Archive for January, 2010
Retired GE president Jack Welch has been a long-time supporter of the HR function. His columns and blogs are widely published. Here are a few of Welch’s pointers:
- CEOs need to get the importance of HR. Most importantly, they need to understand that they probably aren’t very good at HR and need to find somebody who is.
- If you’re an HR executive, ask yourself: Just how good are you? How well are you performing? Do you really want to do more? If you’re not having an impact, why would you want to be the HR person?
- Great HR people are both pastors and parents. They have to listen like a pastor and maintain confidentiality, but they have to tell it straight like a parent.
- Finally, HR executives need to pound the table to get a voice in their organizations. Riding along, being a bureaucrat, or playing less than a critical role in the organization should be unacceptable to anyone worth their salt.
To learn more about Jack’s excellent HR philosophies, go to his Web site at www.welchway.com.
It hasn’t been a pretty picture. Like most Americans, some of my retirement savings were wiped out. Like you, I read nothing but press about how much fear we ought to be in to the point where many are in a panic mode. Fear not. The biggest lesson in all of this—don’t let you play victim on you.
Here are some ways to coax, encourage, and inspire yourself and others:
- Keep a cool head - Leaders show up in tough times. They are cool under fire. Think FDR, Churchill, a Navy Seal or leaders you admire. They are the calm in the storm. Like a rock. Be that person- even if you have to fake it.
- Be clear about what you can control – Of course you cannot control Congress, Wall Street, the media, or public sentiment, but you can control yourself. For example, while most Americans were spending, spending, spending (there’s a -2% savings rate), others chose to save up for the rainy day. Guess who’s doing a better job of weathering the storm? The point is this—reduce your lifestyle or company overhead to a point where you can save 10% of all that you bring in. If this means moving to less fancy offices or purchasing used vehicles, then so be it. Do what has to be done now so that you can begin saving for the rainy days ahead.
- Prepare for the worst – Any room for denial has passed. I just did a series of CEO talks for an excellent chair in Charleston. He had all of his members run their numbers as if revenues were down 20%. Many took his advice and are in much better shape for it. Here’s my advice: Do the same thing for your personal life. What if your company had to cut payroll by 20% across the board? Would you be able to handle it? If not, begin preparing yourself for that possibility today. Make sure you have a Plan B for tough times.
- Don’t try to figure it out by yourself – One of the advantages the CEO groups have is their ability to discuss openly and candidly their situations with each other. Their feedback and support is valued both financially and emotionally. Point is this—you don’t have to suffer this alone. Form your own “mastermind group” and provide support to each other.
- Become an efficiency freak – I am a nut about not wasting time. I take it easy when my main goal is to take it easy. When it comes to work, I suffer no distractions. How much time are you wasting every day? Whether it is texting a friend, downloading iTunes, checking your MySpace or chatting over nonsense with a fellow employee—cut it out! If you’re “at work” and your activities are not designed to make money—cut them out. This has to be the mantra for you and the entire workforce. Now is no time to waste time.
- Work in your highest and best use – Now that you’re working efficiently, get smarter about what you’re doing. You should be doing work that only you should be doing for your company at least 80% of the time. All of your $10 and $15 an hour work should have been delegated by now. Your value is directly related to your ability to help grow the bottom line. This is business and in the end, nothing else really matters. Point is: know your numbers. Know how you impact the bottom line and be able to communicate that back to ownership. If you are ownership, make sure your employees can do exactly that for you.
- Don’t just think in terms of survival; think in terms of success – Even in down economies, there are companies and executives who do very well. Even if profitability diminishes, there is opportunity to grab market share. So surrender to the reality but be determined to survive. Help clients and customers survive in this economy and you’ll have a sure winner.
- Get yourself a positive mantra - Such as “We will survive and thrive!” When everyone is crying the sky is falling, you have to counter-balance all that negativity with positive messages. Great billboard material for the lunchroom…and your self-talk.
- Keep moving forward - Nobody is going to get out of this overnight. Survival will be one step at a time. If you keep your head up and do what needs to be done every day you will survive.
- Lastly, know that this too shall pass - I have every reason to believe that slow business times will be with us for the next two or three years at least. So, downsize your lifestyle, save for a rainy day, become ever more valuable, and you will not only weather, but survive in tough times.
