Monday, December 27, 2010

New Role, new challenges

Man, being new to a organizations is a pain! I was once told that no company is perfect and I accepted that on face value without really thinking about it. In reality, there are two types of companies. Companies that are can change course easily and companies that can't. I think one of the worst things about HR is that the first 6 months is spent learning all of the transactional procedures that get stuff done. Really, to me, this is a necessary but painful evil in an HR career. You need to be the expert on how an organization moves forward on a daily basis, but your job is not to provide transactional support for the operational guys. I just feel like I am wasting time learning this stuff however necessary to get to the good stuff like changing attitudes and processes toward talent and development. If Kris Dunn has taught me anything, it is that every minute you spend on transactional work is a waste of time. But, yet you must learn, so that you can teach others.

Part of my problem with the new organization (which is great, really), is that they are growing so fast they seem to be going overboard to create some semblance of organization as they rapidly expand. The result is a heavy handed attempt at an extremely hierarchical structure from a former marine (Oh, how I want to say ex-marine just to piss you guys off...Marines and military folk will get this).

As an HR guy who knows where his paycheck comes from, my number one goal has always been to increase my operational boss's authority. I firmly believe that the more decision making you push down to the lowest level the more flexible and effective you will be as an organization. However, I now find myself in a position where the organization is going the opposite way.
So, I now find myself in the role of insurgent. I need to convince people who get paid more and have worked for the organization longer than me that their path is wrong, and while structure is important, it is not what has made them successful in the past.

So, the question I have been pondering this week before the new year, in a two month old job is how ballsy should I be, and who can I afford to piss off to make my point.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Overtime and the Hourly Employee

Hours in a growing industry is always a challenge. In established industries it is simply a math problem where a certain amount of overtime equals another full time employee. In a high growth company, it is much more difficult. Employees become reliant on overtime pay for their daily expenses. A person who should only be making $2.5K a month starts bringing in $3.5k a month and their lifestyle becomes dependent on making that kind of money. However, in the end people who are putting in that kind of overtime will only want to put in that kind of time for so long. Once you realize that you have employees putting in 300+ hours a month you have to realize that these peoples lives are not "typical". Retention is also an issue over the long term. People do not want to work those kind of hours long term. While with the economy the way it is you can get away with it for a while, after a year or two employees will even take a pay cut to get a more family or lifestyle friendly schedule.

Really these type of situations should never happen. While their will be time frames of a month or so where increased hours are necessary in a production environment, if you go more than a quarter with this type of overtime you need to seriously consider adding shifts. The danger you are facing if an hourly workforce gets used to gross amounts of overtime is a complete change in the demographics of your hourly workforce. If you are looking specifically for guys who will work 200+ hours a month, they will never be happy when told that they only get to work 180. They have car payments and mortgages based on the high hours. They will leave and you will be forced to find people who have more realistic hour expectations. While you always want to hire people who will work a high amount of hours, too many of those and you create a situation where it is an entitlement. A proper mix is needed. For retention purposes you need at least a 70 percent hourly workforce that is happy to work 40 hours a week. Then you can leverage the other 30 percent to fill in the gaps. There will always be employees who will take whatever hours they can get, but creating workforce that is entirely composed of "hour whores" is a recipe for failure. In a Union environment you also get people that are on the watch for percieved seniority violations as it pertains to overtime.

Bottom line: Create a sustainable production pace and find a metric that tells you when to add people. For people in a more static and established industry you need to get with your controller and figure out what those metrics are.

Talk to a safety guy about the myriad of safety issues associated with long hours as well.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

1st Step in a new Blue Collar HR job: Who to make Friends with

While I haven't had too many changes in jobs there is one truth that I am sure of in the line blue collar HR field. Make friends with your finance person. While in the white collar world with a proven structure this may seem anathema, the comptroller, controller, accountant, or whatever you call it, is an extreme asset in the management of an hourly workforce. Look, I have to many employees to be absolutely groundbreaking in everything I do. Maybe that is admitting defeat. But in my world simple victories stand out. Victories like making sure labor gets charged to the right account so that the proper supervisor or manager can be held responsible. Also, when you are looking at big picture, assessing manning levels and adjusting using overtime as a metric doesn't work when your maintenance account is getting not getting charged because of the production people they are using on overtime for fire-watch.
The person who knows all of these things is your financial guy (gal). Their frustrations are your frustrations when it comes to managing 200+ employees. Simple oversights or errors over the long term can hose you big time when you try to do that "big boy" analysis to actually better your organization. First step when you enter a new Blue Collar HR job is to ensure that labor is being charged to the right account ever time and employees are classified correctly. The easiest ally to that purpose is the finance person. They almost always feel under-appreciated and they already have a long list of issues about how labor is charged (without full perspective) that will make you look like a star.
Solve that issue and the finance guy will come to you with issues rather than suffering in silence. Which for some reason is what they tend to do without acknowledgment.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Admin Recruiting....Where it's At

