Posts tagged Human Resources
Transition Coaching is a Good Investment in You!

I am an HR consultant. To the untrained eye, that might look like I’m a recruiter, or someone who helps people figure out how to find the right job. But that’s not really what I do for my clients, even though I really think that work is important and valuable, and I highly respect my colleagues who perform that critical function.

I’ve found myself recently crossing that line between talking with really good friends and close colleagues about career strategy and getting meeting requests from people I barely know or just met, to help them with their careers. I often feel like I am giving scattershot advice, and I don’t know how to help them along in their personal journeys toward a rewarding career choice, because I don’t know them well enough and don’t have the tools available that my colleagues have to help identify strengths, tendencies and archetypes. I know what I would want to do, but not everyone is like me. I also don’t have time for a bunch of follow up conversations, which people in transition really need. It feels like I am letting them down when I can’t just jump on every request or question they have, because I am trying to do paid work for my own clients.

When I started thinking it through, I realized that the best choice is really clear. My network has all of the answers that transitioning job seekers need!

When someone recommends, “You need to talk to so and so, he knows everyone,” or “my coworker such and such, she has a great eye for personal branding,” that is a start. It makes sense to go ahead and reach out to that person. But the next question shouldn’t be, “When can we meet for coffee?” but instead should be, “do you know of a good transition coach you would trust with your career?”  

I am a lucky, lucky member of the #HRTribe and I know several amazingly effective and talented professionals I could call, located all over the U.S., if I needed transition coaching. I would contact any one of them immediately if I find myself in need of that assistance. Many folks who know my work understand I am not a career coach. I fear I am not up to the task, and this kind of work doesn’t feed my passion. That said, if we work with one another, as volunteers or on work projects, we are in the same network and know many of the same people. I will go to bat for you and recommend you, and I will send you job leads and get you in the back door all I can. Beyond our connection, that is just good business, because you get a great new job, and the people I know get a great new employee. Everyone feels good about that result!

But the bottom line is that people like me are touchpoints in the job search process, but we can’t be your primary way to get a job. My advice: don’t trust your career to half-hour phone conversations you are having with referrals adjacent to your network, who don’t know the superstar quality of your work, the depth of your values or the fire of your passions. These random calls don’t benefit you or the people you’re talking with as much as you hope they will, because they lack alignment with a real career strategy. Also, the people you set up calls with are busy, and they may even resent your intrusion on their schedules unless they are personally looking to hire someone like you now or in the near future.

The exception? An offer of help should ALWAYS be accepted. There is no such thing from me as a disingenuous offer. If I offer to help someone, that means I have already considered what I can do and am willing to spend time talking about how I can assist.

How do you help your network get a leg up in their job searches? Share with me and we will help everyone up their transition game.

Photo by PhilWolff on / CC BY-SA

Combating Sexual Harassment – A Game Plan for HR

In the midst of all of the justifiable community outrage, and big policy discussions around gender, diversity, culture and the role of HR in combating sexual harassment in organizations, there is a multitude of voices straining to be heard. They come from business leaders, asking what it is their organizations can do today to begin to solve this problem and to keep it at bay. Some are even asking-could this be happening in our organization without us being aware of it?

For business and organizational leaders, the right answer is to start with the basics of culture, leadership and, yes, training. However, the urge to slap an out-of-the-box training session on an unresolved problem that is rooted in disrespect and dysfunctional culture and call it good does nothing to solve the problem. It might help the company “check a box” to show that they notified their employees of their official policies and what conduct is not allowed (and later communicate this to a court as evidence of due diligence). But this just serves to perpetuate the idea of managers and HR as not really caring about employees and protecting them from harassment at work, but only worrying about their own legal exposure. Like the old 80’s-style VHS tapes employers used to play to show new employees what harassment looks like at work, this kind of rote-training-only approach is disingenuous, overly simplistic, and likely to broadcast to potential harassers that your organization is just “dialing it in” and doesn’t really care about combating harassment in their workplace culture.

That said, training is a good starting point, if it is championed by leaders, followed by authentic discussion in an environment of trust, and deeply and broadly accepted cultural norms around respect, dignity and zero tolerance for harassing behaviors among every member of an organization’s teams. Bystanders understanding their responsibility in calling out abuse of power in all its forms is also critical. A cultural environment of trust, where leaders are open to candid dialogue and employees are never punished for speaking openly about concerns, is also a strong guard against an environment of secrecy in which harassment can fester. The bonus is that trust and openness also foster innovation and engagement, which positively impacts the bottom line.

Cultural rejection of harassment, embracing the need for training and shared understanding of how to combat harassment, and an environment of trust and openness are only effective if executive leaders enthusiastically embrace them. If leaders pay lip service to culture, exempt themselves from training and punish those who come forward with concerns, then HR efforts to provide training and generate dialogue around differences will not be effective.