We often think about preparing questions for an employee in an interview, but spend little time on being ready to answer questions that they might ask us. Consider these samples:
- How many employees do you have?
- What are your annual sales and profitability trends over the past three years?
- What percentage of managers are promoted, rather than recruited?
- Why is the position open? Did someone quit or get fired? Is this a new position?
- How would you describe your company’s culture?
- Where do you get your greatest satisfaction in working at the company?
- What frustrates you at times working for the company?
- How does your performance appraisal system work?
- What training programs do you offer employees?
- When is the last time you faced an employee claim?
- How often does the CEO meet with the management team?
- What type of office parties and social events do you have?
- Do you publish career ladders for the position?
- What effort have you made to find out about me before the interview? (i.e., have you done a Google search?)
P.S. As a fringe benefit, preparing these answers will tell you a lot about your company.
Most performance evaluation systems don’t work. They seldom improve performance and they certainly don’t protect your company from lawsuits. More than 40 years ago, Dr. W. Edwards Deming stated that performance evaluations are more destructive than beneficial. So what does work? Take this four-part approach:
- Have a clear understanding of expectations. Ask the person you manage this question: What are the three most important things you do every day? Chances are that the answer you get won’t be the one you expected or hoped for. Once you’re clear on expectations on the three most important things the employee does every day, try to help them allocate 80% of their effort toward them.
- Know the benchmark. HR That Works users can look at the Benchmarking Worksheet. Be very clear about what good performance means. Ask this question: “How would they know if they were doing a good job without having to ask me and without my having to tell them?” Until you can get to this level of understanding with those three most important factors of job performance, any performance appraisal process will be meaningless.
- Be clear about responsibilities and accountabilities for performance. Managers are responsible to employees, not for employees. This means that they must put the employee in a position where they are capable of succeeding. It then becomes the employee’s responsibility to succeed. If people aren’t performing up to standard, first ask the question, “Is it the system? Have we stuck a round peg in a square hole? Have we put them in a position where they’re not capable of succeeding?” Is the employee recycling the manager’s ignorance? If your answer to this inquiry is that it’s not the system or the manager, then find out if, for any reason, the employee believes they don’t have the skills or desire to do the work.
- Deal with poor performance NOW. Get a plan in writing. Make sure performance turns around within 30 days or let the employee go.
“IT is not too expensive. The problem is that YOU can’t afford it.”
Jim Rohn September 17, 1930 – December 5, 2009
This issue discusses:
- Editor’s Column: The Four Agreements
- $200,000 Jury Award For a Single Incident of Disability Discrimination
- COBRA Updates
- Getting Paid For HR
- Women at Work
- Disincentives For Workers to Report, and Employers to Record, Injuries and Illnesses
- Congress Extends Cobra Subsidies
We’ve also provided a link to the Form of the Month
One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel El Ruiz. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, the Four Agreements are:
- Be impeccable with your word.
- Take nothing personally.
- Assume nothing.
- Always do your best.
I can’t think of a better formula for success for a leader, manager, or employee. Let’s review each in turn:
- Be impeccable with your word. Do you speak the truth even when it might not be in your best interest? Are you honest with yourself and willing to acknowledge your own fears and judging nature? We recently had a webinar with Cornell University professor Tony Simons, entitled “Integrity in the Workplace.” Whether you call it being impeccable, having integrity, or being trustworthy, you’re really talking about the same thing. As a leader, are you willing to tell your employees the truth about the organization? As a manager, do you focus your interest on yourself or the team? As an employee, are you being honest about the effort you give every day and your willingness to improve yourself?
- Don’t take things personally. This is one I have to keep reminding myself about. It’s all too easy to feel disrespected when you work so hard and try to be a good person. It feels unfair when we assume that others are doing bad things to us instead of simply being unaware. For example, if an employee makes a mistake, it’s generally not because they don’t care about you. Yes, there are folks whose hearts have grown so cold that they don’t care who they damage, including themselves. If you give yourself a moment just to be with the situation, you’ll quickly be able to discern whether the activities are invidious and warrant you taking them personally. The challenge is not to take things personally when the intention to harm is purposeful.
