By Chad T. Ahern
Earlier this month, I had the chance to conduct my first coaching session utilizing Gallup's strengths coaching model. Even though I've helped, "coached", and counseled individuals before, this experience was unique enough that I wanted to share a bit about the experience and some personal lessons.
My client for the call was a new Director of HR who was looking to expand his own strengths initiative within company of 50. He, like me, is a relatively new strengths coach looking for an external perspective. His background was in marketing, but has an intense passion for developing people. His top 5 talent themes are: Responsibility, Connectedness, Belief, Positivity, and Individualization.
During our call, I discovered his amazing passion for developing others. In talking about it, he made the realization this was a perfect reflection of his top 5, all of which have an "others" focus. He isn't happy if others aren't being served. I also came to learn that he relies a lot on his 6 talent theme of Relator to develop close relationships with all his colleagues.
The learning and ideas that came from our conversation helped him realize that he didn't need to "sell" the strengths initiative to the entire company all at once. Instead, he could use his marketing background, coupled with his Relator and Individualization talent themes, to devise personalized sales pitches for each of the seven team managers based on what ROI they might achieve by implementing a strengths approach.
I share this experience to help highlight three ideas that might be helpful to future clients (or to people considering becoming a strengths coach).
In this past Saturday's Burlington Free Press Art Woolf had a wonderful piece contemplating the future of Vermont's labor force. In it, he points out that Vermont's employers are going to be (or are) facing some serious problems filling open positions at all organizational levels and across for-profit, governmental, educational, and for-purpose/non-profit organizations.
While I commend Art for starting the conversation, I don't think he went far enough.
Rainer Strack's 2014 TED Talk takes Art's thoughts a few steps further. In Mr. Strack's talk, he highlights the coming challenge won't be centered on finding high-quality talent, but an outright "war for talent". Companies, governments, and organizations will need to compete to simply find enough warm bodies to fill the necessary positions to get required work done. This challenge gets far worse if you focus on highly-skilled, talented professionals.
Here is the scary part for Vermont...this will play out on an international level.
So what can a small state like Vermont do?
As Mr. Strack points out (at about the 10:00 minute mark) that out of 26 possible work factors, four of them are most likely to help you find or keep your employees over the long-run. Interestingly these focus on the person, not on their skill-sets.
Mr. Strack also points out that to succeed in this new labor market, we must develop a "people strategy" and we must rethink our attitudes that people are vibrant, resources and assets, and not just head counts.
Vermont already has a reputation for being a welcoming state where we focus on people. Democracy plays out at a local, personal level. For the most part, most businesses in the state would be considered small.
Vermont's small, personal nature should make it easier for us as a state to start transitioning from an HR environment that focuses on benefits, head counts, and legal matters to an approach that is far more holistic. We, of course, can't abandon the legal side of HR, but we can do more to attract talent (especially top-talent) from elsewhere by developing practices that celebrate the wholeness of the people who come to work in our Vermont workplaces.
This is how we will solve Vermont's talent shortage.
So far we've covered acknowledgment, reporting impact, and recognition. The fourth a final pillar from donor relations that can help transform human resources is engagement.
For donor relations professionals, the goal is to bring donors as close to the institution as possible so they A) feel good about their philanthropy and B) consider making additional future gifts. It is for this reason that donor relations professionals focus on three activities - information, access, and experiences. In donor relations these activities might look like:
Often these three types of activities can be combined. You might offer a special experience led by a organizational leader (access + experience). Or an "insiders" newsletter (access + information).
So what does this mean for transforming human resources?
If you're looking to further engage your employees (or future employees) with the organization consider how your human resources staff could facilitate some of the following:
Thank you to those of you who patiently waited since April for me to post this final installment of the human resources -to- talent management series.
How have you used information, access, and special experiences to keep and engage your company's talent?
How will you use the combination of acknowledgment, impact reporting, recognition, and engagement to transform human resources into a full-fledged, human-focused, talent management operation?
So last week I wrote about the importance of acknowledging people beyond the paycheck. This week I'm going to talk about the second pillar of donor relations - impact reporting - and how the same idea can help you build a more engaged workforce.
One of my favorite TED talks of all is Daniel Pink's "Puzzle of Motivation" (watch below). In it he speaks about the importance of purpose. Impact reporting is one way to demonstrate fulfillment of purpose. Let me explain...
Most donors give with a particular purpose in mind. It might be providing education to deserving students, saving an endangered species or the rain forest, curing a disease, or improving their community. Most donors also realize that it's not going to happen over night; thus, you need to inform them periodically about how they've helped the organization move closer to fulfilling the goal. Many non-profits do this through impact pieces like this one from Cook Children's Health Foundation.
