Forbes Excerpt: “Getting Ready to Join the Workforce …”

I was recently featured in Forbes Human Resources Council’s “Getting Ready to Join the Workforce: 13 Tips for High School and College Seniors.” Below is an excerpt of the piece. Click here for the full article.

“7. Identify What Makes You Unique

Help employers understand why you stand out from the crowd by focusing on accomplishments or attributes that make you unique and of which you are exceptionally proud. Be willing to take risks and put yourself out there. If employers aren’t connecting with who you are, those are not employers with whom you want to align yourself. You have a right to find an employer who values you! – Sherrie Suski, Tricon American Homes”

Do you feel Proud?

sherrie-suski-proudWe had an exercise recently with Simon Sinek’s organization to re-visit our Purpose Statement and Guiding Principles.  For us they are not just words on a wall, but the very essence of who we are and why we exist.  The exercise started off with sharing stories of what made each of us feel proud to work where we do.  As we shared the stories around the table, it became clear that each person was passionately engaged in what we were creating.  

Jon R. Katzenbach, suggested in his book “Why Pride Matters More Than Money” that pride grows out of “the relentless pursuit of worthwhile endeavors.” This “intrinsic pride” becomes “institution-building” when it “prompts the kind of effective, customer-focused behaviors” that distinguish an organization from its rivals. Commitment based on “self-serving or materialistic gains,” he adds, is “short-term, transient, and risky.” It doesn’t unleash “the kind of emotional commitment” that builds “long-term sustainability.”

Knowing that the values of the company you work for align with your own individual values is an important indicator in the number of proud moments you will experience there and likely an indicator of your level of potential engagement and commitment.  

It would be difficult to work for former Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh who was recently charged with wire fraud and tax evasion and feel proud  of the company you were keeping. She is accused of ripping off nonprofit organizations and taxpayers by accepting payments for tens of thousands of books she never intended to deliver. Pugh used the money, according to court papers, to fund her mayoral bid and to buy and renovate a house in Baltimore.  Very few of us would wish to work for an organization that exhibited these values, and, if we did find ourselves in this position, would probably feel compelled to put in as little time and energy as possible, while feverishly looking for another job.  

Figure out in advance what makes you feel proud and what stories you would want to recount about why you felt proud of the company you work for.  It likely has little to do with their financial results or their share price. It likely does have to do with how they treat people and the value they place on doing what’s right, not what’s easy.  

Some of the stories that surfaced for us revolved around caring for an employee in a very difficult personal situation, making a choice that we felt was right but certainly not financially prudent, volunteering, caring for our residents in ways that went above and beyond what anyone would expect.  

Each company will have its own unique brand and style, but the next time you are contemplating switching jobs, ask the recruiter what some of their most proud moments have been and ensure that they align with what would make you feel proud.

Mid-Year Crisis

We have all heard of the proverbial mid-life crisis where people in their 40’s or 50’s start to take stock of their lives, celebrating or lamenting what they have or have not accomplished.  Many of us go through the same feelings, albeit on a smaller scale, when the mid-year hits. It signals that it is time to take stock of what we and our teams have accomplished to date and determine how to prioritize our goals over the course of the rest of the year to ensure that we finish where we want to be, having accomplished everything we set out to do in January.  

Take stock

For those without an automated goal planning platform or for those of you have a platform that you don’t check into and update very often, now is the time.  Review what you committed to in January, update what has been accomplished and decide now what shouldn’t still be on the list. Business priorities change constantly and initiatives that seemed critical in January may not be so any longer.  Or, conversely, there may be projects that need to be added.

Prioritize

Align with key stakeholders in the organization to ensure that you understand not just HR priorities, but organizational priorities.  Where can you make the most meaningful contributions?  Whose buy in do you need? Ensure that you communicate these priorities to your team so they clearly understand which projects have the most visibility and are in a critical path.  

