Are You Telling Little White Lies to Get Butts in the Seats?

Lying to job seekers about your culture might get you a warm body-a butt in the seat. That much is true. And if you love onboarding and training lots of new hires, it will also give you something to do and feel productive about every day of the year as they churn through your organization. You may lie to yourself and tell your team that call center employees (or food service workers, or warehouse helpers) just turn over quickly and there’s nothing you can do about it. You may even say that machinists and nuclear engineers and UX designers are in short supply and all just looking for the highest pay and that’s why they’re leaving so soon after you hire them. But you’re not doing yourself any favors if you don’t look in the mirror and figure out what you and your HR team are doing (or not doing) to influence high turnover. Even if your executive leadership hasn’t gotten wise to the cost of each new hire (estimates range from $15,000-45,000 for average employees) then you should be educating them as a strategic HR leader on what you can do to recoup this cost for the organization.  

If we’re honest with ourselves, there are many conditions about our workplaces that we take a decidedly rosy view of, when we go to recruit new employees. It’s like anytime when we’re having new friends over for dinner. We clean up the house, cook up our best recipes, and serve them wine. We decide not to invite our crazy sister to dinner, even though she hangs out at our house almost every day. We don’t show them the basement, where we throw all the stuff we don’t want anyone to see but we don’t have the heart to get rid of. We’re on our best behavior and telling our most entertaining stories. We have an optimistic view of where this relationship can go, and all the things we can do with our new friends to make life fun and rewarding.

We do this when we bring in fresh talent to our organizations too. We don’t put that crazy, outspoken but genius team member on the interview panel because she might be a little too much to handle. The team has been pulling 80-hour weeks for the past six months and there’s no end in sight, but the hiring manager without much subtlety tells them not to advertise that fact to potential new hires. There are people on our team who should have been held accountable, and haven’t-they're holding us back from meeting our goals but no one wants to deal with it. Working conditions and tools are less than ideal, but those challenges aren’t mentioned. There are many more things we hide, lie about and ignore when we’re trying desperately to fill holes on teams that never seem to stay fully staffed.

“But what about the managers?” we in HR say. They’re the ones who don’t train new employees well, don’t hold others accountable, don’t give recognition and feedback (even though we’ve given them the tools and preparation) and fail to foster teamwork. Aren’t they at fault for the turnover? What about the barely acceptable wages our nonprofit, or startup, or low-margin industry is forced to pay? It’s no wonder people are leaving in droves. If only our (pay, benefits, working conditions, managers) were better, our retention would be too.

Before you blame it solely on the managers, read this from Jaclyn Westlake, in The Muse:

…I couldn’t wait to work with eager students as I guided them through the admissions process. I envisioned myself reassuring nervous parents, decorating my first-ever cubicle, and building lasting relationships with my co-workers. Sure, I was a little idealistic, but this was also what the hiring manager told me I would be doing.

When I arrived for my first day of work, I was led to a storage room and handed a phone, a sales script, and a long list of phone numbers and told to start making calls. I didn’t even have a working computer. Turns out, I had inadvertently accepted a job as a cold caller.

An experience like that isn’t easily forgotten, along with the ill will that goes with it. We can’t tell from this account whether there was any HR or recruiter involvement in the misrepresentation, but just reading about how this new hire’s hopes and excitement were dashed in this bait-and-switch makes my heart skip a beat. The employer brand is seriously damaged by this kind of disastrous misrepresentation, but even the little white lies we tell and the filtered information we release in our less-than-authentic interview processes can damage the chances we will create a successful hire and retained employee.

I’ll be speaking at DisruptHR in Denver soon on the topic of The No Filter Job Interview-I hope you’ll join me and hundreds of my favorite HR pros to hear my recommendations on sharing your real culture to get the right hire. See you there!

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Service Before Strategy

Last Saturday, I spent hours (and hours and hours) at Walmart. Why? I have a complex relationship with the oil change process. Take it to Jiffy Lube and you get the annoying upsell. Take it to the dealership and you have to either plan ahead or drop it off and leave it most of the day. Walmart? You walk in, drop off your car, buy some groceries, and pick up your car on the way out, paying a reasonable price for your oil change. Or, that’s the way it’s supposed to work in theory.

When I called to check on the wait time, the guy on the phone, Fred, told me it would be an hour and 45 minutes. His tone of voice, while not unfriendly, said, “Don’t come in.”

Of course, I disregarded his advice. I’d been putting this off for weeks, and the idea of facing a busy Jiffy Lube + hard sell vs. a busy Walmart + lack of a sense of urgency had me erring on the side of not being in a hurry. I was rewarded with an agonizingly long wait, and a check-the-box mentality among the folks helping me get something I needed. Ultimately, I got the job done, but I left questioning whether the folks at the tire and auto department really wanted any customers at all.

