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Category Archives: Human Resources

5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

Work-life balance. I am sure you have heard this phrase before or even tried to fulfill its simple message: To balance your work and personal life.

Some of you might be thinking, “Yep, I’ve got this down to a science,” while others might be thinking, “It seems so easy, why can’t I just do it?”

Well, I am about to let you all in on a little secret…I know from personal experience that there is no magic answer or solution—work-life balance is something you have to actively think about and try doing.

As a Human Resources professional, one of my responsibilities making sure my employees can find ways to have this balance, which is important. Not only should it important to the individual, but it is important from an employer standpoint as well. Ever hear the expression, “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, we can apply that same principle here: “Happy employee, happy organization!”

Employees who feel rundown, overworked, or stressed are more likely to be less productive. It is easy to get caught up in our work, especially when we love what we do and who we work with and for. However, it is equally important to unplug (sometimes literally) once the work day has ended and take time for yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as I have found myself putting in 10 hour days without even realizing it.

So, how do you make sure to balance work and life appropriately? Here are some tips that you might find helpful.

  1. Be Organized: Stay as organized as you can throughout the day; set goals or make lists. Use whatever methods are effective, depending on what organization looks like for you personally. Find a way to prioritize and delegate tasks accordingly.
  2. Breathe: Remember to take breaks and refocus throughout the day. Sometimes I find that taking a quick walk or doing some simple stretches (especially important for those of us who work at a desk or in a seated position all day) can help you reset and allows you to be more productive and less stressed.
  3. Be Flexible: Be open to flexibility in your work and ask for flexibility when needed. We all need a little wiggle room at times and being flexible and having flexibility can lead to higher productivity—a win-win situation!
  4. Be Efficient: When you are at work, be efficient by staying present, avoiding distractions, and staying focused on your tasks. This can be as simple as keeping a clean work space, organizing your tasks or projects for the day, creating a timeline and sticking to it as much as possible, and delegating tasks as appropriate. Working efficiently allows us to get more done at a quicker pace and worry less when we go home (or get us home faster). Work smarter!
  5. Communicate: Communication is the cornerstone to just about everything. If you need something, ask for it. Whether it’s a day off or assistance with a project, be sure to communicate what you need—those around you cannot read your mind.

These tips might seem simple, but give them a try. By doing a few simple things, you may find yourself more energized, productive, and less stressed throughout the day and at night when you go home. Remember, it’s okay to leave work at work; I promise it will be there when you get back!

About the Author: Dr. Melissa McManus is a Human Resources Professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

Is the Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training right for me?

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Human Resources, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Scrum, Training

With the KAIP Academy’s Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training sessions taking place soon, we wanted to address some questions we’ve received about whether a CSM designation is worth it. One of our partners, Michael Bosch (Certified Scrum Professional from Brightline Solutions, Inc., a locally-based firm offering Agile Delivery and Change Management Services) answers some questions we’ve received. Hopefully these will help you if you are on the fence about getting your CSM certification! If there are any questions we haven’t addressed, please ask them in the comments—or email academy@kaipartners.com—and we will tackle them in a future blog post!

Question: I have relatively limited experience using Agile processes and I am not an “IT” person. I do business process analysis and participate in Change Management on an Agile project.) Would training to be a Certified ScrumMaster® be appropriate for me?

Answer: Absolutely. Scrum, at its heart, is what’s known as an empirical process control framework. This means it helps us figure out what needs to be done when it hasn’t been done before. Organizational change management frequently involves solving the unsolved, building incrementally and adaptively, and creating and maintaining early and constant communication with the project community. All these are honed in the acquisition of a CSM.

Question: I would likely be described as an “end user” of systems rather than a person who develops systems. Would it be useful for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster® if I’m not developing new systems?

