Archive for June, 2012

Competencies and human resources consultants

Posted on June 18, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: |

What do you expect from your human resources advisor or HR team?Is there a skill or competency framework that you have in mind or are your expectations broader than that?

Do you have a competency framework in mind and if so how well does it match your expectations and needs for strategic HR advice? This is a question for you whether you are a human resources professional or someone who uses HR advice.

As a strategic HR consultant I am often asked what experience is needed to provide good strategic advice.  Or why it is that companies ask me to work with them!

Usually I say that you need good business and HR technical skills as well as good analytical ability. For me it’s about how my skills, knowledge and experience can best be put to work in an organization for that organization and the people.
Over recent years there have been numerous studies into how senior executives perceive human resources and the value that human resources consultants and advisors deliver to the business. The majority of senior executives interviewed (regardless of the source of the research) usually responded that HR is a critical area for their business to get right and yet comment that they have doubts as to whether they have the capability and capacity on hand to deliver the results.

This is a bit of a shocking observation.

Don’t you think? Here we have business leaders commenting how important human resources is to their business whilst expressing doubts about how well positioned their HR team is to fulfil that requirement.

Or do you agree? Personally I can see how many HR advisors fail to deliver the impact they could. Many people in the human resources field and operate almost as a silo and separate to the business. Yes I agree that hr is a speciality and ought to be given the same weight and value as finance, however individuals in the field also need to demonstrate that value.  We as HR professionals need to be attuned to the needs of the business and aware of how our skills and work can influence better  business outcomes.

Regardless my opinion or those of others in surveys, the facts is that there are a number of factors that can lead to a mismatch of expectations. And every humna resources and business professional knows (or should know!) that mismatched expectations lead only to disappointment and frustration. Not the outcomes that any of us are hoping for.

A recent article in the May 2012 HRMonthly – the magazine of AHRI – and written by Dave Ulrich highlights six HR competency domains.  This is great work and not just because the competencies make good sense, it is also because they come from Dave Ulrich.

Dave Ulrich is a Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. He studies how organizations build capabilities of speed, learning, collaboration, accountability, talent, and leadership through leveraging human resources. He has helped generate award winning data bases that assess alignment between strategies, human resource practices and HR competencies.

Dave Ulrich has been ranked the #1 Management Educator & Guru by BusinessWeek, selected by Fast Company as one of the 10 most innovative and creative leaders, and is consistently named as the most influential person in HR in publications across the globe. So when he says something, people listen and take note.

The HR competency domains identified by Ulrich  are in my view a great summary of the core role of the strategic HR consultant or advisor and indicate where and how good advice can benefit a business. If you are or want to be a strategic human resources consultant then you should develop these competencies.

If you are a business manager who is looking to get the most from your hr advisor then these areas could help shape how you document and express your expectations and needs.

In some respects these competencies should become the core objectives of every senior HR advisor or ambitious junior advisor to develop and nurture.  We could do worse than use these six domains to structure the job descriptions of hr teams within organisations. They could also be used by managers to measure and assess  how well their HR team is serving their needs. Or used to ask their HR reps  to raise the bar! These competency domains can also be used to map a shared set of expectations between HR and the business.

Yes I like them, am a fan and want to see them used.

Back to Ulrich’s work.

The first domain for a strategic HR advisor to cover is strategic positioner. This involves being aware of broader business trends and analyzing their impact and influence on the business. As a strategic advisor you must be positioned and able to interact with the leaders of the business. If you are unable to communicate the impact and imperative of HR for the business then this is a competency domain you need to develop.
For me strategic positioner is rightly listed as the first domain as it is like the foundation – to be successful as a hr advisor you need to be able to negotiate and interact at a strategic level in business terms. That means taking hr to the executive table and reinforcing that hr has a rightful place at that table.

