My 7 year old self said veterinarian. My 15 year old self said singer. My 20 year old self probably said nothing or everything. And today (insert age assumption here) says people. Specifically people in business. I have to own it! I’m good at human resources. And I love it. It’s amazing that I got to build an entire business around it.
Now, one of the challenges I face, like many businesses, is staying focused on what I’m truly good at. I love that I have this amazing opportunity to help other HR professionals learn and grow and find their own passions. I love that my clients are always so pleased by the amazing service we provide for them. It’s awesome that I’ve been able to take my HR career far from the place where it’s just about filing paperwork and complying, and instead pushed toward the value of people in a business. It’s cool that I’ve helped employees and employers find success together. I love that it’s become so personal – to me and all of those we serve at Organizology.
The flipside of finding what you’re good at and focusing on that thing is taking things you’re not good at off your plate. Am I talking to you? Are you an incredible visionary with a business that you’re excited about? Are you in your office thinking about how you’re going to balance payroll, tax reports, the remodel your front office needs, next week’s advertising push, and now your best shift manager walked in to give you her two weeks’ notice? How much of that is what you’re good at?
Knowing what you’re good at and knowing where to draw the line is critical to success. As business owners, we often want to take on everything – people, accounting, IT, marketing, facilities, and everything else. But if you really think about how much time you put into those areas, are you really saving money by doing it yourself? Maybe, assuming all is well. But what happens when there’s an audit, a plumbing emergency, or year end reports due? Right in the middle of working a big sale or developing a new product. Can you do both? Should you do both?
The answer is no. First, you don’t have time. Second, you’re not good at it. Would you hire someone to do a job they weren’t good at? No way! You may need to stop here and fire yourself from a few roles. There are a lot of aspects of business where you have to have expertise that goes beyond just going through the motions and requires experience and training. I’ll admit that I dislike accounting as much as I like HR. I outsource my bookkeeping, my taxes, my insurance, my legal…It’s cheaper and it’s done better. I don’t make costly mistakes by trying to keep everything on my plate. I let each expert do his or her job and I focus on being the best at mine.
Outsourcing HR and payroll is a great way to do this. Sure, you can hire someone. But outsourcing is powerful. We offer not just one person, but a team of experts available to you. We act as your partner and support system, helping you find, hire, retain, and pay the right people for your business. You don’t have to worry about our office space, equipment, or health – there is always someone here who answers the phone and knows what’s going on.
Are you focused on what you’re good at? If you’re interested in getting a few things off your plate, I’d love to hear from you! I’ll give a 10% discount on monthly services to anyone who is ready to get more focused on what you’re good at and offload the things you shouldn’t be doing yourself…like HR and payroll.
I hear it a lot – “it’s business, not personal”. I used to say it probably more than most. That can happen when part of your job is firing people. But one day I realized that business IS personal. That thought made me pay more attention, and I think people say that phrase most often when their personal feelings, morals, or ethics don’t align with what they are doing in the moment.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes we have to make hard choices and we must take stock of the situation, evaluate it from all angles, and make the right call. And sometimes that means there is a person on the losing end. But to me, that’s still personal.
Once I realized that business is personal, I got a lot better at my job. Rather than using that statement as a defense for my actions and choices, I can make good decisions that are aligned with my values and goals, and sleep at night. I can sit at the dinner table with my family, proud of what I’ve done that day. Even on the hard days – where I have to let an employee go or deliver bad news to someone, I go to bed knowing that I treated people like human beings. Why? Because to me, it’s all personal.
I recently had an employee miss work. No call, didn’t show up. We tried to call him, and the number went straight to voicemail. The next day, he missed another shift. On the third day, he missed yet again. This is grounds for termination for job abandonment. We attempted to call him again and the phone number was no longer working. It would be very easy to terminate him in our system, take him off the schedule and move on, but something felt strange about the situation. He’d been a good employee and then he just quit showing up. Then his most recent paycheck came back to us in the mail. We asked around a bit and we were finally able to get him on the phone via one of his friends. Turns out, he and his family had been evicted and he was living in a car. The policy says he abandoned his job – but the human being says not this time.
My entire job revolves around how personal it is. My firm serves as the HR department for our clients. In order to do this well, we can’t just be a department that shuffles paperwork and processes payroll. We must align ourselves with what our clients want as a business and as a person. I can design the HR role a million and one different ways, but when I know about the person behind the business, I can really get to work. When I first sit down with a client, I often ask, “what are you trying to accomplish”. The answer is often a big picture business goal, like, “I want to operate at 20% net profit”. Ok, that’s awesome. But why? There’s still more information under there. So, let’s cut the business isn’t personal stuff out and say, “No, what do YOU want to accomplish?”. Now the answers I get are more along the lines of, “I want to be able to go to my daughter’s volleyball games” or, “I want to pay for my son’s grad school” or, “I want to retire in Fiji”. I can do something with that! That information helps me know how to support the business owner so as we develop a plan, I know where we’re going.
