Book review, Career, HR for non-HR people, Human Resources, Leadership, SHRM, Thinking differently, Working in People & Culture

HR Rising!! – the book you need

Book review: HR Rising!! by Steve Browne

More and more, we are recognising that HR is a global community that can be a force for change – change that means people’s work is more rewarding, that we can help people be effective and successful at what they do, and that organisations – be they public, private or nonprofit – can benefit from happier, more engaged workforces.

The global coronavirus pandemic adds another layer entirely to this. What’s the most important thing you would look for when looking for your next role? (Other than a paycheck of course – thanks ‘rona for the recession…) It’s an organisation that puts its people first, that has shown they do that through challenging circumstances. They are the orgs we all want to be a part of, the ones that walk the talk, they have great leaders and that translates into their employees feeling valued, respected and engaged.

I’ll let you in on a secret – none of that happens without great HR. Not good HR – good HR is a team that doesn’t screw up your pay, your benefits. Great HR (or as they’re more commonly known here in Australia – People & Culture) are about creating workplaces where good leadership is rewarded, people are trusted to do their best and given the tools to do so. They’re not obsessed with the dress code, or clocking in on the dot of 8am – they contribute to the creation of a culture where outcomes are what matters, and you’re more than an employee – you’re a person!

If this is the type of HR you want to practice, or encourage in your organisation, you need to know Steve. He has a talent for breaking down complex issues into an easy to read, enjoyable format, he tackles leaders with no substance, HR’s penchant for vagueness, the need for “messy and wonderful” at work while dismissing a whole bunch of unhelpful stereotypes.

Leadership is much more than the proverbial seat at the table, and Steve manages to deliver a message as relevant for senior leadership as it is for someone just starting out in their HR Career. He advocates that working in HR should not be an exercise in mediocrity or a burden (and if it is, he tells you to get out!) – but a profession you should be proud of, and find a real sense of joy in working in. Steve’s book is a vital ingredient to finding the joy you’re missing in HR.

On a personal note, Steve is someone I look up to, as a multiplier, someone whose passion is to make things better for others. It’s not just his penchant for the exclamation mark that I adore – although obviously we’re kindred spirits here, he is the kind of person that inspires you to do better, to be better, and I think we all need a little bit of that right now.

HR Rising!!’ is an absolute must-read – and not just because I’m quoted inside the front cover! Go get yourself a copy now!!

Leadership, personal

The whole world turned upside down: brain cancer & awesome workplaces

In June this year my life took an unexpected turn. I had my parents (John & Jenny) visit from New Zealand, they said it was to visit Sam and I (but I knew the truth, my 2-year-old was the main attraction).

After an action-packed week of Aquarium and Zoo visits, and tramming their way all over Melbourne they were ready to go home.

One day before they were due to leave, Mum and I took John, my wonderful, kind, generous Stepdad, to the hospital after some headaches and confusion.

The outcome of that long ED visit was a Stage 4 GBM (brain cancer), brain surgery, chemo and radiation. Their short stay, arranged during school holidays, was then extended indefinitely as we fought this. They ended up staying with us an additional 9 weeks.

I cannot help but look at the past couple of months and see some of the best lessons of my life playing out.

The biggest part of that lesson for me was a personal one. Despite his diagnosis, despite the uncertainty and surgery and tears from us all, John has been unashamedly positive.

* Positive because of the incredible care he received at the Royal Melbourne.

* Positive because of the doctors, nurses and staff who took the time to care for him.

* Positive because, despite the circumstances, we had unexpected bonus-time as a family together, with my brothers and sister visiting from NZ and America.

* Positive because of the outpouring of love from family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and ex-students of my parents who sent messages of aroha and support from near and far.

* Positive in continually repeating that he’s lucky, he’s got a great life, and wife(!) and wonderful kids, it could all be so much worse.

John manages to find good in everything, and everyone. (after you meet his Mum, Nana Jean, you know where this comes from). The one nurse who during his time in hospital was a little short, hungover and on her phone? He refused to complain, because “you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, she might be having a really hard time”. John is the definition of positivity and love. I’m so fortunate that he came into our lives when I was a kid.

The second biggest lesson was what I experienced, along with each member of my family during a really tough time. My parent’s employers (Devon Intermediate, and Frankley School in NZ) were both amazing. They made organising time off easy and they sent messages full of love and hope. They sent tins of tea and flowers and fruit. They contacted us and asked what would help and listened.

