Thursday, January 31, 2008

Innovation in HR: Doing Something Old Better

Another good posting by Valeria Maltoni of Coversation Agent. Her blog title was "Sometimes Innovation is no More Than Doing Something Old ... Better". She gives several examples of what she means:

  • Apple's new thin notebook computer, same computer, just thinner

  • Google as the search engine of choice instead to the old powerhouse Altavista

  • MS Word instead of Wordstar

In his book Human Resources Champions , Dave Ulrich talks about the skills that effective and progressive HR professionals need to have. But one of the key points he makes is that to be considered a "partner" you must do the basics of the job well. You must be an administrative expert. His steps for being an administrative expert include:

  • Reengineer HR work through use fo technology, process engineering teams, and quality improvements.

  • Define the HR role in creating value for the firm.

  • Creat a shared services HR delivery mechanism.

  • Measure HR results in terms of efficiency (cost) and effectiveness (quality).

Administration has been what HR/Personnel has been about from its inception. Many, many companies do it poorly. So how about being an "innovative" HR department by taking Ulrich's and Maltoni's advice and do something old ... better.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How To Increase Creativity: Tips for HR

Valeria Maltoni, author of the blog Coversation Agent (and other blogs), wrote a great blog on Creativity and Outcome . She stated that creativity can be hard work, however, she gives some tips for how you can introduce creativity into your daily "routine" by getting out of your daily routine. Click on the link above to see what those tips are.

I am a big believer that being creative and being non-routine is a vital skill for the human resources professional. When I am teaching classes to HR professionals and HR professional wanna-bes I talk about the importance of environmental scanning. This is necessary to be a proactive, forward thinking HR professional. You have to be able to recognize what is happening that may affect your employee population and your company's ability to attract and retain those employees. And this skill takes creativity! It requires you to get out of your routines, which for many of us have become ruts, and to view the world from a different perspective. As Maltoni says "Creativity happens by design." So read her tips on becoming more creative or elastic by freeing yourself from your routines and start on the road to being a better human resources professional. You will be more interested, more interesting, more valuable and as a result probably better paid.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tips for Remote Teams

I happen to be working from home today and as I was reviewing some older email and scanning for newsletter ideas I came across a BNET set of articles on Managing Remote Teams. The first of these tip articles was directed to the managers and was entitled "How to Manage Employees in Remote Locations". (Click the title to read the article.) One of the things that struck me in the article was related to something I wrote about a few blogs ago and that is PASSION. You, as the manager, have to have a passion for the work and you also have to select workers who are suited to the task and have that passion as well.

The second article, "Ten Tools for Remote Teams" talks about all the various connection and productivity mechanisms you can use to make teams more effective. Many of these I was familiar with, however, I was not familiar with the wiki or ftp site. Interesting information. Does anyone have an experience with this tool? If so leave a comment and let me know.

Remote working, telecommuting, working offsite or however you may refer to it is a hot topic for HR today. Here in Atlanta, Georgia, where we have horrendous traffic we are encouraged by the Governor to institute as much telecommuting as possible. Being aware of these tips and tools will help you and managers be more effective in setting up and running remote work and managing remote workers.

Comment your success or lack of success in this arena so others can learn.

Monday, January 28, 2008

"Heartache" Leave- Now There is a Benefit for You!

A Japanese marketing company is now offering "heartache" leave to all its six women employees. This allows them paid time off to go cry themselves out after a break up so they can come back refreshed and focused on work. According to the CEO, Miki Hiradate, "Not everyone needs to take maternity leave but with heartbreak, everyone needs time off, just like when you get sick." And the older you are the more leave you get. "Women in their 20s can find their next love quickly, but it's tougher for women in their 30s, and their break-ups tend to be more serious," Hiradate said. Staff aged 24 years or younger can take one day off per year, while those between 25 and 29 can take two days off and those older can take three days off, the company said. (Source: Yahoo News Reuters story). By the way Miki Hiradate is a woman. More information on her can be found here.

The firm also gives paid time off for "shopping" two mornings per year.

I bet this firm does not have too many turnover issues. I wonder how this would "fly" in other countries. Anyone know of any other "female friendly" firms that offer something similar?

