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You’re working hard. Your team is working hard. Stresses have been present but they now seem to be building at a rate that could mean trouble for you, your team, and the organization. At this point, a year or two ago, you might suggest a day off-site for some serious de-stressing and teambuilding. Today, you fear that a day off climbing ropes and exploring things described as touchy-feely just won’t fly. However, you do know that you must do something. To just keep going when you are seeing signs of dysfunction that will limit your team’s effectiveness is not only irresponsible but could be seen as negligent. So what can you do?

Despite being a consultant who gets paid for ocassionally facilitating ropes activities (but avoiding the touchy-feely as much as possible) I’m going to suggest a much more cost-effective means of achieving the results of such a day off-site.  This is an activity that could be supported 100% by your organization and it does not involve games or ropes. It may involve a hammer and a nail or paint and a brush though. I am suggesting that you volunteer your team for a day with a community organization that is in need of help! Your company may already financially support one or more organizations with its checkbook. For many companies, the checks have been necessarily smaller in the past couple of years. Volunteering time can supplement the support that your organization provides to these groups in a manner that is far more impactful and could even be of greater value than handing over a check once or twice a year.

I’ve had the privilege of working for organizations that highly valued their ties to the community and offered both financial and hands-on physical support to the organizations they chose to become involved with.  A day on-site painting, landscaping, or doing repairs at a community center, a YMCA, a job-placement center can save these organizations thousands of dollars. This day can provide your team with a sense of accomplishment, comraderie, and unity that can only come from giving!

The act of giving in this manner brings about several major benefits with positive implications for teams:

  • Builds ties and deepens relationships;
  • Creates shared memories and becomes a part of your team or group’s history; and
  • Eliminates or reduces stresses by allowing each participant to focus on something beyond themselves!

Give this a try! Check in with the function in your organization that oversees community giving and/or social responsibility to identify a community organization that is currently supported. Determine what is within your team’s capability to contribute.  Finally, sign your team up for a teambuilding activity that engages the heart and leaves the bottom line intact!

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, an executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.  Mora&Associates offers community-impact facilitated teambuilding in the following markets: Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, TX; and Overland Park, KS. For other regions, please contact us directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Once upon a time there was an “employment pact” between employer and employee. In this pact, the employer set out that if you come to work, do a good job, and keep your nose essentially clean, you will have a job as long as you want it. That fairy tale ended before most of us were born. If anyone was holding out that this may still exist in today’s world, the past couple of years will have changed those views.

What this means is that company allegiance as well as employee allegiance just does not extend as far as it may have in the past. For most employees that sense of allegiance is now associated with their own careers rather than a particular company. So when it’s every man or woman for themselves, what is a company to do to retain its key contributors? 
 
More often than not, companies begin to reach for reward elements as a quick solution to retention. However, I’m telling you now that most reward elements provide only a patch with very little long-term holding value. Throughout my career in human resources, I’ve come across a multitude of executives and professionals who are more than willing to accept a new job offer as long as the start date follows the cutoff date for full payment of their current company’s pending bonus. Considering how we arrived at this point in the US job market, organizations seeking a sustainable retention tool with value today, tomorrow, and long into the future need to make a serious investment in learning and development at all levels.
 
Talent and leadership development gained a new level of importance as individuals found themselves jobless after 10, 15, and 20 years of employment. As they dusted off their resumes and summed up their marketability, many discovered that their skills and abilities fell a bit short of what’s required today to get the results organizations were seeking. While they were working hard and doing what was asked of them, they were not necessarily growing in a manner that made them more valuable. Colleges and universities have seen their student population increase dramatically over the past 24 months, largely due to formerly working adults returning to school or enrolling in continuing education programs. Some in this new group of students are there to upgrade their ability to perform in their current occupations whereas others are there to acquire new knowledge and skills for increased career flexibility or a complete change of careers.
 
The implication for companies in all this is that your current employees witnessed the fallout and can just as easily see themselves in those shoes. The one thing that can provide some sense of security is a solid and marketable base of knowledge, skills, and abilities that can be applied in any number of employment settings. In this type of environment, a company that demonstrates a commitment to its employees through talent and leadership development has a much higher probability of retaining its key talent. By doing this, you are creating an environment that will incent your employees to want to be better employees for you and not for your competitors.
 
