Above Average Performance

Much can be said about highly motivated passionate professionals who are driven to succeed through internal motivating factors. In January 2010 the HR Professional magazine printed a cover story by Rick Smith who gave some invaluable insights into transforming average performance and the passion of one’s work into exceptional work that drives organizations forward. The statistics according to Smith are overwhelming. He notes that on average professionals believe they can be 35% more productive if they were in a role that fully leveraged their unique strengths and passions. The same study by Spencer and Stuart indicates that only 5% of our current workforce is in such a role. This awe-inspiring statistics gives insight that 95% of the workforce can be more productive than we currently are.

There is an unprecedented untapped organizational potential that goes to waste yearly.  Smith goes on to say that It is HR’s most important responsibility to help individuals toward roles that fully leverage their strengths.” In doing so HR and the HR strategy brings forth many benefits to the individual workers and the organization.  The second question posed then becomes, why more individuals are not in roles that are meant for them? As was the case when we were going through school and trying to decide our career paths some of our co-workers and colleagues are still unsure what their strengths and passions are. Perhaps it is partially because they have been underutilized and not given the opportunities to shine, or maybe it is because their roles seem so stringently defined that it leaves little room for creative expression. Another scenario could be that we are not giving employees enough actionable information to proactively direct their careers. These two factors can easily derail someone’s productivity.

“By providing employees in your organization with the right tools and practices, you’ll help them quickly find and occupy roles (or make changes in their current roles) that will begin to unleash their full potential. This creates a workforce characterized by maximum productivity, high morale and employee loyalty-vital ingredients for any organization seeking to remain competitive in today’s business climate”.

Smith suggests the following guidelines in building a productive workforce:

  • Help employees identify their strengths and passions
  • Find activities to fully engage the employee
  • Accelerate acquisition of new skills
  • Help employees migrate their careers
  • make small changes in daily jobs to evoke the employees core aptitudes and interests
  • facilitate employees’ research of other roles and career paths available to them within the organization (starting the process to succession planning)
  • show employees how to conduct low-risk experiments to test possible new job activities

In looking at this information, I wonder whether a survey or a research paper can be written that analyses the productivity within HR departments compared to other departments within similar organizations. Is it likely that HR departments and functions are as productive as they ever will be? We are the specialists in this capacity and we have the tools and knowledge to capitalize on this “actionable information”. Do we do as the article suggests and take advantage of the lost productivity, firstly within our careers and then promote the same amongst our peers?

Throughout my professional career, I have had many opportunities which allowed me to innovative processes, roll out shifts in strategic direction, come up with new ways of communicating changes, and take part in high scope projects. During these tasks I strived to utilize information proactively while making a leap in personal growth, greater productivity and mitigating risk. A part of this ongoing drive is due to the encouragement of my professors, networking colleagues, senior executive team and the general culture of the business which constantly allow me to tie in concepts from the “big picture” to the organization needs.

Left Handers

Today my Left-Hander’s Calendar indicates that:

Studies show that lefties are less locked into one way of doing things, their options are more open, and adjustment to the environment are often less problematic for them than for right-handed people.

As a lefty and an HR Professional, I wonder how many transitional projects are led by lefties and how many of these strategical shifts are successful where lefties outnumber the right handers?

Social Media

It is only fitting that given the ambiguity of the subject of social media and my recent decision to start a blog I comment on its nature. My decision to utilize  social media  is  simple: 1) I’ve always been  tech savvy, especially in comparison to my female peers; 2)  I have not been afraid of computer hardware and software related items and have viewed them  as building blocks or LEGO pieces which fit together; 3) I wanted to get my name out in the world and create more possibilities to network with others; 4)I wanted a personal brand.

Social media has become an important part of our everyday lives; facebook, flikr, twitter, vimeo, linkedin and a variety of other social networks allow us insight into other peoples’ lives, thoughts and opinions. There are two main schools of thought:

a)     Social media allows the corporate world to be more creative  when building a brand

b)    Social media tarnishes the employers’ image and makes it hard to control what employees may say about the organization

Not surprisingly both these views are contradictory to each other; one vows to build company brand; the other tarnishes it. The two extremes focus on either the benefits or the downfalls of utilizing social media. They also ignore the simple notion of the “grey aspects” that lie between them. Is allowing employees to use social media in the workplace without restrictions a recipe for lower productivity? Or is it a venue to build knowledge, information sharing and networking possibilities?In Human Resources; I have seen more and more utilization of social media to exchange ideas; brainstorming of standards and sharing information related to everyday and strategic ventures which help the companies move forward. Often, social media is looked at when recruiting. Can someone’s blog cost them a job? Is my online activity detrimental to the business and my professional credibility?

An employees’ restricted access at work to social media does not limit them from using any of their preferred networks at home. It does however, perhaps allow the people to focus on the work at hand rather than checking their facebook page and playing Farmville throughout the day. As with any other technological advancement, policies on use and times of use should be defined. On the other hand from an individual perspective it is important that the internet serves as a window into our lives and our reputations. I try to leverage my face-to-face networking with that of the digital world. The social media aspect helps me interact with friends; keep in touch with past colleagues and friends as the global world becomes smaller and further gain a greater knowledgebase. It does not eliminate the need for outings, phone calls and the occasional coffee or tea (although sometimes realistically schedules do).

