HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Development

To return next week

Thank you for being patient. I will return.

I would like to take a moment to express my joy in returning to my blog.  The past few months have taken a mental and emotional toll on me both at work and home, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope to return to a more regular posting schedule, as was planned at the beginning of the year, and I hope those who have been interested in what I have had to say will pick up the pieces with me.

Over the past few months I have had to focus all of my energies on my work.  I have hit some hurdles and reached a stride.  I have some new ideas on posts I can use in the future, and I look forward to sharing what I have learned.

Until that point, thank you for sticking around.  I intend to have smoother sailing from now on.

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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.

I suggested a while back to take several steps in career development to encourage career growth and satisfaction. A note of caution is that too much focus on developing your career, or any other activity, could have a propensity to be self-destructive, even if it is what you most wanted or loved from your job.Whether you work in a field which requires a large emotional capacity, large intellectual capacity, or large physical capacity, the body and mind can easily be overtaxed if you do not allow it the proper rest.  This is even clear over the course of a work day or work week – you will feel drained by a demanding time.  To avoid this, you can do several things:  

1.  Eat well  

2.  Get plenty of sleep – During sleep, the body has a chance to re-energize and the mind can organize everything you have learned  

3.  Take mini-breaks – During the course of the day, if your work environment allows it, rest your mind by thinking of something non-work related, even if that means having a fun conversation with a co-worker.  Take a coffee break, go for  a walk, do whatever you need to do to break the constant flow of work thoughts.  Believe it or not, you will return to work more energized and more on your game than if you had been focused on the work all day long.   

4. Use your vacation and personal days – For goodness sakes, please!  If this is a benefit within your company, use it.  Get away from the “But my role is vital,” or “Things will just pile up while I’m away” thinking.  Believe me I’ve heard it.  And I’ve also heard, from the same people, that taking that day away or that week away, unplugged, was re-energizing and made them more efficient upon their return.   

All in all, know your limits.  If it is a busy time in your life, adding more to the mix will not necessarily help you.  Keep this in mind as you add development activities to your routine.  Striking the proper balance will get you far.

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.

As weighty a project as it might seem, reading can be quite beneficial to career growth, and even career maintenance.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading recently, and volunteering to do a bit more reading for my department.  As a junior professional (or sub-junior really), this is one of the best things I can do to further my knowledge base in Human Resources, and I urge anyone who wishes to grow in their careers to do the same.  Not only am I gleaning more information from reading than I would by simply going about my daily routine, but I have also begun to see how this helps to set me apart from my equals.

In being willing to take time out of my day, not my work hours, I have unwittingly been making a statement that I am serious about what it is that we do in HR.  My HR Director is in the process of revamping learning opportunities for our employees, and one of his new initiatives is to update his bookshelf with some resources that would benefit him, the HR team, and our staff as well.  He is trying to get comprehensive knowledge of what information is in the texts so that he has a clear picture of what to recommend under many situations.

While talking to me about his plans and placing new books on his shelf, I commented that I had read some of them, and was truly planning to read others.  These were texts such as “Who Moved My Cheese,” “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Outliers,” and “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” among others.  After that, I began to see a noticable change in his demeanor.  He was clearly impressed that I had taken it upon myself to familiarize myself with these texts.  I was able to reach a new level of respect with him than I had before.

Now I’ve volunteered to read “HR Scorecard,” and I will be presenting a book report of sorts to the group at an upcoming meeting.  Already it has brought up the ever-present truth that HR needs to be a strategic partner with upper management to accomplish company goals and objectives.  I am sure there will be some nuggets from this book that I can bring to you as readers. 

But back to the point at hand, surely my own reading has influenced the way I analyze some of the issues that I come across in my daily operations, but also in the contributions I have to my team members through better performance and improved communications in meetings.  Without knowing it, I have been leveraging my way into a better standing within my department and within the greater path of my career development.  If only to emerse myself in the buzz words of my industry, I am holding myself accountable for my career growth.

If I could give any advice on the matter, I would suggest to those who are still in lower ranking positions to take advantage of any and all of the magazines and books you have at your disposal.  Do it now while you are still able to find the time in your day to do it.  As soon as you start rising up in the ranks, job responsibilities take a greater toll on your time, your share of thought, your energy and your free time.  The more that you can read now, the more likely you will be prepared for those higher level positions.  It’s really win-win situation.  Spend the time now, reap the benefits both now and latter.

