Tag: HR That Works
You may notice the I-9 form has an expiration date of 8/31/12. Don’t fret it, the INS has extended the form. Per the INS:
Continue to Use the Current Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification
Until further notice, employers should continue using the Form I-9 currently available on the forms section of http://www.uscis.gov. This form should continue to be used even after the OMB control number expiration date of August 31, 2012 has passed. USCIS will provide updated information about the new version of the Form I-9 as it becomes available.
Employers must complete Form I-9 for all newly-hired employees to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States.
Subscribe to I-9 Central to receive Form I-9 updates.
Apparently France now thinks so, as reported in the Huffington Post. In fact, sexual harassment can be a crime in the U.S. if it involves a battery, assault or false imprisonment. Times have certainly changed. I can remember the French scoffing at U.S. sexual harassment laws claiming that flirting was the French national pastime. Now that pastime can land them some jail time!
In a 2-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board in the case of Banner Health System v. James Navarro, ruled that an employer violated the National Labor Relations Act by asking the employee not to discuss the details of his complaint with other employees while it was under investigation. The NLRB ruled that the company’s generalized concern with protecting the integrity of its investigation was insufficient to outweigh the employee’s Section 7 rights, which allows the employee to engage in concerted activities for their mutual aid and protection. The Board did indicate that there were circumstances where a request for confidentiality may be legitimate, including:
- Where witnesses may need protection
- Where evidence is in danger of being destroyed
- Where testimony is in danger of being fabricated
- Where the is a need to prevent a cover-up
It made no difference to the court whether or not the “rule” was merely a suggestion or whether it had the potential of discipline attached to it. Simply requesting the confidentiality was enough to violate the Act.
As one of its penalties, the company was required to post the following notice:
Note: The Board also reminded employers that companies cannot restrict information such as salaries, disciplinary action, etc. without also violating Section 7. Employers are also advised to document and analyze why it may need to request confidentiality in any investigation. Finally, there is a possibility that this determination by the NLRB can be reversed by one of the circuit courts, or if things change after the November election.
Banner Health System d/b/a Banner Estrella Medical Center (28‑CA‑023438, 358 NLRB No. 93) Phoenix, AR, July 30, 2012.
“No amount of happiness can buy money.” —Jack Nordhaus
This issue discusses:
- Editor’s Column: Where’s Your HR ‘Edge’?
- Social Media Background Checks Make Sense
- Life Expectancy: Reality Check
- Who’s Really Supporting The Economy?
- There’s A Lot to Know About HR!
- Getting Commissions Agreements Right
- The Cost of Not Having Employment Practice Liability Insurance
- Inspired HR: An ‘Inside-Out’ Opportunity
We have also provided you with the Form of the Month.
Please click here to view the newsletter in PDF.
Editor’s Column: Where’s Your HR ‘Edge’?
Where’s your edge? This is the question Sounds True founder, Tami Simon, asks her New Age guests. Their answer is usually the most interesting part of the interview.
So I ask you the same question. What are you doing in HR at your company that excites you? What are you doing that’s cool, different, outrageous, experimental, and otherwise, really edgy?
If your answer is silence, you have a serious problem. What do you think will happen if your competition is focused on creating an “edge” and you’re not? Kind of like Southwest Airlines vs. American, United, etc.
Pushing for the edge helps keep us going here at HR That Works. Sure we focus on doing the HR blocking and tackling as well as we can — but we also want to make sure that our clients keep looking for their edge. For example, what if you distributed the Creativity Checklist and Employee Suggestion forms to your entire workforce? I’ll bet that you can discover a lot of edge lying dormant at your company. Trust me. Just do it. One good idea can more than repay your investment in HR That Works for years to come! It can also do wonders for your career.
Here’s what we’re doing to build our edge at HR That Works:
- We recently produced the Job Security Program and book. You can find it in the Training Modules. There’s a lack of literature or programs on how to be a great employee. This program fills that void. I would encourage you to allow all your employees to spend the 90 minutes it takes to watch the program — and then task them to complete the exercises in the book.
- We’ve released the Time Management Program, a project that was years in the making. We did the Webinar months ago, got great feedback from our Members, and have produced a program that I believe all your employees and executives should watch. In today’s “squeezed” economy, time is your most precious asset.
- We’ve upgraded our website and are revamping our social media platforms. We realized that although we knew what we wanted to do with social media, we just weren’t implementing it fast enough. So we brought on third-party experts to do the job for us. If your social media platform is in the same spot we were in, using a third party can help take you to the edge.
