Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do you know anyone who has been laid off?

Hi Everyone:

The media has already designated yesterday as "Black Monday." 68,000 jobs were lost in US companies. And the job loss doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon.

You might already know that the reason I was so quiet on this blog during the November/December/early January time frame was that I was busy writing a new book, specifically for people who have been laid off. It's called Rebound: A Proven Plan For Starting Over After Job Loss. And it's coming out Feb 9! Just a couple of weeks away!

If you want to learn more, visit www.reboundyourcareer.com

But I also wanted you to know that I'm carrying on the conversation I started in Rebound with a new blog: www.reboundyourcareer.blogspot.com

Since most of the HR Journeys followers are in the people side of business, I thought that you would want to know that I've created this source of advice, hope, inspiration, even a laugh or two on my other blog! I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you'll pass it on to the people who need it most!

Let's hope this year is over soon and we can return to the business of building dreams.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Best Resolutions for HR in 2009

When I wrote last year’s Best Resolutions article, it was very clear that the HR leaders in the country could see big trouble coming right around the corner. And now that it’s here, the question has become: How does HR handle the people side of business now in such a way that we will emerge from this unprecedented time powerful, proud of how we’ve managed these tough times and with our corporate cultures intact? Employee engagement is difficult enough when times are good. But now that times are bad by every possible measure, this is where we discover the essential ways that HR can continue its leadership role to drive the company toward a future outcome that everyone can be proud of.

With that in mind, here is what HR leaders are recommending to be some of the Best Resolutions for HR in 2009:

Resolution #1: I will tell the truth. David Russo, former Senior Vice President of HR of the famously engaging SAS Institute, and now CEO of Eno River Associates, follows up that resolution with this mandate: “HR will not participate in sugar-coating problems. HR will not allow the organizations to either broadbrush or whitewash situations. HR will face up to management and hold their feet to the fire.

"HR will handle things such as re-engineering, downsizing, right-sizing, diversification, and divestiture with honesty, logical business purpose and compassion. HR will not become a partner to bloodletting. HR will tell the truth: ‘This is what we’re going to do, and this is why we have to do it. This is survival mode and this how we’re going to survive.’ HR will make sure that by telling the truth that the best right people are not sacrificed in an effort to stem the tide.

“If it’s communicating up, horizontally, or down, I’m going to tell the truth,” recommends Russo as a resolution for all HR professionals.

“And don’t get wrapped up in little protective lies that turn into big hate-filled conundrums,” he concludes. “When that happens, the trust would be gone forever.”

Resolution #2: I will hold onto the commitment of employee engagement now more than ever. No company can ever afford to be cavalier about customer service and the customer value proposition. Ever. Especially now. And the thing that we’ve learned about employee engagement over recent years is how inextricably linked the engaged employee is to the quality of the customer service promise. So, even though companies must lay people off and cut resources back to the bare bone, they still have to do it in a way that’s consistent with the established employee value proposition.

Says Loren Nalewanski, Vice President, Lodging HR – Work Environment, Marriott International: “The time is ripe for us to ensure we handle all these difficult decisions with dignity and respect for the individual. We have to be making smart, critical decisions that allow us to emerge beyond ‘09 and into ‘10, and even beyond, very very strong. And we have to have the right mindset about our people as we move into this difficult year and not make knee jerk reactions to what’s happening all around us.”

Resolution #3: I will be even more passionate about working with leaders to become positively clear about their personal values, their moral compass, and what they stand for. Says Courtney Harrison, former Managing Director of HR for the U.S. Olympic Committee and now senior faculty member of the Center for Creative Leadership, “We keep seeing companies that are going bankrupt, laying off masses of people, or under investigation for legal issues. We’re watching people get led away in handcuffs. And every time we watch another one of these scandals, we think, 'Well, at least we learned our lesson.' But it still keeps happening.

“Good HR people know that the solution doesn’t lie in putting together a one day class on ethics or establishing an ethics policy. True leadership, especially in today’s world is about risk taking, courage, and standing up for what you believe is right.

“Leaders need to be absolutely grounded in who they are,” she says. “And this requires a personal investment and discipline to be reflective. It takes time, and potentially money. And their organizations must be willing to invest in the pursuit of more personal exploration.

