For those who have babies, you’ll readily understand the metaphor. If we pay attention to it, baby shit is an indicator. Turns out… lagging and leading indicator. You can tell a lot about the health of your child from things exiting said child. And, for the record, men who don’t change diapers are weak, pitiful human specimens. Period, end of story.
Some context, years ago I was told that I could learn from every single interaction I had in life… if I was open to it AND I honed my awareness capabilities. Really. Every single interaction. When I heard that… I remember thinking… that just sounds tiring. Sometimes in the elevator I just want to daydream about Baywatch. For the love of God, don’t take that from me. I jest.
IMO, we can gain insight into our work environment from the darndest of places. The hardest part is developing an eye for the inane and the relatedness of a person, process or number to our success within the organization. I strongly believe that “secret” relations exist… it’s a matter of whether or not we want to crack the code.
Workplace awareness is a mystery worth solving, but it isn’t easy. In some ways, it is a daily (if not hourly) conversation you have with yourself in terms of what you are observing / learning. When you have a conversation with someone, you pay attention to what is being said AND not being said. When you watch people, you don’t waste time judging them, you simply look for trends or patterns. To become aware is a lifelong journey. No shortcuts.
Getting Shit Done
So here’s the thing… you want to get things done within your organization. You want to be more successful than you are now. You want the system to work for you rather than against you. I get it. Okay, all the answers are already in front of you. I call this… the truths. They exist in plain sight within the tapestry that is your organization. Look specifically at bellwether: processes, people and numbers to gain insight into your specific organizational truths.
Truth is in the processes you manage. What’s the one process that you believe is a bellwether for your department? You know the one. If this process is failing, then most likely, you are failing. Out of all the processes that you manage and/or are aware of in your organization… what is the one process you need to keep your eye on? Identify and track the hell out of it. Come to really understand this particular process… what are the typical roadblocks, the inhibitors, etc. This process should be like the back of your hand.
Truth is in the people you mange. Each organization has a Dan. Dan is indicative of how everyone in the organization feels. Dan isn’t necessarily aware of this distinction btw. You want to see how the new compensation plan will be received, talk with Dan. Thinking about how morale sucks, talk with Dan. Thinking about promoting certain people in your organization, talk with Dan. Gauge his interest and/or reaction. The way Dan “votes” is the way everyone sans outliers will vote. Build a special bond with Dan. This isn’t just an influence ploy. I’m suggesting you really get to know what makes Dan tick.
Truth is in the numbers you manage. Keeping your eyes on all the numbers (read: metrics, KPIs and/or other fancy terms) is a full time effin job. Not my point here. What’s the one number you have to keep track of? This can change daily or weekly or with a particular process, etc. For instance, let’s say you have a summer internship program and you really need 100 candidates for the program to be successful. By March 1st, if you don’t have 50 qualified candidates, you’ll never reach goal. By knowing that one number, you know if you are on goal or not. So, what number are you tracking? And, what does it tell you about your organization?
The More Simple Rule
Instead of talking about HR complexity, I’m asking you to consider some of the simple ways of understanding your environment. Think about it for a moment, what if you managed your current team 100 years ago? Dress code jokes aside… Would you be the same manager / leader?
Two other things to consider… your organization behaves differently than every other organization. So, as you discover “the truths” in your organization… know that no one else on the planet will be able to really relate. Get comfortable with that.
Also, just in case you feel a bit like a fish out of water… honing your awareness skills in the desert like some Jedi knight… know that we’re not taught these skills. Blame whatever institution you want… your parents, church, public education, private education, universities, SHRM, whatever. We need to teach ourselves this skill.
In sum, your workforce just like my son, Van Ollis, sends us signals each and every day. Are we paying attention to the signals?
William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He’s been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.