Have you ever had to investigate a charge of sexual harassment against a senior manager? Rather than investigate the charge yourself, the appropriate action might be to hire an external, uninvolved law firm to investigate the charges.
In cases of formal complaints or charges involving the CEO, a president, vice president, or even a lower level manager, in some cases, you risk the appearance of, or have, an actual conflict of interest if an internal employee conducts the investigation. Internal employees may have worked together for many years. Internal employees have an opinion about the integrity of the parties involved, the person making the charges and the person who is charged.
When executive managers are involved, the investigatory climate becomes even more complex. The executive controls or influences the working conditions, promotions, and compensation of internal staff. This intensifies the conflict of interest situation.
When I have investigated charges against a senior manager, I have always retained an outside law firm to conduct the investigation. Even the firm's usual law firms pose a conflict of interest scenario, so I have always retained a recommended attorney who has not worked with the company in the past.
You take these precautions to ensure that the investigation is not tainted by any possibility of favoritism, impropriety or personal gain. Sometimes, even the appearance of any of these influences is enough to set off suspicions about conflict of interest.
Organizations should include policies and guidelines about conflicts of interest in their code of conduct or code of ethics and in their employee handbook. Steps in an investigation should be clearly laid out, too, so employees know what they can expect.
Image Copyright Diego Cervo
Are you interested in how to approach an older employee who is working past the retirement age at which they would have qualified for social security and other benefits? It's tricky unless you know why the employee continues to work.
It's even trickier if age is your primary reason. Performance issues, attendance problems, and making room for younger employees to move up and get experience are other reasons I hear from readers.
Sometimes the employee doesn't want to retire because they can't envision a life in which they don't come to work every day. Or, work has been their primary interest and they can't imagine how they will fill their time productively. Broaching retirement is touchy for so many reasons.
My uncle is a good example. Some time during his sixties, my uncle was offered an early retirement package by his employer, Ford. Many employees who received the offer happily took it and retired. Uncle Dick had no immediate family, few hobbies, and some physical challenges. He couldn't imagine what he'd do if he retired.
So, he turned down the early retirement package and Ford never brought it up again. But, they did move my uncle into jobs where he was mentoring younger employees, sharing his experience, and still contributing. He was no longer in charge of a department, but I don't think he ever felt shuffled aside.
A reader wrote and asked how to approach a discussion of retirement with a 67 year old employee. See her question and my response.
Readers, do you have any additional thoughts or advice for this reader? What did you do in a similar situation?
Image Copyright Josh Webb
Just another week in Human Resources...
An employee who was fired claims to have been laid off. Another employee who left with no notice thinks she should get a positive reference. A third at a client company is unhappy because the client's policy about references is to confirm dates of employment but provide little additional information.
In this economic climate, job searchers want love from their former employers. But, often there is a reason why they are a former employer. References are a tough topic during a tough time. You can compare your workplace practices with the workplace practices of other readers in my poll.
Recently, a client company received a reference request for a former employee who had not done well in her most recent job. Yet, in earlier roles with the company, she had apparently performed well. This sparked the question about how to respond to a request for a reference. After typing about a five paragraph response, it dawned on me that I needed to make this question into an article since I covered the topic of reference checking nowhere else on my site.
Responding to a reference check request can be tricky. Fear of reprisal and lawsuits keep many employers from responding at all. These reference check recommendations will help you respond reasonably to reference checking requests while protecting the legitimate interests of your company and your current employees.
Am I on target with my recommendations? And, if you don't have a workplace reference checking policy, what do you do when you receive a request? Please comment.
More Reference Checking Resources
Are you just starting out in Human Resources (or a seasoned pro who'd like current reminders)? Key areas of strategy and support for the business and your career are recommended by Bob Calamai (pictured) who is currently the Interim Director of the New York University / School of Continuing and Professional Studies Human Resource Management and Development Graduate Program.
He offers five tips for the HR professional based on his career in HR at IBM. Knowing your business and understanding how to strategically apply HR to the business is just a start. Social networking, continuous learning, and becoming, not just a valued contributor, but a game changer follows.
Image Copyright Robert T. Calamai
More About Careers in HR
I am a real proponent of the management philosophy that you help people continue to develop their strengths rather than trying to help them develop their weaknesses. This theory was proposed by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in First, Break All The Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently (compare prices) as a result of the Gallup organization's interviews with 80,000 managers. On top of trying to get the daily work completed and the annual goals achieved, I don't see how anyone has time for both.
In my case, I'm good with people, not very good with mathematical story problems. No matter what, I will never be good at solving complex mathematical problems. Could I get better? Probably. But, why not spend my time honing my strengths? I'll bet you have a parallel in your life. Why not share it in comments?
In a more middle of the road personal story, I have always been a good writer. But, strengthening that skill over the past 12 years, writing online and for publications, has made me a better writer and a faster writer. Writing is definitely a skill, once I started doing it every single day, with hours of practice and a deliberate commitment to growth, that I continued to develop.
"A while ago, we wrote a New York Times Magazine column about talent -- what it is, how it's acquired, etc. The gist of the column was that 'raw talent,' as it's often called, is vastly overrated, and that people who become very good at something, whether it's sports, music, or medicine, generally do so through a great deal of 'deliberate practice,' a phrase used by the Florida State psychologist Anders Ericsson and his merry band of fellow scholars who study expert performers in many fields."
In the column cited in the quote above, Dubner and Levitt conclude that:
"...the trait we commonly call talent is highly overrated. Or, put another way, expert performers -- whether in memory or surgery, ballet or computer programming -- are nearly always made, not born. And yes, practice does make perfect. These may be the sort of clichés that parents are fond of whispering to their children. But these particular clichés just happen to be true.
"Ericsson's research suggests a third cliché as well: when it comes to choosing a life path, you should do what you love -- because if you don't love it, you are unlikely to work hard enough to get very good. Most people naturally don't like to do things they aren't 'good' at. So they often give up, telling themselves they simply don't possess the talent for math or skiing or the violin. But what they really lack is the desire to be good and to undertake the deliberate practice that would make them better."
