Monday, June 30, 2008

Advice for Non-Union Employers: Follow Or Rue the Day!

I have posted a number of times on the Employee Free Choice Act (NOT!) so you may be getting tired of it. Well you shouldn't! If you are non-union you are in great peril of being union if this law passes. Here is some advice (and additional information) from the Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Blog.

If you are already unionized you can skip this one otherwise you had better read up.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Carnival of HR: Great HR Reading and Easy to Find

The Evil HR Lady has hosted this session of the Carnival of HR. In JUST ONE location you have links to posts on:

  • ADA

  • E-verify

  • Leadership

  • Mojo

  • A Seat at the table

  • 5 Skills for success

  • Honest job references

  • Competition

  • Trust
and much, much more. So shut your door, explain to your boss you are doing research on a problem and read away.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer is Here and Dress Codes Suffer

In just the past two days I have seen three articles on dress codes, including this one from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and heard one radio essay on the subject. It must be summer! And as the heat rises skirts get shorter, waistlines lower, sleeves disappear, boobs appear and so do toes. As "casual" has taken over work places it has also taken over attitudes. Neatness suffers and in some cases so has hygiene.

Personally I am a fan of casual dress. I am a blue jeans wearer. I have them on as I write this. But that is because my day is being spent in the office. If I am going out to a client then I dress appropriate to the client. If we are having visitors in the office then we dress appropriate to the visitor. We use common sense.

I think one of the reasons I have seen this spate of articles on dress code is that this time of the year means an influx of NEW workers to the workplace, either recent graduates or summer workers. And they often do not have that COMMON SENSE about what is appropriate to the workplace. So what is the employer to do? Well the answer is you need to have a dress code that takes into consideration what is appropriate for your workplace. Who are your clients or customers? What is the nature of the work? Are there safety considerations? Hygiene considerations?

I am not here to tell you what you should wear that is for you to decide, but there are several things you should consider.

  1. Make sure your dress code does not single out one "protected" catagory soley on the basis of that status. Business necessity must be the standard.

  2. Make sure that differences between male and female dress are based on business needs, but allow for the differences. Banning skirts for both men and women is not a common sense dress code even though it is evenhandedly applied.

  3. Understand the culture of your organization.

  4. Pay attention to customer feedback.

One thing that every article has had in common is that the dress code needs to be communicated and it needs to be done IN PERSON AND VERBALLY. Posting a memo or having it in the handbook is not sufficient. Treat your new employees correctly and let them know up front what is expected. If you have someone who is "violating" the dress code address it immediately. SAY SOMETHING TO THEM. That advice goes for hygiene issues. Avoidance just leads to more problems. If you have been ducking it up to this point GROW A BACKBONE.

Anyone have some input on dress code? I have found in the past it causes some conversation.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Finally My Place at The Table: OOPS Someone Took My Chair

For all you aspiring Vice Presidents of Human Resources I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that CEOs are recognizing the importance of HR. The bad news is that they are tapping non-HR executives to fill those roles. According to an article in the June 23rd issue of The Wall Street Journal more and more large companies are opting to fill the head HR position with executives who "know the business" as opposed to an HR professional who "... can get hung up in the process and forget what the goal is." These large companies that have tapped non-HR execs to head HR include Microsoft, Qwest, Avnet and athenahealth. (A side note to yesterday's post on Aggressive Recruiting. Microsoft is aggressively going after Yahoo employees. Perhaps this is because Microsoft's chief HR person was running a business unit and took this competitive approach to HR.)

The article said this trend reflects "... a perception that some traditional HR professionals lack the deep understanding of business and financial issues that CEOs increasingly want." The article quoted a headhunter saying "Many organizations are looking for their HR leader to be able to understand in great detail the business and the challenges of the business." Well this as always been a complaint about HR and the self-admitted shortcoming of many people in HR.

So how do you keep this from happening to you? Here are my recommendations:

  1. Get out of human resources! No not permanently, but try to take on some other responsible role in your organization in order to learn the operational side of the business.

  2. Learn the financials of your business, of business in general. If you skipped those finance classes in school go get the education.

  3. If you can't move within your company, take on a responsibile role on a volunteer board. Take a leadership role. (I posted about this earlier here.)

  4. Pay attention to your industry beyond the HR aspects. Read industry periodicals. Read the marketing and operations stuff.