- We’re providing cutting-edge Webinars. We’ll continue to push the edge with who we bring in to help educate you on growing your managers and company. HR is not, and should not, be viewed primarily as a way to avoid getting sued. We’re convinced that cultivating great employee relationships and a high level of trust helps minimize lawsuits. Last year we did 20 excellent webinars that you can now watch at any time. We’ll produce an equal number this year — giving us a library of more than 100 great stored webinars.
- We’ve upgraded site navigation. By now, you’ve been able to view the latest version of HR That Works. We’ve added the ability to attach documents to the audits, quizzes, and surveys. We’ll also be making it easier to upload your own documents to the SharePoint portal.
I could go on, but that’s plenty for now. I encourage you to keep asking yourself, “Where’s my edge?” To compete in today’s crazy business environment, you need to be creative, proactive, and ahead of the curve. Playing catch-up will guarantee the failure of your business — and your career.
Social Media Background Checks Make Sense
There’s been plenty of HR press about the use of social media in doing background checks on job applicants. Some attorneys have gone so far as to recommend that employers should ignore social media completely. I think that’s poor advice. If people are willing to do stupid things on their social media sites, they’ll be just as willing to do stupid things when working for you. According to a Career Builder/Harris Interactive survey, more than one in three employers rejected job candidates because of their social media activity. The four top reasons were that candidates: 1) Had posted inappropriate photos or information, 2) showed evidence of drinking or drug use, 3) demonstrated poor communication skills, or 4) badmouthed a previous employer.
Risk management is not about eliminating risk. As Walter Olson once stated, “There’s no such thing as the golden shore of legal compliance.” Ask yourself: Which is the greater risk — facing a potential discrimination claim because they showed one of the bad behaviors discussed above, or hiring them and allowing them to damage your company? You get the idea of where I think the real risk lies. The bottom line: Don’t hire a candidate until you learn everything you legally can about them.
Life Expectancy: Reality Check
How long can you expect to live? A “life expectancy analysis” provided by Lincoln Financial Group lists the impact of various factors on reducing average longevity:
- Driving record (DUI): 12 years
- Smoking: 10 years
- Hard or recreational drugs: 10 years
- Drinking: 7 years
- Lack of exercise: 6 years
- High blood pressure: 6 years
- Poor nutrition: 5 years
- Gender (male): 4 years
- Family history of heart disease: 4 years
- Failure to use seat belts: 4 years
- Neglect of regular physical exam: 2 years
- Stress: 1 to 2 years
The big three are obviously drug, alcohol, and tobacco addiction. When you add poor eating and exercise habits to the mix, you have a formula for disaster. Any wellness program must keep curbing these killers at the top of the list.
Who’s Really Supporting The Economy?
According to a report from ADP, the companies that we help with HR That Works usually have fewer than 500 employees — a size category that produce 97% of the jobs added in the private sector during April 2012! Although most of these companies intend to maintain their current level of employment, 31% expect to add more workers, compared with only 13% that expect to reduce their head count.
Interestingly, according to a Simply Hired survey, 39% of college graduates would prefer to work for a small or medium-sized business (compared with 27% at a large corporation, 19% in the public sector, 11% for nonprofits, and 4% with a start -up). The respondents see job security as their No. 1 priority (33%) followed by salary (23%), benefits (23%), and company culture (18%).
The Catch-22 is that smaller companies often offer less job security, benefits, and salary. Looks like the greatest opportunity then is to focus on building a great culture!
There’s A Lot to Know About HR!
In just three pages of the recent SHRM HR Magazine, you’ll find these topics:
|FatigueGood listenerHealth care benefitsLeadershipMotivation/morale
Working with finance
A separate article on benefits included these subjects:
|401(k)Alternative medicineBenefits coordinationCatastrophic coverageClaims management
- Available 24/7
- Negotiation ability
- Total premium cost saved
|DeductiblesEAPEducation about usage of benefitsEnrollment assistanceERISA, HIPAA, ADA, FMLA, state laws
|Overlaps/gapsPension plansPet insurancePreventive care/wellnessRetirement planning
Total compensation statements
Younger worker buy-in
The point is that there’s a lot to know about HR. Great HR executives are constant learners — they have to be!
Getting Commissions Agreements Right
A recent California case, DeLeon v. Verizon Wireless, involved an attack on the company’s commission program for alleged violation of a labor code section that prohibits the secret underpayment of wages. Basically, the complaint was that the Verizon employees who were paid both a wage and a commission should not have been charged back against those commissions for customers who did not fulfill their agreements.
Verizon prevailed for these reasons:
- The commission was clearly defined as such, and the employees already received a wage that satisfied minimum wage standards.
- Employees knew that the commissions were not final until the customer completed their contract period, and that anything paid was considered an advance on commissions.
