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Challenger Business Partners

boxing-gloves-400x265The Challenger HR Business Partner

We recently reviewed the Challenger research from CEB, and explored how it might complement or replace the Trusted Advisor model for great sales teams (click here for the article).  How does that apply to the HR function?

For years companies have taken the same approach to HR Business Partner development as their sales team’s development: Become trusted advisors; ask good questions; build relationships and give good advice.

Is this now obsolete?  Do we require something different from our HR teams?

Much like our article on the application of this to sales, our take on it is that the bar hasn’t moved, but perhaps our understanding of the bar could do with shifting.

Asking good questions and giving useful advice seems to have been translated into asking nice questions, saying yes and delivering what the business asks for in many cases.  Was that the best thing for the business?  Was it the best outcome for all involved?  Possibly not.

Totem Lollipops

So how do we re-educate our HR functions to better understand their roles alongside the business and find the confidence, skills and most appropriate mind-set to be effective?

Here are some of the classic challenges we have faced when working with client HR, talent and L&D teams, with suggestions on how these can be overcome.  In summary, the challenges we hear most often are:

  • I want to help
  • I can’t say no
  • I don’t know what to say
  • I’m not a business person
  • I’m not given the seat at the table

In his fantastic book, To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink highlights that “1 in 9 people work in sales.  So do the other 8.”  His point is that we all have an aspect of selling or influencing to our roles now – so selling skills are not reserved for those 1 in 9 who have sales in their job titles.  What can we learn from the world of sales, to respond to each of these classic HR challenges?

I want to help & I can’t say no

One common theme that runs through all of the individuals in HR that we speak to is the desire to help others.  To make a difference is the most common reply we hear to the question, “why do you do it?”  So it’s no surprise that HR professionals get stuck in the ‘be nice and help’ cycle.

Quite closely linked to wanting to help is the want to be liked and please people.  Whilst this is not universal with HR professionals, it is a trend and many people find it difficult to say no.

With both of these challenges, the response is the same – “what is the purpose of your role?”  Asking HR professionals to consider the value-add of their role, the difference they want to make and could make in the business, what they want to achieve and what motivates them to do it – all this refocuses the mind.

The idea of a Challenger is not to say no or stop helping – that wouldn’t be great for a sales person either – but the idea is to bring something better to the table than the client may be asking for or thinking of.  If the business asks for a headcount report, is that the best value I can add?  If the business tells me there’s a recruiting need and I have to find three good candidates by next week – is that the best outcome for all involved?

Focusing on the purpose of the HR function, our specific roles and the value we can add, will help us explore different ideas with our business client group.  Rather than waiting for the next request for a report, set of candidates, appraisal training, disciplinary or fire-fighting support, maybe I go to my partner in the business and talk to them about talent.

Maybe I explain the challenges every business out there is facing with finding great talent and keeping hold of it.  Maybe I share some data on where we are bleeding talent in our business and my ideas on how we plug that leak.  Maybe I highlight that if we don’t do something about that, we’ll be struggling to do more with fewer people, no sense of where new people will come from and no time to find and train those people up.

Rather than focusing on saying yes or no – let’s help our HR colleagues focus on the value they can add and bring to the table.  This is the Challenger approach – bringing insight, teaching the business and challenging the business to do something different.

Jelly Bean Diversity

I don’t know what to say

All of that great stuff requires knowing what to say.  What if I don’t know where we’re leaking talent?  Or what if I’m an employment law expert, HR generalist or L&D specialist – what confidence and knowledge will I have to talk about talent, the outside market and the challenges our business is facing?

In the sales world, this is the job of the sales leader: Providing insight and market awareness, and working with the team to build a range of offers or stories to tell the client.  And so it can be the case with HR, that this market insight and challenge can be initiated by the HR leader.

What are the challenges our market is facing?  What’s happening in this business?  What’s our talent strategy for addressing that?  How will our HR team engage their business partners to tell that story, raise concern and gain agreement to do something about it?

The HR leader, like the sales leader, becomes the facilitator of those brainstorming sessions, to come up with the great content that will challenge the business and demonstrate the value-add of the function.

I’m not a business person

Then learn how to talk the talk.  It is not a requirement of HR professionals to know everyone else’s jobs inside out, or be able to do them, but we need to speak the language.  And if we can’t, we need to learn.  Often on development programmes with HR Business Partners, we’ll bring in operators and commercial directors to explain what’s really going on in the business.

But of course outside of that environment, it’s great for HR to be sitting alongside the business, learning the language and seeing the reality of the challenges.  This is an immediate credibility booster in the business – when HR are seen to be taking the time to understand the commercial realities of a wide variety of jobs and situations.

I’m not given a seat at the table

Then you need to earn it – see all the previous points!  It is only by understanding the business and bringing fresh insight, challenge and ideas, that we earn that seat at the table.

What does this all mean for HR teams and HR leaders?

  • Review your spend on skills development

What skills are being developed?  Are you teaching people to develop warm, safe relationships that may not give you the best outcomes?  Has the message of building relationships been misinterpreted to mean that people should just say yes to all requests, be helpful and do as they’re asked?  In addition to the skills development on asking questions and advising effectively, build skills in understanding the business, building market awareness, teaching, tailoring and taking control of the conversation.

  • Build your market knowledge and value-add insight

Whatever your role, how could you offer more insights to your internal customers?  What do you know about the market, industry or typical challenges people face, that you can share with your stakeholders to demonstrate your value-add?  What resources do you have available to you that could be used in growing this insight and sharing it with others?  As a team, how could you work together to build your knowledge and understanding, then translate that into hard-hitting insights that make the business sit up and listen?

