Special from #SHRM2018: Top 5 Priorities for an HR Department of One

The HR Daily Advisor is excited to be at #SHRM2018 in Chicago attending the session “This Year’s Top Five Priorities for an HR Department of One� given by Jennifer Currence of OnCore Management Solutions. Today’s topic, as you may have guessed, addresses those many organizations across the country with a singular HR manager.

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Currence opened the session by suggesting that HR professionals ask themselves a simple question: what can I do differently? She went on to say, “there is one guarantee, if you are sitting there waiting for someone else to change so you can advance, you are going to be waiting a long time.�

Top 5 Priorities at a Glance

And here they are! Look below the list for information on what Currence had to say about each priority.

  1. Employee Engagement & Retention
  2. Talent Acquisition
  3. Leadership & Navigation
  4. Communication
  5. Relationship Management

Employee Engagement & Retention

One of the audience members shared her view of engagement, saying that it never stops. It starts during the interview process and never ends until the employee leaves the company. Currence agreed, adding, “It’s a hot topic that employers are really struggling with. This is really important and we need to pay attention.�

She suggested that if your company isn’t focusing on engagement, that you need to rely on your business acumen to get that message to the c-suite. She recommened tying employee engagement, or a lack of it, to operation expenses and turnover. “That can help you sell your ROI for engaging employees� to the executives, said Currence.

Another audience member said that they routinely do contests for gift cards and similar rewards. For example, if they release a new policy manual, they give rewards to people who can spot the new changes. They also have contests to see who can complete the most training courses. That audience member finished her story saying, “almost any opportunity we have to engage the employee in something that involves professional or company policy development we make into a contest.�

Another novel source of engagement involves training. Currence had a suggestion that instead of spending money training employees, spend it on training managers (or both if you have deep pockets). Why? Because “the number one reason for employees leaving is their managers,� said Currence. If you spend good money training your managers on good engagement practices, that will trickle down, and the cost of that training becomes split by the number of employees under that newly trained manager.

Talent Acquisition

Every HR professional knows how important it is to get the right people into the organization and there are a lot of theories out there about getting those people onboard.

Currence suggested that storytelling might be the most important tool for talent acquisition. Storytelling can showcase the best features of your workplace—so long as those stories accurately depict an organization. She noted that Indeed put out a statistic: 65% of new employees begin looking for another job before 91 days had passed. That is a staggering number. Currence explained, “it’s really important to share stories and make sure that you are in charge of making sure that those stories are accurate and that they are true.�

Currence suggested that social media is also an important tool for talent acquisition. She noted that, 85% of all recruiting is currently being done on LinkedIn (according to LinkedIn themselves). Having a presence on those kinds of platforms can really help you connect with your future workers.

Leadership & Navigation

Currence stated, “We know what we know in HR. And if we know how to apply it, we can use that information to be more strategic and help our business grow.� Transmitting that information, then, becomes very important. She explained how good leadership and navigation starts with good business acumen. That means learning how to read various financial statements and becoming familiar with things like operational expenses, labor costs, training costs, benefits, and how that affects your organization’s bottom line.

“Understanding how the business makes money� and all of the parts of the financial system at an organization “can be very beneficial� said Currence. She cautioned that when you take on a task like learning the financials of your company, you are going to step outside of your comfort zone. And while that may be true, she also went on to say, “when we do things that are uncomfortable for us, that means we are growing.�


Currence framed the value of communication by talking about what happens when there is no communication. She said, “If we don’t have communication, we build mistrust. We don’t mean to, but it just happens over time because people are not getting the information they need.� She went on to say, “In the absence of truth, people make stuff up.� Okay, she didn’t say stuff. I’ll leave her exact phrasing to your imagination.

What happens when you have a rotten apple in your group? “And every group has one,� said Currence, “you have to be careful if they are spreading rumors based on a lack of communication.� In other words, it’s the monster you have to imagine that is most terrifying, not the one you see.

Another point that Currence made was that as an HR professional you often must communicate things that are less than popular. She advocated the use of contrasting. For example, if someone is late three times, you could accuse them of being late. Or you could say “I notice that you have been late three times. What I don’t want to happen is for you to think that I am managing your time. What I do want to happen is to help you realize how important you being here is to the business.� In this way, you are not just communicating an accusation, you are in fact communicating the value of the employee.

Finally, Currence mentioned that when you listen to your employees, especially when they have made mistakes, it’s important to be an active listener. She explained, “not selective listening where you wait for them to say the one thing you were waiting for and pouncing.� Instead, she suggested using more open-ended questions like what and how. Instead of saying, “why can’t you be on time� try saying, “how can I help you and what can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.�

Relationship Management

Relationship management, as Currence defined it, involves the ability to manage interactions to provide service and support the organization. This includes everything from conflict resolution, to handling the interactions between and among different teams, to dealing with vendors.

Currence noted that wherever she looks, be it the schoolyard or in corporate America, the most important value that a person can have is being respectful. She said, “thinking about managing your relationships at work or in your personal or even romantic relationships, being respectful is important.�

Building valuable relationships as an HR professional requires that you take a good look at the landscape around you, suggested Currence. That includes the relationships between and among teams at work, being aware of what has worked in the past, being aware of updates in your industry, and knowing what your competitors are up to. Once you get the lay of the land, then you can use the information you have and translate it into current HR trends.

One specific relationship that is very important to cultivate exists between HR and the c-suite. Currence suggested that HR professionals must find a way to relate HR to executives by sharing HR’s ROI. She said, “turnover is a good example because everyone understands it. High is bad, low is good. If you can relate turnover to their bottom line, you can gain credibility with your executives. Now you are speaking their language.� With that example in mind, any HR professional has a rubric towards communicating other important HR needs to the c-suite.

Please stay tuned. The HR Daily Advisor will be publishing coverage of many more sessions and interviews from #SHRM over the next days and weeks.

The post Special from #SHRM2018: Top 5 Priorities for an HR Department of One appeared first on HR Daily Advisor.


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