My work (bloom hearing specialists), and, in particular my direct manager, have been nothing but incredible. While I’ve been on the HR-end of many crises, that’s not the same of the overwhelming sense of thankfulness you get when your manager makes it clear that there’s nothing that matters more than being there with your family. When your colleagues forgive your absentmindedness and don’t mention your horrendous eyebags/unkempt hair after another sleepless night. When you are encouraged to do what is right for you and your family, knowing it really is OK.

This post is part thanks, and part encouragement. Encouragement to do what you know is right, and treat others with empathy and love. At the time you might not consider it something monumental, especially when you know someone is going through *big* things. But every message, every small gesture meant an incredible amount to us as we grappled with all we had to deal with during this time, and it won’t be forgotten.

* John & Jenny have now returned to New Zealand, leaving our two-bedroom house very quiet.

Difficult Conversations, Ethics, Leadership, Reflective practice, Thinking differently

Your Organisation is Drifting. And You’ve Got No Idea.

New year new you!

Or something similar.

It’s natural to strive for better. You look at the previous year, note your accomplishments (high engagement score ranking – tick!) and want to build on that momentum.

What you often don’t see when you’re constantly engaging with the people within your organisation that are high performers and those that are close to you, is the organisational drift happening under the surface. You’re focusing on big changes, becoming bigger and better than the year before, all the while not realising that something insidious is eating away at the fabric of your organisation.

People may have brought individual issues up before. Some big. Some not so much. Isolated they don’t look like a pattern. Because you’re surrounded with those who are super engaged and likely are very focused on their own areas of expertise they also don’t see the cumulative nature of what’s happening.

But I guarantee your employees do.

They notice the few instances of people ‘moving on’ under cloudy circumstances with unclear communications.

They notice the difference between decisions made by management and the values of your organisation.

They notice their friends and high performers choosing to opt out after having realised that this isn’t the place with the great culture/opportunity/leadership it once was.

They see people being appointed to roles who don’t care about their teams.

They see snarky emails/veiled threats being thrown about with no consequence.

Do they bring it to you?

Probably not.

They’ve probably already made their decision. They’re out. They’re still smiling and saying the right things when you ask them, but they’re scouring LinkedIn and job boards looking for their next opportunity. They’re responding honestly when someone asks what it’s like to work for you. They’re moving to your competitors.

All of a sudden it happens. You realise that you’re no longer ahead of the game. You ignored too many warning signs. Conveniently chose to listen to those who told you what you wanted to hear, not those who would challenge you and tell you what you needed to hear.

Many organisations go down this path. Some parts of it are beyond your control. Some are well within it.

So instead of thinking of the new year as one to build on the previous – maybe take some time to reflect, engage in continuous learning practices and ‘get under the hood’. You may not like what you find, but at least you have an opportunity to fix it if you do come across something.

AHRI, Australian HR, Career, Human Resources, Leadership

5 Key Takeaways From The AHRI Awards

AHRI get a lot of things right for me as an association – they work incredibly hard (every employee or volunteer I’ve met have confirmed this), they listen to their membership, and they lead with the genuinely good intent that our profession can be better and can create better work environments for others.

Last week I attended the AHRI Awards, a national event that I have never had the opportunity to go to before. It was fabulous. Not just because of the great MC (Peter Berner), performances & food – but for the great conversations and stories that were shared throughout the evening.

The “people profession”, as described by Lyn Goodear, came together to celebrate the hard work of both individuals and workplaces in bettering work for others.

Ok, ok, ok – without further ado, here are my 5 key takeaways from the event:

1. Individual awards are where it’s at

The first two acceptance speeches for the night really set the tone, both giving heartfelt thanks to their teams, mentors and managers who believed in them. It was a timely reminder that no matter how busy you are, how much you’ve got going on, the support you give those in your team will make an impact far bigger than you realise at the time.

There is amazing talent coming through in the field of HR and I’m excited about the impact and change that this will inevitably bring.

2. Diversity & inclusion is where all the cool work is happening

The HR Diversity Champion Award as a really big one for me. The Defense Force isn’t necessary an employer that I would have picked as a front runner in innovative HR practice (which I full well acknowledge may be my own denseness) but I was really impressed with Shane Cox’s work in providing career pathways for indigenous youth.

