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What do you plan to do to improve HR performance in the New Year? HR leaders share their goals for 2018, including strengthening employee engagement, improving the management of people, revamping performance reviews, focusing on professional development for emerging HR leaders, and being a more environmentally friendly company.
Strengthening Employee Engagement
Melissa Kessler, vice president of human resources at Careington International Corp., recently attended a human resources workshop where she heard that 69 percent of managers are uncomfortable communicating with employees, according to an Interact survey conducted by Harris Poll. Kessler says she was shocked by that number but "inherently aware of the magnitude in which it speaks to why employees can often feel disconnected and unsure of their significance to the company."
Careington, a provider of discount programs for health, wellness and lifestyle services based in Frisco, Texas, has experienced tremendous growth in the past few years. What was once a small company has grown to 400 employees spread out among three buildings on two campuses.
"It is now more important than ever to further strengthen our connectivity and engagement at all levels, and to work hard to develop a new generation of leaders who are poised for success," Kessler said.
Effective communication between leadership and all employees is a top priority for the coming year. Starting with her leadership team, Kessler plans to help them overcome the hesitation to communicate and initiate more frequent interactions with their employees—both positive and negative. "When regular communication is the norm, the tougher conversations become a lot easier," Kessler said. She noted that when leaders are encouraged to provide more positive feedback to their employees—even if it's small recognitions about meeting deadlines or goals—it makes negative feedback easier to swallow.
[SHRM members-only toolkit: Introduction to the Human Resources Discipline of Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability]
Improving People Management
Boston Children's Hospital, the nation's leading children's hospital according to U.S. News & World Report, is focused on improving how it manages people in 2018.
According to Judith Zola, director of learning and development, senior leaders at the hospital want to ensure that their managers are conducting high-quality performance reviews; providing role clarity for staff; providing and receiving ongoing feedback; helping workers gain skills through professional development and cross-training; and communicating clearly and regularly on issues.
The hospital created a curriculum for all employees called LEAD (Leadership Exploration and Development) with in-person and online learning components such as e-modules. New managers and seasoned managers learn specific steps to follow when coaching or giving feedback. In 2018, the hospital will focus on these blended learning experiences for the director level.
When everyone in the organization learns and practices the same steps of coaching or giving feedback, it can create a culture that everyone understands and can support, Zola said.
"Managers will be more confident and competent in how they manage, communicate and lead their teams," Zola said. "And staff members will have a better understanding of what is expected of them and be able to better meet their goals."
Revamping Performance Reviews
When Kristin Wright joined Big Fish Payroll Services in May 2017 as its HR managed services advisor, one of the first things she discussed with the company CEO was the performance review process. He told her "it was a drag" and asked her to improve it.
So Wright is rebranding the performance review process as "achievement planning." Discussions will take place every six months rather than annually. Leaders determine what each team needs in terms of skills, knowledge and expertise, examine the organization's goals, consult with workers on their own goals, then attempt to align all three.
When Wright joined Big Fish—an Orange, Calif.-based payroll processing company that also provides HR consulting—employee performance was rated on a scale of 1 to 5 based on how workers met goals that their managers determined. But there was no input from employees about their own goals. The new achievement planning structure takes in to account both the needs of the company and the goals of each employee, Wright said.
Advancing Professional Development for Emerging HR Leaders
In Arizona, some companies in 2018 plan to enroll emerging HR leaders in a new six-month professional development program.
The six-month course, The HR Emerging Leaders Program, starts in February 2018. The program is being offered by the Arizona HR Executive Forum, the Arizona affiliate of HR People + Strategy, which is an affiliate of the Society for Human Resource Management.
"One of the things that we realized was that if you look at the HR community, it's [a good example of] the adage 'The cobbler's children go always without shoes,' in that HR leaders are really good at developing programs and initiatives for their colleagues across the organization but are never really good at their own development," explained Joe Carella, assistant dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona and board member of the Arizona HR Executive Forum.
The curriculum was developed with input from senior HR executives across Arizona. The course will focus on strategic thinking, the role HR can play in how their businesses makes money and how HR can influence colleagues from other departments. The program includes a mix of lectures, industry talks, projects and coaching. Some activities will be virtual and others will be in-person. So far, seven organizations are sending emerging HR leaders to participate, including Freeport-McMoRan, which is a mining company, and Home Depot. Companies will pay their employee's $5,800 program fee to participate.
According to Carella, the program fills a gap in leadership training programs for HR professionals.
"Too frequently, HR leaders take orders from their colleagues as opposed to generating a dialogue around what the future skills needed in the organization are, how technology is going to impact talent recruitment [or] talent development, how the future of business will look as far as human beings are concerned," Carella said. "That is what we think HR leaders should be doing."
At Maple Holistics, which manufactures all-natural personal care products without animal testing, reducing the company's environmental footprint is a key performance goal in 2018.
Starting in January 2018, Maple Holistics will encourage employees to bring their own recyclables, as well as any from their neighbors or community, to the company's facilities in Farmingdale, N.J. The company is also asking customers to return their empty product bottles for in-house recycling. For every five bottles of Maple Holistics product that customers return, they will receive a free bottle of shampoo.
The company is also installing new solar panels and manufacturing machinery that is up to 50 percent more energy- and water-efficient than its older equipment. Maple Holistics aims to reduce its electric and water usage by 20 percent in 2018.
"We will be using our industrial equipment to weigh the recycling output of each employee," explained Nate Masterson, HR representative for Maple Holistics, who is leading the environmental initiative. The employee who brings in the most recyclables will receive an extra vacation day.
"We're constantly seeking to better ourselves in terms of 'going green,' and we're hoping 2018 is our greenest year yet," Masterson said. "Not only does this program help our employees become more invested in the mission statement and overarching goal of the company, it promotes friendly competition and camaraderie in the workplace."
Elaina Loveland is a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.
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