With regards,
Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR
 
 
Note:  If you are interested in establishing talent and leadership development programming that will work for your organization, feel free to contact me directly, 1-877-310-6553, ext. 702 or email me at vivian@morahr.com. We offer development programs geared towards accelerating individual, team, and enterprise performance (http://morahr.com/HR_Alignment.aspx) and we also maintain working alliances with a number of consulting firms and independent consultants to ensure that the needs of our clients are first and foremost.

Well, don’t be! Pun intended. I am openly admitting that this will be somewhat of a rant. I’m still smarting from co-hosting a very, very poorly attended wellness presentation. Maybe the topic wasn’t sexy enough to compel the 100+ human resources leaders invited to make the drive over to the conveniently central location of the meeting. Each of these HR leaders were freely offered the tools and information needed to make the case for and incorporate wellness into their benefits offerings right along side their cost-overrun prescription plan. Most decided to pass. Did I mention that it included a free and healthy breakfast?

Now that I’ve gotten that out, let’s talk about wellness and healthcare costs. Who wants to keep paying through the nose and other orifices for healthcare? You? Really? I didn’t think so. Then, are you willing to sit on your hands and wait for Congress to work through all its contortions so that the US government can rollout a plan that we can almost guarantee will be under revision as soon as it launches and so many more times after that? Oh, I’m sorry, that sounds almost like I don’t have confidence that the healthcare reform proposals will cure-all our healthcare woes.  I’m a glass-half full thinker and even I can’t look at all this maneuvering with a sense of hope. There is something that does give me a sense of hope. It is wellness. Being the “can-do” person that I am, I don’t believe in sitting on my hands in any circumstances. I think wellness is our salvation. I wholeheartedly believe that it is the most effective weapon we have in this war against out of control healthcare costs.

Companies do not have to invest in wellness because they care about what we are eating or what we are doing to our bodies physically. But they should invest in wellness because those things that we are eating and doing are costing the companies an arm and two legs in benefit dollars.  The healthcare utilization habits of a company’s employee population determines just how much it will cost to insure that population. If we all keep eating donuts and soda for breakfast while avoiding exercise like the H1N1, we all continue to pay for it in real dollars and in health deterioration. If we all chose a breakfast similar to the one served at the aforementioned wellness presentation along with even moderate exercise, we all have a new leg or two to stand on against the rate increases and can see our costs stabilize while our overall health improve. Is that not a win-win situation you would want?

The line of thought above is not a fantasy. It’s real and actionable. I’ve put it to work in organizations I have worked with and reaped the savings. Yes, support our lawmakers in their efforts to make a difference but you don’t have to sit on your hands while they work. Creating a healthier workforce will help create a healthier nation. This is a solution, we can take action on today that will provide measurable and positive long-term outcomes for our organizations and our people. Keep feeding on wellness. I can’t seem to get enough of it.

Note:  If you are interested in finding out how to make wellness work for your organization, feel free to contact me. I’m on a crusade and I look forward working with others who believe in self-help and taking matters into their own hands vs. buying into waiting that costs even more. Find me online at Mora&Associates (http://moraHR.com). Just complete a contact us form.

Here in the United States, we’ve now witnessed the greatest loss of jobs since the Depression. In the past two years, organizations found themselves seeking means of reducing expenses while they watched revenues dwindle. For many (I could probably say most) reducing jobs was one of the primary routes taken in this quest. Some took this route early and quickly while others took every other possible route before making the choice to eliminate jobs. Some companies handled this with skill, diplomacy, and a humanistic touch. Others did not. Tales of email notices and security escorts have run rampant. Organizations eventually reached what they term as efficient staffing levels given the current state of the market. Hmm, it’s the latter part of that statement that will pose the most trouble in the coming year or two as employees embark upon what I can only tritely refer to as The Great Job Hop of 2010.

The Great Job Hop is in the embryonic stage at this point but the signs are clear. The “high performers” that many organizations have worked diligently to retain over the last couple of years are starting to “look around”. For organizations, the traditional break-up line of “it’s not you, it’s me” would be a lie. It is you. However, for some, there is very little you could have done to prevent the pending break-up. You were not the only company to make layoffs and eliminate jobs. The company to which your “high performer” is moving may have made even more cuts than you did. The difference is — he or she did not experience it first-hand with XYZ Company. 

