HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Culture

Books are not the only resource in an academic library. The talent management process of librarians is vital to the success of the student body.

I recently finished reading “Talent Management: Cases and Commentary” as edited by Eddie Blass and found it to hold an exercise that I could produce for the organization that I work in.  As it is structured, the book goes through several talent management philosophies and processes from several different organizations.  Following are the results I deduced for an academic library.  Feel free to flush out the talent management structure of your company by following the same structure.

For the purposes of shared understanding, ‘talent’ as it applies to those individuals deemed as potentials for organizational leadership and success.

Talent Dimensions:

Size of Talent Pool –  In some organizations the talent pool can be quite large, but for the University Library, talent is limited primarily to the librarian roles, which is where I will focus my analysis.  Of the near 300 full-time employees working within the Division in staff, administrative, and technical positions, only 10% are the faculty talent.

Entry Criteria – Becoming a librarian within the Division is determined with great scrutiny.  The interview process alone has several stages where an individual must complete a rigorous interview process and present their current research and how it relates to the librarian position available.  The rate of entry seems to be roughly 1% for every librarian role.

Decision Process – The search committee initially determines entry into the Library Assistant rank.  A search committee can range from 4 to 8 individuals with vested interest in the success of the role.  On top of the search committee, the candidates are approved by both the Division’s Director of HR as well as the Dean of the library.  Reaching the Assistant level and Associate Curator level requires additional scrutiny by tenure track faculty members.

Permanency of Definition – The talent pool is not completely permanent here.  If a librarian is not staying current within the field or is not publishing (publish or perish) they will not move on in the ranks and will be managed out.

Recruitment as a Source of Talent – Talent can be recruited from both internal and external candidates.  The percentages for the past three years has shown roughly 20% internal and 80% external in placing librarians, although once in the librarian roles, these individuals may expand their responsibilities beyond the specialty they were brought on to advise in.

Transparency – The talent management process is made clear to all faculty members.  The Division aims for transparency in this and all other processes.

Development Path – The career path for the librarians is laid out with specific guidelines and milestones.

Development Focus – The focus at the library is on the strengths of our librarians.  As a leading academic library, our librarians need to be current and at the top of their field which demands a high degree of specialty within their subject areas.

Support – Support comes from the organization and within the talent pool.  The atmosphere is collegiate, so knowledge-sharing and collaborative innovation are the norm.  Talent is allowed leave in order to work on further research and they are supported financially while travelling to area-relevant conferences.

Influence on Career – At the end of the day, it is up to the individual to put in the effort to remain current and on top of their field.

Connected Conversations – Our librarians can speak to line managers, directors, and HR for suggestions on conferences or other ways to further their own personal research or publishing.

Organizational Values – The organization values supportive teamwork and collaboration.

Risk – The structure of the university creates a low risk promotion and succession planning model.  Hiring decisions are made by many individuals as a group and are not taken lightly.

Performance Management – Performance management varies in that some degree of output and input is necessary in the operation of the library and its departments.

Talent Management Process – The process is explicit to those who are within the talent pool, but more vague to those outside of it.  While the procedural documentation does exist, those who are non-facutly members do not generally read the faculty manual in order to discern what the success factors of being faculty would entail.

Use of technology – Counter-intuitively, technology is rarely used in the talent management system.  It is upon managers to communicate with employees directly and use paper based evaluation processes to determine the success of the talent pool.  Within the development aspect, however, technology is used as a learning method.

Systems Flexibility – At this point the system is somewhat inflexible.  University protocols call for certain measures to be taken and for the most part, status quo remains the norm for talent management, except for on a case by case basis.

Ownership of talent – The division wants its talent to flourish, but ultimately, it falls on the employee to produce results.  Front line managers may play an encouraging role, but it is up to the employee to fulfill all of the requirements and expectations of their role in order to succeed and move on in the organization.

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In putting a Rewards and Recognition system in place, pay special attention to how the system is playing out. Some of what you are doing may be working against your goal.

I have been reading a bit about Talent Management in a book called “Talent Management: Cases and Commentary,” edited by Eddie Blass and published by Palgrave Macmillan. I came across a passage that struck me as being both counter-intuitive and valuable.

