Plante Moran | Leading Change: Human Resources Best Practices
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Leading Change: Human Resources Best Practices

The world of work is always changing. Given the recent recession, however, we’ve seen shifts and changes in the workplace that, for many organizations, have been unprecedented.

Because of this new reality, we urge companies to start thinking about their human resources-related challenges and lead the charge to address some of the areas that are vital to your viability and success. These include performance measurement and management, doing more with less, and employee morale. 

Performance Measurement and Management

Successful companies tend to follow best practices in performance management. Regardless of the size of your employee base or the age of your business, we recommend implementing at least some of following practices. All have been shown to improve performance and increase a company’s bottom line.

Align individual goals with key business objectives. Individual employee goals should roll up to achieve departmental goals, which achieve organizationwide goals. High-impact goals are realistic and specific. Effective goal setting describes individual behaviors and results that directly contribute to organizational success. These goals provide the roadmap for employees related to what they can do to contribute to the success of the organization.

Identify and define job competencies that are critical for success. A competency model describes a specific combination of knowledge, skills, and characteristics that’s important for success. Competency models serve as a roadmap for keeping leaders and employees on course. Leadership competencies, for example, call out key success factors such as leading change, business acumen, developing others, and agility. These competencies can be used to inform and align organizational initiatives such as leadership training, hiring new staff, and promoting existing staff.

Provide specific and continuous performance feedback. Performance feedback is most effective when it’s targeted and timely. Providing balanced performance feedback continuously throughout the year is a hallmark of best-in-class organizations and leaders. Equipping supervisors with practical and specific tools and training increases both their skills and confidence in providing important feedback to employees. The biggest barrier to performance feedback is resistance by managers to give it, largely because they don’t have the skills or tools to do it effectively. 

Doing More With Less

Too often, we hear employees and organizations discuss how they must “do more with less.” Successful organizations explore how they can “do things differently.” Here are a few best practices.

Review your organizational structure. Top organizations build their structures around the work that needs to get done and their business goals. Too often, departments and jobs remain unchanged and are arranged to support a time when business needs and operations were quite different. Ask yourself, does our current structure make sense for the business we are today? Will this structure still make sense for the business we expect to become five years from now?

Create job descriptions that reflect current roles and responsibilities. Employees and supervisors need a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities. Clear job descriptions help individuals better understand what work needs to be done. Your employees’ descriptions of their jobs should align closely with the descriptions recorded on paper.

Streamline and update work processes. It’s important to review the frequently used processes in your organization, and determine whether or not alternatives should be considered. Look for areas where consistency can be implemented and redundancy of work can be reduced. For example, consider creating company templates for frequently used reports or letters and placing them in a central location or instituting an enterprise resource planning structure to centralize information technology applications across your business. Such systems provide management with a comprehensive overview of the business and a way to share information and resources more efficiently. 

Employee Morale

Lastly, take a look at how your employees are feeling. Studies show that employees’ emotional states affect productivity and results. After multiple months of cutbacks, frozen or reduced earnings, and/or escalating inflation, your employees may be feeling bruised. Boosting employee morale leads to increased organizational performance and decreases the chance that your top talent will leave when the unemployment rate starts to drop.

Engage your employees in dialogue. Soliciting employee input and suggestions can proactively engage employees in problem solving. Employee surveys are one tool to gain an accurate read on the mood of your organization. When done right, these surveys give a unique source of information to the company for focus and prioritization. Best-in-class organizations actively involve teams of employees in identifying and implementing action plans based on survey results.

Build high-performing teams. Your team’s efforts are critical to the success of the organization. Many studies validate that functional teams outperform dysfunctional ones. Facilitating targeted team-building activities can serve the dual purpose of re-energizing your team and creating specific action items that align team goals with organizational goals. 

Lead Change

As psychologists, we know that the biggest barrier to change is fear. This includes the fears of those who lead change.

We find that providing leaders at all levels with tools for leading change in their organizations increases self-confidence, improves morale, and accelerates the successful implementation of change efforts. The business environment continues to change; we recommend equipping your leaders with the required skills to evolve with it. 

How Do Your HR Practices Measure Up?

Please score each “Yes” as 1 point and each “no” or “I don’t know” as 0 points. If your score is:

12–15: Your organization reflects policies that are best-in-class.

8–11: You are currently using many best practices. Consider some fine tuning.

4–7: We suggest more closely evaluating your current HR practices.

0–3: Call us now!
Performance Management and Measurement

  1. Do you conduct employee performance at least once a year?
  2. Do your employee goals link directly to organizational objectives?
  3. Have your managers been trained to rate and give feedback to direct reports?
  4. Do your employees have specific goals for the year?
  5. Do you have 90 percent or more of your employees’ performance appraisal forms completed at the end of the performance year?
Doing More With Less

  1. If you have fewer people now, have you modified your processes accordingly?
  2. Do your employees have accurate job titles?
  3. Do your leaders have the skills/tools to lead your employees through change?
  4. Do your employees have the skills, training, and tools to achieve their goals?
  5. Do your employees have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities?
Employee Morale

  1. Are your employees actively engaged in devising solutions for key organizational challenges?
  2. Do you feel that your top talent will stay when the recession lessens?
  3. Do your employees feel that they are taking on a fair amount of work, rather than too much or too little?
  4. Would your employees say that you have the right staffing levels to get the work done?
  5. Do most of your employees have feelings about where they work?

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