When I’m talking to people who work at companies looking to work with us, I find that there are usually common themes around the symptoms they describe for why things need to change.
Whether I’m talking to an owner of a small business, the co-founder of a funded startup, the HR manager for a not-for profit, or a jack-of-all trades who somehow juggles administration, human resources, accounting, procurement, customer service, and even event planning or executive duties, one thing is certain – things cannot continue like this.
Based on these conversations, here are the four most common problems that Poprouser is approached to resolve first, requiring an immediate HR intervention.
Scenario #1 - You Never Had a Human Resources Person. Now, You Need One.
This one needs little explanation. To sum it up, a small business starts to gain customers and needs more people to serve those customers. As the number of people working at the business increase, so does the number of things you have to worry about in addition to taking care of customers – personalities on the team, training, managing, compensating people and offering benefits, giving time off, and other things that “HR” is supposed to do, but business owners find themselves doing, to the detriment of their business.
They’d rather be coming up with new products and getting larger and more stable revenue sources, instead of doing payroll taxes and looking for the most current W-9 forms. What to even look for when acquiring the first HR person – that is a starting point for an HR intervention
Scenario #2 - Your Only HR Person Left.
Help! Your only person with the years and know-how to run the administration or HR function of the organization has gotten fed-up and just left without notice. Or minimal notice. Either way, you didn’t have enough time to get your stuff together and hire a replacement person, and that work is now sitting squarely in your lap. Sure, you can hire someone quickly to fill the role at a junior level, but without someone leading the recruitment effort who does it regularly, you may be putting yourself in a position to have to hire the person again after they burnout too. The late-stage symptoms of this scenario are high turnover, late payroll, and an angry and demoralized team, as their concerns have to be put on hold to give you time to right the ship. But you’re just plugging holes in a sinking ship.
Scenario #3 - Your Company is Growing like Crazy!
This is a great place to be. When your company is growing uncontrollably, the first and biggest problem for a company (sales and revenue) is no longer a problem. However, in its place is a horde of nasty ones that arrive quickly and don’t just go away. We’re talking about legal compliance, potential harassment suits, departures of burnt out key employees who may run away with intellectual property or at best become a vocal detractor of the business (better watch that Glassdoor Score, your customers are!).
Other new issues include the run-of -the-mill problems that a single HR person may not be equipped to handle, such as building out agile HR processes, executing an HR data/analytics program, implementing enterprise-wide HRIS/ payroll/ expense/ performance software, and communicating your work up and down the company hierarchy to justify your budget, and figuring out inexpensive ways to motivate the entire workforce. Your job has expanded into the job of multiple people, but you’re still getting paid the same!
If you think this is enough for a single person to handle consistently, you need an HR intervention.
Scenario #4 - You Are Proactively Building Your Team.
You are what they call in the “industry,” a Rock Star. You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.
You have you ear close to the workforce, and have the trust and support from top to bottom. However, you’re starting to notice that in order to continue delivering high value for the organization’s workforce, you have expand your team. Without intervening to offload some of the work, you’re headed for burnout and a stall in your career.
Generally, an HR Director or manager can be elevated to CHRO, if they operate at an executive level, and you cannot do that if you’re still doing the work of a Generalist. Also, if you are a contracted HR Business Partner, you will have to operate within the confines of your contractual agreement, and will need to add some folks to the areas that you’re not specialized to serve anyway. So you embark on a quest to create a team, but you are finding out that you need a huge block of time to craft job descriptions or contractor requirements, plan the headcount budget, and convince stakeholders that you need them, without making yourself appear inadequate. Then comes the actual recruiting and managing. It becomes clear that you need help to even get the people who will be helping you. You need an intervention for yourself, just to get started.
Staging an Intervention
Somebody has to intervene, or people and revenue will suffer. Where should the intervention originate?
- The HR department? When are they going to have time to actually make their case, when all they do is put out fires from dawn to dusk? They are not yet empowered to architect a plan like this (at least not yet).
- The Finance or Accounting department? These folks make great sponsors for projects and understand the why behind the KPIs and metrics, but to lead a strategic “people” initiative to motivate, improve, and streamline the workforce? I don’t recall this being part of the CPA study curriculum.
- Sales & Marketing? We’re getting warmer. Some of the concepts of customer service and marketing can be ported over to Human Resources as soon as you understand one thing – that the employees of your company are the internal customers which originate any and all revenue for the company. Example: A developer who tweaks the user interface to become easier on the eye has just contributed to more sales in the form of increased users or increased usage time, and that’s value.
- Operations, Production, & Logistics? Here is a hotbed of information about where the intervention should target. Is productivity dropping, and if so, why? Is the supply chain stalling or the sales team not meeting quotas? Here is where you can pull metrics and performance indicators to inform and convince key stakeholders to buy into the planned intervention. However, good luck getting someone from this area of the business to participate much less lead in an initiative to move the organization in a specific direction, strategically. To put it short – they are very, very busy.
- Information Technology? Another fine group to collect and process information from which to launch planned interventions. In addition, IT will be on the front lines of understanding which processes and systems are due for interventions, however, like HR, experience challenges with getting approval for incremental improvements and are constantly putting out fires. Keep IT close; they will be some of the best partners and cheerleaders for HR projects, and will assist in distribution of training, technology, and data resources. Don’t piss them off!
So, who is it?
Understand the need for periodic organizational change. Fewer than 25 of the original Fortune 500 companies remain on the board, primarily because they were too slow to architect successful change initiatives, and were thinking backward, in preservation mode. From the inside, they were not able to see what appeared obvious from the outside. Now, that change is needed more rapidly than ever, with changes in the labor market and consumer trends occurring faster than in previous eras.
What that leaves us with is an intervention model that is led by an “outsider.” The vision of clarity that comes with a fresh perspective, leading interventions like a snowball rolling downhill (starting with small wins, gradually increasing scope and complexity), is invaluable. Here’s a glimpse into what that looks like:
- Calibrate communication
- Gather trust and support
- Identify bureaucracies & silos
- Organize key and extended team around problems
- Chip away at the problem with “micro-interventions”
- Build bridges across organization with feedback mechanisms
- Iterate and improve continuously
How an Intervention Can Work
What we’ve seen work is organizing any of the problems that can be encountered in an HR intervention into 6 segments that would be able to be acted upon strategically:
- Strategic alignment throughout the organization
- Evaluation of Technology & data programs
- Focus on acquiring Talent
- Holistic implementation or re-implementation of People processes and systems to train, motivate, equip, and empower employees
- Build-out of Compliance tools and processes, cutting paperwork and minimizing risks
- Effective use of measurements & Analytics to communicate value quickly and deliver actionable and compelling insights