I come from a department that has spent a great deal of time rethinking rewards and recognition, finding it something to strive for as a Division, following our strategic objectives.  However, rewarding talent can also have a dark side.  If the rewards structure is built in a way that pits people against eachother, negative cultures can emerge as follows:

1. Mercenary – Money comes before, and often at the expense of, teamwork

2. Networked – This culture is highly politicized and people know how to manipulate and backstab in order to compete internally

3. Performance – This culture is demanding, with no break for the employees who must always hit the right numbers for the bottom line

4. Communal – Everybody wants internal approval and no body wants to rock the boat making th decision process slow and innovation next to non-existant. 

5. Communication – There is little feedback and things may not be done as said.

The goal, therefore, is to find a framework that provides a proper amount of encouragement and support for people to work together towards the greater good of the group.  Above all, if you are trying to implement a successful rewards or recognition program, always remember to make the process transparent and fair so that people can understand the decisions, and perhaps strive to be in the favored group down the road.

While thinking about the culture of your organization may seem a no brainer, starting the conversation can be quite puzzling.

Culture, as dictionary.com puts it, is defined in part by  “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group: the youth culture; the drug culture”.  Every business, company, branch, department or any subsection of an organization has a culture of its own.  Thinking strategically, the organization’s culture should trump all other subgroups in a way that creates a coheisive culture for the whole.  Of course different branches or departments could have different ways of carrying out what needs to be done, as they should.  However, making a coheisive culture throughout is a bit more complicated.

But how is a company’s culture formed?  Following best practices, the culture should come out of the strategic plan for the organization.  If you don’t have a strategic plan, business plan, or other company goals, now would be the time to rethink your business strategies.  Take the time to understand your business and the needs of your clients. From there, you can determine what sort of people and what sort of behaviors fit within your organization.

Most of all, actions speak louder than goals. It’s great for a strategic plan to have lofty ideals of why the company was founded and where it’s headed.  It’s quite another for business leaders within the company to take some actions to bring those goals to fruition.

But honestly, does the strategic goal make sense?  I mean that in two ways.  First, does it set forth goals that fit with what your company is all about?  Does it address the needs of the organization and the services that it provides? It is important that these questions are asked not only once but on a continuous and routine basis, so that as the company’s need changes, so too will the goals change to fit it, along with the company practices. Second, do people know what the heck it’s trying to say. Strategic plans need to be clear, concise, and understandable to everyone.  Not only that, but the plan needs to be reachable by everyone.  Without theplans being widespread throughout the hieght and breadth of the company, there is no chance that the goals will actually be acheived in any manageable way.

So what kinds of actions need to take place to bring the strategic plan to life? These ideas can and should come from anyone who works in the company, but the final call falls to the leadership of the company. Just thinking, however, about all aspects of a business, the strategic plan should have a grasp on processes all throughout the organization.  The following is just a short list of the many which need to be closely tied to a company’s strategic plan:

Recruitment and Hiring Decisions

Retention Practices

Advertising and Marketing

Research and Development

Company Metrics

Promotion and Compensation Decisions

Learning and Development

Overall Policy Decisions

Of course I am missing many, but I hope to be able to touch upon many of these in future posts.  I have reviewed my Division’s strategic plan, framed it in work conversations, and analyzed it some more with additional reading on my own, and I wish to impart a little of what I have found.

Be on the lookout for employees to pack up and leave. Keep your team feeling appreciated and challenged to reduce the risk of mass exodus.

A lot of businesses and organizations have seen an increased number of people willing to stay with the company for longer periods of time over the past year or so. 

As the economy starts to improve and people feel more comfortable with the job market, people are likely to start looking around again.  The challenge of the company to retain these valuable resources, or when all else fails, to find better ways to make their talent’s knowledge transferable.

 Unfortunately for organizations, if they haven’t made steps to retain by this point, they are in serious risk of loosing a good number of employees in the near future.  During a period of recession, it is in the best interest of the company to train and cultivate their talent.  If employees are being retained for longer periods of time, people understand their jobs better, and they understand their role within the company.  The true struggle is for the company to get the employees to buy in to their mission, or even just their benefits.