What are HR professionals to do?

1.       If your leaders have not yet approached HR for solutions, share information with your organization’s executive leadership on the potential negative impact of failing to address sexual harassment risk, and how HR can help. SHRM has many resources to help you do this.

2.       Ensure that your organization’s culture is supportive of respect, dignity, transparency and trust. Work with your leadership to reinforce awareness of and professional activity consistent with these agreed-upon, shared cultural norms and values.

3.       Review the current training on sexual harassment and harassment in general, and the organization’s strategy for delivering this training.

a.       Is the training up to date?

b.       Does the training contain the right information and activities to make it engaging and effective?

c.       Is training delivered to every employee, including executive leadership, or are some team members exempted?

d.       Is training and communication around harassment prevention championed by leadership, or is it seen as a waste of time or a legal requirement alone?

4.       Utilize your trusted resources in HR to ensure that your organization’s training is complete, timely, useful and effective. SHRM provides its members useful resources like sample training decks for Sexual Harassment Training for Employees and Sexual Harassment Training for Supervisors to help you get started.

5.       If you don’t have the capacity or expertise within your organization, consider bringing in consulting assistance to help you start off 2018 with an effective game plan for combating sexual harassment and other forms of harassment in your organization, and setting yourselves up for a successful year.

I encourage all of my HR colleagues to be ready to use our knowledge and understanding of business strategy, risks, culture and talent management to help our organizations thrive through creating environments of transparency, trust and respect, and providing training experiences that result in genuine learning and greater understanding among the workforce. It is only through commitment of executive leaders, HR professionals and managers working together that we will be able to foster genuine change in the toxic environments of secrecy and abuse of power that have resulted in the widespread experiences of sexual harassment that have been recently brought to light. 

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An abbreviated version of this blog post appears on the SHRM Blog

The Changing Landscape of Employee Handbooks

Employee Handbooks are as ubiquitous as those dusty VHS anti-harassment tapes. Yeah, they’ve around for years and years, and no employer would think of being without one. But gradually over the past few years, the protection offered by handbook provisions against misbehaving employees saying “I didn’t know that was against the policy,” had begun to wane, at least as reviewed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Since the 2004 decision that created the Lutheran Heritage test, the NLRB had basically rendered unlawful and useless most of the carefully crafted employee manuals we HR folks had lovingly created. Their reasoning was that if any of the policies expressly or impliedly infringed on workers’ section 7 rights, (as interpreted by the NLRB, of course), they would be construed as being unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Some wise HR consultants and leaders I know were beginning to rethink the employer handbook, not only in its tone and mode of delivery but also in its content, as it had lost a lot of its protective value against risk. You could put together a very basic policy about confidentiality or civility at work, and it could be shot down by the NLRB. I am strongly in favor of creating handbooks that have actual value for employees who read them, and are consistent with an organization's values and culture, and in these days where new revelations of harassment and inappropriate conduct are continuously coming to light, more than ever we need a touchstone that is simple, clear and adamant about what conduct we want to promote (and prohibit) in the workplace and among our teams. But until now, organizations knew that when they began to regulate employees' behavior in a way that the board was likely to consider as against Section 7, they were running the risk of having a handbook provision deemed unlawful.  

Enter the new administration’s NLRB. Chairman Miscimarra had already dissented in an earlier 2017 NLRB case, calling the Lutheran Heritage standard out as lacking in common sense, so it was no surprise that in the new case on December 14, 2017, The Boeing Company, a new standard was adopted, weighing the business interests of the employer against the Section 7 rights of the worker. As outlined in the National Law Review, the board adopted three categories that indicate how it will evaluate policies and rules of this kind going forward:

·       “Category 1 will include rules that the Board designates as lawful to maintain, either because (i) the rule, when reasonably interpreted, does not prohibit or interfere with the exercise of NLRA rights; or (ii) the potential adverse impact on protected rights is outweighed by justifications associated with the rule.”

·       “Category 2 will include rules that warrant individualized scrutiny in each case as to whether the rule would prohibit or interfere with NLRA rights, and if so, whether any adverse impact on NLRA-protected conduct is outweighed by legitimate justifications.”

·       “Category 3 will include rules that the Board will designate as unlawful to maintain because they would prohibit or limit NLRA-protected conduct, and the adverse impact on NLRA rights is not outweighed by justifications associated with the rule.”

