Before we experienced sexual harassment at work, we experienced it somewhere else.
My inbox and timeline are consistently filled with employee engagement tips. Every day I get something from a vendor or two trying to pitch an HR Tech tool to solve employee engagement or a white paper on effective employee engagement strategy. No matter how well written or how well thought out these tools are, they almost always miss an important factor.
You can’t solve employee engagement without the employee. I know you just rolled your eyes (I can see you) because we already know this, but I see it all the time. You have a meeting with great discussion about what to roll out next, how to bridge the gap, and timelines for the next three emails but you still don’t include the employees. If you do include employees you get feedback and say “oh, we can’t do that” and immediately pivot and go in another direction. Your employees deserve more information though, why can’t we do that?
The absolute number one thing missing from a more effective employee engagement strategy is you knowing and understanding what the employees at your organization do. No one believes that you value them once they figure out that, at best, you know their job title. No value, no engagement. When you roll out initiatives that have nothing to do with actual employee pain points, you are likely making engagement worse. You shouldn’t make employees adapt to how corporate wants things done and figure out how to serve your customers; you should let your employees serve your customers and let corporate adapt to the needs of the employees.
Throwing an ice cream social or sending company swag or buying a new tech tool only puts a band-aid over the real issue. Put the brakes on all the planning you’re doing right now and take some time to get to know your employees. Really find out about the work they do, and why they do it. Build from there. Then at your next ice cream social (if you must have one), celebrate their work, celebrate them.
I’ll always tell y’all that we over-complicate the HR function, we add unnecessary layers and extra meetings but employee engagement talk has gone too far off path. You can’t solve your employee engagement issues by talking to other HR Pros if you haven’t talked to your employees first. When you do talk to your employees, make sure you listen- don’t explain away their feedback and mold it to fit what you think the problem is, really listen to them. I’m telling you once you build this foundation, your employee engagement has potential to soar. That’s when you need to consider the tech tools to ENHANCE it, don’t kid yourself for one second into thinking that technology = engagement because it does not. Its only a piece of the puzzle and no one is really interested in using your tech tool if they know you aren’t really interested in them.
I enjoy a good conference, and I especially enjoy a good speaker who is reinforcing things I agree with in a room full of thousands of people. I realize that means I’m participating in a self-serving conference experience and not necessarily something that pushes me out of my comfort zone and grows me professionally, but it hasn’t always been that way for me.
When I started attending conferences, I was learning new things in every session. I was opened up to a whole new world of HR and how we can improve what we do and how we do it. Having been in the conference loop for the last 10 years now, I’m realizing that I’m either picking sessions that sound like something I would agree with, or we’ve been basically saying the same things for the last 10 years.
I don’t say that lightly. I think there is still a lot of value in the conversations we are having, but we need to be mindful of the conversations and if we are evolving them or not. We also have to consider, who are we sending to these conferences? If I am hearing the same content for years, maybe it’s time to send a lower level HR professional for them to get inspired and hear this content for the first time.
For all of us who have been listening to the same ideas and agreeing with how things should be for the last several years, it’s time to change the conversation. It’s time to take what you are hearing at conferences and put it to work.
I get it, it’s not easy to do. You have to go to work and pitch the executive team on the things you want to do. You have to sell hiring managers and line managers on it. You have to instill confidence in the team that will have to carry out what you are recommending, but don’t over think it. Lets not make this more complicated than it has to be. Consider one thing, if the employees at your organization had the opportunity to hire you for their HR needs OR outsource it, what would they do? Would they choose you? Why or why not? What can you do about it?
It’s easy to hear speakers say things that you think are wonderful ideas, but the only way to know if it will work in your organization is to talk to your employees. Find out what they need, find out what they aren’t happy with, just talk to the humans that you are a resource for.
If you don’t care if they would choose you or not, its time for you to get out of HR. We wish you well and hope you have a wonderful experience in your next career choice, but its time for you to leave us now.
Boundaries at work/with work are good for you.
You can love your work and have boundaries. I’d argue that having boundaries can make it easier to love your work.
Boundaries at work can look like saying no to projects you know you don’t have the bandwidth to complete.
Boundaries can look like not staying late or coming in early or over the weekends.
Boundaries can look like telling co-workers or managers when they say something that makes you uncomfortable or offends you.
Boundaries can look like expecting people to value your work outcomes and respecting your knowledge.
It’s important to start setting your boundaries early on. It’s much easier to have boundaries from the beginning than to try to walk people back to your boundaries after you’ve let them get away with disrespecting them.
I used to have a job where I kept volunteering to stay late to get the job done for the team and before I knew it I was expected to stay late to get the job done. It snuck up on me. I agreed to take phone calls on the weekend and then I was always expected to take phone calls on the weekends and early in the am during the week. By the time I had enough and started letting people know I had enough and I couldn’t work like that anymore (years later) I was the bad guy.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard, you should work however you want to-just have boundaries.
The most important career lesson I ever learned was to understand the business.
There seems to be a lot of back and forth about HR being business professionals/or not being business professionals. In my opinion the easiest way to win this discussion is to make sure you understand the business you support-not just the people portion, but the whole picture.
How does your company make money? What are the products/services your company provides? How do they provide it? Like really, how? What other areas do your HR policies or actions impact and how.
