Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wanna Take a Risk on an Up and Comer? Don't throw them under the Bus at the First Sign of Failure

For anyone who is not familiar with this saga you can get a good refresher here. The short version that applies to HR pros is this: Up and comer gets the next step up from supervisor to middle manager with a boss to be named later. He knows that there is some C level dysfunction in the organization, but figures that he will be able to just do the job and make the most out of the opportunity. Manager search goes bust. Many of the top level candidates are bailing because of the dysfunction within the organization. Many decide to stay where they are at in lesser positions with only minor incentive from the potential losing organization. Warning sign? The CEO is frustrated, and since his options are limited, rather than look desperate he hires the up and comer already within the organization to the big spot. The season begins, everyone had low expectations and many people both within and outside the organization doubted the wisdom of the hire. As those expectations start to become a reality the CEO does:

a) Supports new hire with references to "Rome wasn't built in a day" etc.
b) Stays silent on the topic while pushing/allowing his intermediaries to support the new manager.
c) Stays silent on the topic, hires an outside consultant to take a major role in the organization stripping the new hire of much of his authoriity. When intermediaries attempt to support the new hire puts out a strong message that their job may be on the line as well.

If you picked C then you could very well be Dan Snyder the owner of the Washington Redskins!

Look, if you choose to take a risk on someone who shows promise, has the personality, but just not the resume you have some obligations to set clear limits on when you are going to bail on him. I am not saying you just resign yourself to failure, but a little due diligence at the outset would go a long way in minimizing the chaos this has caused in the Redskin's organization (For instance why the 5 year contract if you were even a little bit unsure you think they would have gone a little shorter). The press is now starting to catch on that Jim Zorn is a scapegoat for many larger issues going on in the mediocre football team.

I think many of us have had a chance to "step up" beyond our normal progressive career path in our lives. Usually, I have done it because a need was there and I felt that my leaders had faith in me and would support me and aid me in tough times. That is the obligation that leaders have in these circumstances. If I thought for a second that they would pull the rug out from me as soon as a little heat starts coming I wouldn't volunteer for anything.

Good luck finding your next Head Coach Mr. Spencer. You thought it was tough last time, you haven't seen nothing yet.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Why Blue Collar??

As I try to start blogging again, I thought I would begin with the back story to my adventure in blogging. A good way to introduce myself again to the blogging world at large and also to inform HR types in the blogosphere why you NEED me.

I am blue collar HR. That means that HR is only part of what I do. If I were to put all of my titles on a business card it would not fit. I am HR Manager, Safety Coordinator, Environmental Coordinator, and Training Manager. If it has personal liability as a punishment for incompetence I am usually waist deep in it. I either report or take direction from 4 different upper managers (Plant Manager, HR Director, Environmental Affairs Manager, and Safety Manager). My rating and goals only involve 2 of the above titles, however, I know that a failure on any of them would most likely be a terminable offense.

I deal with a Union. Every personnel decision I make is filtered through a document of which is more about what is NOT included rather than what is specifically written down. The first six months of my job I was told where to find it in the contract (with only a slightly condescending tone). The next six months of my job involved interviews with various union and non-union personnel to find out if indeed there is a "past practice" which invariably leads to a grievance in which the VP of HR (3 step grievance process for the uninitiated, no binding arbitration in the contract) may or may not support me based on what he had for breakfast or larger picture issues of which I have no visibility. Good ideas once filtered through this prism often turn to mediocre or bad ideas. I still love the struggle.

We are at the ground level of many processes that larger businesses have been doing the last decade. Modern performance management system? Employee/Supervisory Training? I feel included in all of the discussions and if I choose to be a part of or even spearhead an initiative I can. While frustrating that these things are not in place I get to shape the future based on how I want it to look.

I deal with REAL people. People I would like to drink beer with. People who have real problems. I have a heartfelt belief that what is best for my company is best for my community and vice versa. The community I live in is small, but that makes the business decisions that I am a part of take that much more importance. Relationships are important here. While we don't have much a system for developing people, it tends to happen just because of the many good people around which is why we have excelled up to this point. This is an hourly union workforce the "heartbeat" of America.

There are many issues that are important to me that do not seem to be covered in the HR Blogosphere. This stuff isn't rocket science, but it is where the rubber meets the road in our economy.