Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mind Your Language!

Another HR issue! Well, Maybe! The way to find out is to give employees a chance to speak-up.

Board-room expletives are known and at times are also a ‘given’! The reason for being OK with it is that we assume that the people in the room are all part of the senior management and they have the right! What a dumb assumption? I’m quite sure that meetings can get heated-up, discussions can get animated, and dissent can turn into anger – all without having expletives handed out like Christmas goodies! Honestly, there are tons of articles telling us that ‘Expletives/Swearing at Work’ encourages team spirit, bonds two very distant teams, and improves morale! What the bleep!

Swearing is ‘Contagious’! It can spread from one team member to another. It’s definitely NOT gender based! Before you realize it, the entire team is talking the swear-way! It’s known to be a personality-trait! Most times it just doesn’t go well with everyone. It’s even worse, if the “I-Am-Going-To-Swear-Mood” comes from a fight with your spouse, an errant driver on the road, personal financial issues! Events that nobody else in the workplace is even involved. Using swear words is then more of an emotional-outburst! Researches have tried a poll on this one too! What’s next?!?!?

Another point to note is that, swearing is not a organization-level-based occurrence. It could happen at the front-line just as easily as it could at the senior management. Really! It’s a leadership challenge to help create a conducive and professional work environment for all to work in. You don’t need a HR Policy to tell you that swearing is un-professional! After all, you’ve hired adults who need show some discretion while using language. Releasing frustration is ok, but just because you are in a foul-mood, the other don’t need a part of it! They have their own problems to deal with.

By the way, if you choice the wrong-words in front of customers! Damn, you just lost your contract!

- The HR Store

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Life-Work Balance

Life-Work Balance (confused! It’s intentional...) seems to truly be the case in times of recession. It’s a paradigm shift in thought and mostly everyone saw it coming!

You know you are grappling with one when:

- You are afraid to say NO! at work – might as well get into something and keep your job for that much more longer
- Food doesn’t figure in your agenda of Top 10 things-to-do for the day!

- Very email gets a reply within an hour of receipt – even if it means at midnight
- The past 4 weekends have been spent at work – so will the next 40 weekends – you think you at least you have a job to do
- Your spouse is threatening to leave you/sue you, if you don’t come home at least by 12:00am!
- “Stress” is your favorite curse-word of the month
- You missed the kid’s game at school, forgot your wedding anniversary, didn’t return personal calls
- “Fun” is a forbidden activity
- The 'Blackberry' is your constant companion – you can type that email blind-folded!
- Your patience is at its all-time low – even snapping at the water cooler!

Really! Your workload has just doubled – citing lay-off’s that just happened and your team was reduced to just 5 from it’s previous 15 people. The recession time is here to stay for the next couple of years. Please save for a rainy day! It’s easier said than done – but at least try!

Last year same time…you may have been at Peru visiting Machu Picchu!! Back to work now…it’s still 7:00pm!!!!

- The HR Store

Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcome: All-Hands @ 30,000 Feet

And I’m not referring to a meeting in the Airbus-380! Just kiddin'…

Well, it’s just that it’s a lot tougher to comprehend an All-Hands Meeting (AHM) that has discussions like a 100,000 light-years away from my current work! Really! It’s tough to understand the CxO talking about long-term vision, mission, goals and objectives from 30,000 Ft. While all along, employees are doing their best to relate the topic with their work-plan. The question that comes to mind is:

What should the AHM address?

Off course, the AHM is an integral part of the Company’s initiate to share company’s growth-plans, revenue figures, future product/project road-map, year’s accomplishments and a horde of other developments. It serves as an open-channel to get high-visibility to work that gets done at the Senior Management Level. It throws light on every department’s current standing and challenges that might come up - to go to the next level. Honestly, there’s no doubt that the AHM is needed!

However, the challenge in any AHM that arises is the way data is comprehended by the 1000 (at times even 10!) people in the audience. I’ve had the chance to sit through plenty of AHM’s and honestly, the end result is the same! Everyone goes back to work telling themselves – “It was just another meeting with the Boss!” It’s not ‘just’ another meeting. Is it? The real intent of the AHM is lost if that is the employee-perception.