Considering the language of "weighing” and “outweighing” going on in these tests, we see that the new Board is taking the needs of employers into account in a way it hadn't under the prior administration. As HR professionals who advise business leaders on employment policy manuals, it’s our job to do the important work of planning and determining the needs for employee policies, and carefully crafting handbooks that align with data-supported employer needs, like protection of trade secrets, safety of employees, a culture of respect and effective operations for the business. Luckily, we have at our fingertips many tools for making a handbook come to life via video, integrating it into our training and onboarding programs, and ensuring that relevant parts of it can be easily accessed through technology on an on-demand basis, right when the information is needed. We can do all this in a way that aligns with an organization's culture, workforce needs, and unique business requirements, and we can accomplish it in a way that respects workers' need to know information that will help them be successful, not just punish them after the fact when they make a mistake. 

Those of us who had all but given up on meaningful policies and handbooks that actually impact workplace conditions will find that an employee handbook review is the perfect goal for early in 2018! Feel free to contact us if you'd like to know more. 

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Sexual Harassment-HR Steps Up

Respect for each other in a culture is always the most effective way to approach the issue of sexual harassment. Consider today’s (and Today’s) termination of Matt Lauer after complaints, investigation and conclusion of inappropriate behavior at work at NBC. The reaction of his co-hosts spoke volumes-they were clearly in shock, not realizing that their colleague could have been one of the mighty who are being felled by accusations of sexual harassment. One wonders where NBC’s conclusion that “this was not an isolated incident” came from. Had they been sitting on other allegations and investigation results that they chose not to act on in the past? We may never know.

Often sexual harassment involves something less extreme than the examples that have come to light lately, with Harvey Weinstein being accused of physically assaulting women and Louis C.K. forcing women to witness his masturbating in front of them. Everyone can agree that these behaviors are disgusting, despicable, and would easily subject an employee to immediate dismissal. What more often happens is that people are demeaned, put down or bullied with sexual comments or sexually inappropriate behaviors, and it can be a power play on the part of others in the workplace. It’s a way of saying, you can’t be yourself here, you are not welcome here, you’re on a lower level than me. Engaging in and tolerating those behaviors (and worse, having them come from the top) are things that are less easy to train for. You can clearly tell someone that unwanted touching is off limits, and that they can’t threaten someone’s job if that person refuses to sleep with them. That’s a pretty clear line. But the trick is how we decide to embrace and convey the idea that if you step on other people’s backs to get ahead, and that includes saying or doing things that are counter to their dignity as human beings, we aren’t going to reward you by promoting you and giving you more money. And if you are already in a position of power and you do these things, we’re going to take the hit even if you’re making us lots of money-we’re going to remove you from our company and make a strong statement that your behavior isn’t going to be tolerated.

Sometimes HR responds that we are in a difficult situation. We have dual roles, after all; we are there to protect the company from legal liability as well as helping employees when they encounter difficulties at work, and we serve as the investigator of these complaints. It is our job to find the facts, and come up with a recommendation about what to do next. Employment attorneys will tell the company what the risks are in any given situation, but they will not recommend what action to take. If HR finds evidence that an employee is harassing someone at work, and recommends termination, but company leadership doesn’t agree, then HR has a choice. We can go along with what leadership says, and find some other recommendation, or after making our strongest case for termination and insisting that leadership follow through, if no action is taken, we can exit the organization. We don’t get to decide what happens, because that is up to what we usually call, “the business.” The business gets to decide what to do, and then we get to decide whether we want to be part of an organization that does what they did. So, as much as I empathize with internal HR professionals when they say, “it wasn’t my choice” what consequences to deliver at the end of a sexual harassment investigation, I don’t buy it. We all have a choice every day to go to work and be part of whatever company is our employer. If their values are not consistent with ours, HR, and leadership isn’t open to listening, learning and growing, we must find ourselves another employer.

Recently, one of my clients terminated an employee on my recommendation. The behavior at issue consisted of verbal comments. The coworkers around this former employee were concerned about him losing his job and told me they not worried that he would assault them. I reminded them that although they were strong people who were confident in themselves and their ability to respond to this behavior, it was absolutely counter to the organization’s values to tolerate it. I also reminded them of these two things:

1.       We don’t know how any future team members might react to behavior like this

2.       We don’t know who else might behave like this in the future

We can’t make exceptions because someone is otherwise well-liked, or because he or she is a great performer. We have to make clear on the front end what’s expected, be frank and open in talking about it when people do not behave according to those expectations, and draw clear lines and let people learn the hard way when they refuse to abide by these norms at work. Earlier this fall, I had sat across a desk face to face with this former employee and told him exactly what he had been heard saying at work, and let him know that it was disrespectful, unprofessional and would not be tolerated. I told him if it happened again he would be terminated. And to my client’s credit, they followed through with that termination when the time came.

In order for HR to step up and handle sexual harassment, there are a few main points we must begin with:                                            

·       Bullying, manipulative, power-play behavior often goes along with sexual harassment. If we address the former, we will diminish the risk of the latter.

