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When I started out as a human resource practitioner, I felt responsible for every employee in the organization. I was consumed by the enthusiasm to change the organization and understanding the people aspect of business. Eventually, I started to experience several challenges en route my pompous ambition.
- It was impossible for me to connect with every employee within my region, let alone the entire organization; A large, dispersed workforce, time differences, the pressures of daily responsibilities, and physical distance from much of the organization’s workforce contributed to this challenge.
- I lacked context – employee history, individual personality and work styles, personal and professional challenges, and individual needs. Without context how could I contribute?
These challenges reminded me that I am not God. Now, how do I assuage these challenges that I faced? It quickly dawned on me that my role was not to manage people in the organization; rather, it was my job to empower managers at people management. In other words, my role was to awaken the HR in every manager.
I have long believed that the people best suited to effectively manage talent and performance are managers. It doesn’t matter what business unit or function they belong to, or at which level they operate. Managers have two crucial advantages that most human resource practitioners lack:
- Close and regular connect to their teams
- A clear understanding of the people they manage – strengths, weaknesses, aspirations, fears, personality traits, working style, motivators, etc.
Given this reality, it is important for managers and organizations to remember that people management is not the sole proprietary of HR teams. In fact, HR teams are just agents that enable, while people managers at the owners of the people management process and experience. Therefore, when looking to develop capabilities in people managers, a key focus is in empowering them to be better HRs.
The question remains: How can you, as a manager, awaken the HR in you? The answer is in the ‘BUNCH OF FIVES’.
Bunch of Fives
Just like the 5 fingers of a hand have individual and collective strengths, Managers need to equip themselves with 5 crucial elements to become better people practitioners.
- Know your organization: Managers are the links between the organization’s business strategy, created by leadership and the execution of this strategy cascaded at various levels of the workforce. Unless you know your organization, its history, offerings, and culture, you may not be able to do justice to your role as a manager. Answer the following questions in one line. If you do not have answers, seek help, as knowing your organization is the first step to be a better people manager.
- What is the organization’s vision?
- What is the culture of the organization?
- What is the organization’s history?
- What are our offerings?
- Who are our competitors?
- What is the organization’s current business strategy?
- How does the organization’s strategy impact my role and my team?
Once you have the right answers to all these questions, move on to the next step.
- Familiarize yourself with Company policies: HR teams might be the custodians of company policies, but managers are the ones who must know them thoroughly. Do you know your company’s policies? Let’s find out:
- Do you know the organization’s policies on leaves, appraisals and exits?
- What is the budget allocation policy for your organization?
- What are the statutory laws relevant to you and your team?
- Do you know why these policies are in place and the consequence of non-adherence to these policies?
- Think about the common policy-related queries or situations you have faced in the past – have you been comfortable addressing them?
If you don’t have the answers to these questions, it’s time to crack the manual open. It’s there for your benefit and remembering the policies relevant to you and your team is not that hard! If you find it difficult to remember all the policies, at least ensure that you know where to find them.
- Establish rituals: Have you observed HR folks introducing initiatives like company meets, opportunities to connect with leaders, team outings, rewards and recognition initiatives? They are trying to introduce rituals that you can practice. Rituals help us connect with purpose, set routine and build culture. Rituals create rhythm and memories. Your team will remember these rituals even after many years. Reflect on your career journey and you will see the power of rituals. Ask yourself:
- What are the rituals you have already implemented within your team?
- What has been the impact of past rituals on your team members?
- What new rituals do you want to introduce and why?
They say that people leave managers and not organizations. While managers may not always have too much influence over processes or strategies within the organization, building the right culture and implementing rituals that aid this culture is crucial for retaining and empowering high-potential talent. Your one small action can have a big impact on your team. You get to choose if this impact should be positive or negative.
- Be the problem solver: You will face issues in your journey as a manager – Consequences of hiring a mis-fit, dealing with motivation issues, confronting poor performers, rewarding the right person, responding to harassment complaints and difficult exits. The easy way is to direct all these to the HR teams. HR is, however, not the best person to address these challenges. You are! To your team, HR is a faceless entity. When a problem arises, your team comes to you with faith that you will help them solve their problems. Don’t break that trust.
Now, ask yourself these questions:
- What challenges has my team come to me with, in the past?
- How did I handle these challenges? What was the impact?
- How are others handling these issues? What are the best practices?
- Coach for better performance: There can be no better coach than the manager. You have the best understanding of the situation and the needs of your team. You see what is working and what is not. Therefore, it is important that you constantly adorn your head with the hat of a coach or mentor, develop people and facilitate better performance. Ask these questions to be a better coach:
- What are the strengths and areas of improvement of each of my team members?
- What are the ways in which I can help my team members?
- How are my biases influencing my coaching and how can I overcome them?
You might wonder now if all the work must be done by Managers, what is the need to have an HR function, right? Don’t worry. Your HR team is busy consolidating organization-wide people practices, being unbiased observers, and providing information and support whenever needed.
As for you, the Manager – Just getting the bunch of fives right is not enough. As a manager, you need to stretch your plan and seek help. Reach out to your HR for more information, understand the best practices and unbiased opinions. Also exercise for better people muscle. In other words, learn continuously and improve your bunch of fives.
There cannot be one definite end state for people practitioners. It’s a journey and not a destination. Make conscious effort to awaken the HR in you. You will see the results yourself!
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