The same is true for employees. We’re silly to think that anyone is working because they just really want to. Even if that were the case, why this particular job? There’s always a personal reason. We can ignore that and believe that employees should work because we said so. But if we do a better job of understanding what’s personal to an employee, we are investing in that person. It helps us know how to communicate and motivate. It builds trust and a relationship. And when it comes to a business like mine, this is especially important.
Mixing business and personal doesn’t mean that you’d allow one to be compromised for the other. For example, I have hired friends on multiple occasions. Often, that works out beautifully. Sometimes, you realize that you’re great friends but terrible coworkers. Terminating a friend is a prime opportunity to say, “it’s business, not personal”. But that’s not really what’s going on. When I’ve had to let a friend go, I think about business and personal. It’s still personal because I care for that person. It’s still personal because that person is sad that she lost her job. It’s still personal because I want to retain the friendship. You can’t ignore one for the other – you can’t keep a terrible employee around forever or it will hurt your business. And you can’t just claim that it’s business and expect to have a friendly cup of coffee in an hour. Instead, it means that you look at the big picture and consider all facets of the situation and make the best decision you can based on the information you have. Then you sit down with your friend and have a human conversation about what’s working or not working. If you’ve addressed the personal parts of this relationship along the way, your friend shouldn’t be surprised that things aren’t working out the way you’d hoped.
It’s almost as if the idea that you can separate business from personal is a cop out. It’s a way to blame some non-descript concept for a situation or decision – absolving us of any accountability. But business affects us personally. For example, a problem with a client might keep us up at night. Or we spent a few extra hours on a project just to make sure the final presentation is rock solid. When you take that kind of pride in your work, it’s personal. It’s because we want recognition, compensation, satisfaction, or something.
Even if you wanted to separate business from personal as a business owner or leader, you cannot force your employees to do the same. People are social beings by nature. When you have people working for you, you’ve hired all their opinions, feelings, thoughts, desires, and personalities. These are people who have good days and bad days. They have fights with spouses, birthdays, flat tires, and bills to pay. That’s a lot of moving parts to account for in your workforce, and ones that you will never see if you don’t consider the personal side of business. If you want to trust that your employees are representing you and your interests, it needs to be personal. You cannot buy that trust. You earn it by sharing beliefs, collaborating, being authentic. That’s pretty personal.
I think we need to replace the idea that business and personal somehow are like oil and water. Instead, consider author Simon Sinek’s statement, “if you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business”.
By Suetta Miller, HR Generalist
Have you ever thought about using flextime in your company? Have you lost good talent to companies offering flextime as a benefit? Unsurprisingly, the growth of technology in the workplace has created a culture of workers who are more comfortable working remotely or telecommuting part time. Flextime can be characterized by a nonstandard work schedule with core set hours, a shortened work week, such as four ten-hour days with one day off or four eight and half hour days and a half day on Friday, or full-time and part-time telecommuting. Today, 60 percent of employers offer some type of flex as opposed to only 20 percent in 1996.
Remote work arrangements offer both benefits and disadvantages. One disadvantage most often cited by employers is that measuring productivity of remote workers is challenging. It is also sometimes necessary to set up additional network capabilities in order for employees to log in remotely. Finally, some employers have expressed concern over treating employees equally. Another challenge of managing remote workers is that some remote employees have reported feeling disengaged from their company’s culture. One way to enhance their engagement is by providing consistent and constructive feedback. Research says that constant feedback, as opposed to an annual performance review, and a more informal approach works better than something from the top down.
This may make remote working sound like an employer’s headache. But before you ditch the idea of flexibility, consider the advantages for not only the employees, but also the employers.
The benefits of having a flexible workplace program allow the employees to enjoy reduced stress, time and money saved due to lack of a commute and increased productivity as a result of fewer distractions in the office. Forty-three percent of employees cited flexibility of scheduling as the number one reason for the upward trend in remote working.
The benefits and advantages of a flexible workplace program for the employer are to increase organizational flexibility, improve employee attrition and widen the talent pool by eliminating the need for candidate relocation. Strategy should be the top reason why a company considers flexible arrangements. Why? Because flextime is considered one of the hottest benefits for today’s workers and aids in attracting and retaining top talent. And although it takes some getting used to, supervising remote workers is no more of a challenge than supervising in-office employees.
Supervisors should learn to reward work product, not presence, and training should be required for leaders to learn effective management of remote workforces. If you are interested in trying flexible work arrangements but still have a healthy skepticism, keep the following tips in mind:
Frequent feedback, daily communication, inclusion in team activities and office events and continued mentoring are all a part of a successful remote workforce. Treating remote workers just as you would in-office employees is the key to a successful program.
