HR Happy Hour #201: Putting the Fun Into Analytics

A few weeks ago, Steve and I had the opportunity to record a HR Happy Hour episode with Mike Psenka, SVP of Workforce Solutions at Equifax and Edward Pertwee, Strategic Workforce Consultant at BT.  We had just conducted a panel discussion on how to leverage data and analytics for HR and organizational success.

Mike and Ed both shared some excellent examples, (both in the panel and in the HR Happy Hour podcast), of how, where, and to what effect data and analytics are making an impact in workforce planning, compliance, and to improve business results. There are some amazingly powerful applications for using data in a wide variety of contexts – where to locate company facilities, the effect of demographic shifts on performance, and how long commute times impact engagement and satisfaction.

Additionally, Steve defended Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks, I told Steve that the number ‘201’ should not be said as ‘two hundred and one’, and we learned that a husband should never question the strength and intensity of his wife’s labor contractions.

You can listen to the show on the show page here, and using the widget player below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through).

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio

As always, you can listen to the current and all the past shows from the archive on the show page here, on our HR Happy Hour website, and by subscribing to the show in podcast form on iTunes, or for Android devices using Stitcher Radio (or your favorite podcast app). Just search the iTunes store or your podcast app for ‘HR Happy Hour’ to add the show to your subscriptions.

This was a really fun show with some fantastic guests and I hope you enjoy listening!

4 Things to Do Today to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

We can all use a little ongoing development.  There are certain skills that few people can master and never think about improving.  One of those skills is the art of negotiation.  I admit, there are people who seem to ooze confidence when it comes to wheeling-and-dealing to achieve the result they want.  However, for the majority, being able to negotiate a quality resolution is sporadic at best.

When thinking about negotiating, you could be facing a multi-million dollar deal on the table, a choice between vendors on a specific service or type of software, buying a home, or something as simple as managing your workload.  Negotiation, like any skill, is something you can improve over time as you continue to practice.  And, it’s not about winning or getting everything you want and ensuring the other person does not.  When done well, it’s about skillfully and creatively arriving at a solution that both parties can walk away from with dignity and a level of satisfaction.

According to an article in Psychology Today, by a factor of 2.5, more women than men feel a “great deal of apprehension” about negotiating, reports economist Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon. Women go to great lengths to avoid the bargaining process—paying almost $1,400 more to avoid negotiating the price of a car. (That may explain why 63 percent of those who buy cars made by Saturn, a company that promises a no-haggle price, are women.) But “failing to negotiate her salary just once will cost a woman $500,000 over the course of her career,” she says.  Statistics like those are reason enough to prove that by being a strong, confident negotiator, you can receive more value over time in your interactions.

There are 4 ways to improve your negotiation skills:

  1. Know What You Want vs What You Need- One mistake we make is to believe that what we want is what we are negotiating for.  This should not be the case.  In order to be most successful, you need to focus time on determining exactly what you need.  For example, I recently participated in a negotiation exercise where another person and I had to negotiate for an orange.  We could not share with each other why we wanted the orange.  In my case, I needed the orange zest for something.  The other person needed the orange juice.  But, without proper negotiation, we fell into the ease that most people would of just dividing the orange in half.  That solution did not really give us what we needed.  We both wanted the whole orange.  We each needed only a part.  Dividing it in half was not the most successful outcome.  Had we been allowed to communicate our needs, we could have arrived at the solution that I would take the rind and she would take the inside of the orange.  Then, each person would have had exactly what we needed.
  2. Arm Yourself With Information- Taking time to research that company you want to work for, the interest rates and terms of a mortgage option or the goals of the department head that you are fighting with over resources will be time well spent.  The more you can learn about the needs of the other side, the better off you will be at creatively arriving at the best solution.
  3. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Honest-   A good example of honesty paying off comes when negotiating workload.  Many employees today get their work from multiple sources; a supervisor, other colleagues, company leaders, clients, vendors, volunteers…the list goes on and on.  After sifting through what needs to be done, being able to approach certain people and squarely addressing and negotiating different deadlines and deliverables will be key to better managing your work.  Be honest about the various pulls on your time and ask them what aspects of the request are flexible.  Start negotiating there.
  4. Build Relationships- In the end, being able to negotiate a situation with someone will ideally build a stronger relationship with that person.  By showing respect and understanding for the other person’s needs, that person will likely want to keep the relationship going.

