By Kris Dunn
Jul. 21, 2016
Let’s face it: We all have good days and bad days as HR pros. On the bad or average days, it usually feels like all you have time to do is put out fires or move email around.
Those days suck, but they happen. It’s when you find that type of day bleeding into multiple weeks (or even months) that you realize you have a problem.
You’re in a rut. You’ve ceased to add value as an HR pro at the manager, director or vice president level. What you do next is up to you.
Our companies hired us with the greatest of intentions. The assumption was that we were going to create a progressive people platform, mixing industry best practices with our own experiences as HR pros to come up with an approach that best met the talent needs of our company.
Then we got caught up in what I’ll call “activity.” Emails. Meetings. Employee relations. You know the drill — all the busy work means you didn’t have time to get to what was most important — the project work that maximizes the return your company gets on its investment in people.
Just like the best software departments ship new products or updates every week, the best HR pros ship products on a consistent basis as well.
When’s the last time you created something from scratch as an HR pro? It’s been too long hasn’t it? Whether you’re OK or frustrated says a lot about your capacity to be a great HR pro.
Great HR pros create new stuff and ship on a regular basis. If you’re OK not shipping, stop reading now. If you’re frustrated about it, the rest of this column is for you.
The first thing you need to ship more work product in HR is to protect your time to be creative. To get organized and protect that time, I’ve tried to start an organization system called GTD (Getting Things Done, a great time and task management system) four different times.
Like a smoker who tells you he’s getting ready to “quit again” (irony), I need to implement the GTD system again. It’s my best defense against the “whirlwind/vortex” of activity that sucks you up and prevents you from creating value. Look to a similar system to protect your creative time. Repeat as necessary.
Last but not least, you need an appreciation of what “product” is — especially in the world of HR and intellectual capital.
When I was fresh out of grad school, I worked for IBM Global Services as a project manager for market research engagements. One of the challenging things about that job was staying up until 4 a.m. the morning of the final presentation with a partner pouring over my slides and generally being a huge @#$ about things that I thought didn’t matter.
Then we’d walk into clients like the Chicago Tribune and General Motors and present at 9 a.m.
The partner had a reason for the grill sessions. As a research firm, I still remember him saying, “The only product we have is the intellectual capital on those slides.” He was right, and he taught me a lot about shipping work product. I know that now.
We all have different work experiences. I learned to ship work product in the knowledge sector at a former employer. If you didn’t have a similar experience, you’ll need to look at peers, thought leaders or colleagues in different departments for inspiration.
What do you ship? Well, you’re the expert, right? The HR area you focus on is probably best defined by the following intersection: what you like to do best in the world of HR and the area of need at your company. A new recognition program? A new approach to recruit your hardest-to-fill position?
The area of focus matters less than your determination to make something better — this week.
One of the key elements to you becoming one of the best HR pros in your city is the ability to ship. No excuses. You set the date, and you do whatever you need to do to get your product or service where you want it to be, but when the date comes, you ship, deliver and communicate what’s changed to the rest of your company.
Stop whining. No saying, “It has to be perfect” before you’ll ship. Set the date, then get the product out the door. Then improve it over time after it’s launched. Without that approach, chances are you’ll never ship.
Me? I still have way too many days where I don’t ship anything. I need to change that, and so do you.
Ship something today. You’ll feel better and the people who hired you to lead will feel better as well.
Kris Dunn, the chief human resources officer at Kinetix, is a Workforce contributing editor. Comment below or email email@example.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.
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