Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Translating Military Experience into Civilian Organizational Needs: A How-To (Guest Article)

Contributed by: Rich Virgilio

Congratulations, HR Professional! You made it into 2018 and now you get to take on the challenge of achieving the goals your executive leadership set forth in the strategic plan for the year. Most of the goals are straightforward, but a new wrinkle has appeared. Your organization’s execs have made it a specific goal to bring in more talented, former military people as a way to add another dimension of experience that can be shared among the workforce. This is intended to improve teamwork, generate some fresh views on finding solutions to problems, and increase productivity by promoting a “selfless service” culture found in the uniformed services.

Certainly, your recruiting has always included sourcing from the veterans’ community, but expressly targeting military experience is a step beyond, and certainly challenging. You find yourself asking, “How do I know that the skills I need specifically fit what a veteran has to offer?” Maybe you feel hamstrung since you don’t have first-hand military experience, or that you’re unfamiliar with what the military actually does behind those walls and gates, or that certain knowledge that there’s a whole lot more that goes into daily operations besides “killing people and breaking things (as some wags occasionally express it).” Certainly your organization doesn’t do those things!

Well, OK, as a methodology, let’s think generically about what the services have to do to function as the organizations that they are. Yes, they are huge, but they are made up of many, many smaller and subordinate units. Subordination implies a degree of both responsibility (to a next higher supervisor, let us say) and specialized function (which is a necessary portion of a bigger one). Organizational relationships and communications exist in your organization as well as in these units where they wear uniforms.

Are you following my line of thinking so far? See how we’re getting away from thinking that being in the military is isolated from the skills your organization’s needs?

“But we need people who can sell, and military people don’t sell anything.”

So as a start and as an illustration of this approach, let’s break this idea of selling into the component parts of the selling process. Fundamentally, selling is recognizing a prospect’s shortfall that can be fulfilled by a product or service offered by the seller. The skill is in characterizing the shortfall, communicating the identified need to the prospect, communicating the beneficial characteristics of the product or service, and then obtaining a commitment to utilize the offering. Here’s the piece that’s missing from most people’s understanding of the military: it’s not static. Things change. Old ways of doing things, or applying old solutions, don’t improve matters. Corporals bring up new ideas to sergeants, lieutenants present new options to captains, commanders present new tactics to admirals. All of these communications are sales. Yes, sales. So your position description or requisition doesn’t just say “Sales experience a plus;” it says “Sales or military decision briefing experience a plus.”

Or, you need an operations manager at one of your warehouses. Instead of “Warehouse operations experience desired,” you open up the aperture a bit and add “military supply and logistics fulfillment experience a plus,” because you know that somehow those soldiers overseas need to get food at their deployed site and they aren’t going to shop at the local grocery –somebody is in charge of moving that food from warehouses stateside, across interstate highways, across oceans, across local roads, and into the hands of cooks. If someone has successfully done that for a couple of years, they could surely manage your warehouse. But making that connection requires both you and the candidate to be speaking the same language, otherwise you won’t realize that although one is talking blintzes and the other crêpes, you’re both talking pancakes.

An out-of-the-box (somewhat) suggestion for you to consider. This takes some time, but if your organization is serious about taking some proactive steps to increase your veteran “inventory,” the investment in effort and time could pay off. Don’t take it all on yourself! Communication is a two-way street, so think about reaching out to someone in the candidate pool whose résumé has at least a hint of what you’re looking for. Phrase it as a “request for more information.” Maybe like this: “Dear John, your résumé has some characteristics of what we’re looking for in our new widget production manager, but I need some better description in civilian terms of your experience at the Navy’s Widget Command so we can better understand if you’re a close enough fit to see if we should further invest time together.” Let the candidate take on the responsibility of presenting himself in your language. He will have been forewarned by his career change advisors to do it, and will do his best to better break out of any military-ese still remaining. And that will benefit you.

Give yourself a chance to effect this wrinkle in your recruiting. It’s not hard, but does take some focus and a bit of adjustment. And it’s a good way to assure yourself you haven’t missed some great talent because you weren’t thinking about how to connect with the veterans who are out there looking for you.

