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Being the Change
You Want
To See In HR……
By Susan Penn
Being the Change You Want to See in HR
“They should just feel lucky to have a job, right?” asked the CEO who was interviewing me
for an Executive position which reported directly to her. I was speechless. I had been in the
interview for ten minutes, and we had already moved on to discussing meaty morale issues in the
company. I couldn’t agree, but should I disagree with my potential boss? I could tell by her body
language that she had already moved on… this was a “rhetorical question, ” i.e., something that
any fool would agree on, especially given today’s market economy.
I felt uneasy, and quietly said, “That’s often not enough.” She stopped, surprised at my quiet
dissension said, “Really? Then what is?” Somewhat intimidated, I offered, “Just having a job
doesn’t build commitment in organizations.” In the heat of the moment, this was me interviewing
the company. “Would they see that there is more to employee engagement than knowing you
have a job?”
Recently, I’ve started to ask myself how being on the other side of the HR table will change me
as I go forward and prosper in my next career. What have I learned that I can pass on so that I
can be the change I want to see in HR? I’ve pinpointed three areas that have made the
strongest impression on me: Hiring, Branding and Valuing.
Hiring the change you want to see….
During times of stress, people and companies default to familiar and predictable behavior. As
this relates to hiring, companies are focusing more narrowly than ever before on exact industry
experience. The single biggest blind spot for companies just might be limiting their choices
to candidates within their industry. “There is so much talent within our industry, we don’t
need to look elsewhere.” This may make sense as it relates to technical skills, sales, and other
functionalities. Arguably, Accounting, Finance, HR, and other areas may not require an industry
specific background. Hiring non-industry professionals who are agile, quick learners, with a
history of making unique contributions to organizations that demonstrate their commitment to
engaging their employees can be a huge win for the organization. It’s also a win for the HR
person who coached the Hiring Manager to consider a person who didn’t fit in the industry box
Likewise, individuals from other industries who are tasked with collaborating across multiple
departments can enliven an organization with a new point of view. Cross training increases
engagement and therefore productivity and employee ROI. Cross training allows the employee
to touch a different side of the elephant, and to see the company and their role and contribution
with “fresh eyes.” In a receptive environment, this leads to new ideas, creativity and innovation.
Organizations need encouragement to think out of the box. A strong and talented Hiring team
can lead the way. The emergence of Applicant Tracking Systems, a standard element in the
hiring process for most companies, has been a boon, both in time and cost in the screening
process. During this period of historic applicant pools, at it’s best, an Applicant Tracking System
can increase productivity and reduce cost and time to hire. At it’s worst, sourcing exclusively
and even primarily through an ATS can be a mind numbing activity that segregates talent in a
way that depersonalizes and disqualifies high caliber candidates. In my previous organization, a
large, publicly held organization of over 11,000 employees, it became evident that retention and
productivity could be measured based on hires that fit into our culture, leadership style and
environment. This included an entrepreneurial orientation, the ability to serve in a tactical and
strategic capacity, a history of agility and flexibility, the ability to juggle multiple priorities and
strong communication and partnership skills. Of course, technical skills were an important
element, but they were rarely a predictor of long-term success.
Hiring to “fit” requires HR professionals to utilize high level assessment skills a strategic
mindset, a behavioral and intuitive understanding of micro (Department/Hiring Managers) and
macro (Organization and growth related) success factors and the ability and courage to
encourage hiring managers to consider candidates that may not fit the “mold.” Out of the box
thinking in talent acquisition equates to knowledge of current organizational culture and values as
well as an alignment with future innovation, strategies and vision. Utilization and reinforcement
of these attributes creates a unique team of staffing leaders who think strategically and contribute
real value to the organization’s success.
Branding the change you want to see…
HR and Hiring Managers in an organization have an amazing opportunity to brand the company
(for better or worse) through the candidate experience. From beginning to end, the candidate is
compiling information relative to the desirability of the culture and his/her fit within the company
s/he is interviewing with. In current times, the candidate invests a tremendous amount of time
networking, researching, contacting company resources, speaking to others about the opportunity
and discussing the company’s reputation as he/she prepares for the interview. The data indicates
that each candidate touches a minimum of 10 individuals when researching you or your company
prior to ever sitting in front of a Hiring Manager or HR representative. Add to this the
involvement of family, friends, and the networking community at large and it is obvious that each
candidate has access to an entire “village” who will be involved in the candidate’s experience of
interacting with your business. Yet during a time when companies have been overwhelmed with
applicants, barely able to keep track of the flow, candidates feel neglected and unimportant, and
in general end up with a bad taste in their mouth.