From where I sit, you can make better decisions about the HR support you provide when you understand the business. Looking beyond your schedule and how quickly (or slowly) you choose to respond or how much information you decide you want to share can move your department forward.
People (managers especially) choose to not value HR when you choose to ignore the bigger business picture and only do things the way you want to do things. When HR isn’t valued it’s hard to see them as business professionals.
In 2019 don’t just try to teach the business HR, let HR learn the business.
When I was in elementary school one of my chores was to pull weeds in the yard. I didn’t really like that chore much. Day after day I would pull up dandelions out of the yard only to find two or three times as many the next day. If you don’t get to them quick enough they spread their seeds all over the yard.
Finally I learned to use a spoon to dig up the root. The spoon helped me to make sure I got the whole problem so it would stop spreading. Had I thought that through from the beginning, I would’ve really cut down my chore time (and effort) but I’m one of those kids who has to learn things the hard way.
When we have a problem at work, we have to dig out the root to solve it. The most common avoidance tactic we take in response to a problem is “I’m too busy” to x, y, or z.
But are you really? Because if you would take the time to stop what you’re doing and get to the root of the problem, you may free up some time on the back-end. Accepting “I’m too busy” as an excuse makes the problem build and spread.
It’s real simple. Take the time to find the root and dig it out. If you don’t the problem is going to eventually spread and then it may be out of your hands to solve altogether.
It’s no secret that I’m a supporter of having a smile file. I can’t take credit for the idea of a smile file, but I can share the idea with you.
We all have bad days, some probably more than others. A resource I use to redirect on those bad days is my “smile file.” I actually have two! A smile file on my computer and a box in my office.
The box in my office is full of handwritten thank you notes or cards from folks. Little reminders from people who took the time to let me know how my work impacted them. The one on my computer is mostly emails from people thanking me for some sort of contribution to a project or an answer to their question.
No matter what field you are in, you could use some appreciation for your work. Here are a few screen grabs of the kind of things I keep, but there are no rules to a smile file-other than whatever it is should make you smile! You want to file away things that will bring you back from a bad day, or motivate you when you aren’t feeling any motivation.
Every day cannot be perfect so do something to help you get back on track on hard days; start a smile file.
It’s important that us HR professionals maintain our knowledge when we are fulfilling our volunteer roles.
In my 10 years of volunteering with groups related to my professional day job I have seen a lot of issues that could have been avoided if we applied our strategic HR thinking to our volunteer problems.
It baffles me that we get in a group with a bunch of HR professionals and then forget that we have critical skills to defuse communication problems and apply strategic business thinking to road blocks.
The most baffling is when we slip up and say things out of line that would get our organizations in trouble if someone at work tried to do the same. For instance, thinking that someone has to be a certain age to do a job:
Raise your hand if you’ve been to a presentation about how innovative Air bnb is to lodging, or amazon is to retail, or uber is to transportation services. All these companies took things we already used and made them exceptionally easy to use. They are “innovative.”
Ahhh, I see that’s most of the room.
The weird thing is, all I can think about is you don’t have to be that innovative to recognize these ideas, you really just had to be a consumer. I know it’s more complicated than just being a consumer to put together and roll out a successful business plan. My point is, thought leaders call these companies groundbreaking in their space, but is it really groundbreaking to think like a consumer? That should be how we naturally operate.
Not just in “how can we market this to consumers” but “as consumers, what are our needs?”
As an employee, what are your needs? HR can really be that simple.
Do you need a safe space to work in? The other employees do too.
Do you need answers to your questions? The other employees do too.
Do you need a team you can trust? The other employees do too.
Do you need good benefits? The other employees do too.
Do you need your paycheck accurate and on time? The other employees do too.
Do you need to be able to use your PTO? Take bereavement? Sick days? The other employees do too.
Do you need a safe space to work in?
DO YOU NEED A SAFE SPACE TO WORK IN?
I know you need a safe space to work in, so stop letting things like this happen: https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/16/us/gm-toledo-racism-lawsuit/index.html
It’s not groundbreaking to give the people who use your services (consumers) what they need and nothing less. Its expected.
Get it together in 2019.
This one deserves more attention than I’m giving the short 33 career lessons, but this one is important so don’t let the brief summary fool you.
HR friends, you don’t make the rules. You may get to make some decisions, but you don’t make the rules.
If HR is sitting in their office making rules from afar that impact managers and employees we are doing business wrong. Our primary business service to the organization is to help facilitate solutions. Yes, we have to take into consideration all the data that helps us do a reasonable risk analysis, present solutions, and partner with folks for the right answer-but we don’t make the rules.
We may offer guidance on what the safest solution is, but we don’t make the rules. We may even recite case-law and updated state and federal laws, but we do not make the rules…
If you get defensive when a manager has an idea or suggestion and have to flex on them so they know you are in control, you are in the wrong field my friend. You’ll be miserable at work and you’ll hold your organization back.
If you hold up a process so you can remind people HR is an important function for getting work done, they are going to think less and less of HR and start working around you.
Don’t flex on folks and embarrass HR in 2019. Be useful, collaborate, build solutions and take your organization to the next level. Otherwise, you may be building the case for your company to not value HR at all.