3. The numbers of people with AHRI certification are growing

I’m really enjoying the growing professionalisation of HR in Australia, largely due to the efforts of AHRI. Certification was a topic of conversation at the awards – which definitely prompted me to reflect on exactly when I will be getting my A into G on that one!

4. AHRI = genuine advocacy

A message I heard loud and clear – not just from AHRI (because what member association isn’t going to advocate this), but from volunteers, staff members, and from what efforts are recognised makes it clear, we are fortunate to have this be our professional association.

I heard multiple times from the winners in their acceptance speeches of the honour of their work being recognised by AHRI. What AHRI is doing is celebrating work that is changing the way others work, interact and experience their own work. Work that is genuinely changing peoples’ lives.

5. Conversations!

The AHRI Awards was a fabulous opportunity to get out and meet (and reconnect with) people who do great HR. Sometimes life can get busy and its easy to forget, or just not prioritise, meeting new people and listening to what makes them tick. I was lucky enough to sit next to someone who had also rejoined the workforce, and changed role, soon after becoming a parent for the first time. I got to hear about the fascinating experiences of someone who has moved into HR after a long career in energy. These conversations, among others, were a good reminder that its easy to get caught up in your own bubble and forget to take the time to learn from others.

I had such a brilliant night. Not just because of the organ (OMG THE ORGAN), the showtunes from Wicked, the Phantom, Les Mis & Jersey Boys, but because of the honour of being around people that are so brilliant at what they do that they inspire me to be better.

#SoMe, Career, Human Resources, Leadership, SHRM, Social Media & Learning, Working in People & Culture

The #HRTribe – they open doors like you wouldn’t believe!

Next month I’m on my way to the Illinois SHRM and Ohio SHRM Conferences to speak about HR in Australia & the lessons I’ve learned along the way. How this opportunity to speak outside Australia has come about is an excellent example of the collaborative nature of the international HR community (for which I am forever thankful).

A few years ago I had a brilliant conversation with a guy called Steve Browne. You might know him, he’s one of the Board Members at SHRM, he’s an all-round nice guy and he’s an active promoter of everything that’s good in HR. I’d been blogging a bit and was thinking about my professional development and what might be a good investment in my career and had decided that I’d like to apply to be a part of the SHRM Blogging team for 2016.

Well it all happened. And it changed my career and the way I think about HR exponentially.

While I’ve worked across different countries, was a member of SHRM and an avid reader of international HR & business blogs I was not at all prepared for the shift in my thinking that resulted from becoming a part of the SHRM community.

Since attending that first conference, not only have I been lucky enough to attend some phenomenal conferences and see some true thought leaders in the HR/management space (not lame, self-proclaimed ‘thought leaders’ that I think we’re ALL sick of), but I found my tribe (#HRTribeTM) AND became a part of an incredibly community that seeks to progress our profession and help us adapt to the new world of work as people-people aka HR professionals.

Two years after that first SHRM Conference I’ve now been a part of the Official SHRM Blogging team twice and this September I’m heading to the Illinois SHRM and Ohio SHRM Conferences to speak – what a roller-coaster!

The way HR is evolving internationally is so exciting because I believe it makes us confront what is unique and special about our profession, rather than resting on our laurals as the rule-makers and police. It’s forcing us to consider what those assumptions that may have been holding us back. Gone are the days (well… hopefully) where we are a primarily an administrative function. Having the opportunity to speak to people about what works well in different countries – and what doesn’t – is an incredible gift and one I’m looking forward to sharing an Australian perspective on this September. I’ve loved practising HR in Australia over the past 5 years and think that the quirks of employment law and common practice here definitely have some (interesting) lessons for those operating in different environments!

I owe a huge debt to Steve Brown, Dave Ryan, Andrew Morton, Mary Kaylor & the whole SHRM community (especially the bloggers!) for their generosity in time, guidance & mentoring over the past few years. I sincerely believe that as we further collaborate and learn more from each other we will only serve to further cement HR as a function that is seen as indispensable and valuable to organisations as we all believe it is.

 

#SHRM #SHRMBlogger #Speaker #HRTribe #Gday

AHRI, Human Resources, Leadership, SHRM, SHRM18, Working in People & Culture

Reflections on the Global HR Community #SHRM18

An interview with Lyn Goodear, AHRI CEO, on SHRM18 & the WFPMA Conference in Chicago, Illinois

lyn goodear

The global HR community is evolving, particularly as technology enables us to communicate and learn from our colleagues across borders. This year, the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA), of which Peter Wilson has been the Chairperson & President of for the past two years, met in Chicago, coinciding with the US Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) National Conference.

