HR Roundup: What Really Matters in your HR Organization

Top Areas of Focus for HR Departments

Top Areas of Focus for HR Departments


Today’s HR Roundup comes from Forbes’: The 3 Things Startup Founders Need To Know About HR, a guest post from TribeHR’s Joseph Fung.

The post is directed at startups, but it has a broader benefits to established HR organizations as well. The premise is simple – there are some things you can delegate to consultants or fumble your way through in a new or growing HR organization but there are some things that are core to your corporate health and you cannot afford to overlook them.

The three main recommendations from the article for a new HR Organization are:

1) Cultural Fit -

Hiring the right people can make or break your organization. Technical prowess or tactile expertise is great, but if your new employee doesn’t subscribe to your company culture, agree with your company values and understand your company mission, they’ll never perform to their full capacity and could quickly turn into a disengaged or disconnected employee. Culture fit should be a requirement. You can teach skills, its much harder to change behavior and character.

2) Transparency -

Make sure your employees have the information they need to be autonomous, act in the right manner to benefit the company and perform with an understanding of your company and little uncertainly in your company direction. Fung goes on to say “Be deliberate in the time you choose to share information. Information shared too early may cause employees to shift priorities too soon, and information shared too late may undermine employee confidence.”.

3) Provide a “Why” -

This is a great one. Fung states most companies are good at describing the ‘what’ (product) and the ‘who’ (customers) to employees, but they don’t describe the “Why”. Why is about your larger mission, your vision, your core values as a company. Get your employees to live and breath your values and understand that everything they do revolves around a common mission of everyone at the company and you can turn your average employees into exceptional ones.

Interested in more information about building a great company culture and leading in a world of shorter tenured employees, generational differences in employee motivation and social recruiting? Subscribe to our Manager 2.0 Newsletter where we’ll send you weekly updates on employment trends and what is most talked about on the web in the HR space.

How do you identify and pick your company values?

Built to Last by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras outlines the results of a six-year research project into what makes enduring great companies.  Collins and Porras assert that a core ideology is composed of a set of core values and a purpose that guide an individual or organization forward.   Core Values are essential and enduring tenets not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term results.

The 6 years of analysis and research by Collins and Porras prove that the most successful companies are mission and value-driven.  The question for me is how do you define and select those values.  So I spent a couple of days doing some online research with no meaningful results.  There were a lot of articles that discuss the importance of company values, but very few that provide suggestions for how you identify those values.

So I posted a question on the Linked-in HR Group and within 24 hours received many helpful responses.

Executive coach Gregor Findlay offered this advice:

To identify the real values that are in place, interview the leadership and then examine their behaviours. If the behaviours observed support the values espoused then you have a good chance that you have correctly identified the existing values. If they don’t match, then you’ve a bigger challenge.


Author Adina Balauru suggests going right to the top:

The shareholders or the owner who have created the company is the one that knows what is the mission of it. He has a vision of this business on short-medium-long term. And in order to complete the mission, the company’s employees need guiding points such as the values. Usually the values belong to the company’s creator or to the leader of the company who inspires the rest of the employees to be performant and to enjoy their work on a long term.

Finally, the approach we ended up using to pick MeritShare’s values was suggested by Bill Burnett, the co-founder of THNK.

We use a process that takes Collins and Porras’s Core Ideology in Built to Last with a slight but very significant variation. The whole process, from blank page to crystal clear definition of what you call Mission, core values, and behaviors (desired and banned) takes less than a day. Mission is easy. It is the What and Why expressly linked to some intrinsic good. You are spot on that there is a tight link between Mission and core values. And that is where we depart from Built to Last when it comes to values. And this is the hardest thing for companies to grasp because of a feature of the brain Daniel Kahneman refers to “theory induced blindness” The theory is that values drive behavior. It is an appealing idea and most people believe it is true. We like to think that our behavior is guided by that internal compass. But the theory is wrong. Perfectly rational people behave in ways that is in direct opposition to their values everyday. And what we absolutely need to attend to are behaviors, after all, it is all your get from your people. And equally important we need to have those behaviors be highly motivated right behaviors. That is where values come in. Values answer the “How” question in ways that link to some intrinsic good. It is possible that a Mission requires no additional “How” statements. These are not behavior statements, they are statements around doing some good. They become the foundation for how you link individual job behaviors to the fundamental motivators of Identity and Meaning (separate conversation).