- Employees underwent training which included the chargeback feature.
- The court reminded employees that “the essence of an advance is that at the time of payment the employer cannot determine whether the commission will eventually be earned because a condition to the employee’s right to the commission has yet to occur or its occurrence as yet is otherwise unascertainable.” In this case, an advance was not a wage because all conditions for performance have not been satisfied.
- The court reminded employers that a chargeback based on “unidentified returns” from the wages of all sale associates violates the law. There are also cases in which the employee cannot be charged with business losses i.e. work comp claims, theft, etc.
Settling commission claims can be costly — so get the agreement right!
The Cost of Not Having Employment Practice Liability Insurance
According to insurance industry estimates, fewer than 50% of companies carry EPLI — and the smaller the employer, the lower the percentage. Although the cost of coverage varies, a $1 million policy with a $5,000 deductible usually costs from $50 to $250 a year per employee. When you think about obtaining EPLI, weigh the cost of this protection against the likelihood of a claim, settlement, verdict, etc.
Check out the cost figures on claims, derived from Jury Verdict Research and other sources:
- Median award (2004-2010:) $199,600
- Mean award (2004-2010): $632,589
- Median settlement (2004-2010): $85,000
- Mean settlement (2004-2010): $515,816
- Nearly two in four plaintiffs’ verdict (39%) ranged from $100,000 to $500,000 range; 12% of verdicts were $1 million or more. Note: Verdicts tend to be higher in state cases than in federal ones.
- Legal fees, stress, additional exposures, etc. — a minimum of $25,000 per claim and going up from there.
- Loss of pre-claim non-productivity due to the fear of not letting a poor performer go because you might get sued — hard to quantify.
- Impact on the company’s loss of reputation among all stakeholders — priceless.
Note: The mean is the arithmetical average of a group of scores. The mean is sensitive to extreme scores when population samples are small. Means are often used with samples of larger sizes. The median is the middle score in a list of scores; it’s the point at which half the scores are higher and half the scores are lower. Because medians are less sensitive to extreme scores, they’re probably a better indicator with smaller samples.
That’s the potential exposure. What’s the potential of getting hit with it? According to CNA, an employer is more likely to face an EPLI claim than a Property or General Liability claim. Almost 75% of litigation against corporations involves employment disputes. Nearly 100,000 sector charges were filed in 2011 against private employers under EEOC statutes, leading to more than $450 million in settlements and charges. This does not include statistically-based claims or settlements that never see the EEOC, state agency or courtroom. More than 40% of Employment Practices claims are filed against companies with 15-100 employees.
Doing some rough math, there are about 6 million companies in the U.S. Although many of these firms are too small to bother suing, some 2.5 million businesses have 15 or more employees. My experience tells me that tripling the number of EEOC claims give a fairly realistic number of total claims filed. Dividing 2.5 million companies by 300,000 claims comes to roughly a one in eight chance of experiencing a claim during a given year — which means the firm can expect to face at least one employment-related claim over an eight-year period (of course, this probability depends on the size of the company, location, compliance practices, culture, etc.).
By purchasing EPLI, you not only cap your risk at $5,000 to $10,000 a year, but you allow yourself the freedom to let go of poor performers without the threat of litigation. Let’s say a 50-person company pays $7,200 a year (an average of $120 per employee) for EPLI coverage. Over an eight-year period, this comes to a total cost of $57,600, plus the time value of those dollars. The chances are that the company will face a claim at some time during those eight years, which will cost an average of $85,000 just to settle, plus another $25,000 in legal fees, for a total of $110,000 (see the average premium cost and settlement figures above). You’d still come out $52,400 ahead — not to mention eliminating the hassle. If the case goes to verdict, those numbers can easily triple. Bear in mind that there is no way you can amortize this expense! Of course, you might easily face more than one claim during the policy term.
The bottom line: Not getting EPLI is a gamble that could significantly impact or even wipe out your cash flow at any time.
If you’re interested in a checklist for purchasing EPLI, please contact me email@example.com.
Inspired HR: An ‘Inside-Out’ Opportunity
Because so few companies have inspired HR practices, those that do enjoy an enormous competitive advantage. Unfortunately, all too many businesses don’t take advantage of this opportunity. Here’s why:
- Cultivating great HR practices must be an “inside-out” job. I’ve reached this conclusion after coaching and working with hundreds of HR executives over the years. Those who believe, achieve. There are a number of reasons why someone might not believe that they’re capable of producing great HR practices:
- They don’t have the skill set. If that’s the case, they can learn one critical aspect of HR at a time and implement this expertise. Most people can only do things one step at a time anyway.