The combination of both conferences meant an audience and exhibitors totalling over 22,000 – which is a fair amount larger than any professional body conference anything on my side of the equator.

I caught up with Lyn Goodear, the CEO and Managing Director of AHRI (the Australian HR Institute), during the conference, to discuss HR challenges globally, and the value of being able to collaborate with other HR practitioners and take time out for professional development.

Lyn emphasizes that “as a profession we share the same aspiration to create better work and better workplaces” and that one of the highlights of attending events like the WFPMA and SHRM Conferences is seeing how different professional bodies approach issues affecting their membership base.

Culture permeated as an overarching theme of the conference (attendees from recent AHRI Conferences will recognise some real similarities) – Lyn credits Adam Grant as being one of the speakers who articulated this well in his keynote describing the importance of not getting lost looking for cultural fit, rather, focusing on cultural contribution.

The Australian Human Resources Institute’s CEO has a refreshing take on how she applies this to her own work, describing how she asks herself each day “What are you doing to lift the culture in the way you behave? We don’t often connect our actions to culture. If you’re not doing something overtly to lift the culture then you may be leaving it stagnant or pulling it down.”.

Prior to her current role as CEO, Lyn was formerly the National Manager of Professional Development of AHRI, which gives a whole other level of credibility to her assessment of the value, and approach of professional development opportunities for HR professionals. Lyn’s description of careers as lattices, saying that it’s not always about aspiring continuously upwards in a ladder motion. That not everything is linear was echoed when Sheryl Sandberg delivered her keynote where she also emphasized the importance of not just trying to grow your career in a linear path – if you just try and joint the dots you may well miss out on the best opportunities.

The advantage of course of being able to attend state, national and international conferences (and interacting with other HR professionals via the great idea exchange of the web) is that you can see that while we have many differing challenges between countries, there are many that are similar as well. Lyn is animated when she talks about the excitement of connecting with others who are passionate about advancing the field of HR. Her take on real career growth and development often comes back to developing peer to peer relationships and upwardly challenging your networks.

Lyn leaves me with an excellent challenge, one I hope that many other HR professionals will also take up – we need to applaud our profession for the progress that we’ve made, but we need to challenge ourselves at the same time. We cannot blame business for being confused about the value that HR can add if we haven’t created that clarity.

 

Career, Human Resources, Leadership, Reflective practice, SHRM, SHRM18, Uncategorized

The Disruption of HR

Disruption doesn’t happen from the inside.

The founders of Invisalign weren’t dentists. Uber wasn’t created by Taxi drivers. Airbnb wasn’t created by hoteliers. And yet now they dominate their industries after completely upending them.

The digital disruption means that everyone’s specialty is at risk of being toppled by someone else. Someone that doesn’t know your business and industry as well as they did. But it turns out that’s an advantage. Because they’re not constrained by the same limitations you place on yourself.

I’m fascinated by speakers in the disruption of HR, of how we treat people within business.

Over the past month I’ve been soaking up some gems from a few people who are the very thought leaders (without making you sick with an over-used term) who I believe will take HR where it needs to go to deliver on what the world of work needs in the future.

The futurist

I am lucky enough to know the fantastic Alex Hagan – Alex is the founder & CEO of Kienco, a workforce strategy consultancy based in Melbourne who works all over the world and as well as being generally excellent at what he does, is a lovely human. We got talking about the future of HR the other day.

The discussion centred around the ‘old guard’ (AKA those who live for policies, procedures, control and to say ‘no’), and the opportunity and responsibility of nurturing those who see the real value-add: to provide strategic people counsel and guidance to help organisations flourish along with the people within them. The ones who will guide the HR profession into the future, when the ‘no’ crowd’s value is superseded by apps and automation.

The Dr of Change

I went to a fascinating breakfast learning session the other week (often an oxymoron) where Dr Josephine Palermo spoke on the cultural disruption an exceptionally large telecommunications company in Australia – Telstra – is facing as it expands over borders and moves into becoming a technology company – rooting it’s change in the customer experience. I know. Customer experience. It’s so overdone. But what got me excited about hearing Josephine speak was this was real.