Organizations have done a great job in the past few decades of building cultures that encourage closer associations at work. One of the questions in the ubiquitous Gallup Q12 is “Do you have a best friend at work?” Our associations at work don’t fall along neat little lines where my best friend just happens to be my fellow “high performer” in the next cubicle or nor do all occupants of the “most crucial positions” go to lunch together daily. No, with all these close associations forming at work, many of your high performers watched their BF at work lose his or her job. They then rode the emotional rollercoaster with their BF as he or she looked for work in a very tough market. The high performer’s feelings towards the company that he and his best friend at work loved a year or so ago have changed. There’s probably a high degree of survivor’s guilt mixed in with some resentment.  Now, I’m not a psychologist so that’s about as far as I go into the psyche but I am a sociologist so I can tell you what the resulting behavior will be with a high probability of being correct.  An exit is the course that most will take when faced with this quandary. There will be a great urge to remove oneself from the environment that has brought about these feelings. Fortunately, for them, high performers and individuals occupying crucial positions generally have options when the employment picture begins to change for the better, as is predicted for the coming year. 

Companies who have looked ahead and have seen the writing on the wall are beginning to take steps to “re-engage” with their present staff to help mitigate the potential damage. Organizations who took the humanistic route have an advantage. These companies’ actions will not have caused as much guilt or resentment and may even be viewed positively if separated employees were provided with adequate severance benefits and communications remained open throughout the changes. The re-engagement should be approached much the same way as initial recruitment campaigns were approached. What are the positive attributes that attracted employees to your organization? Do you have a unique value proposition (UVP) for your employees? In business, every organization has a unique value it offers to its customers. It’s the reason customers will want to choose do business with you rather than your competitor down the street. You will need to make certain employees know what UVP you have to offer them and that the attributes which brought them to you are still very much a part of the organization. Do you conduct “internal” marketing? If not, you would be wise to quickly develop your messages and a campaign for getting the message into the ears, minds, and, hopefully, hearts of your most valuable asset, your people. 

If you sincerely want to keep your high performers and crucial staffers in place during the Great Job Hop, the most important part of your messaging will be that it rings true.

How often have you heard a manager utter to his/her staff “it’s the company’s policy to dot, dot, dot, fill in the blank”?  This get-me-off-the-hook-for-now statement is quite often followed up with, “and if you have any further questions about this, you should take it up with Human Resources.”  Now that the manager has absolved him/herself of all responsibility in Scene 1, Take 1, you, as HR, have an inquiring employee sitting across from you. He/she is waiting for an explanation as to why YOU decided to treat this concern in whatever manner the policy has described.  After taking a very deep breath and tightening your lips upon realizing that yet another manager has slipped out the back door and left you standing to face another sticky matter, you begin to explain.

There are a few turns this scene could take based on the explanation you  choose to provide. We’ll start with the one you dream of giving, then move to the one that I know as a bright and savvy HR professional you will give.  You could start with, “this policy was written because, unlike you, of course, there are employees who arrive to work barely able to take care of themselves, therefore, clearly unable to think themselves out of a paper bag.  When you then combine that with individuals who have somehow acquired the title of manager because it sounds really good when introducing themselves in groups, you get me sitting here day after day writing “HR” policies so that those “managers” can continue to avoid all semblances of really managing.”  Ahhh, was that as good for you as it was for me? CUT!

Okay, back to reality!  That was definitely not the response you want to give. Although, it just might be closer reality than would make any of us comfortable. Policies developed by HR are intended to help companies manage all operations more effectively.  Company policies generally come into existence in response to or in anticipation of potential work disruptions or proactively in order to effectively facilitate change or growth. From you in Scene 1, Take 3, the inquiring employee would gain a good understanding as to why this particular policy was developed and how it either minimizes disruption or how it permits the company to perform at a higher level.  Ideally, this explanation should very easily roll off the tongue of the inquiring employee’s manager. 

Okay, now, let’s be fair-er to the manager. Managers must be equipped to handle employee inquiries. Not all are and the fault is not always completely on their shoulders. The title of manager carries significant legal weight for a company and should have a fairly significant impact on the company’s financial performance. It’s not something to be handed out along with company t-shirts. When this coveted moniker is bestowed upon someone, that someone should immediately be brought into a full understanding of the new responsibilities and expectations that are inseparably bonded to the title.  If we fail to do this effectively, as HR professionals, we get to take part in Scene 1, Take 2 in our offices more often than we want and more often than should be necessary!  We can set up our managers to succeed by helping each of them to take ownership of all the accoutrements of management especially the company’s policies.  If we do this well, we can minimize the number of times we are cast to play the role of Keeper of the Policies.

