
  • Who should be handling certain components of the process?  When can I sit with them to review?

  • What elements were accomplished?  What’s working well?
  • Where are there still missing pieces? Who is addressing those needs?  How?
  • Who is/was unable to handle the responsibilities given?  Time for change?

These questions can be drilled down more, but the general idea is to challenge yourself to answer them.  Sit down ahead of time with the pre-process list of questions and write down answers.  When we answer them in our heads only, it’s often the case that’s where they’ll stay.  Write the answers; from these answers, an action plan is created.  This is not an exercise in accountability only, but also in planning with purpose. 

Our companies are in need of dynamic resources to handle the mandate of “more with less.”  I don’t see this trend changing anytime soon.  The fear of finances around tax increases, ACA compliance and global military activity is real and impacts markets.

Listen, for those of you still holding onto hope that you’ll be allowed to fill that job requisition for additional help in your department…let it go.  Don’t depend on it.  It’s been two years.  The company is not bringing on another HR Generalist for you.  Be creative, be industrious, but don’t be stupid.  If the answer is that next quarter might look better and we’ll see then, give it up.  Work with what you have; just work it stronger and with real expectations.  I have had the opportunity to sit with HR departments who regale me with the plans they have for an additional person they’ll eventually be allowed to have.  In the meantime, though, that list of work and plans sits dormant waiting for that person.  Why?

Meet with the executive team to determine the fiscal expectations of the company for the next 6 months.  Then take that understanding and create the process list for pre-, during and post-.  Assign roles, speak to the cultural leadership needed and provide timelines.  Yes, hold people accountable, including yourself, but do it based upon a clearer understanding of the expectations of the company’s financial strategy. 

Oh yea, for those of you reading this who are saying, “no one on the executive team shares this with HR,” then figure out how to make them.  Give them the business case for HR’s involvement.  Show them what you know how to do.  Let them see the resources you have ready to go once you know where you’re going.  Of all people, HR seems to know how to do more with less.  We’ve done it for decades.