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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ideal Learning Conditions

First I'm going to rant and then I'm going to propose solutions.

There are times when I wish I could tell clients they can just pay for the training certificates so they don't need to bother sending their people to a whole or two-day training and avoid having to pull them out when they need them. Here are a few pet peeves:
  1. Participants who don't know why they were sent to training – Some participants resent attending training because they are utterly clueless why they're there. I imagine how irritating it would be to be sent to the same training a number of times without the boss discussing why.
  2. Training that are held in the client's office where participants are pulled out once in a while to do some work - I really can't understand the idea of sending people to training and then asking them to skip a few hours because they have work to do. It's obvious that people who do this think learning equals attendance certificate.
  3. Claustrophobic venue and 30 participants - on a number of occasion, I have been asked to run a program in a small venue brimming with participants. When I express my space requirements, client will say this is all we have while pointing to a small room, you either take it or leave it. Of course, I will take it but it diminishes the learning experience due to space limitations.
  4. Bosses who are not interested in the content of the program - this often becomes an area of concern for participants. They attend the training, like the program, but worry that their bosses won't appreciate the changes they want to make. This happens when HR “requires” managers to send participants rather than sell the program to them by presenting learning objectives and content and aligning them with strategic and operational objectives.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The HR Person as a Change Manager

A lot of well-meaning and much needed changes fail because of our failure to apply some fundamental concepts in leading and managing change. We often think that we can bank on our authority to make change happen, and then we complain about how little commitment we get from people. We often get minimum compliance from people as a nod to our authority while they grumble about the uselessness or impracticality of our initiatives. Case in point? Performance Management System. In many organizations, managers go as far as filling up the forms and submitting them to HR and not a lot more.  You look at every other HR initiative, and you'll see similar lack of buy-in behaviors. I think it's time we change our tactic if we haven't done so yet.  My suggestion is to adopt a change framework. There's a lot out there. The simplest is Lewin's Unfreeze-change-refreeze. There's ADKAR, and then there's Kotter's 8 Steps. For this post, I'd like to use Kotter's.

Step 1: Create Urgency- When I sense a need for change as an HR Manager, I'd look for data to validate my observation. When there's compelling reason to propose change, I present my observation and my data to the stake holders so we can have a shared conclusion about what needs to be done. When I was HR Director, I noticed a correlation between overtime work, tardiness and  rework or quality issue. I digged our data and showed management thar whenever employees take longer than four hours of OT, they're most often late the next day and the quality of their work plummet. I calculated the cost to help them understand the impact. This convinced them that we cannot continue our current practice.

Step 2: Build Guiding Coalition for change - HR Managers need to have organizational and political savvy. I knew that as an HR Manager, my influential power trumps my formal authority. I recognized that there are people in the organization that are more powerful than me but if I can get them as allies for change, I get to borrow their power to effect change. I use my ability to present information and recommend changes to influence them to join my coalition for change. 

Step 3: Create a vision for change - I say co-create it. Nothing is more powerful than a shared vision. We need to learn how to facilitate a visioning process. It helps to gather your coalition and agree on a vision for change.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Enhancing Organizational Assertiveness Quotient

I think we still underestimate the value of improving everyone's communication skills. By communication skills I mean more than fluency and eloquence, more than the ability to express, but more importantly, the ability to listen.

During a training lunch break, I was chatting with a participant from a tech company. I brought up an emerging technology and asked if they're on it too. The participant said no, they were too late. He said someone presented an idea a few years ago but no one listened. The proposal was shelved. When the competitions started offering the new technology, they realized they lost a big opportunity to lead the market by a few years! I asked what happened. He said two things; failure to convince on one hand and failure to listen on the other. This is not an isolated case in that organization and I would bet that it isn't a rare case in most organizations either. In a country like the Philippines where "subordinates" defer to their bosses, a lot of opportunities for improvement are not communicated.

There is indeed a need to improve interaction in the workplace and HR should champion the campaign for enhancing everyone's capacity including the leaders. Especially the leaders. The way to do it is to empower people to communicate at an assertive level.

So, how do we enhance people’s assertiveness? I have a number of recommendations.

Establish norms for open communication.  As I mentioned, the Filipino culture is quite hierarchical. It’s almost a taboo to  challenge the ideas of the bosses or express a dissenting opinion. We are also conflict averse. Many has this belief that expressing disagreement or criticism is a form of attack or disrespect. That’s why practically no one wants to give it and no one wants to receive it either. This needs to change because it slows down issue resolution and could cause expensively wrong decisions. At ExeQserve, we help our clients establish rules of engagement for collaboration, coordination and cooperation so that fear don’t get in the way of productive collaboration. Click here if you want to know more.