Several key ways to retain your ‘flight risks’ are to:

1.  Identify potential flight risks – It sounds simple, but identifying the groups that are more prone to leave is a vital part in identifying ways of retaining them. 

2.  Identify the needs of these groups – Whether that be more money, more responsibility, more time off, or what have you, try to glean this information from your talent.

3.  Identify the needs of the company – During the economic realities of today, the company may not  be able to support of the needs of those the company wishes to attain.  However, recognizing the amount of latitude a company’s budget and resources has can really point to what can still be done to reward, recognize, and support that talent group.

4.  Review the strategic goals of the company and the department.  If you don’t know what they are, find out.  If the strategy is poorly defined, clarify and make it strong.  In reviewing the strategies, identify areas which can be enhanced.  Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.  Your company may have had to downsize due to economic hardships over the past few months.  You may be tempted to recreate the same structure when the economy does improve, but don’t.  Realize that you now have solid talent that has been with the company for a good amount of time, most likely performing the same tasks for a long time and more.  Some of these people may now be qualified for a position twice the level they are in currently.  Take advantage of their specialties and their knowledge of the company, and restructure in a way that gives the company a better edge.

5.  Align the needs of the individuals with the strategic goals of the company – While the money might not be in place to move your talent to roles which would meet their career goals and intellectual needs, identifying the potentials and giving them the support that they need to get to that future state now will improve the chances that when the growth can be made, the talent is already in place to move up.

6.  Show them you care – By doing the steps above and more, you will be showing your talent pool that you appreciate them and would like them to continue.

Workplace conflict can have catostrophic consequences. Avoiding them can be done by analysing your interpersonal communication techniques.

 

I am posting below a critical incident report I have written as part of my training in an Interpersonal Communication class that I thought might bring some insight to others.  While I have not done an employee relations case or investigation, I can’t help but think that these would be some of the steps I would use to assess the situation and suggest action items for the future to resolve a dispute.  

Incident Description 

Nancy, Steven, Paul and Sylvia work together.  Within team meetings, they collaborate and respect each other’s opinions.  After work, they often unwind at a bar, joke with one another, and enjoy each other’s company without the pressures of their jobs.  Nancy works with Sylvia at the front desk whereas Steven and Paul have private offices.  One day, Steven, the Director of the department, signed his name on Nancy’s calendar, but Nancy used white out to erase his name.  A few days later when she was away from her desk, Steven noticed what had happened and joked with Paul about it.  To tease Nancy, he again signed his name to her calendar for the current month, and the four months following.  When Nancy returned, Sylvia told her what had happened and she became noticeably upset.  When Sylvia commented about it, Nancy went so far as to call Steven a jerk, and suggested that he must be trying to get her to quit.  When Steven heard that she had gotten upset, he said to Sylvia, “She didn’t have to be so OCD about it.  The calendar isn’t even technically her’s.” 

Analysis 

Nancy is clearly territorial about her space.  She prefers supplies and personal items at her desk a certain way and if someone challenges that order, she reacts negatively.  This extends of course to her desk calendar.  When Steven challenged that space, Nancy’s security seemed to have been threatened.  Additionally, Steven violated her space not once but twice.  Nancy was expecting him to understand that she was not pleased with him writing on her calendar after the initial exchange, when she used white out to make the calendar ‘clean’ again.  A drawback of this non-verbal communication was that the degree to how much the act of signing her calendar affected her did not come across in her behavior.  It seems as though Steven did not take the context into consideration when he decided to recreate the act again.  

Another aspect of this exchange is the issue of rank.  Nancy has a lower position than Steven.  Her responsibilities are to provide support to the department and to Steven directly.  In the past, Steven has expressed his desire to be viewed as a ‘team member’ as he views the term ‘boss’ in a negative light.  His objective, it seems, is to create a working culture which has a lower power distance.  This is clear even in how he invites us to all participate in after work fun.  One expression in the department has always been “We hang; we cool.”  However, Steven is providing mixed messages, as his actions speak louder than his words.  

In this scenario, the presence of the high power distance reality becomes apparent.   Steven feels that it is in his power to sign his name on Nancy’s calendar.  As he understands the office, Nancy’s space serves him, and he should be able to manipulate that space as needed.  However, the negative emotions that ensued because of his behavior actually impacted Nancy’s productivity a great deal for a period of time.  

