Thursday, January 20, 2022

Bold Leadership Through Strategic Resources

The COVID19 pandemic has propelled many into involuntary leadership action over the last 2 years. Navigating daily regulation inconsistency while addressing changes in work-from-home policy along with tempering the hiring and retention challenges of the Great Resignation has made Human Resources the busiest department in every organization. SHRM's Cause The Effect campaign is bringing attention to these unforeseen adjustments in the profession. Barely having time to catch one's breath is enough to keep any HR professional on the defensive. Today, I'd like to offer a few thoughts that might strengthen our long game strategy to lead organizations through this tumultuous time.     

It seems every day is a moving target. Where can HR intervene to formalize a plan toward predictability? This means allocating the appropriate tools to drive strategy with data output to defend our strategic decisions. 

It comes down to three principles: Training, Recognition & Performance Development.

Knowledge is Priceless 

Most exceptional leaders have adopted a "never stop learning" ethos. This need to pull knowledge from the trenches is the lifeblood of any forward-thinking organization. The approach to employee training often side-steps voluntary knowledge attainment for the sake of mandatory information transfer. Much in the way certain college courses drive a "memorize and test out" format, training for the sake of training can fail to engage employees. We need to rethink the learning process.

Certain groups will need to develop product knowledge to bring to market, there are times when we'll need to demo/test drive technology and there are always the HR Policy videos that fall in the mandatory risk mediation category. These are the nuts and bolts of professional comprehension. But, after they are aware of how to plug in the toaster in the breakroom, many employees are seeking personal development that will lead to leadership ascension. It's pretty simple: what can we provide in order for our employees to become their greatest professional self?

There are a ton of TED Talks that can be added to your Learning Management System, how about giving your employees the opportunity to view these theories and to report on them in short form essay? One of the most impactful events I've heard of was an intern shark tank competition used to bolster product development. How about a company book club? Any and all of these voluntary exercises can serve to engage your employee's personal passion to further expose their hidden leadership potential. 

The more we make training a stale requirement, the less employees will feel empowered to participate.

People Still Like Being Complimented

The world of Total Rewards has been second guessed over the last two decades. Large Global organizations may have a much more systematic employee rewards deployment than a company with ten employees. But, one constant remains: People like to have their achievements recognized! 

In a time when economic consistency is ever-under scrutiny, qualitative behavior change initiatives are of paramount importance. Rewards for incremental development can no longer be ignored. Here, we have the ability to develop behaviors that will aid in long-term organizational development. As opposed to micro-managing short term results, the time to build employee behavior based in cultural development is nigh. 

Recognition can encapsulate your organizational mission, vision and values or organically promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Recognition can incorporate Well Being (mental, physical and spiritual) or similar comprehensive behavior change initiatives at each step in development. 

Be mindful: people will always perform better when they know a Thank You will dovetail their effort!

Calling Out Failure Does Not Drive Performance 

HR professionals are called upon to walk the tightrope between policy and engagement practice. As such, performance management has always been a messy part of the Total Rewards model. Employees enter into a contract that may be performance based, contradicting legality with motivational initiatives can land your company in a lawsuit. This is why the call to terminate performance reviews that erupted within the last decade largely failed. Simply put, contracts need to remain in place. 

Our greatest opportunity exists in the ability to put management aids in place that guide excellence as opposed to being a fall back to approve terminations when merited. 

Being a middle manager is a difficult job. Individuals are called upon to set team goals while side-barring performance metrics for individuals. The often over-worked manager may default to micro-management guided by negative review of performance as opposed to frequent course adjustments. At best, manager-to-employee meetings can be driven by the intrinsic path of completing goals as opposed to looking for (and addressing) shortcomings. 

Managers can use the SCRAF methodology to understand individuals preferred path or simply start and end each one to one meeting with a compliment. We don't need a 78 category job function assessment to steer employees to promotion. What we do need is recognition of effort and guidance toward strength. Too often the simplicity of focusing on the good takes a back seat to cautionary discipline so as to provide employees warnings of potential pitfalls.

There has never been a more important time for leadership in the Human Resources profession!

Cause the Effect!

- Dave