As many of you will know I am one of the Trustees at the Association of People Professionals. We held our very first HR Download in Wellington on 23 September. Over a drink and some nibbles we discussed HR Hot Topics – Engagement, Performance Reviews, Health & Safety and Diversity. In a short space of time there was lively discussion and many great ideas shared amongst the participants. Richard Westney & I facilitated the discussions and I’ve put together some of the ideas discussed. I hope they spark some ideas, create some discussion and perhaps help you identify some actions you might want to take around these topics.
To engage or not engage – do engagement survey’s work?
There are a number of alternatives to the traditional annual or bi-annual engagement survey. The discussions focussed around if you are going to do something more along the lines of a traditional survey, what do you need to do to make it work. Here are some of the ideas discussed:
- Benchmarking data: If the company wants to compare itself externally you need to find a survey that will give you relevant benchmarks for similar types, location and size of your business. You need to ask how many and what companies make up the benchmarking data. You also need to be careful not to have too many benchmarks.
- Engagement focused on too few a questions with the danger that you can translate this incorrectly: The construction of your questions is really important. How does the survey define engagement, and what questions contribute to the score? Does this definition fit with your culture and strategy? Do the questions also allow some customisation to focus on hot topics within your business?
- Can be misleading: Surveys are a point in time, and if you run an anonymous survey you don’t know who has responded. You are also not sure if there is a good representation across the company. To assist with this you can ask people to select their work area, and get reports during the survey to check on response rates. Make sure though that when you report results the work areas are big enough to protect confidentiality.
- Need to test/improve/re-test and be proactive: If you are going to measure engagement it needs to be considered as a journey, not a one off survey. The first survey creates a benchmark. Once you have shared results and done action planning you need to re-survey. Has the action planning led to improved perceptions around engagement?
- Analysis paralysis with too much data: The group suggested focussing on the top 2 – 3 things to change. At the end of the day, it is what you do with the data that is important. The most successful surveys prioritise and focus on a few critical area rather than a scattergun approach.
- Takes too long to get results and turn into rich actionable insights: This is a very real issue and the timeframes will depend on what survey you use. To help with this you can book in forums/meetings to share results once the survey is closed to assure staff that next steps will happen. You can also keep staff updated on progress and next steps while results are being analysed.
- Focus on the numbers not the comments: There was discussion that surveys can lose the context of comments so it can be easier to focus on the numbers. A number of businesses use focus groups to discuss the results and understand the context of what people were thinking as they completed the survey.
- Using engagement as the only metric: The group discussed that there is value in looking at a number of metrics used in a complementary way, including sick leave, turnover and management metrics.
Blowing up Performance Reviews
This is such a hot topic at the moment and it was an interesting discussion. So interesting that they didn’t really take any notes! However, overall the groups felt that there was too much focus still on process and that it was time to get creative! Here are a few ideas from chatting with Richard and participants individually.
- Online on-boarding: An example was shared of a digital company creating a roadmap for the relationship for the first 12 months, linking it more into managing performance than just induction.
- Individual roadmaps: In the #nzlead tweet chat on 15 October there was discussion around performance reviews and ideas around creating individual road maps for each person that focus on how they contribute to team objectives/achievements, their role, development, how often they’d like feedback.
- Capability: if you throw out the one size fits all what skills do managers and leaders need to facilitate rather than manage performance? Understanding and adapting to different styles? Different career stages? Coaching and mentoring skills? Good networks across and outside the company to facilitate relevant development opportunities? Delegation and trust? Vanessa Pye talks a lot about servant leadership in her work, this is an interesting area to look into.
- Who really is changing performance reviews? A number of the articles you read relate to professional or “white collar work” and only specific areas within a business has “thrown out’ performance reviews. What about the rest of the workforce? It was agreed that we need to finding out the examples of what is working and being done in NZ.
- How do you manage rem? If you move away from some annual rating how do you then manage remuneration and salary reviews? Great question, we didn’t come up with any answers!
