The HR Department and the Business Communications Department have a lot to learn from each other

Glenna Cross is a Master Communicator and Communication and Search Consultant.  Her dream is to see the HR department and the Communication Department work together as strategic partners.  Both departments have a focus on employee engagement and are champions for employees within an organization.  While most of their functions are separate, many overlap, particularly in the area of change management, leadership support and connecting with employees. This can be a cause for misunderstanding and sometimes even conflict.
Sometimes the Communications department may be viewed as taking direction from HR to “get the message out”, “make it pretty” or otherwise execute specific communications tactics, as well as addressing risk management by ensuring issues do not explode in the media.  However, the best relationships see HR engaging with Communications as strategic business and thought partners who can provide insight, advice and counsel and sound strategy (in addition to the execution of that strategy) to move the needle on employee communications and employee engagement.
At Glenna’s presentation for the Workplace Fairness group, she asked
How can organizations develop a functional, successful partnership between HR and Communications’?
Some thoughts from the group;
  • HR/Communications should report into the same line of command within the organizational structure.
  • Each department should have a leader at a similar level. Both departments need to work at building relationships with each other. Mutual respect is key.
  • Develop a common goal and understanding – practice common goal setting .
  • Develop a RACI chart to ensure roles and responsibilities of each department are clear.
  • Examine the physical location of the departments – how far apart are they in the building?
Building strong working relationships is a focus of our work at the Workplace Fairness Institute.  Teams who take extra effort and maintain an on-going commitment to collaborate generate innovative and creative results.

A value for culture leads to business value

As a Canadian I am informal, consensus building, highly individualistic, and reserved before building trust and relationships through successful projects. I also define myself to a large extent by not being a Yank.

Do these generalizations sound familiar?

Cultural value lenses help us understand each other.

I learned from Don Rutherford, a facilitator who has consulted for many years with different organizations around the world, that identifying trends and generalizations about different cultures can help us work together more effectively. Don pointed out that generalizing vs. stereotyping is an important distinction.  Generalizing helps to make better decisions. For example, I generally know that if I leave the house at 8 to get downtown it will take me 20 minutes longer than if I leave the house at 9, and I organize my day accordingly.

Don produced the Canadian Values Lens for Cultural Detective.  When Don introduced Michelle and I to the Cultural Detectives Value Lenses we were struck with the resonating language. We explore values and needs to help people resolve conflict, as Don explores them to open the dialogue about cultural differences in the workplace. We had a great conversation which surfaced some good examples.

Values which have an impact here in Canada include hierarchical vs. not; valuing technical skills vs. valuing softskills; and respect for elders. I noted as we explored these that organizations have values too which impact cultures. Often these organizational values come into conflict with a new leader, or following a joint venture or merger.

I think it is important to be curious. So often we can be blind to the different routes which will lead us to consensus. A leader within a very hierarchical culture can for example, still solicit feedback and opinion from others to build consensus. Perhaps the ideas are presented as the leader’s ideas, but the best ideas still surface.

Are you interested in learning more about Cultural Detective value lenses?  Free webinars are available. You can learn more here.

10 Best Practices in the Workplace Restoration Process

A workplace harassment investigation can be a traumatic event which affects not only those directly involved, but often causes extensive collateral damage.  A healing process which helps staff feel heard and acknowledged is a very important step for re-establishing or rebuilding workplace norms.

Restoring norms following a harassment investigation is an important step.

Restoring norms following an harassment investigation is an important step.

Following a discussion about the role the of the investigation and the purpose and goals of the Workplace Restoration, participants at a recent Workplace Fairness lunch identified 10 best practices.  Whether an investigation is founded or unfounded these are important steps:

  1. Facilitate, when appropriate, a confidential written agreement between the complainant and the respondent that is separate from performance measures.
  2. Provide regular and ongoing feedback to all staff.
  3. Ensure leadership is visible and committed to “say” and “do” accountability.
  4. Support leadership to share and acknowledge ownership of contributing factors.
  5. Follow up with the team and others affected to develop a plan and strategy with common goals and processes for the group.
  6. Facilitate a safe dialogue to re-establish the norms of respect and dignity by asking questions, creating a common language, and ensure the experience is normalized for all affected.
  7. Provide skill-building support for supervisors and those involved through training and 1-on-1 coaching, focusing on listening skills and “I language”.
  8. Maintain a forward-looking aspect to the restoration process.
  9. Appoint a new neutral facilitator who was not involved in the investigation and ensure impartiality in all follow-up dialogue.
  10. Ensure a restorative and healing process which allows all to be acknowledged for their experiences.

We would love your comments! Do you have anything to add? join the discussion below.

Workplace Culture – Creating Intentional Shifts

On our Friday, May 25th Workplace Fairness Luncheon, Jenn Lofgren with Incito Consulting led us in a conversation focused on shifting Workplace Culture. 

