Tag Archives: HR evolution

Should We Blame Employees, Managers or HR for Poor Performance?

3 Aug

It really is confusing.  In recent discussions, there has been considerable emphasis placed on managers not being effective in reviewing the performance of their employees.  They are not diligent in following the steps of HR performance management programs and particularly ongoing communication with employees between formal reviews.

HR is often distrustful of managers, but once the managers complete their employee evaluations, we become their best supporters.  If an employee complains about an evaluation, most of the time we support the manager, unless the unfairness is too blatant.

It is logical that we should focus on managers and supervisors, as their effectiveness directly affects large numbers of employees reporting to them. In some respects, however, they can only be as effective as the tools we (HR) provide them with. If our HR performance management program is so excellent, we should take every action to ensure it is followed, but generally, we don’t.  Very often, we focus on employees as though they are the ones at fault and inherently lazy unless prodded. We constantly devise new initiatives to stimulate employees to do their best and become “engaged” but do managers/supervisors (and HR) really support employee success by setting the best example? Is our performance theory too often based on what we say rather than what we do?

Does the manager’s boss care whether the manager follows the HR performance management program diligently?  It is unlikely, as “big” bosses are not likely to be any better or any more committed to HR programs and principles. They are unlikely, in assessing performance of their first line managers/supervisors, to place much emphasis on how well they are following HR programs.  Is that the problem – or a major part of it?

We have developed a compelling argument that managers, by not following HR, are responsible for poor performance in their areas.  However, as we know, managers are always accountable for performance in their department, so what is the role of HR?  Is it possible that HR is indirectly responsible for some of the poor performance?

Unfortunately, HR is in a very vulnerable position.  If the same HR programs, particularly performance management, have been in place for 30 years or more and they are still not being seriously followed, there must be a problem.   Most HR programs have become increasingly sophisticated and are aligned to current theory and technical expertise, but that does not seem, in the case of performance management, to have helped.  Could it be that although the set-up and adaption of the program is technologically impressive, the program content and style remains seriously outdated and geared to another point in time?

Perhaps managers are better at managing performance than we think.  It seems that at the same time we have been developing and building on our conventional HR program, functional managers/supervisors have become increasingly sophisticated in tracking performance within their own areas.  They have their own metrics and tracking systems and are generally able to view current performance at any critical point.  The manager can see employee results/effectiveness in real time, and his/her boss and executives can similarly be tracking the manager performance. They are all obsessed by aspects that feed directly into objectives set by the organizations rather than historical HR criteria.  The manager’s boss cares about these numbers, the manager must also and HR must provide them with the best support in achieving what they need to achieve rather than what HR thinks they should be focusing on. If our HR performance management program has become redundant, maybe it is time for us to get together with the managers and develop something more appropriate for today and looking into the future.

For the company to be successful, the managers must be tracking relevant performance consistently and very effectively.  Probably better than trying to integrate their functional goals into our HR program (and retain control) it would be better to use some aspects of our HR program to train and expand the manager’s effectiveness in building their own performance management program.  Not forcing managers to follow a prescribed program, but to help the managers to customize their programs in the most effective way – programs that will be theirs and they will be fully accountable for.

Consistent with supporting the development of functional performance management programs, HR would take a proactive stand.  HR would support managers by providing coaching and training and collaborating as trouble-shooters should there be specific problems.  If, for example, there is a need for specific employee training, HR could develop a program and if it is available on line, all employees can benefit. In reality, I would see the HR role becoming more important rather than less important, particularly in addressing skills development needs as they occur rather than belatedly based on questionable historical analysis of employee performance after the fact.

I believe the change in focus, referred to above, would ensure that managers are fully committed to and embrace their own formally recognized program.  HR would be accepted and valued more as partners dealing with issues in real time and helping prevent poor performance during the current business cycle – rather than looking back in anger at the end of a business cycle and telling people what went wrong – when it is too late!  The technology is available to have an individual program for every employee (if desired) and we must embrace the potential application of available technology.

