Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A 2011 Human Resources Forecast

I am not really big on making "lists" so you will not see from me lists of the good or bad or best or whatever. However, I am big on forecasts and I thought this one was good. It is from the Herman Trend Alert and is reproduced with permission.
1. Recruiting will intensify. We are already seeing the large companies looking for increasing numbers of employees. Later in 2011, the small and medium-size companies will join the scrimmage. More companies that had eliminated their recruiting function will hire inside people to offset their expenses of headhunter fees.
2. Unemployment will remain relatively high. We expect unemployment to remain over 8 percent for the coming year. The challenge for employers is that many of the unemployed do not have the skills they are looking for.
3. Workforce development will increase in importance. As communities realize the disparity between desired skills and those people actually possess, the issue of workforce development will become more important. The federal government will pass legislation to assist in this process.
4. More employers will embrace technology to manage processes and keep track of relationships. Companies providing software to employers will see their businesses grow. Employers will face the challenges of training their people in these new systems.
5. More companies will tap women for executive positions. With increases in the percentage of women in colleges, universities, and graduate schools, the world is graduating more capable, qualified women who will move into positions of authority in corporations.
6. The levels of corporate growth will depend on the region. The United States and Europe will lag behind Asia and South America in job growth and profits. Lingering high levels of unemployment and housing situations will hamper expansion.
7. Any remaining companies that had not restored sales incentives will do so next year. Recognizing the competitive disadvantage employers not only restore incentives to previous levels, but will also look for innovative ways to augment these programs with meaningful non-financial incentives keyed to the individuals' social circumstances.
8. The repeal of the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell law will have far-reaching repercussions. This law, governing gays openly serving in the US military, will open the door to more recognition for domestic partners. More employers will acknowledge these partnerships as civil unions with attendant expenses and benefits.
9. Employers will pay increasing attention to retention. Higher employee turnover and greater difficulty in recruiting will again challenge more employers. By necessity, employers will once again be forced to look at employee retention.
10. The escalating regulatory environment will cause employers to need employment lawyers more than ever. With OFCCP (The US Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs) inspections and other onerous regulations, employers will have no choice but to engage their employment lawyers at higher levels.
"From 'The Herman Trend Alert,' by Joyce Gioia, Strategic Business Futurist. (800) 227-3566 or The Herman Trend Alert is a trademark of The Herman Group of Companies, Inc."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Minimum Wage Increases in 7 States on 1/1/2011

As of this Saturday 7 states will increase the state minimum wage (the Federal level is $7.25 per hour) based on an automatic increase formula. These states and the increases are:
  • Arizona- $7.25 going to $7.35
  • Colorado- $7.24 going to $7.36, with tipped wages going to $4.34
  • Montana- $7.25 going to $7.35
  • Ohio- $7.30 going to $7.40, with tipped wages going to $3.70
  • Oregon- $8.40 going to $8.50 (Second only to Washington for the highest state minimum wage.)
  • Vermont- $8.06 going to $8.15, with tipped wages going to $4.20
  • Washington- $8.55 going to $8.67.
Each of these states have some consideration for really small companies or for those employee teenagers. You need to check Minimum Wage Laws in the States at the USDOL for particulars.

All of these states require that this information be posted for employees to see. So if you do not already have the appropriate minimum wage posters displayed you need to go to your particular state's department of labor website and download it.

I hope you have been planning for this and have budgeted appropriately. Regardless of what you feel about the merit (or not) of a minimum wage it is the law and you do have to comply. Not paying correctly could result in a complaint being filed against you, and in today's compliance environment the last thing you want is a department of labor poking their noses into your files. So pay up and do it correctly.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Does Anyone Really Care What I Say? Thoughts on Job Changing

On December 20th, William C. Taylor posted a piece on Yahoo Financial entitled Is It Time To Leave Your Job? In the piece he asks several questions that may give you an indication that it is time to pack your bags and head out to another job depending on your answers. These questions include:
  • Does my company stand for something-anything- special?
  • Am I excited to see my colleagues when I show up to work on Monday morning?
  • Do I have a voice at work-- does anyone who matters listen to what I say?
  • Am I learning as fast as the world is changing?
  • Am I making enough money?
The first question implies we all want to work for some "noble" cause such as world peace, curing cancer, etc. Well I am not sure that is necessary. I think rather than asking "does my company do anything special?" you should ask "how does my company do something special?" You don't have to be a "noble" company to make peoples lives easier, more fun, less stressful, more convienent, save them time, save them money, entertain them, etc. Whatever your company does think of it in terms of what "good" it does its customers.

The second one is a great indication of whether you should leave. If you don't like the people you work with then you do need to do something about finding another place. You spend far too much time in that environment to be miserable. But ask yourself "why do I not like these people?" You may discover the fault is yours and not theirs. If you have work habits that make you a less than desirable workmate that will not change if you change environments. So do some introspection before you jump ship.

