Giving back, what does that look like again?

With summer  here, it is easy to get in the habit of hitting up a patio after work with friends to socialize. However don’t forget about giving back. Have no clue what I am talking about?
 
Well I am talking about a) the upcoming professionals who will join the ranks of the workplace in a couple of years and b) your current network, which may need some maintenance.
 
Over the last two years, I have changed jobs, finished a MBA, and moved.  Life is crazy at times; I can say from experience it’s hard to make others a priority in the midst of the madness, but it is well worth the effort. 
 
Thinking back to when I finished my first diploma, the best classroom sessions were when work professionals came to the classroom and shared their real life examples and wisdom. Those classes got me pumped to persevere and helped me get through summer semesters.  Sharing your work experience is such an easy way to give back.
 
Recently I went to a high school event for ICT Day (Information, Communications and Technology) in Coquitlam. A bunch of fabulous women joined together that day and shared with the students what reality is like for women in the technology industry – an industry which is significantly under represented for female workers. After a wonderful day of sharing, coaching and conversation, I couldn’t get over the excitement in some of the girl’s eyes. I felt that same excitement all over again. 
 
I had two thoughts at the end of that day: I wished I had the same opportunity when I was in elementary school, and I wished there were more schools that went above and beyond to expose students earlier in their education to the reality of and love for work in the professional world.
 
Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 1.36.29 PMSoon after I went back to my old stomping grounds of BCIT with one member from my team and gave a presentation to an eager group of marketing students, again, the engagement and excitement in the room was palpable. (Picture on left is after the presentation).
Our school system is one that continues to get criticized, and rather than add to the noise, I gave back. My form of giving back was my time. I simply supplemented the post secondary curriculum with examples from my everyday work life – examples which sometimes seem ordinary to me.  I gave these students some real examples, data, war stories and hopefully inspired them. 
 
I am not solving the root problem, but I am helping by sharing with those who are about to take flight in their careers my passion and love for work.  I am paying it forward, as someone once did for me.
 
Lastly, don’t forget your current network, colleagues who are probably hitting up those patios too. Summer a great time to check-in on people with whom you haven’t connected in a while, or to keep those hundreds of “let’s do coffee” commitments.  
 
In the last month I can say I have paid back my network debt and feel more connected within my industry and field of work.  The payoff? I’ve been able to get more done, and strengthened work relationships, by simply dialling a “friend” to ask a question rather than googling it. 
 
Let’s get real here, this is simply good Karma. Before summer gets in full swing, look at your calendar and see where you can donate your time to a high school, university, or a colleague in your field. I suspect you will be happy you did. 
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Starting the year with the right “Who”

I recently completed a book that I believe that either most business people have heard of or even read, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. After reading the book I had a couple of thoughts that relate to HR and where I believe 2015 trends are going (thanks Forbes).

Good-to-GreatMy colleagues and I talk a lot about “great employees” and how many times we lose them for the wrong reasons. However, what I loved about the book, and specifically the chapter on “first who then what,” was the notion of hiring great people even if you don’t have a role.

Like most organizations, January is the sign of a new budget approved, or the final ending of a fiscal year, which means that things usually slow down (specifically in the talent acquisition realm). However, how many times do you lose a great candidate due to timing?

Now with Gen Z coming (it is true) and Gen Y taking leadership roles, I suspect HR will need to catch up by taking less linear and more holistic employee centric approaches to both attract and retain the next two generations of our business world.

Food for thought, based on the book, Level 5 leaders start with the “who” and then go to the “what”, but as Gen Y’ers become first time leaders, they like to win (stereotype, absolutely) but they also will follow rules if it lets them win faster. So possibly, HR (and other business) processes are stopping potential Level 5 leaders in developing sooner.

Now there are three principles in the book to help you become “rigorous,” and like all things in January, there is one that sounds like a New Years resolution. “When you know you need to make a people change, act.” To put this in other words, if you see your plant dying, water it. If you don’t like the number on the scale, do something. If you want something, do something about it.

Good luck to those out there looking for great talent.

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Part 2: Are you a Manager (and you just hired someone), read this!

In part 1 of hiring someone, I focused on the employee experience, which is very important. However, this blog is dedicated to the business side of the onboarding experience.

So many times managers forget the journey it took to hire an employee, from last year’s budgeting, the job descriptions, interviewing and making a final decision. Many things can change over the course of time, so its important to realign your new hires purpose, expectations, measures of success and what the first 90 days should look like (or whatever number of days). Here are some things to consider and get you started.

1. Look at the job description with new eyes (yes you are familiar with it, likely you wrote it or some of it)

  • See if your new hire really fits the bill, usually not! So think about what they will succeed right away and where you need to provide them safe learning opportunities to work on their shortcomings.

2. Was there something about this candidate that made you change course a little? (That’s okay by the way)

  • If you ended up picking up a high potential that was some level off your original plan, you may really need to start from the job description point above and figure out a plan of action (ie. Update the job or start from scratch).
  • From experience, I recommend putting a high level list of things you need and then getting into the details after that.