Those are a few ways I have been able to have more successful negotiations.  What am I missing?  What techniques do you use?  Be sure to share them in the comments.

Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out

Whiplash-37013_5Feedback can hurt.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my career.  I’ve received the painful “gift” of feedback from well-intentioned but unduly harsh bosses.  I’ve watched as bright, creative souls were pounded day after day, year after year by tyrant supervisors.  It is appalling.  And if you’re in HR, it’s likely that you’ve given these types of leaders training at some point on how to give more constructive feedback.

You see, for some reason it seems that people either avoid giving feedback and tell other people when someone is doing poorly (in their opinion) or they fly off the handle and use hurtful, unconstructive words that are not meant to motivate, but to belittle and destroy.

Or are they?

I just watched the movie Whiplash and first, let me tell you, no~ EMPLORE you, to watch the movie if you haven’t.  As someone who tries to watch as many Oscar-nominated films before the Academy Awards, this particular film did not make it to a theater near me in time.  If it had, I would have been furious watching Birdman win for Best Picture knowing that the GEM that is Whiplash was overlooked.

Watch the movie.

Ok, back to the story.  As I watched the movie about an over zealous conductor and his harsh training and feedback for one of his studio drummers, I realized that sometimes, there is a reason feedback needs to hurt.  I started wondering if we’re getting too soft in this era of giving every child a trophy for participation and every employee the “warm fuzzy” feeling just because we think if we don’t, they will bash us on Glassdoor or on social media.  It’s like being led by fear.

The truth is that sometimes, people need harsh feedback.  Sometimes, for feedback to take hold and inspire the person to change, we need to make an impression.  It is a fine line to walk between being helpful and being too brutal.  So, what do you do if your boss is a tyrant when it comes to feedback?

  • Take a deep breath and determine the motive.  Some people are just mean for the sake of being mean.   If that’s the case, RUN.  If not, move on to the next step.
  • Is this out of character?  If your boss is usually constructive and sporadically gives harsh feedback that you can somehow determine is well intentioned, it could be for your own good.  Grit your teeth and bear it.  Try to look past the delivery and cling to the underlying message to understand what you can do to improve.
  • What’s the boss’ motive?  Is their boss riding their ass?  Are they taking the blame for something you did?  Try to figure out why the feedback is harsh.  You may need to take a break for the boss to calm down, then ask for a meeting another time to discuss specific ways you could have performed better.

 

Now, what if YOU are known as the tyrant?  

Well, first you need to decide if you just like being that way or if there is a real reason.  If you enjoy verbally torturing people, get used to the fact that you’ll likely always have high turnover because many people will not put up with your crap.  If you are only harsh situationally, you’re probably ok.  Make sure you’re not violating any workplace policies or breaking any laws (of course). As long as you’re not, then try to use harsher feedback only when absolutely necessary to make your point and to get the recipient to make a change.

Have you worked for a boss that gave feedback that was harsh?  Are you that boss?  Tell me about your experience in the comments. 

Do Your Leader’s Expectations Limit Your Team?

bad leaderI recently listened to an episode of the podcast This American Life that caused me to see the world differently.  In the episode ‘Batman”, Daniel Kish was highlighted.  If you’re not familiar with Daniel’s story, I encourage you to listen to the episode or learn more here.  Basically, Daniel was born blind.  He intuitively began exploring the world by clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth.  This type of echolocation somehow allows him to navigate his surroundings without the use of a cane or other assistive device.  Because it is similar to the ways bats navigate, he was called Batman.
In the episode, one thing Daniel shared really stood out.  Society limits blind people with our expectations.  We don’t expect that they will be able to navigate easily, ride a bike, play sports, etc.  If a blind child is subjected to growing in this type of environment, it’s possible it can actually limit the child’s potential.  Daniel stressed being supportive of people, regardless of what our preconceived notions and expectations are.
I started thinking about how this plays out in the workplace.  It raises the question do your leader’s expectations or preconceived notions limit your team?
 