  5. Track trends. Become a futurist.

  6. Speak up! Make observations, make suggestions. Get paid attention to. Be a resource for solutions in general.

  7. Take on the hard assignments. Volunteer.

  8. Lastly, do what you are currently doing VERY WELL. If you don't know your own craft and you do slip-shod work no one is going to care what else you do.

Well those are just a few suggestions. What else should be on this list?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Aggressive Recruiting: Acquiring the Talent and Avoiding the Buildings

There is a very interesting article today on, written by Dr. John Sullivan, regarding aggressive recruiting as an alternative to a merger and acquisition. His point is an excellent one if what you are seeking in the M&A is the talent of the target organization. He calls this the "neutron bomb" approach, where you take all the talent and leave the buildings standing. He cites Microsoft's recruiting campaign for Yahoo employees as an example of this approach. Microsoft could not get Yahoo and its search capabilities by purchasing the company so now they are aggressively trying to woo away Yahoo employees with this background.

In a traditional M&A you get all the "assets" of the organization and also all the liabilities. One of these liabilities is all the poor performing employees the target organization had. Also in a traditional M&A you have all the regulatory stuff you have to deal with, during which time all the talented people you wanted may have jumped ship. So his solution is that if you want the talent go for the talent and skip the rest of it.

One point he mentions that will stand in the way of getting this done is the lack of aggressiveness many HR recruiters have. Historically, to directly poach another company's employees was a no-no. Companies would use third party recruiters, and hence pay a big fee, to have the recruiter go after the talent wanted. Sullivan says that HR needs to get over that roadblock and face business realities about capturing the talent needed. I have seen this before as well. However, I think it may not be exclusive to HR. I have had company managment direct HR to be careful in recruiting because of some relationship between the CEO's.

Obviously this does not apply if the purpose of your M&A is the actual buildings and equipment. In some situations, as in heavily unionized facilities, you take particular pains NOT to acquire the people in the transaction. But even in that situation, there may be talented people in your target that you may want to try and recruit before you go after the company. HOWEVER, one very large roadblock to this PROACTIVE step occurring is that HR usually only gets involved in M&A AFTER the fact and not before. Another reason to have that "place at the table".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hone Your Labor Negotiation Skills: You Are Going to Need Them

If you are in HR and you are reading this I hope you are up on your labor negotiation skills and labor law. You are going to need it. The Employee Free Choice Act, which I have written about before is getting closer and closer to reality. Don't know what the EFCA is? Well you haven't been paying attention to me then. So pay attention this time! Go here and read this article A Career Killer for HR Pros. The author, Kris Dunn, makes it very clear. Then be afraid, very afraid.

If you read all the political pundits the Democrats will have a majority in the House of Representives AND the Senate. This will make passage of this bill a slam dunk (for my foreign readers this means an absolute certainty.) And with a Democrat in the White House there will be no question that the bill will be signed. And then Labor celebrates and companies lose, employees lose and HR deals with the fall out. It has the potential for radically changing the nature of the workplace.

Now don't get me wrong. I am not against people belonging to a union if they so desire. Not my way of doing things, but if people opt to do that after having had a chance to make an informed decision in a secret ballot election then fine. The EFCA takes that away and puts the effect of fear and intimidation on the forefront. Not many of our employees will tell a union organizer "no" to his face in front of others. So they sign a card and you are handed a union.

So brush up on those labor rules, though many are being tossed out, and get ready to negotiate. You can also contact your Congressional representatives and tell them what a bad decision that will be for them to vote for this bill.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Lending Employees a Helping Hand: How Far Will You Go?

There is an article in today's Wall Street Journal about employers helping employees avert foreclosure. Many are offering employees interest free loans to make late house payments. Many already offer hardship withdrawals from 401(k)s and more are considering this. But several have gone that extra step of interest free loans to be paid back through payroll deduction. This is an attempt to make employees more productive or to keep employees.

This may be a slippery slope. While noble in thought is the company setting itself up for losses? Ann Bares, in her Compensation Force blog warned against cost of living increases because of the nature of the economy. I feel making financial deals with employees based upon their living habits or decisions may be an "iffy" decision for the company.

What about you? Are your organizations making these kind of moves for employees? How far are you going to lending a "helping hand?"

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cyberslander: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

About a month ago The HR Daily Advisor had two articles on dealing with Cyberslander. I had not really thought about it much but listening to the news today there was the news feature about the one woman who set up a MySpace page to harass a teen who had been friends with her daughter. So this made me perk up when going through some old articles the term Cyberslander popped up.

