Tuesday, December 22, 2009

HR and Service with a Smile

Throughout my various employments, the theme of customer service is a reoccurring one.

In no particular order I have been:
- a cashier
- a customer service rep
- a front desk gal
- a return desk rep
- a box office attendant
- a deli counter server
- an inside sales rep
- a clothing store sales person

Although I learned a lot in these roles, the main take-away for me was that I was going to do everything in my power to not end up in Customer Service. I would not be a lifer. No way. Not me. I was a thinker - a doer - a coordinator, not a C/S person.

Of course, time and experience has taught me that you cannot escape Customer Service. It's part of every role - it's only your customers that varies.

In HR, the managers and employees are my regular customers.

So imagine my surprise when I had a phone message this morning from one the company's clients. Not just the client, but an employee at our client - looking for some resolution to their everyday customer service-y problem. My first instinct was to transfer the message to the appropriate call centre supervisor, but then I thought...I hate when people pull that crap.

So I listened to the message again and realized that I had helped this particular client out over the summer (when the call centre supervisor was away and they needed someone who had a brain and could speak French).

And although it's "not my job" to deal with call centre complaints, I could do it again. She specifically called me. I helped her last time and she kept my name and number and at one time this might have annoyed me off as I realize it creates (god forbid) expectations and precedents, but really it's a compliment. I did a good job and she remembered this.

With a bit of digging, I got answers to her questions and called her back. once again, she was very pleased.

So here we are about 15 some years and two career directions later and again I'm reminded that you can take the gal out of Customer Service, but you can't take the Customer Service out of the gal.

To all those that have work in Customer Service during the ridiculously extended hours of the holiday shopping season - I wish you all the best. Even if you don't like your job. And don't smile much.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Signs

For all the sarcastic, judgmental, family-alienating things I do and say, I’m generally a rule-abiding, responsible, and trustworthy person.

Today, I was determined to stretch beyond this image and do something completely selfish and somewhat irresponsible. I had all intentions of taking an extended lunch and going to see a movie at the cinema near work.

Gasp! (I know!)

Seriously. This is a big deal for me and it really isn’t the most HR responsible thing I should be considering, but the reality was that I felt like I deserved an escape where I could just sit back and be entertained.

Not only that. I was ditching the office potluck lunch.

First, I cannot stand watching large groups of people stuff their faces, and two, I figured it was the opportune time for me to bail since these lunches typically last well beyond the usual hour.

So I made a break for it. I timed it so that I would arrive in time to take my seat as the previews were ending…I was going to see New Moon…again (I said I needed escapism). I was looking forward to solidifying my membership on Team Edward.

As I walked up to the theater I noticed a group of people standing around and one person turned to me to let me know that the cinema did not have power. Completely down. Nothing.

No other business in the area was affected – only the cinema.

I was crushed. I just stood there with a completely dazed look on my face. I believe I uttered, “Seriously?!!” about half a dozen times before returning to my car.

I believe in signs and this was a very hard-to-ignore sign.

I was not meant to skip work. I was meant to return to office. I was reminded that I need to be the morale compass of my office – the beacon of responsibility.

I was destined to…hello, clothing stores…shop.

So I drowned my cinema-less afternoon in trying on clothes and I still made it back to the office in the appropriate amount of time. My HR virtue remains intact.

Sigh.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

'tis the season

Tonight is my company's Christmas party, which they do up in style: dinner and dancing at a swanky hotel.

All questions of whether this is appropriate during the economic climate aside, it is more the other issues of "appropriate-ness" that have me cringing.

I find it amusing that HR, managers, and other professionals are quick to blog, tweet, and circulate friendly reminders of the Dos and Don't over workplace holiday parties, but the reality is that those people that SHOULD heed the advice, WON'T. We are preaching to the converted.

For many people, the party is not seen as an extension of work (particularly if it's after hours and you've rented a room in the same hotel) and an excuse to let it all hang out..literally and figuratively.

No amount of reminders, coaching, hinting, and blatant comments will change their minds. Dammit, they earned this.

The reality is that those with good judgement will exercise it and those that lack it will entertain the rest of us (and give us something to talk about Monday morning).

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

When fair does not mean equal

Tomorrow should be fun day. Salary increase (or lack there of) letters will be distributed to the employees.

This is where the strong managers will be separated from the weak.

Sure it’s nice to find out you are getting an increase this year, but how much does it really mean when it’s communicated via your manager handing you a piece of paper and saying “Good year”.

Sure it sucks to find out you are not getting an increase, but the sting can be reduced if your manager takes the extra time to explain why…whether it’s a business decision or a performance issue.

For me, it’s not the initial meetings that causes me work – it’s the reverberations of when the employees start to share (and oh boy do they share in my company...people...let's put the "personal" back in personnel)and discover first hand that fair does not mean equal.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Lack of coordination

There are hunters. There are gatherers. And then there are coordinators.

I’m in the third group.

This does not mean I like to organize potlucks or game nights for the neighbourhood. Nor does it mean that I like to make travel arrangements for executives. It means that I like to take all the information and processes that I have and make order of it – in a way that makes things more productive and efficient.

I do this at work - it’s my job. I coordinate recruiting. I coordinate employee sessions. I coordinate the parking passes, the payroll, and pension planning.

I do this at home. I have kids: 9, 13, and 39. I coordinate evening routines. I coordinate family outings. I coordinate household expenses.

However, I’ve come to realize that my need to coordinate is like kryptonite to many.

To every supervisor, manager, and family member that asks me to do something or be somewhere – THEY are priority number one. They either fail to realize (or cease to care) that others may have similar requests.

My reaction is to sit back, take in the requests/ invites, lay them out like cards, and then sort through by priority and urgency. When pressed to commit to multiple meetings, projects, or Christmas dinners…my typical response is: I will have to get back to you. (And I do.)

Apparently this drives people mental.

I’ve been accused of waiting to see if I get a better offer, looking to cherry-pick work, or even procrastinate. I can make decisions quickly. In fact, once I know what the options are – I’m very quick to put things in order and make a call. And sometimes this means saying no.

What irks me, is that I don’t recall anyone complaining when the Bionic Woman stopped in mid-chase and asked those around her to wait a minute while she used her super-hearing to listen in to evil plots. So, why is it a big deal when I ask for the same so that I can employ my “super-power” to disseminate the chaos that is thrown my way?

I tell you, we superheroes...ummm...coordinators are seriously misunderstood.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Ridiculous and petty work-related vent

To the person who took my lunch from the fridge today.

I hope it sucked.

I say this because I don’t know how it was going to taste. I was determined to bring my lunch in today, but was running low on staples, but high on inspiration. So you were a guinea pig my dear friend. The rice/ spinach/onion concoction was a mash-up of what I thought might be good.

I have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to eating it. It didn’t look that appealing, but I balanced this against the nutritional value and my reluctance to pay ridiculous cafeteria prices.

Still, I cannot imagine that your lunch and hunger were that desperate. I saw much more appealing lunches that you could have taken. I considered it myself when I saw that I was Tupperware-less.

Pray that you don’t have spinach stuck in your teeth, because I will not hesitate to point it out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Giving the little black dress a new meaning…

I had the unpleasant task of conducting a termination today. I don’t enjoy them, but it needed to be done.

Shortly afterwards an employee stopped me in the hallway and asked, “Why do you always wear black on days when you do terminations?”

I answered, “Why do people always notice what I’m wearing only on days that I do terminations?”

For the record, I wear black every single day.

Based on the employee’s comment, this is not going to change anytime soon…maybe it will keep them guessing.

Potential confrontation averted

Yesterday a manager sat with me to go over a plan of action that he had put together regarding a difficult female employee. He knew what he wanted to achieve, had a good approach, and even had planned for follow-up.