So, it seems there is truth in the power of developing your strengths and deliberately practicing the areas you want to improve. This never comes home to me with such power as when I watch the athletes compete in the Olympics. Sure, many of these athletes have physical characteristics that assist them to excel in their chosen sport - think Michael Phelps, the winner of a record eight gold medals in a single Olympics. But, every athlete competing in the Olympics spent years in deliberate practice to develop both their physical characteristics, their mental focus, and their skill in their chosen sport.
I also liked the plug for love your work in the article, a concept you hear me talking about frequently. Do you agree - about the deliberate practice or the love?
Image Copyright Barbara Henry
More About Goal Setting and Development
Dr. Barbara Brown says that if you want to improve employee performance, think about your daily conversations with employees. No better opportunity exists to reinforce and help refine excellent employee performance. You discuss new projects, talk about overdue assignments, give updates about completed tasks, and more.
Use these conversations to reinforce the importance of doing a great job. How? Link the employee performance to a workplace result.
Her thoughts have a lot in common with my often repeated thoughts about employee recognition. Provide recognition because you genuinely want to reward and recognize employee contributions. But, at the same time, understand the power of recognition in shaping positive employee performance.
If you want to see a particular performance from an employee, nothing is as powerful as recognition. Daily conversations and your effective performance development process help, too.
Image Copyright Pando Hall / Getty Images
A reader asks an interesting question and many readers responded. Is it wise to rehire a fired employee? Do any of you have a different point of view, knowledge of trends, or the experience of rehiring an employee you fired?
"I am looking for your point of view on trends from the employers' perspective to rehire someone whom they fired. Do you have any posts or details on this subject?
"Specifically, are employers concerned that there would be resentment on the employees' part, the psychological aspect of it? The internal politics with employees and how the employer would be 'viewed' rehiring a fired employee? Is this a problem? I am based in Shanghai, China and finding HR experts is tough."
I would not rehire someone I have fired. This is because I follow all of my recommended steps before I would fire someone. That means that the former employee had every chance to improve. They did not and they are not suitable for my organization, for whatever reason.
People don't change that much. If you are prepared to overlook the reasons you fired the individual in the first place, the same reasons won't go away but, possibly, the firing was not totally justified.
I'd rather train and mentor someone new. And, yes, there will be anger and resentment and the other employees will question management's judgment if you rehire someone you fired. But, mostly, the reasons for which you fired the person have usually not gone away. I recognize that laws and other considerations in your region may be different.
This is what I believe. I am not aware of trends or research. I have not written on this topic as I don't believe it should happen, except under a rare circumstance. I can't really think of any that would qualify. Let's give other readers the opportunity to chime in.
I'm curious about what other readers think? Many of you have taken the time to share your thoughts.
Image Copyright Diego Cervo
More About How to Fire an Employee
I have mentored, for years in some cases, a number of women over the course of my career all of whom are doing very well in the professions of their choice. So, when Kim Yorio of The Girl's Guide ... and YC Media fame contacted me for an interview about team work, I was happy to talk with her.
In addition to the team work questions, she asked questions about why women appear to have lower scores in areas such as leadership, problem solving, inspirational behavior, and more when male and female employees are surveyed.
My position is that, while business has not always been, and is still not, in many cases, female-friendly, many of the reasons involve behaviors and attitudes that women can do something about. At this point, there are still too few women in executive positions, but I can also speculate several reasons why.
First of all, women are much more likely to interrupt their careers with time away from work for tasks such as raising children. This interferes with their ability to remain in the manager pipeline that is feeding into the executive positions. Second, women are not majoring in, studying, or obtaining degrees in several of the high need, high growth areas of employment such as technology, engineering, math, and science.
Third, women need to be cognizant of the language they use. For example, recently, a VP at a client company came to me to reject several female candidates for an executive role because they had not "accomplished anything" as far as he could tell.
I asked how he had reached this conclusion when I believed they were highly qualified for the role. It was a language thing. The male candidates said things such as, "I expanded sales in the division by fifty%." The women candidates said, "The team grew the business by fifty%." and "We accomplished this."
Finally, according to Judith Lindenberger, women need to work in the line organization, in jobs in which they have profit and loss responsibility. Line success adds significant credibility to a woman's career progression possibilities.
I have not done a lot of research in this area, but the interview with Kim certainly got my attention. So did this: Women who wear short skirts that display a lot of leg may be overlooked for promotion and pay increases. So says a recent study conducted by Tulane University. Overt sexual behavior at work, whether men and women are consciously aware of it, or not, can submarine your career.More Resources for the Workplace
- Women and Work: Then, Now, and Predicting the Future for Women in the Workplace.
- How Real Women Get Ahead: The Woman's Advantage at Work.
- Work Success and Happiness, Business, and Management Tips.
Image © Kelly Young
Friends are reporting holiday parties as early as this weekend, so it's time to roll out my favorite article about holiday celebrations at work-related events.
My top seven office party gaffes emphasizes way more than drinking too much, which is a common holiday blunder.
I've seen employees do every one of these, some at a great detriment to their careers and reputation. I remember when two employees, both married, commenced an affair following an office party. No matter how quiet they tried to keep their involvement, the company was not that large; people knew and people gossiped about the affair.
Both of their professional reputations suffered grave blows. The problem was that no matter what else you thought about their qualifications, skills, and contributions, you also never forgot about the judgment they exhibited in pursuing their fling.
Make the best of your holiday office party season. Use the company get-togethers to enhance your professional reputation and help your spouse or significant other get to know your coworkers and managers. (It's nice for them to have a face in mind when you talk about work at home and home at work.)
Readers' Stories About Holiday Blunders
While you visit the article, stop in to visit my reader responses. Readers have been sharing the top office party blunders that they have experienced. One reader experience that I share in the above linked article (think nude and climbing a water tower) is so over the top, I'd like to think that it never happened - but, it's so over the top, that it may have.
Image Copyright Susan Stewart
More About Work and the Holidays
At the same time, you need to make a profit so you can make money, pay employees, see what you can create, ever more effectively listen to and serve your customers, and provide a work environment in which people want to contribute. You want more than their forty hours; you want the discretionary energy that employees decide to contribute at work - or not. Successful departments, functions, and companies get it all.