Assess resources and expertise

If there are significant changes to the plans that were carefully laid out in January, you will need to re-assess both the resources you have at your disposal and the expertise that exists within your team. In most cases there will be options.  You will be able to make a case for leveraging external resources if required to get the job done.  If it a training and expertise concern, now is a good time to explore additional training opportunities for your team members to ensure they are better prepared in the future.  

Develop Training Plans

To ensure that everyone on your team is prepared to tackle their new assignments for the remainder of the year, you may need to add “Training Plans” to your own goals. Assigning responsibilities to employees who are not adequately trained is a lose lose proposition.  No one wants to appear incompetent. Remember that training and development is a process that takes place over time. The plan itself is not the end, but rather the means to achieving a skill set or competency.

July 1st, just like January 1st, is a time to take stock of what has been done and what is still to come.  Re-assessing our priorities now assures that we finish out the year proud of what we and our teams have accomplished on behalf of our organizations!

A Workforce of One

I can find no single person to credit for designing the term “The Workforce of One” but it is a concept that has intrigued me since I heard it 5+ years ago.  It reminded me very much of the concepts that Todd Rose espouses in his book “The End of Average”.  When you design a system, a training program, a performance management program for the “average” employee, you design it for no one, because, in fact, there is no average employee.  It talks about embracing individuality and using it to our advantage in a world where everyone strives to be the same. The applications for this approach in Human Resources are enormous.  Human behavior is fluid, not fixed, which means we must accommodate individuality into our programs. That uniqueness can mean different employees or it can mean the difference in one employee over time.

Companies and marketers have long understood the need to treat their customers as individuals, thus the practice of dropping cookies, so that the car you looked for yesterday shows up in ads on other websites you visit today.  Your buying experiences are personalized for you. However, organizations have been primarily engaged in a one size fits all approach when developing their training programs. People now expect—even demand— customization in the workplace because they’ve experienced it in their everyday lives as consumers.

The benefits of customizing for employees are many including:

  • Increases in workforce performance and productivity
  • Enhanced employee engagement
  • Increase in the skill set value of the existing employee base
  • Attraction of the most talented employees
  • Access to a more diverse candidate pool
  • Use resources more effectively through targeted investments of HR dollars
  • Adapt more quickly to changes in the environment

HR professionals will need to develop the kinds of skills that marketers use currently to excel at customization, and they’ll have to become just as adept at using technology to support the customization. Finally, they will need to find new ways to unite employees behind the organization even as employees have more diverse, personalized experiences in the workplace. HR may have a dedicated analytics group, just as marketing does, as well as people and resources focused on coaching employees in how to make the most of their customized work experiences. HR staff dedicated to represent the needs of each employee segment may also emerge, a guide so to speak chosen for that particular type of employees.

Workplace Certifications

We recently embarked on a fact-finding mission around workplace certifications.  I felt strongly that we had done an amazing job internally creating a world class work environment for our employees who are spread out over 10 states and 19 different locations, but few outside of the company were aware of that.  In today’s competitive global job market, being a well-known organization or having a famous consumer brand name is not enough to attract and retain top talent. Organizations need to build an agile and connected workplace, create amazing employee experiences, nurture feedback and dialogue, actively focus on innovation, and embed their businesses into the future.

Types of certifications

Great Place to Work

This is a certification connected to Fortune. The survey is actually conducted by their research partner, Great Place TO work.  The survey is made up of about 60 questions and an additional lengthy questionnaire needs to be completed by Human Resources.  They tell you 4 hours, but we easily spent 5-10X that. Should be fortune- ate (😊) enough to be certified, this opens up the door for you to participate throughout the year in a number of other certifications including:  Top 100 Companies, Best workplaces for Diversity, Best Workplaces for Parents, Small & Medium companies, People’s Companies that Care Best workplaces for Millennials, just to name a few.

