• Employee Engagement in 600 Words

    Ok here in the HR blogosphere we all touch on the HR hot buttons – it’s required.  My last post looked at on-boarding.  So now, I am moving on to employee engagement,  specifically at smaller organizations.  Currently employee engagement is one of HR’s sexy subjects.  It is the subject of books and conferences. Many of the beautiful people in the speaking realm, pontificate often about the dire consequences of a failed employee engagement programs.   So those of us in the HR space sit up and take notice and want to do our very best with this. We do so because they tell us this must be done to keep all of our “A” players,  to keep them from running away when the economy picks up

    I heard a term from my ProjectSocial partner Laura Schroeder the other day, she spoke of Diva Engagement – I loved the term.   Laura works in that realm where she is dealing with creative and highly educated individuals, and you can read about her prospective on employee engagement in that realm here.  For  the rest of us there is one problem.  What if your company does not have any of the darlings – really?  It seems to me in some smaller organizations there are the A players, but they will be A players regardless of what we do to feed them or starve them. I am not advocating ignoring or dissing them; but that’s who they are.  They are the stars who will always be in the game and if they are that good they will be there until they decide to do something else.  Let them know they are appreciated, smile at them and pay them as much as your organization can afford to do so.

    Next, let’s move on to the “C” players, or as they are known in the space as the actively disengaged.  These guys are poo pooing everything.  Let’s identify them, call them out and isolate them as best we can and move on –my strategy here.

    The last group I will call our presentees  a.k.a. the disengaged.  This is where we need to be working.  In a smaller organization you don’t have the dollars to spend on things that don’t produce results.  Accordingly we learn to spend wisely, where we can show results. This group makes up about 50% – 60% of the employees, depending upon whose surveys you find to be credible.  Let’s call it half of the work force – they come to work, do their job, cause few problems and go home, to return the next day. That is every day for them.

    With the presentees there is still hope, but how do you get to them.  The best method I have found is through good supervision and management of them.  It seems simple, but if these folks are treated just a little better than the average employee, you can boost their level of engagement and their productivity.  It is little things like telling them thanks for a good job, thanking them for working overtime or taking the time out to ask a caring question about a family situation.  Treat them like your friends and they just might act like it. Those who study generational matters tell us Gen X & Yers are loyal to people and not to organization.  Knowing that, train your front line supervisors to be those people their employees can be loyal to, give them a reason to feel connected with them.  Start small, with one employee, try to make them feel important and needed.  Find a way to bring them into the fold – to be an integral part of the business.  Then start on a second employee.

    So in a little over 600 words I have covered employee engagement and provided an effective, inexpensive strategy for managing your staff – sort-of.  However, it still might be a good idea to pick up a book or two, maybe even attend a seminar if you want a few more details.

  • On Boarding – Are the Signs Clear?

    Personnel has now become Human Resources and orientation has morphed into what is now called On-Boarding.  Anyone in HR in this century knows what On-Boarding is supposed to be, but it really is unique to every organization.  There is no one size fits all approach.  Many approaches will contain most of the same elements, but a good program will be built to order for the organization.  You just can’t go to a vendor and buy a program off of the shelf or off this task to some perky contractor. If it is going to work you have to own it.

    Each employer must develop and continually improve their on-boarding process.  It is like any other process though, you might have all of the right elements but if you don’t assemble the thing properly it doesn’t work.

    So how does it start? Well, even prior to the first day, as the employee’s new employer we are sending messages and expectations about our organization.  How did you treat this employee in the interview process?  Did you make them wait in a lobby for 30-40 minutes past the time they were scheduled for an interview?  Was everyone who spoke to the prospective employee courteous?  Did you follow-up with them in the time frames in which you said you would?  Did you provide answers to all of their questions?  See these are all things are things that you can’t undo – and you have already laid this foundation whether or not this prospect is a hire or no hire.

    Ok so I hope you did all of that stuff right – either way you are moving ahead with on-boarding.   Now it is time for all of the obligatory stuff;  forms, policies, training, exits, fire extinguishers, rest rooms and so on ad nauseam.  I am not going to delve into the proper aspects of this, because this is your stuff to get right – or wrong.

