First I'm going to rant and then I'm going to propose solutions. There are times when I wish I could tell clients they can just pay for the training certificates so they don't need to bother sending their people to a whole or two-day training and avoid ...

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Anything HR by Ed - 5 new articles

Ideal Learning Conditions

First I'm going to rant and then I'm going to propose solutions.

There are times when I wish I could tell clients they can just pay for the training certificates so they don't need to bother sending their people to a whole or two-day training and avoid having to pull them out when they need them. Here are a few pet peeves:
  1. Participants who don't know why they were sent to training – Some participants resent attending training because they are utterly clueless why they're there. I imagine how irritating it would be to be sent to the same training a number of times without the boss discussing why.
  2. Training that are held in the client's office where participants are pulled out once in a while to do some work - I really can't understand the idea of sending people to training and then asking them to skip a few hours because they have work to do. It's obvious that people who do this think learning equals attendance certificate.
  3. Claustrophobic venue and 30 participants - on a number of occasion, I have been asked to run a program in a small venue brimming with participants. When I express my space requirements, client will say this is all we have while pointing to a small room, you either take it or leave it. Of course, I will take it but it diminishes the learning experience due to space limitations.
  4. Bosses who are not interested in the content of the program - this often becomes an area of concern for participants. They attend the training, like the program, but worry that their bosses won't appreciate the changes they want to make. This happens when HR “requires” managers to send participants rather than sell the program to them by presenting learning objectives and content and aligning them with strategic and operational objectives.
  5. Participants who don't need the training - poor TNA leads to participants wasting their time in the classroom either because, they already have the skills or they don't need it in their work.
  6. Training that does not support the company's culture or vice versa - companies send their people to customer service training but there is no concrete plan to change organizational service culture. Some also send their employees to problem solving and decision making training and yet they are not empowered to make decisions. 

Nine out of 10 training programs that I run have at least one of these problems.  In some cases, the training is an utter waste of time because too many of these conditions exist. If you are in charge of training in your company, and you see these happening, you have to do better. You need to show some leadership and involve, no, make the managers accountable for their contribution to people development.  Here are some suggested things for you to do.
  1. Develop a holistic learning and development strategy that clearly aligns interventions with strategic directions of the organizations or departments.  Work with the managers in putting together competencies and behavioral expectations. Design or commission (to me) the designing of tailor-fitted programs to address competency gaps. If they understand how the program can help them in managing their people, we might have more eager managers sending their participants to  a learning event.
  2. Establish some guidelines and develop tools to equip managers in facilitating conversations with their staff regarding the training they will attend and the expectations on what they are expected to do in return.
  3. Have a blood compact with your managers not pull participants out during training. Yes, even if it just for a 30-minute quick meeting.
  4. Yes, training venue is important. We’re talking more than just space here, we’re talking ample space! One where participants can break out into groups, do activities together have learning conversations and just be creative. Some training managers take this for granted but this impacts on participants’ focus, and quality of learning experience. If you are a small company with no venue in the office, don’t force it, rent one.
  5. Work with managers in developing and reviewing curriculum. Make sure that the managers know the content of the program to the level that they can discuss their learning and performance expectations with their staff. Or better yet, have the attend the training. I always find it a good sign when the managers attend training their staff is supposed to attend.
  6. Do a really thorough TNA. Believe me, you’ll save money by seeing to it that people are attending the right training and not just trying to comply with the requirements of attending without appreciating the contents of the program

 Training is more than just sitting in class for hours or maybe two days and then receive a certificate. I believe it is the important job of those in charge with learning and development to ensure that the right conditions are there for maximizing learning.

ExeQserve help companies establish their training and development plans. call us at 8933199 if you need help in establishing your strategies.

The HR Person as a Change Manager

A lot of well-meaning and much needed changes fail because of our failure to apply some fundamental concepts in leading and managing change. We often think that we can bank on our authority to make change happen, and then we complain about how little commitment we get from people. We often get minimum compliance from people as a nod to our authority while they grumble about the uselessness or impracticality of our initiatives. Case in point? Performance Management System. In many organizations, managers go as far as filling up the forms and submitting them to HR and not a lot more.  You look at every other HR initiative, and you'll see similar lack of buy-in behaviors. I think it's time we change our tactic if we haven't done so yet.  My suggestion is to adopt a change framework. There's a lot out there. The simplest is Lewin's Unfreeze-change-refreeze. There's ADKAR, and then there's Kotter's 8 Steps. For this post, I'd like to use Kotter's.