What do you think? I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

 


Considering Goodwin Sands and Critical HR Change!

13 Jun

Not so long ago (maybe 5000 years) there was no sea separating Britain and France and people (presumably) could walk from Dover to Calais and stop for a meal on Goodwin Sands without  the risk of being stranded and drowning.  Today, the Goodwin Sands are a reminder as land, in the middle of the channel, that surfaces only at low tide and allows curious tourists to fleetingly tread where few people choose to tread.

There are no records from that time, but you can imagine the HR challenge when mid-channel people realized their lands were being flooded and had to choose whether to resettle in France or England. Similarly, Personnel had to choose between becoming Human Resources or ressources humaines and enjoying bland or spicy food!

How fast do people respond to major impending change? I understand the water rose gradually so the risk was not of immediate drowning. People did not have to swim to the closest shore, but noticed their lands becoming increasingly submerged and non habitable.

We can imagine that some people of the mid-channel lands, as soon as they recognized that the flooding was unstoppable, sold their belongings for whatever price, studied English or French and left as soon as possible for solid land where they could start again.  Was that smart or was that giving up? It is amazing how many of us will remain until the last moment in adverse circumstances as we are nervous about leaving what we have become accustomed to.

Many people, however, were fighters and would not accept inevitable change.  They built sea-walls, elevated their dwellings to as high as possible and resolved to fight.  Maybe they out-survived their neighbours by a hundred years or so, but having a home increasingly surrounded by water was not really preserving quality of life, but refusing to accept the need for change. We are unlikely to look back with surprise, as humankind still choose to reject reality, e.g. global warming, and cater only to short-term selfish needs with little regard for the future.

Some people refused to accept the changes that were happening and fought on, ignoring until too late the rising water. Maybe they ultimately drowned – maybe they invaded and replaced folks living on higher ground who had prepared better.

How does all this relate to Human Resources – to every aspect of our life?  It is not water that threatens most of us, but in a business environment the unstoppable flow of online information and technological know-how that can make anyone somewhat of an expert on most subjects. It can be as simple as acquiring appropriate technology with the right algorithms to explain what it all means and reach certain conclusions.

We cannot pretend change is not happening and expect our traditional HR way of doing things to endure regardless of the environment. Consider the following:

  • Many traditional HR approaches were based on the limited technological capability that existed at the time and were, of necessity, somewhat simplistic and untimely including, in particular, traditional performance management. Now we have the ability to factor in everything and develop systems, if we desire, customized for each employee and interactive in real time
  • Much HR strategy was based on our expertise on HR subjects (exclusive knowledge) that was not shared by others who were expected to defer to our “expert” HR opinions. Such humility no longer dominates and other function peers can elect to become experts in whatever interests them, based on all the online research materials available
  • Respect for “superiors” can no longer be assumed. This can reflect in family life and at work when different thinking (technologically influenced) of new generations may result in viewing earlier-age bosses and influencers as somewhat out of date, and strict hierarchical organizations (suppressing employees) similarly belonging in the past

We are being flooded by information delivered through the internet, by data collected, sorted and transmitted online and by intelligent programmed machines that can make decisions and interact, train and provide help, better than us, on multiple subjects. Is that the flood we have to be prepared for that threatens to submerge or swallow HR? If so, how can we be prepared and remain as essential to business support as in earlier days? For example:

  • We must expand HR skills consistent with today. We program the machines and make them work for us, but how well do we use them? How well do we instruct them? To what extent do they reflect the culture and needs of our organization or are they largely off-the-shelf purchased items that sound good?
  • Do we tend to try to use new technology, not to develop new approaches but to keep all the concepts, programs and processes we are comfortable with alive, but using a more efficient platform? 
  • On a day-to-day basis do we demonstrate that we can resolve problems (regardless of any technology) using our interactive/analytical HR skills and clearing the way for our business partners to proceed with their priorities without serious impediment?

