All Work and No Play (2): Think Win-Win

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

From last week’s post we found that an organization may have the happiest of staff and still not bring in the numbers. Clearly, there’s more to achieving a right balance than just healthy work relationships.

There are several elements that make organizations successful. The ability of an organization to leverage on its strengths and the efficiency in the use of its talent, systems and unique strategies has the ability to set it apart.

Google’s impeccable policies towards ensuring an enabling and balanced environment for work is an outstanding example. Likewise, NetApp for the 12th year has continued to feature on the ‘great place to work‘ list while consistently improving its bottom line.

Balanced organizations share a common theme. In this post, I have put together some useful tips on how Q2 – Q4 organizations can transition into Q1 organizations.

  1. A Clear and Focused Mission targeted at achieving ‘specific’ and ‘measurable‘ goals .
  2. Employee Buy-in: A sense of shared responsibility. Employees’ understanding of roles and how it fits into the overall corporate objective.
  3. An environment that encourages mutual respect: Zero tolerance for morale damaging behaviour, bullying or intimidation.
  4. A culture that supports fairness: Credible processes and meritocracy.
  5. A system that rewards outstanding performance, individual-based as well as team-based.
  6. Investment in employees’ personal and professional development.
  7. Priority placed on the health and safety of employees: Having adequate systems in place to cater to employee health including stress management.
  8. Promoting an environment that encourages innovation.
  9. Accountability: Performance review sessions/meetings which provide an avenue for team bonding, target setting, brainstorming, feedback and recognition.
  10. Predominantly objective rather than subjective performance measures.
  11. Lean model of operation: weeding out waste and inefficiencies in the system.
  12. Q1 organizations drive performance and do not hesitate to stretch employees’ capabilities. ‘Going over and beyond’ is often the mantra.
  13. Job design/re-design with sufficient attention placed on valuable and challenging work. People naturally flourish in their areas of strength. Employee engagement is often higher when tasks are valued by the staff -a feature that often accompanies work which challenges employees’ mental development. In essence, get employees interested, get them to enjoy what they do and you have a winner on your hands!
  14. Open and honest communication: Reducing the power distance by encouraging a free flow of information. Employees, especially subordinates/associates, must feel free to air their thoughts,share ideas and suggest solutions.
  15. Management’s unrelenting commitment to the business, its superordinate goals as well as the value it places on employee contribution, employee welfare and advancement is vital.
  16. Promoting  work-life balance: The idea isn’t to break the bank in order to attain a similar level of commitment like the Googlers. Employing ‘Human Analytics’ is useful for generating data to determine such things as what matters most to employees and which policies would be most appreciated.

The key is to attain a fit to context. Hence, there is the need to understand your business, know your people and in so doing, design systems, processes and the organization’s structure to support a healthy work environment and at the same time, optimizing value.

Prepared for an Interview, Walked In on a Circus

I  find the relationship between certain interview practices and the employees’ subsequent performance on the job quite fascinating. I wouldn’t refer to them as being HR practices because they fail by all standards, having not the slightest correlation with performance.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s boredom or plain disrespect for the individual. Perhaps one may conclude that recruitment managers are beginning to learn some vital lessons from circus shows and find themselves at odds in an attempt to apply same to a more professional sphere.

Or how else would one explain subjecting candidates to dancing their way to being shortlisted. Remember, this isn’t the ‘Nigerian’s Got Talent Show’ It’s an actual interview day. What purpose do employers hope to achieve with such unprofessional techniques?

Likewise, what would you make of a panel of interviewers who hurl insults at interviewees by virtue of their positions. The fact is, this will in no way predict one’s ability to work under pressure. The only thing it ever does is humiliate the interviewee and project a poor image of the company to the public.

There’s a line up of similar tales, the list of which is ridiculously endless. I bet you have a couple of yours to tell as well.

