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Establishing the ‘WIIFM’ for HR programs

The rationale behind training programs and personnel tasks

By Brian Kreissl

When I was working in a corporate HR department, it was a source of frustration when line managers and executives wouldn’t take the time to perform the tasks we asked them to do.

We frequently had to remind them — several times — to complete the work, and generally had to build extra time into our timelines with the expectation that some of them wouldn’t complete the tasks on time.

While the implication generally was managers were just too busy to complete those tasks, there was also some level of resentment in completing what managers thought were tasks that should have been done by HR or administrative staff.

One example was an online compensation decisioning tool we rolled out to every people manager in the organization. Some executives in particular resisted using the tool to complete what they saw as a highly administrative task that should have been completed either by someone in HR or their executive assistants.

Therefore, a certain amount of communication and change management was necessary. HR had to explain to those executives that due to confidentiality concerns this was a task best handled by them personally. We also explained how the tool was incredibly user-friendly and had very powerful reporting capabilities, meaning managers and executives could easily run their own reports.

Such concerns also exist among line managers and employees in relation to training and organizational development (OD) interventions — and really any type of HR program. If line managers and employees don’t see the importance of an HR program or the rationale for why they should perform certain work, HR needs to be able to communicate the benefits of the program — or be able to explain why certain work needs to be completed by them personally.

This is a common theme in many organizations, with HR having to offload certain transactional personnel-related tasks to managers and even employees themselves — frequently through the use of technologies such as employee (ESS) and manager self-serves (MSS). As long as there are benefits for those employees — and they’re able to recognize those benefits — it shouldn’t be a problem.

For example, my employer — Thomson Reuters — just launched a new human resources information system (HRIS) on an enterprise-wide basis. It’s an extremely user-friendly tool that replaces several different systems. Because it’s a very easy tool to use and there a lot fewer paper forms to fill out and only one password to memorize, it’s pretty easy to recognize the benefits of the new system.

But what if the benefits of a change or a new program aren’t that evident?

What’s in it for me?

Managers and employees need to know "what's in it for me" (WIIFM) in order to buy into the need for training and OD interventions or personnel-related tasks they’re being asked to complete. I first heard of the concept of a WIIFM in the context of training and development, but it can apply to any type of HR program or task.

Now that I'm in a line management role, I really understand when busy managers and employees give pushback when they're required to attend mandatory training sessions that take them away from their jobs, or are asked to participate in whatever might be perceived as the “flavour of the month from HR.”

Managers in particular are overstressed and overworked — with the result they don’t always have time to complete extra tasks or take time away from work to attend workshops or training.

Therefore, if HR is going to ask managers to do extra work or take them away from their jobs for a significant time period, it’s important to make them see the benefit of the extra tasks or the time away from work. It’s also important to focus on helping managers apply that training on the job and explain how newly-acquired knowledge can be useful in real life.

Part of the problem with many training programs in particular is HR often doesn’t get a chance to finish the job. I believe that’s often the fault of senior line management not giving HR a chance to schedule followup sessions or enough time for trainers and facilitators to really explain the importance of new concepts.

Sometimes it feels like HR is asked to facilitate something “fun” or “interesting” without any real thought of how it benefits the business. Another problem is line managers frequently ask HR to provide training when lack of training isn’t the cause of the problem.

Brian Kreissl is the managing editor of Consult Carswell. He can be reached at brian.kreissl@thomsonreuters.com. For more information, visit www.consultcarswell.com.  

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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