- They don’t feel they have the time it takes to improve HR practices. The solution is to make the time. Great HR practices offer a cost-effective return on investment. I advise HR executives to save at least five hours a week by outsourcing or delegating these activities, so they can in turn devote this time to strategic activities.
- They don’t believe they have the support of top management. When it comes to business owners, nothing is more important than demonstrating the potential ROI of good HR practices. This is why we’ve created the HR Cost Calculator. I start my CEO workshops with an hour-long review of this form so that participants understand the math surrounding their HR practices.
- Private companies, unlike their publicly held counterparts, aren’t required to have anything but basic compliance. There’s no Board of Directors demanding that they get their HR act together; as a result, most privately-held firms do little or no real HR.
- HR professionals don’t get managers on their side. Begin by surveying them. HR That Works members can use the HR Department Survey to have managers rank specific practices and comment on opportunities for improvement.
- Failing to educate everyone in the company about the opportunities that a good HR program offers them. Learn to let people know the progress you’ve made every month and how this impacts best practices and the bottom line. Show that your HR practices are better than those of the competition.
Form of the Month
10 Steps to Getting a Raise (PDF) – This form identifies the correct process for asking for a raise — the right way!
Click here to to listen to this month’s newsletter podcast.
REPRINT POLICY: Reprints are welcome! All you have to do is include the following notation with reprinted material:
©2012 Reprinted with permission from HRThatWorks.com, a powerful program designed to inspire great HR practices.
James and I just finished a wonderful experience at this conference. We exhibited, I spoke and did a book signing. Here are a few things I noticed:
- There were many excellent presenters. The largest attendance seemed to be at the “had to know” legal presentations and those that offered strategic HR credits (like mine).
- About 40 people wanted to buy James’ T-shirt that said “HR is Boring” as well as the other T-shirts we wore at the conference (“HR is a Verb” and “Human rEvolution”).
- There were many background checking, payroll, HRIS, insurance, and training vendors at the show. Also some award vendors, and amusement parks. Seemed to me like most folks were more interested in the contests and freebies than learning what distinguishes these vendors so that they work with the best possible fit for their company.
- It seemed as if many were “in transition” (meaning they were looking for a job). I sensed many other were “consultants” while they were looking for a job.
- It hit home once again that most people outside of HR really don’t like HR. For example, a couple of engineers at a nearby conference I spoke with said they hoped a missile would land on the HR convention (and I’m not making this up). Do you feel the love?
- The workshop I did on Getting Paid to Grow the Bottom Line was awesome! Afterwards I had HR folks with tears wanting a hug (I kid you not) while other wanted a high 5. Fact is, HR folks are very emotionally invested in their work and highly sensitive to criticism. Which is also a challenge as it inhibits them from taking risks and handling any judgment that comes their way.
- The biggest “excuse” for not growing in the HR career is time management. When asked about it, less than half had ever done a time management program (as a reminder there is such a program on HR That Works). Interestingly few said it was upper management holding them back. I say it is they who hold themselves back.
- Here is a link to my handout for that workshop.
This list I was sent from Claims Journal has some great titles. What I conclude from them is as follows:
- When you go parasailing it’s called an assumption of risk.
- Taking ecstasy is not an accident, it’s stupid…and an assumption of risk.
- You don’t want baby seats causing skull fractures. Bumbo?
- I learned something: “Consumers generally need only share their names, correct vehicle insurance information and the phone numbers of insurance providers. Sharing additional personal information, such as driver’s license numbers and home addresses, puts consumers, their property and their safety at risk.”
- I learned that Work Comp insurers want: “The elimination of sleep disorder, sexual dysfunction and psychological issues as additions to primary injuries, when determining disability awards”. Not sure what witty thing to say about that.
- If you look at the numerous comments to this article you can see just how much of an emotional issue this is. Obesity is a choice that has nothing to do with logic; otherwise people wouldn’t be obese.
- Did anyone really think those stupid looking Skecher sneakers would help them somehow? Seriously? Because Joe Montana endorsed them? That guy is so beat up he can hardly walk anymore.
- The guy at the beach doesn’t want to pay for your fires and the guy in the mountains doesn’t want to pay for your coastal flooding. And nobody wants to pay for their own problem! Which is a problem.
- Remember, work comp is a no fault system. This was an accident with no fault you can assign other than perhaps poor walking skills or footwear being present. She gets the WC.
- Too much dust and lint is a bad thing. Clean your ducts.
