Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Employees Becoming Disengaged

I read a blog today called Disorganizational Behavior discussing employee disengagement. It struck a note with me, as it should with all HR Managers. The topic dealt with a Kenexa study that showed that employee's become disengaged, or disenchanted, with their jobs after about 6 months. According to the study this is associated with a heavy cost to the company. Lost productivity, lost training cost, potential turnover and replacement costs.

However, according to the DB blogger "One thing the study didn't discuss, however, was why employees are becoming disengaged. I think part of it has to do with people realizing that all of the promises made by the company aren't going to come true, or that the job isn't exactly what they thought it was." And the blogger makes a point all HR Managers need to pay heed to: "It is no secret that it is imperative to organizational success and growth to keep employees engaged and happy. With new hires, management must be explicit about what the job is about, what the duties are, what role they will have within the organization (or group/team), and what is expected of them."

So click on the link above and read this entire blog. Then look seriously at your organization and assess how much of an issue this is for you.

Monday, February 19, 2007

In Search of Excellence Turns 25

Almost 25 years ago managment guru Tom Peters published In Search of Excellence. This was a groundbreaking book and continues to be an important addition to anyone's business book library. I think I will reread to book to mark the occasion. However, noting the day is not the sole purpose of this blog. In a newsletter I received from Tom Peters the following paragraph caught my eye and I thought the all human resources professionals should pay heed.

"Our core belief, just like the best Professional Service Firms from whom we can all learn so much, is that "people excellence" is at the very core of future success. Achieving the "people-talent" mindset transformation is Job #1, and this is just as tough with the people inhabiting the Board Room as it is with the folks on the front line. The first indicator of a future winner is whether the leaders see their people as talent and see their prime function as being to position their talent in a context where they can create maximum value for the business. The leaders pass Excellence Test #1 when their front liners attest that they feel like talent - when they're at work, that is!"

Note what I put in bold face. Is your organization one that recognizes the importance of people as talent?

If yes ask yourself:
  • How do we perpetuate this?
  • How do we communicate this?
If the answer is no, ask yourself:
  • How can we turn this around?
  • How does this affect our position in the marketplace?
  • How does this affect our ability to attract people?
  • If I cannot impact this do I really want to continue to work here?

If you have never read In Search of Excellence I suggest you pick up a copy. And then become a Tom Peters fan.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Are You Ready for Gen X Managers?

An article in Chief Learning Officer describes research that shows there is a distinct skills gap between retiring Baby Boomer managers and the incoming Gen X managers. "New research by Personnel Decisions International (PDI) shows companies face a substantial employee skills shift, as 22.5 million baby boomers are on schedule to retire during the next 10 years, and company leadership transitions to Generation X managers (born between 1964 and 1979) who will bring a new, distinct skills set to the workplace."

The research study shows that "Baby boomers received higher ratings from their managers in 10 out of 18 competencies. They were nearly 18 percent more likely to be rated as “knowing the business” and 10 percent more likely to use technical or functional expertise on the job.
Baby boomers also rated substantially better in their ability to coach and develop and their ability to manage execution. On the other hand, Gen X managers are more likely to receive higher ratings in self-development, work commitment and analyzing issues than their older counterparts."

This means that companies need to do alot more managerial training. To prepare for this future you need to:
  • Identify what skills sets your up and coming managers lack
  • Structure training with existing managers to provide the Gen X'ers the exposure to the bigger picture skills
  • Start thinking about how the company may need to restructure to take advantage of the collaborative approaches with collective buy-in that Gen X'ers use.

This is an opportunity for HR Managers to exercise their strategic skills and be proactive in the success of their companies. If you don't start doing it now the company will suffer in the future.

Monday, February 12, 2007


Seth Godin, marketing guru, has a very interesting blog entitled Sheepwalking. He says "I define "sheepwalking" as the outcome of hiring people who have been raised to be obedient and giving them a braindead job and enough fear to keep them in line." He indictes schools and companies for teaching and hiring compliant, mechanized people. "And many organizations go out of their way to hire people that color inside the lines, that demonstrate consistency and compliance. And then they give these people jobs where they are managed via fear. Which leads to sheepwalking. ("I might get fired!")" He says that two groups suffer as a result, the employee and the customer.

Often in HR we are guilty of perpetuating "sheepwalking." We reward people for obeying the rules instead of being innovative. Innovators are harder to manage.

Perhaps that is because many human resources people are the ultimate sheepwalkers. We are so stuck in the "rules and regulations" environment that we stop being creative. If that is the case we need to break out of it. Time to read a book like Mavericks at Work.

So if the next time you look in the mirror and you look a little sheepish and wooley... well you know what I mean.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Strange Bedfellows: WalMart and Union Join Forces

In one of the strangest alliances of recent memory, WalMart and arch foe the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), joined forces to announce that they were going to work together to push the federal government to provide universal healthcare and to get out of the system of employer provided healthcare. As reported in a Washington Times article, H. Lee Scott, CEO of WalMart and Andy Stern, President of the SEIU, held a press conference in in Washington, D.C. and "...pledged to work together for the first time to fix what they called the nation's health-care crisis by 2012." Joining in the press conference were representatives from AT&T, Kelly Services, Intel, and the Communication Workers of America.

The thrust of the announcement was that the healthcare system in the U.S. is not working, people are uncovered by insurance and the system of employer provided healthcare makes U.S. companies less competetive in a world market.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Communication - A Symptom Not The Problem

There is an excellent post in Slow Leadership on Why Most Communication Problems Aren't. Carmine Coyote states that "Sometimes it feels as if nearly every difficulty or source of discontent is labeled a “communication issue” as a matter of routine. On the surface, it may even look as if this is correct. Bosses and their subordinates routinely misunderstand and miscommunicate with each other. Information becomes garbled as it is passed through the organization. Customer queries are mishandled because what the customer wanted wasn’t clearly understood or communicated internally. Projects falter in a morass of poorly-communicated data and inadequate reports. Is it any wonder that trainers and coaches spend probably more time trying to help people with their communications that any other single topic?" And this is where HR often jumps in. We try to fix the communication problems. We have training sessions or one-on-one sessions to improve communication. However, as Coyote points out "When communications are bad, the real cause is likely to be something else."

The blog points out that poor communication is often the symptom of other problems, such as pressure, haste, aggression, mistrust and fear. Communication gets seen as the problem because it is visible. The lesson in this for the Human Resources Manager is to look beyond the surface. If your organization is having communication problems ask yourself the question "What is causing this?" Then treat the disease and not the symptom.

For further discussion click the link above to go to Slow Leadership.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Wow, And I Thought HR Was Underpaid!

It has been reported, in a number of different locations, that Dennis Donovan, the head of Human Resources at Home Depot, has resigned. According to a WorkForce magazine article, "... Donovan could receive $15 million to $20 million, plus retirement benefits, stock options and compensation already earned."

Not too bad... but then again, maybe HR is still underpaid. Afterall, Nardelli did receive about $210 million.