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Can these letters make a difference?

Why do we certify? Is it because the letters look good after our names? Maybe it’s to impress others? Well, the letters may look good after our names but I’m in the impress others camp.  Although we, generally, do not certify to impress others in a smug sort of way but to show that we possess a certain amount of knowledge without waving it in the air or shouting it out loud. 

A profession is defined as a vocation founded upon specialised educational training.  Historically, as a vocation moved towards becoming a profession, a specific set of skills and/or a body of knowledge developed. Certification exams became a means of assessing whether any one member engaged in the vocation possessed the requisite skills and body of knowledge.  Hence, certifications were developed for many professions. 

Certification can set you apart from the crowd. It can lend a certain level of credibility that you just might know what you are doing. Employers quite often include preferences for certifications in job postings. In the HR community, it is quite common to find a preference or a requirement for PHR or SPHR certified candidates. Considering the overwhelming number of applicants an employer may receive for a single position posting, filtering by this means can make the task much less daunting.

The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI), the recognized leader in HR certification, announces that it has over 108,000 certified HR professionals in more than 70 countries and territories. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that approximately 1 million human resource professionals currently work for US businesses, even if all the certified professionals were in the US, we are only talking about 10%!  With those numbers, I’m guessing that those letters after your name can set you apart. 

In addressing the second half of my question, can not certifying harm you? Maybe, maybe not, but why not help yourself wherever you can?

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 and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers an online HR certification prep course twice a year once in the Fall and again in the Spring (www.moraHR.com/hreducation.aspx). For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Leaf in Executive Pocket

Making the weeds tolerable!

How often do we in HR lament the desire to get out of the tactical weeds and into more strategic work? You know, work that actually adds measurable long-term value to the business versus the activities that are more routine or functional and focused on short-term outcomes. It’s one of those things when you wish you had a dollar for each time the lament surfaces. But before we wade into the fracas between tactical and strategic, I want to actually remove the notion that you can totally eliminate the weeds. I’m doing this because wishing for the impossible will only make your work day more and more intolerable. So let’s marinate for a second in the knowledge that we will live with weeds. Okay, that’s good enough. I don’t want you to fret too much because I’m also going to tell you how to make those tactical weeds not just tolerable, but welcome, in your quest to play a more strategic role.

The tactical and the strategic are partners, period. They are not always equal partners. The share that one holds versus the other can vary greatly, so they are very dynamic partners, always in motion.  For most HR leaders, the goal is to shift the balance to the share held by the strategic. However, it is a fact of corporate life is that if the tactical is not taken care of appropriately, it will hold court indefinitely.  The tactical or operational aspects of human resources must function in a manner that makes them more or less background music or you will be stuck primarily in this mode. It’s extremely difficult for the C-Suite to hear your voice on strategic matters when tactical or operational matters under your managment are creating chaos.  Managing the tactical aspects of your human resources function effectively and efficiently so that they run smoothly and do not surface as distracting issues is the key to becoming viewed as someone who can command attention on more strategic matters.

At this point, I am going to toss in what may appear as a conundrum but truly is not. As you are addressing and putting in order the tactical aspects of HR (the processes, the systems, etc.) so that you can shift into a focus on strategy, you must already have your overall long-term strategic objectives for HR in place. If not, you will be caught in a loop of re-addressing those same areas you’re trying to move beyond if they don’t support the strategic objectives. It may sound like this is a “chicken and egg” debate but it is clear that the strategic must come first. How can it come first when you are neck-deep in the weeds? It’s simple. Most of the work has been done for you, if not along with you. Your strategic objectives should already exist within your organization’s corporate objectives. Your first order of business in the quest to be a strategic partner is to ferret out, that is, derive your HR strategic objectives from the existing corporate objectives. This single step will ensure that you have full alignment between the HR objectives and the corporate objectives of your organization.  That’s when you are working with a purpose and the tactical doesn’t seem so much like an intruder standing between you and your dream of being a true strategic partner. Every facet of what you accomplish will tie right into the strategic. You will see it and so will the C-Suite.  And guess what? If they don’t see it, you will have no problem showing the linkage!

Let’s stop fighting in this unwinnable battle between tactical HR and strategic HR. It should all be strategic! If you don’t or can’t see the strategic value in something that you are doing, why are doing it?

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 and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.  Mora&Associates assists organizations with structuring people strategies to fulfill organizational strategy. For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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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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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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