Top 10 for the Past Week
|1.||Woman Falls From Parasail Harness Off South Florida
Aug 17, 2012 — South Florida authorities say a woman plummeted as much as 200 feet into the Atlantic ocean after her parasail harness broke. Pompano Beach Fire Rescue spokeswoman Sandra King tells the Sun Sentinel that the 28-year-old woman was parasailing with …
|2.||Student’s Death in Las Vegas Ruled an Accident
Aug 16, 2012 — A coroner has ruled that the death of a 22-year-old pre-med student from Arizona who fell from her Las Vegas hotel room after taking Ecstasy was an accident. Family and friends of Emily McCaughan have told The Arizona Republic that the University of …
|3.||Skull Fracture Incidents Lead to Recall of 4M Bumbo Baby Seats
Aug 16, 2012 — About 4 million Bumbo Baby Seats are being recalled after nearly two dozen reports of infant skull fractures. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says babies can wiggle out of the floor seats. About 1 million of the molded foam seats were …
|4.||NAIC Unveils WreckCheck Mobile App
Aug 16, 2012 — According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 5 million wrecks occur every year. However, according to a July 2012 survey from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), many Americans do not know what …
|5.||Lawyers Throw Workers’ Comp Deal on the Rocks
Aug 15, 2012 — A highly sheltered workers’ comp reform proposal being quietly passed around California’s capitol has the potential to make some noise when and if it ever gets introduced. The general consensus among those seeking reform is the need for roughly …
|6.||States Ranked by Obesity Rates
Aug 15, 2012 — In 2011, rates of adult obesity in the U.S. remained high, with state estimates ranging from 20.7 percent in Colorado to 34.9 percent in Mississippi, according to the Centers for Disease Control based on 2011 data. No state had a prevalence of adult …
|7.||Judge Tentatively OKs $40M Skechers Settlement
Aug 15, 2012 — A federal judge tentatively approved a $40 million settlement between Skechers USA Inc. and consumers who bought the toning shoes after ads made unfounded claims that the footwear would help people lose weight and strengthen muscles. An undetermined …
|8.||California Fire Fee Ignites Anger as Bills Go Out
Aug 14, 2012 — More than 800,000 Californians who own property in wildfire country will begin receiving bills this week for a new annual fire-protection fee, rekindling outrage among rural residents and leading to a likely lawsuit seeking to overturn the …
|9.||Michigan Court: Icy Lot Couldn’t Be Avoided at UP Lodge
Aug 14, 2012 — A woman who was just days away from leaving a job at an Upper Peninsula lodge can sue her former employer over her broken leg in an icy parking lot. An Alger County judge dismissed the case after the Cherrywood Lodge in Munising argued that the ice …
|10.||USFA: Clothes Dryer Fires Cause $35M in Property Losses
Aug 14, 2012 — An estimated 2,900 clothes dryer fires in residential buildings are reported to U.S. fire departments each year and cause an estimated $35 million in property losses, according to a new report by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). The …
The BLS has released its findings on leave use by American workers. Here are just some of the findings:
- In 2011, 90 percent of wage and salary workers had access to paid or unpaid leave at their main jobs. Twenty-one percent of wage and salary workers took paid or unpaid leave during an average week.
- Workers who took leave during an average week took an average of 15.6 hours of leave.
- Fifty-six percent of wage and salary workers were able to adjust their work schedules or location instead of taking leave or because they did not have access to leave in 2011. Seven percent of workers made such an adjustment in an average week.
- Among wage and salary workers age 25 and over, 72 percent of workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher had access to paid leave, compared with 35 percent of workers with less than a high school diploma.
- Twenty-one percent of wage and salary workers took paid or unpaid leave during an average week. Workers who took leave during an average week took an average of 15.6 hours of leave.
- Women were slightly more likely than men to take leave from their jobs during an average week–23 percent compared with 20 percent.
- In an average week, 6 percent of wage and salary workers reported their main reason for taking leave was a vacation, 5 percent took leave because they were ill or needed medical care, and 4 percent took leave mainly to
run errands or for personal reasons.
- Of those wage and salary workers who took leave from their main jobs during an average week, 57 percent used only paid leave and 40 percent used only unpaid leave. Three percent of these workers used a combination of paid and unpaid leave.
- Fifty-six percent of wage and salary workers were able to adjust their work schedules or location of their main jobs instead of taking time off from work in 2011. This includes wage and salary workers who adjusted their work schedules or location instead of taking leave as well as those who did so because they did not have access to leave but needed time off from work.
- Among wage and salary workers age 25 and over, 61 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher were able to adjust their work schedules or location instead of taking time off from work, compared with only 38 percent of workers with less than a high school diploma.
- In an average week in 2011, 7 percent of wage and salary workers adjusted their work schedules or location of their main jobs instead of taking time off from work.