“In tough economies, the few great companies out there stand out because they’re the ones that forge ahead with leadership and leadership work,” says Harrison. “They don’t say, ‘we’re pulling back on it because we can’t afford it.’ If there’s ever a time to afford it, it’s now when you need it."

Resolution #4: I will take the leadership role in moving the company forward in creative uses of people. Says Lauren Doliva, Managing Partner, Chief Advisor Network, Heidrick & Struggles, “Companies may be trying to reshape themselves in the context of reductions in force, but in about six months to a year, they are going to discover that there is still work to do. But now there are fewer people to do it. Now’s the opportunity to think about how you’re going to reshape the process of getting your work done.”

The Free Agent idea is alive and well. And those free agents may be the very people you laid off a few weeks or months before. They know the workings and culture of your organization, their relationships with your clients, vendors, etc., are still current. And they may be willing to take your calls now – now that they’ve had the chance to process the shock of having been laid off. Whether you choose to go with the people you laid off from the company, or bring in entirely fresh cadres of talent and innovation, open your mind to the notion of bringing in the best people for the projects at hand.

Resolution #5: I will remind myself that this is a marathon and not let the current economic crisis alter our strategy and focus on acquiring and retaining the best talent possible. Julie Weber, Senior Director, People, for Southwest Airliines, says that you may have slowed down new hiring – maybe even shut down that pipe completely – for the time being, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you’ll be hiring again one of these days. And effective recruiting necessitates a long ramp up of identifying and cultivating relationships with your target talent. Don’t wait until you need them to spring into action. You will already be too late.

“From a recruiting perspective, she says, “I might be tempted to just turn off the recruiting machine and focus on something else for a while. But recruiting is a marathon, and over time conditions will change. We have got to keep those recruiting fires burning. We have got to keep ourselves in the game. We have to continue to be out there promoting Southwest as a strong employer. We have to continue to stay on top of where the great candidates are from a strategic sourcing perspective.

“You may not be building for this afternoon, but you’re recruiting for the next two or three years. Take college recruiting, for example. In order to get the best talent that’s out there you have to start finding those students and talking to them early on in their college career. Not when they’re seniors. College recruiting isn’t something that you can just turn on quickly and be successful at it."

Resolution #6: I will help my organization retain its confidence and competence so that we can get through this. Says Marianne Jackson, Senior Vice President of HR, Blue Shield of California, “We have a good number of people in the Gen X and Millennial generations who have never had to lead through such a remarkable economic crisis. It’s HR’s role to help people keep things in perspective and to discover ways to use innovation to sort through challenges that require solutions that are unlike anything they’ve used before.

“When we’re talking about how HR can help an organization come out the other side of a crisis stronger than before, the usual thing to do is to hunker down and cost manage, do lay-offs, slow down hiring, and try to manage through the implications and effects the crisis has on your brand.

“In this case, we have to focus on the confidence of both the organization and its people. This crisis is hitting everyone – often twice in the same household if both wage-earners are laid off. Then as people lose confidence they lose their ability to innovate. So we have to be committed to providing a lot of compassion.”

Resolution #7: I will stay on top of how my people are handling this crisis personally. Senior Vice President of HR for Lowes, Maureen Ausura, agrees with Marianne. “It’s easy for management to take it for granted that when employees show up for work, they leave their personal troubles in the car. And, even though there is an historical crisis going on right now, we expect there to be no change in their performance.

“So our profession this year needs to make sure we know how our employees are feeling and how we can help."

I’ve already heard those dreaded words that I thought we had left behind in the 1970’s: “They should just be grateful to have a job.”

When I raised that issue with Maureen – strictly from a devil’s advocate perspective, of course, she said:

“That attitude is extremely short-sighted. We know that customer service and satisfaction is what distinguishes Lowes. And our employees are not going to be serving our customers if we’re not serving them. Employee engagement principles drive so many positive business results, that to replace them with the point of view that we’ll just replace them if they’re not performing is extremely short-sited.
“If you damage your reputation as a great employer now, it will take a long time to recover. You can’t just all of a sudden say, “Oh! Now we want to be an employer-of-choice again. People have very long memories.”