HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘HBR

Peak periods are the ideal times to discover inefficiencies and revitalize the way you do the same old tasks.

One of the easiest ways to spot inefficiencies is to analyze peak time transactions.  During the busiest time of the year, it is especially noticeable what processes take the most time and perhaps what wastes the most time.  It is during these periods of extra work when it is crucial to take a step back and try to think of ways in which to complete the work better.

This of course is easier said then done.  Work done in peak times are not often accompanied with many periods for innovative thought or development.  However, managers can lead this innovative thought by making it a priority for the team, and insuring time for experimentation.

While it may not be prudent to implement widespread experimentation during the peak period, small-scale experimentation may lead to a vital change which could impact speed and accuracy of peak time processes.

Therefore, managers should make it a priority to give their team members the room for experimentation. I read recently in the Harvard Business Review about the function of the boss as a human shield.  I agreed wholeheartedly with the article (“The Boss as Human Shield” by Robert I. Sutton, Sept. 2010).  By limiting the demands of both the manager and outside leadership, customer demands, and other departmental distractions, the manager is in a key position to insure that his or her people can focus and experiment on these side projects, which can surely lead to the improved functioning of the department/organization.

Depending on the function of the department, managers can limit interruptions by sending calls to voice mail, turning off internet or email receiving functions, offering to close access to the public early or open it late so that staff can work in peace, and a number of other options.

Of course, innovation in peak time can not be completely separated from peak time responsibilities. One strategy that I have found useful is to set aside a certain amount of time over the course of the week just to focus on the special project at hand. Seeing as people will likely not be able to brainstorm, experiment, and implement in a short period of time in one session, breaking it up in short bursts not only accomplishes gradual progress on a large project, but it also insures time for breaks, allowing the experimenters to come back to the project with fresh eyes, a fresh perspective, and potentially additional information about the problem that they may not have had before.

The busiest time of the year can be a time where people pound their heads against the wall, complaining about how lengthy, complicated, or stressful the overall tasks of the time can be, or it can be a time where people create strategies of ways to improve those tasks. In my humble opinion, encouraging the team to take those times as opportunities for improvement is definitely the path to take.

Advertisements

I was reading an article in the January-February 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review called “What Really Motivates Workers,” by Teresa M. Amabile and Steven J. Kramer when it struck me:  I know expressly what they mean when they say that progress is a motivator that has a force to be reckoned with.

How motivating must it have been for the early pioneers of America to see previously non-existing cities to be connected by previously non-existing railroads? Probably as de-motivating as the struggle it took to get there.

My team members just recently went through the information gathering stages of a new Rewards and Recognitions program for my Division as a means to inch closer to the strategic plans of the Division.  I unfortunately could not be involved due to scheduling issues.  Their research of the current literature has been showing them the importance of these goals, stressing the unlikely positive power of day-to-day recognition.  The research shows, in short, that it is motivating and fulfilling to know that one’s work is being recognized by the group, a superior or a co-worker.

However, Amabile and Kramer make a case for the “power of progress”.   They note that progress had the most noticable impact on mood and motivation over any other event during the course of the day.   Simply put, they write that supervisors can encourage motivation through progress by setting reasonable goals, providing the resources to complete these tasks, protecting employees from irrelevant demands, and allowing enough time.  The inverse indicates blocks to progress – indecisiveness, holding up resources, changing goals, and a short time limit. 

This research seems to correlate with my own experience with creating reports.  Now, part of the nature of my job is operating under certain time constraints.  Therefore, the perception of time in the following examples remains constant, where tight deadlines create the impression that small roadblocks are large setbacks. 

One week I was tasked with creating a report for my supervisor.  He told me to have it completed asap.  He told me what he wanted verbally, and then he ran off to a meeting.  I therefore was working under a tight timeframe, with unclear guidelines, and I had to wait on other people to get a clear picture of the scope of the project.  It was both frustrating and de-motivating when, after I had spent a good deal of time on it, was told that one aspect had been an inaccurate account due to information I was never given.  In the end, I had to stay late to get it up to standard.

On the other hand, I was also tasked with creating a report for an employee in another department which needed to be ready for a meeting she was having with the Dean, ie head honcho of the Division.  Information was requested through email.  I thought I had all the information I needed when I told my supervisor what I was spending my time on.  When he found out, he was upset that I had been given a report of this magnitude with very little resources.  He decided he would get clarification for the report, and while that resulted in me having to rework what I had done, it also meant I had him working with me, collaboratively, to reach a solution that worked.  He was able to provide me the right resources, protect me from the unwieldy demands of someone who I was not working directly under, and he was even able to push the deadline back  a little bit because he was aware of what the report would be used for. 

All in all, I felt much more motivated in the second instance, even though both reports required reworking and edits.  The elements of information sharing and collaboration really made a huge difference in the end result.  It made me more able, and more willing, to do similar reports.  The dread that followed the first instance melted away with the second. 

So if you are in a supervisory role, be aware of not just what you assign, but how you assign it and how you follow-up.  Make sure that the task is:

  1. Clear
  2. Supported
  3. Relevant
  4. Within reasonable time constraints

Positive experiences should follow.  When it does, be sure to recognize milestone worthy progress.  Recognition and progress combine to create a wonderful motivational trophy to carry into the future.

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.

The start of a blog is a new adventure for me.  I’ve never really done this before, so forgive my noob tendencies – I’m sure they will present themselves pretty frequently.  But the true purpose of delving into this world is for my own self-fulfillment.  I am a young professional, often getting too far ahead of myself, and I’d like a place to develop my professional voice, mindset, and overall share of thought.   My field?  Human Resources.  As a current Human Resources Assistant, I’m truely at the bottom of the barrel, but I know I am capable and can grow within the field.  My true interest lies in a mishmash of Training, Coaching, Talent Management, Change Management, and Organizational Development. 

Therefore, as I delve into learning more about the track that I am on, I hope that you, reader (if you exist) bare with me, pitch in when you want to give your two cents on a matter, and hopefully grow with me.  I hope to really bring some thought provoking ideas to this board, and I won’t stop until I have some solid information under my belt.  With the help of SHRM, ASTD, the Harvard Business Review, Professional Development courses and a massive library at my disposal, research is at my fingertips, and hopefully I can put something of what I learn to good use – if not for me, then for some reader out there without these resources.