- Parents of a household child under the age of 13 were more likely to adjust their work schedules or location instead of taking time off from work in an average week than workers who were not a parent of a household child under 18–10 percent compared with 6 percent.
Here is a link to a memo from the Worklaw® Network firm Elarbee Thompson which should scare the bejesus out of any non-union employer. The current administration is clearly attempting to restructure the workplace. What it was not able to do by legislation it is now attempting to do through administrative fiat. We’ll have to see how the circuit courts respond to any claims filed. Until then it is employer beware!
In this short video, Don Phin goes over the The Bermuda Triangle of Employment for Human Resources Departments around the country.
“How people can have ‘the way of success’ shown to them, visible to their naked eye, even the principles behind what they are seeing, and still not copycat it, not do it, or even perversely do the opposite?” —Dan Kennedy
This issue discusses:
- Editor’s Column: Honest Terminations
- Six Steps to Help Prevent Data Theft
- HR Internships Make Sense
- How to Build a ‘Learning Organization’
- Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!
- The HR Executive of the Future
We have also provided you with the Form of the Month.
Please click here to view the newsletter in PDF.
Editor’s Column: Honest Terminations
I’ve had the opportunity to answer more than 3,000 “hotline calls” in the past 10 years. On many of those calls, the employer wanted to know if they’d be sued for terminating someone.
After representing hundreds of employees during my litigation career I can tell you that “how” an employer fires an employee has a lot to do with an employer’s propensity to get sued. Here are some guidelines to consider:
- Don’t create a lie to make the terminated employee feel good. Recently I received a hotline call which described how an HR consultant working with the company advised them to lie about the reason for the employee’s termination by claiming that it was a “layoff.” Horrible advice! The problem with this approach is if the employee ends up suing you for whatever reason you’ll then have difficulty proving that poor performance, etc. was the reason for their termination. Telling employees the truth is the best way to stay out of the courtroom — and don’t ask HR people legal questions that require a lawyer’s judgment!
- Don’t underestimate how traumatic the event will be for the terminated person or tell them how tough it was on you. Yes, it’s tough for you, but guess what? It’s even tougher on them and their family. Feeling bad yet?
- Don’t lose sleep over the termination. Where did management fail this employee? Did the relationship begin with a bad hire? If you’ve done everything you can to be responsible to the employee, then you should have no fear or other negative emotion associated with letting them go. Terminating poor performers allows them to work someplace where they’ll have the opportunity to perform better. It also relieves the burden on your remaining employees. Again, if you have any concerns, what is the source of those concerns?
- Don’t embarrass the employee. Try not to terminate them in front of the rest of the team, make a scene of their walking out of the office, etc. Terminate in a dignified manner, even if the employees have been less than dignified themselves. You don’t have to stoop to their level. If the employee is belligerent or obnoxious, do what you must to calm the situation and protect yourself.
- Don’t turn the termination into a one-hour conversation. By now there should be no surprises. Employees should have known that if they didn’t improve their performance they would be off the bus. Don’t negotiate or sympathize — just let them go.
- Don’t make promises you’ll regret. In a well-known case, a school concerned about the employee’s backlash (he claimed he was falsely accused of sexual harassment) offered a letter of recommendation on which a subsequent employer relied. As it turned out, the employee was once again accused of sexual harassment. When the victims of this alleged sexual harassment sued the new employer, they cross-complained against the previous employer for misrepresentation. Don’t be that previous employer!
- Finally, don’t try to buy off terminated employees with a release for two weeks of severance — all this will do is invite them to see a lawyer. Don’t offer a release when you fire employees for poor performance or because you’re in fact in an economic downturn. They don’t deserve the former and you can’t afford the latter!
If you’re an HR That Works Member, follow the Pre-Termination Checklist.
Six Steps to Help Prevent Data Theft
An excellent article in Corporate Counsel lists these guidelines to help minimize the risk of preventing data from walking out the door:
- Ensure that employees sign confidentiality and invention-assignment agreements on the first day of work, if not before.
- Provide meaningful training.
- Gain control of remote-access and data-protection policies.
- Set up data protection and employee mobility restrictions affect incoming and outgoing employees.
- Let laptops cool off before allowing the IT department to repurpose them.
- Don’t rely on only unpredictable non-competition covenants alone.
I encourage you to read the entire article here.
HR Internships Make Sense
The May 2012 issue of HR Magazine has a special report on how to create an HR internship. I have constantly preached the importance of HR managers delegating less valuable activities so that they can focus on more strategic areas. Having an intern is the perfect way to perform this handoff!
