5 top competencies of the modern HR professional

In recent years, few fields have evolved as much as human resources. What was once a position focused largely on hiring, firing, and payroll is now a critical role in successful companies’ strategic plans. HR professionals are now tasked with talent management responsibilities unlike ever before, creating and maintaining corporate cultures such that their businesses are poised for optimal success in the face of ever-intense competition. Modern HR professionals need to have a well-rounded understanding of their companies’ entire business models, encompassing core competencies that will help the leaders of their organizations overcome challenges and proactively work toward their goals. An HR professional must possess two characteristics that are unique to any other field, as they are the bridge between employees and employers: first, they must be passionate advocates for employees; second, they have to be trusted advisors for their leadership teams. To put it simply, every company — no matter how large or small — needs to understand the imperative nature of the human resources field. With all this said, what exactly are the core competencies a successful HR leader needs to understand? 1. Being a Role Model “Do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work in today’s world. Because HR professionals are the foundation upon which corporate cultures are built, these leaders need to set the stage for expectations. Employees will mimic the ways in which their leaders behave, so it’s important to have a solid grasp of the culture you’re trying to create. If you expect employees to behave in a certain way — whether it comes to hours, ethics, or actions — you...

4 Management Strategies That Drive Employee Engagement

If you’re like a lot of workforce leaders, a strong hiring year and reported economic upswing may have you feeling cautiously optimistic about retention and increased productivity. However, I wouldn’t count your chickens just yet. A prudent leader would be remiss to overlook two abiding truths: 1) only a mere 30% of employees claim to be engaged at work, and 2) the axiom, “people leave bad managers, not bad companies” has never been more apropos than it is today. In other words, despite the favorable economic climate change, don’t expect to see “engaged employees” removed from the endangered species list any time soon. If you’re scratching your head wondering why engagement stats remain flat in the face of marked economic growth, look no further than the changing landscape of today’s labor force. Millennials, who are now joined by Gen Zers, have saturated the market and altered the entire workplace fabric in the process. Termed the “least engaged generation in the workforce,” millennials are surely noncommittal and professionally indifferent job-hoppers. They want on-site pinball machines, free assorted bagels, and monthly pay raises, right? Quite the contrary. This younger population is sharp, eager, tech-savvy, and highly skilled. They are in dire search of connection, purpose, and engagement at work…. which of course begs the question, “where do they go to find it?” A recent Gallup study confirms that employees expect and rely on their managers to provide an engaging work environment and compelling reasons to anchor themselves to the company. They don’t just want a “boss,” they want a purveyor of progress, a curator of opportunity. But not all managers are...

Mastering Performance Management: Stop Reinventing the Wheel

All workforce leaders know that having a sound performance management system in place is critical to organizational success. Yet, for so many, it is the Achilles heel, a nagging impediment to company growth and employee engagement. Despite ongoing efforts to modify, redesign, and benchmark processes, the model still fails to produce results. Let’s examine why, and more importantly – identify the solution. Organizations unwittingly add layers of complexity to their practices without assessing whether those components add any value or purport success. Consequently, simple processes like setting employee performance goals become onerous, taxing, and tedious. Performance reviews become perfunctory instead of developmental. From long-winded forms to bloated processes and a seemingly endless list of steps, performance management becomes a dreaded, headache-inducing experience for both managers and employees alike. The solution? Keep it simple. Forget the bells and whistles. Eliminate the formulaic operations. Implementing a basic, consistent, and proven-effective framework to measure and reward the abilities of your workforce is key to increasing productivity, boosting workplace morale, and providing engagement, which ultimately impacts your company’s bottom line. MEA is here to help you take your performance management practices to the next level. Below are three basic, yet essential components to mastering performance management. 1. Add objective data to the process. Take the guesswork out of performance management. Relying on behavioral science to assess, develop and provide insight into “how” to manage your talent will save managers exorbitant amounts of time. This data will also equip you with the required information to develop relevant, individualized coaching plans for your employees. Many MEA members have experienced marked improvement and success using The...

It takes a village. But what if YOU are the village?