Corporate Philanthropy for Employee Motivation
Large corporations generally have well-defined corporate philanthropy programs that may include foundations, major event sponsorship, and corporation-wide employee involvement in volunteerism and organized giving, often to a well-organized charity such as United Way. But, corporate philanthropy presents an astonishing opportunity for small to mid-sized companies and organizations, too.
Key to the success of your corporate philanthropy efforts is the enthusiasm of the team that leads the charge. That team's understanding about what fellow employees find motivating and interesting is another key to success. A range of activities that include volunteering, cash donations, cash donations with a company match up to a certain limit, and run/walk-type activities for active employees involve all employee groups.
Corporate philanthropy can range from a can of food donated at a holiday food and clothing collection event to a developer volunteering to build a website for a local nonprofit over a weekend. (There is something motivating for employees who watch a box of Employees have tutored students in subjects necessary for their profession and supported local nonprofits that promote learning in their field of work. Your only limit is the imagination of your employees.
Our community relations team is putting together our annual corporate philanthropy plan right now. How about you?
Image Copyright Paul Burns / Getty Images
More Related to Corporate Philanthropy
Cyber Monday is tomorrow. Your employees are back to work and they are definitely engaged - in shopping. It's time to nail those post-holiday deals that they missed on Black Friday, when many had the day off. Their email boxes are filling up with deals and free shipping - all time sensitive.
And, how can a person take advantage of today's deals, and the deals available throughout the holiday season, if they don't shop online from work?
Good question for employees and a headache for employers. The time spent online on non-work issues by employees is frighteningly expensive for employers. Employees spend between one and three hours a day surfing the web on personal business at work, depending on the study reviewed.
Since most studies depend on employee self-reported data, this productivity loss, combined with the concerns employers have for "where" their employees are surfing the Web at work, causes more employers to monitor employee use of the Internet.
This entire issue accelerates during the holiday season as time-stressed employees use work time to complete their never-ending lists of things to do. According to CareerBuilder's Cyber Monday Internet Usage study, 49% of employees expect to spend time on holiday shopping from the office. More than 25% will shop from work: 12% on Black Friday and 16% on Cyber Monday. The survey covered more than 2,400 employers and more than 3,900 employees.
Shopping at work is most common in the weeks leading up to Christmas. 30% of the surveyed employees say that they're most likely to shop from work after December 7. Interestingly, more women (43%) than men (36%) plan to shop from the office.
Electronic Surveillance by Employers
I don't recommend electronic monitoring of employees although I understand why an increasing number of employers do it. Take a look at some alternatives to electronic surveillance to build an atmosphere of trust.
Image Copyright iStockphoto / IKO
More About Employee Surveillance
Do you have a boss that you'd really like to get fired? It's difficult to do. After all he or she is the boss for a reason. Someone in your organization thought enough of the boss to promote him.
There is one best way to get your boss fired. If you can set up a situation in which he demonstrates his most egregious behavior in front of his boss or other senior managers, you have a chance. In fact, if the behavior is bad enough, they may even fire him quickly.
But, barring this situation, how would you proceed if you were convinced that your organization would be better off without him? Or, that your life at work would transform without his bullying, nastiness, and constant assaults on your self-esteem?
You will find some safety in numbers. Here are the steps you'll want to follow to fire your bad boss.
Image Copyright John Foxx / Getty Images
More About Bosses
What if anything should you do when a good employee, one you'd like to retain, tells you that he is job searching?
Reader Question: How do you respond to an employee who mentions that they are looking for a job(s) elsewhere while still with you (current employer)? In terms of performance, the employee is good and it would be a big loss to the company. What is/are the best retention methods?
My Response: Nice the employee told you that he is leaving. I would do a retention exit interview to determine why he is leaving and what your company would need to do differently for him to want to stay.
Sometimes people just want a change, but often they are leaving something they don't like. Is what is missing for him or what he needs more of missing in your work place?
People also leave bosses whom they consider to be bad bosses, who come in a range of varieties. Better find out now while you might fix the employee's situation rather than later when he gives notice and it's too late.
Maybe we should call this a stay interview?
If the answer is money, see if there is anything that you can rationally do with his compensation, but the average employee who changes employers, I saw somewhere, obtains a 10% increase. If he tells you money, I'd check all of my salaries to make sure they are market worthy. Many employers have fallen behind in the past couple of years and they may not realize the degree of the discrepancy.
I don't believe in making counter offers when an employee has obtained an offer. Money is not usually the only, or most important reason, the employee is leaving. I regard a counter offer as a temporary fix, not as a real solution, when an employee wants to leave.
Here are some ideas about questions to ask in a stay interview.
You don't have to ask all of them but if the employee is forthcoming, you may learn a lot about your work environment and culture. In the same vein, you might want to periodically consider using an employee satisfaction survey, especially if your turnover is high. I also think that a stay interview is better than a survey if you talk with the key employees whom you really want to retain.
What ideas for retention would you offer this employer? Comment.
Image Copyright Joshua Hodge
More About Employee Retention
Gamification applies behavior-motivating techniques from traditional and social games to non-game environments. Gamification programs help you create a work environment in which employees feel recognized and rewarded for their achievements, even beyond their compensation and benefits.
A sample game was planned by Zappos, according to their former Human Resources executive, Rebecca Henry. The plan was put together to help employees get to know and recognize their coworkers. When an employee logged in to his or her computer, they would receive a screen with the pictures of several Zappos employees. They needed to identify the employees to move on.
Steve Sims (pictured), the VP of Badgeville, talks about gamification and employees and how to apply it in Human Resources work: 5 Ways Gamification Can Improve HR Management.
Image Copyright Steve Sims
More Related to Employee Motivation and Engagement
Have you ever considered outsourcing the administrative components of your Human Resources function? Outsourcing would allow you to focus your time and energy on the most significant value adds that HR can offer.
That is certainly where I prefer to spend my time. Consider that if you give the necessary, but more transactional tasks, to someone else to do, you will be able to focus on the tasks and goals that only you can do.
You can consider outsourcing all or some of these functions plus much more.