Can we make it more interactive? More personal? More understandable? More informative?..

Yes! A simple way would be to break the AHM into various sessions addressing one business group in specific per session. It’s time consuming, but worth it! What better time can a CEO ask for than to spend time with the employees? Understanding their work is of utmost importance. The employees on the other hand will surely like these sessions, since it will be very specific to their department and work. Queries can be answered more precisely. It’s more like a department ‘one-on-one’.

In the end, it would be great to run a survey asking employees for their feedback on the AHM sessions. It will help modify the program for next time.

Now...Please fasten your seat belts – we are ready for landing!

- The HR Store

Monday, December 8, 2008

HR Customer Service Hotline ...Any buyers?

What’s the first-thing you do when computer breaks down? Ok, let’s assume you have no clue on what’s happened. You get onto the phone and dial the IT Helpdesk Number/Customer Service Number. Right? Off course, if you are a process-driven company, you would send mails, raise helpdesk tickets or even get a help-yourself sheet! However, the option that you would love to use would be to pick-up that phone and call for help! You don’t have the time now because your client’s on hold, RFP needs to be sent, reports are getting delayed, your mail to the finance team is stuck mid-way! All you want to do is – SCREAM! for help…

So what’s stopping HR folks from having a
“HR Customer Service Hotline”? Really!

Think about all the problems that can be solved:

- Help solve issues that go into unending mail-threads

- Stop the buck from passing from One HR person to another
- Transactional details become easy, such as, leave management, run learning and development programs, performance management queries, etc.
- This could even give a personal touch to employees’ queries
- Tons of other HR intricacies that can be resolved in matter of minutes

Are HR folks willing to try this out? Let’s see.

EMPOWERMENT: Such a system would require a well educated HR department which is Empowered to take decisions at all levels. They wouldn’t need to run to their managers, who in turn would run to their manager and the buck never stops! Remember the need to stop the buck and end the vicious circles. This system would help immensely.

TRAINING COSTS: The nag that HR is treated as a Cost Centre is a debate that’s been raging for a very long time (an idea for my next post!) Customer Service would mean training, which translates to more spending! It takes a sensible company to understand that – It’s in the long-haul that profits get measured. Try explaining that to finance!

OWNERSHIP: Who will take up the onus of running the show? HR Manager? Training and Development Manager? See, ownership is really an issue.

IMPLEMENTATION: The key the success of any program HR or otherwise depends a 100% on its Implementation. Seamless transition from existing systems to newer ones requires patience to weather teething-problems and hordes of cynics.

COLLABARATION: Such a HR system will require a buy-in from the senior management (starting with the CEO). The conviction in the company runs a lot deeper if they get their buy-in. You can again leave out finance!

DATA SECURITY: Since HR already deals with enough trouble with employees sharing confidential information through ‘non-official’ communication (water coolers, elevators, cafeterias, car pools, etc) It just got tougher to guard confidential data!

FOOL-PROOF SYSTEM: Involves money! Again! Getting top notch security for the system will come at a higher cost! Keep looking at the long term benefits.

The system needn’t be a 24/7 Hotline that people can use dial-in and rant! Honestly, it’s a unique way of letting employees know that HR isn’t just about people-skills. It’s a knowledge-oriented department aiming at helping run the organization smoothly. The HR seat at the table is taken seriously and not used as a department to run errands for the other business teams.

Any thoughts?

- The HR Store

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Music @ Work!


Here’s what you may be thinking today? Hurray! Thank God it’s Friday Evening! How about some music to set the weekend rolling? So you choose your best song and play it on your headphones. Off course, it’s a Friday evening and you think its ok. You’re enjoying your song playlist while completing your Friday report/wrapping that code on a module/finishing that employee relation policy document (yes! HR does work! Don’t know why it’s so hard to believe!). The song is giving a soothing effect; a positive one. This is the period of the day you love the most! Work gets done in the best way you could have ever done it and you head home…Monday is still more than 48 hours away…