The third question about having a voice at work also begs another question and that is "Why don't I have a voice at work?" Has your work been substandard? Do you seem uninterested? Do you seem irrelevant? If these are the reasons no one pays attention to your "voice" then work on correcting these items.

Am I learning as fast as the world is changing? At the rate knowledge doubles (every 5 to 8 years) it will be an absolutely impossible task to keep up. A more important question is are you keeping up on your relevant body of knowledge in order to stay relevant in what you do? Do you read? Do you study? As one of my favorite authors, Brian Tracy says "If you read an hour a day, one book per week, you will be an expert in your field in three years. You will be a national authority in five years, and you will be an international authority in seven years. All leaders are readers."

The last question of "Am I making enough money?" perhaps can be replaced by "Am I maximizing my efforts to make as much money as I can in my chosen field?" If the answer is "no" then do something to change that before you change jobs. If the answer is "yes" and you still feel you are not making enough money then you are in the wrong field and more than a job change is needed.

How would you respond to these questions? Have you ever asked them? What did you do?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's HR Manager

This is the author.
There was an article out the other day that talked about how tough it is being Santa Claus. Well that is nothing. Let me tell you how tough it is to be Santa’s HR manager.

  • You thought you had problems with seasonal hiring? You have no idea how hard it is to find 1000 or more elves to work for 5 months. Particularly these days, with so many of them finding other work in the movies. (See Harry Potter series for example.) 
  • You can only interview so many before you have to take a break from the squeaky voices.
  • Need I say anything about diversity? Next to impossible. Fortunately we have no government contracts so that makes it a bit easier.
  • Always being “short” on help, if you get my drift.
  • Dealing with egos. Not only does he have a red nose, but he has a big head about it. Yes, you know who I am talking about.
  • Making employees understand that we do NOT take weather days.
  • Having to organize the “reindeer games”. I thought I was done with carrying the “watermelon to the picnic.”
  • Breaking up fights. Employees with antlers tend to butt heads occasionally.
  • Keeping Santa away from the Christmas “cheer.”
  • Sexual harassment training, see above.
  • Telecommuting employees…. Elves on the Shelves
  • Deer poop.
  • The constant “HO HO HO”. (See Christmas cheer)

But it is all made worthwhile when the gifts get delivered and joy is brought to boys and girls around the world…..

Then the layoffs start….
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
 And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Carnival of HR: The Christmas Edition

I don't know about sugar plums, but there are some "sweet plums of knowledge" in the Carnival of HR today. April Dowling of PseudoHR edited and published this list between working and her bouts of Christmas shopping. I hope she gets my gift to me on time. Actually I jest. My gift was being include in this Carnival. So go take a seat on Santa's lap and read her very creative poem that incorporates all the selected submissions. I will swear it is a great one. (See if you get that joke.)
You can find April here: Carnival of HR- 'Twas The Night Before.

And stay tuned for tomorrow's HR Observation where I tell you about the problems of Santa's HR Manager.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tuesday Observations

Here are some things I have picked up in my reading yesterday and today:
  • In the private sector you will never find the the word "permanent" attached to a job. Or at least you should not. But in the Federal government they send out job announcements that declare the status of every job, even part-time jobs, as permanent. Nice work if you can get it.
  • The Federal government is trying to make the hiring process more streamlined. Good for them. However, they are still not, for the most part, hiring within the recommended 80 day time frame. Some how I think that 80 day time frame does not compare well with the private sector.
  • Having read alot of material on generational differences I have decided you cannot apply those generalities to individuals. They are too broad. I know hardworking, smart, creative, flexible and productive people in all current generations. In the same vein I know dumb, stale, change-resistant, non-productive, lazy and dishonest people in all generations. So I try to be careful with my generalities.
  • Generalists, regardless of profession, have a better chance of advancement than specialists. Research has shown that generalists, people who do alot of stuff very well, are more likely to be CEOs. Perhaps that works for CHROs as well.
  • Communication skills are important, you get graded on them. And you need to work on improving them all the time. Even President Obama, who was initially lauded for his speeches, has now become the object of parody due to his overuse of the teleprompter and his speech cadance.
  • Even HR people were making big money in the finanical market place. A former HR leader is suing because she did not make her accustomed to compensation of $700,000 after the meltdown, even though she agreed to take less.
  • The job market seems to be improving in HR. I have seen alot more activity, more jobs listed and more people getting jobs than I have seen in the past two years. So if you are still unemployed, chin up, you may see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Well that is a bried set of observations for today. If you are curious about any of these topics leave me a comment and I will give you the reference.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Profanity as a Leadership Tool?