3. Plan their first week and expected outcomes.

  • This is more than ‘making relationships’ because trust me, no one likes feeling useless – even in the first week. Make a schedule or make meetings with this person’s future VIP’s (not yours) and do a soft intro and some expectation setting with both parties.
    • WHY? You would be surprised how many times people have fabricated this new employees job, so consider this a level setting exercise.

4. Provide the new hire a list of specific and achievable (but still challenging) outcomes you would like to see with some dates

  • I personally like the 30/60/90 day framework and I do casual check-ins and see how things are progressing. I would note here, its important to also be flexible, some things will come easier than others, but know to look for appropriate or inappropriate behaviors and address those quickly.

Good luck on onboarding your new hire, you got this!

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The HR diet: “best practice”

If I were to think of one phrase that makes me roll my eyes, cringe, or even laugh, it would be ‘best practice’. It’s such an HR cliché, and something that people just throw into a conversation or direction to give it some more umph. At the end of the day there are some flaws with ‘best practices.’ First, they are usually specific to an industry (and rarely disclosed). Secondly, it is usually unknown who has deemed it a ‘best practice.’ Was it a dinosaur who has liked something a certain way for a long time, and solved the issues of the 1980’s? I’m just saying. Next, ‘best’ is not equal to ‘always’ which is a common mistake of practitioners. If you think about it, how many times there is a unique situation and people (maybe even yourself) have tried to cram in a situation to fit a ‘best practice,’ and was it really the best? Lastly, ‘best’ also insinuates never needing revision, innovation, or challenge, which makes is mediocre.

Don’t get me wrong, I use the term ‘best practice’ but specific to an outcome. For example, when a manager sent out an amazing PowerPoint slide deck announcing someone moving overseas for an internal job. But I said the same thing when another manager created a tumbler countdown for theirs! It wasn’t the tool, but the outcome or intention. In HR so few times do we ask why something is a ‘best practice’ or what obstacle it solves. Usually it seems obvious, but than that’s not a ‘best practice’ its just common sense.

I challenge us, HR professionals, to undertake what it means for something to be a ‘best practice’ and sometimes its just a really good solution at your company for your culture and lastly your outcome.

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Citation:

Becton, Bret J., and Mike Schraeder. 2009. “Strategic Human Resources Management.” Journal For Quality & Participation31, no. 4: 11-18. Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed February 10, 2014).

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Part 1: Are you a Manager (and you just hired someone), read this!

Being a manager (in both role and skill) is important; this is the first installment to supporting you develop a great onboarding experience for your new employee, regardless of how much or little your company does today. This part is about the human side of onboarding, and the second one as a follow up with be about the business side.

The most common mistake I hear managers make is that they either 1) coddle a new employee for way too long or 2) drop them in the middle of the ocean to swim. Neither are good for them or the business. Here are some ideas to help a newbie feel welcome while getting their contribution right away.

1. Send a welcome email at one week prior to their start date (or at the latest the day before they start) to express you excitement, tips and tricks, and a general feel of the first day will go.

  • Why: Imagine you are traveling to a new country – what do you do? You look online for transportation options, customs, and weather. The same is true for a newbie. They want to know if they should drive or bus (and is there parking), what to wear & bring (ie. Lunch) and who they will be meeting with. Setting them up on expectations and letting them know things will be alright will remove the internal anxiety they may have.

2. Day one is important for both you and the employee, and making sure you are available and visible is important. Its okay to still have meetings, but find ways to check in, invite them, and spend time going through a plan.

  • Why: The employee is on ultra alert and going through the internal dialogue of “did I make the right choice, do I fit, am I going to succeed” etc. So being there for them will make them feel less isolated and feel like they already fit the flow of the environment.

3. Week one check in.. A good practice is to spend a casual one-hour at the end of the week and let them do a AMA (as me anything) session.

  • Why: Many times the week flies by for most of us, but the first week for a new person is full of emotion, stress, and just feeling overwhelmed with information and experiences. This allows them to go into the weekend comfortable with that first week journey, have you in their corner, and having something to celebrate. It’s also great for bonding!

Remember, everyone has a human side.

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How to resign (with class)

Oh what! You got a new job! Wicked!

But before you leave your current employer to the place where you want to be, there are some ‘best practices’ you should take to leave on a good note. Here are some practices I have seen play out well in a variety of environments:Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 6.32.09 AM

  1. Give ample notice. If your role is specialized, manager level, or unique, give more notice to help with the transition – you will need to gauge your relationship with your manager & past performance.
  2. Own the transition documentation and training and provide feedback and progress reports to your manager.
  3. Offer being available and check in for the first week (honoring your word and living by them).
  4. Be responsible for messaging and communicating. Offer to own the communication and follow up. Remember: every company is different, so this might not work everywhere.
  5. Get your hands dirty, when your last days are empty, get in and file documents that you know are sitting around or do some admin (like correcting naming conventions).
  6. Clean up your desk. Simple, right? Nope – time and time again the artifacts of previous employees sit around and just collect dust. If you think something should be in the garbage, do it. #recyclefirstplease
  7. Send personalized thank you notes to people who made a difference and respond to each congrats email you get. #gratitude

Not all these will apply, but remember that your last few weeks are equally as important as your last couple months, years or decades. Lastly, best of luck on your new adventure!