How many times has our front line given off this attitude and provided this low level of service in HR? We have a captive internal customer, someone who needs something that only we can give them. They are much worse off than I was last Saturday, in that they can’t choose a competitor to satisfy their needs. Employees come to us asking for help, and they should be able to expect for us to provide it promptly, kindly and correctly…except when they can’t. Sometimes we in HR don’t even have what’s needed to solve a problem. We may feel burned out, unnoticed and undervalued ourselves, so that’s what we turn on our internal customers. We may even complain about them, ridicule them, and convince ourselves they don’t deserve our best service.

Rather than simply blame the front-line HR service providers and accept the mantle and reputation of HR mediocrity that other teams in the organization tend to place on us, we need to take it up a few levels. There are several things we’re doing to perpetuate this lack of service:

·       Tolerating poor service delivery from long-time employees who have a depth of knowledge in our processes and history, that we haven’t bothered to document or cross-train

·       Failing to allocate critical resources to the departments where they are needed; telling our front-line employees to “deal with it” when they are understaffed and overloaded

·       Neglecting technology needs that would make delivering and receiving HR services more efficient, pleasant and accurate

·       Allowing a “pass the buck” mentality among service delivery taking place in siloes of specialty in HR, instead of facilitating and rewarding teamwork among departments in HR Operations, and promoting a focus on the internal customer, not passing off tasks

Neglecting the basic need for flawless execution in HR Operations service discredits all of HR, makes building credibility and trust more difficult, and fails to meet the expectations of our workforce. We must focus on delivery of these services first and foremost, whether through third-party services, our own internal HR staff, or technology, before we can move on to the important strategic work through which we can deliver success to the business.  


Photo credit: yonkershonda via / CC BY-SA

Your Employees: You Can Pry My Mini Fridge From My Cold, Dead Hands

I was exhausted last night, after an amazing but busy week, so I was curled up in bed ready to watch Netflix when I realized that my two grown children were taking up the spots, kicking me off the service. (Funny aside: Netflix will tell you what your family members are watching when this happens. My son was viewing Always Sunny in Philadelphia and my daughter was on Star Wars-Rogue One). I was mildly irritated, but not too worried about it-I turned to the Wall Street Journal to catch up on the news I’d missed from yesterday.

I didn’t expect to see it in the WSJ but apparently Sean Spicer really wanted a mini-fridge in his office, and wasn’t willing to spend $80 and wait for Prime delivery. The story, as reported in the Journal, is that he sent someone to the tiny, cramped room where junior research employees are housed in a nearby office building, and asked them to give up their fridge instead-and they refused. That alone is a supreme example of poor relationship skills.

What happened next is the kicker-the article reports that he went back to their office after dark to steal the fridge and bring it back to his office. This is the stuff of legendary office lore-if this happened in any other organization, it would be epic: the senior VP who stole the mini fridge from the minions’ office. What isn’t clear from the article is that there are probably some very mundane details that preceded these juicy events. Here’s how I imagine this played out with Mr. Spicer, and with other leaders who have poor emotional intelligence:

Step 1: Leader says, “I need a mini fridge. I need one right now.”

Step 2: Someone in Leader’s circle (we’ll call her “Deputy”) says, “The Research Department bought one last year for the junior employees next door. Let me go get it. They can ask for another one later and someone will replace it.”

Step 3: Leader says, “Okay, go get it.”

Step 4: Deputy goes to see Junior Employees and asks for the mini fridge full of gas station burritos in their office, expecting them to say, “okay, of course, you can give it to Leader-he’s more important than us.”  

Step 5: Junior employees unexpectedly revolt and say, “Hell no! He makes enough money to go out to lunch and unlike us, he has access to the White House Cafeteria. Let him get his own f*cking mini fridge.”

Step 6: Deputy goes back to Leader, fuming that Junior Employees refused to give up the mini fridge for their Leader, one they don’t personally own and that was provided to them by their employer.

Step 7: Leader gets pissed. Who do these Junior Employees think they are? They should know that his need for a mini fridge is primary here. They don’t own that mini fridge. They’re lucky to have a g*ddamn mini fridge in the first place!

Step 8: Leader is working late. He’s in a rage because his cold brew isn’t cold and he is working a 20-hour day while Junior Employees are at the bar.

Step 9: Leader bops on over to the Junior Employee office, takes the mini fridge, and moves it to his office.

Step 10: Junior Employees discover the heist, know they have no power to do anything about it except lie in wait until the right time to leak the story to the WSJ, Glassdoor-style.

Guess what? Your employees do this every day. They suffer thoughtless indignities and reminders of their lack of importance to your organization. Yes, the mini fridge is the company's, not theirs. But it makes a long day in a difficult job a little easier, so they feel ownership over it. And as hard as you work as a leader, taking action that makes clear you think you’re more important than your employees are is not a good look. Resources like technology, work flexibility, headcount, physical space, and, yes, mini fridges and coffee can become a lot bigger deal than you think they are, because the decisions we make around these things send messages to our employees, like whether they are important, and whether the work they do is valued. That goes double for when you take these resources away from someone and give them to someone else, much less yourself. When we’re not mindful of the message, we can end up with a much bigger story than we wanted, and the negative financial and brand impact goes a lot further than the cost of an $80 mini fridge.

