Tuesday, March 14, 2017

How Human Resource Professionals Can Prevent the Need for Outside Consultants

As a consultant, I am often called in to solve a simple problem that most Human Resource professionals could solve for their companies.

It's one I shared in a recent Gleaner column entitled "Why Consultants Need to See Your Watch before They Tell You the Time."  In the article, I shared an assumption I make on every consulting project, that someone already had determined the answer to the prevailing problem. My value-added is to bring problem-solvers and decision makers together in a unique way that solves the issue.

This may seem simple, but often there are political, social and language barriers that stand in the way. While I make a living removing them, this task can also be performed by HR professionals.

But here's the problem. It's the rare HR professional who takes responsibility for crafting the transparent kind of environment that avoids the need for my services. Too often, HR takes a back seat, watching the culture evolve in amazement, if not befuddlement.

Take the example of the greatest work-related culture change in recent times. It's not empowerment, transparency, or leadership... it's the advent of email. In this case, HR was tucked away on the sidelines, the last to learn the difference between "Reply" and "Reply to All."

The fact is, many existing problems in your company already have a technological solution. It's not surprising that the best way to create a transparent environment also requires new technology. Here are some ideas for how a connected culture - so taken for granted to millennials - can be incorporated into your company.

1. Set up transparent online networks
HR professionals are often at the forefront of hosting traditional all-employee meetings. However, they also need to become experts at doing the same thing online, via social networks. Programs like Facebook clone Yammer make this an eventual certainty and the only question is whether HR will provide leadership as it unfolds ... or mere viewership.

2. Create space for open ideas
Giant Q&A networks like Quora and StackExchange allow for in-depth exploration of solutions to pressing problems. They are brilliant platforms that, in the future, will be echoed in-house by similar apps. But there's no need to wait - the capability to have these quality conversations already exists in your company. Just ask someone in IT.

3.  Help problem-solvers meet
For difficult corporate problems, answers are too complex for any single person to solve. Often, several individuals have a piece of the overall puzzle and need to be brought together in the right way. HR can create these meetups using a combination of both online and offline solutions. Add in a dash of blended learning to kick-start the process and an opportunity for purposeful experiential training can result.

HR is uniquely positioned to tackle tough problems by virtue of its soft skills but they aren't enough in today's tech-driven environment. The HR manager who embraces technology and pushes it into the corporation can have a profound impact connecting people, leading the way to solutions rather than just following.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners in its discussion list, it’s the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates - www.caribhrforum.com

The difference between getting some coaching and having a coach

Last night I pre-recorded an interview with Dr. Sonia Davidson for CaribHR.Radio. She made the point that  human resource professionals need to be role models. The topic happened to be corporate wellness but we went well past the easy stuff like running 5k's and putting in corporate gyms.

Instead, we looked at the need for HR practitioners to get mental health assistance - not after the fact, but proactively. After our conversation a wider thought struck me: having a coach isn't a widely accepted practice in corporate Jamaica.

The assumption in most workplaces is that coaching is a luxury... until it's desperately needed. Then, it's seen as a final effort to help someone who is in "Big Trouble." Possibly, they are just one step from being fired.

At that moment, the expense is seen as a requirement, but the damage has already been done. Performance has dipped, a reputation has been sullied and the person is already dispirited with their resume doing the rounds. Unfortunately, this last-gasp approach is encouraged by HR practitioners. They don't appear to distinguish between an ongoing coaching relationship and casual advice offered by a well-meaning friend.

In 1995 I hired a coach to help me become a better business owner. I had recently started my own training at CoachU, where the trainers emphasized the necessity of having one's own coach. Trusting their advice, I hired an expert and began a relationship that lasted until 2006.

Over the course of the decade, the quality of our conversations shifted dramatically. In the beginning for example, I was late for our first call. She responded quickly by including a paragraph in our agreement: if I were late again, her rate would increase by 50%, then by 100% if it recurred. After the third infraction, I would be fired as her client.

In 11 years I was never late for a single call.

As you can imagine, after working together for so long, she learned all my foibles and the conversations were far more impactful than they were at the start. She could not be outsmarted by the mental tricks I played on friends, family and colleagues where I could evade responsibility or accept sloppy standards.

Furthermore, she was highly trained. Speaking with her was unlike any conversation I ever had with others. Plus, her list of accomplished clients meant that she had a vast experience that novices coaches, or the average manager, simply did not possess. As a result, I owe a lion's share of my professional success to her persistent, continuous help.

