Posts tagged business culture
4 Things CEOs Need from Their Human Resources Professionals
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In my mind, the most important asset in any organization is its Human Capital. It’s people! And no other Function/Dept. within an organization touches people more than the Human Resource function. I like to think of HR as the “Champions of Human Capital!”  In working with dozens of CEOs, they believe that within their organization, HR professionals are to be the champions of four key areas:

  1. The Company

  2. Change

  3. Culture

  4. Conscience

THE COMPANY

Historically, the Human Resource function has been pigeonholed and limited in focus. Former titles included “Personnel Dept.”, “Benefits Office” and “Payroll.” It’s only in the past decade or so that CEOs and organizations have really come to appreciate the significant role human resource professionals play in the success of the organization. Going forward HR professionals MUST have a total grasp on the overall “business” of the company!

Market Position: Where does our organization fit within the Industry? What is our unique value proposition? How do we create customer and shareholder value?

Environmental Scanning: What are the external influences impacting the company’s success? Economic Factors, Competitive Trends, Technological Changes, Political Issues, Social Issues, Demographic Trends?

Financials: Do you know how your organization makes its MONEY? Can you dissect and understand the “high-level” Balance Sheet and Income Statement? Are you aware of the financial health of the organization?

HR Analytics: Can you measure the impact of Human Resources leadership, management, actions, policies, and assistance in your organization?  Your selection of measurements should be driven by two factors:

  1. To contribute to the overall success of your organization and the attainment of your organization’s most important goals.
  2. To provide the organization with measures that drive continuous improvement.

To be successful business partners, HR professionals MUST think like business leaders!

CHANGE

Secondly, HR Professionals must be Champions of Change! In the new world economy, an organizations ability to anticipate, acknowledge and adapt to change will separate those companies who survive and thrive, and those who will become extinct, the dinosaurs’ of the 21st Century! Since, the HR department is all about recruiting, training and monitoring employee performance; it has a key role to play in any change management program.

For this to happen, they need to recruit the right people who can think out of the box and can bring a fresh perspective to the table. This is the key element of any successful change management strategy and this is where HR has a stellar role to play. The point here is that HR must be encouraged to look for people who can act as catalysts for change and who can motivate other employees to participate in the change initiative.

CULTURE

A great strategy is no guarantee of long-term business success. Many other factors impact organizational performance. One such factor is corporate culture. In fact, it’s been said, “Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”.  Yes strategy is important, but it is the implementation and execution of that strategy that determines success, and without the right culture, strategy is doomed to fail!  For it is “Culture” that helps an organization create a high performance environment that supports business strategy implementation. Because culture is so important to the success of a firm, human resource professionals need to increase their proficiency at impacting culture.  Monitoring it, understanding it, and influencing it!

CONSCIENCE

Of the four areas I’ve suggested HR professionals champion, this one requires the most courage! This is the one that is the least comfortable, the one that requires competency, credibility and compassion! This is the one that demands you have the influence and persuasiveness to have “uneasy” but necessary conversations with those who may outrank you!

To be Champions of Conscience for your organization will test your moral compass, your willingness to speak truth to power, and your commitment to be the voice for those who may not be getting heard! It’s making sure that an organization’s management and workforce looks as diverse as the communities they operate in, the customer/clients they sell to, the vendors/contractors they utilize and the consumers they target with their services and products!

  • It asks questions when candidate slates look unbalanced.
  • It demands answers when salaries look out of line.
  • It requires fairness when Performance Reviews look skewed.
  • It forces creativity when it hears….”we’ve looked, but couldn’t find any” diverse candidates.
  • It challenges the status quo, when others accept, “we’ve always done it this way”

More than ever before, successful CEOs organizations realize that in order to sustain profitable growth, drive innovation, and create value, they must have “the right people, in the right roles, doing the right things, at the right time!" Human Resource professionals are the catalyst to make sure the organization is poised from a Human Capital perspective to deliver the desired results!

Four Questions That Will Help Determine An Organizations Readiness for Change!
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Previously I shared that for any transformation effort to be effective, you must first have an appreciation that all changed efforts start with understanding human nature (see “Managing Change Starts with Understanding Human Nature”); and, prior to undertaking any strategic change or transformation effort, organizations should undertake a Readiness Assessment to gauge if they are really ready for change (see “Is Your Organization Really Ready to Change?”).

As part of this assessment, four key questions must be asked, answered and addressed:

1. Do Leaders at every level have a common vision of the change to come?

For any change initiative to have even the slightest chance to succeed, leaders at every level of the organization need to be 100% clear and aligned on two critical factors:

- Is there a common understanding of the change to come from an organizational perspective?

- Is everyone clear on their role in leading the change, AND, the interdependencies’ and impact their individual role has to the overall success of the organization?

