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HR Bartender

self management, telework, self reflection, management, leadership(Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared over at Workshifting, which shares resources on telecommuting, online tools, travel, technology, and virtual offices.  With the rise in telework and mobile workforces, I believe self-management is a critical skill to develop.  I hope you enjoy the series!)

When organizations and individuals start having conversations about workshifting, the discussion seems to naturally gravitate toward how to manage a person who isn’t sitting around an office all day.  It’s a reality and, unfortunately, this is where the workshifting concept can often get stuck.

A basic tenet of workshifting is being able to manage yourself.  That’s not to say people who work in offices can’t manage themselves, but I’ve heard from many people over the years that they need an office to visit each day.  Because working from home or the local coffee shop can sometimes be a distraction.  And having an office away from home keeps them focused.

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appraisal, recruiting, leadershipI got a note from a reader in Saudi Arabia about using self-appraisals in the performance appraisal process.  While there continues to be a faction of the HR community who thinks the performance appraisal ought to be abolished, I believe greater involvement is the key to solving the existing challenges.  And getting employees involved in the process is one way of doing it.

Having employees complete a self-appraisal prior to the meeting does several things.  First, it gets the employee thinking about their upcoming performance meeting.  This meeting shouldn’t be a surprise.  I’ve actually seen department managers call an employee in with no warning to give them their appraisal.  Not good.

Speaking of the meeting, when you give the employee their self-appraisal information, you can also remind employees of the process.  If you’re a company that separates the merit increase process from the performance meeting, it’s the perfect time to outline what’s going to happen and when.  That way, at the end of the meeting, the employee doesn’t ask about money and a manager won’t have to explain the process.  It kinda ruins all the planning that was done in the first place.

I used to give an employee a copy of the last appraisal along with a blank one.  They could think about the last meeting as well as what they have accomplished since then.  It gives the employee time to think of specific examples to support their self-appraisal.

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customer service, engagement, hr blogsBack in the early days of HR Bartender, I wrote a post about how Customer Service is the New Marketing.  And I still believe it.  The way an organization interacts with its current, potential and past customers is critical.  The businesses I’ve worked for in the past had huge competitive sets; meaning customers had lots of selection.  A key differentiator was our customer service.

But what I have noticed since I wrote that initial post, is customer service is starting to take on a tiered approach.  What I’m seeing are three tiers in customer service and here’s how they take shape:

The first level and most transactional is what I’d call plain old customer service.  A company offers a product/service and customer needs that product/service.  Transaction happens.  Money changes hands.  No major snafus occur.

The next level is customer engagement.  BTW – I believe this level is being driven by the popularity of social media.  Customers can follow and interact with their favorite companies.  Companies can engage.  It’s not about buying the product or service…at least not right away.  It’s about building a relationship and loyalty so when a customer is ready to buy, they will immediately purchase from the company they’ve been engaged with all that time.

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I’m a firm believer in metrics and measurement.  There’s a quote I like from Dr. Jac Fitz-enz which says, “If the language of business is dollars, then the alphabet is numbers.”  And I think there’s real truth in it.

Especially when it comes to training.  There are times when training gets a bad rap because sometimes companies implement training programs for issues that aren’t training problems.  Then when they try to measure the results, well they can’t because it wasn’t a training issue in the first place.  But instead of admitting the right tool wasn’t used, the whole concept of training is declared ineffective.

I listened to a speaker recently who challenged my thoughts about the importance of calculating return on investment.  His thought was alignment and impact of training are more important than ROI.  My first reaction was to call bravo sierra on this one but after noodling it over, maybe he’s right.

The function of training and development, like human resources or any other department, should be aligned with the organization.  Ultimately, this means training programs need to be aligned to an organizational goal.  If they are, then the results should have a positive impact on the business.

In no way does this imply that hard data results will not be available or used to show impact.

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The jury is still out with me regarding generational differences.  Some people say the generations are significantly different; some people don’t.  I understand there Generational Differencehas been a lot of research done to categorize groups of people based upon when they were born.  The idea is,  this research may offer insights to help marketers, managers, government leaders, etc. understand societal needs of the future.

But I can’t help but think one of the key reasons that generations are different is because of the kind of world they live in and what things they have exposure to.  For example, I’m old enough to remember what my job was like without email.  And, I admit…I remember those brick cell phones.

People entering the workforce today don’t recall any of those things.  They have a different frame of reference and that changes their perspective.  In a good way, I might add.

