Ever worry that involving HR makes things more complicated than necessary? Feel like Corporate HR “speak” has a tendency to be overdone – to lose its audience.
Time for a reset; at the very least for small businesses.
I recently received an email, from a vendor we are quite happy with, that had all kinds of technical jargon on it. Yikes! My head hurts. I’m intimidated, frustrated.
Are we paying for something that we aren’t using in full or don’t understand? I guess I’ll let a Software provider sit in the “IT” world of complexities, but I’d really like HR to live in the land of accessibility. So….
Simon Sinek once pointed out that Martin Luther King, Jr. said “I have a dream, not I have a plan. Look at all those politicians with their 10 points plans. They aren’t inspiring anyone”.
HR Done Differently!
I’ve fallen in love with our new aspirational Vision statement. We searched, pondered and collaborated on a rallying cry. Now is the time to put some real meaning behind that with some NEW RULES.
1. Focus on need to know.
The goal is simpler and shorter, so you don’t compel your audience to avoid or tune out. A laser focus on need to know, instead of all there is to know or consider.
In every situation, challenge or discussion there is so much that could be known. In some cases, there might be a dozen options to consider or potential scenarios to worry about, some of which have a low probability of happening. Stop! When HR provides support and opinion, for a quick resolution, give a credible opinion. Focus on what needs to be known versus all there is to know. Stay relevant and on point so you keep your audience’s attention.
2. Fear tactics don’t work.
Many business owners and leaders grow to fear two things: 1) government agency audits, like Department of Labor and the IRS, and 2) employee lawsuits.
There is no reason for HR to be adding fuel to the fear fire. If you think about it, it’s is near impossible for a business and leaders within to not have knowledge gaps. No one says “you will have to take an employment law course before you can get that business license or take that job”.
In addition, it’s time to tell leaders to stop being held hostage by the potential of a lawsuit. In reality, anyone can get sued. It’s how you defend yourself (documentation!) that makes the difference.
When HR recognizes the confusion, misstep or misunderstanding, how we educate should feel empowering. We must get people to a place where leaders want to learn about and apply HR knowledge to their day to day decision making.
As Maya Angelou once said, “when you know better, you do better”.
3. Ditch negative words.
Compliance. Typing it even gives me the sense of a gut punch. I feel the same way when reading unnecessary legalese; see Employee Handbook below. Make sure you are complying with Labor Laws. Famous HR “speak”. Ugh. See above in regards to fear. Instead, follow labor laws. Let’s do our best to make business owners and leaders aware of and able to follow, to the best of their abilities, the federal-state-local labor laws that affect the businesses.
Audits. Who wants that? Audit just sounds like I am about to be fined. Think about opportunities for improvement instead. Evaluate the needs (find), and create a plan to action to solve (fix).
Disciplinary Action. Old school. A business does not employ children and HR certainly isn’t grounding them or putting them in a time out chair. Replace with Corrective Action.
Probationary Period. What a lovely way to scare off a new employee. So, terminating an employee who isn’t working out is leaving a jail to go out on probation? It’s Introductory Period. Or Trial Period. Choose a phrase and policy that tells new employees that the company wants them to succeed. Speaking of new employees….
4. Stop overwhelming new employees.
Ever been hired by a company that made a really bad impression on day 1? HR needs to self-reflect, regularly! Put yourself in the shoes of incoming new employees and say “if that was me, would this be a way to win me over and keep me motivated?”. If the answer is no, change course and consider this:
- Before Day 1. What can you take care of before day 1? Paperwork, work space, equipment, supplies?
- Accountability Checklist. Who is responsible for what on day 1 or week 1? Follow a checklist that identifies who will lead or take care of what. This should include time of arrival and who greets the new employee.
- Memorable Training. That means reflecting on the messaging, content and length. Why does a mass amount of information have to be shared all in one day? Majority won’t be remembered so stop wasting time. Break it up – think Nano Training. Messaging and content should be interesting and impactful. Games should create engagement. As with any training, the best form of includes fun (games!), pictures and stories.
- Employee Handbook highlights. Don’t ever mandate or expect a full read. Just tell them who to talk to if there are questions, and where they can find an electronic copy. Point out the good stuff! Vision, Mission, Core Values. Speaking of Employee Handbook….
5. Minimize or eliminate legalese in Employee Handbooks.
HR professionals work with some small business owners that believe Handbooks are contracts with guarantees and therefore the don’t want them. They sure look like contracts if written by an attorney. But Handbooks are actually an invaluable communication, accountability and risk minimizing tool. But good luck getting employees to clearly understand them if legal language and terms is contained within. Its time to rewrite Handbooks in a way that standards and processes are easy to locate within, and easy to follow. Some signs that an Employee Handbook needs a redo: 1) Missing mention of company Vision/Mission/Values. 2) Employees or leaders roll their eyes when asked if they looked in the Handbook. 3) Handbook is not provided during new employee on-boarding because, frankly, everyone hates it.
6. Never undermine the leader-employee relationship.
This means expectation setting and boundaries. HR is not designed to be a therapy session. Open door and problem resolution means listening and empowering affected parties to take positive steps forward to find a solution. HR’s first question should always be: 1) Have you talked to your manager about this? If the answer is no, re-direct. Managers and leaders, in every appropriate situation, needs to be the first know what is going on.
Conversely, HR is not there to do the leaders job for them. Will new leaders, or those who like to avoid conflict, not be sure about how to conduct or word a counseling session? Sure! That means HR coaches them ahead of the session. HR should not, nor should they be expected to, have the hard conversation in place of the leader. That’s no way to win over or repair a fractured leader to employee relationship.
7. Yes, you can ditch Annual Reviews, if….
Leaders are committed to regular and recurring One to One interactions with their employees, for which there is agreement on advancing growth and they are following a Development Plan, which morphs, changes and updates no less than once per year.
8. No more Exit Interviews!
The absolute worst time to get an employee to express their opinion of “how did we do” is when they have one foot out the door. Instead, conduct surveys throughout the year. Make sure leaders are having regular coaching sessions and interactions with employees that contain an element of a “stay” interview.
9. Don’t be a buzzkill. It’s not good to be called “the police” or the terminator.
It’s not good to be called “the police” or the “terminator”, unless you are stuck in the 80s.
Put “love” in your work, as we heard from Robin Anslemi at DisruptHR in Orlando. This means be human. Find a way to handle it and say it without being cruel, or overly harsh. Get out from behind the desk and build relationships. Build trust. It can be done on both sides; with leaders and the employees that want you to advocate for them when they think something is unfair or needs to be solved.
10. Finally, don’t be so quick to say no.
Try this: “I can understand why you would think that way or want that, but how about this instead? And let me tell you why.” If you don’t have another option to consider on the spot, and when appropriate, simply ask for a chance to consider the request and then come up with options.
If HR wants to change the perception of how and where they add value, then its time to embrace simple and human. HR that is visible, realistic (business savvy), relatable and credible has the best chance at being viewed as high value and affecting positive outcomes.
This article does not constitute legal advice and there are subtle variations in employment law as it pertains to this topic, depending on where your business operates. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making decisions about policies.