By Suetta Miller, HR Generalist
They’ve proven themselves to you during the interview, now it’s your turn to prove you are worthy of their talent by onboarding them correctly.
Remember how middle school dances were? Your parents dropped you off. You stood in a corner praying that no one would ask you to dance, but secretly hoping someone would. And in the end, nothing happened. Onboarding shouldn’t be like a middle school dance.
Having worked at a company, which shall remain nameless, where I was unceremoniously dumped in an empty cubicle with a laptop unconnected to anything, no access card to come and go or operate the copier, and no phone number, I know how onboarding should not go.
Many companies go out of their way to welcome new employees with welcome banners and coffee and donuts or company gear. While you don’t have to get crazy, there are a few key things every company can do to help make the transition a little easier on the new employee.
1. Be ready for her. Have her workspace set up in advanced with computer equipment hooked up and functioning. Have all passwords and network addresses ready and written down.
2. Show her where to obtain the office supplies she will need.
3. Give her a tour of the facilities. Many employees wander down dark hallways looking for the break room only to walk in on a meeting in progress. Ouch!
4. Introduce her to her teammates and the people she will need to know in order to conduct her work. This includes the receptionist, HR, Benefits, and if you have one – the mailroom clerk.
5. Take her to lunch. There is nothing worse than sitting at your desk day after day and not having anyone to lunch with. Especially on your first day. If the company expense policy does not allow expensing business lunches, split the cost between the team members. Make her feel welcome.
6. Have a list of projects ready for her to begin working on. Make sure the supervisor takes the time to go over these projects with her and give her the expected outcomes. Have someone available to show her how to navigate special websites, networks and equipment,
7. Electronic onboarding – have user IDs and passwords ready for her so she can easily complete her part of the paperwork required for employment, including benefits elections and direct deposit.
8. Explain any collaborative processes, such as shared calendars, conference room reservations or screen sharing meetings.
9. Finally, check in with her at the end of the day to see how her first day was. Notate any issues that arose and make a point of resolving those issues the next business day.
Onboarding shouldn’t be a difficult task, nor does it have to be time consuming. A good plan is all that’s needed to ensure each new employee’s first day is a step toward retaining that hard-won talent, rather than losing it. Remember, treat them as you would want to be treated.
This was not a great month for the aviation industry with the events that unfolded on that fateful Southwest flight. A woman lost her life, and that’s terribly sad. That said, that is the first fatality on a domestic commercial flight since 2009. Almost 2,600,000 people fly in and out of US airports every day. There area about 10,000,000 flights every year. Consider that for a moment. Millions of people fly every day for 9 years and there is one fatality. Few industries can claim that kind of safety record.
The really impressive takeaway is what the aviation industry is doing for the safety of the customers it serves. Admittedly there are customer injuries on airplanes, but considering the high stakes involved in transporting millions of people at speeds exceeding 500 miles per hours, the safety record in the aviation industry sets a strong example for other industries.
Clearly, the aviation industry didn’t start out as safe as it is today. Much of the work that has been was reactive – a catastrophic failure would lead to learning. The aviation industry in the United States has worked hard to achieve and maintain the standards and practices that have resulted in a strong culture of safety. Teams of researchers have spent decades trying to understand where the issues are in the industry and how to eliminate the risks they have identified.
What did millions of dollars and thousands of hours of research reveal? People are the problem. Human error is the most common reason for an incident. There are three types of human error that result in incidents: communication, decision-making, and leadership.
COMMUNICATION. DECISION-MAKING. LEADERSHIP. What organization hasn’t had issues with this in the workforce? We’ve all seen it. In some cases, all mixed together like a stew of poor performance. And when employees make mistakes in these areas, we reprimand, we write up, and then maybe sometimes we coach. Sort of. How can we do better?
What does the aviation industry do when a mistake is made? They create an opportunity for learning. The aviation industry as a unique tool at its disposal that many other industries don’t understand or use. The no fault reporting concept that is based on the idea that human error is a reality. They train and they practice and they test, but human error is going to happen, and when it does, they want to learn from it. They want pilots to tell on themselves. They want co-pilots to tell on pilots. They want full disclosure. Because if they get that information, they can figure out how to avoid it the next time. There isn’t immediate punishment or interrogation. It’s communication for the greater good. Sure, if a pilot is negligent he or she will wind up in a heap of trouble. And if an issue goes unreported, there is no question that the consequences will be severe. But the general point to no fault reporting is to open the dialogue so that employees constantly learn how to better communicate, make better decisions, and become better leaders.
No fault reporting can positively impact accountability. It is much easier to stand up and say I screwed up when I don’t feel like I’m immediately going to be yelled at or punished. I don’t want to screw up. I want to be good at my job – whatever my job is. I can also admit that I made a mistake because I’m not the only one that makes mistakes and I know that when we are able to freely discuss mistakes. Do all employees feel that way?