Other benefits of internship include:
- Provides a powerful recruitment tool
- Decreases turnover
- Contributes to positive branding
- Stresses altruism
- Improves employee morale
- Helps generate new ideas
- Adds social networking know-how
These young people usually earn $10-$15 per hour. Although it certainly helps to have interns do some grunt work, you’ll also want to give them challenging assignments and developmental training.
You can find interns by word-of-mouth, going to your local SHRM chapter, local schools, college career centers, or by visiting www.internships.com.
How to Build a ‘Learning Organization’
According to Wikipedia, “a learning organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.” This concept was popularized by Peter Senge in his excellent book The Fifth Discipline. No, it’s not an old rock group; Senge ran a think-tank at MIT Sloan School of Management. His Fifth Discipline Fieldbook provides a manifesto that companies can use to build a learning organization.
According to Senge, there are five main aspects to a learning organization. Let’s discuss how each of those might apply to the HR equation.
- Systems Thinking. This means that HR doesn’t operate in a bubble, but rather in concert with other aspects of the system. Understand how HR affects everything in your business from operations to sales, marketing, customer support, and so on. A strategic HR manager will take a cross-disciplinary approach when it comes to their HR practices, training, etc.
- Personal Mastery. This means you commit yourself to the process of learning. How many books have you read in your area of expertise during the last year? Do you receive trade publications, attend trade conferences, network with your peers, and look for additional learning outside of your expertise? Do you make sure everyone else at your company is engaging in personal mastery?
- Mental Models. Basically, this means the assumptions or framework in which each of us operates. To become a learning organization we have to challenge these models, and HR must be part of this conversation. A classic mental model in the HR arena is the management of performance evaluations. In most organizations, this model is more than 50 years old, meaning that it’s time to retire it. What new model can you develop that will generate integrity, trust, and better performance?
- Shared Vision. All business authors stress the importance of this factor. Jim Collins emphasized it in his Good to Great book, as did Senge in The Fifth Discipline. How is HR helping to push out and market your organization’s vision? How are you making it “visual”? For example, if I walked into your company would I know what your vision is without having to ask about it? If not, start working with the marketing department and engage in some internal” branding” of the vision.
- Team Learning. As the saying goes, none of us is as smart as all of us. How can we create vigorous dialogues in which we all learn from each other? I encourage you to go to the five-minute video I did on a very powerful team learning process that anyone can facilitate.
In growing your business as a “learning organization,” you’ll probably need to deal with obstructions. Opposition might come from individuals trying to protect their turf, one department not wanting to communicate with another, a lack of empowerment among leaders or employees — or an organization that’s just too big to share information fully (Senge suggests a cutoff point of 150 employees). Cultural dimensions can also impede the learning process. What barriers have you identified to building a knowledge organization? What strategies do you have to get past these blockages? If you have yet to do so, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Senge’s The Fifth Discipline as well as The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook.
Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette!
About one in five Americans still smoke. Most employers want to eliminate smokers not only from their workplace, but from their payrolls as well. In researching this article I found statistics estimating the annual additional cost to a company of a smoker at $3,000 to more than $12,000 — a costly proposition! On the other hand, trying to terminate, or not hire, smokers raises three questions: 1) Will state laws prevent you from doing so? 2) Does your policy follow the guidelines of such federal laws as ADA and HIPAA? 3) Will it really be worth the effort?
Not hiring, or terminating employees who smoke offers companies these advantages:
- Lower incidence of heart disease, asthma, lung cancer, and other diseases among employees, thus lowering company Group Health insurance rates.
- Less absenteeism and shorter breaks, increasing productivity.
- Reducing conflict between smokers and non-smokers.
- You’ll reduce the job applicant pool by 20% to 25%.
- You might offend some of your best workers.
What’s more, state law might prohibit this practice. Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia have laws that prevent employers from discriminating against employees for using tobacco products. (A number of these states exempt people in the firefighting and health professions). Although California, Colorado and New York don’t specifically prohibit this practice, they do protect workers against discrimination for engaging in any lawful activity outside the workplace.
According to the website www.ash.org, which I highly recommend, many of these laws are “toothless and easily avoided.” I encourage you to check out this site, which does an excellent job of identifying relevant state statutes, as well as the loopholes in them.
Although smoking and alcohol use are not protected per se, the health impacts they generate might be. For example, you might be able to terminate an employee for smoking, but not for having lung cancer as a result of smoking. HIPAA allows you to “penalize” smoking employees, but limits the penalty to 10%-20% of their health insurance premiums.
