Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Integrity, Respect, Metrics & HR

I spend a lot of time thinking about what happens in organizations from how cultures develop and evolve to how individuals can manage to survive and thrive in a change driven world. Over the past several years I have moved from using social media tools to increase and improve my connections with others and to learn and share information to considering social tools in the context of organizational culture and change resilience. It has been an interesting path and I have come across some really interesting perspectives. Some competencies hold true as aiding HR practitioners in navigating through constant change and the pressure inherent in being the go to person for people focused topics. And there are some things HR practitioners should just stop worrying about because if you are honing these competencies the rest will take care of itself.

(1) Systems Thinker: able to use systems to design and explain the key aspects of programs or interventions you wish to introduce in a manner that also shows how those interventions will affect the culture, the people and other programs. This is mandatory and if you are not familiar with systems thinking Barry and Karen Oshry are very knowledgeable on this topic. Google them. You can also read "The Art of Systems Thinking" Joseph O'Connor and Ian McDermott for a fairly decent grounding. Understanding this will make a huge difference to how you approach everything you do in your work. It should be mandatory as a competency for all HR practitioners.

(2) Collaborate: what exactly does this mean? HR practitioners should be role models for this competency. This means collaborate with people who work in radically different fields than you. It is amazing how much more effective everything you do will be. Oh, it is also a competency that is enhanced by a good understanding of systems thinking. Collaborating also requires that you learn how to incorporate diverse ideas into one effective program or process and when compromise may be required.

(3) Don't worry about the seat at the table. It will suddenly show up when you aren't thinking about it if you are accomplished at (1) and (2).

(4) Stop referring to the people who work for the organization as "talent", "capital", "assets" or "the bottom line". They are humans. They bring some pretty great stuff into the workplace and some kind of messy stuff too. Deal with it as a whole. Reducing them to stats, numbers, things and buzzwords won't get you where you need to be. And they pretty much cringe when they hear that kind of talk-so please stop doing that.

(5) Business acumen: uh oh, what does that mean? It means-understand the way business in general works and the way organizations in general work (see #1). Then go out of your way to understand the business realities that the operations managers and all the other employees face every single day they are at work; not just about the company you work for but the industry you work in and if some other industry might just be taking market share away because they have a better widget or whatever. Just understand it. Job shadow as many roles as you can, ask questions-lots of them. Get the concept so you know what every decision/program/policy/advice you offer will do to the people that work there and the business itself.

The number stuff- you don't have to be a mathematician or a statistician- but be able to understand what the numbers on the annual report mean, what the costs you incur mean in terms of gained revenue or customer engagement. That stuff. The finance people will do the rest. As for the metric fad, be realistic. Not everything in HR can or should be measured and it is possible to create more harm than good in going too far with the metrics. Also, how much time do you spend measuring things and writing and analyzing it all? More time than you do interacting with people? If you do and your primary job responsibility is not metrics you may want to rethink your approach.

(6) Integrity and courage: they kind of go together. Sometimes you have to gather up the courage to do the right thing. To stand up to the person with a "C" title when they are about to do something really wrong. Sure, your job means you protect the organization from unnecessary legal problems etc. but not at the cost of the respect, dignity and fairness to the people who work in the organization. Your role is not to be pro this side or that side but to figure out how to accomplish the best outcome with the least damage to all concerned.

(7) Respect, intercultural and intracultural: understand what it is and what it means to diverse populations. This is pretty hard but it is very rewarding for the organization-it really, really is.

(8) Humour-have a lot of this. Be able to laugh at yourself.

(9) A Ducks Back: what??? Okay, I live in a rainforest and "water off a ducks back" has been a saying I have heard my whole life. Or maybe a Teflon shield works for you. Whatever it is-sometimes you will get it wrong, sometimes you will get it right and sometimes you will be on a fence somewhere. You are human. Integrity, respect, courage and humour-that will get you a long, long way in HR. And those things are a nice way to role-model for others.

(10) David Letterman taught us that lists have 10 items. Sorry but this is as good as number 10 is going to get. However, it is also an opportunity for you to provide #10. What do you think-is there a number 10 that really counts?

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