Step 1: Create Urgency- When I sense a need for change as an HR Manager, I'd look for data to validate my observation. When there's compelling reason to propose change, I present my observation and my data to the stake holders so we can have a shared conclusion about what needs to be done. When I was HR Director, I noticed a correlation between overtime work, tardiness and  rework or quality issue. I digged our data and showed management thar whenever employees take longer than four hours of OT, they're most often late the next day and the quality of their work plummet. I calculated the cost to help them understand the impact. This convinced them that we cannot continue our current practice.

Step 2: Build Guiding Coalition for change - HR Managers need to have organizational and political savvy. I knew that as an HR Manager, my influential power trumps my formal authority. I recognized that there are people in the organization that are more powerful than me but if I can get them as allies for change, I get to borrow their power to effect change. I use my ability to present information and recommend changes to influence them to join my coalition for change. 

Step 3: Create a vision for change- I say co-create it. Nothing is more powerful than a shared vision. We need to learn how to facilitate a visioning process. It helps to gather your coalition and agree on a vision for change.

 Step 4: communicate your vision for change – communicating one’s vision for change doesn’t mean communicating a complete product. We tend to get this one wrong. When we reach out to people about our desired change, we should be ready to hear back. In fact we should solicit feedback about what they think in terms of our idea's potential benefits and issues. It helps to listen and exchange ideas and opinions until we get to the part when we decide how we must proceed. This is an important part of co-creating change.

Step 5: Enable broad-based action – They say that the devil is in the details and the details of change fall on this step. As we pursue change, we need to work with other players and stakeholders in creating the roadmap. The plan should include developing policies, capacitating participants and managing risks. And then do it!

Step 6: Generate short-term wins – People are often impatient with results. When they don’t see or hear progress, they’d think that the initiative has failed.  The fear mongers feed on people’s doubts.  Without  a proper celebration of accomplishments or milestone, people start losing their interest. We can’t have it! It’s important to keep people updated so they would keep at it. As a change champion, we in HR should learn to cheer on our early supporters and champions by drumming up their accomplishments and encouraging them to continue. If you are implementing a Performance Management System for example, it helps to look for volunteer departments to pilot the program.  A pilot initiative, is much easier to handle than a company-wide initiative. I suggest that we try it and be ready to reward and recognize those who succeed and use them as inspiration for others.

Step 7: Don’t Let up! We need to build on the change. Piloting change bring about great opportunities. It allows us to see the initiative work, it also gives us insights on what needs to be improved.  After implementing a change, we also see other opportunities for change. For example, setting up a service culture building initiative could lead to process improvements and others.  Pay attention on opportunities like this.

Step 8: Make it Stick.  I remember facilitating a visioning workshop for a retail company.  During the session, we realized how much their old vision statement has stalled. That’s because all the successful change initiatives got stuck. Their best of breed retail software became a legacy application that they are having difficulty upgrading. Leading change is not just about making “a” change happen but about making changes happen! As HR leaders we need to continue challenging the process, looking at data for clues on change needs and act on them. It helps to have system in place for continually, planning, doing, checking and acting.

The whole point of leading change is getting everyone enrolled in the idea of change and co-creating a change plan. Let’s stop formulating change alone in our HR rooms or HR cubicle. Get out, and reach out to every who need to be involved and get them to join in the change journey.

Leading and Managing Change is not exclusive to HR. Everybody needs to learn how to lead and manage change. Check out ExeQserve's Leading and Managing Change Training Program. 


Enhancing Organizational Assertiveness Quotient

I think we still underestimate the value of improving everyone's communication skills. By communication skills I mean more than fluency and eloquence, more than the ability to express, but more importantly, the ability to listen.