- Assume nothing. This gets managers (including me) in more trouble than anything else does. We assume people have certain talents and desires. We assume we’re managing in the best way. We assume that we have our risk management act together or that because we care we don’t have to worry about those exposures. Quite simply, we assume too much. If you study surveys about companies that have won the Baldridge Award, you’ll find that managers make certain assumptions about employees which are distant from reality. For example, we might assume that money, career growth, or camaraderie are the most important motivating factors to our workforce without surveying them to find out if these assumptions are in fact true. That’s a quick way to waste money and cause unnecessary turnover. Because we’re all running so hard, we don’t take the time to ask the right questions. One solution: View surveying, dialoguing, interviewing, and so forth as a process — not as an event you’ll get around to someday.
- Do your best every day. When I was facilitating leadership training for a billion-dollar corporation, I asked the leaders if they intended on being a world-class organization. All of them swore up and down that they wanted to be just that. I then asked them what they had done differently during the past month to drive this level of excellence. To my amazement, not one of them could define some purposeful effort they’ve made to get better. This is not trying your best. Trying your best means that you’re moving forward purposefully. You’re willing to bring out the best in yourself and the people around you. You don’t settle for some type of “comfort zone.” You embrace change, internally and externally. This holds true for both individuals and organizations as a whole. Lexus, the best-made car in the world, is famous for its slogan: “The relentless pursuit of perfection” (derived from Dr. Edwards Deming)
There you have it — a clear formula for incredible success. Be impeccable with your word, take nothing personally, assume nothing, and always try your best. Will you mess this up? Every day. The point is to do what you can to learn the lesson and move on. That’s also what it means to do your best.
In a California case, AM vs. Albertson’s Supermarket, an employee of Albertson’s underwent a difficult operation to help cure cancer of the tonsils and larynx. The treatment affected her salivary glands, which required her to drink water constantly and, as a result, go to the bathroom frequently. Albertson’s, aware of its obligations under California and federal disability law, did everything possible to accommodate the plaintiff.
Unfortunately, the plaintiff worked under a new manager unaware of her limitations, which led to a situation in which the plaintiff was stuck at the register and despite requests to be relieved so that she could go to the bathroom, obtained no relief. Unable to hold it anymore, the plaintiff urinated in her pants and went home distressed.
As it turns out, she had suffered since youth from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), which caused her to cycle into depression and lose a great deal of time from work. At trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff $200,000 — $12,000 for lost wages, $40,000 in future medical expenses, and $148,000 for past emotional stress.
Albertson’s argued that under the circumstances, the plaintiff had a continuing duty to communicate with the new manager regarding her need for an accommodation or simply to leave the register and use the bathroom. In upholding the plaintiff’s verdict, the court reminded employers of two important obligations: 1) You take employees “as you find them.” For example, if you have an employee with PTSD, and an incident causes them to become depressed, when a normal person would not, the plaintiff is entitled to damages; and 2) If an employee is being accommodated and you have new management, you must make them aware of this accommodation Read the entire case here.
COBRA UPDATES and EXTENDED SUBSIDIES
In response to a large number of questions received regarding eligibility for the COBRA premium reduction under current law, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) has updated the COBRA page (www.dol.gov/COBRA) to add new FAQs here. We encourage readers to visit this page for updates.
Congress has extended the federal subsidy for COBRA Health insurance premiums for employees who are terminated involuntarily. The nine-month, 65% premium subsidy is extended by six months, to a total of 15 months.
The subsidy now is available to those who involuntarily lose their jobs through February 28, 2010. The legislation also provides an additional six months of subsidized coverage for beneficiaries whose initial nine-month COBRA premium subsidy has run out. In addition, the legislation gives beneficiaries whose subsidy ran out, and who did not pay the full premium, a second chance to opt for coverage. For example, a beneficiary whose nine months of subsidized coverage ran out November 30, and who did not pay the regular unsubsidized December 2009 premium, can pay the 35% premium share in January 2010 and receive coverage for December. The legislation requires employers to notify current COBRA beneficiaries and future beneficiaries of the new 15-month premium subsidy.
GETTING PAID FOR HR
Every year HR Executive publishes a list of the 50 highest paid HR executives. All of these people work for public companies and each of them earned more than $1.3 million, often including sizable bonuses.
Click here to view the list.
Here’s the point: HR professionals can be paid well, if they’re good at their job and take on a lot of responsibility. The chances are that these folks all put in long and stressful workweek — but the results were well worth it!