You could imagine how these kinds of relationships could be a tool in transforming your company. Perhaps as you look at the aspirants to the executive suite you shake your head... so much raw talent, but so many glaring flaws.

However, the place to start isn't with them... it's with you. Until you have benefited from a long-term coaching relationship it's hard to be an advocate of its value. So take Dr. Davidson's advice and be a role model. Let people see that the HR practitioners in your firm are proactive, receiving the best coaching in the company... not the least.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners in its discussion list, it’s the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates - www.caribhrforum.com

Why Employees Don't Really Want Cash Incentives

A new study on employee incentives reveals that employees often aren't aware of what's best for them. Case in point: when asked, "Are you motivated by money?", an overwhelming majority respond by saying "Yes."

However, in practice, employees behave differently; more in line with the words of Bob Marley who admonished us to not be the kind of people who "be bought nor sold." Companies who attempt to purchase employee motivation end up buying a bag of trouble.

It turns out that our knee-jerk response in such surveys is just that - a highly conditioned social norm. When offered either a cash or non-cash incentive we give the same answer as everyone else: "Show me the money." However, in practice, we aren't as motivated as we think. Research of New York City cab drivers on rainy afternoons showed that they would rather take time off than keep working, once they hit their target. This was true even though it's the time when they make their most money. In other words, their emotions get in the way of making as much as they can.

It's exactly what happens to commissioned salespeople. They become "income adjusted" according to CultureWorx, a human resources consulting firm. They earn the same amount of money by selling fewer products/services or earning more money by selling the same amount of products/services. By economic standards, this behaviour is irrational. Dr. Ran Kivetz explains that, for the typical person, cash incentives tend to be used to pay bills first, which makes the experience mundane. This makes it an inefficient motivator.

However, employees tell a different tale - incorrectly. In one experiment, a group motivated by a massage reported that they would have preferred the cash equivalent. Unknown to them, their performance was greater than the group incentivized by cash.

The takeaway? Asking employees what motivates them is a perilous business. Their behaviour doesn't match what they say.

In fact, money can be a demotivator - just try to motive someone to complete a task with an inexpensive gift rather than its cash equivalent. People can feel insulted when they believe that you are trying to buy their loyalty with little cash.

Given that risk, it's better for Human Resource practitioners to use the latest research when guiding executives. You may have to explain that the ROI on a $100 incentive is much higher if it's offered in terms of a non-monetary award. It has less of a chance of backfiring, and is more motivating.

Some argue - "But Francis, you don't know our employees!" You may have a point if you aren't paying them a living wage. However, in Jamaica we assume that what motivates a casual worker who is barely making ends meet also applies to a knowledge worker in your company. The research says differently, even if when we don't realize it.

Houlihan, T. (2011). Why cash is a less effective incentive. The Reward Systems Group
Boritz, J., Borthick, A., & Presslee, A. (2012). The Effects of Tangible Versus Cash Rewards in a Sales Tournament: A Field Experiment. Issues in Accounting Education, 27(4).

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners, it’s the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates.

HR - Is Your CEO Being Too Easy On You?

If you suspect that your Chief Executive expects little from HR, here are some immediate actions to take. Act now, before he / she concludes that the Human Resource function isn't important...or worse.

Many HR professionals live in a world of low expectations. Here's my evidence - I have met very few CEO's and MD's who expect HR to deliver more than the minimum: "keeping people happy." This is in stark contrast to their expectations of CFOs and Sales Vice-Presidents - to hit measurable results that keep improving from one year to the next.

In these recessionary times, they may be asking for too little. If your time as an HR professional is consumed by efforts to fix problems brought to you by others then you may have a problem. If these problems amount to little more than keeping employees happy then you have a big challenge. You have become a good soldier, rather than a general.

The fact is, in today's economic times, CEO's need to pay lower wages for greater performance. It's not really a choice - their competition is hell-bent on doing the same. They are losing sleep as they scan their mediocre, less-than-world-class-workforce, and dream of a day when they can create a transformation.

One CEO who inherited a moribund, dysfunctional company admitted as much to me. With access to the right people, he could produce the same profits... after letting go a half of them. He didn't need HR to determine who should be kept, but he lacked a process to arrive at a new transformed destination.

That's exactly what's missing for many CEO's. A feasible transformation plan and an HR executive to lead the charge. It may be just what the business needs, but many of them are afraid to ask for what they really want: they don't want to HR on the spot.

Maybe a great question to ask your CEO is: "What are you afraid to ask or demand from HR that would transform the business we are in?" If you have the courage to ask the question you may not get a well-formed answer but it could kick-start an essential conversation. Over time, you can refine that original answer and turn it into a set of measurable objectives, suspending your fear of not knowing exactly how to achieve it.