Answer: Yes, if you find yourself leading or being part of teams that are called upon to perform what is referred to as “knowledge work, i.e., effort that requires creative, adaptive, incremental development of something that has a lot of unknowns to it. If this describes your team’s work, then having the knowledge of a CSM will help you be more predictably successful.

Question: I have learned the basics of Agile and use it on the projects I work on—how would getting a CSM help me at all?

Answer: Learning Agile in a way that it can be used to get reliable, adaptive products in the hands of clients when they need them in a way that provides real business value is constant and rewarding journey. Pursuing a CSM adds to the value of that journey; moreover, it provides a benchmark with which we can rely on a set of established, common knowledge about Scrum as a community of Agilists.

Question: I readily see the value in getting my CSM designation in my role, but I literally can’t afford to take time off from work and pay for the training costs: How can I get my employer to endorse or sponsor my training?

Answer: When I got my CSM, I ran into similar issues. One idea is to work out a bargain with your employer: you’ll take the time off as vacation if they pay the course. Another selling point to give your boss: You can provide the team/organization with a presentation of what you learned. Or, you could do some research and gather data and information (the KAIP Academy website and KAI Partners Blog are a great place to start) on the real business value, profitability, and potential for innovation represented by employees gaining their CSM.

Question: I work in administrative services but work with Project Managers and Certified Scrum Masters daily, how would being certified as a CSM myself help me?

Answer: The CSM certification provides a balanced, effective introduction to Agile and Scrum. The value this provides is exposure to the concepts, vocabulary, and mindset of an Agile framework. It would help you in understanding the difference between the approach your PMs follow as opposed to your CSMs – giving you a firm perspective on the entirety of work being performed and delivered.

Question: As a human resources professional (in a leadership role), other than understanding the language, process, and methodology, is there a benefit to me or my organization for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster®?

Answer: Agile and Scrum are human-centric and collaboration and communication dominant. In these and other ways, Agile comports with the mindsets of human and talent resource management. HR is a process-centric discipline, too—much of what is performed follows prescribed workflows. New initiatives, unusual circumstances, and expansion of business services often result in a need for an HR team to have a framework to plan, execute, and deliver on these needs that is adaptive and lightweight. Scrum to the rescue!

Question: Would having this certification make a difference in the way I perform my job functions or interact with my staff (of whom I have PMs and Agile/Scrum personnel)? From a human capital perspective, what would be the benefit (or the disadvantage, if any) of achieving this certification as a human resources professional in a leadership role?

Answer: Dedicated, committed acquisition of a CSM will result in positive changes in one’s leadership styles and capabilities. It provides an alternative to Theory X management styles, giving the HR professional a fresh look at how to govern the creation and sponsorship of self-governing, self-managing teams. Without the knowledge and practices provided by a CSM certification process, an HR professional would be unprepared to support this ever-more common organizational structure.

From HR to PM and everything in between, we hope this article helped you get the answers you need to know whether the Certified ScrumMaster® training is right for you!

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Professional Development

Conferences, Event Recap, Human Resources, KAIP Academy, Learning, Sacramento, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM, Training, Workforce Development

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a Human Resources Conference sponsored by SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, a professional organization of which I am a member— titled People, Purpose, Passion!

It was a great two-day event showcasing topics current to the field of human resources, including legal issues, talent management, and technology, just to name a few. Not only did the event provide great opportunities for learning, it provided networking opportunities with vendors in the industry and other human resources professionals in the greater Sacramento area. These types of events are important to attend as they build upon knowledge in my specific career field.

I’ve talked before about planning your career development goals. Professional development is the next step in this process and includes what you do to achieve these goals. It allows you to continue to be competent in your chosen career and provides career growth and learning for you as an employee. In addition, it can be a valuable tool in aligning with your company or organization’s strategic plans. Smart and innovative organizations strive to hire and retain the top talent in their industry—if you want to stay relevant in your career, professional development can help make you a valuable asset within your organization.