What about other benefit issues targeted to specific employee groups? Any examples of unusual benefits?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Leadership Notes from a "Good to Great" Company

I had the opportunity to hear John G. Rice, Vice Chairman of GE, speak on leadership. GE is one of the companies Jim Collins wrote about in "Good to Great". In fact Rice's introducer said it is the only remaining company written about that continues to excel.

Rice talked about GE in general, his schedule as Vice Chairman, and about some of his leadership principles. At 51 years of age he is bright, energetic and has an incredible schedule that takes him around the globe meeting with "movers and shakers." Some of the points on leadership include:
  • Teamplaying is a leadership skill.
  • Leaders have to be flexible and adaptable. He does not expect his employees to work his schedule of time, he does expect them to produce the results he desires.
  • A leader has to be "inclusive." If you can't handle diversity you will not be an effective leader.
  • Leaders provide consistent and constructive feedback. No suprises at review time.

As he was talking about people he used a phrase that caught my ear. He referred to people's "strengths and development needs" instead of "strengths and weaknesses." That was pretty revealing of his people philosophy.

I know alot has been written about GE, both good and bad, but if Rice is an example of what kind of leader develops within that system then perhaps we should all pay a great deal more attention. I think I will be doing some more reading on GE. Anyone one have any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Genetic Dilemma for HR

I read an article on Scientific American about genome based medical decisions that was rather interesting. It described how we are getting to the point in the medical field about personalized drug regimens based upon the patients genetic make-up. Research has found that not everyone responds the same way to a particular drug even though they may have the "same" disease. Treatment can vary, for example with high blood pressure, depending on the individual's genetic make up. The way doctors discover the proper drug to treat something is through trial-and-error (ever watch House?). Well this is an expensive way to treat someone and certainly raises the cost of medical care delivery. It would be less expensive, more effective and quicker if the patient's genome map was known so that the proper course of treatment could be selected right away.

Here however is the dilemma this puts HR in. There is already pressure to make sure that genetic information is not being used in employment decisions, which is not really that big of an issue because most of us don't really know the genetic make-up of our employees. However, if the medical field moves to using this information for treatment purposes HR will potentially have access to this information despite the best efforts of HIPAA and the ADA. So you would think it is in the best interest and safety of the company not to be exposed to this information. However, with the tremendous pressure on HR to lower healthcare costs, to hold the line on the cost of insurance coverage companies provide to employees, it would make sense to encourage the use of this information because it is less expensive, more effective and quicker.

So where do we go with this? I think we are going to see increasing regulation, an increase in necessary safeguards, and an ever increasing burden on HR to insure privacy of this information. What is your take.

Monday, January 21, 2008

HR Podcasts?

More and more podcasts are being done and becoming more popular. (For those of you who are not quite sure of what a podcast is click here for the Wikipedia definition.) As I was reading a blurb this morning I was suddenly struck with the idea that many HR departments may be missing an opportunity to communicate with and connect to their Gen X and Gen Y employees. Weekly announcements, updates in benefits, reinforcement of corporate culture, anything you may want employees to know you might be able to put on a podcast.

Obviously you can't make it the only form of communication. Most of your Baby Boomers won't listen to often. (I am not sure I have listened to one. After all I do not have an Ipod.) But think about your employee groups, who might? Would it be worth looking at this method of communicating?

I wonder if anyone is doing that currently as a communication tool with employees? If you are respond and let us know.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Do You Have Passionate Workers?

Seth Godin, marketing author and blogger, wrote a blog untitled WORKAHOLICS, in which he discusses the PASSIONATE WORKER. He notes that there is a very big difference between the two. "The passionate worker doesn't show up because she's afraid of getting in trouble, she shows up because it's a hobby that pays. The passionate worker is busy blogging on vacation... because posting that thought and seeing the feedback it generates is actually more fun than sitting on the beach for another hour. The passionate worker tweaks a site design after dinner because, hey, it's a lot more fun than watching TV." On the other hand the workaholic works out of fear. "It's fear that drives him to show up all the time. The best defense, apparently, is a good attendance record." The PASSIONATE WORKER works out of passion and curiosity.

I am familiar with this difference. I live with a passionate worker. Her job allows her the opportunity to solve problems, something that drives her. She solves logic problems on vacation! I accuse her of being a workaholic, but that is not true. She truly works because she loves what the job presents her. That does not mean that there are not times when the work is mundane and boring, but on the whole she is energized by the work.