Aon Best Employers

The program salutes the achievements made by organizations that create sustainable competitive advantage through their people. Aon Best Employers program looks into the health of your organization from the inside, using the most objective measure possible – your employees’ opinion. Backed by more than 18 years’ worth of data on employee experience, Aon Best Employers program measures and recognizes extraordinary employers. It differentiates on people factors which are the key to success: high employee engagement, profound agility, engaging leadership and maniacal talent focus. Aon looks at 4 key areas:  Engagement, Agility, Engaging Leadership, and Talent Focus. They offer both a ready to use on-line survey, as well as a tailored engagement survey that you can customize.

Glassdoor Best Places to Work

Although considered a necessary evil by many to whom I have spoken, there is no arguing that prospective employees turn to Glassdoor to see what others are saying on the inside.  Glassdoor automatically selects those employers that obtain the highest average number of stars given in the reviews by their own employees.  I am proud to say we are at a 4.6, but 1/10th lower than we needed to be to win a Best Small & Medium Places to Work for 2018.  

Next time we will talk about the reasons why, both internally and externally it makes sense to participate in Work Place certifications.

Candidate Success Models

Predicting a candidate’s success on the job used to be primarily focused on whether they had experience doing the job you were interviewing for and whether you could accurately discern if they had been successful. Little thought was given to behavioral or cognitive attributes or specific job competencies that differentiated one position from the next.  Fortunately, those days are far behind us.

In today’s world we have a vast array of tools to better predict candidate success including assessments, behaviorally based interview techniques, established company core competencies.  While these tools are valuable in terms of prediction capabilities, we also need a model to evaluate whether our predictions are accurate or not and allow us to tweak the models going forward.

Behavioral assessments

There are many behavioral assessment tools on the market today.  Some have been around for decades like the DiSC. Others are newer onto the scene like the Predictive Index.  Some are a quick 10-minute assessment which give a solid overview of the candidate’s personality match to the position and others, like the Hogan are in in-depth 3 hours assessment that enables employers to assess personality in the workplace. Additionally, these assessments measure personality characteristics, characteristics under stress, risk of career derailment, core values, and cognitive style

Cognitive assessments

Cognitive assessments are not necessarily appropriate for every job. While they are not IQ tests, many measure the candidate’s ability to quickly learn information and to adapt to changing circumstances.  The general pre-employment aptitude test that measures problem-solving abilities, learning skills, and critical thinking. The thought being that the quicker a person can get up to speed in a job, the more quickly they can start contributing to the organization.  

Behaviorally based interviews

Structured or behaviorally based interviewing has long been thought to be a better predictor of success on the job than either yes/no types of questions or those that do not require a candidate to tell you what they did or would have done in a specific situation. Behavioral interview questions focus on how you handled various work situations in the past. Your response will reveal your skills, abilities, and personality. The logic behind this interview tactic is that your behavior in the past reflects and predicts how you will behave in the future

Core competencies by position

Not all positions require the same set of competencies to be successful. That is why it is important that interview guides be developed for each position that specifically state and ask you to comment on and rate a candidate’s suitability for the position relative to each core competency.  

Once the candidate has been selected for the position, additional work needs to be set in motion to assess whether they are truly successful on the job.  Success can be measured by your Performance Management systems, your talent or succession planning platform, which measures potential, or a combination of both.  Once data has been collected over time, you will be able to better predict an individual candidates’ likelihood of success in a particular position.

People Analytics

 

sherrie-suski-analyticsPeople Analytics is about using a data-driven approach to inform your people practices, programs and processes. Analytical techniques, ranging from reporting and metrics to predictive analytics to experimental research can help you uncover new insights, solve people problems and direct your HR actions. People analytics can help you to understand how knowledge of social and data sciences can help you make more informed, objective people decisions. The mindset shift that needs to occur is moving from a reporting of lag measures, like employee turnover, to a reporting on lead measures, like employee engagement or satisfaction and eventually to forecasting to being able to predict turnover down to the individual level

In a recent Deloitte survey on the topic, they found a mature analytics approach is not possible without data accuracy, security and consistency.  Things that many organizations struggle with. Therefore, your first step has to be to define which data you want to use, ensure that the data is as clean as possible and decide how you will capture that data.   The top drivers of people analytics maturity were:

  • Mature organizations are 2x more likely to have a data council responsible for data governance.
  • Mature organizations are 3x more likely to have strong partnerships with business units and corporate functions.
  • Mature organizations are 3x more likely to have an organizational culture of data-driven decision-making.