I am not a fan of the show Hell's Kitchen but I happened to catch the final episode because one of the finalists was from Atlanta, where I live. My wife wanted to see what the final show's outcome was which then made my choice either to go to another room or to watch, so I watched. To be honest, I was appalled. Between Gordon Ramsey, the host, and the two finalists the amount of verbage that had to be bleeped made it sound like my TV was going out. The guy that lost was incredibly bad and the woman that won used a fair amount of profanity, even though it seemed out of character for her. It was if she had taken on the persona of Ramsey and used him as the model of success. I hope she does not carry this into her new position as head chef in one of his restaurants. I think it is in poor taste, it may cause her problems in the workplace and I don't think it is an effective way to exhibit leadership.

Let me be clear, I am no stranger to profanity. I have uttered my fair share of "curse" words in the past and will do so in the future. However, I make sure that when I do it is both situation and audience appropriate. Seldom is the workplace the appropriate place and seldom is an employee the proper target.

There are several issues associated with profanity in the workplace. These include:
  • It may get you sued for harassment, depending on the words used. The most common is sexual harassment or racial harassment. There are many cases that have made it to court based upon the use of profanity in the workplace.
  • It may get you fired. Many companies do not see it as appropriate behavior and have prohibitions against it, especially if it opens the company to liability.
  • Heavy use of profanity in the workplace is perceived as workplace bullying. It generally is associated with other acts of intimidation and abuse. Bullying can then be seen as harassment.
  • It lowers employee morale and generally lowers employee productivity. Because most people associate it with "bullying" they will be less inclined to put forth their best efforts.
  • It may cause turnover. I would not work for Gordon Ramsey. I would tell him to go "f**k himself" and leave. (In that case and person the profanity would be appropriate.)
  • It does not set the appropriate model of leadership. Often your language is taken as a sign of your intelligence, education and moral standing.
There are times where it may be appropriate. It does get attention, especially if used by someone who would not normally use it. It is never appropriate in front of customers, clients or upper managment. Swearing comes down the ladder and should never go up. Research has shown that there is somewhat of a double standard when it comes to swearing. Men have an opportunity to get away with it more than women do.

According to Beverly Langford, president of LMA Communications in Atlanta, and the author of The Etiquette Edge: The Unspoken Rules for Business Success (Amazon link) "Although there are situations when profanity might be tolerated or excused, the only safe choice is to forego a curse and express your feelings, whether you are angry or elated, in another way."

Ultimately what comes out of your mouth is a reflection of your character, so choose your language carefully and don't use Gordon Ramsey as your model. It may work for him because it draws ratings (though I don't know why) but I doubt it will work well for you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Some Days There is Just Nothing...

There are some days that WRITERS BLOCK rears its ugly head. Today is one of those days. So, since you have nothing great to read from me, I suggest you go to my friend Jon Hyman's site and take a look at the compilation of blog posts he has read this week. I am flattered he put me in there. But there is alot of great stuff, most of it centered around compliance, that he has included. So check him out by clicking WIRTW #157 (the naughty or nice edition) Posted by Jon Hyman on Friday, December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Evil Employers Please Create More Jobs

The dictionary defines "conundrum" as "A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma." And that is what we have in this country at the moment. We have a significant need for job creation. Yet we have governments, both federal and state, that vilify businesses. They create an adversarial situation and seek to punish businesses. I have written several times about this, see US Department of Labor: It's War! And Employers Are The Enemy , but it continues. And more people are jumping on the bandwagon. (Click the link for a definition of the term).

Fellow blogger/Twitterer, Stephanie R. Thomas @ProactiveStats posted a tweet about a new piece of legislation passed in the State of New York. The unbelievable title of the legislation is the Wage Theft Prevention Act! It is bad enough that the USDOL Sectretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, calls all employers thieves in a speech, but then to have a state pass legislation that essentially labels all employers as thieves. Here is a list of the kinds of activities I am talking about:
  • Secretary of Labor claims to be "the new sheriff in town" and will stop employer thievery
  • USDOL hires over 250 new wage & hour investigators and 200+ OSHA investigators and announces they will be pursuing criminal penalities rather than civil solutions
  • The USDOL partners with the American Bar Association to team complaining workers with attorneys willing to sue employers and supplying them with all the paperwork and data needed.
  • The DOL announces they will enforce regulation through embarrassment and intimidation.
  • The White House announcing a coordinated effort between the DOL, OFCCP, EEOC and the IRS to punish "wrong doing" by an employer by having them investigated by all the agencies, regardless of what they may have been accused of .
  • Increasingly onerous legislation being passed that make day to day life in a business difficult.
  • The NLRB overturning 100s of previously decided cases in order to make the environment friendlier for union activity.
  • Executive Orders are issued requiring ALL work places doing business with the Federal government to allow union organization or have their contracts with the government pulled.
  • And of course taxes and healthcare requirements almost don't need to be mentioned. The United States now has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Talk about driving business away!
  • And now states are passing anti-employer legislation.
Now I don't know about you but I find this discouraging. I have had several clients in the past of days ask why things have turned this way. I tell them that I feel it is driven by two things. First, it drives revenue. And governments are broke and need tax dollars. We hear all the time about the favorite whipping boy of government, the "rich." Well businesses are as equally reviled and seen as the best source of revenue. The second reason, as I see it, is philosophy. The current administration, heavily  steeped in union connections, exhibits many of the same socialistic (even communistic) tendencies that labor leaders have. In these philosophies employers are evil and do nothing but exploit workers and thus must be controlled, even punished. Hence we have the current situation. (Even though many labor leaders and legislators are themselves rich by most peoples standards, and unions would not even exist if businesses did not. After all they are a business that is in the business of making money off of organized workers. If no dues were paid unions would not exist just for the "good" of workers.