He just needed a sounding board and I was happy to provide this. It’s part of my role. It’s what I’m trained to do.

At the end of our meeting, he said that he appreciated my insight as he wasn’t exactly sure how to approach this particular situation and that it would be good to get my perspective…as a woman.

I have to admit that I was stunned. The thoughts running through my head were something along the line of: “I did not work my ass off to get my education and then go through the incredibly painful and stress-inducing process of achieving my HR certification, not to mention trying to soak up and learn all I can about HR, only to have someone thank me for being a woman”. I mean, it’s not like he asked me what kind of flowers I should get her.

I went home that night and vented to my husband about this. It’s insulting I told him. Why couldn’t he say he appreciated my HR perspective? What an ass.

Now, I should add that the manager’s comment was sincere (or sounded that way) and I believe he meant it as a compliment. But it was still a slap.

I asked my husband, who has a female work partner. Would you ever tell her that she does her job well because she is woman and not because of abilities or training?

His answer: yes.

Really?!

Well yes, he explained. In some cases, the medical calls they deal with involve situations/ people that it makes much more sense to have a woman deal with (if forced to choose better a male or female), such as pregnant and/or distressed women. He then added that he handles the calls involving children, since he has two and his partner has none…he can relate better.

Oh.

This made me sit back and realize that the manager likely didn’t mean to disregard my other abilities, but just to say that he valued my perspective on a situation where he was concerned that he might not handle properly – me having the advantage of being a female. And he didn’t go to any other female manager/co-worker; he did come to HR.

I realized that I was being way too sensitive about the situation. But that’s probably because I’m in HR.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The plight of the serial applicant

Although not unique to my organization, we have a number of what I lovingly call “serial applicants”. These are the employees that apply to every internal job posting regardless of whether they are qualified or, quite frankly, interested in the job.

My observations:

If your sole modus operandi is the burning need to get the hell out of your current role because you hate the job/ your supervisor/ your co-workers and you are fixated to the point of paralysis on this fact – don’t bother - no one wants to take on someone else’s problem.

If you cannot be discrete and have made it your personal mission to tell anyone and everyone about your unhappiness and that you are planning on applying to any and all jobs – don’t bother – your lack of professionalism and productivity will have you blacklisted before you even walk into the interview room.

If you cannot bother to come into work on a regular basis, have had multiple performance-related discussion with your supervisor, and public spats with your co-workers – don’t bother, everyone knows about these issues….and you are probably the one who told them.

There are certain advantages to hiring an internal candidate. They know they company, reduced training needs, employee recognition, improved morale, and they are a known entity.

The disadvantage of being an internal candidate – you are a known entity. If you think that supervisors and/or managers are not comparing notes on who has the most challenging employee…think again. It’s a fact.

I struggle with the concept of interviewing all internal candidate when it is obvious that they are either not qualified to do the job (and qualifications are more than just technical skills) or will not be hired because of some of the reasons listed above.

Providing employees with the chance to apply to other internal opportunities is a good philosophy. Wasting everyone’s time when it’s just not going to happen…that’s not.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A rose by any other name...

I was visiting family over the Thanksgiving weekend (no I don’t have my dates wrong, in Canada it’s in October…shockers) and got to spend time with my teenage nephews.

This was incredibly entertaining. And when I say entertaining, I mean it in the way that you have wandered into a previously undiscovered jungle tribe and you are overwhelmed the absolute strangeness of it.

I was originally going to go off on a bit of a generational rant, but I won't because

a) it makes me sound ridiculously old and
b) I’m sure in my own way, during my own youth, I did the same damn thing.

Instead, after mulling it over a bit, it’s quite the opposite of a rant; I realize now that I've learned a whole new way to give a compliment.

It's true. The whole visit was mad sick.

Not just sick, but mad sick.

The experience was so inspiring that I'm considering infusing some of these terms into manager communications with their employees.

Imagine this as a snippet from a performance review:

Manager: Alright, we are going re-hash 2009
Employee: k
Manager: First off, you have mad skills when it comes to analyzing the issues. I’m serious. It’s sick the way you are able to meet all your targets for the year and not do any OT.
Employee: nice
Manager: And during the audits this year…it was completely stupid how you handled it. Bang on.
Employee: Thanks.
Manager: I’m serious – it was retarded.
Employee: wow - thanks.

Obviously this wouldn’t work for everyone, but I would love to for it to happen - just to see the look on the twenty-something’s face when his/her boss decides to ‘relate’.

I’m guessing that the look would be similar to the one that my nephews (and my own kids) gave me when I complimented my sister-in-law on the mad sick turkey dinner.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Catching up

this past weekend was a productive one, but not in the traditional sense. The laundry is still behind, I did very little cleaning, and although I now know how many weeds there are in the garden - I did nothing to fix the problem.

It was productive in the sense that I did some catching up with people. Friday evening I went to a movie with my sister-in-law...something I've been wanting to do for awhile. Saturday, the kiddies and I visited my grandma for the afternoon. Sunday, I had friends over and we calculated that it had been one full year since we last saw each other in person.

I am willing to admit that before each of the events I wanted to bail out. I have been very tired lately, and I was not in the mood to "socialize". Now, having completed them all, I am so glad that I hung in there.

I like "To Do" lists at work. I love crossing off items to know I've accomplished something. I realized that I need to carry over this attitude towards seeing people. Not making it an item on a "To See" list, but so I will have the satisfaction having made the effort to catch up with them.

Although these get-togethers were arranged about a week and a half ago, the timing could not have been better. This past week I attended a funeral for a former colleague of mine. He was 42 years and died completely unexpectedly. I won't create a false post-mortem relationship. He was a very nice person who tried very hard to please everyone around him - he would do anything to help people - sometimes to a fault. We were friends in the workplace and he did things that drove me mental; however, that is worst thing I can say about him. It goes without saying that he will be missed, by me and many others.

As is want to happen with tragic circumstances, I took stock of my relationships and realized that while I'm not about to change how and who I interact with, I did think twice about postponing my next get-together...you just never know.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Do as I say?!

At the moment, attendance management is a big issue at work. The key issue is that it is not being managed. It is tolerated, ignored, and then complained about by the managers. The employees - well, they are doing what they feel they are allowed to (or can get away with, in some cases).

As a result, the managers are living with the consequence of not having communicated clear expectations to the employees. They cannot very well follow-up or dole out reprimands when they never set our expectations. I can just imagine what the first employee that will be hauled into his or her manager’s office will say…”I didn’t realize….you never said anything…I thought you meant…”

This morning I was a witness to this very kind of phenomenon.

We have a trampoline and my son has a tendency to run outside in bare feet or socks, jump around, and then run back in. You can imagine the state of his feet when he returns into the house.

To preempt dirty footprints on the floor, my husband called out to my son - “make sure you are not running out with anything other than shoes on your feet to go to the trampoline”.

My son is no dummy, but he stood frozen at the door. After an awkward few seconds, I quietly added, “Please wear shoes when you go to the trampoline”. Comprehension showed on his face, he put on his shoes and he ran outside.

We essentially said the same thing, but I made it perfectly clear what I expected him to do in a way that he understood.

How much of our “employee communications” can say the same?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's in a name?

I’ve recently been inspired by a 101 Things in 1001 days initiative that a local woman has put together for herself. She is trying to try/do 101 things in (can you guess) 1001 days.

Personally, I like this because these things can be anything, not just big inspirational moves like solve world hunger or single-handedly sew up the hole in the ozone layer. We are talking every day things like, “make home-made pasta”, “learn to knit”, and other such things. And yes, these are two of my 101s.