However, if there are any high levels reading this, try not to give up on reading so easily.  As I am sure you are aware, you will serve your company best if you are on top of the most current news and developments within your field and within your function.  Keep it up, and you will be sure to prove yourself an asset to your organization.

There is more than one way to attain your goals and actualize your dream career, and you don't have to do it alone.

As mentioned before, I am on the bottom rung of my career development.  Working myself up from assistantship is my current goal, and my long-term goals revolve around being a point person for learning and organizational development.  Career development is at the forefront for me right now, but I hope that I never lose my drive for self-improvement, or my status as an advocate for career growth.

Just today, my boss told me that he is pleased to see me taking an active role in my career development.  He went so far as to say that I have a better base right now than my current supervisor had coming in to his position.  At the same time, he gave me the impression that I should be moving on soon.  My internal struggle tends to be how long is too long, and how quickly is too quick?  These questions make up the subtle nuances of career development that I am not yet versed enough to understand.  In the meantime, I do have a few workable tips for career development for you:

1.  Ask for feedback – One of the most valuable ways of finding how much you are growing and how much you still need to improve is to ask those around you (not just your supervisors but your colleagues as well) to provide feedback.  Feedback can be a double edged sword.  Given correctly, it can really motivate the recipient to take an active role in improving performance and taking charge of results.  Done incorrectly, it can discourage.  My advice to you is to not shy away from a negative session.  While discouraging and disheartening, keep an open mind.  Was there truth to what was said?  Is there anything you can turn into a positive?  Always keep in mind, however, that negative feedback needs some time to breath.  Don’t be rash.  Take some time to mull over what was said.  Definitely don’t lash out at the giver of advice.  That can be very dangerous to your current position, and possible future prospects in the company and in the industry.

2.  Talk to your supervisors about your goals – There may be projects that they might be able to assign that will bring you closer to learning more about your areas of interest, or give you skills that will bring you closer to your goals.  Be aware, however, that not all supervisors appreciate this candor.  You need to assess your relationship with your supervisors in order to determine whether this is a feasible option for you.  For instance, as petty as it sounds, there are some supervisors who really don’t want their key team members to progress because they hope to utilize their skills, expertise, and man hours for as long as possible.  Others really want to see their junior employees to fly the coop and grow.

3.  Speak to those people in positions you wish to attain – Try to get advice from the people you idolize.  Perhaps you really want to serve in the role that they currently have in a few years, or even in a decade or so, after additional training.  Ask them how they got there, if they have any advice, and what skills are useful for the position.  Ask what it is about the position that they truely enjoy, and what it is that they have grown to accept as a part of the role they must play.  Ask them about the interplay between their role and how it plays in the greater scheme of the department, divsion, and organization.  You may learn that you would not enjoy being in that position as much as you initially expected, or you may learn about some means of getting there that you weren’t aware of before.  Either way, you will be making a contact out of someone who has been there.  This mentorship will benefit you, whether you decide that path is for you or not.  Please be aware that this relationship, like that of the supervisor, will also need to be handled tactfully.  Hopefully you are not gleaning advice from this mentor only to gain tips as to how to steal the job away from that person.  I am not here to judge, but be aware that your perpective mentor may not be as open to share with you if he or she thinks that his or her position is in danger.   Try to find someone who can be open about what it is they do, even if that means branching outside of your own department or company.

4.  Take classes – If your company offers any professional development courses internally, try to sign up for them.  If your company offers tuition reimbursement, take advantage of it.  Don’t think of these things as perks, but as a part of your take home salary.

5.  Step outside of your comfort zone – Whether that means speaking to your supervisor about possible learning opportunities for you, or volunteering for a work committee, expanding your horizons is not only a great way to learn more about other people and other opportunities, but it is one of the best ways to learn about yourself.  Learning what you are capable of and what your areas of growth could be are key in personal and professional development.

6.  Keep an eye on where you’ve come from – It is all too easy to improve one area only to let another area suffer.  Keep a rein on where your strength areas are, and where your growth areas are.  You don’t want them to flip around.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking those strengths are safe.  Be especially careful of times of stress; these often bring out the worst of the worst, and the worst of the best.

7.  Finally, keep your goals in sight – Know what you are aiming for, and evaluate what is attainable.  Having lofty goals can often be completely demotivating, so make sure you can have manageable goals with set milestones or steps.  If there is a milestone you are struggling to achieve, perhaps you need to reassess your goals.  However, as mentioned before, don’t forget to utilize your contacts and your network – social, professional, or global – in order to obtain some additional assistance or advice to overcome some hurdles you may be struggling with.