Given the current situation it is more difficult to run a business. If I were considering starting a business I might be hesitant to do so. If I had a business I might be hesitant to do any expansion. However, business creation and job growth is what drives the economy, so business men and women step up and work against the odds and they make things happen. And it is that spirit of entrepreneurship that then picks my spirit up. But it certainly would be a lot nicer and easier if the government didn't fight us every step of the way.

For further information on the Wage Theft Prevention Act see Governor Patterson Signs Wage Theft Prevention Act by Nicholas Fusco.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three Very Good Reads for a Wednesday

Here are three blog posts that are informative and thought provoking that would be well worth your time reading.
  1. The first comes from Jon Hyman. Do You Know? ABA/DOL's Bridge to Justice (or Bridge Over Troubled Referrals) I have written about the link between the USDOL and plaintiffs attorneys, but Jon treats it in greater detail. Be afraid, be very afraid.
  2. The second comes from Dan McCarthy at Great Leadership. His post, Great Employees Trump Perfect Processes , deals with the premise that you can't expect that great process are going to make great employees, regardless of what they bring to the table. They have to have the potential.
  3. The third comes from Margaret O'Hanlon at Compensation Cafe. Her post,    Do You Hear What I Hear?, discusses the in-and-outs of employee surveys. They are not as easy as just asking questions. And if  you have ever screwed one up, or you ar considering doing one, you need to read her advice.
That is probably enough for a Wednesday, after all you have other things to do I am sure. But this stuff will make you better at your job, so don't skip it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The New Telecommuting Law.

Federal worker preparing for telecommuting.
Yes, you read that right. There is a new law on telecommuting. Signed into law on December 9, 2010 we have the new Telework Enhancement Act (H.R. 1722). Now if you are in the private sector you do not have to worry about this law (other than as a taxpayer.) This new law only applies to the Federal Government. The law will cover about 1.2 million federal workers and "... requires agencies to determine eligibility for their staffs and then to notify all workers who are eligible to telework under the new policies. In addition, the law requires each agency to appoint a telework managing officer and have that officer report directly to the agency’s head." Additionally "The law requires the development of telework training programs for federal employees who choose to telecommute. Their supervisors and agencies must rewrite their business continuity plans to include teleworking. The law requires managers and employees to sign written telework agreements that specify the expectations and requirements for telework arrangements. Managers and employees have to work together and agree on how often the employee can telework."

This to me is an incredible example of bureaucracy gone wild. In the private sector policy changes would occur as they made sense and that seems to me that a similar process could have taken place in the Federal government as well. After all the Patent and Trademark Office has been doing telework since 1997. So was it really necessary to pass a LAW to do this?

Apparently however, not everyone thinks it will be successful. Just as in the private sector there are critics who "...have argued that the law will prove to be too costly and will offer federal employees a new perk at a time when agencies should be cutting back costs."

I am happy to see that some commonsense has prevailed. "According to the law, employees who must be physically present to do their jobs—such as health care providers, prison guards and law enforcement officials—will not be eligible for telework. Federal employees who have to handle secure or classified material and employees who have been punished for being absent more than five days in a year or punished for viewing or distributing pornography with a government computer will not be eligible." Aren't you glad to know they made it clear that people who had a job that required their physical presence were not allowed to telecommute. Brilliant! And why are people who view or distribute pornography on government computers still working for the government?

Sometimes you just have to wonder don't you?

(Source: SHRM news article President Signs Federal Employee Telework Legislation)

Monday, December 13, 2010

If Labor Law is so Unfair, Why Then....

It is no secret that for the past two years Labor has been working to get the Obama administration to change the playing field of organization in favor of unions. The legislative arena has not been so successful for them with but the rules changes put in place by the National Labor Relations Act and the actions of the US Department of Labor may yet have an impact by making it easier for unions to organize workers.