For example, it we were to tackle Method Cleaning products. Their mission might be to make families healthier and happier by making the home they live in sparklingly clean and germ free. Supporting values statements (How) might be “by making products and packaging that are 100% environmentally friendly; by making products that are safe and non-toxic.” This gives us a foundation for motivating behaviors for employees. Method’s current values (except for one) are really behavioral statement. They want to be spontaneous and have fun (“Keep Method Wierd”), they want to be resourceful (“What would McGyver do?”), they want to be innovative (“Innovate, don’t imitate”), and they want their employees to work together (“Collaborate like crazy”). These are behavior statements. In our model, you need to spend a bit more time on behaviors and we work with leadership teams throughout the organization to define the behaviors, both of employees, and (harder work) the behavior of leaders.

Defining your mission and values is important if you want to build a great company that attracts top talent.  Thank you to Bill, Adina, & Gregor for your thoughtful and helpful advice.




You Don’t Win Games Just By Showing Up

According to Bersin and associates, over 87% of companies provide recognition based on years of service, a practice first mandated by unions.  While retention of employees is critical and high turnover is undesirable  – not connecting recognition to performance or company values is a disservice to employees, shareholders, and leaders.  In her research, Bersin analyst Stacia Sherman Gar also shows that service-based awards have little to no impact on turnover, morale, or performance.

A much more effective approach to tenure-based systems is to provide recognition programs based on company values, results, and performance.

Values-based recognition:
Values help define how you want people to work together and make decisions.  Some of Google’s values include: 1) Fast is Better Than Slow 2) Democracy on The Web Works 3) Focus on The User and All Else Will Follow.  It is easy to imagine how Google’s focus on the consumer helped to guide decisions and policies related to advertising and their uncluttered ad-free home page.

A well-selected values should deliver on the strategic imperatives or missions of a company.  One of Zappo’s core values is “Delivering Wow Through Service”, reinforcing a brand promise and competitive differentiator for this successful e-commerce company.

Values-based recognition rewards employees who best demonstrate and exemplify the desired behavior, providing teaching moments for the entire company.   In order to maintain their spirit of entrepreneurialism and ensure their size does not slow them down, Amazon provides a “Just Do It” award quarterly to an employee who provides a shining example of taking initiative and “getting ‘er done”.

Great companies are also built when there is tight alignment between the founders vision and the values needed to deliver on that mission.  Apple’s relentless focus on building great products and attention to detail is a manifestation of their late founder Steve Jobs.  Founder-based values can be very effective when  you have a leader that embodies those characteristics.

Goal-based recognition:
Goal-based recognition provide awards based on measurable results.  Many sales organizations use these for top performers, providing the award to the individuals who makes the most sales or consistently exceeds targets.  Almost every position can establish this type of recognition program and leverage SMART goals to make sure they are effective and support company priorities.

In other cases, critical company results are accomplished by cross functional teams of engineers, designers, product, and marketing people.  Thus, goal-based recognition can be applied to group or teams.  Apple retail stores constantly monitor and optimize their operations to improve their customer net promoter score (% of customers who would strongly recommend to a friend).

Goals-based recognition can also be used to draw attention to key initiatives that need additional exposure.  Many companies are in industries being disrupted by technology, business models, and global competition.  Print and media companies need to get more digital, digital companies need to go mobile, and mobile companies may need to address new platforms and form factors.   A forward-looking goal-based recognition program can help prepare a company for a very different future.

Although tenure and attendance based recognition is an easier system to manage, the effort to develop values and goal-based recognition will produce better results.  You can still keep a tenure-based system, but put a lot more weight and attention on recognition that reinforces the values and results of employees and teams.  You owe performance-based recognition to your employees, your customers, your board, your investors, and yourself.

Coffee is for closers, awards are for winners.