Thursday, July 11, 2019

Breaking News: Meetings Make Us Miserable

In recent headlines, a large global tech company used data analytics to discover that people who get pulled into too many crowded meetings are miserable at work. 

My reaction to this can be summed up in a single word:


I mean, the only surprising thing about this discovery is that it required analytics to figure it out.  Am I right?

Seriously, if there’s a bigger bummer than sitting in crowded meetings for 50-75% of your work week, it’s working for people who can’t figure that out for themselves without technology.

On the other hand, at least they took the problem seriously.  Too many companies either ignore the problem or fix the wrong thing.

They also used real data to correlate people's feelings (biased) with what was actually hapening in the business (unbiased), thus avoiding the tricky problem of getting people to tell the truth.  

Let's face it, even assuming there would be no repercussions for saying, 'You morons call way too many meetings!' people don't always know why they're miserable and can be quite expert at misdiagnosing their feelings.

So, I guess it’s a win, but I can't help thinking...


If you'd like to read more about why meetings are expensive and make people unahppy, check out htis article: Collaboration: $199/lb

And if you're interested in how to run happier and more collaborative meetings, read Games People Play: A Guide to Gamification for HR.

Friday, July 5, 2019

What HR is Paid to Do

Recently I’ve seen a lot of posts about freeing HR from administrative work so they can finally spend more time doing ‘what they’re paid to do.’  Wow, still?  Anyway, it would seem there are some different opinions about what HR is actually paid to do.  

The business expects HR to handle people admin, liability, reporting and skills development – so arguably, that’s what HR is paid to do, even some folks see it differently.

This may not be a popular viewpoint, but the HR Business Partner model proposed by David Ulrich was a bust in several key areas.  Don't get me wrong, the idea made sense (and he's doing some great new stuff now), but there were serious flaws in the execution that I don't think were intended or anticipated:
  • Doing it right required an extra layer of highly skilled – not to mention expensive - people running around moderating, coaching, advising, witnessing, and generally strategizing about all things people. 
  • Typically, HR business partners were (instead) sourced from a mostly business-as-usual HR talent pool, rather than hiring them from, say, the business
  • In many cases the newly minted ‘business partners’ continued having to do admin work while test driving the new role.
  • To create more time for strategic work, HR adopted technology to delegate administration and data entry to line managers and employees - shifting but not solving the admin problem. 
  • Although there was some progress on strategic initiatives, local teams tended to be left out of the strategic 'inner circle’, creating a 2-tier system within HR.

Fast forward about fifteen years: Too many HR professionals lack the field experience and operational skills of a true business partner and lack real authority to shape company culture and policy.  Somewhat ironically, HR gets blamed by the workforce for unpopular business decisions while having to defend them publicly.

There are companies where HR plays an integral role in business strategy and is recognized for leading the charge on the people agenda.  However, in my experience this usually goes hand in hand with a passionate and charismatic CHRO rather than than any particular framework or model.

According to recent Fosway research, a third of surveyed organizations plan to reduce HR headcount, so it would seem the case for investing more in HR isn't obvious to everyone.  Meanwhile, HR continues to struggle to do more with less while trying to find the time - and be taken seriously enough - to be strategic.

It may sound like I’m criticizing HR but I’m not.  HR has a tremendously important job that creates a lot of value to the business.  It is thanks to HR that people are hired and fired legally, onboarded, paid on time, trained, periodically coached or promoted, somewhat protected from egregious conduct and blatant discrimination, and terminated with due process and consideration. 

This is what HR is paid to do, and it’s strategic to boot because it helps the business run smoothly while supporting the people who deliver the company’s products and services.  HR doesn't get nearly enough credit for these things, in part - I think - because they've been so focused on establishing the HR Business Partner role with the executive team they've distanced themselves from what they do best.

Even in organizations where HR has successfully established the HR business partner role within the C-suite, there's a huge opportunity to position strategic HR to everyone else in the business. Ask the average employee what an HR business partner does all day and you will likely get a blank look.  

(To be fair, most people probably don't have a clue what the CEO does all day, either.)

If that’s not the case at your company, feel free to ignore everything I just said.

If it is the case, let’s forget the HR business partner model for just a moment and take a fresh look at how HR can partner with employees to create a better work experience:

Help people connect – People look for community and a sense of belonging.  When selecting HR technologies, consider whether they help people find their tribe at work and create meaningful connections across the business.  Also think about how to enable and encourage talent mobility, as one’s tribe or passion may be in a different part of the company or even outside of it.