Having a world class process for interviewing and on-boarding new employees can
REALLY make a company stand out. A strategic and process driven Human Resources
Department that balances the investment of the organization with that of the candidate can brand
the company as a positive place to work. This “word of mouth” collateral will help shape the
reputation of the company while elevating the credibility of Human Resources within (and for)
the organization. Timely, honest communication and follow up builds internal and external
relationships as well as branding the company as a best practices organization. Branding the
change you want to see in HR equates to building credibility and congruency in your processes.
If your organization’s mission is “Communicate, Communicate, Communicate,” but you do not
have an efficient process for staying in touch with applicants and providing closure, how is your
brand being lived?
Valuing the change you want to see…
My BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Human Resources Goal) is to create an organizational world
where everyone matters. The parameters extend within the organization and without. No doubt
you’ve noticed the growth of 1st and 2nd
degree connections from when you first started Linking
In. Our world is getting smaller and smaller, and our web of connections all the more immediate
and accessible.
We are all “boats in the same economic harbor.” Whether currently employed or a candidate in
the market, people respond to feeling wanted and valued. Getting back to my interview story at
the beginning, people may be grateful to be making a living and to having a job but this doesn’t
directly translate into productive engagement and commitment. This gap (between having a job
and having the job you want) will result in either vulnerability or sustainability as the marketplace
becomes increasingly fluid and more choices become available.
Engagement and commitment translate into many positive and contagious workplace behaviors.
The by-products of these attributes are accountability, conscientiousness, focus on quality and the
investment of energy towards the achievement of company objectives among others. Put simply,
when the employee cares, it is a win for the company. Best Buy, for instance, recently reported a
2% increase in employee engagement resulting in a $100,000 sales increase in one of their
locations.
How individuals are treated from within and outside an organization defines an organization more
than a mission statement. For instance, a company’s efforts to retain and redirect employees
(wherever possible) is a valuing message. Speaking authentically about organizational changes
and developments builds trust and transparency. Respectful communication and follow up with
vendors and service providers (even in this fast paced, high demand business environment)
demonstrates the value the company places on building productive business relationships and
adds to a valuing culture.
As time passes, organizational values need to be refreshed and re-communicated. It’s easy to lose
track of this, yet daily decisions are made based on spoken and unspoken values. As an exercise,
take a minute to write down your organization’s “stated” values. Develop a list the “real” or
actual values that are rewarded and reinforced. Next, write down your values and then meet with
several of your business partners to dialogue and receive feedback about what they see and
experience - are these values and actions truly aligned? Consider the cost of incongruent value
messaging. Does the organization need to redefine it’s values based on its actions, or reward
different actions that reinforce it’s values? HR has a key and strategic role in defining,
communicating, refreshing and reinforcing the values of an organization.
Leading the change you want to see…
Leadership is not the property of the few. Each of us are called to be leaders in our own lives and
circumstances. Leadership is the capability to mobilize and focus energy to create what is
important to us. Ron Heifitz (known for his seminal work during the past two decades on the
practice and teaching of leadership), has said, “it is about mobilizing people to contend with
adaptive challenges where there is a gap between their values and the way they live and operate.”
It is in recognizing the gap between what we see (present results) and what we value (desired
results) that is a call for leadership.
Many companies have overreacted to the economic downturn, swinging too far in one direction
as it relates to widespread downsizing of HR professionals and business leaders. This situation
will be righting itself in the months and years ahead, creating fresh opportunities and a new
landscape for HR Business leaders and professionals. We do not have to wait for the economic
landscape to shift, but can address gaps and mobilize the change we want to see in Hiring,
Branding and Valuing practices within our organizations, being the change we want to see in
HR.
landscape for HR Business leaders and professionals. We do not have to wait for the economic
landscape to shift, but can address gaps and mobilize the change we want to see in Hiring,
Branding and Valuing practices within our organizations, being the change we want to see in
HR.

