Thursday, September 18, 2014

HR Buzzkill

Buzzwords we should let go….

A recent survey from Accountemps, conducted by an independent research firm and based on interviews with more than 600 HR managers at U.S. and Canadian companies, reveals the top 20 most annoying terms used in business today.

Somehow clarity and simplicity has come to signify lack of sophistication or even lack of knowledge or intelligence, and using the current favorite buzzword is supposed to indicate you’re with it and get it. I would suggest that overuse of these types of terms is contributing to the disconnect between employees and management and employees and HR. How are they supposed to connect with you, your ideas and your goals if they don’t know what you’re saying?

You can check out the list at the link above. But here’s my take on some of those buzzwords, and a few more that are HR-centric (see what I did there?):

  1. "Out of pocket" Ok, you’re not in the office – say so!
  2. "Employee engagement" What? Is there jewelry involved?
  3. "Onboarding" I’m looking for the yacht…..
  4. "HR Business Partner" Where’s the vendor contract? Aren’t they employees, too?
  5. "Crunch time" Are we exercising?
  6. "Value-added" Let’s just exceed the expectations, can we?
  7. "Leverage" Borrowed from finance/investment circles. Using something to maximum advantage is not how this term is used today.
  8. "Circle back" I thought we should avoid going in circles?
  9. "Synergy" Teamwork, unity – even harmony – will be better understood
  10. "Thought leaders" Can they be "action" leaders, too?
  11. "Alignment" Yeah, we agree on our [goals, mission, values, whatever]
  12. "Game changer" Are we playing a game?
  13. "Take offline" Not everything is computerized…..
  14. "Human Capital" Referring to your employees in strictly financial terms might alienate them further, or simply confuse them.
  15. "Reach out" Reach out and touch some……..No. Just no.
Communication, or the lack thereof, is among the top complaints employees have about their workplace and their relationship with management. Maybe if we kill the buzzwords and speak clearly and simply our message will get through and we can all be on the same page. (Oops)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

You Don’t Want to be the Boss?

CareerBuilder comes out with some fairly interesting surveys. And this recent one is no exception. It found that of 3,625 workers ages 18 and over (employed full-time, not self-employed, government and non-government); only 34% aspired to leadership roles. That’s a pretty low number. Why don’t people want to be the boss? A little more research came up with a Pew survey reported by Time that gives us some idea of why being the boss might not be all that attractive to some.

The Pew survey found that more than 75% of bosses consider their job a career, whereas less than half of workers do. Many of them look at their work as just a job, something to get them by. Yet others don’t want to put in the time and effort – and give up work/life balance – in order to reach that leadership level. They perceive it’s necessary to give up too much to get there.

Others may choose not to take on the responsibility of managing others, and want the luxury of leaving at 5 p.m. and not thinking about work till the next day.

Interestingly, the survey also found that that a little more than half of the workers polled think they’re adequately trained to do their jobs. But that means that a large chunk of people don’t feel they have the knowledge or skills they need to progress.

In my years of HR management, I have often had people say "I wouldn’t want your job!" That’s ok; there have been times when I didn’t want my job. But some of the reasons they gave are revealing:

  • You have to tell people they’re [not performing well, doing something wrong], etc.
  • You get blamed when your team doesn’t succeed, even if it’s not your fault
  • You have to say "no".
  • You have to fire people! *gasp*
  • Some people won’t like you.
  • You have to toe the company line, even if you don’t agree with it.
  • Everything you do or say is watched and seen by everyone.
But try to think about the flip side. Being in a management or supervisory position – being the boss – affords you some pretty exciting opportunities. It can give you the opportunity to shine, to show off your skills and talent. It gives you the opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, while helping others to do the same. You can grow, develop and lead your team, and your organization to success (whether big successes or little ones). And you know what? That’s a pretty cool thing. That’s fun, and fulfilling. So, don’t let your perceptions of the possible "bad" things about being a boss hold you back from an experience that could be a really great opportunity. Take the steps, get the knowledge or skills you need, ask for help from your boss, take initiative. Be the boss.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What HR Hates

Well, hate is a strong word, although that hasn’t seemed to stop the many blogs and other publications churning out articles about why everyone hates HR. For instance, here, here and one that started it all: here.

Certainly, there are bad, inexperienced or just plain clueless HR pros out there; just as there are in any profession. But they don’t exist in any greater numbers than in other professions, either.

Just as there are those who think all HR pros are evil incarnate, we HR pros have a few things that really set our hair on fire, too. So, it’s time to highlight a few things that HR folks really don’t like, or even "hate".

It’s our job to help our organizations by way of recruiting, retaining and developing the best employees and with making sure the organization is in compliance with the hundreds – no, thousands - of laws and regulations dealing with the employment relationship. That right there is enough to make us cranky. These two goals among the many we have can seem to conflict in that the same people we are supposed to help succeed sometimes seem to be working hard to destroy the organization. What we hate is that people, both employees and managers/supervisors, often fail to understand this. Their view is that we are being obstructionist and a pain in the ass. Nope, we’re just trying to get it done.