The second area is credible activist which again links to business acumen. Yet is also has more. Being credible is about how well you can link your specialist knowledge with what the business and the managers need. Implicit within the label activist is the concept of being proactive and initiating activity. There are also a lot of subsets of credibility in terms of analytical ability to link hr to business goals, presenting a compelling and clear argument and analysis. There is also the element of earning the right to be there on terms of content and style. At times hr staff are their own worst enemies in terms of the way ideas and concepts are presented.

The third area is capability builder which is perhaps the most common reason most of us went into HR – to help develop the capacity and capability of others within the organization. As a Human resources consultant my intent is to assist with an issue, develop their skills for dealing with that issue and then leave them in a better state than when I started working with them. All HR professionals need an element of focus on how they can up skill and develop the people management skills of others throughout their organization. The role of HR is not to be a specialist or go to expert, our role is to bring our expertise to the market and the business and share insights to that expertise so that we build the resilience and strength of individuals inside the company.

The fourth area is change champion as HR needs to be at the centre of change. We are the trusted advisors to the executive and senior team, the voice of system and process and often the champion of the line staff who deal with customers and the daily demands on their jobs all the while dealing with internal change and turmoil. Champions of change usually also hold positions of influence within the organization and for HR to be truly effective, practitioners need to hold influential positions and places within the organization. If you cannot influence in HR then you will be far less effective than you ought to be.

A change champion is also someone who is trusted within the organization, a person who is close to the change and it’s objectives and is seen to be a leader of the change.  Change champions are often teachers of others about what the change involves and are the first to be trained and informed so that they can the carry those messages out into the organization.

The fifth area is human resource innovator and integrator which is a testament to the nature of continual improvement and specialist technical skills. Implicit in the term innovator is the requirement to know your area very well and to be creative and continually developing and pushing the boundaries to break new ground and develop or advance new concepts.

Again you’ll see integrator which fits well into the earlier competencies of positioning hr and building capability. So these competencies do stand alone yet they also combine to build a powerful network and structure on which effective hr consulting (whether internal or external) is built upon.

The sixth and final area is technology proponent. To some people technology and hr do not really belong together yet technology is the great enabler especially of hr. without technology how could we do even half of what we do? Being a proponent of technology requires us to use tech ology well, encourage others to do that and always ensuring that HR content and principles are best served.

These six areas provide a good framework of what human resources consulting is about – whether delivered by an internal or external consultant.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves.

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What do Missy Higgins and Good Managers Have in Common?

Posted on June 11, 2012. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, leadership legacy |

Well Missy took a 5 year break from music because she’d “forgotten why I wanted to write music in the first place”. For her, losing the connection with her music and her purpose turned her passion into a business and a job.  For an artist and a musician that can be a hollow place to be.

Actually, it can be a hollow feeling for anyone to feel their joy and enthusiasm for what they do melting away.  Or worse, realise that it has gone completely and then to feel stuck or trapped.

Does that sound like anyone you know?

Are you a manager who has lost some (or all) of your passion and enthusiasm? Does working with people drain your energy rather than inspire you to be the best leader you can be?

Some people say that it is life’s greatest pleasure to work at what you love.  I say it is essential to love what you do – even if that is only part of what you do – otherwise it is a grind or a rut.

An old favourite phase of mine is

“The only difference between a rut and the grave is the depth”

Because when you get into a rut things lose their life and colour and passion.  It doesn’t really seem that far off being completely cut off from life itself.

Can you feel how that may happen?  Many people I meet for career guidance tell me they feel stuck or trapped.  Being a career advisor and manager coach means I have a lot of conversations with a lot of people – and the majority of those conversations relate to people who feel that their work is a j.o.b. (or just off broke).  Can you imagine how that comes across to people you work with?  When you feel frustrated and unhappy in your work it does come across to others, even if only in subtle ways.

And that is why I believe Missy has been very wise to take a break.  Her music is her passion.  Her music is enjoyed because she sings and plays and writes with passion.  If there were no passion where would the joy be – for her as a performer or for her audience?