Personally I keep in mind that:

1)     what I write is a reflection of me

2)      I control what goes on each and every page

3)     I can utilize the social media network for good or bad

4)     my social media life may influence my business life

These four rules are guiding factors for me on what I chose to display in any social media network. Hiding from the social media network in the 21st century or embracing it wholeheartedly is not as cut and dry as it seems.  I try to find value in the social media world and capitalize on the advantages that it has for me, my company and my networking contacts. In short, social media, personal branding and Human Resources have collided!

Measuring Your Life

Recently I came across the article “How will you Measure Your Life” by Clayton M. Christensen. This reflective and well written article looks at applying various perspectives, principles and theories to gain happiness in an individuals’ personal life. Christensen’s thinking is routed in his deep religious faith an uncommon occurrence in Business writing. Needless to say this article, lead me to think about various aspects of creating a strategy for life and its impact on other facets of my life outside of my drive to succeed in my career. I highly recommend reading it, the free preview is available on HBR.org website until the end of October: http://hbr.org/2010/07/how-will-you-measure-your-life/ar/pr

How can we be sure we find Happiness in our careers?

As theory suggests money is not the most powerful motivator. We have been taught throughout our lives that money provides us with the opportunity to satisfy our needs. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, money allows us to enjoy the foundation of his pyramid Frederick Herzberg asserts that the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others and be recognized for achievements then takes precedence. Surely, that has to be accurate; think about your careers and imagine yourself driving home with high self esteem, feeling you have learned a lot, been recognized for achieving valuable things and played a significant role in the success of some important initiatives. Such a perspective will have great beneficial impact not only on your wellbeing at work but will spill over into your home life.

Creating a Strategy for Your Life:

Sitting around a boardroom table with some executives very early on in my career I was asked what my mission and vision was. I quickly responded by indicating where I would like my career path to lead, how I was going to get there and what I was going to be able to contribute to the organization. I was stumped when asked how my personal life would fit into the overall happiness and strategy of my life. Back then, although familiar with managing resources within an organization the impact of the home life on my work life did not play a big impact. After all, I was still living at home, paid only minimal bills; had only so many responsibilities and resource allocation was something that could be distributed quite easily.

Fast forward a few years; and the resource allocation dilemma gets bigger; the strategy for life has to be well tuned so that all the aspects that I would want to fulfil within a short time would come to fruition.

How would I:
  • Move to a new city
  • Start a new job
  • Continue pursuing my CHRP designation
  • Buy a house, pay all my bills
  • Get married
  • Renovate a house
  • Start focusing on a Masters; a very demanding academic program
  • Establish myself in my faith community
  • Establish myself in the business community
  • Be effective at work
  • Succeed and contribute at work

The list becomes daunting and without a plan more challenging. How was I going to proceed? How was I going to ensure that my relationship with my family proved to be an enduring source of happiness? I surely came to understand and perhaps am still learning that “The choice and successful pursuit of a profession is but one tool for achieving my purpose”.

Allocating Resources:

Much like Clayton Christensen noted my list formed a “bunch of businesses that would compete for resources in my life”. Thinking about the investment of resources we have to look at investing wisely to try and eliminate mistakes. We do in fact place a lot of resources in our careers; as they are the most concrete evidence that we are moving forward. Christensen further explains that people who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers – even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.

Create a Culture:

My husband and I set out to create a model which Christensen refers to as “Tools of Cooperation”. We set out actions which we agreed upon that would yield positive desired results, we set out to utilize acceptable methods by which we could overcome various problems, challenges what role each one of us would play in the process and how things were going to get done. Priorities were set and the order of each success goal defined so that we can clearly evaluate the achievement along the way. The other quadrant was also analyzed; what aspects did we not agree on, what would the actions of pursuing a venture singlehandedly yield?

Remembering the Importance of Humility:

Humility is something I strive to hold on to during the course of my life; there is always something to learn from everyone, from every walk of life.”If you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited”. Although, it is hard to think this way sometimes, I revert back to Christensens’ thinking –  “Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people.”

This article has provided me an opportunity to once again revisit my inner values, focus on both career happiness and personal happiness bringing to the forefront that they do interact. A well written piece which has rejuvenated my excitement for management; the business world; the possibilities for me as an HR professional making a contribution to society as a whole; and the pursuit of happiness in my personal life.

Hello World!

After long deliberation and dragging of my heels,  I have finally started a blog. Why? Well, first because it will allow me to reflect on the work that I am passionate about.  Second, to comment on current issues and keep up to date while entertaining the rest of you… my readers. An individual is likely to have greater job motivation if they enjoy what they do… this blog is to reflect just that.  I am enthusiastic about my profession, the difference HR can make in organizations and the new structure of HR that is being embraced by more firms today.  There has been some debate about the HR Role as a Business and Strategic Partner, however if one looks at the responsibilities that are entrusted to HR professionals it is clearly evident that David Ulrich was right all along.

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