I figured it would be fairly easy to get a good list going. After two days, I’ve hit 20 items. 20. Only twenty. Well, make that 21 since making a list of 101 things is now one of my goals.

I was amazed at my lack of imagination and ambition. Hmmm… #22 – Improved imagination, #23 – Increase motivation.

Seriously though, one of my goals was to become even more techno-savy than I am. I know, after all my experience blogging, twittering, and updating a status on my Facebook account every 2 months, you would think there wasn’t much more for me to learn, but there is. And so, I have blindly agreed to be the webmaster for my community association.

Do I have any experience mastering a web? No.

So why do it? Well, first…because I never have. And I need to get out there and do things I never have. My lack of items on my list is evidence of this.

The second reason for taking on this challenge….because it sounds so damn cool to say I’m a webmaster. Honestly, it has to be one level below overlord, isn’t it?

BTW - #5...blog at least once a week...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

HR Anonymous

Hello, my blogger name is Corporate Daycare and I’m a HR Professional. I have a confession to make. I hate recruiting.

There.

I’ve said it.

This admission was inspired by another HR individual who recently stated as much. It was such a relief though to hear someone else say this because I had this sneaking suspicion that I was slowly becoming an imposter in the HR role.

There seems to be a big plug that HR is ALL about recruiting. It is your raison d’être, your mission, your purpose. Everything else is just administrative work or should be outsourced.

Of course if your role is a recruiter – well, you better like it. However, when it’s only an aspect of your role though, not so much.

Do I do recruiting? Yes, of course – it’s part of my job. So is filing. So is showing up every day at 7:30am. Ask me how I feel about those aspects…

I consider myself a good parent. I love my kids. I take their health and happiness very seriously – it’s one of my greatest pleasures to know they have had a great start in life. I did most of what I could to provide for them – good foods, lots of sleep, reading to them, spend time with them. And to start off this process, I chose to breastfeed them.

And I hated it.

Yes, I am willing to admit that this parental raison d’être, this motherly mission, this natural purpose… well, it sucked (sorry). I am not proud of this, but neither am I ashamed. I would not deter anyone from trying, but I will not pretend I liked it either.

So, does this make me less of a parent? Of course not.

So, why would I be considered less of an HR for not liking an aspect of my role?
In my mind, I’m not.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Connectivity and Productivity

I worked from home today, not because I was looking for a day of lounging on the deck or watching tv while I scanned emails. I actually worked the entire time. Well okay, I did stop for lunch.

We are working diligently on our pandemic planning, which includes the possibility of social distancing - having people work from home.

My role is such that I should be in the office. I'm there for the people, right? So any opportunity that I might have to work from home will be the result of me contracting H1N1 or some natural disaster such as more than 1m of snow falling over night. Actually, that wouldn't even stop me.

So with my manager's blessing, I stayed home to ensure that I had the connectivity that I needed to do my job. Better to find it out the issues now, when there is no emergency, than in the actual situation.

What I've discovered is that I have almost everything I need here to do my job, with one very obvious group of things missing that actually helped me to be more productive. The people.

The key to my productivity is social distancing!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

HR by Maybelline

My morning routine of getting ready for work consists of the usual – showering, dressing, eating breakfast, doing my hair, and then last but not least, putting on make-up.

Now I’m relatively low-maintenance in this department – mostly out of laziness and not out some principle of natural beauty. It literally takes me minutes and I’m done.

Yesterday it took a few more minutes than usual…

Interesting fact #1: to put on mascara, you have to inhibit your need to blink and then completely focus on putting a wand millimeters from your eyeball while staring in the mirror.

Interesting fact#2: If you get caught by an unexpected sneeze while putting on mascara, three things can happen: you poke your eye with the wand, the mascara meant for your lashes spatters on your eyelid and the area under your eyes, and you basically have to start all over.

Today at work I had an eerie sense of déjà-vu…over the past few weeks, I have been so focused on a particular situation in one of departments (I don’t even think I was blinking), that I was not prepared for the unexpected “sneeze” that hit me.

Now I didn’t end up with an I-went-to-bed-drunk-without-taking-my-makeup-look to deal with, but it was equally unattractive. Like my morning mishap, the only viable option was to clean-up and start over, but this time with more awareness of what else is going on around me.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Associations

So I was biking on the weekend with my son. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon.

This is a snippet of our conversation:

My son: You’ve got grey hair
Me: Yes, I know.
My son: That means you’re old.
Me: Actually, I’ve had grey hairs since I was in high school
[Meditative pause]
My son: Wow. You’ve been old for a long time.

This made me think of a situation at work and how we associate one thing with another.

I have a supervisor that is prepping to do a termination. She is an emotional person at the best of times and this certainly isn’t the best. She is paranoid that she will not be able to get through the termination without getting upset, particularly if the employee does as well. I asked her why she thought this would be so terrible. Her words, “it would show I’m weak”.

Really?

Okay, granted completely breaking down in a termination meeting, when you are the one doing the terminating is not the most professional thing to do and may send mixed messages to the departing employee, but is it really weakness to show some sign of emotion in the face of someone else’s distress.

I don’t get upset in these meetings, but then I don’t have the same rapport that exists between a supervisor and employee. I don’t enjoy these meetings; however, it is part of business and my goal is to ensure that it’s done properly and that the employee is treated fairly and respectfully to the very end.

So, I don’t get emotional – does that make me a stronger person?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Addendum

Had I read this (Post on confusion), I might not have made my previous entry.

Still not a fan of non-fiction.

Moral quandary

I’m an avid reader and since finishing my studies, I have been averaging a book a week. I’m a fiction kind of gal, mostly by preference, and as a result of the aforementioned studies, by necessity.

With a few exceptions, which have inspired and motivated me, I’ve generally felt disappointed or frustrated with non-fiction. In these instances, as with the book I’m currently reading, I’m forced to look around at my reality and decide whether I’m satisfied with what I see. I’m reading Three Cups of Tea and while I have no desire to suddenly uproot my life to go build schools for the poverty-stricken and isolated children in Afghanistan, I look at what I’m doing and think…is this it?

An admitted creature (but not slave) of habit, I drag my butt out of bed at the same time each morning, drive the same one hour commute, walk into my office and prep for each and every work day with pretty much the same routine. While there are often “exciting” moments (see previous entries), 80% of my job involves some form of paper-pushing. One can argue that there is always a value to a job – and being in HR, that’s part of my job (selling the value of a job), but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a rewarding experience.

Approaching my two year mark in my job (my original time frame for staying here), I am now mulling over whether I should concentrate on finding a role at the “next level” (ie. more responsibility, more pay), or whether it would be better to seek something that would offer me more of a sense of value and contribution. And then I wonder, do these have to be mutually exclusive?

I like the expression, “find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”…it’s a wonderful concept, but how does it pay?

And lest anyone remember my ealier point that your job does not equal your life...I know. I'm not contradicting myself - I'm exploring the other side of the arguement.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Perceptions of HR

I was told today by one of our supervisors that one of her employees is slowly coming unhinged. The employee revealed to the supervisor, among many other bizarre concerns, that every time she sees me walk by her office she feels like I’m going to fire her.

Mental note to self: stop making throat cutting gestures to this employee…she apparently doesn’t get the joke.

*Sigh*

Monday, June 29, 2009

What happens in Oz, stays in Oz

Update:

When I last left you hanging, my Executive's (lack of) integrity case had escalated to the CEO. Well, we all know the saying “what goes up, must come down”.... In this case, it didn’t come down quite as hard as I anticipated which was good since I was mentally crouched in a corner awaiting the bomb to drop.

To summarize, I was told that while it was understood that I had to do my job, I needed to learn about the “corporate flow” and that if things are under control, there is no reason to magnify a situation.