From an HR stand point the question becomes how can we make most jobs like this? How can we structure work to make all our employees passionate? Or is it not a matter of the structure of work, perhaps it is the proper selection of the right person who finds this work passionate?

Seth makes the comment that it is hard to imagine someone being passionate about mining coal, but I can remember another passionate worker. He was the clean up guy in a plant I worked in earlier in my career. He was always happy so one day I asked him why, since I could not imagine why someone was so happy about pushing a broom and mowing the grass and emptying the trash. He told me he had the most important job in the plant. I asked him how he figured that and he told me that if he did not empty the trash no one else could work, if he did not mow the lawn the neighbors would be mad and if he did not sweep the floor everything would be dirty. Thus, in his mind he had the most important job in the plant. Passion? I am not sure, but he thought so. Right person for the job or right job for the person?

OD specialists tell you that task significance or task importance are important for job satisfaction. So maybe that is what what passion is, the apex of the job satisfaction curve. What do you think?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Rewarding Gen Y- The Little Things Count

I received Harvey Mackay's newsletter in my email today. It discusses the importance of constant reward for the newest generation of workers, Gen Y or the Millinials. He describes a story he saw on TV that talks about how Gen Y workers are looking for constant reward. If they don't find it they move on. This creates a big challenge for HR. How do we retain these workers? How do we reward them? What do we reward them with?

Unfortunately, this is a problem Baby Boomer parents have created. Everyone gets rewarded. "My Child is a Winner" bumper stickers, graduation ceremonies for EVERY grade, sporting events were there are no losers just "winners" and no one being failed in school. All of this goes against Skinnerian reinforcement theory that shows that behavior that is constantly rewarded goes away very quickly if the reward does not continue. So we have created a situation where we reward ALL good behavior and then are suprised when that good behavior disappears as soon as we stop the reward. In the workplace that means we have to give fairly constant rewards for the smallest things, otherwise we risk losing that employee because they "don't feel appreciated."

I am not certain what the cure for this is, but I don't think it is going to be the workplace. HR and managers are having to deal with a pattern of behavior that gets established early in life. So you parents today take heed you are making my job in the future harder!

Gen X- Attitudes on Promotion

There is a Southwest Airlines commercial running that I think speaks volumes about Gen X expectations about promotions. The characters in the commercial think it is unfair that a fellow worker has been promoted to a managerial position before them, afterall they had been there four months before him. If you have not seen it click here to view the Southwest Airlines commercial.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Drucker on HR: The Knowledge Worker

This past weekend I happend upon a book called The Daliy Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done. It is chocked full of quotes, insights and action items from the most prolific and most respected of management writers and consultants. If you don't know who Peter F. Drucker is you need to click on his name and read about the man. If you had nothing but Drucker books in your library you would not be short anything. Although he has passed away The Drucker Institute at Clairmont College continues his work.

I bring this up because the entry in the book for January 7th is "Knowledge Workers: Asset Not Cost," which comes from his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century. He starts off with the statement "Knowledge workers OWN the means of production." (My emphasis.) He states further "It is the knowledge between their ears. And it is a totally portable and enormous capital asset. Because knowledge workers own their means of production, they are mobile. Manual workers need the job much more than the job needs them. It may still not be true for all knowledge workers that the organization needs them more than they need the organization. But for most of them it is a symbiotic relationship in which the two need each other in equal measure."

Drucker then argues that "Management's duty is to preserve the assets of the institution in its care. What does this mean when the knowledge of the individual knowledge worker becomes an asset and, in more and more cases, the main asset of an institution?" For him and for me there are alot of human resources implications to that question. How do you attract and hold on to these workers? What policies are necessary to change or impliment to hold on to the highest producing knowledge workers? Do you have the appropriate compensation system in place? How do we increase their productivity and how is this converted into organizational performance?

I think in many organizations one of the first hurdles HR has to get over in dealing with knowledge workers is convincing management that they are indeed an asset and that the company needs them on the job much more than they need to have that particular job. Perhaps one good way would be to educate them through the use of Peter Drucker and his writings. So all HR professionals should have a good dose of Drucker on their bookshelf and should be well versed in the use of Drucker wisdom. You will be a better HR pro and you will have a better management team as a result.