If you want to gain some insight about the generation currently entering the workforce, check out the Beloit College website Mindset Moment.  The site lists the “mindset” for the students currently entering college.  It’s really interesting – here are a couple of tidbits about the Class of 2014:

Most don’t know how to write cursive.

The cliché “Go West” – doesn’t refer to California.  It means China.

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A comment on Twitter recently caught my eye:

If you want to hire better employees, you must interview more candidates.  The more people you talk to; the better chances are of making a great hire.

I understand the logic – managers want to talk to as many people as possible to make sure they hire the best person.  But this also assumes what managers are doing is comparing candidates to each other…not to the company standard.

Here’s a similar example I’ve dealt with before.  We have a sales department with 10 people.  Each sales person has a goal to sell $1M annually.  It’s the end of the year and time for performance evaluations.  The manager ranks everyone in the sales team by annual sales and wants to give the biggest increase to the person who sold the most and the smallest increase to the person who sold the least.  Makes sense, right?

What if I told you that the person who sold the least…sold $10M?  Yep, they sold 10 times their goal.

Somehow it doesn’t seem right to give the smallest increase to a person who significantly exceeded their goal.  Because the problem isn’t the person.  It’s probably that the goal is too low.

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I’ve seen more articles lately about the failures of performance appraisals than just about anything else.  And, it seems that the only logical answer is to abolish them.  You can read some of these viewpoints here, here, here, here, and here.  And, my apologies to writers I may have missed.

While I admit I haven’t spent any time researching the history of the performance appraisal, it only seems reasonable that performance appraisals were created to fulfill some kind of organizational need.  My guess is some company had a bunch of employees complaining they never knew how they were doing.  Managers were busy running the operation and hated giving feedback so it just didn’t get done.  “No news is good news” was the performance management philosophy.

So some human resources pro suggested creating an annual process called the performance appraisal.  Managers would be mandated to give employees performance feedback on a regular schedule (whether they liked it or not).  Once a year, employees will get feedback about their performance.

(Insert sarcasm here)  The HR pro was instantly heralded as a genius and a statue in their honor was erected in the parking lot.  The managers hated it.  But who cares?  Life was good for both employees and the HR Pro company.  Of course, this performance appraisal utopia was destined to only last for so long (for the reasons my colleagues explained in their articles.)

Which brings us to today.  Don’t get me wrong…I agree with many (if not all) of the observations my fellow bloggers have about performance appraisals.  But I’m not convinced the answer is to abolish the performance appraisal.

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One of the year-end articles I read was about Japan being overtaken by China as the No. 2 economy.  The article really hit home with me because I wonder if there will ever come a time when the United States will have to face the same reality.

It seems to me that the only way the U.S. will not face the same fate is to become fanatical about innovation.  A couple of major companies have already recognized the importance innovation has on their future.

At the Proctor & Gamble annual meeting, President and CEO Bob McDonald announced that sales grew 3%, market share grew in 14 of the company’s top 17 countries and P&G now serves over 4.2 billion customers.  McDonald attributed the company’s performance on innovation:

“Innovation that truly improves people’s lives is more important than ever because many of the economies in which we operate are still recovering from the recession.”

Ford Motor Company’s CIO Nick Smither was quoted in Information Week as saying long-term thinking is essential.  “We need to make sure we are sustaining the levels of innovation through a tough economic cycle.”  Ford has seen 21% growth in U.S. sales compared to 2009.

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In a recent post, Brian Solis declared 2011 “The Year of the Curator“.  All of a sudden, curation is a very popular term.  Now, popular terms don’t always translate into pertinent topics but the idea of curation really intrigues me.

One of the biggest conversations taking place in social media is about noise.  We have so much information available that we have to be able to filter out the unimportant content (aka “noise”).  It’s certainly an issue for consideration.  As business professionals, part of what attracts us to social media is the ability to get real-time, solid information as well as the opportunity to meet and interact with people we would otherwise never know.  But we can’t sacrifice time in the process.

That being said, how can we learn how to filter out the noise?

Early last year, I read a whole bunch of comments from people who declared that the way to filter out the noise is to unfriend and unfollow people.  They proceeded to announce they were deleting friends, followers and connections that they “didn’t feel were valuable”.

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Here’s a reader’s story about giving and receiving feedback:

Our company recently had an employee meeting.  Senior leadership conducted the session to talk about the status of the company in terms of finances, jobs, etc.  At the end of the meeting, they asked if anyone had questions.  One employee raised his hand and proceeded with a 10-minute monologue on communication and some other points.  The overall message was good however, senior leadership and myself thought the delivery was negative.

