Impact of HR at S-III (System) Level of Work

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I read your post yesterday about HR at different levels of work. I am stuck at S-II. How can I make an impact at S-III? How do I get the company to understand why this is so necessary?

Response:
Most companies see the HR role at S-I and S-II as necessary only because they are mandated by law to keep track of that stuff (compliance). By definition, administrative processes do not directly add value to the product or service experienced by the customer.

But, there is a silent switch at S-III where Human Resource systems begin to add value. It is not that most companies don’t see it as necessary, most companies don’t see it at all. They are blind to it. The only time they respond to it is when they find themselves suddenly short-handed.

Here is the prescription to have HR impact at S-III (system) level of work. Get out of your office and meet individually with each functional manager. Here is a list –

  • Sales manager
  • Marketing manager
  • Contracting manager
  • Project manager
  • Operations manager
  • QC manager
  • Warranty manager
  • R&D manager

Ask them these three questions –

  1. What is the output created by your (function) department?
  2. What roles and how many people do you need to do that work?
  3. What will change in a month, six months, a year related to your work output and the people you need?

Go back to your office and write up your notes, one page per function. Put these is a tabbed 3-ring binder.

Have another meeting with each manager, show them the one page and ask three more questions –

  1. Describe each role on your team, what problems do they have to solve and what decisions do they have to make?
  2. What does each of those roles cost you in compensation?
  3. How long does it take (lead time) to find candidates and train someone to be productive on your team?

Go back to your office and write up your notes, one page per function. Put these in the tabbed 3-ring binder.

By now, you should see the pattern of these questions and the construction of this human resource system. As the HR manager, you are making this system visible to each functional manager, so they can see it. You have also established a series of meetings that will continue (forever) where you will ask questions and begin the execution of this system. Your next meetings will consider these questions –

  • If you expect work volume to increase (or decrease), given the lead time for training, when do we need to begin a recruiting effort?
  • How will we describe the role in a job posting?
  • How will we include the necessary elements in a role description?
  • What are the key areas in each role, critical role requirements and output in each key area?
  • What questions will we need to create to use in candidate interviews?
  • Who would be valuable members on the hiring team?
  • What will the onboarding process (orientation, training) look like?
  • Which manager will be accountable for the output of this new hire?

Write up your notes, organize them into the 3-ring binder (your HR system) and EXECUTE. What you have created is a system called workforce planning. There is no magic fairy dust to this process, just a little (hard) work. -Tom

HR and Levels of Work

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
I was hired in an HR role about six months ago. So, I have settled in. I know who the players are and have made a bit of headway. I published a new employee handbook, negotiated the renewal on our health insurance plan and straightened out a very messy vacation policy. But, I still don’t feel like I am part of the company. There is so much more to be done, but, I don’t get invited to meetings with top management. Most often, I find myself in my office listening to some teary eyed employee who feels they were mistreated by a co-worker. Is this all there is to this job?

Response:
This trap is set in most companies I visit. The HR role feels necessary, but most organizations do not know how to define it, and settle for a role below the level of work they truly need, or outsource this function to their payroll company, from a lack of understanding or simple frustration. A recent article in Forbes, describes the problem.

CEOs identified talent supply and retention as their No. 1 “hot button” issue in 2016, and talent shortages are cited as one of the primary constraints on corporate growth. Coupled with the pricey tab that employees’ salaries represent – salaries can account for up to 80% of operating costs – HR cannot afford to cling to its compliance and administrative heritage instead of shifting to a more strategic contribution. Most organizations concur – 85% of global companies believe that HR must undergo a transformation in order to adequately address emerging business priorities.

The article continues with some generic thoughts, but nothing to assist you in an emerging HR role.

Looking at levels of work will bring us more insight into what is necessary. If people are our most important asset, the organization has to figure this out. Otherwise, the search for talent will become the biggest constraint, choking off growth and creating chaos.

HR role, Stratum I level of work (Time-span = 1 day to 3 months outlook)
This is all the compliance filing that must be completed and properly organized. I-9 forms, employment applications, health insurance registration, COBRA forms. It is enough to make your head spin, but has to be done. The good news, there are many software platforms (cloud-based) that can help store all this stuff. Payroll services can be helpful by providing the necessary forms and a place to electronically keep them. But recognizing this level of work does not mean the company would survive an audit or actually have the documentation to defend a claim or lawsuit.