 

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR is Managing Partner for Mora&Associates, an HR search and consulting firm based in the Greater Metropolitan area of Houston, TX (now the 3rd largest city in the US).   She looks forward to your comments and questions regarding “What Works at Work”.

Can a human resources professional afford to turn a blind eye? Whoever came up with this phrase could not possibly have worked in our profession. At any rate, this commonly means to ignore something as if you did not see it. In most instances this is in reference to something that is perceived to be or is wrong. I believe this is the exact behavior that has the U.S. stumbling economically. Given this belief, of course, we would have to say that no one can truly afford to turn a blind eye. But we know in reality it happens. As an HR professional, if you have heard the following phrases:  “You didn’t see that”, “You can overlook this for once”, “We’re willing to take the risk” or “What’s the worse that can happen?” then you’ve been asked at some point to turn a blind eye.  So the question is “How often can you do this and still maintain credibility as an ethical HR professional and guardian of integrity?”

To make a difference, HR must always be seen as the credible activist that Dave Ulrich (et al) describes in his recent publication, HR Competencies.  This competency makes the difference between an HR professional who is going through the transactional motions and one who is strategically effective. Ulrich states that this means “operating in a principled way and taking action that is consistent with company values, which reflect how the company wants to be seen and experienced by customers, investors, employees, and other stakeholders.”  How often have you seen a company’s value statement endorse “turning a blind eye”? Never, right? So the answer to the earlier question is also “NEVER.” If you must, hang your hat here as you communicate the importance of approaching work with integrity.  How a thing is done should be just as important as getting the thing done.

Our reputations and ability to influence the organization as HR professionals depends greatly on how we are perceived and whether we are trusted. A single instance of ignoring a lapse in values or principles can topple your credibility and render you irrelevant.  Work diligently to maintain your integrity and that of your organization to reinforce your relevance to its success.  Do the right thing, never turn a blind eye.

If you haven’t checked in on AMC’s television show, Mad Men, where have you been? America has a new television love affair. It has even enthralled Oprah, the reigning Queen of Television! I openly admit that I, too, have been captivated. The show is set in the 60’s in a time-appropriate but politically-inappropriate Madison Avenue advertising agency, hence, Mad Men.

I’ve always been interested in the workplaces of the 60’s. Mad Men contains all of the usual sexism, racism, debauchery, and disregard for human sensibilities that you would imagine could exist at that time and in that place. Given this, why is America so caught up in this, dare I say it, madness? It is a well-written show with New York gloss but it is also something else. It’s an escape. It does not reflect our present reality and allows our minds to take a break. We laugh at issues and occurences that if faced with in today’s reality would appall us, anger us or at least make us a bit uncomfortable.

Being an HR professional, this show along with another of my favorites, The Office, provides comic relief to my work. I sit and for the length of the show I escape and laugh with the rest of America. However, since my vocation was derived from much of who I am, the show also puts my mind to work. I find that even as I laugh, I am looking for the one who will step forward and “do the right thing”. I am evaluating the situation and working out how this would be and should be handled in the workplace.  The assessments I find myself making center around  not just what would be appropriate today but also at that time and place.  This is the kicker, the responses are not always the same. 

As HR professionals, we are not merely called upon to apply unilateral and rigid rules to every situation. Although, I will admit there are some, even within our profession, who do think so. Each situation calls for an assessment of the factors that are present and at play within it at the time and in the given place. The factors may be internal and organizational in combination with or separate from possible external, legal and regulatory factors. We must also toss in societal factors. All of these impact workplace situations and occurences, to not take them all into consideration is to not craft the best possible response for the given situation.

The next time you’re watching AMC’s Mad Men, I hope you enjoy the show as much as I do, but I also want you to try this exercise.  Imagine yourself as the smartly-dressed (they all are)  HR professional who has the task of working alongside the Mad Men of Sterling Cooper! How would you handle the various situations that crop up? Who would ever think that watching television could help you to make better human resource decisions?