- Background checks and drug screening
- Benefits administration
- Compensation program development/implementation
- Writing and updating affirmative action plans
This frees up HR staff time for strategic planning, achieving the strategic people goals of the business, organization development, performance management, management coaching and training and more.
The article: Human Resources Outsourcing by David Clevenger (pictured), Vice President of Corporate United, Inc., gives you a broad look at what you can outsource in HR - and what is better kept in-house. He also provides a six step process that will help you decide whether to outsource a particular activity.
Learn More About HR Business Strategy
- Develop an HR Department Business Plan
- It's Not Lack of Strategic Direction
- How to Do Human Resources Strategic Planning
- The HR Department As a Profitability Factor
- The New Roles of the Strategic HR Department
Image Copyright David Clevenger
I trust you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving, if you celebrate. Thanksgiving and this four day Thanksgiving weekend is a wonderful time to think about everything for which I am grateful: my work, my family, my husband, our companies, our friends, our home, and my ability to write and publish my thoughts on so many topics.
I am also grateful for you, the people who read my site and especially, the readers who send me notes about articles and comment on my blog posts. Whether you agree, disagree, or want to submit an article, tip or quote, I am happy to hear from you.
You've heard my oft repeated refrain about the importance of establishing annual traditions in your companies and organizations just as you have in your home. With this in mind, several of my clients held a Thanksgiving dinner at lunch for all employees last week. It's an annual and annually appreciated tradition.
They time the feast carefully now since one year it coincided with Ramadan and the Muslim employees had to take their food home for dinner after sundown. We learned fast after blowing it, the same as the planning committee quickly learned to provide vegetarian hot dogs and all-beef hot dogs, instead of just pork, during the summer picnic.
For a new perspective on Christmas, and a reminder, too, that Thanksgiving isn't world-wide or even nationally celebrated by all, here's how we can all celebrate our diversity during this holiday season.
My cornucopia overflows with joy. I share what brings me joy...
Please share what brings you joy - at work or in life? And, please talk about what you are thankful for this year in comments. Thank you for another wonderful year.
Image Copyright Kelly Cline / iStockphoto
An open office is a concept that I have never felt served the best interests of employees. So, I have rarely supported the idea of an open office except under special circumstances. I am a proponent of giving employees the privacy and quiet that they need to actually accomplish work.
An open office is a space that lacks walls and closeable doors for most employees. Some open offices may have partial cubicle walls between employees; others are wide open with no barriers.
This open office concept has advantages and disadvantages that I enumerate in: Does an Open Office Support Employee Productivity?
Depending on the work style and personality of the employee, the lack of space and privacy may decrease productivity, and according to some research, reduce the collaboration between employees.
However, increasing collaboration among team members who must work together to develop a product, for example, might justify the need for an open office.
Because of the level of noise, the interruptions, and the lack of privacy, employees in an open office find themselves resorting to earphones and retreating to any private rooms provided. Ariel Schwartz, senior editor at Co.Exist, says most people hate open offices.
The author of a second piece about open offices, Jason Feifer, senior editor at Fast Company, is even more negative. He's been moved from an office with walls and a door to an open office where what he sees daily is a sea of earphones on people who collaborate less than before. Take a look at why every employee deserves an office.
Open offices may satisfy, and even excite some people in some jobs on some teams, but the overwhelming opinion I hear from employees is, don't do this to me.
What do you think?
Image Copyright DreamPictures / Stewart Cohen
Reader Question: Can you direct or guide me in finding what level of HR professional would best suit our Non-Profit Foster Care Agency? We are trying to determine just how much HR assistance we need for our organization.
From this information we would like to bring in the right HR professional for our organization. We have approximately 175 individuals who have joined us over the past two years with projections of 25-50 new team members by calendar year end.
Any direction, information or guidance would be very helpful to us at this time. Thank you in advance.
My Response to Reader: Hi Carl, This is my opinion as I am unaware of and have not reviewed much research in this area that may be out there. The economic downturn of the past couple of years has affected staffing ratios in most segments of the business, too. Much of your decision will involve what and how much you want this person to do.
A good HR person can add much to your organization in terms of employee training, motivation, management development, and organization development, not to mention all of the standard HR processes like benefits, hiring, compensation, employment law knowledge, and so forth. A good HR person can help you decide what needs to be done.
In your case, with 175 employees, I recommend that you hire, at least, an HR manager. You want an individual who can manage and do the day-to-day, but you also need someone who can plan and implement programs for your organization. I'll go out a bit on a limb here, and say that if the person is handling all aspects of recruiting and staffing, in a fast growing concern such as yours, that is all they will get done.
Consequently, you may need to consider also hiring an assistant or associate who is a beginning HR professional and can handle much of the administration aspects of the hiring process and more such as benefits questions, etc. Do hire the manager first so that person can find someone they can successfully work with.
Again, this is an opinion and I am going to post your question anonymously on my blog so that other readers have a chance to respond. (No responses guaranteed; I never know what will engage our readers.) Take a look.
Here are my resources that deal with recruiting, staffing, and hiring.
I appreciate your interest in my site. Thank you for reading and your interesting question. I hope this helps.
Do you have thoughts about HR staffing? Any resources, opinions, references, or thoughts are welcome.
Image Copyright Digital Vision / Getty Images
With many people unemployed world-wide, certain topics gain importance in the HR world. From the perspective of the employer, the employee, and the unemployed, you want to know how to avoid doing layoffs, how to hold on to the job you have, and how to overcome an employment gap when unemployment is stretching into months, and even years, for many.
Age Discrimination in Unemployment
I've been thinking about the unemployed millions a lot lately. My colleague, Alison Doyle, zeroed in on one population that is experiencing special job searching problems in this environment - the older crowd - like me. And, given that older can mean as young as 40, that's quite a percentage of the unemployed millions.
I read recently that age discrimination lawsuits are up against employers over 18% - the fastest rising of any lawsuit. At a time when many jobs are disappearing forever (think administrative assistants, receptionists, landline phone installers, to start), age is playing a role in whether Mary gets the job.
Age discrimination is illegal at any phase of the employment relationship including job postings, job descriptions, interviews, hiring, salaries, job assignments, merit increases, performance management and evaluation, training, disciplinary actions, promotions, demotions, benefits, employment termination, and layoffs.