The problem is not just “having the data” but “knowing how to use it” and understanding how to explain it, visualize it, and put it into action in front of a business leader. HR leaders and their teams are expected to be knowledgeable enough in the use of statistics to be able to understand the data, determine the trends and make well thought out recommendations to improve the business.

Here is a great example of a trend that HR can be on the forefront of and lead the business!

Defensiveness

sherrie-suski-defensivenessDefensiveness is defined as the quality of being anxious to avoid criticism and/or the behavior intended to defend or protect.  Some have even defined it as reacting with a war mentality to a non-war issue. While none of us relishes criticism, it is a necessary part of growth.  To be able to see ourselves as others see us is a gift that allows us to leave old habits behind and adopt new, healthier ways of having relationships with others.  

An Open Heart

Changing defensive behavior stars with being able to listen with an open heart to what is being said.  Assume the person has your best interests in mind and is sharing something that you need to hear. Try and clear you mind so that you are truly listening and not rehearsing your next defensive statement in your mind while they are speaking.

Express Your Feelings

Being able to openly express your feelings is requisite to becoming less defensive.  Letting people know in a calm manner when they have upset you is not being defensive.  Lashing out with an inflammatory statement is. 

Building Trust

Working through conflict builds trust in any relationship.  It assures both partners that they can trust each other; they can be honest and acknowledge that any relationship is a work in progress, not fixed or defined on just one person’s terms or one moment in time.

Toxic Comments

Bottom line: if we don’t learn how to deal with our grievances head on, inevitably we deal with them indirectly, most often in more toxic forms: by teasing or making snide comments, holding grudges, or by growing more indifferent over time. 

Of course, it’s difficult to give and receive healthy criticism if we’re clinging to a defensive attitude. If you feel yourself become defensive, try to see if you can simply acknowledge it, and work through the conflict as honestly and generously as possible.

Self- esteem

Temperament, history, and, most importantly self-esteem can impact how we respond to criticism.  Some people have so much negative self talk occurring in their heads that they feel they just can’t accept any more from someone else.  Realizing that just because someone is criticizing one issue, does not mean you are a bad person overall is key to building better relationships

People who are more prone to defensiveness may perceive an attack in certain situations in which people with resilient and calm temperaments would perceive none. Experiment with viewing the situation from different vantage points.

Overall, defensiveness in life will hold you back from building better relationships and from growing as an individual

Compensation- putting the plan in place

sherrie-suski-compensation-plan

Last week we talked about establishing your Compensation Strategy and how to determine the competition and your rationale for certain recommendations.  Once you have a thorough well thought out strategy, though, you need to execute.  Careful, well thought out execution is every bit as important as developing your strategy.  Remember, it is likely that you understand compensation better than anyone else in your organization so start at the top.

 

Get your Executive Team Bought in

Keep in mind that executive teams have a lot on their mind and are likely not up to speed with why a compensation strategy is important, so start simple.  https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/compensation/Pages/AlignPay.aspx The payroll in a company is by far the largest expenditure and compensation touches all areas like candidate attraction, retention, turnover and satisfaction to some degree.  Pay ranks in the number three spot as to reasons why employees leave positions and the cost to replace that employee is anywhere between 100-200% of their base salary. https://www.appleone.com/Employers/SCALE/2017/EngagementTools/cost-of-turnover-calculator.aspx  Plenty of reason to make sure that compensation is NOT the driving force behind your resignations.