The key takeaway for me? That we need to move away from ‘best practice’ – there’s no such thing when you’re looking at such new concepts and changes. What you should be aiming for is ‘emerging practice’ and knowing your business well enough to create a fail fast safe environment.

This really resonated with me – it speaks to the core of what HR needs to understand, live and breathe and then teach others to do. If we’re all about people – then we should be modelling great change, understanding the people in our organisation (and by extension, our customers), and helping the business deliver on what’s required to meet our goals.

The Social Movement

I’m so fortunate to be a part of the #SHRM18 blogging crew – but what’s cooler about this than me being stoked to be a part of it is the company I get to keep. HR is a social beast and to continually improve we need to surround ourselves with people that do it differently, people that do it better, and learn and adapt and share what we know to help make work better – because isn’t that what we all want?

To be a part of the social movement making HR better I’ve got some brilliant recommendations of where to go:

  • (self promotion alert) check out the phenomenal crew of #SHRM18 bloggers – they’re all on Twitter and there’s also some great individual blogs that you can follow. It’s easy to set up a feed rather than subscribe to them all if that’s your thing? Feedly is a great resource to get all your blog/article/website articles in an easy-to-read magazine style one stop shop.
  • Definitely get onto HR Open Source. They are freaking awesome. What could be better than a community of people just like you (if you are also fantastic) who want to make HR and work better for everyone? There’s a tonne of crowd-sourcing of HR challenges, sharing of resources and just a great sense of community.
  • Soak up some podcasts. On your way to work? You can totally learn while you’re doing that. Check out:
    • Drive Thru HR (so good – and heaps of content!) hosted by @MikeVanDervort it is seriously good stuff.
    • HR Happy Hour – hosted by some of the best in the business @SteveBoese & @TrishMcFarlane.
    • Impact Makers from @JenniferMcClure – this is a new one but Jennifer is AWESOME and you should definitely check it out.
    • We’re Only Human – HR is about people, and Ben (@BenEubanks) is a phenomenal interviewer who has one of the longest histories in HR/work podcasting out there. Highly recommend.
    • Business, Life & Coffee @joeyvpriceHR, the CEO of Jumpstart:HR is an excellent interviewer and really expands your horizons with some really interesting business leaders and a wide variety of experts.
    • Talking People & Tech from @DaveGass & Jared Cameron looking at the intersection of HR & Technology.

(There are so many more I could go on about – but often I find out about a really good one from listening to another – it does become a bit of an addiction).

  • Get into the HR Book Club – it’s not too late! From the HR-famous (yeah, that’s a thing) @LRuettimann herself. Laurie also has an excellent Vlog series that you can access on her website.

So what do we need to do? Keep asking questions, soak up all the knowledge you can, and as you’re figuring it out make sure you share so we can all learn from you too!

HR for non-HR people, Human Resources, Leadership, Thinking differently

What’s Your HR Problem? (Or is it just you…)

HR wants a remuneration review.

HR wants to improve employee engagement.

HR wants to create a better graduate program.

HR wants to review performance management policies…

Ugh.

My problem with all this?

If it’s only HR wanting it, you may as well not bother.

You’ve got two options in your organisation:

  1. Employ a HR team to manage your legal liability, administration, check pay rates and holidays are by the book, manage recruitment… etc. Or,
  2. Be the kind of leader that prioritises ensuring you cultivate a brilliant place to work that people love and then, employ a HR team to help you and your leadership team achieve that.

If the opening paragraph of this article resonated with you (and you inwardly groaned because it all sounds so bloody familiar) I’m challenging you to consider – what if it’s not the HR team who is getting it wrong? What if it’s you?

The HR function has two primary purposes in my mind:

  • Ensure that the company is meeting its legal obligations, policies, procedures. remuneration etc. This stuff is boring critical but is crucially important for a well-functioning business.
  • Providing the leadership team with the tools, knowledge and advice so they can actualise the workplace they want for their people. This could be the cultivation of a zany, fun, creative workplace. Or a results-driven one. Or a family atmosphere. But the most critical component for me is that they enable the leadership to fulfil their mission.

What often happens instead of the latter is that either, the HR team aren’t set up for success in terms of team/experience, or, the leadership team doesn’t know what work environment they want, or they don’t think the HR team can help deliver it.

How do you figure out what your problem is?

If this is resonating with you and you recognise something has to change, I’d recommend looking at:

Step 1. Consider, where does your HR team report into?