Doing the right things in the right way do come with benefits. Certain tools have been deemed effective for identifying specific skills that better predict the probability of on-the-job success. Notable HR systems are equally capable of revealing details about the individual’s behaviour. The Predictive Index, Belbin as well as several versions of the Talent Management Tool-kit  are just a few. These tools and much more can be made available to recruitment managers at the very click of a button. What’s missing is some effort. Some additional training would be nice as well.

Point is clear, if you must spend on R&S, make it count! Your focus shouldn’t be to employ anyone flexible enough to dance to your tune (because, the truth is: most would dance if their lives depended on it). Rather than hosting a circus, sessions aimed at identifying candidates of initiative who are smart minded and performance-driven should be the prime focus.

A Note to HR
I believe…

  • There is the need to ensure that the employee resourcing tools employed by firms are those suitable for the parameters/attributes to be measured/assessed.
  • At all times, the validity and reliability of the selection methods chosen should be verified.
  • Finally, thorough analysis and evaluation of the responses/results generated by trained HR professionals matched with organizational policies that encourage fairness, respect for the individual and professionalism will in the long-term perhaps diminish the negative stereotypes surrounding the practice of HR in Nigeria.

HR Also Means Being Brand Conscious

I find a few things very annoying. This has to be one of the top reasons why people dislike HR professionals. They could be so un-cultured, sometimes.

photo: courtesy of

photo: courtesy of

I got some information about a possible internship from a senior personnel of a  reputable professional body. He gave me a call, sent me the relevant contact details and suggested that I gave ‘his source’ a call considering I had quite a number of questions he didn’t have immediate answers to. I did and it wasn’t until after the third call and a text message that I got a response text requesting me to send my resume to an email address.

It’s an internship position and I had someone in mind for it. Being the detailed person that I am, I needed further details to enable me answer any possible questions I may in turn be asked. Logic dictated that I called back to find out whether or not it was the sort of thing she would be interested in, but most importantly, to learn more about the role that was being offered as well as to determine if it would be a possible fit.

At the other end of the phone line was an irritable (almost boarder-lined rude) person who practically rushed me off the phone with the words “I sent you a text didn’t I? Send a mail and I’d get back to you.” I found it to be very rude and quite unprofessional.

This is where HR personnel  tend to miss it! It is common place in Nigeria for employers to see employment as a one way street where they get to sort, choose and discard with the other party having no other role to play but to simply await their fate. It’s high time they are reminded that the employment process is a transaction and like every other transaction, there are two parties with each either trying to sell or buy.

Implication for HR:

At the core of the HR professional’s mind should be a consciousness to promote business strategy and not the reverse.

  • In today’s business world, the image of itself that an organization projects to the public is crucial to consistently remain competitive and maintain goodwill. Consequently, I’m of the opinion that organizations need to make a conscious effort to ensure their employees are all on the same page with respect to organizational culture and values -not just rhetorically, but in deed.
  • It’s important for employees to be constantly made aware that they are ambassadors of their respective organizations and their actions or in-actions inadvertently add up to impact brand popularity and vice versa. When an organization is disliked, it isn’t entirely anything the entity has on its own done. Often, blame lies with the employees who have refused to use contact with the public to his/her advantage. Always remember that in the eye of the public,  the employee is the organization!
  • I believe its good practice to be helpful. To take the time to respond to inquiries politely. Don’t get stuck in the rut -allowing yourselves be misled by the saturation of labour markets, ailing economy and pressures for job security that employment is simply a one-sided transaction. Believe it or not, candidates do have a choice! Sooner or later, even the ones who settle will eventually exit at the slightest glimpse of an opportunity elsewhere.
  • Be sure to bear in mind that even if the applicants didn’t get the job, they have formed an opinion. You need to remember and understand that the interaction they’ve had with you may translate into them being displeased/potential customers, clients or stakeholders who could in one way or another grow or tarnish the image of your brand.

“It is worth noting that organizations should staff their specialist units with true professionals. Just as the finance departments are staffed with finance & accounting professionals, HR should likewise be staffed with HR professionals, instead of mere HR personnel” -Demola