The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Best Practices and Experiences

For most people it’s the holiday season, and the HR forums are filled with posts asking, “What should we do for our employees this holiday season?” or, “How does your organization celebrate the holiday season?”  The replies to these posts are diverse.  A few organizations avoid holiday celebrations in order to avoid disparate impact claims from employees.  Many organizations create teams of employees to plan and implement holiday activities, sponsor food drives for local homeless shelters, or allow each department to organize potlucks and gift exchanges
My favorite employer-sponsored event was the “adopt a school” event in which the company adopted a nearby elementary or high school, erected a Christmas tree in the location's main lobby, and asked children to create “wish list” ornaments.  The ornaments indicated the child’s gender, age, and what the child wanted for Christmas.  Employees were encouraged to voluntarily pick an ornament, buy one or two items on the child’s wish list, wrap the gift(s), and place the gift(s) under the Christmas tree.  I was surprised to find that many of my Islamic, Wiccan, atheist, Buddhist, and Jewish co-workers participated in the event and found it as touching as I did.  It was hard not to be moved by the children’s wish list items because they were surprisingly practical Most of the wish lists included school supplies, clothes, coats, and one or two specific toys/games. 

For example, the last time I participated in an “adopt a school” event, I chose an ornament designed by a seven-year old girl who asked for size 2 shoes, crayons, pencils, and a Fairy Princess Barbie.  Not only did she get the shoes, crayons, pencils, and a Fairy Princess Barbie; she also got the Fairy Princess's unicorn, several Barbie outfits, and a child-size Fairy Princess Barbie outfit because it seemed unfair to me when I was a child her age that Barbie got all of the “nice” outfits. 

On that note, I’d like to ask you to share some of your best practices and experiences with regard to observing the holidays in your organization.  What works for your organization, and why do you think it works?

Thank you for sharing, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Terms of Employee Engagement

The face of human resources is changing. Gone are the days when lower-level employees would mentally hum the “Darth Vader theme" when a HR associate entered the room, or imagined HR as a group of axe-wielding ogres who were drooling over the thought of terminating employees. Today we work as liaisons between employees and management; delicately balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of its employees. As a profession, we have our own buzzwords to keep up with the times; we “select” candidates instead of hire, our duties are “transitional” rather than transactional, we must now “brand” our recruitment activities to gain a “competitive advantage,” and we firmly believe that “employee engagement” is the key to a successful organization. As a student, I find myself frequently using Google to discover the true definition of these terms, and I have observed many of my classmates using the term “employee engagement” synonymously with employee happiness and satisfaction; which lead me to ask, “What exactly is employee engagement?” and “How does an organization achieve this?”

Google led me to an issue of Forbes on the subject where I discovered that employee happiness and satisfaction are not synonymous with employee engagement; in fact, Forbes  defined it as, “... the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and goals.” Reading the article led me to another interesting conclusion; employee happiness and satisfaction can lead to employee engagement, and employee engagement can lead to employee happiness and satisfaction... I know that when I felt pride in the work I did and the organization I was employed by, I was happy and satisfied; also, when I felt happy and satisfied about the work I performed, I felt pride in my work and the organization I worked for. Why did I feel this way? I understood my place in the organization, I was confident in leadership’s decisions, I liked my co-workers, I was recognized and rewarded for my efforts, and I had the tools I needed to succeed. 

A report published by PeopleMetrics confirmed my experiences by listing the eight drivers of employee engagement as purpose, trust, growth, fun, customer focus, recognition, resources, and rewards.

With an understanding of what employee engagement is and what drives it, the question of, “How do we achieve it?” remains. Assuming that an organization’s culture supports the aforementioned drivers and is selecting candidates who are willing to be engaged, I turned for suggestions to my findings from a human resources information systems course I recently attended and my colleagues on a HR forum I frequent.  

When this question was posed in the HRIS class, my first instinct was to look to the social media technology that makes many organizations and HR personnel cringe because of the ethical, security, and time theft issues surrounding this technology.  Why? Because we have a new generation of individuals entering the boardroom and the workforce that uses this technology to interact with the world around them, and they have wants and needs that must be met. 

To overcome objections regarding ethics, security, and time theft, I turned once again to Google and found several HRIS vendors that offer "social HRIS." The software has the same features as traditional HR systems, but also helps track employee goal achievement, recognizes employees, encourages and tracks career development, enables employees to communicate and collaborate, and provides the resources that employees need all in one place. Along this train of thought, one of my colleagues suggested free online collaboration tools which enable employees to communicate in real-time and post status updates.

A second method several colleagues suggested was holding a talent show. A talent show allows employees to meet and interact, it recognizes that employees have abilities that may not normally be used in the workplace, it recognizes that employees have lives outside of work, and it gives all employees a chance to participate; whether they are on the committee that organizes the event, a performer, or a member of the audience.

A third method is to use the organization’s performance appraisal process. One of my favorite call center employers used their weekly quality monitoring meetings to encourage employees to discuss their career objectives, set goals to achieve those objectives, receive feedback from supervisors, be recognized for goal achievement, give supervisors feedback about what they could do to help employees achieve goals, and supervisors would often call upon employees’ co-workers with expertise in certain areas to provide support to employees who were struggling with certain concepts. Sometimes a high-five from a supervisor or co-worker is more meaningful than a material reward.

The bottom line is this: While social networking on the company’s intranet, online collaboration tools, talent shows, or performance appraisal processes all contribute to employee engagement, these things alone do not support employee engagement. If an organization selects candidates who are unwilling to be engaged or if the organizational culture restricts any of these drivers, all of the talent shows and technology in the world will not help to improve employee engagement.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Expanding the View

It's that time. The time to stop trying to be all things to all people and consultants. And as with the question posed to Nancy Pelosi today, it's time to start grooming burgeoning talent.

So it's with great joy that I'd like to introduce you to a new voice on The Consultant's Desk. Charity Rowell is a DeVry undergrad earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Her focus is on Human Resource Administration and her talents are many. Her perceptions are strong. She does excellent research and is well spoken. In addition to all of that, she goes the extra mile when formulating a response by collecting the information that is needed for a reliable and accurate response.

I've asked her to share with us the knowledge she gains from her studies so that we may move forward with new perspectives of what is currently being taught in terms of progressive principles, theories, and practices in Human Resources and consulting.

If a concept is not clear, please come here and ask Charity to explain it. Definitely enjoy the voice of future trends in professionalism, Human Resources, and consulting. Join her as she takes a seat at the Board conference table.