HR role, Stratum II level of work (Time-span = 3 months to 12 months outlook)
This is the minimum level of work that will assist the company in surviving that audit or defending that claim. Stratum II managerial level of work is described as make sure work gets done. It is one thing to have a health insurance form available to be filled out by a new hire, but it is at level II, that we ensure the form was filled out correctly, completely and within the time deadlines required. It is this level of work that conducts self-audits, that creates a filing system (using cloud-based software or a payroll service) to make sure that all compliance issues are accurate, complete, on-time and appropriately filed. Do not entrust this to an outside service or software. This is an internal role. If a health insurance form is not filed on-time and a new hire is diagnosed with cancer, it is the company that is on the hook.

But if this all that HR is, the company is missing the boat and truly does not understand what is necessary.

HR role, Stratum III level of work (Time-span = 12 months to 24 months outlook)
This is where the leverage for HR begins. If Human Resources is really about humans, then it is time to dig in and create the system of acquiring talent. This is a system like any other system in the organization, yet one that receives the least attention (except by the HR professional in the role). Most companies can see the necessity of a capital equipment purchase. They look ahead, create flow charts and make budgets to buy that capital equipment. Most companies overlook the necessity of workforce planning, defining the level of work in necessary roles. Most managers are too busy getting work done to spend sufficient time on the people side until it is too late, the project is under contract and we suddenly do not have the personnel capacity to perform the work. The biggest contribution from HR is to instill the discipline, with every functional manager, to make sure they anticipate their human capital needs looking 1-2 years into the future. That look-ahead must be backstopped with a talent acquisition system that delivers the right team at the right time, with the required capability, trained up and ready to go.

HR role, Stratum IV level of work (Time-span 2 years to 5 years outlook)
But, for HR, this is where the real game is played and most companies never see this. Stratum IV managerial roles contemplate all the existing systems and sub-systems and integrate them together. This is an integration role looking out 2-5 years in the future. This is a strategic role. HR professionals that work at this level, DO get invited to senior management meetings, not to sit in the back of the room, but front and center. The success of any company in building a business model, shifting strategy, responding to new markets, depends on the right people in the right roles.

Funny, that is what Jim Collins told us in Good to Great. Unfortunately, he shrugs that off. “I am not going to belabor all five levels (of work) here, as levels 1-4 are self explanatory and discussed extensively by other authors.”

Shame on you, Jim Collins, this is where the game is played. Most companies fail because they do not truly understand levels of work and fail to field the team required to execute.

And this is where HR professionals can make great contribution, sitting at the strategic table, asking the questions and defining the people system required to support the best laid plans of mice and men (and women). -Tom

Play to Your Strengths as a Manager

Hiring Talent Summer Camp is launched. Today is the last day for open registration. For more information and registration, follow this link – Hiring Talent Summer Camp.
______

On Wednesday, we talked about the Spirit Animal interview question. Sparked a bit of response.

I do see the humor in this question, and on the surface, it does seem silly. However, there may be more to the question than you think. I had a manager tell me they ask silly questions like this, not to judge the surface response, but to evaluate how the candidate reacts to such a silly question. Do they roll their eyes disrespectfully? Does it take an exorbitant amount of time to come up with an answer? Are they creative with their answer? Do they panic and start sweating? Are they a quick wit and come up with a novel response?

Here’s the problem. And I will state this in the form of a question.

  • Why do interviewers misinterpret candidate responses?

To this question, I get the usual –

  • The interviewer doesn’t listen well.
  • The interviewer is listening for something she wants to hear.
  • The interviewer has already made up her mind.
  • The candidate exaggerates the content in his response.

But that’s not the real reason interviewers misinterpret responses. Here’s why.

Interviewers misinterpret candidate responses because they ask questions which require interpretation. The Spirit Animal question will get a response, like rolling eyes, a long pause, panic sweats, snappy answer. But what does that response mean related to the work in the role. We don’t know what it means and any attempt to interpret the response places us in the position of playing amateur psychologist.

Most managers don’t have a degree in psychology, certainly not a Masters or PhD in psychology. None are certified by their respective state to practice psychotherapy. Most managers stink at it.

But managers are expert at spotting positive work behaviors, expert at spotting negative work behaviors. Don’t play amateur psychologist, play to your strengths as a manager. Ask questions about the work. It’s all about the work. And never ask about a person’s Spirit Animal.

Mine is a python that starts with a wrapped embrace, then squeezes the life out of its unsuspecting prey. -Tom

The Question is Cute, but Idiotic

Hiring Talent Summer Camp is launched. And there is still time to climb aboard. Registration ends on Friday. For more information and registration, follow this link – Hiring Talent Summer Camp.
______

Rifling through my archives –

I was shocked this morning to read an article posted on LinkIn. The Strange and Difficult Questions CEOs Ask in Job Interviews. At first, I thought it was going to be a spoof article, given the questions that were listed. But, as a I read on, I found that the author was serious about sharing these questions, with attribution to a stoic CEO.