Creating a Health & Safety Mind-set: moving away from just compliance
The groups were surprised by the lively discussions we had around health and safety. We approached it from a culture perspective and talked about the role we have as HR professionals to change mind-sets from “compliance to how we do things around here”.
- The groups discussed that it has to be built into all HR practices, not seen as a specialist area. HR needs to work with H&S teams or specialists to make this happen – HR can’t feel that it’s not their responsibility.
- The thinking was that health and safety needs be broadly defined to also include well-being, and that was the way for the future. This includes incorporating H&S into all job descriptions, KPI’s, objectives and the code of conduct. One example, was adding the hazards for the job into the job description, then part of the induction was reviewing the hazard register and discussing the hazards with supervisors to make them real. It also includes having well-being initiatives that support good health and safety practice. The root causes of incidents and hazards would need to be understood, so that well-being initiatives are helping manage these.
- One participant described it as “tapestry approach” where you weave the threads of H&S into everything you do throughout the organisation.
- Groups talked about some examples where companies had simplified their policies into lists of dos and don’ts, or created a summary of the key things “on a page” needed to keep safe. One company talks about making sure that everyone goes home safe every day and this message is across all the HR policies and practices. Other examples are using pictures to explain how to do things safely, and health and safety being part of the on-the-job training, not something separate. It was agreed the days of getting someone to read the policy and sign it are well over!
- The groups also discussed the concept of health and safety de-brief, on the ground with the team when incidents occur. This would be from a problem solving “how do we stop this happening again” perspective, not about assigning blame. This lead into discussing the concept of Just Culture which a number of organisations use, to create a culture where incidents are talked about and training, development, feedback and process improvement are the first solutions rather than disciplinary processes.
- Finally, it was agreed that you need to recognise and celebrate good health and safety practice and share stories, to build a health and safety mind-set.
Diversity – how do we create more diversity in HR and how do we lead this in our organisations?
Lots of ideas were discussed here with a few different perspectives which was fantastic! Here’s a summary and some links that I promised my groups I’d look up!
- About a year ago the Green Party decided to focus on diversity, and each MP was given the responsibility for identifying someone from a different background to the current MP’s who was interested in becoming a MP, and mentoring them up to the next election. Is this something each of us should be doing to help create a more diverse HR profession?
- Other ideas were to role model what we want to see and make opportunities for yourself to stand in other people’s shoes
- McDonalds in the US understood the need for franchise owners to reflect the communities they operated in many years ago. Pat Harris is their Global Diversity Officer, and has written a book about their experiences. Here’s a link to an article that outlines their approach:
- A number of organisations are also looking at the concept of unconscious bias in recruitment, promotion and things such as decision making. Some organisations provide training in understanding that everyone has these unconscious bias, and how you can be aware of these when making decisions. Here’s a link to an overview.
- We discussed the Rainbow Tick which is doing a lot of work in the LGBTTI, and providing an accreditation process for organisations. At the HR Game Changer conference awards we heard from the HR Manager at Simpson Grierson (law firms are usually very traditional and you cannot be openly gay) who led a successful initiative to make their culture and environment safe and inclusive for their LGBTTI staff. This is a great example of HR taking the lead in diversity.
- There are also organisations like Workbridge who assist those with disabilities get work. Organisations can partner with them to provide appropriate jobs and support.
- We also discussed that a move towards recruiting on values first could be helpful in creating a more diverse workforce. Weirdly has a tool that lets you recruit on values first and then assess CV’s.
- Migrants to NZ often struggle to get jobs as either they do not have NZ experience or we do not value the connections and experience they do have. The Office of Ethnic Affairs has a lot of information about people new to Zealand. The other idea discussed was the need to identify and focus on the business needs not the person. And to provide some education around differences. This can range from having diversity lunches where everyone brings in a national dish, to providing training about different cultures.
The next HR Download event is in Auckland on 26 November, and it will be interesting to see what ideas the discussion sparks!