What I heard: Listen up little girl – pull this shit again and I won’t be so “understanding” of you doing your job. What happens in Oz, stays in Oz.

I remain unapologetic for making the decision to do what I did.
This, incidentally, was the right thing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sometimes doing your job is the hardest thing to do.

The past few weeks have been extremely challenging.

The eternally optimistic part of me thinks: what fantastic learning opportunities you’ve just been through. Think of the growth. Think of the experience.

The other 95% of me thinks: what the hell did I get myself into?

One of our company’s core values is Integrity and recently, I was put in a position when I had to demonstrate mine by calling out a VP on his.

I won’t lie – I lost sleep over this one. There was just no way this situation was going to end with a group hug (which is probably good considering I’m vehemently against group hugs).

I approached the VP about the fact that I recognize that while he may be coming from a good place, his message and questionable tactics regarding a required designation exam that some employees are taking, have left me and some employees (that came to me) feeling…well…very uncomfortable. To say the least.

After speaking to the VP, I then updated my manager, who does not work in this office, about the situation. My manager supported me completely with how I handled this.

It has since escalated to the CEO’s attention and I am in limbo waiting to see what the fallout, if any, there will be.

Despite knowing there may be a storm heading (or at least a severe cold front), I have been able to sleep every night since I took action.

Friday, June 12, 2009

You've been here how many years?!

Yesterday was my and my husband’s 15th wedding anniversary. Yeah us!

Although traditionalists in many sense, we do not get overly hung up on milestones or feel the need to attach a dollar value to these milestones. I don’t even know what the traditional/modern anniversary gifts are. (Incidentally, 15 years is crystal/ watches…of course I looked it up).

Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries …I’m pretty low-maintenance. I would prefer one sign that shows me you put some thought into recognizing the day (even if it’s just a card) and I’m good.

With that in mind, we thought the best way to recognize the day was to spend some time together, and not in a scripted “this is what you have to do on your anniversary” fashion, but in a way that best reflects us. If booking a babysitter, getting dressed-up, and going out for a candlelight dinner is your thing…fill your boots. It’s not mine though.

So I cringe at the idea of having an employee recognition program that is so utterly uniform, not only within our office, but also from year to year, so that I believe it has now lost its value and purpose.

We provide the employees with a letter of recognition and a chocolate (and not just any chocolate, but a particular chocolate that is the same in all our offices) on their anniversary. If it’s a milestone anniversary, they are offered the opportunity to choose one of a limited amount of pre-selected gifts.

How these gifts are presented varies more based on the manager’s style than on the employee’s preference. Some are left on their desk for them to find when they arrive in the morning – others are given to them in front of the entire group in a surprise meeting.

The sad fact is that this has become a process that has no meaning to those on either side of the desk. The employees see it as a token, not recognition. The managers see it as another annual duty that they have to do, up there with performance evaluations.

Creating a recognition program that matches every single employee’s need would be a nightmare, but surely there are better ways of saying “Thank you for all your hard work and for being part of us for x years”.

My suggestion is that actually having someone take the time to say these words, face-to-face, would be a good start. After that, you can decide whether a bobble-head of the World’s Best Employee or a gift certificate at the spa is more appropriate.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Putting the fun back into HR

I woke thinking today was Friday.

Imagine my irritation when I discovered it wasn't. To compensate for this confusion, I decided to have a little fun at work...because I'm all about fun in HR.

I decided to answer any question that began with or was similar to "what do we do with someone who..." or "how should we handle so-and-so, who has/is/will...."

My answer: we fire them

I'm not sure about the people asking the questions, but I'm getting a kick out of it.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Would the real issue please stand up and be acknowledged

As with many people, I'm constantly striving to do better in all aspects of my life. One of these is eating more "real" food and less processed. I'm not on any hardcore bandwagon, but it's just a decision to stay away from processed food as much as possible, with the hope that I will feel better and possibly slim down a bit.

Of course, we still stock some of these offenders at home since my kids would likely file for emancipation should I choose to stop buying Cheez Whiz or chips.

And then last night, I found myself with a wicked craving for something sweet.

Good news: I passed on the box of Oreos that dared me to eat just one.
Bad News: I made a sugar pie from scratch. (Honestly, I only had one piece!)

It was a lot of work for a passing craving and I'm wondering if avoiding the processed food really dealt with the real issue.

This brings me to a situation at work:

We are recruiting for a administrative support position (again). This role reports to a particular manager that is, at best, difficult to work with/for. At worst, she's controlling, insulting, and in complete denial of the impact of her actions.

Good news: Executives have acknowledged that this manager is having a negative impact on the group and that something needs to be done about it.

Bad news: They are re-distributing the workload of this particular admin position so that they person won't have to work solely with this manager.

Again, I'm faced with a lot of work being done and the real issue not being acknowledged.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I’m not a HR representative, but I do the work of one.

Okay, On the waves of another blog conversation, I wanted to share my thoughts on people's identity being based on their jobs/work.

Over at L’enfer, c’est les autres, HRD makes a very articulate and logical argument on why people are so associated (and fixated) on what they are, in terms of a profession. Laurie, on the hand, stands on the other side of the fence, stating “we work for money”. (And yes, for the sake of keeping this short, I'm simplifying their views.)

At some point and time I’ve felt both ways.

Pushed to make a call though, I think there is an over-emphasis on finding your “calling”. Personally, I feel that as long as you and your employer value your work, you are doing okay.

You don't have to be passionate about your job to be successful or fulfilled. What's more important is that if you aren't getting that from your work (and good for you if you are), find it elsewhere...stop expecting your employer to fill that void.

We typically ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. I would love to hear one say, “a mature adult that takes responsibility for my actions and accepts the consequences for said actions.” That's something to be.

More often the answer is something like a teacher or an astronaut.

Would it not be better to ask, what do you want to do when you are older? Then the pool of options becomes bigger and more interesting.

You like to teach people? Well you can do that through a wide range of opportunities. You like science and to explore? Again, the possibilities of where you can do this are endless. And it doesn't have to be through a paid job.

Why make the profession the focus? It's only a portion of what you will do with your life.

Investing so much in the equation of "your job = who you are" can be a dangerous and potentially self-defeating prospect.

Enjoy your work, if you can, but more importantly recognize that this is only part of your life.

Friday, May 22, 2009

(Non)Sense of entitlement

Over the past few months, our office has sent out communiqués regarding the following topics:

- Department re-organization
- Pandemic planning and concerns regarding the swine flu
- Changes to our benefits
- A number of “so-and-so is no longer employed here…we wish them the best in their future endeavours”

And what was the response from the employees? Little to nothing.
Even the crickets didn’t bother making noise.

Yesterday, I sent out a communiqué indicating that since we had a potential client (read: potential business) coming into our office on Friday, we ask that employees be more selective in their choice of casual clothing.

And what was the response from the employees? Absolute indignation. I had emails and phone calls and drop-ins. All with the same message: “How dare you?” Followed up with, “So can I wear my jeans?”

My answers to these questions became progressively more sarcastic and blunt as the afternoon wore on. I finished up with the recommendation that it would have been much, much easier to just cancel “Jean Day” this week.

So I have to ask: at what point does an employee perk transition into a right?

What is the statute of limitations? I need to know this so that we can randomly revoke these perks before they become rights. Oh sure, we will re-instate them after a brief interlude, but with an eye on that date.

As an alternative, I’m thinking of negotiating perks with the employees. Sure you can wear jeans tomorrow, but as a result, we will be removing the free coffee machine from the kitchen.

At the risk of sounding hung-up on the workplace dress code (and I’m not, I just cannot believe how much time and effort is wasting dealing with it), I feel that maybe the message of why we truly go to our jobs every day has been lost.