From a personnel perspective, I’m certainly not advocating that we just overlook every mistake. For example, a pilot cannot fly intoxicated, report it and them be immune to consequences. Reporting an issue doesn’t always protect you from reasonable consequences. There are sets of standards and rules that each organization has and if you blatantly violate them, discipline will follow. This isn’t about that kind of issue. It’s about how our employees learn from errors and how we create those learning opportunities in an organization that needs employees to pay attention.
Another component in the strong safety record of the aviation industry is Crew Resource Management (CRM). Simply put, CRM is a set of training procedures used when human error is a factor and the stakes are high. It encourages crew members to question and challenge each other to help keep each other accountable. If one member is making a decision that might result in risk, the others should not simply stand by and watch. They shouldn’t mumble or wait to say “I told you so”. They should clearly communicate in a way that will be clearly and immediately understood. They should speak up, ask questions and work to see the situation through. Once again, we see the themes of communication, decision-making and leadership come into play. It encourages respectful questioning of others, including authority and helps identify when what is happening is different than what should be happening, which is an early sign of an error. It’s training that encourages assertive, direct communication between coworkers.
It’s an interesting thought. Really, these concepts apply even beyond safety. What organization doesn’t want employees who are good communicators, decision makers and leaders? But especially when it comes to safety initiatives in the workplace, it may serve us well to take a closer look at how the aviation industry has become a leader in safe, effective work environments.
That’s probably the most common thing a non-HR person says to me in a social environment when I tell them what I do. Maybe it’s just a “how’s the weather” statement – it has a literal meaning, but the comment is actually meaningless and simply something to say to attempt to continue a conversation. I think it’s important to realize, though, that being good with people is not what makes a great HR professional.
Really, though, I suppose that’s true – I’m good with people. But I’m not super human and being good with people to me is simply part of being a good person. I have empathy and awareness and understanding. I’ve lived and traveled all over the world and I have had a lot of exceptional opportunities to see how people work and appreciate human and cultural differences. I’m sure these experiences have contributed to the ability to work effectively with other people. That said, I don’t think that being good with people is the sole requirement to be good at HR and I think the role of an HR professional is much more than just handling people.
A prospective employer asked in an interview what my job as an HR manager would be. I said to protect the interests of the company. I got the job and they told me that was the biggest reason why. I wasn’t just going to handle my job as a series of transactions and tasks assigned to me, but I instead I wanted to be part of a team that would drive the company in the direction the owners wanted it to go. It was an honest answer, and one that I would still give. I think it’s a simple perspective that sums up a lot of different aspects of HR. The interests of the company are to be successful, to uphold their values, to accomplish their goals or to do whatever the company has stated as its mission and direction. HR is a huge part of that, especially in the service industry where the company’s success is dependent on the employees that represent the organization. HR is there to efficiently staff the company without wasting money, to find the right employees, to keep the valuable employees, to ensure compliance with employment law, to help people understand the link between organizational goals and their own job responsibilities…if it’s related to people in a company, HR is it.
Having such a perspective about the role of HR isn’t always easy. Sometimes it’s the company leaders go astray. They say they value one thing and then act in another direction. This is probably the most challenging aspect of higher level HR positions, as the interest of the company is best protected by bringing this issue to their attention and an uncomfortable conversation can result. It’s facing these challenges and overcoming them with professionalism and composure that really makes HR an asset.
I teach a lot of future HR professionals and I have observed a tendency to define HR as an employee advocate and no more. I think this is shortsighted. HR can certainly be an employee advocate, as it is often in the interest of the success of the organization as a whole. But our job isn’t just to protect the little guy from the big bad company. If you’re an HR professional who resents that statement, think about whether it’s that big bad company that signs your paychecks that you so willing cash. If you want to protect the little guy from the big bad company, don’t work for the big bad company. Then you’re in conflict yourself – taking the pay to do a job that you don’t believe in! Instead, work for a company whose mission and goals align with your own so you can protect the interests of the company and take care of the employees all at the same time. Find a company that recognizes the value of employees and works hard to protect that relationship and put that check in the bank so you can sleep better at night. We are advocates when we need to be, but we need to realize when to be an advocate for whom.
There are a lot of ways to do a job and be just fine. But as a company do you want an HR representative that is just fine when you could have someone great? And if you’re a career HR professional, do you aspire to just be ok at your job? A great HR professional should do more for the company he or she represents. More than being good with people, HR professionals need to be big picture people who think critically. We have to consider the company’s goals and culture and then act accordingly, whether we are selecting benefits for the next plan year, recruiting, establishing flextime options, participating in strategic planning, or planning the company holiday party. If we can’t see the big picture, we lose sight of what we should be focused on and we end up just being good with people. . . and that alone doesn’t make a great HR professional!