The HR Daily Advisor said that "Cyberslander" refers to attacks against a person or company on the Internet. It generally occurs when, in an online forum, chat room, or blog, anonymous posters make defamatory statements that are tough to trace. Another variation is when they give up trade secrets, salaries, or other sensitive data." Cyberslander can be damaging to both the reputation of the company and its business. But it can be difficult to deal with. According to the article it if often anonymous, ISPs protect their customers and courts are really unsure about how to handle it.

There are somethings the company can do to protect itself. Part II of the article suggested 6 ways to handle cyberslander, also known as digital defamation:

  1. Monitor Google at least once a month for use of the company name.

  2. Have a policy stating that employees may not use company time or equipment to disparage the company, its employees or products and services.

  3. Monitor company computer usuage.

  4. Pay attention to what is being said, this may help determine whether the poster is an insider or and outsider.

  5. Pay attention to other sources and websites to help determine the source.

  6. Consider a lawsuit if either the source is discovered or to force an ISP to reveal the source.

Obviously the HR department will get involved with the policy development, dealing with the poster if they are found to be internal and perhaps some of the external work as well if the cyberslander is having an effect on recruiting.

If you have not been familar with the topic now is the time to pay attention. If you have not been reading blogs you may be missing information. I know that some companies block blogs. Well that may be a mistake. You never know what you may be missing. And what you don't know may be hurting you.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Does HR Bureaucracy Get In Your Way?

I had a discussion with a department head the other day about his frustration with one of his employees and with the lack of help he is getting from HR. His frustration results from an employee who is frequently and consistently late. He is required to be there at 7 am and work until 4 pm. However, he often does not make it until 7:30 or 7:45 or even 8:oo am. Yet he leaves right on time everyday at 4 pm. The department head sat him down and said "you have to be here on time." Guys response was I can't I have children I have to get to school. DH respond he understood, but the employee needed to make other arrangements because the job required he be there on time, otherwise the systems needed by everyone else would not be up and working. So the employee cannot be late anymore or he will have to write him up. The employee says that the DH is making it an unfriendly place to work and goes and complains to HR. DH makes a note for the guys file and sends it to HR. (A note: the employee as been there a long time. The DH is relatively new and was hired to "clean up" the department left by the previous and fired manager.)

HR comes back and says to the DH you cannot put the note in the file. The DH asks why and HR tells him he has not verbally warned the employee. DH responds, duh, what do you think the note was about. HR asks how many times the employee has been late. DH shows them the attendance record of numerous absences. They tell DH he needs to sit down with the employee and ask "What do you think you can do in order to get here on time?" So frustrated DH sits down with the employee and asks the question. The response he gets is "I don't want to get to work on time." BTW, the employee wrote that down on paper and signed it.

DH, very frustrated by this time, takes this signed document to the HR department and says "I want to get rid of this guy." HR asks if there is anyone else that can be assigned to that job or can the hours be changed. The answer to both of these questions is "No." No one else has the training and the company doesn't run correctly if the work does not get started right away. (It is the Department Head who has to take up the slack when the employee doesn't show up.) HR then tells him he cannot terminate the employee, the DH has to put him on a 60 day "get well" program.

The DH leaves, totally frustrated, hating HR because he cannot rid the company of a poor performing employee, who has openly expressed his lack of desire to do the job correctly. The attitude of the DH is that he is being saddled with an employee for life and that he will never be able to fire this employee because HR's bureaucracy is in the way. He has given up, hopes the employee will leave for another reason before he, the DH, leaves out of frustration.

So my question to you is "Do you have a similiar bureaucracy?" Are you the point of frustration? Do you hinder more than help? What would you do to change this situation?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Carnival of HR #35- Making HR Sexy

The new Carnival of HR is posted at Jon Ingram's Strategic Human Capital Management blog. This is an opportunity to quickly connect to the best of HR blogs posted in the last week or so. The posts this time deal with making the field of Human Resources "sexy". (For those of you upset by this analogy sexy=interesting.) So check it out!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

NASCAR Sued For Harassment: What a Wreck for HR

The headline screams Former official sues NASCAR over harassment claims. Is anyone in HR surprised by this? A black woman official suffers multiple incidents of both racial and sexual harassment. She complains and then is fired. So now there is retaliation as well. This is going to cost NASCAR big time!