Any action that an employer takes that adversely affects a disproportionate number of employees over age 40 is also age discrimination.
While most employers I know do not discriminate in their employment processes, a couple of reminders are in order. If an older employee is subject to performance coaching and disciplinary action because of performance, make sure you are applying the same requirements to all employees regardless of age.
If you document the performance of any employee, make sure you document the performance of all employees who perform that job. Eliminate the possibility of age discrimination by applying all expectations and treatments equivalently.
If you treat older employees differently, you do risk the potential of an age discrimination lawsuit, even if your intentions and actions were above reproach.
Jobs are hard to come by in this environment for older workers. It's a lot easier to make an employer pay; you never know how a jury will see your disciplinary actions or failure to hire. Don't leave the door open for an undeserved problem.
Secondly, in your hiring, remove any indicator of the age of the applicant from application materials you share with managers and staff involved in hiring. You don't want your managers subtly - and often with unawareness - discriminating about candidates selected for interviews.
With unemployment so high, and the possibility of lawsuits looming, make sure your employment relationships are non-discriminatory and impeccable.
Are you an employee over 40? You have the opportunity to create the best years of your career. But, you must maintain your professional relevance at any age. Here's how.
Image Copyright Simon Puschmann / Getty Images
Preparing for a business presentation about forward thinking Human Resources, I decided mid-way through writing the summary that I was approaching the topic in the wrong way. I started by listing the Human Resources systems that I believe are necessary for forward thinking Human Resources such as performance management as opposed to performance appraisal.
As I listed systems it struck me that this was opposite to the approach I should be using. For those of you who have to give talks occasionally, perhaps these thoughts will help.
I decided that the fundamental question I needed to answer is what's in it for them. Why would an organization want to spend the time, money, and energy adopting forward thinking Human Resources practices? They can be more costly; they require a learning curve; they divert energy from the organization's day-to-day business - often with no assurance of success.
Or, are forward thinking Human Resources systems the producers of the organization's day-to-day successful business? To answer this question, I'll write a periodic blog post about the key factors you are attempting to create in your organizational environment to which forward thinking Human Resources systems can contribute or even create.
How Employee Empowerment Is Created by Forward Thinking HR PracticesThe first is employee empowerment. You want to create an environment in which employees feel enabled to direct their work and make decisions about the areas of their job for which they are responsible. You don't want them waiting for the permission of their manager. To create empowerment, you need to develop a strategic framework for your company so that employees have a context within which to make decisions. When they clearly understand the direction, they make better decisions that are in accord with the company's direction. Clear direction requires effective communication and regular feedback about how their decisions worked out. Not second guessing them, although honest feedback is critical, you want to encourage further decisions, teach them about how to make effective decisions, and reward and recognize them to reinforce the kind of decisions you'd like to see occur more often. Here are potential levels of employee empowerment.
Thanks for reading and thinking with me. What do you think about employee empowerment as a strategic business practice, an organization value, and a way of engaging people and tapping into their best contributions?
Image Copyright Lisa Gagne
More About Forward Thinking Human Resources
Interested in the perfect career? This reader is trying to identify the perfect career for her. She may be headed down a difficult path. But, many of us have found ourselves at a similar crossroad.
Reader Question:Susan, I am a fan of your writing and philosophy on career changes. Thank you! I know you are a very busy woman so I hope you can spare a moment to help guide me. I am about to turn 40 and want to have a job I love. I have been unemployed since November largely because I do not want to go back into the field I was in, as I despised it so much.
Here's the rest of her question and my response. What do you think?
Your thoughts for this reader are very welcome.
Image Copyright Amanda Rohde
More About Making Your Work - Work
- Why You Really Ought to Love Your Work
- How to Make Your Current Job Work
- Ten Tips About How to Keep Your Current Job
More About Career Planning
Employees have all sorts of different reasons for resigning from their jobs. Some relate to starting a family and moving closer to their parents, continuing their education, or moving with a spouse who has a great job offer to another state. (We've experienced these losses recently.)
These reasons are rarely controllable by the employer. But, most of the other reasons why a valued employee might give notice, the employer, at least partly, controls. These include such factors as a flexible work environment, an employee-friendly culture, and supportive managers who provide feedback, support, and recognition.
The significant factors in employee retention vary by employee and their diverse needs. But, they frequently include factors such as meaningful work, making a difference, the employee's market compensation, challenging assignments, and the opportunity for personal and career growth. Employees also resign when they don't see potential for promotions or lateral moves.
Your first step in retaining valued employees is to identify why they might quit their jobs. You can do this with periodic stay interviews with your most valued employees, you know the ones I mean in your own organization.
Despite all of your best efforts, you will have employee resignations. In that instance, here's everything you need to do when employees resign.
Image Copyright Martin Novak
When Employees Resign
Book clubs at work are one of the least expensive, most motivating forms of employee development. For the price of a book, employees learn the concepts in the book to expand their management skills, gain out-of-the-box thinking, and experience personal growth.
They learn leadership skills by leading book discussion sessions. These sessions are excellent for team building and as an opportunity for employees from different departments to get to know each other. Book clubs are also a way for managers and employees to interact and get to know each other in a relaxed setting.
In company book clubs, employees select books about topics they want to learn more about. As an example, in a company that sells its products internationally, a group of employees is reading books about globalization. Another group is reading about agile software development. Others are reading management books such as Jim Collins' Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't (compare prices).
Beyond the concepts in the books, people also gain a shared language, shared terminology for the concepts they are studying. I am really a fan of reading groups.
Images Copyright Roberto Adrian
In my newest piece about book clubs, two companies that have adopted book clubs as a way to develop their company cultures and help their employees grow, share their stories.
At Pinnacle Financial Partners, a book club was formed so that employees could keep learning, one of their core values. When they started their club, they met at their president's home - but then the company grew...
At TrueBridge Resources, the president started the book club to build the company's culture but also to build cohesion among the employees. TrueBridge not only grew, but the book club meetings are now offered to employees across the country. Discussions are held by conference call, so the book club has become a way to build teamwork across offices.