During a training lunch break, I was chatting with a participant from a tech company. I brought up an emerging technology and asked if they're on it too. The participant said no, they were too late. He said someone presented an idea a few years ago but no one listened. The proposal was shelved. When the competitions started offering the new technology, they realized they lost a big opportunity to lead the market by a few years! I asked what happened. He said two things; failure to convince on one hand and failure to listen on the other. This is not an isolated case in that organization and I would bet that it isn't a rare case in most organizations either. In a country like the Philippines where "subordinates" defer to their bosses, a lot of opportunities for improvement are not communicated.

There is indeed a need to improve interaction in the workplace and HR should champion the campaign for enhancing everyone's capacity including the leaders. Especially the leaders. The way to do it is to empower people to communicate at an assertive level.

So, how do we enhance people’s assertiveness? I have a number of recommendations.

Establish norms for open communication.  As I mentioned, the Filipino culture is quite hierarchical. It’s almost a taboo to  challenge the ideas of the bosses or express a dissenting opinion. We are also conflict averse. Many has this belief that expressing disagreement or criticism is a form of attack or disrespect. That’s why practically no one wants to give it and no one wants to receive it either. This needs to change because it slows down issue resolution and could cause expensively wrong decisions. At ExeQserve, we help our clients establish rules of engagement for collaboration, coordination and cooperation so that fear don’t get in the way of productive collaboration. Click here if you want to know more. 
Equip leaders for shared leadership – Leaders need to learn that the more they share power, the more powerful they get. This is because they get more things done and make better decision when they allow people to speak up and share the responsibility of problem-solving and decision-making. ExeQserve’s program on High Performance Leadership and People Management skills provide tools for moving from directing to empowering people.

Train everyone on Assertive Communication.  Not just assertive expression but assertive listening. There is a need for people to learn that they have choice beside talking nice or talking tough. They need to learn about reflective and generative dialogue where they learn to move from conforming to confronting, to connecting and collaborating. It’s a skill that not a lot of people have, including managers.  When people learn how to set aside coercive influences (authority, seniority, personality, relationship) during conversations, they can learn a lot from each other. Know more about ExeQserve's Assertive Communication Skills Training here.

Train them to send their message across effectively. In business we communicate through correspondences and meetings or presentations.  The lack of confidence and competence to present and idea or to express it writing is hindering people from stepping forward with their solutions. Establishing a venue for people to learn and practice professional communication and practice them builds the necessary confidence and competence. Some companies set up their own Toastmasters Club or communications clinic to help people sharpen their communication skills and I think it is a worthy endeavor. Learn more about ExeQserve's  full range of communication skills training here.

Overall, creating a healthy communication culture helps an organization in so many levels. It prevents bad decisions, speeds up issue resolution, and empowers great ideas and people. Moreover, it makes human resource management more interesting!

If you wish to know more about how you can enhance the Communication Quotient of your organization, you can talk to me. Call me at 893-3199.


Building Strategic Partnership for Learning and Development

If you look at a lot of learning and development Intervention failures, You'll see that the immediate reason is lack of participation and follow through and the deeper reason is lack of commitment of partners and stakeholders

If I could get a dollar for every training participant who doesn't know why he or she was sent training, I'd be a very rich man. If I coud get another dollar for every supervisor or manager who don't follow through on training, I think I'd be a  multi-millionaire.

The main culprit for this phenomenon, I believe is the lack of coalition for learning. Many line managers have completely outsourced learning and development to HR or training department. I think that it can't work like that. Most HR or the Training Departments on the other hand, operate in a vacuum, often as shabby order-takers who don't have the energy to probe deep enough or activate a solid partnership or coalition between them and their stake holders. This has got to change.

My Recommendation - Follow John Kotter's Model

Step 1: Create a Sense of urgency - show data on learning and development initiatives and the correlation between follow through and success. Agree that ensuring effectiveness is not  achieved without partnership between HR and stakeholders.
Step 2: Build a Guiding Coalition for Learning - identify the true leaders in your organization who have both the formal authority and influence to make things happen. Get their buy-in on the concept of partnership for learning. Clarify roles, yours as HR and their as managers and leaders.

Step 3: Create a Vision for Change - you will need to agree on a desired destination and a roadmap. You'll need a framework that shows a line of sight between organizational need and developmental intervention. There has to be a clear indication of how training leads to outputs, outputs to outcome and outcome to organizational impact. It should also show how work is distributed among HR, Line Managers, learning service providers, and learners.