Rather than a blanket ‘you should have a CHRO’ statement – as clearly there isn’t a one-size-fits-all structure that you can pick up and drop in – I’d challenge you to consider what your HR team’s place in the structure says about your priorities.

– Does the HR Director report to the CFO? An operational executive? Safety? What does that say about how important your people strategy is to your business?

– Do you have an HR Manager who is focused on the detail? Or someone the CEO comes to for advice, HR related or not.

– Is your HR function strategic? Has your structure been set up to give them that luxury?

Step 2. Ask yourself the tough questions:

– Are you the problem? Potentially your HR team has the capability to deliver much more than you’re currently allowing them to.

– Have you ever seen HR operate in a truly strategic capacity? If not, ask your network. What business leaders do you know who count their HR leader as one of their first ports of call when considering a strategic business decision?

– Do you really consider establishing the culture of the workplace as a priority? How much thought have you given, how much strategic planning time? How linked do you see the workplace environment to reaching your goals as an organisation?

Step 3: Conduct a HR review:

Two years ago, I completed a piece of research for my Masters on how my organisation’s shared service functions were delivering on what the operational part of the business required (and the concept of organisational drift – thanks Snook). As a part of this work I examined the literature around how shared service teams evaluate their own work, vs those they business partner with. Surprise surprise, we’re often not great at critically reviewing our own work.

Be wary of engaging a random consultant to analyse your team, instead, go with recommendations and someone who has successfully reshaped HR teams for reasons driven by the business. This can’t just be a review of your HR function either – remember, the problem could be bigger than just the team! So, as well as their capability, capacity and ability to deliver to the business, look at their remit, the support and the responsibility given to the team.

Woah! That’s a lot of food for thought. If this is something that you’re keen to talk more about I’d love hear your thoughts.

Book review, Leadership, Working in People & Culture

Your Pet Project Is Probably Going to Fail

….but there might be some things you can do to avoid it.

 

The successful execution of a project, like the creation of any effective work environment, is reliant on the leadership of the group. In a project’s case, this falls heavily on the Project Manager (PM) and Project Sponsor.

Colin D Ellis’ first book The Conscious Project Leader is an excellent guide for effective project management, and his new book, ‘The Project Rots from the Head’ really hits the nail on the head in regards to the issues with projects today and provides a guide for how project sponsors can avoid theirs ending up with the majority of projects that fail.

What Ellis gets right, that many in the project management space do not, is that projects are primarily about people – and successful projects are fruitful because of great leadership, not budgets or task lists. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ellis speak, and like his presentation style, the book is lively and entertaining, as well as clearly knowing demonstrating that Ellis knows his stuff. He’s passionate about people being front of mind when managing, or sponsoring a project, as it’s the people that will make it a success (or not).

Far too many times I’ve seen projects that should have been a slam dunk fail because the PM is not adequately supported by their sponsor, or worse, the sponsor has inadvertently undermined the PM’s effectiveness due to a lack of understanding of their role.

As I read the book with an HR lens, I found the lessons glaring, considering the types of projects that happen within our space, and the negative impact on the people within a workplace when they don’t go to plan (missed pays or badly planned restructures anyone?).

Ellis’ book though is not written with an HR audience specifically in mind, the lessons are universal, and due to Ellis’ easy-to-read style, also simple to absorb and apply.

Shockingly, 71% of projects fail, the Project Management Institute estimates that $3 trillion is spent annually on projects –that’s $2.13 trillion going towards failed ones each year! ‘The Project Rots from the Head’ is an excellent how-to guide, to help those that have senior leadership roles and stewardship over projects a practical way to avoid the negative statistics. The book is broken into the three key areas of project sponsorship: stewardship, decisions and results.

Ellis states unequivocally that “without strong accountability a project will fail at the first sign of trouble, time and time again.”

If you’re wondering whether this book is for you (or perhaps a gloriously suggestive New Year gift for your senior leadership team), pose yourself the following questions – which project sponsors should be able to answer:

1. What is the project vision?
2. What stage of the project are you in? (or sprint if it’s an agile project)
3. What are the outstanding decisions that need to be made?
4. What is the biggest risk to the project?
5. What is the projected cost of the project and how different is this to the business case?
6. What are the reasons for the difference?
7. What is the projected live date of the project and how different is this to the plan?
8. What are the reasons for the difference?
9. Will the benefits stated in the business case be realized?
10. If not, why not? Should the project be stopped?