The nucleus of any successful organization is its Human Resources department. HR is a well-oiled machine powered by a series of critical components. Surely it takes a village of professionals to keep it running smoothly. But what if YOU are the village? What if YOU and you alone are tasked with providing a sound HR infrastructure from developing and retaining human capital, to implementing administrative processes and providing quality training opportunities, to Compliance, Payroll and Benefits, for a company with up to 150 employees? Sound familiar? As overwhelming as that role may be, you are not alone, and it can be done. MEA is committed to helping you navigate the challenges associated with being an HR department of one. This article will highlight a four-pronged strategy that I refer to as KAPO. KAPO represents a quartet of objectives – Knowledge, Attitude, Partnerships, and Organizational Skills, that when applied synchronously, will empower you to manage an effective and efficient HR department. KNOWLEDGE The most powerful tool you need in your repertoire is knowledge. You are a RESOURCE to your organization. Without a thorough understanding of both your industry and your own essential job functions, you will be ill-equipped to provide critical support or add value to your organization. First, it is paramount that you understand the business. A cursory level understanding is not enough. Immerse yourself in learning the intricacies and nuances of the field in which you work. This will guide your decisions, recommendations, and essentially influence the way you conduct your daily business. How do you become a subject matter expert? Be an active listener, ask probing and...

Employee Retention Strategies: The Antidote to Turnover

In today’s economy, empirical data reminds us and confirms that good people are hard to find. So as leaders of the hiring practices in our organizations, we create a strong talent acquisition process. As long as you work hard to hire suitable candidates, keeping them is easy, right? Wrong. On the contrary, a tightening labor market can actually yield significant challenges for organizations of all sizes.  As leading national economist and weekly Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Joel Naroff points out, “we are in a situation of emerging labor shortages across the board.” With supply and demand of jobs in overwhelming favor of skilled employees, companies are not only tasked with finding talent, but also preserving it. Here at MEA, our members frequently turn to us for guidance on this issue, asking, “How do we retain our employees once we’ve hired them?” To echo Naroff’s directive in response, “Get your retention plans in place.”  Because employee retention is the crux of company success during this time of economic paradigm shift, I’ve outlined a series of practical steps to help your organization develop a sound retention strategy designed to combat turnover. 1) Measure Turnover. Many companies make the grave mistake of accepting turnover as a workplace norm. They simply acquiesce instead of aiming to proactively respond to and control turnover.  Tracking, measuring, and analyzing turnover is a critical component of devising a retention strategy. Despite the positive economic outlook, the average annual turnover rate for all industries nationwide is measured at 11%, as reported by Compensation Force. A recent survey of current MEA members presents an even more palpable examination of turnover...

What Are the Top Competencies HR Leaders Must Possess?

As the nature of doing business changes, HR roles are expanding and refocusing. Far from simply reacting to major events in the business climate, economy and labor market, HR professionals are uniquely positioned to look ahead to industry and global changes and to anticipate the resulting impact on how business is conducted. HR is increasingly called upon to navigate organizations through changes that occur as a result of trends in globalization, technology, the labor market, and financial outlooks. In order to successfully fulfill these expectations, HR leaders must respond by identifying and developing the competencies required of their dynamic roles. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the top 18 competencies for HR include: 5 Business knowledge: An understanding of the operations and processes of how business is conducted. Coaching/developing others: Helping others to reach their potential. Credibility: Being perceived by others as having the knowledge and experience to back up one’s authority. Critical/analytical thinking: Seeking information and using that information to inform decision and resolve problems. Cross-cultural intelligence: Knowledge of and sensitivity to differences among cultures. Effective communication: Being able to verbally or in writing convey messages in terms that make sense, and also to actively listen to others’ interpersonal communications. Ethical behavior: Perception of the moral appropriateness of individual and/or group conduct or behavior. Flexibility/adaptability: The ability to adjust the approach as required by shifts within the organization and in the external business environment. Global intelligence/global mindset: An overarching way of thinking about the nature of doing business that includes an understanding of and sensitivity to cultural differences among workers in other countries and legal issues inherent in operating a business multinationally. HR knowledge: Understanding of...

Tips for avoiding a bad hire

Issue: Over the past year, an unusually large percentage of new hires have not worked out and have left your organization. This has been costly, especially when considering recruiting expenses, lost productivity, and the negative effect on employee morale. What can your organization do to avoid making poor hiring decisions in the future? Answer: The average cost of a bad hire can equal 30 percent or more of that hire’s first-year probable earnings. Fortunately, organizations can prevent the costs associated with poor hiring decisions by recognizing the challenges at different steps of the talent acquisition process. The following tips, compiled by PI Worldwide, can help organizations avoid the most common mistakes: Clearly define the requirements of the role. The first critical step in the hiring process is to define what would make someone successful in the role. Yet, different stakeholders often have varying perspectives on what this means. By using a job analytic, organizations can objectively align all stakeholders on those activities that are most important for success in a given role. Having an agreed-upon job target sets the foundation for a successful hiring strategy. Write an accurate job description. Hiring managers often make the mistake of focusing more on activities and tactical goals than on detailing all of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) that an employee will need to be successful in the role. A well-rounded job description clarifies the needs of the job for both the internal team and external job seekers. Define what makes a strong candidate. When analyzing the results of the recruitment effort, managers will in many cases identify several candidates...