It seems that Nancy is more comfortable in a low power distance scenario seeing as she is uncomfortable with her boss taking over her space.   At the same time, this points to her desire for a high level of uncertainty avoidance.  Again, she appreciates order and neatness in her area, and if a pen is not where it is supposed to be, she knows someone else has moved it.  Steven, however, feels that this level of uncertainty in the work environment is ill-advised.  In discussing the event, Steven mentioned that Nancy should learn how to better adapt to change.  His reasoning for signing Nancy’s calendar for the second time was that he was trying to help her get more comfortable with the idea that not everything in her office space is untouchable.  

Finally, when he realized how much the second occurrence had affected her, Steven jumped to conclusions and used a stereotype for Nancy’s behavior.  Because she wanted a degree of order he was unused to seeing, he verbally categorized her as maybe having an obsessive compulsive disorder.  

Teachable Moments/Insights 

After speaking with Steven about the event a bit more, it becomes clear that the intentions behind Steven’s actions were good. While he did want to make her slightly uncomfortable, Steven was trying to provide Nancy with a growth opportunity to get past her strict assumptions of her work environment.  He in no means intended for Nancy to get upset about the matter and he did apologize in the end after discovering that it did hurt her.     

But who is right and who is wrong in this situation?  Should Steven have been more respectful of Nancy’s space, or should Nancy be more open to change?  Overall, the lesson Steven was trying to impart could have been done differently, with greater tact, if it were done more openly and without an element of power. 

Continuing in the duality vein, an additional insight is how quickly something can go from innocent fun, to an environment of tension and blame, especially when it comes to labeling someone.   Because Steven persisted in writing on Nancy’s calendar, she called him a jerk.  Because Nancy was so defensive of her area, Steven said she might have OCD.  While the statement came out slightly in jest, the mere fact that he could accuse her of having a psychological disorder based on this occurrence seemed unfounded.  However, as tensions normalized, the labeling disappeared.  It stands to reason that each were protecting their self-concepts.  They were each labeling the other as an attempt to save face.  However, the reality of the situation was more complex than Steven being a jerk or Nancy being OCD. 

Additionally, it stands to reason that Sylvia  will more readily side with Nancy because she spends more time with her and is on her same level.  While Paul was unable to comment about the situation. 

Action Plan 

Going forward, several measures should be taken to avoid further conflicts. 

For one, the goal of having an open working environment free of the pressures of rank needs to be reassessed.  While some areas of the work are freely on the same level, such as creating departmental objectives and brainstorming future initiatives, others are more exclusively rank specific.  To some degree, this is to be expected, but these roles have been blurred over time.  For the department to function at a greater level, it is important for a more succinct system to be in place for communicating what is and what is not culturally acceptable within the department in terms of power distribution. 

Additionally, Nancy assumed that Steven would know not to try marking her calendar again due to the fact that she had removed it in the first place.  However, he did not use the context of his surroundings to reach that conclusion.  Going forward, communication should be made verbally and explicitly.  Assuming that Steven will know based on a look or a change in the environment is not enough, but he will respond to a conversation. 

I would not suggest Steven press the issue of training Nancy on becoming more comfortable with change in her environment.  The territoriality that occurs in the office environment is only natural for one who has been on the job a few weeks, let alone three years, as Nancy has been.  Everyone has their own unique way of operating with their environment, and Nancy has found a way that is successful to her.  At this point, to threaten that continuity, or to encourage her to change, is more of a hindrance to her productivity than an opportunity for growth.   There is also seemingly no need for this change in environment as the department is not in danger of being relocated. 

While this team has been working together for over two years, they are still learning about the expectations, assumptions, learning styles, and communication styles of each of the members.  All in all, it would benefit this team to take some time in meetings to discuss where they each stand on certain matters such as Geert Hofstede’s cultural value dimensions, how they use non-verbal communication, and how their self-concepts and perceptions play into their roles within the department, among other issues.  This understanding of interpersonal communication would provide them with the tools necessary to function at a higher level as a team.