Since publishing my new book, Culture Hacker, a couple of months ago, I have had some great conversations and brainstorming sessions with Human Resource leaders and Executives across organizations about how to hack their culture and improve their overall employee experience. One outcome has been the development of my ‘Four C’s’ that I believe highlight the required direction of Human Resource leaders and their departments in the future. The 4 C’s refer to the HR leader and department being a Catalyst, Coach, Conductor, and Consultant within their organization. Let’s consider each in detail.
As a Catalyst, the HR team must be proactive and stop waiting for permission to facilitate a cultural change. I have spoken to many HR leaders who seem to be waiting for approval to begin their culture initiatives. First, culture is not an initiative- it is the collective mindset of your people. The question is not whether you have a culture, because you do. The real question is- what are you doing to positively influence the attitude of your staff to be great with customers, perform at a high level and contribute to your organization? The area of opportunity is to partner with your operations teams and work on how to improve the experience of their employees so that they are better at what they do and focused on staying where they are. Retaining employees is a key topic in today’s business world, as research from Gallup suggests that a staggering 47% of the workforce says now is a good time to find a quality job. Furthermore, 51% employees are actively looking for new jobs or watching for openings. The time is now to be the catalyst for a great employee experience.
As a catalyst, you must also be inspirational to those in the organization. Challenge the status quo and mundane by stimulating how employees in the organization think. This can be done by offering training classes, marketing ideas or quotes in screen savers or posters, circulating videos, putting out company challenges, and being a spark for thoughtful conversation when in meetings. You can stimulate the brain at any age and as long as the brain is being stimulated, people are thinking, evolving, and changing, which is necessary in today’s business environment.
As a Coach, the HR team must be out in the operations providing feedback to the managers on how they lead their teams. Author, John Le Carre, said, “the desk is a dangerous place from which to judge the world”, and I think HR spends way too much time at their desks. HR managers should spend time alongside managers guiding them on how to be better with their people. We believe 60% of all learning happens on the job, so HR cannot just limit their influence to only the classroom. 20% of all learning comes from getting effective feedback, yet it is rare for managers to get regular feedback on how they are leading. When was the last time your training team was in the operation giving feedback to managers on what they taught them in the classroom? Good trainers have operations and leadership experience and are not afraid of working alongside those they teach. They teach leadership development and have experience in managing teams. However, the reality is that many of the trainers teaching leadership classes today have little experience inspiring teams. This point leads to my next piece of advice for HR Leaders, be a conductor.
As a Conductor, HR Executives must, like an orchestra conductor, oversee a group of experts rather than generalists. There are many aspects to being an effective HR department and I often see people moving around various roles in order to gain experience in everything that makes the department run. As a result, we often have very smart and capable generalists filling the positions, but the problem is that HR Executives need to be more focused on building a team of experts.
As an example, HR needs its own data specialists because for HR to be an effective partner in the modern business, they must be collecting and understanding data from a number of touchpoints. When it comes to training, stop promoting the capable administrator who always wanted to teach others. The great trainers, the ones that make you think and feel at the same time, have specific skills, personality traits, and experience that make them stand out. Also, developing content that resonates and stands out is not as easy as putting together a few bullet points on a slide. I truly believe the reason so many employees do not like training is because we do not have expert trainers designing and delivering content.
I also believe you need to have a manager coaching your team, or someone with management experience who can be a guide, resource, and support to your managers. HR needs to put all of its efforts into enabling and empowering their management teams rather than doing things for them, like facilitating tough conversations. I see HR departments putting too much emphasis on the staff and therefore largely ignore the most important group they should influence - their managers. Get experts on your team and elevate your office’s ability to deliver real results throughout the business.
My final point is to be a consultant. As a consultant myself, I rely on data, introduce new ideas and best practices, develop plans, get the right people involved to execute that plan, and ensure the plan is executed. As indicated already, HR needs accurate data that will reinforce the importance of the employee experience in performance, customer satisfaction, retention, and even profitability. There are plenty of business cases, such as Lowe’s in my book, indicating that happy employees lead to better customer satisfaction, sales, and overall performance. Each HR business unit needs to have their own data. As author Daniel Keys Moran says, “you can have data without information, but you cannot have information without data.” A focus on data will allow you to focus on facts- not feelings, which will introduce an ability to develop the right plan over the one you have used a dozen times before.
Next, ensure you are up to date with best practices and ideas that influence how employees are working today. There is so much HR technology available that has intentions to elevate the employee experience. If only the HR department would make it a focus…
Once data and ideas come together, develop a plan that includes objectives, measurements, due dates, assignments, and an understanding of the resources required. Too few HR teams have plans that are being shared across the organization, which is crazy because any HR plan should involve and affect every part of the organization. Once you have a plan, get the key people from across the organization on board and engaged with it. As the consultant, you will work through other managers and teams to make the positive changes you are looking to implement. And remember, you must hold everyone accountable to deliver as required. Managers work to fulfill their list of priorities and if they think the HR plan is not a priority, then it becomes an after thought. As a consultant, I require direct access to the organization’s President or owner so that I can be assured I can enforce the responsibilities assigned. It is important for you to have the same support and access.
This may seem like a lot, but then again what isn’t these days. In companies today, culture is no longer just an HR thing, it is a business thing. By being a catalyst, coach, conductor, and consultant within an organization, you elevate the credibility, relevancy, and influence of your team to truly help everyone else deliver a great business. Good luck.
Learn how to create an unbeatable culture and employee experience by downloading the eBook Recognition Culture: The MVP of Employee Experience.