Engaging HR in the community

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Trying to get those HR ‘types’ to engage with your community program?  Feeling frustrated as they are always too busy with annual review, performance planning, executive meetings or leadership programs?  Tired of feeling left out if you don’t fit into those activities or timeframes?  I personally have worked with HR organizations that have traditional cycles that are like clockwork.  They are hard wired into their brains indeed.  It can feel hopeless if you need their connector or link to a formalized Employee Resource Group if you are launching, for example a Women in Leadership Network.  If they are too busy working on the Executive Bonus, don’t fret.  Here are some lessons learned that you may find helpful in your journey with HR.

1.)     Know the HR program calendar and cadence.  What I mean by this is that you ask someone in that organization directly that question or you infer this through the calendar and programmatic activities that you are aware they work on, such as annual holidays, compensation and benefits, end of year bonus, review and new leadership programs.  Just to name a few.

2.)    Clarify their KPI and CSFs.  It’s important to understand what key performance indicators and critical success factors are for their organization.    These will be important nuances and openings for you to align with in the future.

3.)    Build relationships.  If you have been at your company for a zillion years or just don’t respect HR.  Think again, they have a very tall order to get you paid, ensure you have benefits, incentive programs, training and a myriad of other areas in their portfolio.  They are actually way busier than you could ever imagine.  So, start to have empathy and look to understand all the facets of work they do.  For example, if you are in IT and love analytics.  Why not volunteer to attend one of their Lunch and Learns or IT meetings to help them define key data elements and challenges.  Perhaps you could simply ask someone in the department to lunch and ask questions about what keep them up at night.  Their top programs.  Listen and learn.

4.)    Ask questions.  Taking someone out to lunch is brilliant so that you can ask questions either you wonder about that may be tactical or strategic.  Either way, they generally are open to this and will either point you to a lunch or learn event, an open door event or perhaps another person better skilled to answer your query.  Don’t get frustrated, just keep opening doors.  Eventually you will get your answer and learn about your organizational culture and structure more intimately along the way.

5.)    Provide an Offer.  No we aren’t talking about making an offer on a house, what I mean is that after all your ‘listening’ to understand the breadth of their portfolio and challenges, you may hear they have a need to identify a way to get our a program message through an online community.  Now we are talking.  You could offer to either setup the community, be a core team member, leader or better yet, just a facilitator.  Perhaps you could even do the business analysis for a site migration.  Who knows, but there is likely a need for your passion and competencies for communities hitching up with HR.  It just may not be the linear path you originally envisioned.

6.)    Keep an open mind.  This is why it’s so important to suspend judgment and keep an open mind.  I know most of us in the community business are fast talking, fast paced balls of passion.  But there is purpose in stepping back to listen, learn, be strategic, let our minds wander, wait and offer with an eye to being open to new possibilities.  This will only happen if we sit quietly and wait.  Our timeframe may be urgent, but there are other organizations that are building blocks to running the larger business so we must stop and think about not pouring more sugar into the pot, but rather consider a slow teaspoon of sugar in the different batches we cook.

7.)    Show Empathy.  This is an absolute must in our field and is critical to social business as Bill Cripe outlines in this article.

8.)    Feedback.  The only way we evolve is to provide it in small doses.  Be thoughtful in presenting the feedback, consider using one of many feedback methodologies, but don’t settle on not sharing your input.  It’s just not worth it to NOT give it.  We don’t evolve if we don’t give it.

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