Posts in Nuts and Bolts
Backing Out on an Accepted Offer of Employment

This question and answer series is taken from Quora. This question is about whether backing out on an accepted offer of employment will burn bridges with that employer and put a candidate at risk for being passed over for future opportunities with that same organization.

If you withdraw from the hiring process after accepting an offer, then the HR/Recruiting team would definitely be disappointed, but you shouldn’t assume you are “blacklisted” as a result. If your recruiter reaches out to you to find out what happened and why you rescinded your offer acceptance, there’s no need for you to provide a lot of details, but I would suggest that you be open and share if there is anything that would help them understand where they went wrong in the process.

Maybe the other offer you got was for your “dream job” or had a better salary, more career development opportunities or a shorter commute. There are a lot of legitimate reasons why this happens, and if you are gracious, appreciative of their time, and professional in your interactions with them, you shouldn’t assume you can never apply for a position with that company again.

That said, don’t ever just ignore the company and stop responding. You accepted an offer to join their team, and you owe them at least a clear, polite communication to let them know that you will not be joining them, after all. The worst thing you can do is vanish and stop responding to them-that’s truly unprofessional and would earn you a (justified) place on my list of unprofessional candidates not to consider again.

Photo credit: btaroli via Foter.com / CC BY

Is HR Really Necessary?

This post is part of a quick answer series that arises from questions on Quora. People are hungry for information and guidance on HR, so I will share some of that here on the Solve HR Blog as well.

Should businesses just get rid of HR? After all, it costs money, and the benefits aren't always obvious, especially if HR isn't being effective and isn't aligned with organizational goals. If a business has an understanding of what HR can do to make it successful, it won’t choose to dispense with HR altogether. Unfortunately, HR doesn’t always make it clear what value they offer to the organization. HR leaders must be business leaders first, always focused on the strategic plan of the organization, and offer real data to support the return on investment for funding HR services.

There are always transactional and tactical activities that have to be performed by someone in the company if there is no HR. (Often these activities get dumped on finance or operations, or inexperienced administrative staff, not always with the best results). Even when using an automated HR technology platform or a PEO, every organization will need someone to assist with issues that arise that aren’t handled by these tools.

For a business that is over the 50 employee mark in the U.S. (a point at which legal compliance and employee relations complexity increase and per employee HR costs begin to make business sense), I always recommend either an experienced HR leader be made part of their core team, or a consultant be available on demand to plan people needs proactively, avert unnecessary risk, and consult with business leaders to make the organization more successful.

In short, companies can go without HR, but not if they expect to be competitive.

Photo credit: Hugo-90 via Foter.com / CC BY

HR is as HR Does
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Those of you who know me are aware that I am biased toward action. Mulling things over? Nope. Researching a little bit more after the conclusion seems clear? Not unless you can convince me of the value in it. Talking something to death? Never.

I know a lot of folks in HR whose bread and butter is generated through speaking, generating content that others purchase or receive as part of consulting packages, and whose reputations are built upon their gravitas in the HR public sphere. I think these people are great. I admire them, learn from them, enjoy their work, and become a better HR professional because of my exposure to them.

Here's the thing, though. I am what's called a "do-er." If words and actions disagree, actions are always what I believe. If there's a choice between doing something and talking about it, I prefer to do. You may think that makes me "tactical" or even "transactional" in orientation, but that couldn't be further from the truth. My work product communicates, adds value and is left behind, as words fade into the air. It can be referred back to, shaped, revised, and molded to fit the needs of tomorrow and the next day. I continuously communicate while I act-strategically, efficiently and, hopefully, helpfully.

Action is what matters most. HR is sometimes guilty of acting in a way that's not consistent with what we say, as a result of burnout, lack of experience, or failure to speak truth to our clients. We say that our company's employees are its most important asset. We talk about employee engagement like it's a priority. We even spout messages about developing leaders internally and caring about retention. Then what happens? We complain about human problems and label people like we think we know their stories. We are complicit in treating employees like they are cogs in a machine because our shareholders need a teeny, tiny bit more value. We (sometimes haphazardly) label some people with monikers like "High Potential" (without recognizing the unconscious bias we all have in making this choice) and participate in numbering them in order of their perceived value. We allow our manager clients to get away with not coaching, communicating about performance or engaging in difficult conversations with their direct reports.