There are many ways to continue to hone your career craft and remain a commodity in your chosen career field and industry. Today I want to share a few activities you can do to jumpstart your professional development:

  1. Join a professional organization that focuses on your career. As an HR Practitioner, I belong to two professional organizations.
    • Benefits: Access to latest information in my field; access to information regarding seminars, webinars, conferences, and certifications; and opportunities to network.
  2. Attend a professional conference specific to your career.
    • Benefits: Meet industry experts, gain new and important information in your industry, and network with others in your field.
  3. Sign up for webinars and seminars that highlight or focus on a specific area in your career.
    • Benefits: Provides a way to get new or updated information in your industry in shorter, more concentrated, and often less expensive (or free!) doses.
  4. Read a book pertaining to your field.
    • Benefits: A quick and easy way to learn what might be new and exciting in your industry; also provides flexibility in timing, as you choose how this fits into your schedule.
  5. Mentor someone in your industry or specific career.
    • Benefits: The ability to teach someone what you know and transfer that knowledge demonstrates the highest mastery of the subject matter; plus, it feels good to give back.

These are just a few of the many options out there that you can take advantage of to stay on top of your professional development. What are some things that you have done to stay current in your field or industry?

About Melissa: Dr. Melissa McManus is a Human Resources Professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

3 Tips for a Successful (and Fun!) Career

Communications, General Life/Work, Hiring, Human Resources

By Sarah Walsh

I’ve only been out of college for 12 years, but I feel like a cat with nine lives with the amount of jobs I’ve held across various sectors and industries. I’ve worked for a major political party, two elected officials, a Native American tribe (where our lunch meetings took place at a casino), the pharmaceutical industry, and, finally, consulting.

What I’ve found along the way is that where you start is not necessarily where you’ll finish. What you think you like and what you actually do like may change over time. Your life, ideas, politics, values, and dreams will change over time. Despite—or because of!—the various roads you take, you will have many opportunities to reinvent yourself.

Today I share three things you can do to ensure continued career progression while allowing for life’s many changes. While these tips are targeted towards those starting out their career, they can also be applied to the more seasoned professionals who perhaps feel stuck in their current state.

  1. Intern!

Not sure what you want to do with your life? Intern.

Know exactly what you want to do with your life? Intern.

The benefits of an internship cannot be overstated. You not only learn more about the field in which you’re interning—which can help you decide whether or not it’s what you actually want to do—you also meet valuable people, whether a mentor, a future job reference, an industry connection, or a friend.

When I graduated college, my major (Political Science) required either a 12-page paper or a three-month-long internship to graduate. As much as I love writing now, writing a required 12 pages wasn’t a passion at age 22, and so I chose the internship route.

This move ultimately put me on a path towards doing what I truly love (writing and editing, creating communications plans and procedures, and hanging out on the Internet)—although of course, I didn’t know that at the time. I thought I’d work in politics forever, and while that goal shifted (I happily no longer work in politics), I still have the skills and inside knowledge my years in politics provided…All because I choose to take an internship.

  1. Build and Foster Relationships

It was only through the relationships and connections I built along the way that enabled me to continue to progress in the political field. Hilariously, in my early years, I ended up following my first internship supervisor in several roles as she vacated them—was it any coincidence that each time she took a new position, she thought of me to replace her?

Mentorships are just as important and being mentored is not something that should only happen at the beginning of your career. As your roles change or you take a job in a different industry, you may find that being mentored is critical to your success. Shelve the idea that age matters and remember learning is continuous, even if that means learning from someone who is younger than you—insight is ageless!

Building relationships/mentorships can be tricky. You need to make sure the relationship is symbiotic, not just something you dip back into when it benefits you. A piece of required reading on this topic comes from a friend of mine, a successful writer. People with whom she had little to no relationship were forever asking to, “Pick her brain.” Eventually, she’d had enough and shared her thoughts on the brain-picking epidemic. Underscoring her blog post is the reminder that professional relationships don’t happen in a vacuum—they are something to be nurtured over time.

