#SHRM15 Recap: Do More Than “Thrive” HR, Execute!

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I had the pleasure of attending SHRM National last week in Las Vegas, Nevada as a member of the blogger team. I found this year’s theme to be interesting. They chose: “thrive”. To set the stage for what I’m about to say, let’s examine the meaning of “thrive” by definition. Thrive means: “to grow, develop or flourish”. When I think of this in the context of HR, I take this year’s theme to mean that: HR must no longer just exist, but grow, develop and flourish as it seeks to be a key authority on the management of people.

There were no shortage of sessions geared towards helping HR achieve just that. Starting with Marcus Buckingham’s keynote, his talk was all about how most of our processes are flawed in HR. For instance, Performance Management is a flawed HR process. Let’s start with the fact that we conduct reviews once a year and couple that with the forced ratings and curves we impose on our employees. Marcus shares that this method not only does a disservice to the employee, but “says much more about the rater than the person being rated”. Additionally, the flawed data that results from those reviews leads to flawed decision-making which will inevitably hurt your retention efforts. I noticed a lot of people nodding their heads in concurrence with what Marcus was saying. However, the bigger question isn’t do we as HR practitioners concur, but what are we going to do about it?

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The overall message from his talk was: Recognize the inherent flaws that exist when a human being is put in a position to manage and even evaluate another person’s work. Moreover, there needs to be a focus on a person’s strengths rather than their flaws. Performance Management as it stands is geared towards finding flaws in work behavior and tailoring performance improvement around those deficits. The baseline for improvement should come from an examination of strengths first not deficits.

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The next session I attended was with Gregg Tate, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for Adidas. His talk was all about Adidas’s “New Way Of Work” concept. Adidas is already planning for 2020. During two separate instances at  SHRM National,  I shared with IBM that part of what HR suffers from when it comes to strategy is being bogged down in the details and fires of the day. I am 100% comfortable saying that the average Talent Acquisition group is so busy filling requisitions, managing hires, and chasing hiring managers that they have very little time to plan for the next year let alone five years from now. It’s not a matter of whether they have the interest in workforce planning- they do. The issue is: tactics. If you are so preoccupied with the present that you can never get beyond the present day’s struggles- you will find it hard to achieve what Adidas is proposing. Nevertheless, Adidas has a clear vision for how they plan to manage their people over the next five years and it is as follows:

1) Provide meaningful reasons for people to join their company and stay.

2) Deploy role models that inspire.

3) Bring forward fresh and diverse perspectives.

4) Create an organizational climate that empowers employees to make a difference.

If this sounds like pie-in-the-sky, I will respectfully disagree and remind you that engagement is stagnant as SHRM speaker Richard Finnegan pointed out in a private blogger briefing. I will also share one of my favorite quotes of the conference from Gregg Tate at Adidas which is : “The War for Talent is over. The talent won.” You have heard from me before about why I think the whole “war on talent” thing is employer propaganda. If you don’t believe that “meaningful work experiences” and “role models” make a difference I challenge you to conduct a very unscientific survey of your people by asking them if they feel their current job has a purpose and/or meaning. Whether they answer “yes” or “no”, it provides you with a window of opportunity to ask them about what does or would provide meaning or purpose in their current positions. If they can answer that question without further probing you are on the right track. If enough of them cannot answer that question easily, you may have a workforce in need of one or more of the four pillars to Adidas’s New Way Of Work concept or perhaps something else.

It is clear that success for HR is grounded in our ability to adapt to the rapid change and innovation we are seeing. Additionally, we need to be able to evolve with the times creating processes and procedures only where needed. More importantly, our call-to-action is to ensure that the right people continue to walk through the door and can be retained. One of the key ways that HR can try to ensure  retention is through “stay interviews”. Richard Finnegan, CEO of C-Suite Analytics  says: “we need to stop conducting exit interviews and start implementing regular stay interviews” to get a head start on retention in your organization. He suggests that new hires be debriefed twice within the first year so we can deal with any concerns or issues they have  before they begin thinking about an exit strategy. Mr. Finnegan also shared that the immediate supervisors of employees should be held accountable to conduct these stay interviews.

This was one of many instances at the conference where there was an emphasis on line management accountability. HR may have oversight over stay interviews as a process, but would lose any direct governance over administering it. Who knows or should know their people better than the line manager? This marks an important shift in HR governance whereby we will likely have to start delegating some of the duties that we have traditionally handled to the departments. Does it make us obsolete to do so- not really? After working with hiring managers for years, I am certain they don’t want all of our burdens.

SHRM is correct. We need to continue to grow, and flourish as a profession, Part of the growing up and flourishing is grounded in discomfort. This discomfort is the sweet spot where we get out of the mindset and practice of doing what we have always done and start challenging the status quo. We have to execute. There was more than enough data to support the need for us to raise the stakes in our organizations. If it doesn’t work, change it. If people are unhappy, find out why. If productivity is suffering, have a conversation. We can no longer afford to sit idly by while society and work progresses beyond our grasps. Managing people is what we do; now all we have to do is own it.

Thanks to SHRM for a great conference and thought-provoking speakers. We now have more than enough food-for-thought to power us through the remainder of 2015 and into 2016.


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