HR Learner in Development

Posts Tagged ‘Roles

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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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.

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.”