But no one, especially HR folks should be surprised this occurred. The history of sexual harassment is rife with example after example of women taking on roles in traditionally male oriented fields or jobs and being subjected to countless acts of hostile environment harassment. And the history of racial harassment has been the same way, only there it was both disparate treatment and disparte impact.

Given this history, that is over 30 years long, you would think that when NASCAR, a bastion of white males, has a black female (or female of any race) join the fold they would be prepared for situations. You would think HR would be sensitive and would not only head off situations but would certainly respond quickly and vigorously to any complaint. But apparently not because the HR manager is named in the lawsuit. Shame on them. They should never work in HR again!

The lesson to the rest of us, if you have not learned it before now, is that when you are going to mix races and sexes in areas where they are not traditionally mixed you had better be prepared for trouble. Training, response time, investigation, discipline all need to be planned for and instituted as quickly as possible. If you don't you will probably get what you deserve. In my opinion NASCAR is going to take a big hit, one that it definately deserves.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Charisma and Success In HR: Is There a Connection?

I read in a Brian Tracy newsletter the following "There is a close association between personal charisma and success in life. Probably 85 percent of your success and happiness will come from your relationships and interactions with others. The more positively others respond to you, the easier it will be for you to get the things you want." Charisma is a powerful thing and we can think of many past leaders who have successfully used their ability to attract people by force of personality. Even today many attribute Barak Obama's success in getting the Democrat Party nomination on his charisma.

This got me to thinking of human resources and the effect of charisma. Is it a prerequisite for being successful in HR? Do you get promoted to the Vice Presidential level as a result of it or can you achieve that level without it? That may depend on your definition of success and your definition of charisma.

To me charisma is the ability to attract people to you. That attraction is made up of likability, trustworthiness, the ability to instill confidence and the perception of competence. Given that definition I think charisma is critical to success in HR. You must be approachable, you must be trustworthy, you must make people feel like you know what you are talking about and they must feel that you will accomplish what you say you will. Without that your knowledge of HR and you time in the field counts for little.

To make it to VP I think you need to add the ability to spur people to action and the abiltiy to clearly communicate your ideas and vision. This adds that very visible component of charisma.

Of course we all know people in HR positions, even VPs, who do not have this charisma. They may be great technicians, but they are not approachable and thus not charismatic. This is unfortunate for the profession. What is worse is the people in the job who are not only uncharismatic, but also not technically sound.

If you are not currently the charismatic leader you would like to be, the good news is you can change that. You can:
  • Work on how you communicate (Writing classes)

  • Work on how technically sound you are (PHR, SPHR)

  • Work on being trustworthy (keep confidences)

  • Work on your speaking ability (Toastmasters)

  • Work on your self perception (See Brian Tracy, Earl Nightngale, Dale Carnegie, etc.)

Although I have never met him in person Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist has charisma. VP level, superb written communication, attracts talented people and spurs them to action (Fist Full of Talent bloggers) and is very technically sound. So if you are looking for an example he is a good one to start with.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Attracting Employees: Great Job and Cool Red Shorts

How would you like to have an organization where people not only wanted to work, they actually trained to compete for the positions that were open? Sound unreal? It is not. It is the L.A. County Lifeguards! There is an article in the June 6th issue of the Wall Street Journal entitled Sink or Swim that describes the competition and the training that rookies go through to get the job that inspired Baywatch. Lifeguarding at this level is not just a simple summer job. Many of the lifeguards fulltime employees and the lifeguards are assigned to the fire department. All are athletes, some with military experience, some with Olymipic aspirations. The benefits are good and the pay starts at over $20/hr with some guards making close to six figures. The contenders for the job go through a competition that washes the less than able out. But the rewards are there.. the coveted red shorts and the orange lifesaving "can" and the glamour. Great employment branding here!

So what are some the lessons we learn from this as employers that will help us attract the "best?"

  • Have a hiring process that promotes "We hire the best", a competition.

  • Have a vision and rules that support it... for lifeguards it is "Always Face the Water"

  • Pay well

  • Have some sort of "glamour" associated with the position

  • Give something to them that indicates publicly they are part of the "best"- That coveted pair of red shorts.

