Dec. 3, 2018

6 (not so) obvious life hacks in HR management

Have you seen this math problem: a baseball and a bat together cost 1 dollar and 10 cents, and the bat costs 1 dollar more. How much is the ball? At first glance, it’s obvious that the baseball costs 10 cents! That’s what most people would say. But no, it costs five. To check, you need to solve a simple equation.

This famous example shows how our own brain can deceive us and how quickly it finds answers to seemingly simple questions, or how often it, littered with stereotypes, can be wrong – about why Potap was fired, why there are no decent candidates for the courier’s position, or what’s the reason for Lida’s strange behavior at the meeting. Sometimes it pays off to consider a problem from a different angle, including when it comes to human resources. Who knows who might get an epiphany and who would have their approach confirmed then.

1. Marketing first, hiring later

We’re often rushing to find candidates that were needed yesterday – through job descriptions, job hunting websites, recommendations and scores of interviews. And it’s never quite enough. But ask yourself, what is the value of your proposal for the candidate? How about your employer's brand? Approximately after the end of the age of slavery, humanity adopted the phenomenon when employees also get to choose their employers, depending on their interests, needs and views. As they say, walk a mile in the shoes of your potential employee and formulate a value proposition relevant for him. It can be an average salary, flexible schedule and project-based work (instead of sitting in an office cage from 9 to 18, as you yourself might prefer). If you hit the bull's eye with your proposal and if you have a good brand, the queue of suitable candidates may get much longer.

2. Addressing the issues of leavers is cheaper than finding new people.

This might not be news for some, but it doesn’t hurt to refresh one’s memory. Say, you have one Vasily, who works well but you rarely have the time to praise him, give him a bonus, or at least buy him a cactus (as Vasily loves cacti). In this case you should hide a poster somewhere reminding you: "Replacing Vasily costs 6-9 of his salaries" (calculated by Harvard researchers). Below, add in large red numbers what this sum amounts to. Perhaps, this might make Vasily's life better and allow you to invest the money saved in a fridge and a bonus, satisfying the requests of other team members, keeping them in the company and sparing yourself the bother and time needed for finding and training new people.

3. The key task is to make every employee feel important.

According to numerous surveys and studies of the human soul, uninteresting tasks, lack of meaning and career prospects are among the top reasons of burnout and leaving. You could triple Marina’s wage but it still won’t guarantee enthusiasm in her eyes, if she has been sitting behind a cabinet for three years, calculating costs in Excel spreadsheets, despite dreaming of saving stray dogs and writing articles on finance management. A well-functioning HR system is important, but it will not work to its full potential without close human participation through a culture of mentoring, communication and constructive feedback. Otherwise, you likely will never even know of Marina’s needs to help realize them at least partially within the company, or when you do find out, it will be too late.

4. All training must be reflected in work.

Clever books call this "creating a positive transfer climate". Suppose you spend 6 hours a week learning English, devoting all your Saturdays to practicing writing business letters addressed to esteemed ladies and sirs. A year later you come out with a certificate and feeling that the world is your playground now. You start working at a a company, but nobody speaks English there, and letters to sirs are sent once every three weeks. If you don’t make an effort to maintain your level of language proficiency, in six months English words and phrases will get relegated to the neglected corners of your memory and just fade away. However, when it’s about languages, you at least have motivation and the opportunity to create your own transfer climate. But what to do with sales skills, if you don’t know yourself how to properly “package” your product and for whom? Or project management skills, when you have no system for this or special software? Training should result not in acquired knowledge or skills, but in a change in employee behavior. To achieve this, it is important to provide all the necessary conditions, otherwise this will be a useless investment.

When arranging training for your employees, you should make sure this yields results. To do this, we recommend signing training contracts with employees, which would require them to work for your company for some time, or, for instance, to reimburse the cost of training.

5. Proceed with 360 evaluation slowly

Evaluation at a company is not a mere formality but a way to develop the culture of internal communication and responsibility. Thus, it must be understood and accepted by all employees. Nikolai Petrovich could simply stamp his feet and announce a 360 evaluation for tomorrow, but it would be more effective to begin the evaluation with Nikolai Petrovich himself, to win people over, to show them how it works and that this is important and useful for the higher-ups. Therefore, evaluation should be implemented gradually, from top to bottom. Or, start with a more innocuous version, when everyone reflects on their own performance and considers the adequacy of criteria. We used this approach at ILF after rebranding and the change in company strategy. The next step is evaluating managers and then all the rest.

Also, do not forget that evaluation must be regulated by the company’s internal documents. Ideally, if there is a collective agreement, it should provide for such evaluation and determine which employees must undergo it. Then, as a separate annex to the collective agreement, you need to approve a provision on evaluation. If there is no collective agreement, you could get to adopting the evaluation clause at once. Proper regulation of the evaluation will allow you to use its results when making official decisions.

6. Formalizing HR management system

You can build a brilliant HR system and think about every detail, but it will crumble like a sand castle if your HR leaves, the manager gets sick, or a problem employee shows up.

Putting all elements of this system in unconventional (and therefore working) contracts, instructions and regulations will allow you to make the work of your team transparent, understandable and safe for both the employer and the employee.

When signing an employment contract, the employee must be aware of the conditions and the job that he will be required to perform. He must know by reading a job description, what is required of him and how he should go about it (and who to contact on this or that issue).

Separate provisions with clearly defined games rules, be it evaluation, training, or interview procedure, will help keep the system afloat under any circumstances.