Category Archives: Business Language

Deeply Disengaged

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DeeplyDisengaged-thumb-300x295-177582Last week a guest poster wrote an anonymous letter that was posted on the U.K. ExpertHR blog. This U.K HR professional is “at the end of their tether” and writes a very transparent and poignant piece about the reasons for their massive professional disengagement and personal sadness at their lot. The publishers suggested that others might respond with guidance for the writer and the responses were numerous and detailed. The post and its responses created a robust and fascinating discussion.

And everyone – except one responder – totally missed the point. Totally. The discussion focused on whether or not Deeply Disengaged should “stay and fight” or quit and find a more conducive employer. Ugh!

Deeply Disengaged says that their “work every day is focused around making the workplace a better place to be for employees… To me, ensuring people are at the centre of everything you do is fundamental to being successful in all other areas. It is the foundations on which everything must be based.”

But the bottom line of the post is this:  “The powers that be don’t value the work that I am doing.” The old (ugh) furniture lament. (See my post here if you aren’t familiar with the furniture lament.)

I’ll bet it’s true. I’ll bet the powers that be don’t value the work that Disengaged is doing because Disengaged don’t know the value of the work they’re doing.

So here’s the real, hard truth – for Deeply Disengaged and all the responders:  HR needs to be focused on making the organization more efficient and productive leveraging the organization’s most costly resource, people. HR’s work needs to start with the organization’s strategic and business plans and deliver solutions that enable the successful growth of the enterprise. In other words, HR needs to be focused on the business!

Deeply Disengaged lists a number of supposed outcomes from his/her work:

  • Feedback is now two-way and things are improving fast
  • Retention of employees has increased significantly
  • Retention of candidates in the recruitment process has increased
  • Speed of work output and completion has risen
  • I could talk and talk about the things I am doing and results that we have seen but you get the picture…

I have to take a step back and say, Really? You wrote some nice stuff there, but nothing quantifiable.

I have to take a step back and ask, how do you know your outcomes if you don’t (or can’t) quantify them. And if you can quantify them and you don’t talk about them, why would a business leader listen to you?

I’m skeptical because in the entire post there was not one number. Not one. How can you talk about the value of the work you’re doing without numbers? Seat at the Table NotWithout percentages of increase or decrease, without dollars (or in this case, pounds)  saved, without numbers of days saved…

And that’s the challenge for HR – all over the world:

  • To leave behind “banging on about how these areas can hit the bottom line” and focus instead on providing clear, evidence-based business cases that are linked to the strategic plan.
  • To leave behind doing things “because I believe it can and will make a difference” and start doing things that the business requires and be able to prove it with data – including numbers.
  • To leave behind being “focused around making the workplace a better place to be for employees” and leading the effort to ensure the culture and values actually enable the achievement of the strategic plan.

I’ll bet that Deeply Disengaged is more of a business thinker than they know. If they really are working on improving business processes and outcomes the way they describe, they must know something about how business works, how business leaders speak, how business decisions are made and how resources are distributed. The question becomes, why aren’t they stepping up to the plate to act like a business leader with deep HR expertise rather than the disrespected HR functionary that the organization has to put up with?

It’s a troubling question. And frankly, it’s one of the reasons I started the Data Point Tuesday feature here at http://www.chinagorman.com. To provide data- and research-based sources that will help HR professionals move up from HR functionary to business leader with HR expertise.

I feel for Deeply Disengaged. Being disrespected is the pits. But quitting is not the answer – because the same thing will happen in the next job, and the next, and the next. Until the perception of HR professionals as functionaries changes to business leaders with HR expertise, this won’t go away. And the only way to change that perception is for HR professionals to start to behave like business people, to speak the language of business people, and to become comfortable with numbers, data and research. The only way for Deeply Disengaged’s experience to change is for them to start to behave like a business person.

It’s not easy – but it’s also not hard. Because I truly do believe that most HR people really can be business people — because they do know business. They just aren’t comfortable with that. Yet.

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Filed under Business Language, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, HR, HR Credibility, XpertHR

The Language of Business

Visier, named one of the “2012 Awesome New Technologies for HR” by Bill Kutik, the founding conference co-chair of the upcoming HR Technology Conference in Chicago, is changing the face of HR analytics.  And by changing the face, I mean, putting a beautiful, incredibly interactive and astonishingly useful face on the workforce data collected by the many and disparate systems inside organizations.

All vendors in the HCM space commission research and surveys by credible third party organizations and write what they hope are useful white papers to ensure an educated prospect and customer base.  These white papers, while clearly biased, have some powerful data and insights that any HR practitioner – generalist, specialist or leader – can use to educate themselves.  Trolling through the Resources tabs of HCM solutions providers when you have some downtime can be worthwhile.