Like the mid-channel fighter/survivor, we can use all the wonderful modern technology to move forward to achieve better things, rather than simply sustain what is currently in place. What we liked in the past was often the way it was because it was the best we could do, at that time, with the resources available.  We celebrated our progress and glossed over the limitations because there was little else we could do at the time. We were very happy with what we had and can continue to be happy (fulfilled) as we, with open minds, bravely move into the future as an integral part of the new world!

What do you think?  With all our enthusiasm for new technology, have we sufficiently adapted our minds to utilize it to the full potential?  Are we clinging too much to the past?  In the case of the new generations, are we clinging too much to what we are comfortable with in providing leadership although the context may be significantly different? How can we change our thinking?

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

Ian

I Must Admit HR is Getting Better, Better all the Time!

3 May

It does not seem so long ago, maybe two or three years when HR seemed to be going through a period of great uncertainty. A lot of discussion was about why people disliked HR, why HR was not respected and why HR was not at the table. At the same time (and earlier) HR seemed troubled about HR identity and was seeking to align more closely with business partners which, in many cases, seemed to include less emphasis on people and less emphasis on the HR problem solving role and ability to respond to challenges.

HR people have been frequently criticized for being too reactive, but today, it seems, it is becoming not only respectable but critical in our constantly changing environments. New style HR people (similar to many in the past) are able to react promptly to deal with issues and in many cases convert reactive into transformative to further interests of the organization.

The improvement in HR that I have noticed, from sentiments expressed by many HR people, is a significant increase in professional confidence and renewed pride that we have distinct skills to benefit an organization. Our skills complement other functions but our skill pattern may be significantly different and being a business partner does not mean agreeing with everything presented to us. We must take a stand when necessary to support achievement of organizational goals that may sometimes differ from the direction pursued by some functional executives.

With this new, more practical thinking, we also seem to have greater confidence in looking within our function and taking steps to revitalize HR including critical evaluation of programs that may have been key to HR for many years. For example:

  • Less emphasis on large somewhat fixed HR programs (e.g. performance management) and more emphasis on a more modular approach using the integration of mainstream data rather than stand alone HR programs
  • Being fully part of the business and with high credibility HR people close to the action (ear to the ground) and at any time ready to respond to support organizational interests and deal effectively with any organizational challenges and       threats
  • Not being obsessed by being at the big table, but making sure we are at the right small tables (e.g. functional) where the action takes place and we may be involved early enough to be part of the strategic thinking and contribute positively rather than challenge after the fact when people already feel committed to the planned action. With such a strategic and business focused role, HR would automatically have a very legitimate place at the big table and the new confidence and practical support of HR would be welcomed
  • HR confidence that our specialist expertise on people issues translates into present and sustained business advantage and we are able to sell concepts in the most practical and acceptable way.  Not only employee issues, but significant focus on our community, our customer/sales focus and external resources of various kinds that may be critical and needed at any point
  • The evolving more pragmatic HR seems more ready to take a strong stand on critical matters (e.g. ethics and corporate values) and to achieve this recognizes the need to develop the appropriate negotiating and diplomacy skills. We cannot just be stubborn people in an HR world of our own (sometimes the problem with old style HR) but be straight-talking business-sensitive leaders able to gain the respect of those we deal with
  • HR is coming of age by the way we seem ready now to question all our HR beliefs. It is very difficult not to develop a bias and our bias may have matched perfectly the conventional way of doing things in the past, but be outdated based on the technological capability now available. We must grasp the opportunities and be leaders in redesigning how we do many things and how we may train and impart user confidence during a period of organizational transition.
  • The success of HR in the future may depend very much on the ability of HR to attract the right talent and be able to meet staffing needs with the minimum of delay. I would have liked to say that HR has simplified and made the process more practical, but there still seem to be major philosophic differences between different HR people. There are HR people who make the selection process very complicated and try to match such things as attitude. There are others who support a simpler and more objective process. The key to success would be HR’s contribution to effective organizational design to ensure that the culture of the organization is able to assimilate most employees, regardless of different styles. I believe trending, particularly, by HR generalists, is moving more towards a simpler recruiting process, but at this point, opinions continue to be very divided

