Tag Archives: communication

How Can We Be Prepared? The Smart Way!

24 Jun

I think most people would agree that we have to be prepared for whatever may happen, but that is easier said than done! The way we balance our preparedness makes a major difference in balancing between day-to-day life quality and future consideration. At work it is similar. We prepare by following appropriate studies of our subject, e.g. Human Resources, and ensuring that we understand key principles and how various aspects should be handled and why. We have prepared by learning the theory of our subject, but how ready are we to convince others to follow what we are able to do and be impressed by our interactive demeanor? We have to understand the environment we are working within and people we are working with to be truly effective.

One example of attempting to be prepared, that I remember very well, is when I set-off on my first extended travel journey many years ago. When I look back it is unbelievable how much stuff I decided to take with me. I bought a very large backpack and filled it and had items attached to it including the following:

  • A small tent I bought at the railway lost-property office
  • A suit (Burton’s) in case I found a job in Paris (the official purpose of the trip was to take CII Insurance exams at the Paris centre – more an excuse than true objective!)
  • Foreign language dictionaries, some “Teach Yourself” language books and writing materials
  • A plastic bowl and cleaner in case I had to wash clothes
  • More routine travel stuff and shoes etc.

As you can see, I was well prepared for some specific things, but not really for travel. For example:

  • Apart from some Youth Hostel information I had no travel guides and although there were cities I wanted to visit, I had no idea what I would do when I got there (anywhere!)
  • I had a shortage of day-to-day comfortable clothes, particularly for walking
  • My backpack was so heavy I was bowed over as I walked – I had not considered (sensibly) that I may have to carry my luggage with me while sightseeing

Travel was so different in those days (pre-EU) with no cell phones, electronic devices or internet. Most information I obtained from information booths at train stations or from other travelers. There were also currency restrictions and a maximum of £40 could be taken out of the UK at that time – not that I had much more available!

So, I was very well prepared for things that were unlikely – finding (or wanting) an office job so early in my travels and imagining I would have time to spend learning languages. In contrast, a key pastime became visiting breweries and enjoying free beer and just enjoying the company of other hitchhikers!

My “portability” issue was quickly resolved. I stayed at a Youth Hostel in Suresne (Paris) for a week or so and left most of my luggage there as I set-off towards Yugoslavia. I was certainly more trusting in those days, but when I returned a few months later everything was still there – and I hadn’t needed any of it! On subsequent similar trips I took only a small bag and that was perfect. I had flexibility and comfort and was able to concentrate on what was most important – becoming familiar with other countries and other people some of whom I am still in contact with and influenced my ultimate (so far) move to Canada.

How important do you think it is to plan and thoroughly prepare? Looking back and considering the twists and turns in life – and changed interests – I think it may be more important to became very skilled at recognizing and knowing how to respond to opportunity and sometimes enjoying going in totally different and unanticipated directions. What do you think?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

EMPLOYEE RELATIONS – Key to HR Success!

11 Jun

I am proud to be an EMPLOYEE RELATIONS professional – the key to trust, working together effectively and achieving mutually beneficial results!

I have had various impressive HR titles and been associated with more high fallutin aspects of Human Resources, but the magic ingredient, I believe, that holds everything together, is Employee Relations. I should make it clear that although the employees we need to relate to are often quite junior, the same principles apply to relationships at all levels, including senior management.

HR people behind the scenes can work on impressive Human Capital Management programs and initiatives, but it is Employee Relations aspects that will often determine their success.  The same program can be seen as inspiring or can be seen as more HR foolishness depending on the thought, strategy and sensitivity that goes into implementation.  The way it is communicated to management and employees will determine its credibility – whether it is seen more as HRspeak or management  gibberish or whether it is seen as something of value to be thought through and objectively considered.

Employee Relations is not a simple selling process, but more the establishment of an environment where there is trust and confidence about the motives of management when they talk about subjects and initiatives – an environment within which employees feel valued for their contribution and intelligence.

Employee Relations does not have the same acceptance as other HR functions because it is not held together by tangible facts, universally applied strategy or precise methodology and program evaluation techniques.   It is less defined than other aspects of Human Resources and as a result is more challenging for Human Resources people wishing to become Employee Relations proficient.

Employee Relations is key to the success of engagement initiatives.  Employee Relations is critical in Labor Relations – in keeping the relationship between management and bargaining unit employees strongly in place – can make a decisive difference when employees are voting to accept a negotiated package or go on strike.  Employee Relations will determine the effectiveness of our business partnership with peers – our acceptance is not based simply on how smart we are, but how smart we are in projecting our smartness and the way in which we are committed to their (functional peers) interests and working with them.

Employee Relations is the icing on the cake for almost every HR initiative – the add-on to open many doors – ultimately the key to HR acceptance – regardless of whether or not the organization style is employee friendly.