What’s your superpower… or spirit animal?
“During her interview I asked my current executive assistant what was her favorite animal. She told me it was a duck, because ducks are calm on the surface and hustling like crazy getting things done under the surface. I think this was an amazing response and a perfect description for the role of an EA.” — Ryan Holmes, HootSuite CEO

This has to be one of the most idiotic interview questions invented. It’s cute but has nothing to do with the work. Perhaps Mr. Holmes believes he has some divine (psychological or psychopathic) ability to accurately interpret a candidate’s response to such an inane question.

My mother thinks I am amazing, but that doesn’t qualify me for the role.

All I can do is shake my head and chuckle.

No Tips, No Tricks, No Magic to Hiring

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) is underway. And, there is still time to join the group. Follow this link for more information and registration. –Hiring Talent Summer Camp
______

“How come Roger always seems to hire good people,” Melinda asked. “What’s his trick?”

“You think there is a trick?” I asked.

“Well, I know Roger and he’s not that smart. Not any smarter than me. So, he must have some trick, some technique that he uses to pick the best person.”

“You and I both sat in with Roger on his interviews. It looks to me like he just asks questions. And when you interview, don’t you ask questions?” I prompted.

“Yes, and I have my favorite questions,” she replied. “I always ask about the way the candidate sees the future.”

“And, why do you think it is important for the candidate to be able to see the future?”

“It’s very important,” Melinda insisted. “It is important to anticipate things that might happen. It’s important to do planning. It is important to be prepared.”

“So, what is the question you ask?”

“I always ask where they see themselves in five years?”

“Do you think that gives you insight into their ability to anticipate, plan and prepare?”

Melinda stopped. “Not really, most of the time, I think the candidate just makes up something they think I want to hear.”

“So, if you had to ask a better question about a time when the candidate had to anticipate, plan and prepare, what would that question sound like?”

The Long Term View (vs the short term fix) on Recruiting

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom
_____

Lucas shook his head. “I don’t know. I spend all this time, recruiting, desperately looking for someone to fill the position. I finally find a candidate who fits the bill. They accept the offer, go through training. Then, just as they are beginning to get the hang of things, they decide to move to Phoenix. I have to start all over, looking for someone. It’s like a vicious cycle.”

“So, what are you going to do?” I asked.

“Back to the beginning, put another job posting out there, talk to HR, contact a couple of recruiters. I seem to spend all my time looking for someone, I can’t get any of my other work done,” he complained.

“Sounds like a short term fix,” I said.

“What do you mean?” Lucas wanted to know.

“Finding someone, it’s just a short term fix,” I repeated. “Lucas, you’re a manager. In your role, we need you to think ahead, anticipate. Finding someone to work on your team is a short term fix. What would be a long term fix? If you knew that the best technician on your team was going to quit next June, what would you do, now?”

“Well, if I had that much time,” Lucas began to think, “I could be much more selective about who I brought on to the team. I might step up the training of the other team members to see if one of them could step into the lead role. Heck, if I could get one of my current guys to step up, I could bring on a couple of entry-level interns to back-stop the rest of the team. I would probably start a cross-training program, so that next June, when my best technician leaves, it’s not such a big deal.”

“Now, you are thinking about a long term fix. I would get started today, because, I guarantee, between now and next June, you are going to lose a team member.”

Two Parts to a Skill, Knowledge is Only One

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom
______

“We were excited about this new hire,” Erica announced.

“Why all the excitement?” I asked.

“We were searching for just the right candidate, with experience on our software. We finally found one, he started last week,” she explained.

“So, why am I here?”

“We wondered if you could help us. Our new hire seems to know all the technical ins and outs of our software, but he can’t seem to solve even the simplest of problems with it.”

“How do you know he that he understands the software?” I probed.

“Well, he has two certifications in it, fundamentals and advanced. During the interview, he walked us through some of the software screens and he could explain what each of the menu items does. I was quite impressed,” Erica defended.

“So, he has the training, he can speak the language, you believe he has the skill. But there is still something missing. You know, skill comes in two parts. The first part is the technical knowledge. But the second part is practice. In the interview, did you ask questions about practice? Not, how does the software work, but what problems he solved using the software? How many problems he solved using the software? How big were the problems using the software? How different were the problems using the software? Did you have the candidate step you through some of the problems he solved?”

Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) Starts June 20

Hiring Talent Summer Camp starts on Jun 20, 2016.

Purpose of this program – to train hiring managers and HR specialists to conduct more effective interviews in the context of a managed hiring process.

How long is the program? Designed to be completed in 4-6 weeks, the program is self-paced so participants can work through the program even faster.

How do people participate in the program? Participants complete online assignments and participate in online facilitated discussions, working directly with Tom Foster as the online coach, along with other participants.

Who should participate? This program is designed for managers and HR professionals who play active roles in the recruiting process.

What is the cost? The program investment is $499.

When is the program scheduled? This program is self-paced, on-demand, so participants can login and complete assignments on their own schedule.

How much time is required to participate in this program? Participants should reserve approximately 2 hours per week (on demand) for 4 weeks (total 8 hours).

Program Description
Module One – Role Descriptions – It’s All About the Work
Learning Objectives

  • Examine what hiring managers are up against.
  • Define the steps in a comprehensive hiring process.
  • Specifically define the Role Description as the cornerstone of the hiring process.
  • Define the Structure of the Role Description
  • Write a Role Description

Module Two – Interviewing for Future Behavior
Learning Objectives

  • To understand how most managers conduct interviews, so we can stop bad habits.
  • To identify, from the Role Description, the specific data we need from the candidate.
  • To design questions to capture the data we need to make an effective candidate selection.
  • To construct a bank of organized, written, prepared questions on which to base the interview.

Module Three – Conducting the Interview
Learning Objectives

  • To prepare mentally to conduct an effective interview.
  • To practice asking prepared questions and creating clarifying questions during the interview.
  • To practice taking notes during the interview and re-capping those notes following the interview.
  • To create a Decision Matrix to compile interview data and compare candidates.
  • To effectively work with an Interview Team.

Pre-register now at the following link – Hiring Talent Course. No payment due at this time. Looking forward to seeing you online. -Tom

Level of Work and Promotions

“So, Phillip can handle tasks with a one month time span, but falls short on tasks with a longer time span,” Joyce confirmed.

“So, what does that tell you about his role? You told me that you promoted him to Warehouse Manager. Based on the level of work in the role, is that appropriate for Phillip?” I asked.

Joyce knew the answer, so her hesitation was from reluctance. “No. Now it begins to make sense. What we expect from a Manager, even the Warehouse Manager requires a Time Span of twelve months. Phillip is not even close.”

“So, if you had determined the level of work before the promotion, you might have done something differently?” I prompted.

“Absolutely. When I look at Time Span, it becomes so obvious that his promotion was a bone-headed decision.”

“And who was responsible for that bone-headed decision?”

“That would be me,” Joyce replied.
____
Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom

The Look-Ahead

“Then, how are we going to measure the size of the role?” I repeated. Joyce and I were discussing Phillip. Though he had been made manager, he was having difficulty with some of his new responsibilities.

“So, you are suggesting that we look at all the tasks on Phillip’s plate and assign a Time Span to them?” Joyce asked.

I nodded.

She began to brainstorm out loud, “If I look at his Key Result Areas, as Warehouse Manager, Phillip is responsible for:

  • Personnel
  • Receiving
  • Picking
  • Shipping
  • Warehouse Layout and Work Flow
  • Security
  • Equipment
  • Safety

“And which of those KRAs has the longest Time Span tasks?” I asked.

Joyce pulled out a sheet of paper to make some notes. “Receiving, picking and shipping are fairly short term things. The look-ahead is probably no more than a couple of weeks.

“But, both Personnel and Warehouse Layout and Work Flow, contain much longer Time Span tasks. We have a lot of seasonality to our product lines and we have to make decisions about inventory bin placement four or five months in advance. We really depend on a twelve month bin cycle that rotates stock both forward and backward depending on seasonality. Some tasks create a feedback loop to sales and purchasing about inventory turns, raw materials in stock, finished goods in stock. There is a lot to control, but it’s easy if you think out far enough into the future and plan.

“And that’s where Phillip messes up,” Joyce concluded. “He just doesn’t plan out far enough, so it’s always chaos.”

“So, if we were to measure Phillip’s capability in Personnel and Layout and Work Flow, he underperforms?” I confirmed.

It was Joyce’s turn to nod.

“So, let’s look at his other tasks, determine the level of work and see if we come up with a pattern of his effectiveness.”
____
Hiring Talent Summer Camp (online) starts June 20, 2016. Follow this link – Hiring Talent – for course description and logistics. Pre-register today. See you online. -Tom