Employees (on the whole) are likely looking to do the same. They want their work to mean something; to fulfill a purpose. As Daniel Pink states,
Purpose [is] the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.
What better way for an employer to recognize this truly human desire, than to show employees how they are impacting not only the company, but also the greater world? So many non-profits spend time constructing impact communications for external constituents (donors, volunteers, board members, etc.). What if all employers spent a little more time demonstrating how each employee is contributing to fulfilling the organization's vision, mission, and business objectives.
Since I write primarily for a Vermont audience, I have to add that I think this is the perfect state to start such a movement. So many of our companies are small enough, and we work in close-knit communities. I think it would be fantastic if we took the time to recognize the contributions of our fellow employees. It could also be inspiring to see how such a small state (and the companies that operate here) are making an impact on some of today's biggest issues.
What better way to take human resources beyond the next benefits form, and show genuine interest and gratitued in your workforce.
How are you showing the connection between your employees' efforts and your company's success?
Last week I wrote about how the donor relations profession might help inform human resources' metamorphosis into a more holistic "talent management" approach.
To further understand the parallels, I should point out that success in donor relations is based on four pillars (well laid out by Lynne Wester). These same four pillars should guide at talent management approach. They are: Acknowledgements, Impact Reporting, Recognition and Engagement.
This week I'd like to address the first pillar - Acknowledgments.
For Donor Relations
Ever since colleges, universities, and non-profits have existed, it has been common place (and now legally required) to send a gift receipt. No surprises there. So many of us depend on these to claim charitable tax deductions every April. For the longest time, these gift receipts were a staple of "stewardship" programs as it was a reactive practice. What has become a little more common is for development staffs to generate separate notes of gratitude that are sent shortly after the gift receipt. Who sends a "thank you" is often dictated by the size of the gift or the longevity of the donor. What is probably more important is that the thank you is personalized to the donor and the gift. It should be an expression of how the donor, through their gift, will help the organization move forward.
These may seem basic, but I can attest that if you get these wrong there isn't going to be much need for the other areas of impact reporting, recognition and engagement.
For Talent Management
The gift receipt is not unlike a paycheck stub. Any company, for legal and accounting purposes, must provide each employee a record of what the company owes them in response for their efforts to show up to work each day. This may seem basic, but if you get this wrong your employees aren't likely to stay around very long.
What would be new for human resources is to include a deeper acknowledgement of the impact each employee brings to the company. So what could this look like? Here are three options..
Remember, everyone loves to be appreciated, even if what they are accomplishing is what's expected of their position. Human resources shouldn't just be about using people as cogs (or a resource) in a larger machine. We should aim to recognize the unique talents of our teams and captivate those who decide to share their talents with us.
What have you done to acknowledge the efforts of your team members?
As the Donor Relations Officer at Saint Michael's College for the past five years I've been able to watch a gradual but profound change in the way fundraising/development teams treat their donors. In the past, the term "stewardship" was used to describe the activities after the "ask" (never before asking a donor...that's "cultivation"). More recently, colleges, universities, and other non-profits are embracing a more donor-centric approach that seeks to drastically increase the scope of involvement with donors; encompassing not only the role of stewarding gifts but now looking to acknowledge, recognize, and engage donors. This is the new world of Donor Relations.
It wasn't until I happen to recently re-read Lynne Wester's gem "The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations", that I realized the human resources profession is primed for, or already starting, a similar switch in both terminology and approach to Talent Management.
Traditional HR is not too dissimilar from "Stewardship". HR has typically concerned itself with managing benefits, ensuring everyone is paid on time, and coordinating the organization/company's compliance with the right federal and state regulations. Sure they've managed the job postings and provided some advice to hiring managers, but I think most would agree that a bulk of HR's work is done after the hiring of employee.. This is what Stewardship did for philanthropic gifts. We made sure the gift was designated/allocated correctly, the donor got a gift receipt, and ensured the Finance Office correctly spent the money. This all worked when employees left at the 5 o'clock whistle, or didn't care much about what happened to their philanthropic gifts.
Yet, times are changing. Just as donors are becoming more discerning about their philanthropic gifts, so too are employees becoming more discerning about where they work. Work is no longer 9-to-5 as employees blur their personal and professional lives. Employees are also seeking more meaning from, and interaction with, their employers. Professional development opportunities are now a deciding factor for prospective employees. Frequent recognition, feedback, and mentoring are now the call of the day. Add to this, the growing challenge of finding and keeping a high-quality, talented workforce and now HR can't just be content with making sure checks go out on time. They now must make time to develop the right set of programs to acknowledge, recognize, and engage a discerning work force. Enter Talent Management.
In my next four posts over the next few weeks, I'm going to show how Lynne's ideas not only apply to donors, but can also help "human resources" transition to "talent management".
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