Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ten Reasons HR Seems To Have An Image Problem

My response to Susan Popoolas' post about the image problem HR has is below the link. And yes, you can probably think of more reasons but most of them are covered broadly in these ten reasons.

The post can be found at this link:

There are a few points in which HR continues to maintain an image problem.

(1) Many employees only come into contact with HR during difficult situations-while unemployed, experiencing disciplinary problems, being fired or laid off, undergoing unhappy life changes etc.- sometimes HR can help and sometimes they have a role to play that won't feel like help to an employee. As in any profession, some practitioners have good interpersonal skills that allow them to do their jobs without angering or frustrating the employee further, and sometimes they don't. People are much more likely to speak out about the bad experiences they have than they are the good experiences.

(2) Because HR is often understaffed they tend to take shortcuts that look like efficiencies to them but come across as uncaring to others. And those people are experiencing difficult situations-so they are at an increased sensitivity to anyone perceived as contributing to that difficulty. For example-job seekers complain that HR never acknowledges applications and they also complain when they receive an automated acknowledgement that their application was received. They want a personal interaction and are unwilling to concede that the HR person may not be able to comply.

(3) HR professionals don't operate in a consistent fashion, so when people are interacting with them, it is quite literally a guessing game as to what all the *right* things to do are. Even seemingly simple things-like what to wear to an interview gets a rather diverse set of opinions that the poor applicant doesn't know who to believe.

(4) HR professionals make hiring screen out decisions that are often perceived as ridiculous (because they mostly are) as part of the "I have to eliminate people because we get so many applications" excuse. It is little wonder that people see HR as unable to understand the business or the jobs they are screening for when they eliminate people based on personal bias.

(5) HR professionals need to have respect for diversity and seeks ways to gain a global outlook-too many fail to do so.

(6) HR professionals should be required to have both education and work experience in fields outside of HR at some (or several) stages of their career. Some do and some don't.

(7) HR professionals work with humans for the most part. Humans are diverse, unpredictable, predictable, puzzling, amazing, awe inspiring, smart, silly, have good days, bad days and mediocre days. Including the humans that are HR professionals. But we deal with humans in difficult situations and they remember when we don't meet their specific needs in the way they want at the time- and say so to anyone who will listen. You need a teflon exterior to work in this field for any length of time.

(8) HR professionals need to be the best at collaboration and change resilience-but they don't tell you that in school and for the most part it requires learning from on the job experience and seeking knowledge and resources consistently.

(9) HR professionals are perceived to have either great power over ones career or no power at all. Take your pick because the perception is situational.

(10) HR professionals would benefit from remembering that regardless of how overwhelmed they are by their workload, no matter how many people have yelled, insulted, swore, threw things at you, threatened you, cried, blamed, done something perverted or disgusting to a colleague, that your role is to remain neutral and objective in the way in which you handle those situations and every other situation. That doesn't mean you have to take abuse-you absolutely must never let that continue. It does mean the decisions you make or the advice you give has to be objective, wear that teflon shield while decision making. You can vent privately, later.

It isn't easy. You will never get everything just right every time. Every successful leader will tell you the same thing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Sustainability Factor for HR/OD

When Steve Jobs announced he was stepping down from his position as CEO of Apple on August 24, 2011 the articles, comments, blogs and tweets began immediately and will likely continue for some time. In The Harvard Business Review (August 25, 2011,Joshua Gans wrote about whether or not buying Apple stock was a good idea. I did want to link to the article but it appears that the link is no longer available. However, I believe the quote below includes enough context.

While the article focused on the stock, Gans makes a key point that all human resources and organizational development professionals should take note of and ask if they are making a contribution to sustainability in their organizations.

“First, there is every reason to expect that Jobs second tenure at least in part has focused on baking innovation into the organization. A couple of months ago, Adam Lashinsky in a Fortune magazine article (sadly, only available behind a paywall, but it will be the best 99 cent purchase ever on your Kindle) described the cultural transformation inside Apple. The last 15 years have been all about establishing an internal culture for innovation and a set of norms of behavior and expectations. While the culture came from the drive of Steve Jobs, it is a reasonable expectation that he infused it into the organization itself.”

The concept of “baking innovation”, “establishing an internal culture for innovation and a set of norms of behavior and expectations” is generally considered to be a top down responsibility. Yet human resources and organizational development professionals are in a powerful position to ensure that the organization achieves these goals. It is a concept that must be imbedded in each and every program, policy, system and task that you do or drive in your role. The sustainability of companies lies with the ability of the people who work for them to create and innovate, with flexibility and agility and to measure the performance of employees based on their ability to make their contributions with those factors in play.

The ability to create, innovate, have flexible systems and agility is critical to the long-term success of companies in technology, education and health care industries right now. In the near future this will become a factor for those organizations that are operating in low-tech fields.

