Human Resources/Considering diving in the deep end of HR for an Animation Studio
I am a 3D Artist working in contract for a company in New Zealand that lately has been feeling the effects of unfortunate and unintended management issues (loss of production due to low morale, lack of HR department/bad handling of contracts to name a few), and I have in the past few months as a result been greatly motivated to pursue my hobby of psychology further in the form of a career move into HR for the good of the company, everyone working within, their families affected by the emotional stress of our workers and managers and by proxy, our clients. I have been keeping in touch with my boss and management on many of these issues and are still open to talking with me on it.
I have a strong interest in Self Determination theory and applying or working out strategies with that way of thinking here as the work we deal with is creatively and laterally challenging by nature (Film/television animation). With the majority of the entertainment industry being arguably dominated by lack of legislation to protect workers and burdening taxes on local business owners that all too easily creates hostility between the two, the presence of companies like Valve tell me that it is indeed possible and worth striving for an environment that benefits everyone whilst still being very human as well as ethically and morally sound, despite the adversities.
Some points about where I work:
- I work as a contractor 3d artist on the production floor, an analogy would be any other stereotypical manufacturing plant worker (approx 2 years).
- The company is hierarchical by nature, with about 70 people, approx 12 of which are employees. In terms of law familiarity, our bosses have moved their business from America for it to evolve further here in NZ.
- The bosses/managers are actually very polite and listening, and in this situation I believe it is a problem of them simply not realizing the consequences of some of their actions (below).
- There is currently little-to-no incentive to get work done ahead of time. If you get the work done normally within the scheduled time, you receive further work as expected. But assuming you excel and complete a few days worth of work in one day, the empty days will have more work pushed up waiting for you (From what I've heard of other managers they would instead reward paid time off/free time to incentivise the workers ability to push themselves). This has been going on for about 2 years, Everyone is suffering from burnout, low morale and has reached the stage where they just don't care about the work anymore - I'm kinda connecting the dots here I guess. Furthermore they have suddenly with very little warning (even to some supervisors leading the affected teams) let off 10 or so people recently which has created a kind of 'survivor syndrome' effect.
- We peer review our own work for QA before being sent off to clients. That is to say there is a lead of roughly 3-8 people in the team that assign out 'dailies' (or reviews) to work-capable trusted subordinates to review as well as themselves. We have had difficulty finding people willing to work strictly on dailies only to make the QA more consistent, however this is because most people who work in this industry are in it for the creative aspect and constantly reviewing work and I believe its to do with similar effect of lack of incentive, don't learn much/progress much personally.
- Managers tend to push for time-autonomy over work that is extremely difficult to be automated due to the nature of the work. Yet there is a lot of overlapping of tasks ie one person in some situations will be assigned 2-3 jobs at the same time while their schedule is expected to be fulfilled (re: miscommunication among management)
- Contracts are left unattended, reviews are rare, occasionally contracts are left to lapse/workers are often left in the dark. You may be working up until the last day of your contract and then told 'sorry we don't have any more work for you'. (two people experienced this recently)
- Social support is non-existent until there is a severe problem (ie: worker breaks down - which I experienced), composure and politeness is still maintained here though by managers fortunately.
- Compared to other studios out there, we are still relatively new, also relying on relatively new people including the managers themselves.
This hasn't been endorsed by my boss as I have not made my decision to move to into HR known to him, yet, despite whatever the outcome is I still want to get into this. However, my lack of degrees or credentials and experience in HR, law and business management in general I feel is a significant barrier as I have only studied these topics with what is available outside of a university or institute just only the past few months.
With that said, about my questions;
1. In all honesty we have it 'okay' compared to some other studios around the world I think, but I feel it could be a lot better by the implementation of a HR department of some sort, would conditions like this warrant the creation of one?
2. If I did go ahead to make one. I feel this company is suffering from severe miscommunication - First 4 problems I'm assuming that need tackling are mostly related to this - would this be going in the right direction or is there anything I should be paying more attention to? (from the info provided) ;
> Set up an internal review within affected departments to begin tracking workers feelings about the work and issues that need bringing up and identify as many problems as possible to begin with. (ongoing - will coincide with 3rd and 4th point)
> Contract reviews and policies about clock in/out times need sorting asap.
> Social support network which will include feedback on how the company is doing/where we're going/what we know (of problems)/what we are trying to do to resolve them, keeping everyone affected included in the process to ease pressure off of managers short term so they can take a breather/look at the bigger picture and prevent them from being bombarded by personal issues.
> Training for managers in how to handle these kinds of issues and making sure they are communicating with supervisors/leads and vise versa. Along with discussion meetings/theory crafting on how to handle future challenges (coincides with the first point).
3. I am concerned that I may be caught up with my own feelings and possibly being stubborn about this, do you think this is a worthwhile pursuit to be persistent with my boss about (I don't know where he stands ethically/principally but has shown to be very polite) or should I ease up and just consider my options of leaving gracefully for different work? as I don't want to step on peoples toes and burn bridges so to speak.
4. Is there anything specific, concepts or topics I should be familiarizing myself with when it comes to HR management before taking something like this on?
That's all for now, sorry for the long-winded questions! and thank you very much for your time!
I typically do not answer questions asked outside of the United States. However, I admire your tenacity in wanting to help make your workplace more comfortable, not only for yourself, but for the entire organization. That being said, I will offer a short "answer" to your question(s) with the understanding that I "speak" from a general HR "place" and not from that which may be over and beyond United States employment regulations.
Human Resources is a field that takes many years of both education and experience to be successful. Change management, which is a subset of HR categories, takes even more education and experience, and when implemented, generally, takes years to execute in any one organization with existing issues. This is even more true when there has been a change in ownership, especially a change in ownership across global boundaries.
For example, I have been in the field for more than a decade, am still in school and have been so since 2004. From my bachelor's to the end of my PhD, I will have spent more than 11 years just on the education part and will have about 10 years of active HR leadership. Only then, will I feel "ready" enough to step into an organization and turn it on its head (for the better). If you are ready to change your career course for this one organization and dedicate yourself fully to the same task, I say go for it. Please note that in order to begin making a dent in the challenge ahead, you will not only need to study change management and performance management, but also organizational psychology, statistics and metrics, employment law, contract law (since you have contract employees), leadership and management theory and practice, organizational theory and design, and organizational development.
Until you make your final decision, I would advise to work with your existing leadership and offer yourself as a role model and resource. Start with the small things that make the biggest impact, such as promoting a quality circle made up of both co-workers and leadership. Step up and take on that extra work with the fervor of being that "guy" who makes it happen thus is the most motivated and likely to be chosen for an open leadership role. Align yourself with the decision-makers and organizational shakers who can get things done for you.
Shannon M. Reising, MSP, PHR