That fear might be OK. Nowadays, there are lots of people doing things they didn't know how to do, in ways that propel them out of their comfort zone. Other executives face such "deliver-or-else" demands every day.

It's time HR leaders became the ones to shake up their companies with tough questions, showing the expectations being made of them are too low. Too many are sitting by the side, far outside the critical conversations that are re-shaping their company. The fact is, we are in precarious times that require tough corporate leadership from all functions. HR is not exempt. More than ever, it's required.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners in its discussion list, it’s the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates - www.caribhrforum.com

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Mal-Effects of Keeping Bad Employees

A new study suggests something you may have already suspected: keeping a bad employee around has a far greater effect than hiring a superstar. As an HR manager this means that you can do more to help your company by removing low performers.

In a recent article on Strategy + Business blog, Matt Pamquist pulled together research from a recent study published by the Harvard Business School Strategy Unit. It showed that apart from the obvious costs such as pilferage and sexual harassment, bad employees also detract from the performance of others. They take a toll on workplace morale, customer retention and people's attitudes. The study showed that "the higher the number of toxic colleagues surrounding a particular employee - even one not predisposed to bad behavior - the more likely it was that the worker would follow a destructive path." In other words, their toxicity is contagious.

Furthermore, the study also showed that replacing a toxic employee had twice the impact that replacing an average employee with a superstar had.

Lastly, it showed that toxic workers are sometimes skilled at appearing productive. They know what to do to generate a lot of activity that appears to the casual observer to be a reflection of hard work. The hidden truth is that, in the end, they do not help the company because their bad behaviour counteracts any positive effects. For example, the rogue trader who costs Grace Kennedy some US$20m in profits in 2010 was, from all appearances, a high performer. His early removal would have made a gigantic difference.

Consider these facts carefully. They shed new light on a persistent complaint surrounding many HR managers. CEO's tell me that they would like to intervene with toxic low performers but can't. Over the years, their managers have given these low performers glowing reviews. These false appraisals add up over time to paint a picture of someone who is doing well, when the opposite is true.

Due to our labour laws (which are echoed in the rest of the Caribbean), it's hard to fire someone without a documented, just cause. Here's my interpretation: weak HR leadership makes it impossible for the company to do what every viable enterprise must do to remove low performers.

Think of a top football club. There is universal recognition that arrivals and departures are a part of the system, a requirement to become a great unit. This is probably very different from the popular thinking in your organization, which sees itself as a "family."

It's an unfortunate metaphor. It paints the picture of lifelong blood relationships that isn't real, instead of a temporary coalition of high performers who happen to share a single goal for a limited time.

At the end of the day, this accumulation of mediocre talent must be seen as the responsibility of Human Resources, the only organization who can see the long-term, bigger picture and has the means to do something about it. Think of it... if your company isn't a world-class performer, but boasts of low turnover, it might be an indication that you are coddling toxicity without being aware of its consequences.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners in its discussion list, it is the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates -www.caribhrforum.com

Why HR Needs to Champion New Technology Like SkedPal

Most non-HR execs view Human Resource Managers (HRMs) as technology laggards. This characterization may be unfair, but if there is any truth in it, it means that HR professional are holding back their companies. To what extent is this true and how can it be fixed?

In times past, issues related to employee productivity were the exclusive concern of HR. The diagnosis and training and measurement expertise required to lift employee performance resided in the skillset human resource professionals.

However, there has been a dramatic shift over time. When email entered the workplace in the mid-1990's HR sat on the sidelines, watching. The HR unit was often the last to learn how to use this new technology, plus the ones that quickly  followed. Some remember a time when HR offered classroom training in topics like "How to use Microsoft Excel."

Today, such training is laughable. Employees are expected to train themselves. The fact that they successfully do so today would shock the HRM of the 1990's.

Arguably, HR is still in shock and has long ceded the main role of productivity mavens to IT. That is, technologies such as email, the Internet and mobility have done more to boost employee producctivity and change company culture than anything HR has introduced in the past twenty years. HR still lags behind, watching the company evolve.

One example involves the evolution of individual task management. Employees today are struggling to keep up with their Inboxes. Unfortunately, so is HR which is often seen as a department that can never catch up with email.

The problem isn't email itself. Instead, HR needs to return to its roots to understand the human behavior that underlies task management. Here's a shortut to this particular lesson.