When you look at the core competencies for your organization, do they include creativity, innovation, flexibility and agility? If so, how well are they integrated into the organization? Does your attraction, retention and development system reliably “bake” those competencies into the culture? Does the culture in your organization embrace these competencies? If so, how do you know?

Monday, August 22, 2011

My New Book Is Now Available-A Social Media Primer

The intent of this book is to avoid the hype and conflicting information surrounding the use of social media in organizations and to point you to resources that have been researched and provide the most reliable information. The content of this book avoids promoting or pushing any specific tool, as all social media technology tools are evolving and frequently updating with new features. What is right for one organization is not necessarily right for your organization.

This book is a starting point for general management, human resources, and organizational development teams that have not yet embraced or fully incorporated social technology tools into the organization.

What you will find in this book:

-Back-to-basics discussions about what "social" means in the context of organizations and what you should consider before adopting social technology into an organization.

-References to resources that provide charts, graphs, statistics, case studies, and information on how to use the tools, as well as the books that my research has shown provide practical and reliable information.

What you won't find in this book:

-Charts, graphs, and statistics.

-Case studies.

-Details on how to use social media tools.

This book: A Social Media Primer: The Starter Guide for People In Organizations is now available for $9.99 at:

The book will also be available at Amazon later this week and through several other eBook retailers over the next 4 weeks.

My venture into writing about Social Media started in early 2010 and after many twists and turns and learning adventures is finally ready for purchase-one year later than my original plan, so it really does feel like a long term project!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

toonlet: Small Business Needs HR?

toonlet: Small Business Needs HR?

Small Business & HR-Proactive Is The Way To Go!

Starting and growing your business is time consuming and there are so many different administrative details to manage. As your business grows such details become more burdensome and at some point you will need to start hiring staff or outsourcing to agencies to help with those tasks. Too often the human resources and organizational development aspects of the business are left until ‘later’ because they are not causing any apparent problems at the moment.

Leaving human resources issues until later will ultimately cost the organization more money and use far more of your time than would be the case if you set up a straightforward infrastructure to manage human resources issues proactively.

HR Concise provides a package (Proactive Basics) that covers the legal requirements (what you must do by law) and includes some ‘very good ideas’ that may not be legal requirements currently but can mitigate problems down the road.
Many small business owners are reluctant to bring in policies or practices that feel bureaucratic and may feel counter-intuitive to the culture you wish to develop for your business. However, the legal requirements are not optional and ensuring that you have at least those minimum policies in place will ensure that you do not derail your focus on growing your business dealing with fines, lawsuits or workplace shutdowns.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Consumer Power via Social Media

Since the growth of social media tools available to post or discuss anything has been so prolific over the past few years a number of topics have become common. One of those is the use of social media tools to promote, praise or express dissatisfaction with a company or organization that we have interacted with. It is true that using social media to ‘engage’ with customers or donors was one of the original uses of many of the tools and managers in organizations are encouraged to respond to both negative and positive postings.

Have we as individuals become too quick to angrily react by posting very negative comments about an organization immediately after an interaction that did not go well? Is there a better way to resolve problems with organizations? Is it always the better choice to jump to the ‘viral’ process when attempting to resolve a problem when some other way may be more beneficial? And are we always being fair to the organization and the people who work there?

When we deal with any organization at some point in time we are likely to encounter a glitch. Organizations are made up of humans and we all make mistakes, handle things badly sometimes and take a bad day out on someone who doesn’t deserve it. So why are we so quick to slay the reputation of an entire organization based on one bad interaction? How would you feel if that was a company you worked for and either you or a co-worker had messed up?

At what point do you decide to go to your social networks to complain about a bad customer (or donor) experience? How many attempts to resolve a problem or bad experience with an organization do you make before going public with your issue?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

One Size Does Not Fit All

Actively participating in online forums as well as reading several blogs and 'authoritative' articles on various HR topics has reinforced my long-held opinion that much of HR is really an "it depends" kind of profession. When I have worked amidst large scale change efforts, conducted research and also written about change in organizations I find myself repeating the "one size does not fit all" comment frequently.

Often when various professionals jump into online discussions with their belief on a given topic you will see responses that are distinct from one person to the next. Some try to validate their belief with their reasoning as to why they act on those perceptions but often those reasons are the outcome of ones personal mental models and likely will not hold up under scrutiny.

Humans are an interesting species and HR professionals are no exception, the reality is when you are seeking a professional opinion on an HR related topic it is wise to read as many different opinions as you can find. Then check out the organization you are hoping to work for (or are working for if it is an internal matter) and see which of those opinions actually are in play at that organization. Because it depends and Rule Number 2 still applies.