Back in October 2009, Time magazine ran a special report on women. A number of the statistics in this report deserve a closer look:
- More women think that men resent women who have power than is the fact. Nearly seven in ten (69%) of the women surveyed felt that men resented women who have greater power than they have; in reality, only 49% of men did (yes, half the guys out there have difficulty with powerful women, but they’ll have no choice but to get over it).
- More than four in five (84%) respondents believe that businesses have not done enough to address the needs of modern families. Given that women are roughly half of the workforce, providing a family-friendly work environment can help to attract and retain employees. Job sharing, flexibility, more paid time off, and day care options are all factors women look for when entering the workforce.
- More men (60%) than women (50%) are convinced that there are no longer any barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace. You can only imagine which women are more successful; those who believe their success lies entirely in their own hands, or those who believe that somehow there remain barriers to their advancement. Of course, this might depend on the type of industry they’re in.
- Interestingly, more women felt that female bosses are harder to work for than male bosses (45% versus 29%) are. This raises the question: Do women feel they have to be tougher than men to be successful managers?
- Most women (84%) believe they are just as committed to their jobs as women who do not have children. Interestingly, more women disagree that it’s difficult for them to establish a warm and secure relationship with her children if they work than do men.
- More women (52%) than men (27%) believe that women bear the primary responsibility of taking care of sick or elderly parents. Many women are “sandwiched” between kids and parents.
- The most important issues for women in general are health (96%), self-sufficiency (85%), financial security (81%), and job fulfillment (72%).
What does this data mean for employers? Answer: If you want to attract women to your workforce, create the flexibility that allows them to take care of children and elderly parents, including more paid time off and better day care options.
“Occupational safety and health stakeholders we interviewed and occupational health practitioners we surveyed told us that primary factors affecting the accuracy of injury and illness data include disincentives that affect workers’ decisions to report work-related injuries and illnesses and employers’ decisions to record them. Stakeholders most often cited workers’ fear of job loss and other disciplinary actions as disincentives that can affect workers’ decisions to report injuries and illnesses. Occupational health practitioners concurred: 67% reported observing worker fear of disciplinary action for reporting an injury or illness, and 46% said that this fear of disciplinary action has at least a minor impact on the accuracy of employers’ injury and illness records. Workers’ fear of disciplinary actions might be compounded by policies at some worksites that require workers to undergo mandatory drug testing following incidents resulting in reported injuries or illnesses, regardless of any evidence of drug use. Several labor representatives described mandatory drug testing policies as a disincentive that affects workers’ decisions to report injuries and illnesses, and 67% of health practitioners reported they were aware of this practice at the worksites where they treated workers in 2008.
“Stakeholders also said employers’ safety incentive programs can serve as disincentives for workers reporting injuries and illnesses. These programs reward workers when their worksites have few recordable injuries or illnesses. One-half of the health practitioners who responded to our survey reported they were aware of incentive programs at the worksites where they treated workers in 2008. Safety incentive programs are designed to promote safe behavior by workers; and 72% of health practitioners reported that these programs motivate workers to work in a safe manner. However, some stakeholders said these programs could discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses; more than three-quarters of health practitioners said they believed workers sometimes avoid reporting work-related injuries and illnesses as a result. Stakeholders also said that in addition to missing the chance to win prizes for themselves, workers who report injuries and illnesses might risk ruining their coworkers’ chances of winning such prizes.
“Disincentives that discourage workers from reporting and employers from recording injuries and illnesses might also result in pressure on occupational health practitioners to treat workers in a manner that avoids the OSHA requirement to record injuries and illnesses. From our survey, we found that more than one-third of health practitioners were asked by company officials or workers to provide treatment that resulted in an injury or illness not being recorded, but also was not sufficient to treat the injury or illness properly. For example, in some cases, practitioners stated that employers might seek out alternative diagnoses if the initial diagnosis would result in a recordable injury or illness. One practitioner said that an injured worker’s manager took the worker to multiple providers until the manager found one who would certify that treatment of the injury required only first aid, which is not a recordable injury. More than half (53%) of the health practitioners reported that they experienced pressure from company officials to downplay injuries or illnesses, and 47% reported that they experienced this pressure from workers. Further, 44% of health practitioners stated that this pressure had at least a minor impact on whether injuries and illnesses were accurately recorded, and 15% reported it had a major impact. In some cases, this pressure might be related to the employers’ use of incentive programs. Of those experiencing pressure from workers, 61% reported they were aware of incentive programs at the worksites where they treated workers. In comparison, among the practitioners who reported not experiencing pressure from workers in 2008, 41% reported being aware of incentive programs at the worksites where they treated workers.