I know I go to work to do a job so that I can be paid for it. I also realize that by doing my job, I am helping the company achieve its goals and hopefully be profitable.

I do not do go to work so that I can have free coffee and wear jeans one day a week. If I can have theses, it’s a perk – not a requirement.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Is this thing on?!

Okay, so I am very aware that in reality that number of people that read my blog is quite limited, the potential, however, is quite mind-boggling. And because of this, when I share personal and professional stories, I make some minor modifications to protect the innocent and ignorant.

Today I witnessed a lesson in what happens when you forget this and pull a complete and utter boner. Here's the scenario:

An employee recently went off on medical leave.

The reason he told his manager - a physical ailment.

The reason he told his co-workers - he is f-king tired of doing his job and didn't want to be stuck covering during a staff shortage. The manager got wind of this and is none to pleased, but with a medical certificate on file, it's a waiting game. And hearsay.

In the last two days, the employee has been calling in to his colleagues to ask how work is going, what's new, and to subtlety rub it in that he's not there.

The kicker came today when an employee from another department approached the employee-on-leave's manager to share what's been posted on Facebook.

Apparently, the physical ailment that's preventing the employee from returning to work has not prevented him from posting as a status: "F-ck my job which eats sh-t". This employee has no less than 15 employees as FB Friends.

The colleagues aren't impressed (since they have to cover his work), the manager isn't impressed because he's being played (and is taking it personally), and I'm not impressed either because it's created a lot of drama. And I can do without the drama.

What blows my mind is the fact that this person posted this as a status.
To people he works with.
On the INTERNET.


The fall-out will be interesting to say the least. The manager, despite his initial flip-out where he barged into my office advising me of all that is evil about this employee, is backing down and said that if he had known that bringing the phone calls and FB thing to me would have caused a problem - he wouldn't have mentioned it.

My response - "What did you expect me to do with this information?"

The manager replied, "I was just venting".

Right...venting.
With a print screen of FB.

Your thoughts?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Door number one, door number two, or door number three?

This is going to be short and sweet - just like the advice I gave out today. And no, I'm not professing to be a career expert.

You always have a choice.
You just may not like your choices.

I sat with an employee that had received a written warning last week and couldn't get past the fact that it was, well, in writing. The report was properly done, this wasn't a surprise, and the meeting with the supervisor went as well as can be expected.

Still, he couldn't get past the fact that it was there, in black in white. A permanent addition to his file.

My advice, for what it was worth, was to stop fixating on a piece of paper and to make a decision to improve the situation.

Essentially, now that you've found yourself in this situation - what choice will you make? Improve, tread water, or whine & decline?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

And that concludes today's lesson

Spring is often considered a time of new beginnings, rejuvenation, and births.

Despite my previous post, this accurately describes how I am feeling about my situation. I wrote the certification exam this morning and I feel like I can now resume my regularly scheduled life.

I'm not keen on announcing that I've written it because of the obvious follow-up questions: how do you think you did...and then later, have you received your marks? It was a very, very challenging exam for me and I'm drained - partially from the actual exam, but mostly from the prepping. I truly do not know how I did (and I'm not one of those people the feign ignorance when they know they kicked ass). I really don't know.

In fact, at this very moment - it doesn't matter. I know that in both the short and long-term...it does, but for now, no.

Why? Because I can rejoin the land of the living, go outside, read for pleasure...ahhh how I've missed my books, not feel guilty because I'm not studying, not feel guilty because I'm ignoring my kids so that I can study.

Absolute blissful relief.

Of course, in a matter of weeks I will ramp up in anticipation, but I've already decided that I've learned a great deal from this exam. About the material. About me as an HR person. About the fact that it had less to do with the kind of critical incidents you find yourself in and more about how you deal with them when you're there. And about the fact that I still disagree with the idea of having to pick not only the best, but also the worst answer on how to solve a problem.

I take inspiration from HR Minion's recent good news and hope that I too can say the same. Otherwise, it's a guaranteed solid month of whining.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spring is sprung

It must be Spring.

The kids don't want to do work - their main focus on being anywhere but the classroom. Homework...why bother. They are counting down until summer vacation.

Also, they are trying to get away with wearing flip flops and shorts already. The spring giddiness is contagious and all forms of oral communication have increased significantly in volume.

Giggling is at an all time high. Hair tossing too.

So I go to work and...um...have to go through the same damn things.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dirty Laundry

So I typically take care of the laundry in my household. As far as "chores" go, I really don't mind. Besides, there are only so many "accidental" sweater shrinkings that I can handle.

After the last chaptick ran through the dryer (incidentally heat + wax + clothing = mess) I made it perfectly clear to all that I would be checking any and all pockets in clothing. This meant that if there was anything that people didn't want me to find, it better be gone by the time the clothing item was in the laundry basket.

And I feel that this concept lends itself very nicely to the workplace. If you don't want people to find out crap about you, don't bring it to work.

Don't attempt to negotiate a better custody arrangement with your ex over the phone...even if it's lunchtime.

Don't use the photocopier to create a paper trail for your upcoming personal tax audit ('cause you KNOW you'll leave something on the glass).

And for god's sake, "I was sick" is a completely appropriate and complete answer to "how are you"...I DO NOT need to know the extent of all your issues.

My point is that you need to clean our your pockets before you come to work. Besides, if I need to start sorting through dirty laundry - you just never know what I'll find.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

When life hands you lemons...

I have a tendency to mull things over a bit, which is why I'm only now posting about it.

Everyone once in awhile you hear something that absolutely resonates with you. Perhaps it applies to what you are currently going through or maybe it's that elusive thing that you were looking for to describe what you went through.

I've found both in a simply phrase and philosophy shared by HRD..."embrace the suck". I'll just let you read it since he says it best.

Honestly, it's good advice both to live by and to give.

When life hands you lemons, you can try and make lemonade. However, some days, it's just as good an idea to accept the fact that you have a bunch of lemons and move on.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sigh.

This is a repost of one of my older musings. My son is now nine, but a recent discussion with him made me think of this conversation. I still don't have an answer for him


I’m teaching my son how to play chess and he has picked up the concepts very quickly.

He takes a long time to think about his moves, which is a good thing in chess (not so much when it comes to picking out a gum flavour at the store).

During the game last night, he spent more than a few minutes studying the board and double-checking with me how each piece can maneuver.

Finally, he looked up and asked why the King is the most important piece when all of the other pieces do the fighting, moving, and sacrificing (his new word of the week). He added, the King doesn’t really do anything – it can only move one space at a time and without protection it will get killed. So, how come it’s the most important?

(Silence)

I debated how to answer this one since six seems awfully young to be jaded.
I told him that’s just how the game goes.

He’ll find out soon enough that it’s also how life can be.

Especially in the work world

Mentorship: the blind dating of the workplace

I've been known to give things a try that I'm skeptical about. Like sushi and the Tomb Raider roller coaster at Wonderland.

As it turns out, I really like sushi.
The roller coaster...not so much.

So, it was with some skepticism that I signed up for a mentorship program through an HR organization. In principle I believe in and like the concept of mentors. What I had a hard time with is the "blind-date" aspect of this program.

You listed what you were looking for and where you are in your career. They provide you with information on mentors, who have filled in the same information.

This smacks of the pre-screening I do on a daily basis - and it has a purpose, you eliminate the definite no-nos. The problem is, in recruiting, I generally call the remaining candidates and even meet with some of them to further determine whether there is a fit.

In this program, there is none of that.

You potentially get matched up with one of the five mentors that you've selected based on two or three lines of credentials. If you're lucky - it works out. If you're unlucky - not so much. If you're me...it's ok.