After the meeting, the employee asked me what I thought of their comments and if I felt it should have been kept out of that forum.  I replied the overall message was fine and appropriate for the meeting but it would be good to find a positive way to convey the message.

The employee then blasted me via email stating his new motto is to “shut-up” when asked and my feedback really meant the company didn’t care about his opinion in the least.

I’m very confused about how to deal with this employee.  I was only trying to help.  Any advice?

We all agree feedback is important.  The challenge sometimes with feedback is making sure the recipient is ready for it.  People ask for feedback all the time and then get hurt and/or offended when you give it to them.

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I recently had the privilege of writing a guest post over at Michael Carty’s XpertHR blog.  He’s doing a series called “If I Could Change One Thing about HR…” Excellent input from professionals both within and outside the profession.  Definitely check it out when you have a moment.

One thing that occurred to me while writing my piece is, there’s a difference between creating a strategy and being strategic.  Just because someone can create a strategy doesn’t mean they can think strategically.

According to the Cambridge dictionary, a strategy is a detailed plan for achieving results.  There are many different kinds of strategies – marketing strategies, compensation strategies, recruitment strategies, social media strategies, even strategic plans.  You get the point.

Thinking strategically means a person is capable of a thought process that allows them to facilitate a dialogue of critical thinking and innovation.  There’s a terrific comparison chart on Wikipedia showing the differences between strategic planning and strategic thinking.

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Sometimes when you mention strategic planning, it conjures up thoughts of long retreats at exotic resorts where you’re locked in a conference room.  The meeting ends with a pseudo-team building exercise and pep talk after which you receive a 2-inch thick binder with the notes from the meeting that ultimately ends up on a bookshelf collecting dust.

In today’s fast-paced world, strategic planning has to change.  It’s still important and essential to our business.  But it needs to be streamlined while still effective.

One of the classic exercises in strategic planning is developing (or revising) an organizational vision statement.  Whenever I think of vision statements, it reminds me of a chapter in Scott Adams’ book titled, The Dilbert Principle.  He talks about managers doing vision things when they should be doing mission things.  It’s a riot!

The joke does have some bearing in the business world today.  Traditionally, organizations have always had vision statements – those declarations of what they want to be long-term.  Their legacy, if you will.

But with the mantra from Wall Street being, “you’re only as good as your last quarter” – are vision statements relevant anymore?

Even from a personal standpoint, we used to encourage people to develop personal vision statements, think about their contributions as an individual, etc.  With everyone just trying to make ends meet and willing to pick up a side hustle at a moment’s notice, does this change a personal brand?

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Proper Process

If you have an effective process in place, follow it.

Processes exist for a reason.  Many times it’s to demonstrate that proper care and attention is being taken in reaching an end result.

So when an organization creates a process, it’s important to respect it and allow the process to happen.  Otherwise, why have the process at all?  Of course, if the process is verkakte, you have other issues.  But, that’s another post. Read the rest of this entry »

You guys know how much I love my iPhone.  For a while, I’ve considered getting the new iPhone 4.  But I also want to be fiscally responsible.  As such, the other evening I announced to Mr. Bartender that I might wait on this purchase.  Of course, as soon as I make this announcement, AT&T sends me their latest magazine and the focus is (what else) the newest iPhone.

While I’m back on the fence about getting the latest version, one thing that stood out in the magazine was an AT&T app called Mark the Spot.  It’s an app that allows you to tap a button when you encounter a service issue.  The app sends a signal to AT&T and they’re able to see where difficulties are.

Fascinating.  And, on the surface it sounds like a great idea.  But, it seems to me that AT&T is delegating responsibility for quality control to the customer.  It’s cheaper to have your users identify areas of service concern rather than pay your own people to track them down.

It reminds me of quality initiatives like TQM and now Six Sigma.  It used to be that quality control was a function within a company.  The goal was to ensure the excellence of a product or service before it reached the customer.

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I’m working on an project where I spend a fair amount of time talking with people who are looking for work.  It’s interesting to talk with them because they invariably ask me, “How do I bypass the human resources department in the interview process?”

Ouch!  Is this the perception of HR?  I flashed back to my days in the corporate world.  I thought we did a pretty good job of welcoming candidates and we followed up with every person who applied.  Every single one.  But then I read articles like “Ten Things Human Resources Won’t Tell You” and realize maybe candidates are right. Read the rest of this entry »

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