“Various disincentives might also discourage employers from recording workers’ injuries and illnesses. Stakeholders told us employers are concerned about the impact of higher injury and illness rates on their Workers Compensation costs. Several researchers and labor representatives said that because employers’ Workers Compensation premiums increase with higher injury and illness rates, employers might be reluctant to record injuries and illnesses. They also said businesses sometimes hire independent contractors to avoid the requirement to record workers’ injuries and illnesses because they are not required to record them for self-employed individuals. Stakeholders also told us employers might not record injuries and illnesses because having high injury and illness rates can affect their ability to compete for contracts for new work. The injury and illness rate for worksites in certain industries, such as construction, affects some employers’ competitiveness in bidding on the same work.
“An OSHA official told us that OSHA does not have an official policy on incentive programs or practices that might affect workers’ decisions to report injuries and illnesses, but it has authority under the OSH Act to discourage inaccurate reporting by employers. The official stated that, under a planned National Emphasis Program, OSHA will explore the possible impact that incentive programs have on workers’ decisions to report injuries and illnesses. To address disincentives that might affect employers’ decisions to accurately record injuries and illnesses, the official stated that OSHA can issue citations or fine employers when recordkeeping violations are found.”
Lessons to be learned:
- There are inherent pressures not to report injuries or to minimize their scope.
- Employees are afraid of losing jobs, receiving discipline, or being drug tested (even where drug use plays no part in causation).
- Safety programs designed to reduce injuries, lost time on the job, and insurance costs can create a disincentive for reporting injuries.
- These factors also affect managers and health care providers.
- OSHA will be more vigilant in exploring how employees might be reluctant to report injuries at the workplace.
- Keep these lessons in mind when designing and implementing injury-reporting systems.
Read the entire report here.
Form of the Month:
SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY (PDF)
Don’t ignore the impact of Social Media on your workforce! Use this form as a starting point to craft a policy that works for your company.
JANUARY 2010 PODCAST
Click here January 2010 Podcast to listen to our inaugural HR That Works Podcast!
Demographic studies reinforce our daily experience: It’s getting harder and harder to find good employees — but not for everyone! Whether you’re a local contractor or national airline, there’s an employer of choice in every market; these companies find good people knocking on their door because they enjoy a high “Attractiveness Factor.” For example, Southwest Airline and Jet Blue are probably getting far more qualified candidates than United, American, and Delta because they have a business model and culture that attracts employees, rather than repels them.
Survey after survey reveals that one third to one half of the employees in any industry are looking for a better employer — a far higher figure than the 5% to 15% unemployment rate in those industries. Why would these people, who already have jobs, leave them to come work for you? Your Attractiveness Factor is related directly to the job satisfaction of your employees. As we stated in a recent newsletter, Baldridge Award winners have approximately a 66% job satisfaction level, while Great Places to Work Institute Award winners are up to an 82% average. You can bet that the recruiting offices in these companies have a far easier time than their competitors.
To improve your Attractiveness Factor, we’d recommend these steps:
- Put the right people on every seat of the bus. No excuses. Nothing upsets team members more than management placing the wrong employee on their team — especially without their input.
- Have your employees market on your behalf. Referrals from existing employees are a great source of leads. Also, get employees involved in the hiring process by using such tools as group interviews.
- Show employees that you care by asking them what they need to be successful and to take pride in their work. This applies even when they’re leaving. On average, one dissatisfied customer will tell seven people about their grievance — and it’s no different with dissatisfied employees. When you terminate someone, do it with grace and understanding. Conduct exit interviews to correct any potential resentments that might fester into a lawsuit.
- Brand your company as a great place to work. For example, many Circuit City stores have a banner over their entrance that states, “We’re Always Looking to Hire Great Employees.” Southwest Airlines brands the fact that their employees Love the Work They Do Every Day. What’s your brand? How do you show it?
Lighten up. Whether you label it fun, joy, love, or nonsense, find a way to enjoy! Many of us are looking for that something extra out of our daily grinds. What’s yours?