The reason they have been doing this is that union membership is at much lower levels than they would like to see them. They have made the argument that the laws are unfair and biased toward management. These labor laws, which consist of the National Labor Relations Act, the Labor-Management Relations Act and the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act were passed in 1935, 1947 and 1959 respectively. So, to echo my title, if labor law is so unfair, why then was union membership at its peak in the 1950's, with nearly 1/3 of the private sector workforce belonging to unions? The same laws were in effect then as now. Nothing has changed in the legislation. So why today is union membership in the private sector down to less than 8%? The laws have not gotten suddenly "unfair", they are the same as they have always been. So what has changed?

The reasons union membership is at such a low level are many. Here are some of them:
  • In the 1950s many unions became associated and controlled by organized crime. That association remained quite a long while and that left a very disagreeable taste in people's mouths.
  • The nature of work changed. The United States shifted away from the long time stronghold of unionism, manufacturing, to more white collar information/knowledge based jobs. These workers did not see themselves as fitting into "blue collar" unions.
  • Management changed. To avoid the costs associated with unions, management became more aware, astute and employee friendly. Management philosophies of engagement, fair treatment, transparency, and pay for performance, among others, took away the need for union representation in many people's eyes.
  • Workers became more educated and did not see themselves being associated with blue collar organization. (Hold this thought, because that is not the case anymore.)
  • We ran through the bubble, which produce a large population of people who became entreprenurial and did not embrace union "collective" philosophies.
  • Union organizers did not keep up with the times. They held onto techniques and philosophies that became dated and quit working. They embraced, and still do, "classism" which did not appeal to larger and larger segments of the population.
There have been some major changes in the face of unions in the last couple of decades. The type of employee that is unionized has shifted from private sector to public sector. Today over 50% of unionized employees work for some government segment. Federal, state and local employees make up the bulk of unionized workers, especially in northern tier and western states. California has become much more heavily unionized in recent years. From a report from UCLA we get this statement "Fueling the nationwide increase was the recent growth in unionization in California, which currently accounts for 16 percent of all the nation's union members, more than any other state. California's unionization rate in 2008 is 17.8 percent, up from 16.7 percent in 2007 and 15.7 percent in 2006." (Perhaps this may explain the State of California's budgetary crisis and why businesses are abandoning the state.) The educational level of union workers has also been increasing as a result of the government unionization, especially in the unionization of school teachers.

And why is it that government unionization has risen? In my opinion government is an easier target because politicians are swayed by the vote. A politician's job depends on his/her voters and if there is a large, bused-in turn out at the polls, or at least the threat of a heavily unionized turnout in the next election, politicians may be swayed to vote to make things easier for unions. Unions have contributed, and continue to contribute, hundreds of millions of dollars to influence elections at all levels. They expect payback. On the national level they have not gotten it legislatively, but they have gotten it by getting union officials appointed to key positions, such as Craig Becker on the NLR Board.

They need this influence because they have been unsuccessful on their own. The rules of the game have not changed. The laws are still the laws. It is just their game plan did not succeed and managment's game plan did. And now that they can't win anymore they want the rules changed. Unfortunately the referree (government) is going along with them and fixing the game.

If you don't believe me, pay attention to what the NLRB has done, or is racing to do.  You can keep up on this information by going to

Friday, December 10, 2010

Should You Belong to SHRM?

(Used with no permission but used
with kindness.)
 The organization of SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management) has been taking some heat from a number of bloggers. Prodded on by Laurie Ruettimann a group of us offered blog posts that offered critiques, criticism, ideas and even some praise. Some of the folks at Fistful of Talent discussed their rejections as speakers at an upcoming conference and in the ensuing comments there was a call for an alternative conference, comments regarding the relevance of SHRM, and some people saying they were considering dropping their membership(s) in SHRM and SHRM chapters. Then the other day Jason Lauritsen wrote a blog post entitled SHRM Isn't the Problem, I am. A well written post that discussed the issues of HR as profession and how SHRM has been the scapegoat for the angst felt.

In my blog post on SHRM I expressed a desire for them to be thought leaders in the field, to strive to transform the profession. Jason shot that down, and he is right. Professions do not get changed by associations. Associations follow the field and have to appeal to "early adopters" as well as the folks that resist change. It is practioners that lead change. Practioners enact change. Practioners provide examples of how to do things better.

SHRM is THE organization of the HR profession. There are others, but none with the membership numbers (one national organization boasts a membership that is half of the membership of SHRM-Atlanta) that SHRM has. So SHRM does represent the profession. So it behooves us to remain involved. It behooves us to try to enact change in the association from the inside. Much of the superstructure of SHRM, its chapters, are volunteer organizations. Many of these chapters have a great need for leadership. Taking a leadership role in a local organization is a great way for professionals to demonstrate new ways of doing HR and influence for change. If enough people are providing leadership on the grass roots level the association as a whole will have a greater capacity for change.