Step 4: Communicate the Vision for Buy-in
– After getting key organizational leaders involved in the crafting of the vision for change, it’s time to communicate it to stakeholders.  When we communicate, we don’t just seek compliance, we seek buy-in and clarity. This means entertaining questions, being open to suggestions for improvement and most importantlly, modeling the way of what we expect others to do. Furthermore, Communication should not be one time. It should be frequent and timely.

Step 5:  Empower broad-based action -  There are many potential barriers to learning coalitions; stakeholder priorities, lack of accountability, lack of capability that leads to resistance to change. The guiding coalition needs to agree on how learning and development can be part of Management KRA and how much it weighs against other KRAs. This should give L&D the importance it deserves. Capacitating Managers for identifying learning needs, communicating performance expectations, following through with coaching and mentoring  is crucial to their success and L&D champions and partners.

Step 6: Generate Short-term Wins – Piloting a program makes a great deal of sense. Announce a pilot cycle, see to it that players play their roles well, measure success and announce your success. If you are to get organizational buy-in, you have to show proof that it works. Once done, launch it in a big way, communicating the final framework, the roles played and keys to success.

Step 7: Don’t Let up – applying the plan-do-check-act model in your execution strategy allows for more change to happen. Engage your stakeholders in regular conversations about how the system can be improved and make those improvements happen.

Step 8: Make it stick – Establishing a formal Learning and Development Council that looks after the organization’s learning and performance, paves the way for new learning technologies and tactics. Make Learning and Development a part of Management onboarding. Establish a manifesto for organizational learning and development. Make sure that HR continues to build the competencies and credibility to lead (rather than operate) learning and development.

If you need help in making this happen for your organization, I’ll be more than happy to oblige.  We can start with buying me  coffee 😊

HR Leader

I had the privilege of closing a learning session for one of the biggest HR groups in the Philippines last April 8 and I took it as an opportunity  to talk about Leadership as an important HR skill. I had very little time to talk about it so I decided to write this article.
One of the speakers talked about HR people being in the same situation as a “bibingka” (rice cake) because we take the heat from the top and from below. This is because we receive complaints from top management and from the employees. People don’t seem to appreciate what we do. That’s probably why many say that HR is a thankless job.

During my speech I asked the participants if they wish not to be bibingka anymore.  They said yes.  I told them to ask me how and they did. Here’s what I said and the rest of what I want to say about the matter. If you want to stop being a bibingka, there’s a few things that you need to do:

  • Move away from the middle. HR often thinks that they job is to serve as a bridge between management and employees. It has become a common belief that management tend to relay directions and decisions through the HR and employees tend to voice out their gripes about management to HR expecting that these will be addressed.  When HR fails to deliver on those expectations, they naturally get under fire. I do not agree that this is HR’s role. I believe that HR’s role is not to mediate but to facilitate open communication between management and employees. This can be done by creating venue for conversation and consultation. It also helps to capacitate them for effective communication. A venue is useless if people don’t know how to use their voice – both employees and management. So one of HR’s important role if you ask me is helping build the communication culture in the organization. When both management and employees know how to talk and listen, they won’t need HR to stand in the middle.
  • Be a Leader – Stop being an order taker. Of course, this is easier said than done. We are in a country where the dominant culture is that people behave and talk according to their place in the organizational structure. Often, HR is placed in positions where they are expected to follow orders and sometimes even operate in a vacuum. It’s very ineffective. HR needs to learn leadership from the middle. Many people are beginning to realize that leadership is not a position but a disposition. We need to learn how have the disposition of leadership. We need to build the necessary competence and confidence to influence the organization. In his book HR Competencies, David Ulrich described the capabilities we need to develop as HR professionals to become a more effective partner to our stakeholders in the organization. I suggest that you explore this further if you wish to get out of the order-taker hole that you’re in. Here's a nice article to help you understand these competencies if you haven't read about them yet.

I have not seen a successful HR professional who is not a leader. When I listen to the talks of those who have accomplished a lot in this field I see leadership more than technical competence as the main reason why they are successful. We need to change our mental model on our role  and embrace a leadership mindset. We need to acquire the necessary courage to lead, the hunger to learn and the willingness to go out of the traditional HR box we’re in.

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