While it is certainly a daunting task to have multiple admin requisitions come to me within my first few weeks at a new job, I am appreciating the challenge of building a staff from scratch so much. While I have had some experience with building the hourly ranks with solid performers and feel that I am successful at it, salaried employees have so much more complexity and fit means so much more to the organization. The human resources function feels so much more rewarding to me now that I have sole control of who to show my operation guys and can control the how applicants are recruited so much more. While I don't think I could ever become a recruiter without a master, I really enjoy building organizations from the ground up. I have always liked buying into a vision and then selling other people on the promise of an organization that I belong to. Especially when I am given a free reign to go ahead and experiment with raw talent as well as seasoned professionals. While there are a host of other aspects of the HR generalist role I enjoy, the recruiting part seems to be the lynch-pin between running a successful organization and building a successful organization that makes you feel more responsible for organizational outcomes. There seems to be so many good hires around the corner right now in this economy. It is truly exciting. Now if I can just find the time to learn how to write status reports correctly I may just make it into my second month. Google "Terrible" Terry Tate: Office Linebacker.....the horror....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Geneology More Than Your Wife Discovering Herself

Let's talk skilled craftsmen. Not just mechanics or Millwrights, but the ones that are truly hard to find. I think every blue collar industry has one or two of these type of jobs. Take Sawfiling, in the sawmilling industry it is a specialty unto itself. It is not millwright or electrician, it is a mix between machinist and voodoo (it is, indeed, often referred to as black joke). It is a craft that is so specific in it's skill set that very few people choose to do it and, as a result, the few people that choose Sawfiling as a profession, are good at it, and show a spark of leadership ability become well compensated very quickly.

Normally, the answer to a lot of problems in finding leaders for this type of niche craft is to grow your own from within. If that fails you find yourself having to decide if your geneology has gone wrong. I am not talking names, ethnicity, or what royal family members you may or may not have been related to in the past thousand years. I am talking about a line of training that puts niche craftspeople into a school of thought, philosophy, or overall attitude.

Specialized craftspeople operate in tight circles. Rumors fly quickly through these groups and almost everyone knows everyone, at least by reputation. If you are looking for a change in philosophy, technique, or ability pay attention to where your current craft philosophy is coming from. You can often trace who was trained by who until you get to some common denominators, that can show you the true differences. Of course, individual ability still comes into play.

I am truly curious if anyone has come into contact with searches of these kind. It has been one of the most interesting searches I have ever done, because of it's complexity and difficulty. Any niche crafts I need to be aware of?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Do You Know Who You Are?

I am going to brag a little in this post. The struggle will be to not get annoyingly egotistical. But, I believe that my experience will give people something to learn from.

The economy sucks, there are no job opportunities, especially in manufacturing...Dear God I hope you don't want a job in Manufacturing.


I am a Manufacturing HR guy with only two years of industry experience. I recently started testing the waters to see if there were other opportunities out there. I stuck with large manufacturers of various products and started submitting resumes via the SHRM website. At one point I was in the middle of 4 different searches only six months after submitting my first resume. I was picky, I told companies I wasn't interested after learning more about the job/organization. I declined offers. I did not take a job until I felt it was the absolutely perfect opportunity for me. No compromising, no regrets. I know there is more to it than that, and there was a lot of hard work along the way, but my main point is that there is plenty of opportunity oout there.

How? I know who I am and what I want to do with my life and can articulate it clearly and concisely to hiring managers. I do plenty of hiring and the amount of wishy washy answers I get to the simple question of "What do you want to do with your life?" is insane. Par for the course would be: "I hope to be successful in [insert position you are hiring for here] for x amount of time and hopefully have an opportunity to move up in your organization." Ok, that gets you through the question without follow ups, but I am going to forget you the moment you walk out the door. Here is my answer to that question:

"I love HR (I actually do). My long term goal is to become an expert in manufacturing/industrial human resources issues. For me, that means that I would like to spend some time as an HR Director and move into a VP level as quickly as possible (important to note that those are not the positions I am an applicant for). I work hard because I love what I do. I do HR for fun. Long days don't matter to me because I have found my calling in life and it is good.