I must admit HR is getting better – it’s getting better all the time! I offer some thoughts on this subject which I believe are supported by many modern day HR realists and seem consistent with the beliefs of many HR students who, of course, will soon be setting the HR trends for tomorrow. HR improvement is dependent on realistically acknowledging evolving business and people differences and expectations and balancing them in the most appropriate way. Success of HR depends on us knowing who we are, what we can do and to updating and adapting much of what is already in place to reflect the present as it is and move confidently into the future. I believe an increasing number of HR people are committed to change and that gives reason to feel confidence about the future of our profession.

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

Ian

 

How Can We Make HR Better for 2015 and Beyond?

11 Jan

What can I do – what can we do – to make HR better as we move into the future and face challenges distinct to this point in history? Depending on how we see life, everything may seem about the same, but in reality, the way we acknowledge and with an open mind handle the differences will define HR and its relevance as we move ahead. Here are a few thoughts:

  • HR must have a distinct identity. We cannot just be followers trying to keep everyone happy. We must be clear in setting our allegiances. We must be integral in meeting the goals and needs of the organization, but at the same time be clear about HR, business and society principles that govern our actions and also the actions of the organization – often legally. We cannot simply compromise (or cave-in) to keep people happy. If our actions are questionable, in making one person (e.g. the big boss) happy, the “equal and opposite reaction” is likely to be making a number of other people very unhappy while our HR reputation (and business) may be tarnished.
  • If HR is prepared to take a strong stand on certain matters (e.g. ethics and corporate values), we must also develop our negotiating and diplomatic skills. To be effective in the future (as in the past) we must be able to present our positions while taking into account the sensitivities and specific interests of those we are addressing. Whenever possible, we would not just say what we believe is right, but why it is right (giving context) for our specific business and our diverse colleagues and employee population. We cannot just be stubborn people in an HR world of our own, but straight-talking business-sensitive leaders able to gain the respect of those we deal with.
  • We must question all our HR beliefs, particular those of us who have been in HR for a significant time. It is very difficult not to develop a bias and our bias may have matched perfectly the conventional way of doing things in the past, but be outdated with the technological capability now available. Staking our reputation on standard, generic HR programs based on a specific point in time (e.g. performance management) no longer makes sense when customized ongoing programs (individual specific) are the way of the future. We must grasp the capabilities and be leaders in redesigning how we do many things.
  • We must recognize the strengths of others. Older very experienced employees and younger employees with a “new age” skill set can complement one another in a superb way. We must learn how best to share strengths within our diverse workplace community rather than stand apart and criticize. The young should not count the days until the old people are gone, and the “mature” people should not discount the young and expect them to come around to the old way of thinking – the wisdom of the past! The reality is that the young are developing into the future leaders and we must support them and any style differences more appropriate to our changing world.
  • The success of HR in the future may depend very much on the ability of HR to attract the right talent and be able to meet staffing needs with the minimum of delay. HR can be big winners if the process (including for contingent workers) is simplified and streamlined as much as possible, possibly using central registries for most regular positions. The key to success would be HR’s contribution to effective organizational design (supported by environmental technology) to ensure that the culture of the organization will assimilate most employees, regardless of different styles, rather than seeking to hire a specific type of person. HR future success will also depend on recognizing our limitations e.g. in defining the psychological make-up of a candidate through a conventional recruiting process.

These are just a few thoughts on this very complicated subject. We have to be realistic and recognize that we can make HR better by being very honest in acknowledging evolving business and people differences/expectations and balancing them in the most appropriate way. Success of HR depends on us knowing who we are, what we are and developing a confident and holistically balanced approach in meeting the needs of the business and our internal clients. Many of the differences are already in place and a major challenge, to make HR better, is to update and adapt much of what is already in place to reflect the present as it is and move confidently into the future.

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

Ian

 

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