So to answer the question in the title, Should you belong to SHRM, my answer is yes. You should belong on both the national and local levels. And here are some other things you should do:
  • Take a volunteer role or a leadership role
  • Be active in your memberships (you only get out of an organization what you put in)
  • Continue to be critical, but make it constructive criticism. Organizations won't change without feedback.
  • Remember your profession is your responsibility.
This has not been an elegant post. You need  must  read Jason's post SHRM isn't the problem, I am. He is much more eloquent than I am. I commented on his post and said he had saved me from writing this post. But I went to sleep last night thinking about this. Probably because of the SHRM-Atlanta meeting I had gone to on Wednesday. I have been a member of SHRM national and SHRM-Atlanta for most of my HR career. I have occasionally let memberships lapse but have always come back. I have held several leadership and volunteer positions in the past. I have also been a critic in the past (and present) and will continue to be so. You should be one too... but you have to earn that right. So get involved and stay involved and move the profession and the association ahead.

BTW, for those of you who may be looking for an entry-level postion in HR, getting involved in a SHRM chapter and working hard and diligently as a volunteer will give you exposure to potential hiring managers who may overlook your lack of experience because of what they have seen you demonstrate as a volunteer. Think about it.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

HR Carnival: 46 Early Presents

How can you turn down 46 early Christmas presents? (Yes I know, not everyone celebrates Christmas, but would you turn down 46 presents just because of a technicality? Really?) These presents come in the form of blog posts featured on the mid-December HR Carnival, hosted by Lance Haun at Rehaul. Lance sorted through all these and put them in categories to make it easy to find a subject of interest. These categories included:
  • His Favorite Five
  • General HR
  • Recruiting
  • Calling BS
  • How To
  • Inspiring Stuff
  • Learning, Development and Training
  • and Careers
Many a great blogger can be found here and you will one educated HR pro by the time you finish reading this stuff.

When you are reading to do some learning then click on REHAUL HR Carnival – It’s All About Content.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

GeoTagging as an HR Tool?

The folks at, in their most recent newsletter, talked about the 11 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2011. One that caught my eye was the one called "Planned Spontaneity". The Trendwatchers said that "With lifestyles having become fragmented, with dense urban environments (URBANOMICS!) offering consumers any number of instantly available options, and with cell /smartphones having created a generation who have little experience of making (or sticking to) rigid plans, 2011 will see full-on PLANNED SPONTANEITY." They go on further to say "Expect to see consumers in 2011 rushing to sign up to services (the PLANNED part) that allow for endless and almost effortless MASS MINGLING with friends, family, colleagues or strangers-who-may-become-friends-or-dates (the SPONTANEITY part ;-).....For consumers, knowing where they are and what's / who's around them is the key to PLANNED SPONTANEITY."

Devices or applications on devices that allow for you to give your location, such as foursquare, will greatly enable the opportunity for planned spontaneity. This made me start thinking about this as an HR tool, specifically a recruiting tool.Will it be possible (or is it already) for someone to locate recruiters or for recruiters to locate candidates based upon their mobile device? Will it be possible to list a position and have it searched for by a mobile app? This will allow for planned spontaneity in recruitment. You will not have to be seeking out a candidate or a candidate will not have to be seeking out a recruiter, but, due to the app a connection will be able to occur. You planned for it, but not a particular time or place, but for the possibility that a connection might occur.

So does anyone know if such technology exists? Anyone know if any such liklihood is on the horizen? Would you use it if it were available? What if we carried our resumes on our mobile device and made it available in order to "shop ourselves"? Would you?

What other opportunities in HR do you see this kind of technology being good for? Employee tracking? You tell me.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Holiday Party Horror

There is no shortage of blog posts and news stories about what companies should do about holiday parties.There are some stories about employees feeling that parties are inappropriate in "tough times." I think part of that depends on whether a company is experiencing tough times. Not all companies are. Some companies have actually been doing well. I know of a few that have even given out bonuses. So a party would not be inappropriate for such a company. So each company needs to measure its own circumstances.

There are alot of stories that provide guidance on how to conduct your party. Jon Hyman, of the Ohio Employer's Law Blog, wrote a post called 7 Tips for a safe workplace holiday party. Like Jon I don't think companies should avoid parties just because of the possibility that something might happen that could cause some problems. There are two of Jon's tips that I think are very good ones.
  • Normal work rules and standards apply to holiday parties. As a subtle reminder, consider holding an anti-harassment refresher in anticipation of the party.
  • Designate one or more managers or supervisors to refrain from drinking and monitor the party for over-consumption.