The Challenger research may have first been designed for sales, but it has far-reaching implications for any role that influences – which is arguably every role.  HR teams now have a great opportunity to change the perception of the function within the business, connecting with the organisation’s priorities and challenging leaders to pay attention to the value-add possible.

If after all this you want to understand more about what the Trusted Advisor and Challenger research suggests, then look back at our exploration of that applied to sales.

It’s just as applicable to internal sales, or influencing.  And if you’re still hungry for more,  contact us for help in building the HR skills you need from your team.

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HR & Return on Investment

Can we really measure the impact that HR has on the bottom line?

This is a question we’re asked over and over again.  How can we demonstrate to you and your stakeholders that what we do has an impact on your bottom line?

Join us as we take the plunge into the exciting world of infographics, beginning with this on customer service.  There is an intrinsic connection between the work we do and improving customer service – and that could be both internal or external customer.

Happy People = Happy Customers = Happy Profits
One mantra in our industry is that “Happy People = Happy Customers = Happy Profits!”  Don’t take our word for it either, we’ve got some heavy hitters in our industry backing this up with research.  Follow the logos for more information:

And if you have selected, developed and engaged the right staff (our bit), you’ll take better care of your customers and generate more sales as a result (your bit).

Over the next few weeks we’ll be exploring in detail each point of research that demonstrates the Return on Investment metrics that make what we all do so worth while.  We’d encourage you to share this far and wide, we find that that the “ROI” conversation is the sticking point for so many HR projects, not just for our work as consultants to you, but your work as business partners to your organisation.

For your free copy of the 9 metrics, just click the image below.

 

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Managing Millennials

Top Tips on Managing Millennials

We probably need to start this article with some caveats and health warnings.  We cannot claim that everyone born between 1980 and 2000 is the same or has the same requirements from their manager.

And just like any other group of people, the best thing you can do as a people manager is take time to build a relationship and work out together what each individual needs from you.

However there are some particular quirks to those in the latter half of this generation known as millennials: those born after around 1990, who grew up with technology at the centre of their lives and experienced 9/11 in their formative years.

There are lots of sources out there on millennials and understanding how they have developed into people that are frequently insulted in the workplace.  Our favourites are Simon Sinek’s frank and entertaining version from a US perspective and this UK version from the Guardian

But this article is about how to manage millennials.  Understanding their mindset and how they have come to certain ways of thinking and being is useful, but what do we do with that information when they’re in our team and we’re struggling?

There are again a lot of places to look for such guidance, but the best by far is this book where there are specific suggestions given on how to adapt your management style in order to get the best from your team (frankly whether they’re millennials or not).

Here are our highlights:

Adaptability – are you willing to adapt to the needs of others or do you find yourself (like most people do) saying about millennials: “I can’t believe they did that.  I would never have done that when I was their age / in their position.

They need to get a grip / realise the world we’re in / follow my lead or get lost.”  Examples often quoted are people taking long lunch breaks, leaving the office early or taking six weeks off to go travelling.

The problem here is that we always compare ourselves to others, so we say “I would never have taken a long lunch break when I was early on in my career – I never even do that now!”  But just because we didn’t do it, that doesn’t mean there is a universal law saying nobody can ever take a long lunch break.

We need to challenge ourselves to meet people where they are, challenge our beliefs about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and work with each individual to agree ways of working.  In practice that probably means that sometimes it’s fine for people to take long breaks as long as they get the job done.

Challenge Orientation – ah that classic phrase – “it’s not a problem, it’s a learning opportunity.”  We scoff at this like it’s false, but the fact is that when we really believe something is an opportunity to learn and stretch ourselves and a challenge we look forward to, we get a lot more out of the experience.

We only need to remind ourselves of Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset work to see how powerful this can be.  So do you view millennials in your team as a pain, or as a new challenge for you to work through and find a way to help them thrive?  Your mindset could be the greatest barrier to your success in their management.

Poweralthough we probably all still come across people who use their title, rank and level in the hierarchy as their power, there is no doubt that this is losing its relevance and prevalence in the workplace.

For millennials in particular, having grown up without the need for authority figures in some ways, as they can find out just as much as an expert in seconds on google, the focus is on relational power over authoritative power.

So next time you feel like saying, “I’m the boss, so just do what I say,” remember that this is likely to switch people off.  Work on building trust and helping your team understand the pressures you are under, so that you can ask people to help you and all work together on solutions.

Success – finally another point on mindset.  Do you believe that millennials hinder your chances of success?  Or do you see that they can help you succeed – and you can help them thrive?  Not surprisingly, those managers who believe the latter tend to be better managers.

What you will notice is that far from magic solutions for getting millennials to adapt to the workplace, the research shows that businesses who see millennials thriving and contributing greatly to results, have managers with a different mindset.

So, are you willing to think differently, in order to help your team thrive?

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Mindset

mindset3The Idea: Intelligence isn’t fixed.

World-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, in decades of research on achievement and success, has discovered a truly groundbreaking idea-the power of our mindset.

New research shows that rather than intelligence being fixed, the more you challenge your mind to learn, the more the brain grows and gets stronger. Adopting a ‘growth mindset’ – believing your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts – has been found in studies to help children build resilience and achieve better results at school, as well as adults to reach their own personal and professional goals.

It is therefore beneficial for us all, at any age, to believe we and others can learn and get better at things. This changes the way we learn ourselves, teach others, lead others and support our children.

The Action

Next time you set yourself a goal, try moving your mindset from fixed to growth. This means actively embracing challenges as opportunities to learn and viewing any setbacks- or /lack of success as ‘not yet’ rather than failure.

This is like the classic story of Edison making 1000 attempts to create a light bulb. He did not say “I’ve failed,” he said “I’ve not got it right yet.” Use “I’m not there yet,” in your setbacks to help you focus on learning and growing from every experience. This will help you achieve better results in the end.

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