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Being The Change You Want To See In Hr

  • 1. Being the Change You Want To See In HR…… By Susan Penn
  • 2. Being the Change You Want to See in HR “They should just feel lucky to have a job, right?” asked the CEO who was interviewing me for an Executive position which reported directly to her. I was speechless. I had been in the interview for ten minutes, and we had already moved on to discussing meaty morale issues in the company. I couldn’t agree, but should I disagree with my potential boss? I could tell by her body language that she had already moved on… this was a “rhetorical question, ” i.e., something that any fool would agree on, especially given today’s market economy. I felt uneasy, and quietly said, “That’s often not enough.” She stopped, surprised at my quiet dissension said, “Really? Then what is?” Somewhat intimidated, I offered, “Just having a job doesn’t build commitment in organizations.” In the heat of the moment, this was me interviewing the company. “Would they see that there is more to employee engagement than knowing you have a job?” Recently, I’ve started to ask myself how being on the other side of the HR table will change me as I go forward and prosper in my next career. What have I learned that I can pass on so that I can be the change I want to see in HR? I’ve pinpointed three areas that have made the strongest impression on me: Hiring, Branding and Valuing. Hiring the change you want to see…. During times of stress, people and companies default to familiar and predictable behavior. As this relates to hiring, companies are focusing more narrowly than ever before on exact industry experience. The single biggest blind spot for companies just might be limiting their choices to candidates within their industry. “There is so much talent within our industry, we don’t need to look elsewhere.” This may make sense as it relates to technical skills, sales, and other functionalities. Arguably, Accounting, Finance, HR, and other areas may not require an industry specific background. Hiring non-industry professionals who are agile, quick learners, with a history of making unique contributions to organizations that demonstrate their commitment to engaging their employees can be a huge win for the organization. It’s also a win for the HR person who coached the Hiring Manager to consider a person who didn’t fit in the industry box Likewise, individuals from other industries who are tasked with collaborating across multiple departments can enliven an organization with a new point of view. Cross training increases engagement and therefore productivity and employee ROI. Cross training allows the employee to touch a different side of the elephant, and to see the company and their role and contribution with “fresh eyes.” In a receptive environment, this leads to new ideas, creativity and innovation. Organizations need encouragement to think out of the box. A strong and talented Hiring team can lead the way. The emergence of Applicant Tracking Systems, a standard element in the hiring process for most companies, has been a boon, both in time and cost in the screening process. During this period of historic applicant pools, at it’s best, an Applicant Tracking System can increase productivity and reduce cost and time to hire. At it’s worst, sourcing exclusively and even primarily through an ATS can be a mind numbing activity that segregates talent in a way that depersonalizes and disqualifies high caliber candidates. In my previous organization, a large, publicly held organization of over 11,000 employees, it became evident that retention and productivity could be measured based on hires that fit into our culture, leadership style and environment. This included an entrepreneurial orientation, the ability to serve in a tactical and
  • 3. strategic capacity, a history of agility and flexibility, the ability to juggle multiple priorities and strong communication and partnership skills. Of course, technical skills were an important element, but they were rarely a predictor of long-term success. Hiring to “fit” requires HR professionals to utilize high level assessment skills a strategic mindset, a behavioral and intuitive understanding of micro (Department/Hiring Managers) and macro (Organization and growth related) success factors and the ability and courage to encourage hiring managers to consider candidates that may not fit the “mold.” Out of the box thinking in talent acquisition equates to knowledge of current organizational culture and values as well as an alignment with future innovation, strategies and vision. Utilization and reinforcement of these attributes creates a unique team of staffing leaders who think strategically and contribute real value to the organization’s success. Branding the change you want to see… HR and Hiring Managers in an organization have an amazing opportunity to brand the company (for better or worse) through the candidate experience. From beginning to end, the candidate is compiling information relative to the desirability of the culture and his/her fit within the company s/he is interviewing with. In current times, the candidate invests a tremendous amount of time networking, researching, contacting company resources, speaking to others about the opportunity and discussing the company’s reputation as he/she prepares for the interview. The data indicates that each candidate touches a minimum of 10 individuals when researching you or your company prior to ever sitting in front of a Hiring Manager or HR representative. Add to this the involvement of family, friends, and the networking community at large