As I was browsing through the white papers at the Visier site, I came upon some great stuff.  Since Visier is in the workforce analytics business the subject matter is all tied to workforce analytics.  And they’ve got some great survey and research data for you.  But in this survey report, 2012 Survey of Employers:  Workforce Analytics Practices, Preferences & Plans, tucked in at the very end, was a chart showing what more than 150 U.S.-based employers (presumably through the voice of HR professionals taking the survey) thought their top workforce concerns were for 2012:

This is the first survey that I’ve read in which performance was ranked as the top workforce concern of HR professionals.  These top concerns lists are everywhere and none of them rank performance at the top.

  • Llloyd’s annual Risk Index (most recent 2011) lists Talent and Skills Shortages as Risk #2 (Loss of Customers is Risk #1)
  • Deloitte’s 2012 Human Capital Trends lists Growth as #1
  • The HR Policy Association (most recent list is 2011) lists Executive Development and Succession at the top of CHRO concerns
  • The WFPMA &  Boston Consulting Group survey (most recent is 2010) of global HR leaders lists Managing Talent as the most critical global HR issue
  • Human Resource Executive’s annual “What’s Keeping You Up Now” survey (most recent is September 2011) lists “Ensuring employees remain engaged and productive” as #1 (note that the 4th concern in the Visier survey was engagement.  Performance and engagement are not the same thing.)

I’m happy to see a survey of HR professionals identifying workforce performance as their top concern because performance is about business.  Performance is quantifiable.  Performance isn’t touchy feely.  Performance is not the language of professionals who chose HR because they “like to work with people.”  Performance is the language of professionals who are comfortable with measurements, analytics, data, accountability, business success.  In short, performance is the language of business people.  And I cheer when HR people speak the language of business rather than the language of HR.

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Filed under Analytics, Business Language, Business Success, China Gorman, HR Analytics, HR Conferences, HR Technology, Performance, Visier

Memo to HR: Raise Your Hands!

Several times this year I’ve given the wrap-up keynote speech at HR conferences.  This particular speech is titled, “HR Wake Up Call.”  The message is simple:  HR professionals have far more business savvy and leadership opportunities than they are given credit for.

One of the ways I prove this is to quiz the audience on a range of business related topics, testing their savvy and knowledge.  Nearly every question I ask gets an almost unanimous positive answer.  The questions cover topics like the current unemployment rate, the current U.S. GDP and the topics of current business books.

When I ask how many in the audience have ever been responsible for a sales quota, 70-80% of the audience raises their hands.  And when I ask how many have managed a P&L, between 80 and 95% of every audience raises their hands.

After the quiz is over and we discuss the answers in detail I ask how many of their executive teams know that they’ve been responsible for a sales quota or managed a P&L.  Astonishingly most do not.

I find that remarkable.  No.  Actually, I find it disturbing.  HR professionals routinely lament their lack of standing in the strategic workings of business, and yet when they’ve got the golden ticket they ignore it.

So here’s the deal:  if you want to be an HR professional who focuses solely on the tactical and compliance parts of HR, then don’t let on that you’re a business person.  Not letting your C-suite know that you’ve managed a business will ensure that you stay off their radar and can focus on the day-to-day stuff.

If, however, your organization can benefit from your business insight and experience, and you want to operate at a strategic level – not just the tactical level – MAKE SURE YOUR FULL BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE ARE KNOWN!

That is all.

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Filed under Business Language, Business Success, HR, Leadership, Uncategorized

HR and Furniture

Normally, I agree with everything Laurie Ruettimann says.  Not because I’m a robot, but because she’s right 99% of the time.  .9% of the time we just see things through different lenses.

And .1% of the time we just disagree.

And this falls in that .1%.

I think that when you’re in HR you have to speak the language of business.  I think speaking HR in business is the kiss of death – or irrelevance, which is really the same thing.

It’s not about furniture, it’s about influence.  And when you’re influential you speak the language of those you influence.

Business people are everywhere in organizations.  They’re in Finance (where they speak finance and business).  They’re in Marketing (where they speak marketing and business).  They’re in Operations (where they speak operations and business).  They’re in R&D (where they speak r&d and business).  They’re in Sales (where they speak sales and business).  They’re in IT (where they speak technology and business).

Business people are most definitely at the top of the organization where the only language spoken is business.  So if you want to influence the people at the top of the organization – all those people whose job titles start with a great big “C” — you have to speak to them in their language, not yours.

This quote from Frank Romer says it all:

People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.

The bottom line is that language is important.  Using language your target audience doesn’t understand ensures that you won’t be understood.  It also ensures that you will have no influence.  None.  Zero.

So if HR is to be influential and interact with a certain type of furniture it has to be fluent in the language of business.

Actually, I’m pretty sure Laurie Ruettimann will agree with me.

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Filed under Business Language, Business Success, HR, Leadership