In 2021, Leverage to Lead expanded its offerings in two ways. In addition to individual coaching and organizational transformation, we now have Aubrey Jones as our Head of Talent Advisement, and Kim Ho as our Head of HR. We are grateful for the depth and range they bring to our work.
HR Transformation Begins with Values
In a partnership grounded in transparency and vulnerability, Leverage to Lead can accompany an organization in its values excavation, finding a path forward, and then deeply examining how its Human Resource (HR) policies and practices align with its stated values.
We never begin with HR transformation, though that’s a common area for clients to approach with requests for help. We tell them you can’t skip the values work. What good is it to hire people with diverse backgrounds into a toxic culture where they can’t thrive? Without examining your values, you’re wasting your time with hiring.
Once the values work is done, then we can move into an HR audit, surveying the landscape of their hiring, training, onboarding, interviewing, promotion, and many other practices. These systems are all connected, and they impact each other.
Essentially, we hold up an organization’s freshly stated values against their current HR policies and documents and help them reflect on what aligns and what doesn’t. If, for example, your positions all require a Master’s degree for consideration, we ask how that reflects your value of, say, continuous learning. Or we ask, where is the training and professional development to match that continuous learning?
HR Is Your Company Culture
Before we even ask such specific questions, we step back and ask an organization to get clear on why they want to hire. We ask, why should someone want to work for you? Our HR audit is an excruciatingly thorough, line-by-line process. It spans how you source candidates, how you interview, onboard, train, promote, etc. We ask hard questions like, why should a person of color be willing to take the risk of working for your organization? How will they be supported? How will their success be measured? What are their advancement opportunities?
HR is a series of interconnected policies and actions, which includes employee retention and company culture. It’s a process, a cycle that constantly puts your values to the test.
We help organizations scrutinize job titles, which are rendered meaningless if not tied to responsibilities and goals. We ask, What’s the difference among Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, or Program Managers? How are leadership roles different from staff roles? How will roles work together? How will people get promoted?
Too often, organizations can’t answer these questions, nor can they articulate things like a compensation scale, performance evaluation plan, or paths of promotion.
We’ll assess the inclusiveness and effectiveness of job descriptions. How many times have you seen the desired quality of “self-starter” in a job ad, without understanding what that actually requires, or without noticing how that language excludes? We’ll train anyone who participates in interviewing candidates, helping them identify how unconscious biases affect candidate evaluation and how to shape good interview questions. And then we’ll look at training and evaluation systems tied to every job description.
HR transformation is a truly immersive process. Slowly and intentionally, we then build the policies, processes, and practices that truly reflect your values and help you live them each day.
Clarity for Candidates
On the candidate’s side, Talent Advisement helps individuals get clear on their value—this includes the value they bring to an organization and the values they hold for their work and workplace.
Too often, job seekers will be led by job titles and end up contorting themselves to fit titles and job descriptions, regardless of whether it truly resonates or fits them. With candidates, we begin with the essential question, what do you need in order to flourish and thrive? Often, people are taken aback by our focus on their needs, since they’re so used to the expectation that candidates will conform entirely to the organization’s requirements. Job titles vary as widely as clothing sizes across different brands, and the standard job description usually contains vague and arbitrary requirements, which are not based on the actual value a candidate brings.
Our relationship with candidates involves support and advocacy. We ask for honesty about what they need and what they bring, whether they’re willing to relocate, and their salary expectations. And we help them prepare for and navigate interviewing and salary negotiation. We give them tools to go beyond trying to fit in and instead participate in building the role that is right for both themselves and the organization.
Our role with candidates isn’t only to scrutinize who’s hiring. We know they’ll scour websites to discover how diverse the leadership team really is and to see the diversity of the staff. What we can also share with them is which organization is taking steps toward sustainable culture change, which ones are demonstrating commitment from the leadership down the line, and which ones aren’t yet fully living out their equity and inclusion values but are on their way.
Working with Radical Transparency
Clients might wonder how we can work “on both sides” of hiring with integrity. The question assumes that candidates and organizations stand in opposition to each other. But we believe that we can hold everyone’s best interests in mind and advocate for everyone’s success. We do it with a deep commitment to transparency.
For example, we never guarantee a hire to any organization or a job to any candidate. We know working with us will expand networks and increase opportunity, but nothing is for certain or perfect. We tell a client who insists on tracking our hours in order to calculate a rate from our standard fee that we won’t be comfortable presenting candidates to them while they maintain a scarcity view of people’s time and hoard the power of determining people’s value.
Historically, HR has been a tool for maintaining the status quo, which means white supremacy culture and the antithesis of seeing our humanity. Ultimately, transforming our work cultures requires our humanity, a topic we’ve been writing about all summer.
Real employer-employee relationships are the foundation of humanity-based hiring and retention. Inclusive and equitable spaces are undeniably more successful than those operating on fear, exclusion, or perfectionism.
If you or your organization are ready to approach job searching and hiring with humanity, contact any member of our team.
The Leverage to Lead Team
Jennifer McClanahan-Flint is the founder and CEO of Leverage to Lead.
Kim Ho is the Head of Human Resources at Leverage to Lead.
Aubery Jones is the Head of Talent Advisement at Leverage to Lead.
Melody S. Gee is a freelance creative content strategist.
© 2021 Jennifer McClanahan-Flint of Leverage to Lead.
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