Take a look at what the two companies shared about their book club methods and successes.
As you see from this book club idea, conferences and training events and seminars are not your only opportunity to train employees. Think creatively and you will identify a myriad of additional alternatives. I have listed ways in which organizations can pursue training and development opportunities for their employees. Additionally, the on-the-job development opportunities are extraordinary when your focus is continuous employee development.
Images Copyright Pinnacle and TrueBridge
Recommended Book Club Reading
Want to know how Zappos consciously creates an organizational culture that supports the attainment of its business goals? Consciously determining and creating your corporate culture is a topic that is near and dear to me. A lot of companies do a good job of this, upon examination. But, so many are clueless.
Your culture or work environment will form based on all of the values, experiences, knowledge, and education of your existing workforce. How people work together and especially, the values of the company's founders or leaders forms the culture you have.
But, the critical question is: is it the culture that you need? For Zappos, the culture supports the accomplishment of their business goals. They do what every company ought to do: consciously create the culture that will achieve their goals, retain their employees even though the average call center job pays around $13 an hour.
Paid health insurance, a conservative cafeteria free lunch, employee perks and other benefits somewhat offset the pay. The employees who love working at Zappos are a bit weird and extroverted - they may be a lot more, but this is what visitors see. They are passionate about their mission of service to customers.
People who have taken the tour of the company report employees ringing cowbells to greet them, singing at every corner, jungles around cubicles, and employee parades to celebrate just about anything.
Zappos forms its culture consciously. Here's how.
Image Copyright Betsy Weber
- How to Understand Your Current Culture
- How to Change Your Culture
- Team Culture and Clear Expectations
- Cultural Fit Interview Questions
Image Copyright Christopher Robbins / Getty Images
Age-related questions are common in my email since the current job market is especially tough for older workers. Many employers appreciate the wisdom, grace, and experience that an older employee can bring to the workplace. But, others just see the shine of the newly minted employee who has well-developed technology skills, enthusiasm, energy, and a desire to quickly grow and contribute.
Reader Question: Recently I interviewed for a job - and the company asked me and the other three final candidates to complete a background authorization form before any of the four of us was offered the position. The requested information included Date of Birth (DOB), SSN and Driver's License number.
I did not want to have such personal identifying information in the data base of a large background check firm unless I was being offered the job, which I was not at that point. Also, because I am 65, I feared age discrimination. Nonetheless I complied, concluding that not doing so would hurt my chances - either because they might think I was hiding something or was being uncooperative.
They did post a disclaimer on the authorization form: "Date of Birth is requested only for the purposes of identification in obtaining accurate retrieval of records and it will not be used for discriminatory purposes."
In other words, the request for the background authorization was step two in the process:
- Step One: first in-person interview: one on one
- Step Two: request for authorization to perform a background check with DOB for the four final candidates
- Step Three: second in-person panel interview
- Step Four: presumably the final selection
Was it legal and appropriate for the company to ask for my DOB in a background check authorization before a job offer? I would like to know to handle such a request, should it arise again in the future.
My Response: I don't think that there is a law about asking for age on a job application or background checking forms. That may vary from country to country or state to state. That said, I encourage employers not to ask for information like age and social security number on an application because of potential discrimination issues.
I also don't want the responsibility of safe keeping that information for any but my final candidate or two. But, it is commonly recommended as a step to speed up hiring.
Employers do need it to do background checks, and you should consider it encouraging that your application has reached the point of a background check. Employers only background check their finalists for a position, and only with your permission.
Each employer differs about when they do background checks but as long as they keep their process the same for each candidate, they are probably okay. The employer already knows how old you are from application materials and the fact that you have already been interviewed. Yes, they may discriminate, but you would have a very hard time proving that age was a factor in their decision to hire or not.
Human Resources offices with which I am familiar go to some length not to share potentially discriminatory information with their hiring teams. I have, for example, never shared a candidate's application with the hiring manager because of the information there. Nor would I ever share the background checking information that a candidate gave me to pursue the checks.
The hiring team receives a copy of the resume and cover letter only. Job candidates are advised to put only the last ten years of relevant job history on their resumes. They can also leave off the dates of their degrees until the employer needs to verify the degree. It is in the employer's best interests that employees are protected from potential claims of discrimination.
I'm sorry that I am not more hopeful about this. Employers may ask whatever they think they need to make a legitimate hiring decision. If they are consistent and do not use the information to discriminate, they are in good standing.
I am not an attorney so this is just my personal opinion; you will want to check with an employment law attorney if you are troubled by the request. As you are job searching, you may find this helpful: Maintain Professional Relevance At Any Age - 9 Tips Will Help You Combat Age Discrimination No Matter Your Age
Image Copyright Absolut 100
More Related to Age Discrimination
Do executive leaders need to do what they expect everyone else to do? Really, the performance development planning process is just an example of the power of executive participation in any change, innovation, or new process that is introduced in your organization.
Any new strategy, that changes how people do their work requires that all employees, who feel the impact of the change, do something differently. Changing the system by which employees receive goals, feedback, and progress discussions is a critical change. Most organizations wallow for several years as they try to adopt the new system company-wide.
Managers hold out and are not held accountable by their managers. The adoption of the system by several vocal, enthusiastic managers is usually enough to ensure its full implementation and integration. But, executive adoption of the PDP process, to use just one example, significantly diminishes adoption time. Consequently, the organization reaps overall benefits much sooner.
So, my answer to the original question is a resounding "yes." If your executive leaders do not adopt the change, full integration will never occur. Why don't you read about why? Plus, see the power of the support of executive leaders. The article goes well beyond the adoption of performance management; the tips apply to any major change your organization wants to make.
Image Copyright Don Bishop / Getty Images
Effective Leadership and Change Management
Looking for more tips that will help you hire superior employees? Eric Herrenkohl, author of How to Hire A-Players, offers these eight tips to use as you prepare to recruit, review resumes, pre-screen, interview, and select employees.
Employee Selection Tips
- Determine an A-Player Profile: Plan your recruiting and selection. You need an employee profile that enumerates the characteristics of the employee you want to hire. Use it to screen resumes and potential employees.