HR Department of One

  Is this you? If it is, it’s not an easy task. More than likely, your organization has between 50 to 150 employees and you are responsible for recruiting, employee benefits, compensation, maybe payroll, training and development, overall HR compliance, and, of course, employee relations. Phew. That’s a lot and there are days that things seem overwhelming, I am sure. In this article we will discuss four ideas, that if applied solidly, should help position you for providing the most effective and efficient department of HR, with the purpose of deflating the overwhelming balloon that greets you every day when you walk in the door. 1. Knowledge The first thing you need to do is equip yourself with the necessary knowledge to do the job.  You are a RESOURCE to your organization, don’t take that responsibility lightly. I am really talking about your understanding of the business you are in as well as the profession that you are in. The single most important thing to do when you join an organization is to understand the business that you are in. This will guide your decisions, recommendations and basically everything about the way you conduct your daily business. The best way to do this is to listen, ask questions, go to meetings, talk to leaders and floor employees. If you work in an environment that has shifts, be there for the start of each shift. Get to know your employees and your leaders. In addition, you must know your craft. You must know the basics of HR. That is not to say you have to know everything about HR, that’s...

What are your Workforce New Year’s Resolutions?

  Happy 2013 to MEA Members!  As you plan for 2013, have you made any workforce resolutions?  2012 was a year where workforce changes became more apparent and real.  We now know that healthcare reform is here to stay, Millennials will make up 50% of our workforce in less than 4 years (at the same time many Boomers will retire), and we have a skilled labor shortage.  Oh, and social media and technology are integral components of both business and recruiting. Unlike 20 – 30 years ago, these changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary and many forward thinking Members have jumped in to avoid falling behind the talent race.  To help you think about your workforce resolutions, let me share some Member successes we saw in 2012: 1.  Recognition and Development Programs. There is much research that all generations, but especially Millennials, place a high value on growth and development.  This is a key part of the new employment “contract” (lifetime employment is no longer enough).  This is not a nice to have but a must have as employees of all ages seek this out, whether with you or somewhere else.  This is especially true of high performers/potentials.  MEA Members have developed strategies such as latticed career paths, new merit based compensation strategies, tuition support (partial or full) and skills based development programs to meet this demand and retain their best employees. 2.  Leadership and Succession Planning. Many Members have recognized the upcoming management transition, few have put a succession process in place.  It is never too late to start.  There are several critical ingredients here:  identify clearly what...

HR & Finance Really Can Speak the Same Language!

With an economy that is struggling to rebound, it has become more crucial than ever that HR speak the same language as their CFO. HR managers often feel that their CFO just doesn’t understand the value of employee morale, active retention and recruitment programs, and the effort it takes to keep the company compliant with the numerous employment laws.  At the same time, CFOs oftentimes feel like their HR manager doesn’t understand the impact to the bottom line and the need to manage overhead costs. In other words, HR people are from Mars and CFOs are from Venus. They just don’t speak the same language. MEA has put together a panel*of CFOs and Strategic HR professionals who have learned how to sit at the table side-by-side. Wednesday, July 25, 2012 – 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM Click here to learn more and...

It’s Not Just About the “Must-Have’s” Anymore!

Providing only the low hanging fruit? By this I mean training that is compliance related, federally regulated, industry required, or it could be that last-minute “emergency” training you deliver after a major incident has occurred. Case In Point Company ABC contacts MEA, they’re in a panic. They’ve just had a serious safety incident that caused an injury. One of their employees will be out for 6 months. The HR Manager explained to me, “Two employees had refused to talk to each other. The conflict had been going on for months.” It was never addressed. The end result: dollars thrown out the window through lost productivity, poor quality, compensation claims and lost opportunity cost. “Where was the manager in this?”I asked the HR Manager…”Why didn’t they intervene?”What I heard was not all that unusual. The manager responsible for the bickering duo had been promoted the year before. He was one of their best, a technical expert who had zero people skills. He’d never had management training. He was expected to be a natural. Winning through Strategy When it comes to training, intuitively we know that proactive vs. reactive, holistic vs. piecemeal, strategic vs. haphazard all make good business sense, but many companies are not prepared to think strategically. Is this due to lack of bandwidth, or it could be as simple as not knowing where to begin? For some it may just be poor planning, not understanding how to budget the training over time. To the Rescue! MEA has built two Individual Development Paths: The Leadership Advantage and the Human Resources Advantage (see the following pages) to make your job...