Help people contribute – Use storytelling and coaching to help people find their superpower and connect the dots between their work and their impact.  Instead of copying best practices, use design thinking to include people in creating their own employee experience.  Above all, show genuine appreciation to everyone who does their bit to help your company be successful.

Help people grow – Think critically about how to support people on their career journey by letting them try new things and providing learning opportunities.  Schools have career guides, why don’t companies?  Consider providing professional development, feedback and coaching tools, and reimagine the annual performance process with a professional growth lens.

If HR does these things well - plus all the unsexy stuff they don't take enough credit for - it’ll be a strategic partner to the business and the people who work there.  Employer brand, retention and bottom line results will improve and before you know it companies will be looking to grow the HR function rather than downsize it.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Alchemy: The Secret to Leading Innovative Teams

There are so many books, articles, blog posts and tweets about leadership I hesitate to add to it.  

Clearly, we haven't hit on the magic formula yet. 

And yet, what strikes me about many of them is that they try to describe an ideal style of leadership.

If you think about it, that makes no sense.

Imagine a team made up of different generations, ethnic groups and work styles and just to make it interesting, imagine they work in different locations on various short- and long-term projects. 

Looking at how work and tech are trending, that’s the composite team of the future but we find teams like that even today.

So who thinks all these people with different cultural backgrounds and at different stages in their careers will respond positively to the same style of leadership? 

Exactly.  They won’t.  So how do you go about leading such a team?  It’s simple, really. You do it by helping each member of the team play to their strengths while being very clear about your expectations.

In order to do this, you need to be radically honest about your own leadership style and where you can and can’t be flexible. Don’t leave your team to figure this out for themselves, lay out the things that are important to you as a leader and are therefore non-negotiable. 

Leave the rest up to the people in your team.  Let them decide when, where and how to work.  Let them decide when to ask for help and when to work independently.  Let them spend time on projects that interest them, so long as they line up with team priorities.  

One very important point of clarification here: This doesn’t mean everyone just runs off and does whatever they feel like.  It’s a leader’s job to set clear priorities and deadlines, manage expectations within the team, ensure people interact professionally, and hold each person accountable for bringing their best self to work. 

In fact, how you lead the team shapes the team culture, which in turn impacts how well the team functions – so much so, that many companies continue to hire for culture fit rather than diversity. This is problematic and here's why:

Imagine a Venn diagram where individual personality and company culture overlap.  You immediately see a trade-off because the bigger the overlap, the less cultural diversity you have.  

Hiring managers also frequently try to hire people who will ‘fit in’ and therefore – let’s say it – be easy to manage.  Here again, the larger the overlap between team culture and individual personality, the stronger the sense of tribe and the lower the likelihood of conflict – or true innovation - within the team. 

As you can imagine, it's easier to lead a culturally homogenous team than a culturally diverse one because one size is more likely to fit all, which means the manager has to expend less energy to lead the team.  By the same token, diverse teams with inflexible leadership tend to underperform because people have to expend so much energy trying to fit in.  

The glue that makes a diverse team great is the leader, who sets the tone, shapes the behavioral norms, encourages (or discourages) personal expression, provides support for professional growth, and keeps the team focused and on track. 

Here’s why it matters: A team with a high degree of personal autonomy – or a large ‘personal expression zone’ – led by a skilled leader is likely to outperform and out-innovate a culturally homogenous team because more perspectives engender more ideas, which in turn create more possibilities.  

Diversity creates alchemy, which if properly channelled has the potential to turn crazy ideas into gold.  If the overlap between company, team and individual culture is too great, you get high complacency and sense of belonging but low alchemy.

If, however, company and team culture allow for a high degree of personal expression and creativity, you might just get… magic.
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Marketing and HR: Reboot Your Employer Brand

Want to reboot your employer brand?  Think like a marketer.

This 5-minute Disrupt HR presentation expains how.  Enjoy!

Time To Reboot Your Employer Brand? Think Like A Marketer. | Laura Schroeder | DisruptHR Talks from DisruptHR on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

When You Work From Home

To all my gig economy peeps (and those considering the 'solopreneur' route)... this video's for you. 

PS Just so it's very clear, this video was not made by me and I'm not in it.  I just really like it and wanted to share.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Undercover Boss

Are you an undercover boss wondering what employees really think about you? Check out these helpful tips from Starkiller Base Commander Kylo Ren as he shares his personal journey to connect with his employees.

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