Making the difference
through people


  • Is HR delivering what its customers need?

    The HR profession is full of talented, dedicated, qualified individuals yet too many HR departments do not enjoy the reputation or have the impact they would wish in their wider organization. With continuous pressure to increase organizational impact, cost effectiveness and personal accountability how can HR functions make sure they are maximising their value to the business and are as credible and influential as their finance, programme or fundraising counterparts?

    We have observed a number of areas where HR teams sometimes take their eyes off the ball and may wish, periodically, to review, monitor and, if necessary, realign their offer to make sure they deliver what their customers need.

    Getting the HR basics right.

    With so much talk these days of HR business partnering and the importance of 'being strategic' it is easy to focus on this at the expense of the bread and butter personnel elements of the job. To have the credibility to be taken seriously and be trusted to engage in the more strategic, added value initiatives HR also has to deliver consistently on the basics such as seamless recruitment processes, timely and correct employment contracts, correct salary payments and consistent application of policies. Once a perception is created that the HR team makes too many mistakes it is hard to correct. Do you know how many mistakes get made in your function and the impact it has on your reputation? What is an acceptable margin of error?

    Getting business savvy

    Too regularly managers comment to us that, 'the HR team does a good job in terms of recruitment and policy advice, but they don't really understand what we actually do or engage with our wider business challenges.' This can result in a perception that HR is out of touch and managers feel forced to jump through unnecessary hoops to get things done. How much time do you and your HR colleagues spend with your customers on their turf, getting to know them and talking about their issues, whether they are related to people management or not? Do you have a reputation for being out of touch, disinterested in the wider organizational business or focused on HR process for its own sake?

    Focusing on the right things

    It can be tempting to spend time, money and energy focusing on developing people management interventions which reflect the latest HR trend, or creating a Rolls Royce version of an approach when what you really need is a Mini. How do you diagnose what your organization actually needs, identify the best solution for your context, ensure your team has the capability to deliver it and check that you are keeping on the right track?

    Keeping ahead of the change curve

    One observation we sometimes hear is that organizations change but their HR functions do not. Whether or not this is strictly true the perception exists in many organizations that HR follows rather than leads where change and innovation is concerned. Do you and your HR colleagues automatically get invited to the early stage planning meetings when changes are proposed and their implications debated, or do you find yourselves getting involved once all the key decisions have been made and asked to run the implementation?

    If you think there is room to improve your HR team's credibility and impact in meeting customer needs we have some suggestions which might help you plan your campaign.

    PR for HR

    Learn from and adapt some of the communication techniques that colleagues in fundraising and marketing use so successfully to engage the wider organization in people management issues. This involves finding communication methods that really work and grab attention rather than an 'all staff' email, connecting with colleagues as individuals and engaging them at the emotional level, demystifying the technical side of HR by dumping the jargon. If HR can begin to develop an on-going conversation with other functions and individuals it can help build trust, engagement and influence.

    Turn 'Them and Us' into 'Us'

    We have witnessed a tendency for a 'Them and Us' attitude to develop when an HR team feels detached from colleagues in other parts of the organization. Getting involved in regular interactions such as team meetings or away days of your customers helps to break down the barriers and promote better dialogue and understanding between colleagues and functions, and identification with an 'Us', we're all in this together culture.

    Listen to your customers

    Spend time listening and learning about individuals. What makes them tick, what is important to them, what do they actually do, what challenges do they face and how can you help them achieve their goals? Use this knowledge to inform your responses and be prepared to flex your style and approach to meet diverse needs and types.

    Undertake an HR effectiveness review

    Are you confident you are delivering what your customers need? Even if you can answer a qualified yes you may want to consider the benefits of undertaking an HR effectiveness review from time to time to step back, take stock of where you are, where you want to be in order to add best value, and how you might go about getting there.

    If you feel that an independent and objective perspective of your HR function would benefit your organization and help you deliver what your customers really need, please get in touch.

  • Survivor Care - remotivating teams after major change

    Restructured your organisation? Forced to make redundancies? Low morale among remaining staff? Change consultants Michèle Dennison, Jacqueline Hill and Cornelia Decher explain how providing support that helps to remotivate individuals and teams post restructure enables a swift return to optimal performance.

    Why are so many senior managers left baffled by the fact that performance often drops as a result of their latest cost saving or efficiency raising measure?

    As consultants we are regularly invited into organisations to work on a specific 'problem' only to discover that what the team thought they were grappling with is actually a symptom of something else. In many cases they have recently undergone a period of major change including substantial reorganisation of work, organisational restructuring and the loss of colleagues through redundancy. They are reeling from unacknowledged shock yet being expected to 'bounce back' to optimal performance levels seemingly overnight.

    But life is simply not like that. Organisational structure is an important but small piece of a much larger picture of performance. Yet all too often organisations pay great attention to the process of restructuring - designing the best structure, legal compliance, supporting those who are leaving - but give little or no acknowledgement to the human impact that these levels of change can have on those who are left behind.

    Employers sometimes argue that the staff who remain after a restructure, 'should be glad they still have a job!' In our experience this is an oversimplified and unhelpful view. Most people do feel a huge sense of relief at having 'survived'. However this can quickly turn to guilt ('why me?'), anger ('I now have to do three people's jobs!'), anxiety ('will I be next...?'), and betrayal ('you can't trust the bosses round here, see how they treated our ex-colleagues...').

    Psychologists often refer to this as 'survivor syndrome' as it is not dissimilar to the emotional and psychological journey experienced by survivors of major traumas such as plane crashes. If left unchecked the result in the workplace can be lower levels of employee engagement, reduced customer service, increased sickness absence and workplace conflict as overall levels of motivation and sense of empowerment spiral downwards.

    The future success of the organisation is in the hands of those individuals who remain. It is vital to address their needs at this critical time. There are a range of things you can do to help employees to become enthusiastic about the future again:

    Acknowledge the past and the present

    Be clear about the change, the rationale and where the organisation is in the change process e.g. successes so far, more to come? Acknowledge the feelings people might be experiencing and give space for those to be articulated. External facilitation can be useful here to act as an independent listener and to create a safe space for people to express their feelings.

    Involve staff in building the future

    Draw a line under the past, adopt a positive attitude and show your employees the value of their role in the organisation's future. Involve them in planning and/or implementing that future, develop a 'we're all in this together, and the outcomes will be worth it' mentality to encourage engagement.

    Look after individuals and teams

    Provide additional targeted support where needed - ensure your managers have the people skills to support their staff following major change and that they too are supported in turn, conduct individual and team discussions with key staff to reassure them of their importance and their role. Enable staff to identify practical ways to move on and return to optimal performance quickly. This can be via a combination of individual coaching and team workshops which focus on developing positive solutions to help realise the preferred future. Again, external facilitation can be very helpful here to challenge negative thinking and create a safe space in which people can have new ideas. When working with clients we use a Solution Focused approach which helps individuals to deal with the personal impact of major change and engage positively with future possibilities.

    Most important of all, do not leave the process of remotivation and engagement to chance. If you do your staff might muddle through, and performance levels may return, eventually. However, by providing structure and support, you can accelerate the recovery process by helping your employees better cope with changes, move through the stages of the change journey more swiftly, and return to optimal performance quickly.

    If you feel that an independent and objective perspective on this subject would benefit your organisation or would like to learn more about how the use of powerful Solution Focus techniques can accelerate the recovery and remotivation process, please contact us.