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Sunday, December 10, 2017

HR as in Human Relations

The first time I heard the term HR was when the company I worked for decided to change the name of Personnel Department to HR Department. I honestly thought it meant Human Relations. I also thought it was a great idea. It all make sense! I thought HR is in the business of building and strengthening human relationships in the organization, so the ignorant and inexperience me thought, brilliant! I was a bit disappointed that it was a mere play of words, a relabeling of the term personnel administration.

The thought of HR meaning human relations was never lost on me. I’ve always thought that it was a very important job of HR. The more I think about it, the more I feel that our job is less about ensuring compliance but more about building a strong relationship that promotes collaboration, coordination and cooperation.  The word that comes to my mind is neither respect nor fear but trust. I believe that if there’s more trust, there’s going to be more respect and fear is not needed.  I made a causal loop to visualize the cause and effect of trust in the many things that HR does in the workplace and how it impacts on the organization.

So, here’s the causal loop explained; If trust in HR is high, people’s willingness to cooperate is high, when cooperation is high, issues resolved is high, when people see that issues get resolved, the quality of communication improves as well.  When people know they can talk to HR, the amount of collaboration increases as well. It goes for all the other loops.

The next question would be, how can HR build trust?  People has to see us as a Partner rather than a mall cop or a school principal, or a compliance officer.  As a partner, we tap on our formal authority less and our ability to ask humble inquiries on issues that matter more.  Edgar H. Schein wrote the book, Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling. It shows how asking for help and inquiring is more powerful than telling.  This means that instead of prescribing solutions to problems or issues, HR goes into facilitation of conversation that leads to co-created solutions and it starts with questions like why is this happening? or how do you see this issue? or how do we solve it? Asking these questions without waiting to pounce on an opportunity to force your own solution. This of course, does not apply in all situations but it applies to many situations.  More even handed conversations lead to better understanding and respect of what each brings to the table. When people see that we are actually listening rather pretending to listen  so we can be entitled to being listened to (does that make sense?), there will be better and more authentic listening from all parties, which leads to us appreciating people’s inputs better and them experiencing the same with us.


The source of compliance is authority, the source of alignment is leadership. I believe HR people need to be better leaders. To be better leaders we need to learn how to be better at relating to and with fellow humans. We need to do this deliberately. Very few people wake up one day endowed with great human relations skills. If you feel that you need learn these things, start your journey now!

Sunday, December 03, 2017

The Role of HR in Building a Culture of Trust

There are a number of books written to emphasize the value of trust in an organization.  Patrick Lencioni wrote “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” where he highlighted that trust is the foundation of teamwork and that the absence of it is a dysfunction that leads to other dysfunctions.  Stephen Covey wrote the book “The Speed of Trust where he emphasized "The ability to establish, extend, and restore trust with all stakeholders – customers, business partners, investors and coworkers – is the key leadership competency of the new, global economy."  Francis Fukuyama wrote “Trust: The Social Virtues and The Creation of Prosperity” where he cited the difference between high trust and low trust cultures and how high trust culture tend to do better than low trust ones.  Despite all these information about the value of trust in an organization, many companies in the Philippines continue to struggle in building trust. The HR leaders, I believe who are at the core of organizational relationship can do something to build a high trust culture. It’s not easy, but I believe it’s doable. I believe a good HR manager can facilitate the building of a high trust relationship in the organization if they haven’t done so yet.
Source: https://readingraphics.com/book-summary-overcoming-the-five-dysfunctions-of-a-team/

What does a high trust culture look like? I believe trust manifest in the quality of communication that happen in the organization. It shows in how goals are clarified and fine-tuned via dialogues where people are encouraged to ask questions, voice out concerns and affect changes in decisions, business strategies and tactics.  When people don’t second-guess their co-workers or their bosses, they gain the confidence and comfort to do their best at work and hold themselves accountable for reciprocating the trust.

I think that Step 1 of building a high trust culture starts with HR opening shop for conversation and dialogues with employees where formal authority is set aside so no coercive influence gets in the way of clarifying directions, raising concerns and co-creating solutions and road maps.  When HR clearly advocates common good rather than protect the interest of a sector, they gain the respect of both their peers in management and the employees who depend on them to take care of their welfare.  I think that an HR Manager’s real power does not come from his or her position title or what the company policy says he or she can do but in his/her ability to build a trusting relationship with the employees.
When HR gains the trust of everyone in the organization, they get the opportunity to  spread this trust throughout the organization by facilitating collaboration, coordination and cooperation in the organization. It helps when people trust HR rather than fear them. HR gets more cooperation for its programs and because the programs succeed, the satisfaction is higher, motivation is higher, which leads to higher performance.

HR needs to be seen as more than an organizational authority, we need to be seen as leaders who can build bridges of trust that make people feel safe to be at their best when they are at work. 

In the Philippines HR Group, the country's largest Facebook Group of HR Professionals, non-HR members ask  whether their company is being fair or not. They'd rather ask the people in the group than go to their own HR Department. They say it's easier but it feels more like it's because it's safer.  If I am an HR manager, I would rather encourage co-workers to go to me to seek clarity because I can give it better than anyone else. But for that, they need to trust HR. For that to happen, HR needs to be trustworthy.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Why Develop a Competency-Based Learning and Development Strategy?