Leadership, Working in People & Culture

A Conversation With #SHRM16 Speaker Craig Briscoe

HR’s ‘seat at the table’ is something that is often waxed lyrical about, again, and again, and again. We’re given 10,000 reasons why we should already be there, why we’ll never get there, what you’re doing wrong, what your CEO is doing wrong and why we need a HR revolution to get there.

Quietly though, some organisations are evolving towards the Holy Grail of HR bloggers: a genuine seat at the table. If you’re heading to #SHRM16 you’ll be lucky enough to hear from one organisation where HR can confidently say that they’re ahead of the curve. They wouldn’t though, the lovely Craig Briscoe (VP, Human Resources – Commercial Sales and Enterprise Solutions at Dell) is delightfully humble when discussing the Dell HR team’s critical role in strategic partnership at the 110,000 strong company, emphasizing that the journey to real strategic partner is always evolving.

Craig is speaking with David Cabrera (Regional HR Director and HR Business partner at the ‘Role of HR in Dell’s Multiple Business Transformations’ session at the annual SHRM conference.

Craig describes himself as “more of a business leader with an HR bent” which I believe is exactly why he has been in a position to play such a key role in the multiple business transformations at Dell over the past 15 years. Dell itself has undergone a huge amount of change during that time – from a US centric company of around 25,000, through an IPO, privatisation and now through the biggest tech merger in history (changing its name to Dell Technologies) with the acquisition of EMC.

The process of going through multiple acquisitions, considering cultural change, determining what is important (ethics, says Craig) and what isn’t (you can keep the BBQ in your staff room) has meant that Dell is continuously learning from their experiences. These acquisitions have also meant that the HR team has fine-tuned their ability to accurately assess talent as it walks in the door. Craig says there’s been “no shortage of learning opportunities” from these experiences and the team has been able to constantly improve their approach.

Perhaps the thing that resonated with me most when hearing Craig speak about his experiences at Dell, is the fact that he doesn’t see ‘having a seat at the table’ being a choice we have to make in sacrificing great traditional HR. Rather it’s something that the HR team gets to add on top of fantastic HR consulting, generalist and specialist support. Craig describes with real respect an excellent HR leader that he works with who can strategize with the best of them, but is as equally comfortable working in the detail when required. This ability to balance between specialist/traditional HR and strategic insight results in well-rounded HR experts who have the respect of their peers and stakeholders. Craig emphasises the value of giving HR Generalists opportunities to develop in the strategic space, he says that many of our best and brightest excel in this space but are never given the opportunity to because they’re swamped with administration and the policy/procedure aspects of the role.

It is because of this that Dell have placed huge value on getting the HR structure right, being one of the first to implement a BP model with specialist centres of excellence. Craig is quick to emphasise that this is about the liberation of talented people from the transactional and it has resulted in real dividends for the business in allowing Business Partners to focus on value adds. Business Partners are often the first in the room when big decisions are being discussed, well prior to when the people implications are being sorted through. Craig takes time to keep coming back to the fact that there is no position on the HR team where it’s just thinking and being brilliant – it’s not an either or. He and other senior HR team members are in and out of spreadsheets every day, it’s a key part of their role to know the business inside out and it’s important for the team to never get too far from their roots.

Dell’s emphasis on being a great business partner to their clients has influenced its ability to harness the strategic potential of HR. In transitioning to becoming a business partner (rather than the company you just buy your server from) emphasis has been focused on the transition being in their people – because 90% of this change is in hiring and developing the right ones. This change has resulted in Dell changing how it screens for leaders differently – and Craig emphasises that HR is continually learning and evolving in this space. This has been particularly felt in high level recruitment in their worldwide operations – Dell has moved towards hiring and developing experts in the market rather than relying on expats with the technical skill set having to acclimatise to the market.

I’m so excited to hear Craig speak about these (and more) lessons he’s learned in his time at Dell. The lessons of a team who are successfully rationalizing their ‘seat at the table’ fills me with confidence that we don’t have to choose between ‘new’ and ‘old’ HR, we just have to keep learning, growing and evolving so we can make sure that we offer the best service we possibly can to the organisations we work with.

 

Originally published at the 2016 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition site: http://blog.shrm.org/blog/a-conversation-with-shrm16-speaker-craig-briscoe