I was fortunate to be paired with a nice woman who certainly has more HR experience than me, but maybe had different expectations from this program. In her, I've gained a good contact, someone I would call to ask a question. What I was looking for was more guidance, coaching...you know, Obi-won/Luke kind of rapport.

The key to me is that there needs to be a good rapport. And this is where workplace mentorships fail.

Matching an employee up with a more senior person or manager, regardless of whether the person is technically and managerially a good fit on paper, is not likely to go far.

Yes it needs to be based on respect and professionalism, but there needs to be some common ground. Whether it's outside interests, a sense of humour, or even working styles, or even being completely opposites...you need a connection.

And to make matters worse, there's little to no spontaneity. It's scheduled meetings, it's regulated, it's formal, and sometimes forced.

Let's face it, you could get fixed up with what your best friend says is the "perfect guy". He's everything that you said you wanted and more. But, if there's no spark, what difference does it make if he meets all your requirements.

Would you insist on continuing to meet with him...to schedule regular dates, to discuss pre-agreed upon topics, and to miss out on opportunities with other potentially better suited guys because of this arrangement.

Simple answer: no.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Celery soup for the bottom line

I make a mean celery soup. I am not exaggerating.

My kids and husband rave about it every time I make it.
Honestly – they love it. And vegetables are practically kryptonite at my house.

This is a made from scratch, all natural ingredients kind of soup.
De-lish.

One evening that I wanted to make it, I realized that I didn’t have any spinach. Figuring that since the main ingredients were celery (hence the name) and leeks, I thought that substituting lettuce wouldn’t have a big impact. It didn’t. In fact, they liked it better, which is good since generally lettuce is cheaper and more likely to be found in our crisper.

Another time, I didn’t have actual chicken broth, so I substituted water with one of those chicken bouillon in a cube deals. No one even noticed.

Last night however, I had only three of the necessary ingredients…celery, leeks, and an apple. I used plain water; I threw in fresh parley for the leafy greens, and skipped the cream.

It was okay.
We ate it, but there was definitely less love for this soup.
Oh who am I kidding - it sucked.

Where am I going with this?

With all the cuts and cost-effective measures being put into place, you may still be able to provide a product or service, but you need to make sure that what you are cutting isn’t going to impact the final result.

There are likely many aspects of business that can be paired down, roles that can be eliminated, budgets that can be tightened, but if you take it too far you risk losing what it was that attracted customers to it in the first place.

Go slow, be thoughtful, and evaluate the impact before you take it too far. You may still have the main ingredients on hand; however, you cannot discount the importance of the secondary ones…the spices…the flavours…

A bad batch may happen, but if it becomes the norm - you can expect people to start turning away.

I mean, watered down, flavourless soup is truly unappetizing. (Just ask my kids). In the same vain, so is a weakened service or a shoddy product.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Don't ask the question if you don't want to hear the answer

So I had this good friend in junior high/high school. We liked similar music, read the same authors, and just hung out together. He was one of my best buds and despite some people’s assumptions – we did not like each other “that way”. In fact, he would ask me my thoughts on girls that he liked and I would tell him stuff about them that generally guys wouldn’t know (I know, I know, I probably broke some cardinal “girl” rule…that’s probably why I hung out with guys).

One day I crossed the line though. I asked him for his feedback.

Some fifteen odd years later, I would like to apologize to him for my reaction and rant. I sincerely hope that I did not scar him or have a negative impact on how he dealt with women, as he got older.

I asked him how he would describe my looks. After a few minutes of mulling over his answer, he said, “cute”.

I freaked out. I ranted and raved that bunny rabbits were cute, kittens were cute, smiley faces were cute, kittens with smiley faces and exaggerated pupils were cute. I did not want to be in the same category as these things.

At this point, I’m sure it dawned on him that he said the wrong thing, but he probably had no idea what he should have said.

I can imagine that he thought – “crap, what do I say that won’t hurt her feelings, but won’t make it seem like I’m into her. Is this a trick question? What does she want me to say? Beautiful? No, too old-fashion. Sexy? Gawd no. Pretty…hmm maybe, I know… cute. Cute is safe.”

Sigh.

In retrospect, it was a bit of a trick question since, although I asked, I didn’t ask someone who was in the right position to answer (he was a bud) and because I wasn’t really ready to hear the answer.

This can be said about seeking feedback at work. In order for the feedback to be genuine and helpful, you have to consider two things – the source and your willingness to hear it.

Asking for performance feedback from someone who does not evaluate your work, know exactly what you do, or is in direct competition with you is useless…or at the very least, it doesn’t provide you with an accurate picture.

Feedback needs to come from someone who can step back and speak honestly.

And you have to be willing to hear it. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know. Seriously. If you are looking for hand-outs, ask your coworker that sits beside you and doesn’t want to “rock the office boat”. She’ll tell you that you are doing a great job.

Want to know how you really are doing – ask the end user. Ask the person in billing that you have to provide information to, ask the manager that you do research/reports for. Ask someone that will give you concrete examples of what you are or are not doing and then be prepared to listen.

Getting feedback is only part of the process - doing something with it is the other.

(Oh and the only correct answer to my question, would have been the 80s version of “hot”…which if memory serves me would have be “a babe” or even “schwing”.)

Monday, April 06, 2009

Take your time

Today I sat with a supervisor to help her prep for some difficult conversations with some employees. I helped her develop some talking points, which she seemed a bit surprised to have me suggest. I think she felt that she should justhave a general idea and then wing it.

Why?

When my kids are preparing for a 3-5 minute speech, it takes no less that two weeks of work. There's the picking of the topic, the researching, creating a point form of what to say, the first draft, the second draft, the mom-corrected draft, the back to the way I had it draft, then final version, the cue card version, the memorizing, the practising in front of the mirror, the practising in front of mom and dad, back to the mirror, back to mom and dad. Then the big day.

All for 3-5 minutes of talking.

So what happens to us as we grow up? Why not invest even half this effort in what we are trying to say.

In HR we often have to deliver not-so-good news. Sometimes it's really crappy news, as in "effective immediately" and then there's performance issue kind of news.

In any case, it's important to take the time to plan what you are going to say, prep some words, and rehearse...it's in your best interest in terms of delivering the message you want and in their best interest, so that there isn't any miscommunication and you aren't left backpeddling saying, "that didn't come out right..."

We are busy people. Sometimes we don't have the luxury of weeks, multiple drafts, and mom and dad's feedback, but when you can take the time or help someone else take the time to prepare...it can make all the difference.

Might as well do it right the first time.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The customer may not always be right, but you better have a smile on your face when you tell me I'm not

Despite the snarky title, this is a feel good post. Well, it is for me.
I've just returned from 14 glorious days away from the office - 5 of them in a car to and fro home to Florida and 9 of them relaxing in warm, sunny Florida.

I was so relaxed that I took all the emails, mail, and problems that were waiting for me in stride. No problem - I'll get to it. You need to talk to me now? Come on in. Of course I was exhausted by the end of the day since I didn't get my daily nap and the coffee sucks at work. But that's okay.

My trip was for pleasure, not business, and yet I found myself going into HR mode. Or so I thought it was HR mode, until I realized it was more of "hello...? can I get some common courtesy over here please".

Honestly, for a State that is dependant on oranges and tourism, you would think there would be some more love going around. Initially I was complaining that people were rude, but then I realized that rude is a conscious behaviour - it requires thought and premeditation. The people we were dealing with just didn't care. Period. This ranged from gas stations (btw, what the hell with all the prepaying your gas deal...omigod...and one price for cash and another for credit...what the hell?), restaurants, Walmarts (don't even get me started on this experience), bike shops, retail stores...the whole gamut. Zombies.

