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Pay It Forward: Resolutions to Improve Your Organization

Posted by Elaine Varelas  January 4, 2010 06:00 AM

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By Elaine Varelas

Last month we talked about becoming a better and more effective HR manager: concrete steps you can take to enhance your skills, improve your career, and increase your value to your organization. This month, the focus is on the organization. What resolutions can you make to improve the HR function at your company? After all, isn’t the essence an HR manager’s role to create an office life that is more efficient, productive, cohesive, and enjoyable for everyone?

Here are some office resolutions HR managers may be able to address in their organizations:

Identify and diffuse the biggest aggravators—What is it at your organization that drives everyone crazy? Is the wireless server always down? Is the printer in a constant state of jam? Does the elevator have a chronic case of “Out of Order?” Oftentimes, the things at work that get us frustrated and snappy with others are relatively minor—and easy to remedy. In fact, learning that your bonus will only be 3% instead of 5% can actually be less irritating than knowing you need to fill out a form in triplicate each time you want to take a personal day. It is the breakdown in technology, processes, and systems that can get us steamed and cause a ripple-effect of anger or unease throughout the organization. Identify those aggravators within your organization and work to rectify them.

Solve problems through partnership—As Americans we have a long, proud history of conflict (the Revolution, Civil War, divorce court) and competition (sports, politics, preschools). We are so used to looking at the world in terms of right and wrong and winner and loser, that we sometimes lose sight of solving our problems. At the start of a new year, many of us are filled with hope in the promise of what’s to come. It’s an excellent time to harness that positive energy to resolve to address conflicts in a more effective and peaceful way. Before you whip out the incense and start piping New Age music through the corporate sound system, look at partnering to solve problems from a business perspective. What will take less time and fewer resources? What will leave employees, clients, and customers feeling like they were dealt with fairly? What is the end goal: to determine who is right or to resolve the issue? Every interaction should have a focus on partnership. Make sure managers have the training to follow through.

Encourage employees to strive for their “personal best”When runners cross the starting line at the Boston Marathon in a few months, most won’t be trying to win the race. Instead, they’ll be attempting to beat their own personal record. What is each person’s highest potential? Ask employees to think about what they want out of their jobs and the organization. You may have a few people who want to win the race (break into the C suite), finish strong (become a star manager) or walk a 5K (satisfied to keep producing in their current jobs). Push people to find their own personal best and work towards those goals.

Have managers define their style—Many managers are so busy doing their jobs, they don’t realize how they do their jobs—or they think they are a certain kind of manager, but their direct reports would disagree. Ask managers to define their management style. Are they collegial? Controlling? Delegating? Micromanaging? How do they want to manage, and what changes, if any, do they need to make to be the managers they want to be?

Instill curiosity—Just as “Question Authority” was a popular bumper sticker in the 1970s, adopt “Instill Curiosity” as your HR mantra for 2010. One way to get people excited about their jobs is by encouraging them to learn about how it all works, and how their role impacts the entire organization. Do people at your company see themselves as just another cog in the wheel or is their contribution to the whole apparent? What can you do as an HR manager to help employees see how they fit into the larger workings of the company? Are the systems and processes easy for everyone to understand? Is communication frequent and honest? How else can you instill curiosity?

Encourage transparent leadership—It is almost impossible for employees to follow their curiosity within an organization if the leadership team is inaccessible and taciturn. Meet with leadership to determine how they want to be known. They may express a desire for an open leadership style, but their actions must match up. Closed-door meetings and off-limits financial sheets may lead employees to believe their company leaders have something to hide. A leadership team striving for transparency must share information with employees and ask for feedback. Work with your leaders to help them reach their desired leadership style.

As 2010 begins, resolve to make work a better place for employees. With these changes, you can make a happy New Year for all employees.


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About HR Columns

Featuring human resources advice and columns from The Boston Globe's On Staffing and Hire Authority writers.