During any change or transformation effort there can only be ONE vision of what the future state will be! There is only room for one version of the truth, one message that gets communicated, and most importantly, one understanding of what success looks like. Too often in many organizations, senior leaders communicate one vision of the future, however, those beneath them take liberties to editorialize that vision with their own biases and the end message is confusing and convoluted to the rank and file.

Additionally, every leader at every level must be clear of the impact and interdependency their ability to execute has on the whole organization and the success of the change effort. When leaders lose sight of, or don’t understand these impacts, they can unwittingly contribute to what appears to be the success of their function or department, but at the expense of the success of the overall organization.

2. Will the organization’s culture support or resist the change?

Just as every country, social, and ethnic group has unique cultures, likewise, every industry, organization, and even departments within an organization can have its’ own unique culture.  The key is determining in advance how “change adverse” or resistant is the culture? Is the culture one that suffers from W.A.D.I.T.W. (We’ve Always Done It This Way)? Or worse yet, suffer from a bad case of B.W.A.D. (this change may be good for other departments “But We Are Different”)?

To effectively drive change, before the first step is implemented, leaders must engage and understand the culture and how the change will be received.

3. What (and Who) do we anticipate will be the main resistors to change?

Knowing that by nature humans are change adverse, it should be assumed going in that there will be some resistance. The key is in anticipating “what” aspects of the transformation initiative will receive the most resistance, and, “who” are the key influencers within the organizations who might be the most focal resistors?
Every organization has certain “sacred cows,” those written or unwritten rules, processes, or expectations that people have come to enjoy. For decades IBM had a policy (unwritten if I recall) of “full employment.” The promise was, as long as you were a productive worker who added value, there would always be a role for you within the organization. You wouldn’t be downsized or laid off, as long as you performed.

However, in the early to mid 90’s under former CEO Lou Gerstner, IBM was forced to abandon this policy as market conditions and the competitive landscape changed. While ultimately successful in transforming IBM from a hardware/software manufacturer to a service provider, it was a shock to the culture when full employment came to an end.

4. How can we mitigate resistance to change?

In my experience, resistance to change can be mitigated by:

- Having a concise, compelling argument as to “Why” the organization must change to maintain it’s competitive edge, to drive growth or whatever the motivation is. Everyone must be crystal clear as to why, what will happen if we don’t, and the possible impact on the workforce if the status quo remains.

- Engaging workers from ALL levels of the organization in the planning process (this can include those key influencers who might not be supportive) to ensure input is received from top to bottom.

- Consider a phased or piloted implementation plan, allowing for mid-course corrections as new information is gained and unforeseen challenges are better understood.

- Communicate consistently and periodically on the status of the change initiative. In the absence of information, people will often make up their own reality of how things are going, which is almost always worse than reality.

Embracing Constructive Conflict
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In my latest book, Corner Office Rules: The 10 Realities of Executive Life, I stress the importance of constructive conflict and why it is necessary for companies to embrace. Within any organization, big or small, there is sure to be disagreements along the way. Often times, dissimilarities cause tension, so the obvious ploy is to avoid it all together. However, conflict is a normal part of working together as a team. It challenges the organization to find innovative solutions to new and existing problems, as well as helps employees to develop deeper thinking skills.A company that does not embrace constructive conflict will result in damaged relationships amongst its employees, colleagues, and perhaps even the boss. Moreover, a culture that eludes conflict will only hinder a team’s success, negatively impacting the company as a whole.

Good leaders understand the value of conflict, recognizing that disagreements amid the organization often leads to superior results, sharing of ideas, and individual professional growth.

The advantage of constructive conflict is that it teaches employees how to advocate for differing and opposing opinions without taking things personally. Furthermore, conflict proves beneficial to a leader’s growth in the sense that it teaches executives to differentiate between who a person is and the person’s ideas. A leader who embraces conflict will develop a strong team of people unafraid to express their opinions, ideas, and disagreements, thus giving the leader a better understanding of what team members and groups really feel, not what they think the boss wants to hear. In this type of environment, the staff then become more confident in knowing that they are able to stand up for what they believe in without fear of rejection or reprisal. Lastly, conflict helps to encourage a feedback-oriented culture, where anything can be said and conferred as long as it is done in a tasteful manner.

A culture that embraces constructive conflict is a safe place where questioning is abided from all members of the organization, no matter the position or rank. When employees feel like they can express themselves freely without being shunned or eschewed by the executive, they are more likely to discuss and accept truths, even when they may be difficult to hear. However, keep in mind that as the leader, you must be able to take control of these conversations without avoiding them. Your team is counting on you to be the example. Constructive conflict requires a balance between respect for individuals and respect for their ideas. Without conflict, there can be no resolution.