My first reaction was to ask : "do you like your job? 'cus it doesn't really show", but it was apparent that would have no impact. Over and over we were robotically told how much we owed and handed the bill - no greetings,no interactions. I considered it an upscale place if the employee didn't a) bitch to their coworker about not getting their vacation approved (this is the Walmart experience) or talking on their cell phone the entire time.

My second reaction was to think like I do at work. How did this person get hired? Why is this type of performance tolerated? What type of training do they do here that gives these people the impression that this is acceptable? Does anyone care about this?

I don't like to automatically blame a parent for their child's behaviour since I'm a parent myself, but ultimately you have some influence in that realm. So when I see employees behaving badly, I'm thinking...what kind of supervisor do they have.

Customer service, client relations, whatever you want to call it. They people you put in these roles are the face and voice of your company, your department, and yes Manager...you. If you are the one that hired, trained, and evaluated them..then they are a reflection of your abilities. If you choose to ignore the problem and hope that they grow out of it - then shame on you.

As long as they work under your roof, they should be following your rules, your example, and your expectations. Have you made this clear? Do they know what these are? Are you prepared to deal with handing out consequences?

Let me sum it up, Customer Service isn't just important, it's everything.

(And just so I don't blanket the whole State of Florida...we had THE most wonderful, fabulous waitress at a dinner. She received a very well deserved tip)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Working with biases

One of the most challenging aspects of HR is dealing with perceptions. Of course everyone has this challenge, but in HR you are suppose to be bias-free and follow some key rules (or at least rumour has it):

HR supports employees, supervisors, managers, and executives alike.
Equally. All the time.

HR does not judge people based on their work ethic (or lack thereof), their position, their interoffice relationships, or their personality.

HR cares about everyone and everything.

HR deals with the touchy-feely, mother-hen stuff

HR people are extroverts & social butterflies

I have concerns with these perceptions. I have concerns about being able to live up to these expectations. No, let me rephrase that…I am not able to live up to these expectations. I will not live up to these expectations.

I thought that one of my shortcomings in the world of HR is the fact that I’m in my late-30s and just new to the HR area. I’ve worked 15 years on the other side of the desk and only recently managed to move my ass to the other side. I’m slowly making the transition from the theoretical to the practical (and impractical) applications of HR.

However, I’ve come to realize that my 15 years of non-HR work is one of my assets. You see, I know what it feels like to have my requests ignored, to receive incredibly ambiguous answers to direct questions, to scratch my head in confusion over the recruitment process, to complain about the futility of performance reviews (see previous blog post for more details on this one), and to feel betrayed when my confidential vent became common knowledge.

And like my vow to not repeat the “mistakes” that my parents made, I pledged to not make the “mistakes” that my HR people made.

Of course, like my vow to not repeat the “mistakes” that my parents made, I have made some of the “mistakes” that my HR people made.
Sometimes unintentionally.
Sometimes intentionally.

Why? Because like parenting, you never truly understand the scope of the job until you have to do it yourself.

As a parent, I now realize that “because I said so…” is a completely valid response to my child’s complaint. And as an HR-er I realize that “well it depends…” is a completely valid response to just about any question thrown at me.

My perception of what was HR and what I could do was fairly realistic; however, for every work experience I brought with me, I also brought my baggage.

I have a low tolerance for people that do not accept responsibility for their actions, I believe in accountability, I believe in being honest and direct, I am not a big fan of the social committee, I believe that HR is a part of driving the business, not just a safety net for fallen employees and due diligence.

So when an employee comes to me with an issue that they are having with either a colleague or their supervisor and not only do they not see themselves as part of the problem, but they expect me to fix it, my “cares about everyone and everything” credo takes a nosedive.

When a manager repeatedly avoids dealing with an employee that is performing poorly, refuses to document anything, and then gives the employee a positive performance review. I can and will judge them on their inability to do their job. And I will have a hard time supporting their decision to can the person.

Fortunately, I am finding and talking to more and more HR people that are like minded. They are business first, but they balance this with humanism. Human resources are resources, but they are still human.

A former colleague of mine once commented that he was surprised I was going into HR. In his words, “you are so not a people person”.

Personally, I think it is because of this quality that I am doing well in HR.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Reviewing performance reviews

This may not be a newsflash for some people; however, it may be novel to hear an HR person say that performance reviews suck.

There are many reasons why they aren't worth the time, effort, and standardized forms they are printed on. It could be the lack of training for managers on how to present them, it could be the employees' lack of understanding on how to interpret them, it could be the format, or it could even be time of year they are done.

All of the reasons above are true, but there's still something bigger.

The real issue is that performance reviews are after the fact.

By the time you sit down with your employee to go over what went well and what didn't, it's over and done with. You can pepper the review with fantastic evidence and examples, but it's in the past. And if you are like many managers, you probably aren't able to reference past November, unless it was a doozy of a mistake, in which case you over-fixate on this issue.

The truth of the matter is that the performance review is more about and for the manager than the employee.

It's true.

In many instances, the manager fills in the review form based on the components of the job that are most important to them. They then recall examples of the good, the bad, and the ugly based on their recollection (or worse, based on what others told them) of the employees performance. They may also take this opportunity to over document concerns that may help justify a potential termination in the near future.

Recently I sent out a reminder to managers that they should be scheduling the performance reviews and goal setting sessions for their employees. I went out on a limb and suggested that they provide the completed forms to their employees before the meetings so that they had a chance to review them and so that they can to the meeting with their own comments.

One manager called me on this - he said, "I can't give them their performance review before...what if they misinterpret what's written there? What if they share it with others? By the time the last person gets into the meeting room, they will be primed and pumped to go".

My first thought was "paranoid much". My second was, what are you putting in the performance review that has the potential to be so misunderstood and could serve as such potent fuel? If you are being honest with the person, and have been throughout the year, then there should be no surprises - only confirmations.

But herein lies the problem..."throughout the year".

Getting feedback, whether it's positive or negative, once a year is pitiful and insulting. It's like having to participate in a stupid secret Santa gift exchange at the Christmas potluck. You hate doing it, but know you have to smile and go along with the tradition. It's pointless and in the end you are going to end up with another stupid coffee mug.

Until managers are prepared to take the time to deal with performance issues as they occur and offer kudos and support when it's needed - the annual performance review is a waste of their and the employee's time.

And since most managers and employees share this very sentiment with me at every possible opportunity they get, I know I'm not alone in in this thought.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Call for transparency

So despite my recent drop in confidence (see, it's not just the markets that fluctuate), I did have some takeaways from the HR Conference. One of the most interesting sessions was regarding transparency in HR.

Now to some, this may seem like an oxymoron because isn't the purpose of HR to obscure policies and procedures. Aren't we meant to hide behind the cloak of darkness?

Some days....yes.

Most days...no.

We want people to understand the inner workings of the company because quite frankly I'm sick of explaining the sick policy, where you can find the form to change your address on the Intranet, and yes, your supervisor DOES have the right to ask you to be at work on-time. We need for everyone to be able to find this information on their own, be able to understand it, and make informed decisions.

Instead, we manage to shoot ourselves in the foot by creating inaccessible, out-of-date, and vague processes. No wonder they keep calling us. No wonder they think we are out to get them.

The session reinforced this idea by promoting the idea of opening up the HR books (policy and procedure books that is) to supervisors and managers so that they can do what they are suppose to...manage and supervise their employees with the resources to back them up.

AND, they suggested opening these same books to the employees. Why? So that they can see that there is a method to the madness, that there are procedures in place, and that there is an attempt at consistency.

Really and truly, there should be noting to hide. How we recruit, how sick days and leaves are dealt with, how transfers and changes in positions are handled, how vacation days are determined, the disciplinary process, how continuing education is applied for and reimbursed....all of these things should not be a mystery to the employees.