    Now you have a new employee at your Company.  Do they now know everything they need to know?  Oh yeah you gave them all of the stuff you can no longer be sued for, but did you give them any of the really useful information as to how to assimilate into the culture.  Sometime some of the cultural fits are a little more subtle.  Things like if you want to advance in this Company you will go with the Friday Night Gang down to the Pub and Grub for more the first than the later.  Or maybe the successful people in this Company are the ones who rarely have a taste – just thought you would want to know.  The people who succeed here almost always started out heading up a committee. Hopefully these lessons will come through in the buddy system, provided your buddies really want new folks to succeed.  In summary, help them fit into your Company culture.  This is an ongoing process.

    Not everything a new employee needs to know is contained in the Company propaganda, because there is some stuff none of us would want published.  So we need to help the new people find their way through the organization.  HR must guide them showing them where to go and not to go. We must also make sure they know how to succeed – because if they don’t – you will be doing this all over again!

  • War Stories from the Ice Rink

    As the HROfficial I haven’t really brought hockey into the blog much, but I have a couple short “war stories” from the rink that have occurred recently and I felt the need to share.

     Story number one is this.  I am preparing to referee a tournament game.  For those of you who are not involved in the sport let me give a few little nuggets about the game.  Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to participate.  Parents dedicate a lot of time and travel to playing.  Coaches sometimes play favorites and your kid may benefit from this – or may get the short end of the deal.

     Ok now were at the game, as I prepare to walk on the ice, one of the coaches asks to speak to me.  He openly and honestly says to me, “Ref – were gonna get killed in this game.”   He then asked me to watch out for his player so they did not get hurt.  There are four teams in the tournament.  I am talking to the coach from team A.  He told me yesterday team C played Team DTeam D beat team C by 10 goals.   Also yesterday the coach of Team A played team C and got beat by more than 10 goals.  So given that scenario Team D is could or should beat Team A by 20+ goals; a blood bath by any definition.

     Without trying to give anyone a competitive advantage or disadvantage I explained the concerns of the Team A Coach to Team D head coach. He looked at me and smiled and nodded.  Unsure what that meant it was unclear as to how the game would play out.  Team D scored 3 goals in the first period.  They did a lot of passing and working the puck. The game ended 8-0.  Team D could have beat team A by 25 goals but the coach made sure it didn’t go down that way.   After the handshake at the end of the game I spoke to the coach of Team D and told him that was by far the greatest display of sportsmanship I had seen in the last ten years.  He smiled.  He went home, and so did I – only I went home with a renewed faith in humanity!

     The second story is much shorter.  At the start of each game, the Referees must interact with both coaches checking rosters and getting signatures.  I choose to introduce myself, shake hands with each of the coaches and then wish them “good luck”.    As I shook hands with one of the coaches he was pressing a pre-positioned object into my hand.  As I pulled away and opened my hand I found a small tootsie roll.  The coach looked at me a smiled and said”It’s to make you sweeter.”  I smiled and told him that was good.  At this point I don’t even recall if his team won or lost.  Again I went home with a renewed faith in humanity.

     It is the people like this involved in the sport that make me was to continue to referee until I have to skate with a walker.

  • Corporate Sustainability – Do the Simple Stuff

    The responsibility for employee safety is mine.  I take this very seriously. When I began in Personnel it was one of the first things I was charged with improving.   Since back around 1990 (AD) I have been dealing with employee safety and risk management.

    One of the main reasons my Company became concerned with employee safety had to do with Workmen’s Compensation Insurance costs.  Due to a number of claims the cost had become outrageously expensive and I was tasked with doing something about it.  With the help of a couple of other committed folks in our organization we were able to improve our safety record.  As our safety record improved, we found the cost of insurance began to diminish.  Not really an ah-hah moment but the savings were sizable, and thus showed up on the Company radar.