This question is not meant to incite leaders everywhere.  I pose it as a way to ponder whether or not we are limiting our team performance.  Consider the following:
  • If a leader creates a goal for a team, team member or project and provides some or all of the steps to reach the goal (a.k.a. micro-managing), are they limiting the performance of the team?
  • Are leaders so entrenched in certain approaches that they are not providing environments where employees are encouraged to be creative, innovative and able to come up with new processes to achieve business goals?
  • If your supervisor does not see the real skills of the team, can it hinder the success even though each member is giving their all?
What is your experience?  Have you seen this play out in your workplace?  Please share in the comments if you’ve seen it or even better, if you’ve seen how it is corrected.

Christmas Re-Gifting: Good Idea or Torture?

*From the dusty archives…

The Frowl- photo courtesy of Chris Frede (@HR_Buoy)

The Frowl- photo courtesy of Chris Frede (@HR_Buoy)

Well, we’re full on in the gift giving season and I’m wondering about re-gifting.  I don’t do it BUT, I have received several presents over the years that still sit in the closet, unopened.  Maybe I should give them to someone else.

Let’s see, I have:

  • Several strange ornaments
  • Some nice binoculars.  These are cool, but I really haven’t found anything I need to see that close up.
  • A puzzle of New York City.  I like to travel to NYC, not make puzzles of the skyline.
  • A bible.  Ok, I already have a bible.  Don’t know why someone thought I’d need a new one.  The old one does ok and quite honestly, the only one I read is the Children’s version anymore.
  • Movies like The Money Pit, Major League, and Batman Dark Knight. I’m fairly certain those should be given away.

So, you see, I could really give some great gifts to my family and friends and not have to brave the stores.  At my last job, we all re-gifted one hideous gift.  It was called the Frowl.  It was a pottery piece that looked like a cross between a frog and an owl.  It was either some odd candle holder or a toothbrush holder.  We figured that out because it had holes in the belly.  Each person who received it couldn’t wait to pass it on to someone else at the next holiday or milestone.

What do you think about re-gifting?  Do you do it?  What’s the WORST gift you’ve ever re-gifted or received that you think was re-gifted to you?  Share in the comments!

Get Over Yourself: Stop Focusing On Generational Differences

generationNewsflash:  There are generational differences in the workplace.  Have you heard about it? (I’m dripping with sarcasm here people)

There are articles, presentations, videos, reports, posts, podcasts, and more.  You name it and it has been talked about, ad nauseam. Like many issues that come up in the HR world, we spend time talking endlessly about the problem but not enough time on the solution.  Generational differences in the workplace are no different.

There are labels and definitions for each generation.  Are you a Boomer?  Gen X?  Gen Y? We’re told how each generation feels and thinks and why they can’t relate to all the other generations.  But you know what?  At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter.

IT DOES NOT MATTER

There have always been differences from generation to generation.  If we could spend as much time perfecting how individuals can work effectively together as we do on talking about how generations don’t, we’d have the most productive workforce ever.

So, how do we do that?  One thing that occurred to me recently was that when I meet people via social media outlets, I never even think about their age.  I have older friends, younger friends, and age is not an issue.  They are mostly HR professionals and I have had some great collaborating experiences with them and age has never come up.  If anything, any differences in our ages made our output better because we were incorporating many different viewpoints.

This social attitude needs to be brought into the forefront at the workplace. We should be designing work experiences and rewards for behaviors such as:

  • Focusing on the quality of the work, not the age of the employee.
  • Staying relevant no matter what your age. Reading, networking, sharing ideas.
  • Getting to know what works best for individuals, not their generation.
  • Refusing to categorize employees based on age or generation when building a team.