 

Train your Managers to have Compensation Conversations

Once your executive team is bought into your strategy, it’s time to train your managers to talk about compensation. https://hbr.org/2014/04/how-to-discuss-pay-with-your-employees  We have all heard or experienced firsthand the horror stories of employees finding out what their raise is when their paycheck comes out, never having had a conversation with their manager, or the manager walking into a group of employees, handing each a piece of paper with their raise on it and walking out, thus missing a critical opportunity to further enhance the employee’s satisfaction and level of engagement. https://compensation.blr.com/Compensation-news/Compensation/Compensation-Administration/Preparing-for-Compensation-Conversations-with-Empl/  The first step is to listen.  Listen to what the employee has to say, repeat back what you think you have heard.  Share critical information, such as the merit budget pool for the year and the compensation philosophy.  

 

Communicate the Process

Letting the team know up front and reminding them often of who will do what we go a long ways towards preparing for success. http://www.simplehrguide.com/compensation-strategy-key-content.html  Communicate the roles that HR will play-to establish salary grades and structures, to provide compa-ratios, to set the merit pool amount and to weigh in on any recommended market adjustments.  The first line managers will be responsible for recommending salary increase, justifying recommendations for promotions or market adjustments and communicating the approved increases to the individual employees. Your executive team has the responsibility to communicate and support the compensation strategy and philosophy they have approved. Employees, too, play a role.  They have the responsibility to ask questions and ensure that they get a satisfactory answer.  Make sure that they know their manager is their first stop, but if questions remain unanswered that HR’s door is always open.

Do you best to create an environment where compensation is not practiced in a black box, but is implemented in a thoughtful, straight forward way, where everyone understands what it is meant to achieve and feels comfortable offering suggestions to enhance the process.  A compensation strategy, created and implemented well, can enhance many aspects of the organization and the employee experience.

Holocracy- Implementation Challenges

sherrie-suski-holacracy-challenges

Last week we talked about Holocracy, what it is and what its advocates say the potential benefits are.  But in reality, does Holocracy work ?  Can a type of self-management that gives decision making power to fluid teams, or “circles,” and roles rather than individuals yield results and better decisions than a traditional structure?  How well do people deal with the uncertainty that a holocratic approach creates

Sourcing and Hiring

Holocracy models complicate sourcing and hiring decisions.  How do you advertise for a job that is comprised of ever changing micro roles and how do you assess whether the person sitting in front of you actually is competent at those micro roles and any other talents they might have?  People are used to looking for traditional job titles, but in holocracy, there are no traditional job titles.  Do management level employees worry that deviating from their career path might stall out their careers.  What if they are at a Director level now and you are trying to recruit for a team member with a skill set normally held by an Accounting Dir.  How many would take a “team or circle member” title?

Micro Roles

Another issue that holocracy creates is the formation of micro roles.  No longer is one individual responsible for a specific set of set roles, but a swirling set of micro roles that are ever changing.  It can complicate the work actually getting done as employees may be responsible for up to 25 different responsibilities and struggle with prioritizing them and deciding where to focus first.  They may be members of a number of different circles and have weighty responsibilities to each, but not be able to satisfy all of them or be forced to prioritize in conflict with others. 

Compensation

Compensation becomes difficult as well.  Not only are there struggles with determining internal equity as this now requires each of 100’s of micro roles to be assessed and the value of these roles change as new circles are created and as the organization matures and different skills become more or less valuable, but external equity is an issue.  How do you go to the market to assess the worth of a position when there is no longer a match for the position?  There is nothing to compare the person’s position to.

Unlearning old behavior

For holocrcay to be successful it necessitates that both bosses and subordinates unlearn old behavior.  If everyone is truly to be tapped for their full potential then there cannot be those who are hesitant to express opposing views in front of what used to be superiors.  This is a hard habit to break for both bosses and subordinates.  It is hard for leaders to learn to step back and not lead all the time.

Holocary has yet to be proven as a model that offers significant benefits over a traditional structure. The best of both worlds may be to incorporate some of the circle mentality into the traditional structure allowing everyone a voice to be heard and encouraging growth horizontally as well as vertically.