For those who use apps for everything, this is an interesting spin on quitting a job. Although I have yet to hear of someone using it for real!

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Interviewing, 2 tips for success!

Firstly, congrats! You’re interviewing! Now there are two pieces of information I think candidates miss time and time again when interviewing. The first is setting up the recruiter and hiring manager up with expectations. Let them know if you are; employed and confidentially seeking new opportunities, recently moved into the city, about to take a long vacation, and how you like to be contacted. It’s important that the interviewee feels comfortable to take some ownership in the process.

Secondly, managers and recruiters open up the last part of the interview for the interviewee to ask questions. Yet so few actually ask questions or share information that they believe is relevant. By far my favorite interview was when someone told me “what you didn’t ask me and I want you to know is….” #joblanded!

Great questions to help you make an informed decision maker as well showcase that you are strategic and make logical decisions. Some good question include:

  • Company
    • What is the vision of the company?
    • What are the strategic objectives for the next year?
    • How does this role support these objectives?
  • Manager
    • What is your leadership style?
    • How do you like to be communicated to?
    • What’s the most important skill to have for the role I’m going for?
  • Job
    • What do you think it’s the largest obstacle or challenge in this role?
    • How do you measure success?
    • If I were the successful candidate, what’s the first thing I would do?

Happy job hunting! For another good article, check out this one.

Letting Go

ImageTo move up on onwards people have this idea you need to take on more responsibility and get better results and faster. But really how is that possible? Do you see any of your senior management team or CEO running around like a crazy person trying to do more and get more done, probably not. I don’t even see directors doing that.

So why is there some idea when people are at the individual contributor level that more is better? It’s not, in fact, more is less. The more you do, the less better it becomes. It’s a cycle to keeps you at the individual contributor level. What distinguished managers from individual contributors is the ability to let go. To find someone you trust who is capable, who is driven and who will deliver. Once you pass off the work (note: pass off is not equivalent to dumping) you free yourself up to take on new and challenging work that grows you. Sometimes even then you aren’t a manager, but the ability to let go is one that great managers have. They hire great people who deliver great work.

Don’t know how to let go because you “can’t”? Think people require you do to the work you want to let go of? Here is a negotiation trick I learned early in my life, say about 13, you tell the people who want to see you succeed, presumably your boss, that if you cannot let go of the work then the opportunity to take on this new and exciting challenge just won’t be possible. Simple right! You will be surprised how well people will respond when you lay out the facts. Great managers will find a way to reshuffle, reprioritize and make a great employee (like yourself) have the opportunity to develop. Remember, your success is actually their success. Happy letting go.

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The real test is studying

Firstly, my apologies for being absent for over a year. I am back and committed to blogging more often.

I am in the midst of obtaining my Canadian HR Designation, the CHRP. To do so, I am studying for the second exam, National Professional Practice Assessment (NPPA), and what I have learned is that studying after being out of school for a while is actually the real test. Having the discipline to put time away to study, meet others to discuss topics, and research is really the test.

Our lives and work get in the way of intellectual conversations that are about theory, reality and great practices. What I learned through my current journey is that I work at an awesome company, I work with people that work hard, and that ‘best practices’ is not really a thing. ‘Best practices’ really should be coined ‘great practices’ since they are literally taking something HR, say performance reviews, and making it great. Great performance reviews fit the company culture and create a healthy buzz and interest of the employee base. Not all companies do this, really.

The exam takes place on May 5th and I will know 2 months later if I passed. Passing would mean the world to me. It would set me free of this content so I can work towards passing an MBA Admission test. Hello Harvard or Stanford? And do you sponsor people like me?

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Why are some vendors so difficult?

It’s been a long time since I ranted about anything, but this one has been stewing inside of me for a while. I work with many vendors, large and small, but why are some so darn difficult? My first instinct is to say “what’s wrong with them?” or “they just don’t get us” but really, is that the approach we should be taking? Sometimes vendors are like bad relationships, its just not a fit. No ones fault, no “its not you, its me.”

Sadly, there aren’t a large abundance of certain vendors, so sometimes the bad relationship needs to keep on going, kind of like Lady Gaga’s bad romance. My advice, call as it is. Honestly is the best policy, its worked in my case. Telling the other vendor was probably the best thing that we could have done. Not only were the semi-responsive, but also now they know where we stand. No guess work, no drama, just is.

Now back to work!