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Posts Tagged ‘office’

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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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?

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We are all professionals in whatever endeavor we have chosen and we are also multidimensional human beings. There are so many things that define who we are.  This can make developing and defining yourself on the web somewhat tricky. There are so many web and social networking tools available for “putting yourself” out there. It’s difficult to not scatter yourself in every direction. I am on Facebook and LinkedIn. I have 3 websites. I blog at WordPress and I tweet on Twitter. I even have a MySpace page that I haven’t visited in months. This entry was inspired by a recent invitation from someone I think highly of to connect with them on Namyz although we are already connected on LinkedIn. When I received the invitation, I followed the link to Namyz. However, as I contemplated setting up another social networking profile, something held me back. I couldn’t do it. It had nothing to do with Namyz itself. I came to realize that I am spread too far already which explains why my MySpace page languishes without any interference from me. I’ve reached my limit of what I am capable of maintaining with any level of quality while still putting in several hours of “real” work each day. I urge you from a professional and a personal standpoint to also examine your current web presence. Have you excercised discipline as well as a healthy level of caution in defining yourself on the web?

Our lives are made up of a series of choices and the behaviors that result from them – the things that we do and things that we don’t do.  My professional expertise lies in the practice of human resources and I am a masters-level sociologist by academic discipline. Given this background, of course, I believe that behaviors define who you really are. When considering a job candidate, I focus very sharply on the things the canddiate does as well as the things the candidate does not do – the choices he or she has made along the way. With so many companies utilizing your social networking presence to find you and to then determine whether or not you may be a good fit within their organization, exercising discipline in establishing and maintaining your web presence can be critical to your career. For others, like me, who are either entrepreneurs and business owners or who work independently, your web presence can help an individual or organization decide whether or not to conduct business with you. Does that not make your web presence something you consider very carefully each time you sign on?

My WordPress blog, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, website content, and Twitter tweets all define me to those who don’t know me personally. I want ensure that definition is one of quality not just quantity, so should you. Choose carefully!

“No choice ranks a man so quickly as his skill in selecting things that are really worthwhile. Every day brings the necessity of keen discrimination. Not always is it a choice between good and bad, but between good and best.”  A.P. Gouthey

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I attended a presentation at the local HR association monthly meeting focused on “HR at the Table”. The presenter was the senior executive VP of Global Sales for a very prominent organization. Do you find that a little interesting also? Yes, well, he had at some point during his career held responsibility for the HR function and gained a great appreciation and understanding of the function. Beyond that, why not? Why not hear from someone whose function is quite naturally at the table? The shortest possible version of his overall message was that if you want a seat at the table, you must think and act strategically! Ta-daaaa! 

You’ve heard that before? Okay, there is a bit more. It’s the bit more that inspired this entry and will probably inspire more. During the 40-minute presentation, it was also asserted that an individual can be taught to think strategically. What are your thoughts on that? When I first heard it, I immediately thought of all the HR professionals I’ve encountered who did not approach their work in this manner. I tried to imagine that group shifting to a more strategic approach. Is it truly possible? As I thought about it more, for some, yes! For others, I’m sorry to say, but no. For the latter group, myopia either set in somewhere along the way or has always been present. Their neural pathways are set.  This type of change requires a major shift in perspective and thought patterns. You will have to, not only, see things more broadly but find solutions from a broader range of creative thought. The shift and the path to the table call for openess, adaptability, discipline, and an immense amount of mental fortitude.  That is major change if you’re not so inclined already!

There are many HR professionals who do have the potential to make their way to the table. Those professionals can take that unoccupied seat by being more strategic in their overall approach to human resource managment. Ahhh, there it is again, be strategic. This persistent call to be more strategic can be a bit confounding because you’ve heard it tossed around too often and too loosely. Does each person who states this have the same definition and expectation in mind? Probably not, but simply put, being strategic means thinking long-term and broadly about the business you’re in and finding solutions that yield the most value on a long-term basis. It means getting beyond what’s right in front of you for the day, week, or month. This can be a tough task in itself for many but no one will tell you that the path is short nor smooth. Your will and your capabilities will be tested and challenged all along the way but coming from someone who has traveled that road, it is so worthwhile. Your organization and you will be better for it.

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You hear it more often than you want to and maybe you’ve said it at least a couple of times in the past year when faced with a situation that called for an immediate and urgent response. The situation was your “fire” and your response was to jump right in and put out the fire as soon as humanly possible. Going into it, you had little or no time for planning. As you look back over it, in hindsight, you wish you had handled things differently. Hindsight is 20-20.

When we hear or state “Hindsight is 20-20”, it is most often said with a sense of resignation, as if to say that there’s nothing we can do about it now. We’ve just become fatalists destined to repeat this again. We then race off to the next fire that needs fighting. That’s where we all go wrong. Hindsight is 20-20! It should be stated with a sense of optimism! Guess what?! We’ve just been handed a gift! An opportunity to, not only, learn from the situation but to now plan for it!