 There are also many blog posts that tell horror stories. You can find some of them at Dan Schwartz's The Office Holiday Party - Alcohol-Induced Stupidity Can Lead to Serious Sexual Harassment Claims. He talks about a number of horror situations that turn out very badly.
I have a short story that turned out very badly (for one person) as well, although it worked out very well for me. I got a job at a previous company because of a major screw up by an HR Manager. He was the HR manager for the sales division. He had responsibility for four offices. One Christmas he shows up at the largest remote office, uninvited, and dressed as Santa. It was bad enough that he crashed the office party uninvited but then he proceeds to drink way too much. And after drinking too much he then invites the women in the office to "Sit on Santa's lap because he has a package for them." Fortunately the Sales VP of the office took control and removed the HR manager from the scene and sent him home. He was promptly fired the next morning. So a horror story for him. The company responded quickly and appropriately and suffered no harm. And I gained big time because the next person hired to replace the guy was ME. It just goes to show that it is not always the folks outside of HR that you have to watch out for.
So to get some guidance you can read Jon Hyman at WIRTW #155 (the two-drink-maximum edition) at the Ohio Employer's Law Blog. You can read Daniel Schwartz's blog post at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog.  
But in the spirit of the year, have a good holiday and enjoy the party.

Friday, December 03, 2010

GINA: Put the DNA on the ground, Step Away and No one will get hurt

GINA, or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act was passed in 2008. It passed unnoticed by many companies because much of the emphasis was originally put on Title I of the Act which set down the standards for use of genetic information by health insurance companies. So most companies, particulary small ones, did not think it applied to them. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Title II of the Act specifically addresses the use of genetic information, or the prohibitions against that use, for employers. And since this is administered and enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission it means that employers with as few as 15 employees must comply. Now you may think that just because you have only 15 employees you will never encounter genetic information. You would be wrong. Section 202 of the law specifically points out the unlawful employment practices prohibited. These include:
(1) to fail or refuse to hire, or to discharge, any employee, or otherwise to discriminate against any employee with respect to the compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment of the employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee; or
(2) to limit, segregate, or classify the employees of the employer in any way that would deprive or tend to deprive any employee of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect the status of the employee as an employee, because of genetic information with respect to the employee.
It also prohibits the following " employer (may not) request, require, or purchase genetic information with respect to an employee or a family member of the employee..."

And you may think "I would never do that. I would have no reason to do that." But the law also covers you inadvertently acquiring that information through activities such as a medical questionnaire, a heath fair screening, or even casual converstation. The law does give you an out if you acquire information inadvertently as long as you do not use that information in violation of the law. "In the case of information to which any of paragraphs (1) through (6) of subsection (b) applies, such information may not be used in violation of paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (a) or treated or disclosed in a manner that violates section 206." In other words, if  you use the inadvertent information to make employment decisions you violate the law regardless of how you acquired the information.

When the law was originally written there was some confusion on the actual interpretation of some of the wording or intent of some of the language. On November 9, 2010 the EEOC issued final rules on GINA. So it is set in stone now, barring judicial interpretations as court cases arise.

There are several things that you need to do as an employer.
  1. Genetic information needs to be mentioned in your Non-discrimination policy.
  2. You need to have the new EEOC poster that reflects that language.
  3. Any acquired information needs to be kept in the employees confidential file where you keep ADA informational. (You don't have a confidential medical file you say? Oops.. better correct that. Hire a good consultant to help you. Hint-hint)
  4. Discuss with and train your supervisors on how to deal with information they are told or overhear.
  5. Make sure that acquired information NEVER enters into your employment decisions.
You can find the full text of the law by clicking on this link. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 Read Section 202 if you read nothing else.
You can find the Final Rules at this link. Regulations Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008; Final Rule This is long but you can look through for terms and see how they resolved some of the confusion.

I have also written previously about GINA, take a look if you need further information.
GINA: Not Just About the Genetics
OOPS Can't Ask That: The Impact of GINA at Work
GINA: "She" Is Moving in On November 21 and NEVER Going Away
GINA is Here: Complying with "Her" Regulations

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Changes to Georgia Law on Restrictive Covenants

Sexy title huh? Well, not so much, (I can see your eyes glazing over now and you are moving the mouse). But stay with me a moment if you do business in the State of Georgia, have employees in the State of Georgia, or you would like to do business in the State of Georgia, because these changes have made your life as an employer (or franchisor, or lessor, or partner, or a seller of a business) EASIER.

I had the good fortune to attend a session on The Who, What, Where and When of Georgia's Restrictive Covenant Law O.C.G.A 13-8-50 et seq., conducted by attorneys Erika Birg and Bob Stevens of Seyfarth Shaw's Atlanta office. (And you thought my title was unsexy???) They were covering the constitutional amendment that the voters of Georgia passed in the November election (and they were serving cocktails and hors d'oeuvres). What the voters did was make it easier for businesses to enforce non-competes, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements. Up until this point most of these agreements were unenforceable in the State of Georgia because the way common law had defined how these agreements were dealt with.

