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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.

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!

Workforce Consolidation – Oil in Water?

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

When a large oil producer announced in 2012 that they were relocating and consolidating all their employees to their headquarters in Houston, TX, it was met with great resistance and frustration. Nearly 2,100 employees, their spouses and families were faced with the reality of a new life in Texas. Over the past year here in the Washington, DC region, I have had several friends and colleagues who have been affected by this move and have been leaving the area.

I’ve worked with many companies that have gone through this transition over the past several decades and it seems that no matter what, your workplace is inevitably affected in ways both good and bad.

Over the past three decades many organizations have built business models that ensure a physical presence in many locations across the nation. With the rise of technology and an increase of remote working environments, many companies are re-evaluating the cost effectiveness of relocating employees while they explore the feasibility of instead moving them to a remote workforce.

There certainly are pros and cons to both strategies. In the past, I’ve written about the upside of a remote workforce and remote leadership teams. So for the purposes of this blog, I’d like to focus on two things that may give organizations pause before deciding to relocate everyone to a single location.

You will probably need to replace some of your best employees

Asking a sizeable portion of your workforce to pick up and move their entire lives will inevitably result with employees that decide the move isn’t worth the personal sacrifice. Sometimes there is no amount of compensation in the form of relocation bonuses that is enough to move the needle when you are asking your employees to move their families, change jobs, schools, etc. Ultimately, organizations need to be prepared to recruit and subsequently train a new batch of employees.

Your workplace culture will change in ways you never expected

Regardless of the size of an organization, it’s extremely difficult to implement a standardized workplace culture. Different offices, different cities, different vibes impact different locations with sometimes stark contrasts when it comes to workplace culture. Uplifting and reintegrating an amalgamation of multiple cultures, personalities and outlooks can lead to a challenging work environment. Organizations need to be prepared to take great strides to implement programs to ensure that relocated employees feel a sense of satisfaction in their decision to move.

No organization makes the decision to centralize their workforce lightly, and we’d be naïve to suggest that organizations shouldn’t make this choice if it’s helping the bottom line. However, while HR will often be at the forefront of making this move happen, they shouldn’t be solely focused on the relocation portion of this endeavor. They need to be thinking beyond the relocation to what inevitably may be the most challenging aspect of the entire move, the impact on the employees, and what can be done to mitigate any challenges that arise as a result of the relocation.