- Look for overall patterns of accomplishment: According to Herrenkohl, "Unlike mutual funds, with people, past performance is the best indicator of future results."
- Ask initial screening questions to weed out unqualified people: A telephone screen can save everyone's time.
- Starting with their most recent role, confirm their dates of employment, including both the month and the year: A background check can save pain later. (64% of HR professionals reported that during background reference checks, inaccurate dates of previous employment, as provided by employees, had the most impact on their decision to not extend a job offer, according to SHRM.)
- For each role, ask questions specifically designed to dig into their accomplishments: The best interview questions are behavioral.
- Ask follow-up questions that keep the candidate talking: Open-ended questions help you know your candidate.
- Take verbatim notes: Word-for-word responses help you recall strengths and weaknesses.
- Score each candidate: Herrenkohl recommends that you score each candidate using a scorecard you developed using the A-Player Profile.
Image Copyright Steve Cole
More Employee Selection Tips
Maybe it's the changing season, but I have had several emails in the past week about how to hold difficult conversations with annoying employees.
You know the employees I mean. Perhaps she has bad breath. Perhaps he needs to bathe more often. Maybe, she clicks her teeth all day long and is driving her coworkers crazy. Maybe she talks too loudly on the phone all day. Escalating a bit...
Perhaps your annoying employee talks over other people in meetings and becomes defensive when called on the behavior by coworkers. Possibly, she hums in her cubicle or plays music much too loudly. Or, she wears so much cologne that you can smell her coming when she hits the door. I've had to address all of these situations and more with annoying employees.
Annoying Employees at HR Morning
Here's a bonus from HR Morning about annoying employees. They cite a poll from Opinion Research that queried 1,800 people about the habits of coworkers that respondents found most annoying. The people interviewed said these behaviors annoyed them the most:
- Grumpy or moody co-workers (37%).
- Gossipers (19%).
- The use of jargon (18%).
- Loud phone talkers (18%).
- Poor toilet etiquette - yuck! (16%).
Take a look at the whole article for the details at HR Morning, a daily service from PBP Media, that I recommend.
How to Deal With Annoying Employees
If you work with people, I'll bet you have had to address tough situations, too. Looking for more tips about handling difficult conversations with annoying employees? Start with: How to Hold a Difficult Conversation. Then, move on to nine more tips for your toughest situations and most difficult conversations: Difficult Conversations: How to Tackle Annoying Employee Habits and Issues. See also my newest article about the seven steps you can take to manage a negative employee.
From past reader comments, Robert suggests that most employees who are exhibiting annoying behavior are unaware that it is annoying coworkers and are appalled when they find out it is. Another reader suggests that if it is new behavior, it could be related to illness. (See the comments below.)
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More About Dealing With Annoying Employees
Want to ask for a pay raise? Several readers have written recently asking me how to go about asking for a pay raise. You can ask for a raise but there are considerations as you prepare.
If pay raises are on hold, keep in mind that you risk looking like you're not a team player when you ask for a pay raise under those circumstances. Especially if your company is in any kind of trouble or laying off employees, I'd wait a few months to ask for a pay raise to see if your company's prospects improve.
I think the answer to the original question about pay raises shares a lot of similarity with an article I wrote about how to pitch or negotiate a flexible work schedule.
The tried and true continues to work when you ask for a pay raise. Even in tough times, you start by researching your salary against what the market is paying people with your job and your responsibilities. If you have experienced any of these work events, asking for a pay raise is legitimate and expected.
- You were promoted to a higher level position.
- You took on new and substantial responsibilities. Note that I didn't say: took on more work. In this time of layoffs and negative decisions about replacing staff, everyone is doing more work.
- You doubled the number of reporting employees that you supervise.
- You took over the leadership of a project on which you had been a participant.
Without a qualifying work event, you may need these extra pay raise ideas for this economic climate.
Image Copyright James Tutor
People take all sorts of different routes into jobs in Human Resources. They work for companies and are moved into an HR job because they demonstrate an affinity for the work.
Or, they segue into an HR job from a job in acccounting doing payroll and benefits. The routes to Human Resources jobs are endless, and lots of readers have shared how they got into a career and found jobs in HR.
- How to Transition to an HR Job
- How Did You Transition to an HR Job?
- How Did You Get Your Job in HR?
- More Transition to HR Jobs Stories
Today, a reader shared that he is a self-taught HR person who has already moved into one HR job and was offered a different, more significant HR job. He wondered about whether he should pursue a degree in HR for the new job or continue his ongoing self-development.
I responded, "Degrees and college classes are always useful, but the need for them will vary by where you live and the norm there with other HR professionals. You can certainly continue learning on your own, but you might try to determine what degrees people have with whom you will be competing for jobs over your complete career.
"That is the route you should follow. If your dream job came along, how would you be able to compete with other applicants in your area? Degrees are becoming increasingly important in Human Resources, though, so these resources might help you think about this further."
Image Copyright Joshua Hodge Photography
- Need a College Degree to Work in an HR Job?
- You Want a Career in HR?
- How Can You Find Out About Local Jobs in HR?
- HR Management Employment and Jobs
What do you think about my reader continuing on to a degree vs. continuing his online self-development and learning?
Scheduling for holidays when many employees use paid vacation time or PTO is a challenge for most employers. So many people are off work that, even the employees who want to work, are challenged to have the team members they need to make progress.
I've put together several new resources that you may find valuable. Have you ever thought about adding a floating holiday or two to your normal set of paid holidays? It's an opportunity for diverse employees to use a paid holiday, rather than PTO, for one of their special days. Our employees enjoy taking their birthday off each year, too. My new article about floating holidays is a guide to the decisions an employer needs to make to offer this employee benefit.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that for the category "all full time employees," 7.6 is the average number of paid holidays for employees in the United States, I work most frequently these days in a professional environment where 8.5 is the norm.
Want to see how your paid holidays compare with those of other employers? Here's a standard paid holiday schedule for U.S. employers in the public and private sector.
If you're thinking about paid time off for your next year's benefits package, these cited resources give you standard practices and norms in the U.S.