If you don't like me because I won't be wasting space in your office for 5 to 10 years adding little if any true value to your organization then I will not be the right person for your job. If you can't keep me challenged I will move OK enough crowing, I will get back to the issues.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

When It's Time to Move On

I am starting a new adventure. For the last two years I have been learning manufacturing HR from the school of hard knocks at a Lumber Mill in Dillard Oregon. The experiences and development I have recieved from the many great people I have worked with are too many to count. The reasoning for my leaving is relatively simple:

1. I have an inherent love for the HR functional area and wish to specialize in this area (Currently I cover safety and environmental compliance which for development purposes has been good, however is becoming more and more of a distraction to where I want to be).

2. I looked at my goals for the upcoming year and realized that I wasn't invested in any of them (Namely all safety and environmental goals and no HR goals)

3. The culture of my organization is based on "putting in your time". This permeates everything from compensation and benefits to how you are treated on a personal level. I have worked hard over the last couple of years to become an expert on this organizations HR processes and feel that those skills really are not valued because of my short tenure.

4. About a year ago I started getting a sneaky suspicion that I could get paid more to do less work. Now, if you are a 12 hour a day guy you can't just become an 8 hour guy, but my wife and I have made the decision that she would stay home with our two small children and focus on my career. If I am going to be missing that much time with my family there is a compensation number that needs to be reached for me to be comfortable.

Having said all that I really do like my current organization. If I was the type of guy who wanted to wait around for my shot and "put my time in" this would certainly be the place to do it. Good people both in the managerial and hourly ranks. However, I also chose this company because I felt that I could make an immediate impact that would better my organization. Lately, due to economic conditions and managerial changes I have felt less and less like I have the ability to impact my organization for the good. I probably could have kept the plates spinning for another couple of years, but in the end, I want to be fully engaged in what I am doing. I am proud of the achievements and projects that I have worked on here, but it is time to move on.

A note to people in the same boat, you would be amazed what opportunities are out there at this time. I was in the fortunate position of being pursued by three different organizations. I believe the key to this is that I truly love my chosen profession of HR. Good people always have choices. I chose to move on.

I also hope to be restarting blogging regularly. stay tuned.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mom...Can you find me some Candidates

My parents live elsewhere now, but the often return to the ancestrial homeland (Puyallup, WA.--don't try to pronounce). It is easy to get caught up in a conversation about Billy, you know your younger brothers friend who used to live across the street, and what he is doing now. Usually it is focused on the normal stuff like how many kids he has, or where he is living etc. Normally I pay about half attention to this stuff and move on. However, here is a recent phone conversation I had with my mother:

Mom: So do you remember Billy?

Me: Kinda (Staring at the computer screen)

Mom: He is expecting his third kid.

Me: Sweet...good for him (spacing out on facebook).

Mom: He works for a sawmill in Colorado. Summary of what I hear: He is specializing in this ultra niche craft that you have been banging your head against a wall to fill. His organization is in trouble and he is really looking for something different. He would also like to be closer to family in the Northwest.

Me (yelling): What's his NUMBER!!! GIVE ME HIS NUMBER!!

Mom: Oh?! I don't think I have his number. Ummm, I suppose I could give Julie (Billy's mom) a call and get an e-mail or something.

Me: That would be awesome, thanks mom. You are the best mom in the whole world.

Never mind that I had not spoken to this guy since he was in Jr High. He was about to become my new best friend.

I think more than anything the above...very sad yet telling scenario, shows how hard it is to find people wanting to take a risk in this economy. Organizations who aren't willing to pay 90th percentile or above are having a hard time filling key roles within their organization. People are stuck in their homes. Mediocre seems ok right now until the economy gets going. I have been extremely underwhelmed by the responses I have gotten to my openings. This is even with the assistance of various recruiter types.

In the end (with all due respect to recruiters out there), nothing beats having the HR manager or Operations guy call up someone out of the blue and sell a passive candidate on a opportunity. It is unfiltered and it starts or restarts a relationship that will prove very valuable during the selection process.