    It was a lesson well learned.  I have kept my eye on safety over the years for two reasons.  I don’t want to be the guy from the employer knocking on a door or calling late at night telling a loved one about an incident.  Reason number two, it helps keep our Company profitable.  There are other reasons but those are the biggys.  I haven’t blown my horn about it much recently; in fact, it is just the way we do business, cultural if you will.

    Having been involved with Project Social and my partner Laura Schroeder I am learning new things from her all the time (and I am supposed to be the mentor).  Laura is broadening my horizons to understand things like Corporate Sustainability, and Corporate Sustainability Reporting.  After a little tutoring I more or less got it. This is something you and your Company need to have on the horizon, whether you think you need to – or not! It is becoming more vital information about your organization and how you do business.   For me, there was in interesting twist to this experience, in between Corporate Sustainability and effective risk management within an organization.

    Given the environment that Laura is working in, I have become somewhat (not completely) a star pupil for corporate sustainability.  You see this employee safety stuff is given a rather lofty status when outsiders review organizations. In looking at Laura’s post on this, you can see that safety and risk management are directly tied to points 7, 8 & 9 and indirectly to 10& 11. I am helping position my Company to be a respectable global corporate citizen and not even really aware of it.

    We find that safety is only part of a great production operation.  The organization must be equally concerned about Quality and Productivity as well.  These things all point to a healthy bottom line; which after all is why we are in business.

    In the end, safety is good business.  It helps a Company to make money.  Oh and one more thing, our Company re-cycles too – why because it makes money.

    If your Company is not eminently concerned about safety and/or recycling, you are leaving lots of low hanging fruit on the vine my friend.

  • Takeaways from 2010 and Thoughts about 2011

    Today, New Year’s Eve day is the midway point between the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011. This is a great vantage point to look back on the year that is coming to a close and forward to the year that is in front of us.

    As I look back at the year and two things really jump out at me. First my oldest son graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineer from M.S. & T (formerly University of Missouri – Rolla).   Yes I am proud of him, but I am happier now because he is largely self sufficient.  It is my understanding that now as parent though I must pay for his cell phone forever, and car insurance until about age 30 or so.  The second thing is that I have become immersed in social media.

    From tweeting as DavetheHRCzar to Facebook to 400+ connections on Linkedin I am knee deep – and loving it.  As I speak about social media, I question why am I so interested or involved.  I now know the answer. It is this.  I have really met some great, wonderful, kind, caring, sharing, open, smart, fun people through all forms of social media.  It has been my good fortune to have an opportunity to meet many of these folks face to face throughout 2010, in attending HREvolution, the SHRM National Convention, the SHRM Leadership Conference and the Illinois SHRM State Conference.

    I can honestly says that everyone I have come to know via Social Media has been exactly who they were on-line and they all were good people.  The best tweet I put out this year was after the SHRM Leadership Conference. It was this… My biggest takeaway from #SHRMlead10 was this.  People who tweet are fun people. That’s it – and it is true.

    My involvement in social media has been my choice but I have had much encouragement and guidance from my good friend John Jorgensen, and I would be remiss to not mention him.

    Looking forward to 2011 I see new communities of Human Resources maturing. One could say that SHRM had a tough year in 2010 loosing two key leaders and being the butt end of many posts and conversations.   I don’t think this spells the end of SHRM as we know if, but I think we will see smaller, more focused groups begin to more clearly emerge. Many of the workings of these groups are already in place or are developing.. I am speaking of the unconference events, the recruiting conferences, things that all are becoming more mainstream- and less expensive than the grand-daddy SHRM National.

    A second change I see on the horizon is more of a convergence of the smart-phone –PDA and the personal computer.  The Ipad and the Kendal are at the forefront of this now, but I think by the end of 2011 there will be a major change with this and wireless technology.  I am not sure what it is going to be or what it might be, but the technology in this area seems to be advancing more rapidly each passing day.

    And lastly in closing I predict that Sarah Palin will be offered the CEO position at SHRM, but she will decline to host her own talk show  focusing on reality television personalities.