Jenn shared with us a case study of an organization that Incito Consulting worked with to shift culture to improve safety, communication and accountability.  This was a two pronged approach as Jenn embarked on supporting the leadership  and Marjorie and Michelle’s efforts concentrated on the employee group.   Leadership coaching, leadership skills training, employee interviews, a discovery report and a focus group meeting were utilized to bring awareness to the issues, gain acknowledgement and build understanding.  The discovery report revealed employees struggled with feeling safe and comfortable in their work environment and showed concern about the perceived lack of communication from leadership while leadership was seeking accountability and engagement from their employees and a focus on client satisfaction.   Acknowledgement of these issues and a commitment from leadership to address them was the first step in creating a shift.

With Jenn’s guidance the leadership group worked to address behaviours that were affecting communication, accountability and a return to a comfortable work environment.  The focus group was made up of employee sanctioned representatives from all areas of the organization.  A full day facilitated session with Marjorie and Michelle enabled the group to build understanding, move forward and brainstorm ideas to improve efficiency and client satisfaction.

A few curve balls were encountered along the way including a change in HR management, a change in leadership structure, new leaders and the late addition of a sister company.  Commitment began to slip and people began falling into old patterns when situations became challenging.  Looking back, opportunities for difficult conversations were overlooked and would have enabled a smoother transition forward.

The results of the culture shift were extremely tangible for this organization.  Profits were increased substantially, stress was reduced amoung leaders and accountability was improved.  Better-quality customer and employee relationships increased engagement and customer satisfaction and improved the reputation of this organization within the industry.

The Amygdala Hijack is bad for business

We are all susceptible to the amygdala hijack. It happened to me the other day when my husband accused me of being overly sensitive.   I have heard that before.  As a child I was overly sensitive, and then I became sensitive about being sensitive.  It wasn’t helpful behaviour for building self-confidence.

I learned the other day from Dr. Donald Mihaloew, a speaker at the ADR conference in Red Deer, that memory (in my case, all those childhood insecurities) is stored in your hippocampus.  Your amygdale (there are 2 of them, one for each side of the brain) decide what to do with the signals that arrive, after some short consultation with the hippocampus. It might look like this:

In conflict it helps to learn to divert your thinking to more positive and future focused ideas.

Your emotions can run away with you.


If there is poor information in your hippocampus, you might receive some poor feedback, and do something impulsive you regret.

But you can do something about it.

        • Suspend your judgment.
        • Normalize the amygdale hijiack – yes, this happens to everyone.
        • Focus on the future and the positive.  Interrupt your train of thought, and change the direction.

I am working on it.

A Workplace Restoration is an important step

A Workplace Restoration can help improve employee engagement and productivity following a significant negative workplace event, such as a harassment investigation.

Lately Michelle and I have been thinking about Workplace Restorations. If you live in Calgary, the first thing that may leap in your mind with the word restoration could be flood damage. I am sure there are many households in Southern Alberta watching the waterways and the precipitation forecasts this spring. The word restoration implies that things can be put back the way they were found. If you lost a basement of goods last summer, I am sure you have a visceral knowledge that you can’t put things back the way they were, even once the mud has been cleared.

Following a significant negative event in a workplace it becomes crucial in the workplace to redefine a plan for the future which integrates and restores. Like the damage following a flood, an event in the workplace can leave emotional scars. People need not only acknowledgement for past wrongs and experiences, they also benefit from being part of redefining a plan for the future. Too often following a harassment investigation, for example, remedies that address collateral damage of bystanders is missed.

A Workplace Restoration following a harassment investigation is a critical step in returning to a productive workplace.

A Workplace Restoration can be a significant help addressing collateral damage after a harassment investigation.

A Workplace Restoration is a process which provides a safe comfortable environment for all to express and explore their beliefs, concerns and hopes for a positive workplace future. Through a process with an impartial 3rd-party facilitator, they define their criteria for a positive working environment, and a detailed plan with specific actionable items. A Workplace Restoration can involve individual coaching in addition to large and small group facilitation. Training may be an important desired outcome from a restoration, and will be most effective if staff contribute to the training plan in the restoration process.

To read more about what you can do as a manager towards restoring the workplace, visit these resources from the Government of Canada.

Diversity & Inclusion: tear down the myths and discover your value proposition

I learned yesterday that I have been perpetuating some myths when it comes to diversity and inclusion, and I have a hunch you have too.  On Monday, I was lucky to participate in the first Calgary Diversity and Inclusion Un-Conference, hosted by the CIDI (Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion).  And I learned a few things.

Apple and pear diversity... (la diversité des pommes et des poires)

For example, why do you think we not getting any traction in Canada with women in senior executive roles?  It isn’t, as I have naively thought, because women are making lifestyle choices.   Barbara Annis has done the research.  She was the plenary speaker on Monday morning, and you can learn more about her compelling research in her new book, Gender Intelligence.

And how do you influence change in your organization when you have limited apparent influence and authority? Sergeant Bill Dodd, from the Calgary Police Service shared his insights.  He has been successful strategically bringing in other perspectives through community boards.  I learned from him that you need deliberate, strategic feedback loops from your community.  And I also learned from Sergeant Dodd that one person can really  make a difference, and come away with some great stories too.

I have also been challenged by Zakeana Reid to challenge my unconscious and my own implicit biases. You can do the same at Project Implicit.

Were you at the CIDI Un-Conference? What did you learn? I would love to hear from you.

Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace. It starts with the conversation.