  1. Embrace the Change

Some of my career changes were by choice and some were not (dreaded political term limits!) Each change while, on the one hand scary, was also an opportunity to take what I’d learned and shift that knowledge into a new role.

My years of writing political briefings may not have been an obvious transition into more typical communications functions like internal comms, social media management, marketing/PR, etc., but what was obvious was that the raw skills transferred across industries.

While initially there was fear around the unknown—in my case, abandoning one industry for another in which I had little to no knowledge or professional contacts—it was a challenge that ultimately got me here, to a job I enjoy and value. The first step was taking the leap and embracing the initial change—and the discomfort that went along with it.

Another example of embracing change is our own Human Resources Generalist, who recently made a career change, going from Research Analyst to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Certified Professional.

Through her years of research work, she eventually found a new passion in HR—and didn’t even have to give up her beloved research in the process. As she said about the transition, “I still get to do research as part of my work. … While my focus is in the daily tasks surrounding human resource management, this includes a variety of tasks, even research.”

Remember, change is not only ok, it is necessary to keep growing in your career and life! We hope these tips will help in your professional development—whether a reminder to pick up the phone and call text your old boss to catch up, or by deciding to finally pursue a long-held dream.

About the Author: Sarah Walsh has over a decade of communications experience, including public sector roles in the California State Senate and State Assembly, as well as private sector roles for a sovereign Native American tribe and a global pharmaceutical company. In addition to communications work, Sarah and her husband are team captains and fundraisers for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s annual Walk MS event. When she’s not writing, editing, or watching The Real Housewives, she loves performing comedy, hanging out with her husband and 6-year-old daughter, and cooking. One day, maybe she’ll figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Until then, follow her on Twitter @sarahsykeswalsh.

10 Best Practices for Setting Clear Job Expectations From the Start

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, Hiring, Human Resources, Managing/Leadership, Onboarding, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

I’ve heard people say if you set expectations then you should be prepared for disappointment. From my perspective as a Human Resources Professional, if you fail to set clear expectations, then the only likely outcome is disappointment.

Expectations are an essential business function. The inability to meet unspoken expectations can lead to frustrations for both the employee and the employer. Not only do clear expectations create an understanding and a guideline, they create accountability for the employee. With clear expectations, the employer knows what to expect from the employee and the employee knows what to expect from the employer and the job itself.

Expectations should be established from the beginning. When I hire for a position, I always include the basic functions of the position, the necessary qualifications, and desired skills I am seeking in the job announcement. Before I have even looked through resumes or interviewed potential candidates, I have already begun to set expectations for that position. Expectations should be further identified through onboarding, orientation, and discussions with team members and supervisors.

Here are some of my tips for setting clear expectations from the beginning:

Guidelines for setting clear expectations:

  1. Expectations should be clear and understood by all parties so that there is no confusion
  2. Expectations should be outlined early and often. Setting them once is not enough—they need to be revisited on a regular basis as job functions can change and evolve
  3. Set attainable, realistic expectations; keep in mind your floor could be someone else’s ceiling
  4. Expectations could be in writing (i.e., in the form of a job description), simply verbalized, or both
  5. Expectations could differ from position to position; they should be specific

 Benefits of setting clear expectations:

  1. Improves performance
  2. Happier employees
  3. Establishes goals
  4. Sets priorities
  5. Enriches team dynamics

Having clear expectations, goals, and objectives is a must if you want your staff to be as productive and efficient as possible. Job success is not simply trying to determine who can sink and who can swim; I think the rate of turnover experienced in certain positions is a direct result of either unclear or unrealistic expectations. If you want quality, high performing employees, then you should give them all the tools necessary to be successful.

What has been your experience with setting expectations in your role as an employee or in a role you hire for or manage?

 About Melissa: Dr. Melissa McManus is a human resources professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

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