I recall seeing a well known band perform live – there was no banter or interaction between the members, there were no smiles and no apparent enjoyment of the gig.  Some people say they are a great band because their sound is perfect on stage and in the studio.  For me, there was no passion and it was a technical display only. That is not why I wanted to see a band perform live.

Enough with the imagery about boredom and death! Although one final comment on the picture – how many people do you know who believe that if they work harder and longer than anyone else that they will reap the rewards?  And how many of those people subsequently get ill or suffer stress – especially if they are overlooked for a promotion.  The hardest working people in a company can be the least visible – think about the cleaners, the admin and support staff, those in back office jobs: they all work very hard and with little recognition.  Those of us in more customer facing roles work hard also yet our direct connection with customers usually provides us with some recognition.  Don’t fool yourself – working yourself into a grave may get you the Unknown headstone too – and that’s about  it.

Back to Missy – she clearly knows that you need to be true to yourself to be good at what you do.

Does that make sense to you?  It’s a pretty deep concept – happiness comes from being true to yourself.  Being good at what you do involves (usually) enjoying what you do – so that you’ll keep doing it – and therefore the more you do it the better you get.  This phenomena is also known as the 3 Ps – practice (creates) prefeence (increases) proficiency.  You (and I) practice what is preferred and that leads to proficiency. So we do what we like and then get better at it because we’ve practiced and then we develop an even stronger preference or liking for it.

Yes that’s why I work with lots of managers and people seeking career counselling because I enjoy it, which I hope makes me easier to work with and then get great results with people, and then I want to keep doing it because it helps people.

So to be really good at what you do you need to enjoy it.  Enjoyment comes from being true to yourself and knowing what you like.

Managers are the same – most of us become leaders or managers because we like people and think we can make a positive difference.

Now for my tough question – Why did you become a manager?

What were the reasons you signed up to lead people? Are you still doing it for those reasons or has your role become lost in the blur of budgets, reporting, deliverables, projects and problem solving?

If that notion cause you to feel sad, then I ask you this Is the despair or frustration that you feel, showing in your work and to your team?

If so – it is surely not how you want to be seen and remembered.  And now perhaps you are in a dilemma.  I love my company and my team (and let’s face it, the wages are probably a positive influence too) yet the job has lost some (or all) of it’s appeal for me.  Now what do I do?

Well you do not have to resign or quit!

I hope that is a relief.

Unless that is really what you want to do, and have been thinking about for some time – in which case I suggest have a chat with a career advisor and then do it if it is right for you! Very little is to be gained for making a rash decision, however the theme of this post is also that continuing to do something that makes you unhappy is also not a good thing.

My suggestion is to rediscover what it is that you love about what you do – why did you get started in the first place.  See if you can reconnect with that passion and enthusiasm. And then let it shine.

Personally, I have resigned from jobs before because there was no longer a fit between what the role/company required and what I love to do. And like Missy I knew that if I stayed in that role that all I’d be doing was being bad for my health, lowering the results I could achieve and leaving a less than brilliant impression of myself with people I worked with. To do my best I need to be in the right frame of mind – which comes when i do what I love.

One role that I resigned from was a head of learning and development, and it had lots of training/workshop facilitation, career advice with staff, skill and development planning with managers and some great projects as well.  It was my ideal role at the time. Well the company went into a consolidation period and wanted to do fairly standard training for about 12 months and then review whether they would resume the staff skill and career development aspect.

For me I did not want to be a contract manager for 12 months – that is not the type of work that really makes my heart sing.  I realise that there are people out there who love contract management and so I decided to resign from that job and let someone in who would really, passionately and diligently do what was required.

Now some folks would say that’s a pretty brave move and not something that just anyone could or should do.  We are all in different circumstances which need to be weighd up. It worked for me and I knew that I would not do myself or the job justice if I stayed.

My view is that your well being also needs to be weighed up.  If you work in a job you hate then it could well be eating you up from the inside. And maybe you would be better off doing something else.

Something you feel passion for. Something you enjoy. Something that helps you be a great person to work with. And makes you a happier person to be around outside of work.

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