How to win hearts and minds while pushing forward continuous improvements within the organization.
All jobs have just two major categories of activities: projects and maintenance. Project management is a real source for professional growth that all HR professionals (and everyone else) ignore at their own and lasting peril. Performing the same tasks for 20 years is more damaging to job survival than ever before.
How to solve the problem? Remember Covey’s Time Management matrix? Spend more time in Quadrant II (QII) for important/not urgent activities. (Without going into it too deeply here, see Covey’s page-turner, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” if you haven’t already.) Additionally, we need to avoidQuadrant IV (not important and not urgent)—the things we like doing or prefer doing because of either a high comfort level or because it gives us an excuse to avoid pushing ourselves in the pursuit of new and challenging, not to mention risky, tasks at every opportunity.
What should make you even more interested in projects is that they are really the most enjoyable aspect of each person’s job, especially in human resources.Because discomfort is the key to learning—to avoid this aspect is to condemn yourself to a terminal career—ongoing learning for a knowledge-based profession such as HR is forever mandatory.
So what is consulting and how do you do it as an employee? Simply put, consulting is any activity that has a temporary aspect, a client (that is the recipient/beneficiary) of your “intervention,” and a voluntary effort that leads to permanent change. It is an opportunity for you to do something you want to do as part of your job that has not been mandated by your boss. MBWA (managing by wandering around—the HP term popularized in the great book “In Search of Excellence”) is one way to identify potential opportunities for consulting projects…something you should be doing on a regular basis anyway.
Think Q-II and find the time so that you may avoid the nickname I was given by employees in one of my more challenging jobs: Angel of Death. This was given to me because the only time they felt they saw me was when someone was about to be fired.
Suggestions may just hit you in the face—for instance, a pi-up male calendar that might require the need for a sexual harassment training program; timesheets frequently not filled out correctly (or at all); not enough spaces in the parking lot for employees; an employee sleeping at her desk. These examples may open the opportunity to suggest new and innovative solutions that will also contribute to building a never-ending process of ongoing improvements to coincide with your organization’s drive for continuous improvement.
Once you select the situation that cries out for your attention, then you set out to determine whether the beneficiaries of your involvement want you to address the issue. If they do and you decide to proceed, you then have a client and a project. By using a simple, effective gap analysis approach, you work with the client to define what the desirable alternative to the current situation should be. Then, the two of you map out an action plan to close the gap. It could be a training program, coaching, a performance measurement tool, or a communications effort that is the answer.
The key here is that the client manager takes responsibility for the action plan and you as consultant serves as enabler, with the manager getting the credit. When the project ends, you evaluate the effectiveness of the course of action and withdraw from the scene.
Key take-aways include a manager who is more effective than ever and who has a higher regard for HR than ever before and an HR professional who is improving his/her skills as an effective problem solver while building internal (and perhaps external, when the situation warrants) relationships. Best of all, the HR professional has taken on additional responsibility only on a temporary basis and has at the same time taken one small step in getting the organization to have a cadre of leaders who are really effective executors of HR programs. So what is there not to like about the consulting aspect of the HR role?