Come Monday morning, a mail in your Inbox almost knocks you out! Someone (from another team) has objected to you listening to music while working and they find it disturbing their work! So that person thought the best solution would be to mail your manager, copy the HR and the rest of the world (I know! It does happen…) explaining how you are the cause of their bad productivity! Really! How the hell could that happen? You were sitting in your cubicle listening to songs on your headphones! How could that affect another person’s productivity? Maybe, the person used you as an alibi…But for what? So now in you stand in the court of your hiring-manager, who by the way, has summoned the HR, a couple of other managers (no clue why they got invited) and the Employee Relations Manager into a conference room…WOW! Your music has really got them interested! What follows is a session on work ethics, responsibility towards creating and being a part of a conducive work environment…etc., etc., etc.,…You walk out completely flabbergasted!

Yes, believe it! This is a real-life situation…

I guess it time to knock on the HR Policy maker’s door for some inputs…Unfortunately, there’s no such “Music” policy in existence! Who would have thought that listening to music would cause such a stir! Do you even need a HR policy? Maybe not! For HR Managers in such companies please don’t rush to ban all equipment that plays music (mp3, iPod’s and a host of others)! Take it one step at a time. Ask yourself ONE question:

Is the person listening to music @ work not responding to official responsibilities on time?

It could be mails, meetings, phone calls, etc., If the answer is YES! Then you have a case on your hands…If not, please spend some time explaining that listening to music is good except at work. You have a work culture that doesn’t encourage this habit (explain with reasons). No exceptions!

Why listening to music should be disallowed at work?

- Could be that the songs got downloaded from an “Insecure” website and poses a potential threat to your network
- Songs get swapped at work and could end up getting traced by the record industry, for piracy! Not at all good..
- Downloading songs from various sites will hit your company’s internet bandwidth - thus depriving folks of time to complete official work
- The lenient approach taken by the management got really abused in the past and so you don’t a repeat of that problem.

Why listening to music should be allowed?

- However, you really don’t need a survey to tell you that listening to music (responsibly though) acts as a good tool to market your work culture to potential hires.
- Music elevates the mood, injecting fresh enthusiasm and also relaxes the mind - a perfect setting to contribute to the team’s productivity. Right?
- Does the work get done? If yes, just leave the listeners alone…maybe that will help them achieve more…

By the way…there is already so such background noises around you…printers, fax machines, cell phones, pagers, the coolers…phew! I guess, it’s better to let the listeners stay plugged to their fave song!

- The HR Store

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Letting-Go Is Tough!

Letting-go is one of the toughest things to do – At work & Outside of work…and I’m not just talking about Lay-Off’s!

I’ve had to deal with employees, who have joined from organizations they served for the past 8 – 10 years and do the dreadful thing of NOT letting go off their previous company! Really! It can get quite frustrating and at times even irritating. Think about this situation:

Employee A joins you from a company where he/she worked for the last 10 years. You understand the obligations (don’t know why there should be any?) and let hem serve out the entire notice period before joining your firm. Although they could have transitioned out within a week! After all, you think this gesture to be a “Professional Courtesy”. You (as HR) spend enough time with them after they join you, explaining things in detail. However, after a month you (again as HR) drop by to their desk to check if all’s well and if they need any help - least expecting a rant-session from them! All they can talk about is the difference between their previous company and your firm! Right from infrastructure, colleagues, cafeteria, computers/laptops, benefits, compensation structure and even culture!

So what’s the big deal, huh? Everyone compares their old cars to new ones, old homes to new homes, even old cell-phones to new ones! So why not jobs?!?

Here’s why I suppose one should you not compare:

1. You are hurting your very chance to sink into the new circumstance/situation. You are only agonizing yourself by pro-longing the settling-down time. The sooner the better!
2. Tendency is to overlook all positives at the new place! While you are still clinging on to your old company…
3. The team-dynamics will change dramatically and there’s no one else to blame…but yourself…

So here’s my question: Why is it so hard for people to let-go and start afresh? Wasn’t that the idea to even look for a change?

I guess that’s the answer then…we can’t let go because we are too wary of change. I’m not able to think of anything else.

Any suggestions?

- The HR Store