A human resources department is shouldered with a monumental onus: the development of the most capable workforce to accomplish goals which best serve an organization’s mission or its clients. On that note, it is fair to say that the survival and success of an organization depends on the performance of its HR department.
Given such expectations, it is no wonder that many HR managers get burned out. A survey of 154 members of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that two-thirds expressed the feeling of burnout, and 80 percent reported the pace of their work as fast to very fast.
The reason for such stress and strain among HR managers and staff can be directly linked to the enormous scope of the HR department’s duties. An HR department is tasked with nurturing development among its workforce, drafting performance plans for each employee or team, and keeping all staff happy as they develop and perform (i.e., making sure they are satisfied with the wages and rewards they receive as they attain each development or performance goal).
There are four major pieces to filling the puzzle of preening and maintaining a workforce that accomplishes an operation’s ultimate mission or objective: a development plan for each employee; realistic performance goals; a clear definition for what each employee advancement is worth in terms of salary or wages; and, finally, employee-manager communication.
A Development Plan
Development plans are vital to workforce success simply because the future of an operation depends on it. Development includes training a new employee, defining and providing opportunities for the employee to learn new skills, and sharing resources beneficial to the employee’s duties as well as advancement.
Leonard Nadler, the HR scholar credited with coining the term, “Human Resource Development,” claims that HR development “is a series of organized activities, conducted within a specialized time and designed to produce behavioral changes.” We can interpret this to mean: phased-in development plans, a realistic time frame for each phase of development, and a means of measuring the results (so that the manager can assess whether an employee’s expanded wherewithal qualifies for an advancement to which the employee aspires).
Training, certifications, and tuition reimbursements are all important components to employee development. These all require timing in accordance to the plan established for each employee. Without a timeframe for accomplishment, they cannot be considered realistic.
Realistic Performance Goals
According to the Virginia Tech University Human Resources Department, performance management serves as the “essential foundation of the overall program.” It further refers to performance planning as “setting expectations and goals for individuals to channel their efforts toward achieving departmental or organizational objectives.”
Because both development and performance relate to an organization’s overarching goal or mission, the two can be viewed as inextricable—necessarily partnered to achieve the behavioral changes to which Nadler alludes.
Like development goals, performance goals must also be realistic. The University of California at Berkeley Human Resources advocates a “S.M.A.R.T.” approach:
The university’s HR department uses a few examples that meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria:
—Implement an update of the school’s online graduate application program by October 1, 2017 (specific).
—Reduce telephone expenses by 15 percent within the first half of the fiscal year (measurable).
—Identify funding sources by the end of FY 2017, and ensure that all grant requests are written, reviewed, and submitted to the granting source by the respective deadlines (timely).
Matching Performance to Wages
Keeping employees happy is essential to securing the long-term success of an organization, especially when the employees are continuously climbing the ladder of development and performance.
Though employee grievance over pay rate or salary can be attributed to one of many factors, the organization that neglects to stay abreast of market values for relative positions from year to year risks losing valuable employees because they feel not only underpaid, but also underappreciated. Those who choose to stick it out may, alternatively, start to underperform. It therefore behooves the organization to not only appoint the correct market value to each employee’s output, but also place their position accordingly in the greater hierarchy of the staff organizational structure.
San Diego International Airport, an independently managed public agency, reviews the compensation of one-third of its positions relative to national and local markets. Its managers are authorized to benchmark these positions’ salaries at the 50th percentile of the broader market. They can then benchmark against the midpoint of the airport’s salary bands, says its senior director for talent and engagement, Jeff Lindeman.
“The transparency helps managers answer the question of ‘are we competitive?’” he says, and helps resolve employee perceptions that “setting pay levels is kind of like the Wheel of Fortune (game).”
The aspiring employee seeks to break the barriers of stagnation and a resulting demoralization that ultimately impacts an organization. Most HR departments know this, but many do not practice the art of communication sufficiently enough to facilitate employee aspirations. Often, the aforementioned processes are not intact, resulting in communication breakdowns. Sometimes a manager does not understand that it is his or her job to prepare an employee for career growth.
However, the employee can just as well be the source of a communication impasse. The author and career coach, Martin Yate, explains that the employee must be able to clearly understand the skills required to essentially move up or across the career spectrum of an organization. Then, the employee can convey to the manager how he or she can attain such skills and benefit the organization with the expansion of duties or authority.
Once the employee and manager are on the same page, the employer can then engage a development plan—which may include more training and certification—that is supported and resourced by the employer.
An HR manager must ultimately understand that all the development and performance planning policies in the world can be rendered dysfunctional without fluid and honest communication.
March 16, 2017
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