We will never be able to fully understand the events that shape behaviors of people born in a different generation because we did not live through those events.  Why not agree that although differences exist, we must not focus on them.  Instead, focus on similarities in the values and behaviors that we share. That is what will bind strong teams and build more productive workplaces.

Gentle Mentors Are Not Helpful- Or Are They?

handsI am blessed.  Really.

You don’t have to even believe in God to know that I am blessed in the sense that I have mentors who love and care for me.  Like many people, I have more than one.  In fact, I have too many to count.  Of all those people, 4 are extra special to me because they seem to know my soul, not just what is near the surface.  Two are female and two are male.  Each one guides me in such drastically different ways, yet I am always amazed that their guidance collectively leads me in one direction.

I once had someone tell me that gentle mentors are not helpful.  If you define gentle as someone who is passive or not direct with feedback, then I agree.  But in my world, gentle is someone who can empathize with me and yet still tell me the truth.

How To Be A Gentle Mentor

  1. Have an empathetic ear
  2. Listen, listen, listen
  3. Encourage the person to show emotion- whatever that emotion is
  4. Be honest but not cutting with your feedback and advice

Have you had a gentle mentor?  Have you thanked them lately?  I think we all have a great opportunity to be this type of mentor to someone.

Best Way To Help? Be A Good Listener

*From the dusty archives…Man Putting Fingers in Ears

I overheard an exchange between a mother and young child at a store the other day.  The child was trying to communicate with the mom and the mom said, “The best way to help is be a good listener.”  The child began to talk and the mom quickly and ferociously cut her off and said in a sharp, condescending voice, “Oh, you’re already not being a good listener!  The best way to help is to be a good listener.”  This went back and forth for several minutes with both the mom and the daughter becoming louder and more firm in their response.  Finally, the daughter gave up.  You know what?  No one won.

That’s right.  In her zeal to teach her child that the best way to help is by being a good listener, she completely missed the fact that she was NOT LISTENING.  Now, I’m not the perfect mom all the time, just about 50% of the time.  Seriously, I know that little ones can try your patience.  But the point is that we spend so much time trying to teach someone else what is “right” that we don’t do it ourselves.  It’s no different in the workplace.

How many times do we see managers telling an employee the same thing over and over only to have the employee do something completely different?  How many employees have to come to HR to complain that their manager never listens to them?  Then, HR has to try to give recommendations on how to bridge the gap in that conversation.  I’d say it’s almost a daily routine.  What we need to do is tell managers to start talking less and listen more.

If an employee is not doing something “right”, instead of telling him that the manager could say, “Hey, I see how you’re doing XYZ.  Tell me how that is working for you.”- This allows the employee a chance to say why they do something a certain way, aka have their voice heard.  Then, the manager can follow up with something like, “That seems like a good reason.  Have you ever thought of doing XYZ to enhance that?”  Now you’re in a dialogue and the employee is far more likely to embrace the suggestion.

By taking time to really listen to an employee you will achieve better results in terms of:

  • Engagement- Employees who have their voice heard and then see those ideas validated will have higher levels of engagement with you and the department.
  • Teaching and Coaching- When you listen to the employee, you have a greater chance that you can teach them why something is important to handle in a certain way.  They will be more accepting of process changes, procedure changes, or other change happening in the department.  This is also the way to give them opportunity to voice their concerns and you the opportunity to coach them through it.
  • Learning- Even the highest level executives are continuous learners.  By taking that extra time to listen to an employee, you will definitely learn something.  It will spark new ideas, new ways to communicate, help you develop your own skill as a leader, and more.

So, the next time you are coaching your leaders, make sure they understand that by pausing to listen to the employees, they will reap the rewards.  What other techniques do you use to convince leaders that listening is one of the most valuable tools they have?  Share it in the comments.