We are not counselors or therapists. But you’d never know that sometimes. Employees sometimes have personal problems, but that’s not the issue. We can refer you to the EAP or legal assistance, offer leaves of absence, etc. We're sympathetic; after all, we’re human and sometimes have problems, too. But, please don’t expect us to solve your personal problems and don’t get ticked off when we won’t hang out our "psychologist" shingle. We can help you navigate your relationships with your manager or your coworkers, but we aren’t qualified to fix your marriage and that really falls into TMI, anyway.

In a related area, we can show you how to do something. We can even show you how to do something several times. But, eventually, you need to do it by yourself. Whether that something is using your health benefits, accessing your retirement plan online, or completing a performance evaluation, we really, really can’t continue to do it for you all the time. We have a lot of other things to do for a lot of other people. Please be an adult and be responsible enough to learn how to do these things yourself.

Whiners and high-maintenance employees (and managers) are the ones that complain about being overworked, even though they rarely work a full day; about being treated badly by their manager who simply told you to do your job; about how they need to be paid more, even though they make as much or more as their comparable coworkers; about the quality of the hand towels in the bathroom and the sodas in the vending machines. They are forever being harassed, discriminated against and clearly don’t know the meaning of those words in the workplace (even though we’ve explained a hundred times). They take up inordinate amounts of our time and energy, leaving less time and energy for more legitimate issues. You exhaust us. Grow up.

The manager who knows everything, and takes every opportunity to tell you about it. She may be smart and graduated with honors, and she may get the job done well. But she’s absolutely sure she’s never wrong – about anything. When she inevitably makes a mistake it’s a mess to clean up, but she still refuses to believe she was wrong. She’s usually the one that gets your organization sued.

Next up is the exec that thinks his title means he doesn’t have to follow the rules (or the laws) any more. Actually, you don’t even have to be an exec to make this designation – managers and supervisors reach this point, too. Yes, you have to take the harassment training, just like everyone else; no, you can’t fire people willy-nilly, you need to follow the guidelines and policies, too, you can’t violate the FMLA or EEO laws just because you don’t agree with them or refuse to remember what they mean – the EEOC doesn’t care about your title or your bad memory; no, you can’t make changes to your benefits elections outside of open enrollment without a qualifying event – the IRS doesn’t care about your title.

Don’t shoot the messenger…..Some people think we in HR sit around all day and make up policies just to make your life difficult – and because we’re, well – evil. Nope. Oftentimes, we’re implementing the decisions and policies set forth by the executive team. Other times we’re simply complying with one or more of those thousands of employment laws that get passed each year. It’s our job and we have to do it, even if we sometimes don’t agree with those policies or laws, either. Just like it’s your responsibility to do your job even if you don’t like parts of it. Life is tough, isn’t it?

Most of us really don’t like party planning. In fact, a lot of us hate party planning, especially when it seems like employees and management think party planning is a major function of HR. Guess what? It’s not, and shouldn’t be. Let someone else do it; create an employee party committee and have at it. Being the party planners only serves to minimize the importance of our true function.

Employee satisfaction surveys – or as they’re more popularly referred to today – employee engagement surveys – can be helpful, but more commonly are pretty useless. But again, it’s our job to get them out, get them in and try to make use of the data. Which is pretty difficult (hence the uselessness) when hardly anyone will turn them back in. Another thing is that it’s most often the case that the people who are most dissatisfied, and a few who really are satisfied, are the only ones who respond. So, together with a low response rate in general, the data isn’t really a reliable indication of anything. And then, when nothing comes of the results, nothing ever happens with the feedback, we get the blame. Remember, HR is not always responsible for making the decisions.

So much has been written about how we should get rid of the traditional performance evaluation. We’d probably love that, if someone would come up with a viable alternative. An alternative that supervisors and managers would actually support and implement instead of just bitch about. Don’t like writing evaluations? You have too many, you say? In my years as staff HR, I read every single evaluation. You may have had to write 5 or 10, or even 50; but I read all 350 of them. I had to make sure you didn’t write that your employee’s FMLA protected leave was a detriment to her performance; and make sure you were consistent in your ratings when compared to your written summary; and make sure you were clear in your expectations for your employee’s performance for the coming year; and make sure you told your employee that only occasionally showing up for work is not acceptable.

Dress codes. Oh. Dear. God. How we hate dress codes. Do you really think we like being the fashion police? Do you really think most of us care what you wear, as long as you get your job done? My philosophy has always been if what you’re wearing is neat, clean, in good repair and not revealing (we don’t need or want to see your boobs, your butt, or your underwear), then it’s probably all good. While there are some jobs and some environments where specific types of attire are necessary for good business, most do not require a particular mode of dress. But you need to be an adult, be reasonable and be fairly professional. Leave the daisy dukes and jammie pants at home; put on a belt and cover your private parts. This is work, after all. And remember, even if HR doesn’t much care if you wear jeans to work, executive management may have decided they don’t want you to wear jeans to work.

But maybe most of all, we really don’t like when people say everyone should hate HR and throw it out, especially when those who write those articles clearly don’t understand. These are supposed to be business people; I’m surprised they don’t have a better understanding of why HR operates the way we do.