Hindsight is one of the most useful planning tools you will encounter. Making good use of hindsight means taking stock of the past year (or more) and reviewing the major issues and concerns you encountered. Take a look at how you handled them then consider how you wish had handled them and how you will handle them in the future. Did you notice a common thread or pattern? Ask yourself, what can you do now from a strategic standpoint that will help you prevent or minimize these issues in the future? After you have completed these steps for your various areas of responsibility, you will have a good start on planning for a “fire-free” future. Use 20-20 hindsight to your advantage!

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No, not personal names. That’s a completely different subject and is way touchier than what I want to cover today. I’m not feeling all that controversial today. The sun’s shining out the window and I’ve just finished reviewing 80 resumes for a position my firm is working to fill for a client company. That’s why the subject of names has come up. Shakespeare quoted, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”  In his writing, it is asserted that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention. In a job search, I would not be so fast to assert this!

So, what is in a name? I received 200+ resumes for this one position referenced above. Not all of the candidates met the qualifications for this particular position. However, what stands out to me is that almost 20% was eliminated due to a name; a cute name, a sexy name, no name, or a clever but inappropriate name. Some might say this is a superficial justification. Is this elimination from the candidate pool based on “an artificial and meaningless convention”? It’s not, in this case (or I’m justifying it as not). This is a top position for a function within an organization. It requires strategic thought and good judgment.  Of the 80 job seekers’ resumes currently under review, all used an email address that most people would classify as professional and a straightforward or functional name for their resume file. Cute and not so cute names in an email address (snuggles777, coocoo4cocoa, jessiesgirl, nightrider99, 2kofun, etc) should be reserved for communicating with friends and other loved ones, not the person who may hold the key to your next career move.

Set up an email address just for the purpose of job hunting if your customary email address is less than super-professional (you can put super in front of almost anything to up the level, right?). Based on the number of email addresses that are available to a single account these days, you can’t run out unless you’re a spammer. In that case, maybe you shouldn’t get the job anyway (please spare my inbox). Given the tight competition for scarce jobs today, don’t guess as to whether your customary email address is or isn’t professional enough. Use your name or your name in combination with your location if you don’t want to use your name alone (“jonathandoe” or “jdoe-houtex”). Whatever you use, try to avoid being cute, sexy, or overly clever. I know you want to show your personality but just being you works best here. That’s who the recruiter wants to see, not Snuggles or Jessie’s Girl.

My next comment concerns the name you allocate to your resume file. More than a dozen email resumes for this one position arrived with the name “Resume[1].doc” or something similar. Why? It’s the first resume in the resume folder on your computer so you named it “resume[1]”. It makes sense in that setting. Let’s shift to you now sending this file to a recruiter in a company or an independent firm, someone like me.  Remember, it’s now the 149th for the open position and the 10,000th for the recruiter’s overall database. Assign it a name that will have significance to the recruiter. Would “jondoe_civil engr_PE” work better than “resume[1]”? The first example gives the submission meaning and actually makes it easy to consider, not only for this position, but for other positions calling for a civil engineer with PE certification. 

Final note on this, most recruiters including those who use applicant tracking systems (see my last post if you are not familiar with these) save resume files to a folder for later review or as backup after the system extracts information. When this occurs, only one file named “resume[1]” can be saved. Will it be yours? There is definitely something in a name. Don’t risk elimination because of it. Set your resume apart from the crowd with a name that tells the reviewer who you are immediately. Stay in the gene, uh, candidate pool.

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HR is tasked with designing systems for managing people. These systems may involve establishing company policies. Line or operations managers are, generally speaking, responsible for managing the people, right? Most managers have no problem calling an employee in to give praise for a job well done or to correct any operational issue that might undermine his or her ability to meet required numbers. Why does this same manager quake at the thought of dealing with blatant dress code violations, particularly those that deal with employees coming to work partially, if not, completely unclothed during the warmer months of the year?

You, Ms. Manager, decided it’s not that important. The cute guy on your team, Jon, is half-dressed today but you have to work on the efficiency assessment due by the end of the week. Five of the women on your team and one of the guys have just spent the last 45 minutes discussing, emailing, gawking, conducting pass-by’s (Is that a word?) of Jon’s cubicle. Will it end there? Of course not, they are going to lunch with employees from other departments and will be discussing just how “hot” Jon looked today. They will be arranging for departmental “work-related” visits from their buddies later in the day and hoping for a long extremely hot summer. The remainder of your team will be discussing how you have let things like this slide and how “management” arbitrarily enforce certain policies but not others. Suddenly, you’ve just lost a good chunk of  work hours and some small amount of respect over an issue that was “not that important”.

I’ve been told that avoidance on this issue mostly comes from not knowing exactly what to say. Try this, “I know it’s warm outside but I promise we will keep the temperature inside the office comfortably cool. Can you please keep your clothes on, dress professionally, and adhere to our company’s dress code? It’s in place to maintain not only a productive work environment but to also impart the right image to our customers who make our paychecks possible. Thank you!”

Questions: What’s the worse dress code offense you’ve witnessed? Do you think the offender was aware of the violation? What’s your opinion on office dress codes?  Do you like or dislike casual dress?

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