Let me explain a bit more. Up until this point most restrictive covenants in an employment situation were unenforceable because most were written too broadly, in the opinion of most of the courts. And because the law in Georgia did not allow judges to alter or "blue pencil" agreements this meant that if the judge in a case decided that one portion of the agreement was too restrictive on the employee, because of a too broad definition of competition, contact, geography or time, then the judge was compeled to nullify the entire agreement. Thus employees were able to go scot free taking trade secrets, customer lists, or relationships and were able to go to work for a competitor with no reprecussions. As you can imagine business were not too happy with this and it was determined that many businesses were not opting to move to Georgia because of the potential losses they might suffer.

Well the voters changed that! The new constitutional amendment has given judges the opportunity to edit or alter (blue pencil) an agreement. No more nullifying an entire agreement. Thus, though something may be found to broader than a judge likes, they may now alter the agreement to be more "reasonable" leaving the majority of the restrictive covenant in force. The employer still has to be careful in crafting these agreements as statements of geography, scope, competitors, etc. still have to be seen as reasonable. For one thing "reasonable" may prevent litigation from the very start.

Ms. Birg and Mr. Stevens stated that the law is not retro active to previous agreements. They suggested if you are unsure or unhappy with your agreements you may want to have your attorneys draft new ones, but if you have one now that is well crafted a change may be uncessessary. Ms. Birg did suggest however, that she thinks it is a good idea to just build a system of annual agreements to allow them to be altered for changing circumstances, such as new territories, new customers, new competitors or new jobs. She said to sell the agreements by saying that the company is attempting to protect what the employee is helping to build.

As a closing note there are some challenges to the new law, which they feel will not be upheld. But they are suggesting that no NEW agreements be drawn up until after 1/1/2011.

And the final point was, while non-competes and non-solicitation agreements have limited applicability to certain classes of employees, they think that ALL EMPLOYEES should be required to sign a non-disclosure.

If you have any legal questions about this contact your attorney or the offices of Seyfarth Shaw here.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The Knowledge Retention Dilemma: A Few Key Suggestions

An issue that many companies are dealing with today, as a result of both lay-offs and the retirement of “boomers” is knowledge retention. Too often we let people walk out the door without having fully captured what they know, who they know, and how they did things. And as the economy improves that knowledge loss is going to accelerate as unappreciated workers leave and move to companies where they can make more and feel better. (The unappreciated part is a post for another day.)

A recent article in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, entitled Cos. Can Capture know-how of retiring workers offered a few suggestions on how companies can do some knowledge transfer. These included:

  • Mentoring programs
  • Cross-generational teams
  • Convincing retiring workers to stay longer to teach someone
  • Putting retiring workers on a contract to be on call 
To me these suggestions are incomplete and don’t really address how you actually go about capturing information. One possible method comes from the book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. His book is about becoming an entrepreneur and he suggests that as you set up your company you take the approach that you are setting up a franchise. In order to set up a franchise you have to thoroughly document every process so that someone could step in and take over by reading the documentation on each job. This works well for departments and positions too. However, in my experience too few positions have this documentation. It would be great if every one did and it would be good to have every employee develop this kind of documentation. But that may be a pipe dream. At the very least you certainly need to have every retiring employee create that kind of documentation. If they are training someone to take their place they and the trainee together could develop this documentation.

A second method comes from consulting practices. I have read of consulting companies that require consultants to document the assignments they have completed, including problems encountered and solutions developed. This information goes into a central database that is accessible by future consultants. This allows them to see if anyone else has encountered a problem in the past and may prevent them from having to “re-invent the wheel.” Thus knowledge is retained far beyond the tenure of the consultant.

A third method comes from one of my favorite business gurus, Harvey Mackay. He realized a long time ago that for his business to be successful he could not afford to re-invent relationships with customers every time a sales rep left his job. He realized that knowing your customer beyond numbers of the business is critical to the success of the company. The soft relationship stuff is important. To this end he developed what he calls his Mackay 66. It is a questionnaire of 66 questions that gets to the wants, likes, dislikes, points-of-view, education, family, interests and aspirations of the customer. He also has versions for competitors and employees. Each successive employee coming into a position has access to these files so that “new” relationships can be forged more quickly than the might normally.

So think about your knowledge retention processes and see if some of these tools might help you and your company do a better job in retaining the hard earned knowledge that the company has paid for. At a minimum you as a professional HR person should use these tools yourself.

You can find information on the Mackay 66 by visiting here. While you are at it, you may want to sign up for his newsletter. It is an easy read chocked full of great insights.

You can find Michael Gerber’s book by clicking on the title The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It.