Photo credit: glenngould via / CC BY


Creativity and Risk-Finding the Nexus

This weekend, I was working on some things for my business (more to come on that soon) and I realized that concern about risk and failure is often what stops me from even recognizing my biggest, best ideas, much less considering how to implement them. I am always inspired by James Altucher, especially his transparency, simplicity and openness when talking about failure. If you haven’t read his work, I recommend you check out his blog.

I have found that personally, I need that magic combination of energy and passion, willingness to fail, and the ability to exercise full creativity without judgment. Great brainstorming on our teams arises out of these things too, and with close observation and hard work, we can grow these fragile conditions to create the potential for unstoppable success and job satisfaction. Imagine what we could do if we all found the nexus of these conditions at the same time, and stayed there while we generated and implemented truly great ideas!

How do we start? A few years back, I realized that I wanted to work and travel more in my career. The first thing I did was to buy a wonderful, inexpensive and colorful rolling suitcase. I’m not suggesting a metaphysical explanation for what happened next, that the suitcase brought the potential for travel to me. But I will say that bringing that suitcase home symbolized the beginning of something. It reminded me of what I wanted, and helped keep me focused on finding creative ways to make it happen.

The suitcase could have become a symbol of my shame, and a reminder of lost opportunity, if I had failed. This happens a lot when people buy exercise equipment, thinking it’s a catalyst to losing weight. The machine becomes a coat hanger, or a carpet smasher, and the purchaser sees a constant reminder of wasted money and failure to change. It’s important to keep the symbol of our beginning as a reminder of what can be, not what we failed to achieve. It’s all in our perspective, and a great leader can keep us focused in the right direction.

Sometimes my ideas are audacious. They are bigger than life. My ideas may even provoke a response in others that’s like, “Who does she think she is?”

When my ideas are like that, I know I’m approaching the nexus. I’m willing to take a leap, and enjoy the experience of it, and sometimes the success as well. But I’m all in, whether I ultimately get to use the suitcase or not.

Photo credit: CJS*64 A man with a camera via / CC BY-ND


OSHA Recordability and Recordkeeping

Many organizations, including small businesses, are subject to OSHA recordkeeping requirements for injuries and illnesses that meet certain parameters. Although workplace incidents resulting in illness or injury can be rare for smaller organizations, especially those that are careful in their management of risks, these incidents must be properly identified, recorded and in some cases, reported, so that safe workplaces can be ensured and maintained.

As part of the Department of Labor, OSHA’s stated mission is “to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” As part of its enforcement mission, OSHA levies penalties and delivers consequences including assessing a maximum of $12,675 per violation for serious, less than serious and posting violations. Failure to abate an identified safety problem can result in a $12,675 per day penalty per instance of failure to abate, and willful or repeated violations can earn a penalty of up to $126,749 per violation.

Of course, the first priority for proper recordkeeping is to make the organization's leadership aware of potential hazards and need for training to keep employees safe at work. This is the goal of every great HR, Safety Department and executive leadership team. But in addition, the financial impact can be significant. OSHA-levied penalties can have a substantial impact on the operations of any business, but particularly on smaller organizations. In addition, the negative press such OSHA penalties receive, and the long life the cases have online in OSHA's own public database, can destroy trust among the public and be devastating to a company's brand.

How do employers know which incidents may be OSHA recordable, and therefore required to be included in records kept for review? An easy-to-use tool is provided by OSHA through elaws, and consists of a series of questions that take the user through the decision-making process. A decision tree visually illustrates the general steps in determining OSHA recordability:

Original version of decision tree available for review from OSHA.

Original version of decision tree available for review from OSHA.

Recordability seems simple, but there is often more to the story depending on the facts of the situation, and things can change over time as well. Often when a worker is injured or becomes ill, initial first aid treatment may stabilize his or her condition, but later treatment or restrictions can turn a first aid only case into a recordable incident. Updating the status in the OSHA records is critical for compliance.

Finally, many organizations make the mistake of including workers' compensation documents, medical records and safety “root cause” reports in the same file with OSHA records. As with many auditors, OSHA will expect to review a set of information upon request when visiting your organization on site. That information includes, for each business location, for the past five years:

  • OSHA forms 301 or equivalent internal First Report of Incident forms that contain all of the same information
  • OSHA form 300 with information included on every recordable case (with identity masked for workers with sensitive cases like reproductive injury or biohazard exposure)
  • OSHA form 300A summary form completed and posted during the period of February 1-May 1 of each year

Medical records showing the factual basis for a decision of recordability or non-recordability should be retained and stored separately from these documents. If your HR team isn’t familiar with OSHA recordkeeping requirements for injuries and illnesses, consider seeking a safety or HR consultant to assist you in setting up your processes, so you can keep your workforce safe and remain in compliance with OSHA requirements. Don't overlook this critical, but easy to maintain, safety and workplace regulatory requirement.

Photo credit: AutrementDit Toronto. via / CC BY