If Employee Relations is so important, how can we become more proficient?  What do you think? There are books and courses, but a very practical approach could be to spend a day, away from the normal hustle and bustle and just think, reflect and try to understand who you are dealing with and communicating with on a day-to-day basis – try to see their needs from their perspective:

  • What is most important to the average employee?  What makes them feel good?  What turns them off?  As an employee, what kinds of things encourage MY buy-in?  To what extent, when I present things to employees, do I present them in a way that would influence me to accept (and be enthusiastic) if I was the person being sold to?
  • As a business partner, how do I want other business partners to communicate with me?  What is most important?  Is the way I approach business partners the way I would want them to approach me?  Am I projecting as an equal partner or a partner providing specific services?  If I present advice about THEIR business, is it the way I would like them to offer me advice about HR?
  • When I address issues with union employees am I communicating to gain their trust and confidence in the company?  Alternatively, am I addressing them as though they are the union and tainting dialogue with negativism and possibly some contempt?
  • When we are handling situation of extreme sensitivity do we ensure that our approach is professional and sensitive while still assuming a leadership role? This could apply to sickness, death, terminations and many different types of conflict and uncertainty that could seriously affect employees if handled badly.

If you have a problem thinking through the concepts outlined above and if they do not make much sense to you, then another approach could be to explore further, possibly with a coach or mentor, someone you respect on Employee Relations matters.  Earning your Employee Relations “badge” could make all the difference between remaining a backroom HR support person (although nothing wrong with that) or, becoming a great HR leader if that is your career goal.

How important do you consider Employee Relations?  What advice do you have for HR people seeking to become more effective Employee Relations practitioners?  Do you believe it is something that can be learned?  I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Thanks,

Ian

How Can HR Empower Employees to Reach Full Potential?

16 May

This is a very interesting question as reaching full potential can mean many different things depending on the context. When a parent wants a child to meet his/her full potential, it probably reflects the values of the parent and traditionally may mean doing well at school, getting a good job, raising a nice family and other similar things. We want to be proud of the achievements of our children.

When an organization wants employees to meet their full potential, it is usually more for the benefit of the organization. Theoretically if the employee is working at a higher level, work output should be at a higher level, but that may not be the case. In striving to meet full potential, an individual may actually lose interest in his/her job. As long as the person (ignorance is bliss) thought of the job as his/her reasonable “lot in life” there would be acceptance and some engagement, but if the “I could/should be doing better” is too strong, the current job may be handled in a cursory way waiting for rightful destiny.

Expanding the concept of “full potential” further, why should HR attempt to empower employees to reach full potential and what would that mean? Here are some thoughts:

  • It could mean that the employee develops stronger values and work standards that result in more thoughtful application of the employee to the job and some continuous improvement combined with great results
  • It could mean that the employee gains a fuller understanding of life totality and starts to see employment as a very small part of life – a necessity to earn money – but in general a diminishing aspect of enlightenment. The employee could easily lose interest and transfer interest to more meaningful (his/her opinion) things

There are risks (as throughout history) in making people too aware of reality, but if the objective for HR is truly to empower employees to reach full potential, there can, I believe, be mutual benefit in a mature organization, but greatly influenced by a number of things and particularly employee expectations, including :

  • If the employee’s self-worth is increased (encouraged by HR) the person would expect to be promoted or be paid more
  • If the employee is moving towards achieving full potential, he/she would question information more and the company could not just pretend to be great communicators. There would have to be a forum for employees to intelligently and positively discuss and question company information that more commonly may be given one way in less enlightened organizations
  • If the employee is encouraged to reach full potential, there must be reasons, in an organizational context, to justify why the employee should make the additional effort
  • HR people, the teachers, are equally employees and should be equally committed to their own progression and able to give testimony why and how fulfilling full potential benefits people and should be able to give personal business examples. This may be difficult if the HR person is very young and clearly still evolving

Achieving full potential is also complicated because it is a more holistic concept than just being loyal to one function or one manager. Traditional career advancement would in many cases not give sufficient incentive and the way the company operates would have to be adapted to focus on a workforce encouraged to attain full potential. For example:

  • Company values that emphasize the commitment to employees reaching full potential. Not just words, but realistically thought through (before being a stated value) with applicable strategies
  • More open internal job postings with the good of the total organization being most important and individual managers not able to prevent employees in their function from transferring elsewhere within the organization
  • More emphasis on developmental transfers to allow progression of employees through expanded experience and understanding
  • Less emphasis on hierarchical relationship and programs (e.g. HR programs) where managers are required to judge employees. A parent/child type environment is not really conducive to an employee developing full potential as it is not logical to tell an individual how he/she must evolve
  • An environment within which TRUST is a key value and should be reflected through policies including accepting the employee’s self opinion on various subjects including performance management, attendance and acknowledgement of improvement needs on matters that may often result in discipline

What do you think? Is promoting employees to meet their full potential realistic in most organizations or does it conflict with the way most organizations operate? If it is practical, what benefit is it likely to bring? Can HR hope to succeed in promoting employee potential if other managers and particularly senior executives are not similarly committed or significantly developing their own potential?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

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