Do you have an organization where people are clamouring and competing to get in the door? If not you may want to rethink how you can position the company to be the "lifeguards" of you industry.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Stepping Up To Get a Seat: Reaching for the Brass Ring

Libby Sartain, one of the most respected leaders in HR, is retiring. As the past head of HR for both Southwest Airlines and Yahoo her interviews are filled with some very good advice to aspiring HR professionals. One such interview was published by WorkForce magazine in an article entitled Seats at the Table, but Who's Ready? The article starts out "When it comes to the long-sought "seat at the table" for HR leaders, Libby Sartain sees both good news and bad. Sartain, who sits on the board of directors at retailer Peet’s Coffee & Tea, notes that human resource leaders are increasingly joining such boards—a clear sign of growing clout for the profession. But she notices a dearth of HR practitioners who are prepared for top jobs in the field." (Emphasis is mine.)

So if you are one of those HR practioners that is clamoring to have your "seat at the table" how do you get prepared? Well one way is to have a boss/mentor who prepares you through education and example. But many of us don't have that opportunity. So how do we get it?

The answer is VOLUNTEER to serve on the Boards of community groups. Many community service groups are always looking for people to serve on their boards. They need people, they need expertise, they need different points of view, they need different contacts, basically they need help. Many would find a human resources perspective especially valuable when it comes to involvement with people decisions, such as hiring directors.

What do you get out of it? A valuable learning experience. You get out of the rut of your day-to-day. You see the decision-making process of a board in action. You learn about the financial operations of a group, an experience most HR people have sorely missed in their experience. You learn negotiation skills and you have the opportunity to lead. If capable, and you want it, you can step up and take on the Chair role of the organization. This truly gives you leadership experience you may not have the opportunity to get in your job. I have had the opportunity to work with several groups, a symphony orchestra board, a Rotary Club, and a Leadership Alumni group. I learned something every time.

Can it be time consuming? Sure, there will be trade-offs you have to make. Might you be asked to do some fundraising? Probably, but that in itself is a great experience for HR to have. ALL HR people should know something about raising money and being "salesy." Volunteering on a board is not for the vaint of heart or the lazy, but it is well worth the experience. It is what will help you get into that strategic, decsion-making HR leadership position.

The "Brass Ring" of strategic HR leadership is out there you just have to lean a little further to get it. And if you are not willing to "put up" to get there then shut up. Keep your day-to-day role and your 8 to 5 and don't complain when the go-getter ends up as your boss.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Intercultural English: Will This Dog Hunt?

I got a newsletter in my email today that had an announcement about a seminar on Intercultural English that is being presented by Lorelei Carobolante. The SHRM ad copy had the following description "Whether you work in the U.S. or globally, learning the concepts of Intercultural English can improve relationships, collaboration and productivity. Intercultural English ensures your messages are understood around the globe, reduces translation costs and helps avoid misunderstandings. In this webcast, Lorelei Carobolante, GPHR, SCRP, of G2nd Systems, will describe what Intercultural English is, why it's essential to anyone who works in today's global workplace and how it can benefit you and your organization."

I am not endorsing this seminar (though it might be a good one). In fact I am not really sure if I know the official definition of Intercultural English. But I think I have an idea. I teach a PHR prep class that is often attended by individuals who have English as their second language. Some of them are very good English speakers others are still dealing with the challenge of learning, what is considered by many to be, a confusing language. Anyway, one class session I was trying to explain something and I was using a sports analogy. Looking out over the class I saw several faces which had confusion written on them. (BTW, my classes are primarily attended by women, so English may not have been the only issue, just sports talk in general may have been a problem.) I stopped at that point and asked what people did not understand.

The confusion for the non-native English speakers was the use of regional idioms, made even worse with sports analogies tossed in. So I have come to the conclusion that Intercultural English is communication that does not make use of these devices to make a point. Thus making the point more clearly to the non-native speaker. The funny thing is that I also discovered we had cultural English problems even with native born English speakers. There were many "yankees" in the class (I do teach in the South) that did not understand many of the Southernisms that occassionally popped up in the class in both my speech and that of other students.

This got me to thinking that many of us have these same problems in our workplaces or at least in different regions of the country. Locales with heavy Hispanic or Asian populations will certainly encounter this. You even encounter this with native English speakers who make very heavy use of local dialect. And even though you may have English only rules and people will be making great strides in learning English most classes that teach English do not teach "regionalisms."

So the next time Y'all are trying communicate and the homies aren't picking it up remember to take another trip around the bases, take another shot at the basket and revise what you are trying to say. Youse guys with? Think "that dog will hunt?" Eh?

Leave some comments on your experiences with cultural language issues.