and it is obvious that each candidate has access to an entire “village” who will be involved in the candidate’s experience of interacting with your business. Yet during a time when companies have been overwhelmed with applicants, barely able to keep track of the flow, candidates feel neglected and unimportant, and in general end up with a bad taste in their mouth. Having a world class process for interviewing and on-boarding new employees can REALLY make a company stand out. A strategic and process driven Human Resources Department that balances the investment of the organization with that of the candidate can brand the company as a positive place to work. This “word of mouth” collateral will help shape the reputation of the company while elevating the credibility of Human Resources within (and for) the organization. Timely, honest communication and follow up builds internal and external relationships as well as branding the company as a best practices organization. Branding the change you want to see in HR equates to building credibility and congruency in your processes. If your organization’s mission is “Communicate, Communicate, Communicate,” but you do not have an efficient process for staying in touch with applicants and providing closure, how is your brand being lived? Valuing the change you want to see… My BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Human Resources Goal) is to create an organizational world where everyone matters. The parameters extend within the organization and without. No doubt you’ve noticed the growth of 1st and 2nd degree connections from when you first started Linking
  • 4. In. Our world is getting smaller and smaller, and our web of connections all the more immediate and accessible. We are all “boats in the same economic harbor.” Whether currently employed or a candidate in the market, people respond to feeling wanted and valued. Getting back to my interview story at the beginning, people may be grateful to be making a living and to having a job but this doesn’t directly translate into productive engagement and commitment. This gap (between having a job and having the job you want) will result in either vulnerability or sustainability as the marketplace becomes increasingly fluid and more choices become available. Engagement and commitment translate into many positive and contagious workplace behaviors. The by-products of these attributes are accountability, conscientiousness, focus on quality and the investment of energy towards the achievement of company objectives among others. Put simply, when the employee cares, it is a win for the company. Best Buy, for instance, recently reported a 2% increase in employee engagement resulting in a $100,000 sales increase in one of their locations. How individuals are treated from within and outside an organization defines an organization more than a mission statement. For instance, a company’s efforts to retain and redirect employees (wherever possible) is a valuing message. Speaking authentically about organizational changes and developments builds trust and transparency. Respectful communication and follow up with vendors and service providers (even in this fast paced, high demand business environment) demonstrates the value the company places on building productive business relationships and adds to a valuing culture. As time passes, organizational values need to be refreshed and re-communicated. It’s easy to lose track of this, yet daily decisions are made based on spoken and unspoken values. As an exercise, take a minute to write down your organization’s “stated” values. Develop a list the “real” or actual values that are rewarded and reinforced. Next, write down your values and then meet with several of your business partners to dialogue and receive feedback about what they see and experience - are these values and actions truly aligned? Consider the cost of incongruent value messaging. Does the organization need to redefine it’s values based on its actions, or reward different actions that reinforce it’s values? HR has a key and strategic role in defining, communicating, refreshing and reinforcing the values of an organization. Leading the change you want to see… Leadership is not the property of the few. Each of us are called to be leaders in our own lives and circumstances. Leadership is the capability to mobilize and focus energy to create what is important to us. Ron Heifitz (known for his seminal work during the past two decades on the practice and teaching of leadership), has said, “it is about mobilizing people to contend with adaptive challenges where there is a gap between their values and the way they live and operate.” It is in recognizing the gap between what we see (present results) and what we value (desired results) that is a call for leadership. Many companies have overreacted to the economic downturn, swinging too far in one direction as it relates to widespread downsizing of HR professionals and business leaders. This situation will be righting itself in the months and years ahead, creating fresh opportunities and a new
  • 5. landscape for HR Business leaders and professionals. We do not have to wait for the economic landscape to shift, but can address gaps and mobilize the change we want to see in Hiring, Branding and Valuing practices within our organizations, being the change we want to see in HR.
  • 6. landscape for HR Business leaders and professionals. We do not have to wait for the economic landscape to shift, but can address gaps and mobilize the change we want to see in Hiring, Branding and Valuing practices within our organizations, being the change we want to see in HR.