HR Management & Compliance

HR Departments of One Have These 5 Priorities

Last week, I shared anecdotal concerns from attendees at SHRM 2019’s session “The Top Five Priorities for an HR Department of One.” The session was given by Jennifer Currence, SHRM-SCP, MBA, and President of The Currence Group. Here, I would like to share the top five concerns, in descending order, of HR departments of one. These concerns are based on annual research done by Currence.

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5. Business Acumen

Knowledge and know-how regarding how businesses operate and how people discuss business were among the five most important concerns based on Currence’s research over the last year. Currence identifies the importance of this knowledge when she says business acumen “is about aligning HR programs with the goals of the organization. We can’t do that if we are not aligned.” Some of the functions of business that HR managers should familiarize themselves with, according to Currence, include:

  • Profitability
  • Strategic goals
  • Sales
  • Organizational strategy
  • Identifying stakeholders
  • Competitors
  • How you make money
  • Political environment
  • Sociocultural environment
  • Industry trends
  • Economic trends
  • Legal environment

This list may seem overwhelming, but it’s also far from exhaustive.

4. Communication

Currence defined communication as everything from delivering messages to translating organizational information for various employee groups. And, of course, listening is a valued part of communication. Communication “is the foundation of our success as an HR leader in our organization … and it’s also very multifaceted,” said Currence. She also said that when communication is askew or siloed, organizations can’t function successfully. She sourced some solutions from the crowd, which included:

  • All-hands meetings
  • Competitions
  • Lunch-and-learns
  • Effective onboarding methods

Currence elaborated on two ideas in particular: emotional intelligence training and behavior assessments. These tools can be used to identify the many different ways that people communicate and educate their coworkers on these idiosyncrasies. She said, “when we can understand the differences in how we communicate, whether we are more dominant or analytics or introspective and responsive or aggressive or competitive we just approach things differently. We aren’t right or wrong, we are just different.”

3. Leadership and Navigation

Regarding this topic, Currence said, “If we in HR are not helping our organizations reach their strategic goals, then that’s when we end up being party planner paper pushing people.” She strongly suggested making use of SHRM’s behavioral competencies to learn how to be better strategic thinkers and navigate leadership. According to Currence, SHRM created the competencies to try to understand how two identically qualified individuals can have different levels of impact on their workplaces.

She also gives some tips, including:

  • We have to understand the why—the business strategy. We have to know the specific goals. Are we looking to grow 12% this year? How are we doing it? What kinds of people are we hiring?
  • Use the GROW formula (Goal, Reality, Options, and Way forward). What are our goals, what is the reality, what options do we have, and how do we implement them?

2. Talent Acquisition

When this priority was revealed, Currence asked how many in the audience expected it to be number one, and nearly everyone raised his or her hand. Currence said, “Having the right people is the only way a business can achieve their goals, and a lot of time, this process is rushed.” She cautioned against making time to fill your only metric when it comes to hiring. She then asked the crowd for some of the ways they seek talent and build their employer brand:

  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Applicant tracker in HR software
  • Glassdoor
  • Facebook
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Press releases
  • YouTube videos
  • Volunteering
  • Video employee testimonials
  • Sponsoring children’s sports teams
  • Using hashtags as word of mouth
  • Blogs
  • Case studies
  • Conferences
  • White papers
  • Virtual and physical meetups
  • Office culture videos

1. Employee Engagement and Retention

Currence began this section by citing a study that said that the number one cause of stress for employees is unclear organizational expectations. “If we can alleviate stress by providing clear expectations upfront,” we can make a big difference. She continued, “We can start with our candidates, carry that through onboarding … then update job descriptions and train managers on how to set goals and follow through with them.”

She also suggested adding value to your employees. “Engage employees by actually engaging them,” she said. She also shared ways to accomplish this:

  1. Provide learning opportunities.
  2. Ask for improvement suggestions.
  3. Ask “What do you think?” It shows you care about their thoughts.
  4. Care about their health and wellness.
  5. Treat them like adults.
  6. Train managers how to coach employees.
  7. Strive toward transparency and openness. Currence said, “There are certain things we can’t say, but you can say that you can’t say, and give what information you CAN share. It builds trust.”
  8. Give frequent and personalized recognition. “It really makes a difference,” she said.

Finally, she left us with one last important step: “Don’t forget to have fun.”