HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Partnering with management

A recent issue of Parents Magazine published an article about maternity leaves and the importance of knowing your rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, or as most would call FMLA. As both a mother recently returned from my maternity leave and the point person for Leave Management for my Division, I could not agree with the need for this type of reminder more. So I hope you don’t mind me piggy-backing to spend a little time discussing leave management.

My role leave management role withing the Division sounds simple.  Track people’s leaves.  Mark leaves accurately in time sheets.  Process any actions related to pay changes in our HR Information System.  Where it gets complicated is when people don’t follow policy, don’t know that they can take leaves, or don’t know that they actually have to let us when when they return.

For just a little bit of information on FMLA, it protects an individual’s job from being taken away if he or she needs to take some time away from the office to tend to a medical condition, for self or for a family member.  Every company with at least 50 employees working within a 75 mile radius (the specifications get more granular than this but I don’t want to bore you) must grant 12 weeks of unpaid protected time to any employee who has worked at least 12 months and1,250 hours within the last 12 months before the leave.  This protects individuals who are out for a continuous amount of time (surgery and recovery, including delivery of a child), as well as intermittent time (regularly occurring symptoms & scheduled doctors visits to treat).  While every company falling under the guidelines must give this time by law, some go above and beyond to allow some, all, or even more than this time to be paid time.

Other laws, like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protect disability leaves, and require organizations to provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities, including extending potential leave time.

In HR, we need an accurate picture of who is out and when so that we can have each individual paid correctly, as well as to potentially provide support to any department in need of additional assistance.  In all honesty, we do not need to know why an individual is out, and sometimes it is better if we don’t know, but we do need to know how it affects the work that the individual does on a daily basis.  Therefore, it is important that we receive doctors notes, not to police, but out of concern for the healing individual.  We want to see proof that the individual is ready to return and able to do the job they were assigned, and if there are any tasks that an individual can still not do as a result of their recovery or continued impairment, we need to not take any retaliatory actions against the employee for not doing what they used to be capable of doing.  No, we don’t want to get sued, but we also really want the employee to be healthy and well, too.

Not all leaves are created equal, but tracking them all is very important


It is also true, however, that people can take advantage of company leave policies.  It then becomes important to know when an individual was out, whether it was protected or unprotected time, and whether they followed the procedure for requesting and notifying the proper people at the right times in order to determine whether coaching conversations or disciplinary actions need to take place.

Ultimately, the organizations that respect individuals leaves will see a better uptick in loyalty from those people who took leaves.  The more generous a leave policy is, though, does not translate to greater and greater loyalty.  There must be a line where employees know they can not take advantage of the organizations generosity.  Organizations benefit from healthy workers.  But unhealthy workers can benefit from being under the wing of a healthy organization.

Take some time to review the leave policies in your department, organization, state, and federal area.  What you find may give you peace of mind, or may show you where you can help illuminate a potential growth area.  Stay healthy! But if you can’t, know your rights.

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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.

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.

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.

Forecasting snow creates a little more than meets the eye for a business.

A good part of the western coast, and then some, has gotten a taste this winter of the joys and perils of the snow day.  States that rarely see a snowflake in a lifetime have been under inches of snow, and others have seen a bit more than is usual.  Schools close, businesses shut down, and some not all at once.

I know nothing of a corporations take on such a day because my experience is based solely at a university.  I can only relay information that I have seen and heard with my own eyes and ears, and to me, when there is a blizzard, for the most part, people don’t come to work, or they leave early.

This tends to provide conflict. It is important that Human Resources staff and company leadership are keeping eachother in the loop.  By extension, the role of Human Resources during these situations is to keep employees informed, especially if the company is service oriented. 

In doing so, it is important for the Human Resources Professional to understand what the needs of the clients (both employees and non-employees) are.   Of course, a big part of considerations is insuring the safety of your employees.  Travel concerns may delay both incoming and exiting commutes, so extra time may be required to prepare for the day.   Are services provided for the company needed by the outside public during a storm?  If so, are all staff members needed?  Can the services be provided by an essential staff skeleton crew? 

Other needs have a broader scope.  Snow can cause schools to shut down which requires parents to take extra measures to have proper care available for their children and other dependents.   

All in all, employees, and clients, need to know what is to be done as soon as possible so that they can make arrangements, and HR’s role is to facilitate that communication.   

One danger lies in that fact that most people begin to speculate.  Some rumors may start up and most will be shrugged off.  Some may stick.  Human Resources must take each of these speculations in turn.  If they hear that someone ‘heard’ that a decision had been made, it is their job to communicate otherwise,hopefully as far as that rumor ran.  It is HR’s next step then to find where the person got that false intel, who else was around when they heard, when it happened, and what the exact message entailed.

As soon as a decision has been made, whether business will stop or it will operate as usual, the Human Resources Professional should set communication in motion, however that person sees fit.  This should reach all employees, not just managers or department heads.  There is always a danger that a silo of information exists and not all employees get the message.  Human Resources should try to the best of their ability to make sure that silo does not exist.

It is important to work quickly on this or people may begin to get upset and think that the company is withholding information to their detriment.  Therefore, again, it is essential that steps are taken as soon as there is concrete information.

When the announcement goes out, this question remains – how will people be paid?

Whenever possible, it is a good idea to have this question answered before an announcement goes out.  Even before that.  This question should be answered before the emergency event presents itself, in this case detrimental snow.  Two main situations arise – those who work partial days, and those who don’t work.

Partial: How should your non-exempt, hourly employees be compensated?  Will they be paid out for an entire days work if they worked the morning only to be sent home in the afternoon?  If an employee remains as a part of an essential services skeleton crew, will he or she be compensated straight time, or over time?

Absence: Are snow days considered holidays?  Will people be paid full days?  Will they need to use a vacation or personal day in order to be paid, if available?  If an employee is supposed to work the afternoons and does not show up for his or her shift, will they be eligible to be paid, when others did work?

After the event occurs, depending on your payroll processes, a lot of time may then be required to go back and edit time.  This can be very time consuming, but it is necessary that people are all taking the events into account in their timesheets/logs.  Inaccuracies and inconsistancies are not acceptable.  As always, Human Resources should make no exceptions, and they should take the time to see that they are keeping to their word. 

Like all other emergency scenarios, actions and answers should be in place before situations and questions arise.  The problem with emergencies is that they always bring questions before answers are divulged.  The best actions you can take are to have all possible information ready, even if that means saying “Please be patient.  We will get back to you when we know more.”