Rich Virgilio is a retired HR Professional and an occasional contributor to Astronology®. He currently resides just outside San Antonio, Texas.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

HR’s Role in Dealing with Office Misconduct

Every night on the news, it seems like more stories of workplace harassment are coming to light. According to a Harris Poll released in November 2017, although 64% of American women say they felt more comfortable today speaking out and challenging abusers, only 20% of women said they believe their companies would listen and be supportive if they were to speak out against their abusers. What is Human Resources’ role in handling office misconduct in this changing landscape? In this issue of Astronology®, we take a look at the current challenge of harassment in the workforce.

Traditionally speaking, the Human Resources department serves six main functions:
  • Recruitment: Advertise job postings, source candidates, screen applicants, conduct preliminary interviews, and coordinate hiring efforts.
  • Safety: Provide workplace safety training and maintain federally mandated logs for workplace injury / fatality reporting. HR safety and risk specialists also work closely with HR benefits specialists to manage worker compensation issues.
  • Employee Relations: Ensure proper labor relations and strengthen the employer-employee relationship. Strengthening is done via measuring job satisfaction, building employee engagement, and resolving workplace conflict.
  • Compensation and Benefits: Set compensation structures, evaluate competitive pay practices, negotiate group health coverage rates with insurers, and coordinate activities with retirement savings fund administrators. Payroll also can be a component.
  • Compliance: Ensure that organization is in compliance with labor and employment laws.
  • Training and Development: Give employees access to leadership training and professional development tools / programs.
A lot of HR’s responsibilities are for the benefit of the organization. Because of this, employees may feel that their concerns will not be properly addressed. This is a key problem as noted by Tana Session, a Forbes Council member, in a Forbes online post. “Most organizations have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment of any kind in the workplace, but HR cannot properly manage complaints if they are never reported. Unfortunately, more times than not, these incidences go unreported due to fear — fear of being fired, retaliated against, considered a troublemaker, embarrassed or not taken seriously,” she shares. In the same Forbes post, she points out that the each employee’s life cycle begins and ends in the HR department. This means the HR department oversees the culture of an organization, and is a factor in whether harassment becomes a permissible factor in an organization’s culture.

In an NPR article, Lisa Brown Alexander, CEO of Non-Profit HR, points out that most HR professionals “see themselves as having dual loyalties…and they work hard to balance interests of the company and the employee.” No one in HR intentionally removes the human in Human Resources, yet it is sometimes viewed as such in deference to an organization.

So what can be done to change these perceptions? What tools could be used to help employees to see that they can come to Human Resources to report issues and to find relief when harassment occurs? Perhaps additional assistance could be of some help.

For instance, an NPR article speaks of an outside, “HR Urgent Care” service such as Bravely. The service provides an outside “coach” to discuss challenging issues, such as harassment, with an employee that may need to report an issue. CEO Toby Hervery explains, “We offer an alternative starting point that’s totally confidential, and totally safe, because it all lives outside the walls of the company…we try to be that objective truth and a neutral perspective on what the company policies are, and what they can expect if they go forward…”. Hervey explains that many companies pay for the service as an employee benefit, “hoping it helps with employee retention and helps nip problems in the bud.”

Another outsourcing HR element to consider is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). Carolyn Stoll contributes to PEOcompare.com that “PEOs can offer core functions of the work place to office management, and can put into place HR policies that are able to address claims of harassment in the workplace. Larger companies have the option of hiring specialized HR employees to deal with harassment cases on the spot and/or implementing their own HR policy.” For a small employer, however, hiring specialized HR employees may not be in the budget. Access to a PEO can be the happy medium for a small business that would like the security of knowing challenges like harassment can be handled immediately. This also allows employees to feel safe that their reports are being taken seriously and are not being “swept under the rug.”

Has your organization made some recent adjustments to address or prevent harassment in the workplace? Has Human Resources shown an even greater presence recently? How does HR communicate that harassment will not be tolerated? Feel free to share your thoughts in our comments box below!

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