·       Being open about addressing sexual harassment begins with interactive training during the orientation and onboarding process (I am still working on developing this training-it’s difficult to meet that goal because those who embrace the training are the ones who don’t need it as much).

·       When the time comes that an investigation substantiates that an employee has behaved in a way that’s counter to the company’s values and/or has violated policy, then action must be swift and clear.

When I come across a client that is having trouble with projecting and maintaining cultural values around respect and open communication, I typically will recommend one of my organizational development colleagues come in and facilitate a communication session with leadership. Part of this may be personality profiling, 360-degree feedback and other tools to help them open up to one another and identify risks, attitudes and working styles that are interfering with their ability to lead effectively in an atmosphere where gender diversity and other kinds of diversity in their teams can thrive and deliver success in their organization. This also is an effective way to combat the false narrative that men and women can’t work successfully together, with mutual respect where they are valued for the results they deliver and the talents they bring to the organization.

I'm hoping, like many of my HR colleagues are, that the current climate of openness and accountability, as well as support for people who have been harassed continues, so that future men and women who have less power than those in the media and Hollywood will feel some of the power too and feel supported enough to come forward. We will do whatever is in our power to create and maintain cultures of respect in our organizations that allow that to happen. 

Photo by ahyakal on / CC BY 

Inclusion is for Business Success-All Year Long #NDEAM

For National Disability Employment Awareness Month, #NDEAM, let’s recognize that people with disabilities are all around us, doing the work of our organizations and companies (here are some statistics about disability employment from the Office of Disability Employment Policy, ODEP). Held annually, NDEAM is led by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, but its true spirit lies in the many observances held at the grassroots level across the nation every year. In thinking about disability at work, often we focus on the costs and barriers instead of the unique and valuable benefits brought to our organizations by people with disabilities. With regard to invisible disabilities, I always ask my clients to look around the table and realize that statistically, there are people right there next to them who may have disabilities that are not disclosed. Maybe one of those people is me!

Do you recognize any of these employees in your organization?

Every other month, Jeff takes a week off work. Other employees give him a hard time because this is more time than other team members are typically allowed to take. When he takes extra vacation, they forget about his contributions and complain that he is lazy or asks for special treatment. His bipolar disorder is well-managed by medication, rest and regular breaks from work.   

Jeff is his team’s highest performing sales leader. He was responsible for bringing in 30% of the annual revenue for his employer last year.

Anna uses a wheelchair for mobility. As a managing engineer, she needs to visit power plants to oversee and inspect large turbines for correct installation. Because the buildings are not accessible, modifications will be needed so she can navigate the building. Grumbling from departments whose budgets are impacted are whispered among leadership.

Anna’s expertise in design and installation of these turbines allows them to be safely and effectively installed, allowing the plant to continue to operate, preserving the jobs of everyone located there and increasing efficiency of power generation by 20%.   

Andre has applied for a job as a retail sales representative. He has two years of experience in retail sales for a car stereo company. Due to a visual impairment, he needs a screen reader on the check-out computer terminals at the store where he will be assigned. The screen reader doesn’t cost a lot of money, but the others interviewing for the job don’t require any accommodation and are equally qualified. Andre displays his excellent communications skills in the interview, and is recommended for reliability and commitment to customer service by his references.

Andre has the potential to be a great hire for this retail store, and could become one of their best employees.

Jesse needs to be off work for the next three months for complex cancer treatment. He is a supervisor at a call center for his company, and is a critical leader at his job site. Some at the company are urging that he be replaced, because it will require a lot of extra work to cover for him, and some are assuming he won’t be able to return to work because they’ve seen him using a cane after surgery. When his employees heard he needed to be away for medical treatment, they all offered to step up to help during his absence so he could come back to lead them when he recovers.   

Jesse is an inspirational leader in his business unit. He has a passion for people, and customer service. His teams routinely out-perform others at the company.

Bonita has a special chair that she must have in the room when she is assisting in surgeries as an OR nurse. This chair must be treated to sterilize it, requiring extra time and work for the OR techs before each procedure. They complain that no one else needs a chair, and it causes them extra work.

Bonita is the go-to OR nurse and is requested by cardio-thoracic surgeons at her hospital when they have extremely complex or risky procedures on their schedule.

Now, go back and re-read this section, but only focus on the information in BOLD. There are people with disabilities who are in every category of performance. But sometimes those who are your highest potential employees are overlooked because employers get hung up on costs or logistics-and they fail to see that these are high-performing, stellar employees with a great future who are committed to their organization.

So, for #NDEAM, and all year long, let’s challenge organizations to shift their cultures toward inclusion for people with disabilities, and valuing the contributions of all employees. It’s the right choice for business, for employees and for continued success of every organization!  

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