If you keep this information locked up in your HR lair, then it's no wonder the managers and supervisors make the assumption that it's your job and not theirs to deal with it.

While I thought that my company was in decent shape - and we are - I realize that there is much more we can do to make things easier for all parties. Oddly enough, it involves applying a bit of a technical approach in how we document our processes.

Before it sounds like I'm off on a the latest and greatest HR method. I will loudly state that I agree with Laurie at HR Punk Rock, I do not believe that HR is a science. It does us a disservice to try and justify it as such. However, there is logic in borrowing ideas from other areas.

Being in HR exposes you to such a variety of issues and people - why would we rely on a limited pool of resources and perspectives to deal with these.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

trust in me

Oddly enough I have recently had an internal conversation between myself and..well..me. It went something like this:

Me: I've lost my mojo. My confidence is shaken and stirred. I am unsure about what I am doing and whether I am in the right place.

Myself: What the hell are you whining about now?

Me: The HR conference that should have inspired me has left me questioning whether I made the right decision to change fields and take the plunge into HR. My counterpart in the company is 10 years younger than me - in fact, she IS me, back when I was confident. I felt like such a dork around her.

Myself: Where is this coming from? You like your work.

Me: I know, but I'm not sure whether I'm cut out for this. I feel like I have to morph into someone else to do my job. I don't feel like I'm myself.

Myself: You aren't "myself" - I'm myself.

Me: Hello...it's an expression. What I mean is that maybe I've compromised too much to make this change. Maybe it was a good effort, but still not what I should be doing.

Myself: Read this (hands Me my journal)

Me: Which page? The food log, the page of quotes, or the wines I would like to try?

Myself: *SIGH* The letter you wrote to yourself before you started your new job...

Me: Oh that. I forgot about that. (reads note) I wrote this?! I wrote that I knew that I would hit a point when I would be insecure about what I'm doing. I reminded myself to give myself a break - that there would be moments that I questioned my decision, but that I must not cave and let this discourage me. I even listed reasons why I was doing this and that I was not going to bail on this opportunity.

Myself: Yes

Me: What?! Am I freakin' psychic or something?

Myself: No - you just know yourself too well. We've been down this road a few times before, but you always seem to take the wrong exit. You wanted to leave yourself a note so that you wouldn't get lost this time.

Me: So, basically...I told myself so.

Myself: Pretty much

Me: Cool.

Myself: Yup.

Me: And annoying. Do I always have to have the last word?

I: Yes. Now shut the hell up, LOST is on and I'm trying to concentrate.

Monday, January 19, 2009

and we are off and running...

So, it's not like I had promised or even resolved to blog regularly, so if you are planning on dumping on me...it won't work.

I know, I've been away, but things have either been slow (by choice) around the home front which means I don't go near the computer or else very busy at work which means I'm constantly on the computer.

I've slowly reached that place of balance.

No news on the gotta-get-back-into-it front. Well, I have begun researching gyms, but I get discouraged by the limited schedules (if it's for classes) or the price.

Seriously, I don't care if you guarantee that I can begin cage fighting in the UFC by the end of it, I am not going to shell out $100 for a consulation, $700 for a 10-week program, and then $100/month to maintain my new-found perfection. If it's going to cost me $100 per month to maintain, how realistic is the program.

Also, I have slowly been changing my attitude (which can be described only as sucky lazy) to be more positive in the active living front. Of course, we then get hit with a deep freeze that makes standing outdoors for more than 10 minutes a skin threatening prospect.

Again, I wait for mother nature and the stars to align and give me the thumbs up.

Continuing with the clean-house attitude, I've also served my car-mates with notice. Granted, the circumstances that led to me driving them will likely be over by the time my deadline comes along, but just in case...they've been served. I made a very diplomatic statement that basically said, when I get back from vacation - you are on your own.

That's right, the gal famously known for drafting and delivering a Dear Jane letter, on behalf of our bookclub, to axe a member, has taken it one step further. Stranding people during a transit strike.

Next items on my To Do list:
1. Find puppies
2. Kick'em

There was a time when this stuff would bug me. Maybe working in HR helps you deal with this (or maybe it's the fact that being good at delivering bad news makes me gravitate to HR).

In keeping my with my philosophy that it's way easier to get my hair styled then to get into shape, I recently went in for a cut. A few days later I had an employee tell me that my new hairstyle was Annie Lennox-ish (minus the blonde). She then added that I sometimes have this look in my eye that is "powerful" and that sometimes people don't know how to take me.

Based solely on that conversation, I am seriously thinking of adding this my 2009 Objectives:

Maintain distant and formidable aura around all employees to further enhance the mystique of HR.

As long as it keeps me off the social committee, I'm willing to do it.

Core competencies

Core competencies
Core values

These are things that I review regularly on behalf of my company to ensure that new and potential hires not only understand what they are, but are willing to align with them.

Like most companies – I can list ours and they really don't seem unique: Integrity, Respect, Caring, and Responsibility. In fact, I'm willing to bet that the majority of employers that have their core values out there, have at least two, if not all of these.

Why? Is it to take the easy route or are they really THE core values that employers and employees should be working with and around?

This got me thinking about my own core values and whether these are in line with what I'm doing and how I'm living.

I have to say that 2008 has been a challenging year for me, what with the new job, the longer commute, taking and passing my first designation exam, and just getting by. I've realized that while I have put a lot of focus on making this new situation work, I've neglected other aspects.

I mean, this has got to be my most unhealthy year so far. Not sickness though – I've taken the least amount of annual sick days, for me, ever. If I bothered to ever get on a scale I would probably see a few extra pounds, but even that's not it. I mean, sitting most of my day at a desk, and then 2 hours in a car (or more like 4-5 these days) is bound to have an effect.

No, by health I mean my core. Seriously, my back, my torso, my balance, my flexibility – they are absolutely shot. Of course, being the genius that I am, I know enough to attribute this to the fact that I do absolutely no exercise beyond mild walking. Also, if you refer back to the state of my posture for the greater part of my waking day…that isn't helping either.

So, back to the idea of the core – I am so not respecting mine and it's finally caught up to me. Less energy, more tension, less patience…and basically entering a state atrophy. How, with these conditions, can I possible live my core values which after some deliberation I have identified (in no particular order) as: Decisiveness, Responsibility, Commitment, and Genuineness. To sum it up: Be yourself, make a choice, stick to the program, and take responsibility for your actions.

Seriously, with working conditions that I've created for myself – how can I focus on the important things?

And this is where I flip back to the world where things aren't all about me. In your workplace, how easy is it for you to implement and live by the company core values if the leadership, the system, and the physical environment are working against you?

Here – it's not too bad, but there are challenges. How do I espouse Integrity, when I'm privy to backroom deals that aren't based on merit, performance, or even rock-paper-scissors? How do I encourage Responsibility when there are supervisors and managers who do not recognize that it IS their job to ensure their employees are performing?

And things are not that bad here – I know of others who would have a longer and more elaborate list.

There needs to be action related to these core values. In short, you have to walk them talk.

And that action needs to relate back to whole big picture. Ever see those guys at the gym that only work out their upper body. They spend hours on the arms, pecs, and shoulders….only to be completely out of balance and look like a complete freak. Same goes for values.

And that's how I'm starting to feel – like that freak. Things are moving along in some areas, but at the neglect of others.

At this point I should probably say, and my New Year's resolution this year is… but I don't want to do that. It's too vague, it's like make a Core Value poster for the boardroom. Sound idea, looks good to show people when they are they, but it's 2-D and inactive. What I think I'm going to aim to do, and I'm unapologetically taking this from another blog, is working on New Week resolutions – baby steps. I'll aim to make small goals that require action. It may take me longer to get where I want to be, but at least I'll be moving forward.