Human beings all manage tasks in the same underlying way. Self-generated tasks are known as "time demands":  psychological objects which are promises they make to themselves to complete an action in the future. They learn how to manipulate time demands in their teens, using this skill to get through college and perform at work.

However, in our professional lifetime, things have changed. The new technologies mentioned above mean that we create more time demands than ever before. Unfortunately, we use pre-Internet, teenage skills. The result is overwhelm.

The deffinition of being a productive manager of time demands has changed. Instead of the old goal of "having the right habits", the emphasis has shifted to "knowing how to upgrade your habits."

Research shows that your people change their methods for managing time demands in a predictable way.

1. They start out using memory. In the Jamaican workplace, there are way too many employees at all levels using this technique, failing as a result without knowing why.

2. Some improve their skills by shifting to using To-Do lists. They learn that memory usage is limited.

3. A handful who must deal with a much higher number of time demands replace the use of a To-Do list with their digital calendar. This takes carefful skills and it gives them greater capacity.

Recently, new technology has emerged that changes the game. For the person who gets to the limits of using a To-DO list, they can schedule their tasks directly into a calendar using software powered by Artificial Intelligence. SkedPal, which is currently in Beta, is one example while Timeful (which was recently purchased by Google) is another.

I happen to be on the Advisory Board for SkedPal, which is available for free in its Beta form at www.skedpal.net. I can say after a year of usage that it is likely to change the way we manage time demands in a profound way.

There's no reason HR must stand by while this change takes place. Like other technology-led transformations, there are human behaviors that lie underneath which HR is uniquely equipped to understand. It's a fresh opportunity to actively lead from the front rather than reactively sit on the sidelines. Everyone could benefit.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 600 practitioners in its discussion list, it is the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio, CaribHRNet and CaribHRUpdates -www.caribhrforum.com

How HR Can Re-Shape a Culture Filled With Interruptions

While the Human Resource Management profession missed the boat on the biggest culture change in the past fifty (50) years, i.e. the advent of email, the game is far from over. In fact, technology-driven interruptions represent an immediate opportunity for HR Professionals to have a positive impact.

In our first conversation, the HR Director of a major company in Jamaica complained to me: "In every executive meeting, half the people aren't paying attention. They are lost somewhere in their smartphones!"

Unfortunately, she was alone. While her colleagues would individually admit that their behavior was unproductive, it never changed. The collective anxiety that drove each of them to achieve so much also led them to develop the terrible habit of checking messages every few minutes.

As a result, meetings dragged on with no end in sight, taking too long a time to bring about consensus.

She was the exception because she believed that something could be done to address the problem. From her point of view, they had the collective power to put in new rules and enforce them. Unfortunately, no-one else saw the problem this way. Even the CEO thought himself a victim of a Chairman who demanded his attention at all hours of the day or night.

The psychologists call this distracted behavior "Continuous Partial Attention." In many companies, it's become a habit that destroys productivity at all levels, leading employees to display symptoms associated with ADHD. Furthermore, Dr. Glen Wilson's research shows that constant interruptions from phone calls, emails, and text messages cause an IQ drop of 10 points.

The truly bad news comes from the opposite direction. Researchers like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi ("Flow") and Cal Newport ("Deep Work") have shown that one's best comes forth during periods of total, uninterrupted concentration. Their findings explain why many professionals come in early, leave late and work on weekends and holidays. It's their only opportunity to do high-quality work.

As an HR professional, you need not stand by and watch this disaster take place if you follow these three steps.
1. Build HR into a Model Unit of Productivity
Given its unique role, human resources should become the most effective department in the company, the best users of mobile internet tools. It's the only way to gain the respect needed to be influential.

2. Challenge Executives
In most companies, managers demonstrate the worst behaviors. They must be challenged at the top.

3. Advocate Modern Policies
Most companies have no policies about the productive use of technology, resulting in a widely disparaged free-for-all. HR must lead the way in implementing practical policies drawn from international best practices in this area.

Some may see this as a burden, asking "Isn't this the job of IT?"

It will never be. Instead, it's an opportunity to provide leadership in a vacuum that affects every employee's productivity. HR must become the experts, getting over whatever technophobia might be lingering. It's the only way to make a difference.

Francis Wade is the founder of CaribHRForum, an author and management consultant.

This article is a monthly contribution from a member of CaribHRForum. With over 500 practitioners in its discussion list, it is the largest online network of HR professionals in the Caribbean enjoying CaribHR.Radio and CaribHRNet. Tune into our latest episode, an interview with Vincent McHugh at www.caribhrforum.com