If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably already know that my pet peeve is HR or Training Managers showing me their training calendar whenever I ask them for their training plan.  That’s it! Their strategy for addressing the learning and development needs of the employees is schedule training for them based on a survey of which training Managers and employees wish to attend.

We need to change this! We need to go beyond just listing training titles on our calendars and call them training plan.  A plan is a strategy, and a strategy should be aligned with the goal, and by goal I mean organizational business goals. I believe strongly that an organizationally aligned competency-based L&D Strategy will work.  Here’s what I propose:
  • Take a close look at your company’s strategic objectives and initiatives and ask, what kind of competencies are needed to achieve those goals?  
  • Ask; what do those competencies look like in action? When you’re able to define the competencies and their behavioral indicators, you have to ask if the incumbents possess those competencies or if there is a gap. You'll need a gaps assessment tool for this.
  • The next question to ask is, if the gaps are caused by a lack of knowledge, skills or necessary attitude and if it is something that can be addressed by a learning and development intervention?
  • Here’s an important question to ask, what kind of intervention is most effective in addressing the competency gaps? Formal classroom training is just one of the many options, there’s coaching, job instructions, mentoring, exposure to projects, etc.
  • How will you ensure that learning translates to performance? Often, the department does not have a strategy for this.  They deal with training as event that you tick off from your list of things to do. This is why a lot of the training money go to waste because even a well-designed and delivered classroom training will be rendered useless by a lack of implementation and follow through plan.  Who will be responsible for following through, and the training department, what does it do to ensure that learning is applied to the workplace? There has got to be a strategy for that.
  • Then you draw a plan with clear set of objectives, clear strategy for implementation, clear roles for the department, the managers, the participants and other stakeholders, clear strategy for monitoring and evaluation of effectiveness. When these are clear, designing the intervention is more effective and efficient.
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I know this is easier said than done, that’s why I developed a learning program to help L&D Managers and anyone who is interested in developing a good competency-based learning and development strategy.  Join me on January 8 and 9, 2018. Let me help you by teaching you how and giving you the following tools as a bonus.
  • A soft copy, completely customizable competency catalogue that you can use as a starting point for doing your own
  • A template learning and development strategy document with recommended strategy on how to implement your learning and development plan
  • Templates for competency gaps assessment, worksheet for lining up L&D programs
  • A new and improved Individual Development Plan (IDP) that covers the conversation between manager and employee that begins as planning and leads to evaluation of impact of learning in the workplace
  • Training Monitoring and Evaluation Tools. 

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Developing Leadership by Improving Internal Conversations

Think about it. The times you spend not talking to others, you spend talking to yourself, whether consciously or unconsciously. The quality of your internal conversations affects the quality of your external actions! Do you spend time encouraging yourself, scaring yourself or deceiving yourself? These factor-in on the decisions you make that impact on your interaction with others, with things and eventually with the quality of your results.

A Gallup research shows that 70% of managers are making their team worse.  A lot of them fail to communicate effectively, fail to motivate, empathize and build a strong working relationship with their team members. Where do you think this is coming from? I believe it comes from a lack quality intrapersonal communication skill, a lack of quality internal conversation.  Is it of no wonder that people attend training teaching them how to do things but fail to do so because there is an internal conversation hindering them from taking risk with their new knowledge?

One of my staff talked to me about a time in his previous employment when he resented being sent to an interpersonal skills training because he felt that he did not have a problem relating to others. So the whole time, he was trying to endure the training and continued to question the wisdom of him being sent there. I told him about the story of a CEO of a very successful company distributing  electrical products who attended my Basic Supervisory Training. I asked the CEO why he wanted to attend the training when it was clearly for his front-line supervisors. He said two things; first, there’s always something new you can learn from someone and second he wanted to learn what his team was learning so they can speak the same language.  During the session, he asked a lot of questions and acknowledged his own learning opportunities. Imagine, I told my staff, how different his internal conversation was compared to the CEO’s. It’s the kind of conversation that makes you a successful CEO, I told him.

What does your internal conversation do to you? It does a lot. It helps you understand your current emotional state. It’s called self-awareness.  Knowing, recognizing, acknowledging how you’re feeling help you understand what you need to do. If you’re clear about your personal motivations, your ability to self-regulate helps you point yourself towards the decisions that leads you closer to your goal. Without the ability to self-regulate, we get driven by our fear, doubts, or anger. Imagine how you deal with others when you’re being driven by those negative emotions. It hinders you from understanding others and that gets in the way of effectively relating to them. When you have barriers like these, you’ll have difficulty connecting with others and I tell you, leadership is all about connecting with others. To connect with others, you must effectively connect with yourself first.


If you think about the reality of all these and the urgency for all of us to improve the quality of our internal conversation, isn’t it a wonder why very few organizations invest on interventions to help people reach within themselves and bring out the best of themselves? It’s because people tend to resist the idea of needing to improve emotional intelligence. It’s almost insulting it seems to be sent to a training that tells you to be more self-aware, to have better self-control and to deal with others better. We need to think differently about this thing. We need to change our mindset and start exploring and accessing information and opportunities to deal with ourselves better. 

If you want to know more about how you can develop personal mastery by improving your internal conversations, check THIS.