Are you as frustrated with this as I am? Let's do something. Speak less, act more. Treat employees with dignity, no matter what they have done or said, or what consequences we must deliver. Everyone tends to find themselves in crisis at one time or another, and there are no walls around the workplace anymore. Recognize people, know them and appreciate them every day. Question authority when you think your wonderful, unique and human teammates are being mislabeled or made the victims of petty, poor leadership politics. Hold your manager clients' feet to the fire when they avoid conflict or face to face communication, and remind everyone all the way up the management chain that they own the success or failure of their front-line employees.

Let's agree that we'll act. Our workplaces will be better for it, and the trust level in HR will go through the roof. And, ultimately, our organizations will be more successful, which is exactly what our business leaders need from us.

Photo credit: Foter.com

Recruiting Mature Workers Just Got Easier
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Did you know that AARP, the huge organization to advance the interests of people as they age in the United States, has launched a job board? Take a look at the new board here.

My trial run on the board revealed that it’s got all of the basic features job seekers expect to see in a job search site. One suggestion I’d make is that if the tool is meant to appeal to recruits who may be looking for flexible scheduling or an alternative work arrangement, maybe more categories are in order beyond full-time and part-time. The options for employers posting and reviewing applicants look useful and appropriate at first glance. But one thing really jumped out at me.

If your organization signs an Employer Pledge, it can earn a 30% discount on job posting packages during the launch period. Standard packages begin at $199, and Enhanced packages, with increased visibility for job postings, start at $399. More information can be found on this page.

According the AARP, the Employer Pledge involves the following:

Working with AARP, participating organizations have signed a pledge that they:

  • Believe in equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age
  • Believe that 50+ workers should have a level playing field in their ability to compete for and obtain jobs
  • Recognize the value of experienced workers
  • Recruit across diverse age groups and consider all applicants on an equal basis.

Here is the AARP Employer Pledge overview, if you'd like to check it out.

The tagline is “Experience Valued.” As many baby boomers, and soon, Gen Xers join the ranks of age 50+ workers, and organizations look for ways to cut costs by shedding more expensive salaries in favor of early-career professionals, remembering the value of experience is critical. A 2015 AARP Study (analyzed by the Society for Human Resource Management, SHRM) concluded that the value of employing older workers is substantial, while the incremental cost of hiring and retaining them is only 1-2% over earlier career employees.

SHRM and the SHRM Foundation found the aging workforce worthy of a substantial research initiative in 2016. The results and tools for successfully managing an aging workforce are detailed and useful. According to the SHRM Foundation’s Guide to Leveraging the Talents of Mature Employees, the population of younger workers with the skills needed for success in today’s environment is too small to step into the shoes of the aging Baby Boomer generation. As these less experienced workers build their skills and experience, aging workers can take advantage of flexibility in scheduling and role design, if employers are willing to offer it, in order to fill gaps.  SHRM’s suggestions for recruiting mature workers include identifying sources of talent that will include older adults. AARP’s new job board could be a good fit for that need.

Older workers often have wisdom, institutional knowledge, experience and a strong work ethic. Check the data, and be sure you aren’t overestimating the costs, and underestimating the benefits, of recruiting, hiring and retaining them.

Photo credit: tec_estromberg via Foter.com / CC BY

Communication Requires Actually Talking
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I have a group of clients who like to use leverage. This means they will email instructions on a particular issue like they are a done deal, then tell you to move forward with their direction. They will simultaneously copy in other people not likely to agree with them, and pretend like there’s no further discussion needed.

While this does make for some laugh out loud moments on my part when I read my email, it doesn’t make for a functional, interactive and productive group dynamic when the person copied has a tantrum. In situations like this, I usually invite a leader to weigh in.

Except...sometimes they don’t take the opportunity to provide clarity. In that case, it’s up to me to recognize the need and take a stand with a firm recommendation. That recommendation is often not the last word, and the arguing continues. Even then, in some cases, a leader won’t engage to hear both sides, and make a decision to put the issue to rest.

It’s then I know we not only have a problem to solve today, but a development need for tomorrow as well. Communication requires actually talking to one another, hearing all of the details, risks, costs and benefits, and then making a decision that everyone agrees to live with and move forward under.

The decision is definitely important, and it’s up to the business to make one. But it’s also about the communication. That is something we can and must facilitate in HR.

Photo credit: jackracker via Foter.com / CC BY