HRA Blog

Building the Best Teams – The Ultimate Recipe for Success

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

I’ve been extremely fortunate over the years to find great talent. I don’t mean to brag, but we have one of the best teams in the business, some of whom I’ve been working with for close to 12 years. Truthfully, I consider these individuals to be part of my family. I’m often asked by clients, partners and colleagues how we built this close family of HR professionals, and what were the traits or characteristics I looked for when building our team.

While there’s no one size fits all approach to building good teams, we’ve tried for the most part to remain consistent in finding the right talent by emphasizing client needs in tandem with personality intangibles.

I first look at our clients’ needs and evaluate what we already have in place. What skill sets do we already have? Where do we need greater experience and diversity? In addition, we often try and anticipate future client needs when evaluating candidates’ experiences. Sometimes you have to take a risk and not let the right candidate slip away who might have a skill set you’ll need down the road.

It’s also very important to evaluate the personalities of the individuals making up the team. As HR consultants, we need to know if they have the drive and passion for HR, the flexibility to be available for different types of projects, or the willingness to drop everything at the last minute when a client has an immediate need.

Maintaining this team dynamic hasn’t been easy. Over the years, we’ve had our ups and downs in the consulting business and our team’s attitude has been impacted by this economic volatility. Many organizations, ours included, had a real concern about losing talent when the economy picked back up. However, by taking great care of our team during the downturn, we lessened the risk of losing talent when the economy improved. This is an important piece of advice that we give to all of our clients. If you want to keep your talent, take care of them during downturns even if it means reduced profits for your organization.

Now granted, over the years, some of our team members have left for other opportunities, which happens to everyone. While we certainly don’t want to impede their professional opportunities, whenever we lose a team member we ask ourselves if there was anything that we could have done differently that would have possibly resulted in a different outcome. That’s a really important point, you must constantly reevaluate how you’re sourcing, hiring and retaining your talent, there’s always room for improvement.

Ultimately, these factors have allowed us to build a really wonderful team of dedicated HR professionals. I wouldn’t necessarily say that our process is unique, because many of our clients and partners have taken similar steps and assembled fantastic teams with tremendous dedication, abilities and skill sets. But although our processes work for us, ultimately you have to build a process that works for you.

For me, the truest barometer that I place when evaluating a team member is feeling confident that I know they will represent our brand well and provide our clients with the right tools to meet their HR challenges. I think that’s a pretty great formula for a fantastic team.

Fall into a Healthier Workplace

Written by Mary Lake on .

With the tress exploding with color and falling temperatures bringing the season’s first frost, I’m constantly reminded that fall is here and winter is just around the corner. While I love this time of year, I dislike the inevitable decline in my activity levels. With the holidays almost upon us, so too are the additional calories to my regular diet. Sitting behind my desk all day, I find a real lack of motivation to exercise since it’s dark and cold by the time I get home.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to this issue. So, what can organizations do to help their employees maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially around this time of year? Many companies are offering their employees wellness programs at work. Some are elaborate, while others are quite simple. My son’s employer provided their employees a Fitbit to encourage them to maintain their health and wellness. They also provide a stipend to use at gyms, tennis clubs, and yoga studios. IBM, Virgin and Google all offer extensive programs, but not all companies have the resources of these large corporations. Many of our clients are creating minor to major programs, so organizations should try to identify what they can do and what works best for their employees.

A wellness program can have many elements to it. From health education to on-site screenings, the approach to supporting employee health and wellness can vary greatly. In November of 2012, Forbes provided four great steps to implementing a corporate health and wellness program.

Step 1. Determine the need of the employee and the employer. It is important to identify the needs of the employees and what they are looking for in a wellness program. An employee survey will help you to see what needs are pressing and what employees’ thoughts are on a wellness program. It is also important to understand the organization’s goals and available resources for providing a wellness program.

Step 2. Analyze the data and create a plan. Once the needs, goals and resources have been identified, analyze the data and develop a wellness program that will meet those needs. Be realistic and accept that everything may not be implemented at once. Do you bring in health screeners first, perhaps someone to provide flu shots? Or is your priority to provide an on-site education program or fitness classes? Perhaps providing a fitness stipend is what will work best for your employees.

Step 3. Create a communication plan. Developing a wellness program is an important initiative and will require communication to your employees. Develop a communication plan that will not only inform your employees of what is being done, but will also encourage them to participate. Keep the communication going throughout the year to keep it on everyone’s mind.

Step 4. Put an incentive plan in place. We all know that breaking old habits is difficult, but is often easier when there is an incentive to do so. Put an incentive plan in place for your employees such as bonuses, reduction in insurance premiums or create team challenges. Make participation in the wellness program fun and worthwhile!

Healthier employees are happier employees. Happier employees are more productive and engaged employees. Helping employees maintain or develop healthier lifestyle choices through the cold weather will help us all to avoid some of the winter doldrums that we face as the weather turns cold and days grow shorter. It is a win-win for all!

No More Traffic Cops…in HR

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

We’ve been helping many organizations with HR Leadership searches over the past year and I have been pleasantly surprised at how all of our clients are using the words “strategic,” “big picture,” “value” and “progressive” when describing how these job functions align with HR and the overall business.

I can remember earlier in my career when the words to describe the HR profession and responsibilities were “hire and fire,” “police officers,” “compliance,” “personnel department”, etc. Fortunately, there has been a current shift towards words such as “counselors,” “human capital management,” “human potential,” “talent acquisition,” etc.

Some may say that these are simply the latest buzzwords or flavor of the month, but I don’t really think that’s the case. I think there has been a tremendous amount of progress in how organizations view and utilize their HR departments. Is this a coincidence? In today’s hypercompetitive environment, organizations are looking top to bottom on how to optimize their workforce and leverage their expertise to gain competitive advantages. HR is no different.

For example, we work with a lot of engineering and architecture firms. Engineers are paid to do engineering, architects are paid to do architecture, but historically, more often than not, these professionals would also handle HR responsibilities (and still do depending on the size of the organization).

The good news is that folks started making comments like ‘we don’t have expertise in this area,” or more bluntly, “we don’t know, what we don’t know.”

As with other areas of work, it’s important to recognize individual and professional strengths and it’s important to similarly recognize challenges and/or weaknesses. In other words, I as an HR professional, have no business providing any advice on how to design a road, build a bridge or create an annual campaign for a non-profit organization. I leave the experts in those fields to handle those projects.

With the shifting dynamics in the workplace, more universities around the country started providing degrees in HR Management from bachelors all the way to the PhD level. Giving professionals the educational backing to move into the workforce and provide that strategic HR counsel that companies were craving.

These are all good things. Organizations want HR expertise, academia is providing it and there are great programs that many organizations put into place for on the job training. However, there are still many smaller organizations that have individuals that are too close to a situation and still try to handle it all. I recommend that they move away from that model and hire either an HR consultant or full time HR expertise.

For example, a client of ours just recently hired their first HR Director. We worked with them on understanding what HR can do for their organization, including staff recruitment, development, continuous leadership and management coaching. They were able to let go of these HR areas and turn the reigns over to someone with the expertise to be the leader and strategic counsel in this area. We are excited to see their enthusiasm and understanding of how HR can be a catalyst in their organizational growth and success.

So I say, how do you view your HR department? If you still look at them as traffic cops, it’s time to reevaluate how you’re using your HR function and gain an understanding of the immense value of the profession to your organizational goals!