There’s the argument that this is Big Brotherism at its worst: Creating a slippery slope that can lead to restrictions against the food we eat, the beverages we consume, having high cholesterol counts, etc. Plenty of smokers who abide by the company’s policy not to smoke in the workplace are highly effective employees. Do you really want to terminate workers of this caliber? Finally, this quote from a woman about how many people feel about smoking hits the nail on the head. She said, “It’s a stupid choice, but it’s a personal choice.”
The HR Executive of the Future
HR has an exciting future with incredible opportunities — yet most companies undervalue it. As Kevin Cope’s Business Acumen Webinar stresses, if you want to have a more profitable HR operation, you’ll have to be unique. To meet this goal, you’ll need HR managers that have these 10 characteristics (listed in alphabetical order):
- Adaptable. We’re going through a period of accelerating, meaning that change is happening faster than ever. This means we need to adopt new practices quickly. Chances are that if you’ve been doing anything in the same way for the past 10 years, it’s out of date today. Adaptability happens in real time. You can’t think on it, plan on it, have a committee, produce a plan, etc. You just have to adapt, now! For example, have you adapted to today’s performance management realities — or are you using the same ridiculous performance management approach that didn’t work 10 years ago?
- Collaborative. We need the IQ and EQ of the entire team. Today we collaborate around projects and activities, rather than job titles. To collaborate, we have to communicate, produce vigorous dialogues that result in action. Collaboration does not mean consensus — it means input from all.
- Constant learner. To earn more, you must learn more. To learn more, you must train more. Whether you’re in an organization with five employees or 5,000, you must out-educate the competition. How do you make it easy for everyone from the owner to the rank-and-file to educate themselves? Do you provide employees with on-demand access to training materials? Do you give them CDs that they can listen to in the car or MP3s they can upload to their players? Have you taught them about the factors that drive profitability at the company?
- Cross-disciplinary. Don’t limit collaboration to your own circle of influence — reach out beyond that. To what extent have you collaborated with your marketing director to help with internal branding? Have you spoken with the CFO to help understand the bottom-line impact of HR practices? Zappos requires new HR executives to start out by working in the warehouse taking customer orders and support calls, so that all of their executives have a cross-disciplinary view of the workplace.
- Designer. Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Brain, which discusses how we’re moving to the right side of the brain, includes design as one of the factors. Think about it: One reason why Apple products are so popular is because of their design, not just their functionality. To what extent can you be a designer of your environment, your internal brand, your culture, and workflow? Pick up a few design magazines and ask yourself how you can apply this thinking to human resource practices. You’ll never know the answer until you go through this exercise.
- Expert in time management. Most executives and employees get zero time management training and yet it’s the greatest stressor they face. Make sure you that you, and your workforce, get time management training (HR That Works has an excellent Training Module). Good time management involves 1) knowing where your time goes; 2) identifying where it should be going; and 3) determining how to replace low-value work and bring on higher value work. Although this isn’t rocket science, it requires discipline to implement. For example, how much time do you lose to distractions (an e-mail from a friend, an article in the New York Times or a Facebook page)? Because the amount of information is doubling approximately every 500 days, without time management discipline you’ll be twice as distracted as ever!
- Innovator. When you think of human resources, does innovation jump to mind? Of course not! To become an innovator, you need be a good observer of your current environment and “think outside the box.” As mentioned earlier, pick up a magazine on design, sales, or business in general and ask how any of the principles discussed could apply to HR. Dr. Deming taught that profound knowledge comes from outside a system because the system can’t understand itself. Your breakthrough thinking in HR will come from outside the HR field, not within it. HR That Works members should take a look at the Creativity Checklist and Employee Suggestion Form. HR also has the opportunity to get everybody else to the company engaged as innovators as well.
- New-media savvy. To what extent are you using social media tools to help empower the HR function? To what degree do you use social media outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to help build a dialogue at your company? How do you employ tools such as YouTube videos to attract, retain, and motivate workers?
- Motivator. The last thing HR needs is to manage an endless series of dramas. A better approach would be to find a way to empower, engage, and motivate the workforce. For example, how effective are your retention policies? Are you getting the biggest bang for the buck? Are you addressing people’s psychological needs? Have you surveyed workers to determine what their emotional drivers are?
- Technologist. It has become easier and easier to build database management programs, whether it’s for sales, finances, operations, or human resources management. Years ago there were a dozen or fewer human resource information systems (HRIS); today, there are hundreds and they’re increasingly available to smaller companies. How can you use technology to manage data more effectively? In an information society, well-managed data is essential. What tools can help drive performance management and what tools will you use for strategic HR purposes (of course we think HR That Works is the best!).
Form of the Month
How Would You Rate Your HR Practices? (PDF) – Evaluate your HR department in nine areas to find potential problems.
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