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WorkforceNEXT Insights: Talking with Steve

WorkforceNEXT Insights: Talking with Steve

Posted By: Westleigh Cutts.

Steve Werner, Ph.D.
Professor and Department Chair
Department of Management
C.T. Bauer College of Business, University of Houston

Steve Werner is a Professor of Management and Chair of the Department of Management at the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston and has taught a course titled, “Managing Human Resources in the Oil and Gas Industry” at the graduate level for the last 3 years. He received his Ph.D. in Human Resource Management from the University of Florida. His research focuses on various human resource management issues, particularly compensation and international HRM. Recently, Werner published a book titled, Managing Human Resources in the Oil and Gas Industry, the only book that focuses on HR in oil and gas.

How can companies facilitate communication and a positive work culture?
I believe it begins with company leadership, but can then be carried forward by every one of us. How leadership treats employees helps to model behaviors to everyone in the organization.  Creating and supporting fair policies and procedures help. Hiring the right people, training them well, and paying them fairly also help. So does being proactive in addressing the needs of employees not just the business. Good leaders know that effective leadership involves not only a task-centered focus, but also an employee-centered focus.  Further, research has shown that positivity has numerous benefits not just for the employees, but also for the organization. Positivity can come from leadership and spread throughout the organization, but it can also come from anyone in the organization and influence all those around them. This is particularly important for those in HR because they interact with employees throughout the organization.

How do we keep an engaged and committed organization when the going gets tough?
This follows from the previous question, because a positive work culture is a great start.  Research on stress relief training shows that training employees on how to frame things positively relieves stress substantially more than other types of training, including relaxation oriented training methods and practices. I believe the same is true at the organization level, when the company is under “stress” because of tough times. In a positive work culture, the tough times can be framed as challenges that can be overcome, rather than as insurmountable obstacles. HR can be helpful by facilitating the design of jobs to make the work itself more engaging, by providing support to those who need it, and by coming up with creative ways to reduce the need for layoffs.    

What does the future of the workplace look like? How can we prepare for the next generation in the workplace?
I believe the workplace in the near future will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. We will see technology making greater inroads into everybody’s work including that of HR professionals. Mobile applications, social media, and gamification will affect selection, training, benefits administration, and performance management more than ever before. Training will occur on cellphones and laptops and be more entertaining than ever. Prospective employees will apply and take selection tools on their cellphones. Performance management will include a greater component of developmental aspects and include crowdsourced feedback; metrics and analytics will be used to better forecast and predict outcomes and human behavior. The best way to prepare for the next generation in the workplace is to be open-minded. Our views would likely be the same as theirs if we were in their generation.  

Get to know the HR Pro

Who is your hero? And why?
Kurt Warner, former NFL Quarterback. No team wanted him coming out of college, but through hard-work, positivity, and persistence, he landed at the St.Louis Rams and won a Superbowl his first year in the league.  After an injury and subsequent poor play he was cut from the Rams and then later cut from the NY Giants.  He then fought his way to the starting job for the Arizona Cardinals and took them to a Super Bowl. This year he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Throughout all his ups and downs he was a great supporter of the under-privileged (even winning the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award one year), and continues to do so through his foundation. He is a great example of what can be accomplished through hard-work, positivity, and persistence.

What’s the most unusual place you have visited?
The indoor skiing facility in Dubai, UAE. It was a great experience, “the mountain” is inside a 25 story building. The snow was perfect. They provided all the equipment at a very reasonable cost. I would highly recommend it.