Image Copyright Catherine Yeulet
More Related to Paid Time Off
The keys to financial success and a profitable business are not the strategies or the systems of the firm. The character and skill of individual managers, who practice what they preach and recognize the manager's role in coaching employees, are what count.
"It's about character and courage," and according to David Maister, a well-known consultant to professional service firms, "it's very, very scarce."
Maister emphasizes that managers who believe that their job is to ensure that a strategy, vision, and mission is developed are sadly mistaken. Instead, the manager's most important value-added is to make sure the strategy is implemented.
They ensure implementation by others when they walk their talk and lead by example. Organization staff members do hold managers to a higher level of commitment, integrity, and doing the right thing. The most successful managers know this.
Additionally, good managers know that people leave managers far more frequently than they leave their job or their company. Exit interviews consistently identify problems with individual managers as a key reason the employee quits his or her job.
Employees must feel cared about and valued and that their manager's intentions are pure - without ulterior motives and not self-serving. Keep your door open for employees, so you are aware of problems before they become major issues.
Create an environment in which problem identification and solution generation are common place and everyday. Make it okay for an employee to complain before he or she gives notice.
Image Copyright Stockbyte / Getty Images
More About Open Door Policies and Management
Teams and team work remain challenges and the content of many reader questions. Recently, a reader asked about dividing his group of 12 reporting staff members, who are currently segmented into teams based on the technology that they specialize in, into four or five process-based teams led by a team leader.
On the surface, I think that the reader was looking for a model, but I gave him the same advice that I would give to any manager who wanted to change his or her departmental structure and its focus.
People become invested in their traditional ways of doing things. Consequently, any effort to change or reorganize the method used to accomplish work can be threatening and disturbing to employees. People are especially resentful if they perceive that a change was "done unto them." In fact, this is one of the most effective ways to generate serious resistance to change.
I told my reader that the single most important piece of advice that I had to offer was to use the knowledge and input from his team members to redesign how the teams are formed. I told him, "If you don't, it will be an uphill battle and they will never 100% buy in to your ideas. You may first need to 'sell' them on the logic of process based teams, or they may already agree. Find out by talking with them.
Do establish a solid business case for the change so that you are prepared if you need to convince them. And, remain open to the possibility that your way is not the right or optimum way. Then, work with the team members to define the best teams that meet your business needs.
This may take a few weeks because they are developing ownership of the idea and the eventual teams by participating. You are demonstrating that you trust them. Even if the resultant teams are not exactly what you wanted, the team members will make them work because they will own them." Your thoughts are welcome for this reader, too.
Image Copyright Christopher Robbins / Getty Images
More About Employee Ownership and Involvement
- Top 10 Principles of Employee Empowerment
- Top 10 Ways: Make Employee Empowerment Fail
- 12 Tips for Team Building
Please join me on Facebook for more discussion, ideas, and posts that don't always appear here.
From lies to lack of preparation, poor attitude, and insincerity, you can pick up on signs and collect evidence during an interview that the potential employee is not for you. If you know what you are looking for, employers can successfully spot these job interview red flags - before making a job offer to a prospective employee.
They're all deal breakers and you'll recognize them most effectively in a well-thought-out, consistent, employee selection process. You'll benefit, too, if you involve your trained employees in selecting their prospective coworkers.
And, never underestimate the importance of inviting prospective employees back for a second, and even a third, interview. Genentech, a sometimes Fortune magazine pick as a best employer, invites candidates back for multiple interviews, sometimes as many as five or six times, with 20-30 potential coworkers.
After all, who has the most to gain - or lose - from missing these interview red flags for employers.
Image Copyright Dean Sanderson
More About Interviews
My blog post about a resignation letter in which you share future plans prompted this exchange with a reader. Your thoughts are welcome, too. Please join the discussion.
Reader Question About a Resignation Letter
"I'm curious as to your feedback about not including a paragraph such as the one you suggested:Answer:
'I will miss working with you very much as you have provided me with many opportunities to both learn and contribute. Your coaching and support have been invaluable to my progress. I will also miss many of my coworkers and customers and take many positive memories with me to my new employment.
'Again, best wishes for a positive future. Please call on me if there is anything I can do to help ease the transfer of my work to other employees or to help train your new employee.
'Again, I am excited about my new opportunity, but sad to leave.'
"What if the reason a person is leaving (people leave people, not places of employment) is due to the fact that the boss was absolutely horrible to work for and the company, in general, had no leadership or direction? When does one tell the truth so that after leaving the company, some one is put on alert that there are inherent problems that are causing people to leave.
"Isn't a paragraph of this nature perpetuating the lie and enabling the boss and organization to continue the same behaviors?"
I was actually being sincere in my example and assuming the boss had been decent. I have worked with and known many decent bosses over the years.
At the same time, to answer your question, yes, people leave bosses more often than they leave jobs, but this individual was leaving for a much better opportunity.
I don't recommend that a manager or a company is critiqued in an exit or resignation letter. They develop a life of their own, they live forever, and you never know who is reading or interpreting them, even many years later. And, they all reflect on you.
I like to see companies do exit interviews during which you may express your concerns. But, again, understand that companies are not without understanding. The HR person doing the interview rarely has power to change things and they have probably heard most of what you have to offer before.
Your best bet to change your company is while you are a valued employee. You do this by approaching your hierarchy with solutions and suggestions after developing a positive relationship. This is really the only time you have for impact and making a statement as you exit the door is not effective. Unless you were the most important employee in the company because of skills or contribution, your exit words should bridge to a positive memory in the future.
That said, if you had a rotten boss, don't say nice things in the resignation letter about him or her. I'm not an advocate of lying. Use the simple resignation letter I've also provided.
"In essence, I ascribe to your alternative tact of writing a simple, factual message of resignation and leaving it at that when circumstances don't warrant anything more positive. Certainly, a letter of that nature is not the place to 'exit-vent' or to advise about all that's wrong with the organization. So, I concur with your thought process there.
"What's amazing to me, and perhaps it's my own naivety or wishful thinking, is that there is so much writing, curriculum, business theorists, proven methodologies and information that is accessible to companies today to help them perform better; yet, so many of those companies either refuse to acknowledge their developmental need or they are 'unconsciously incompetent' when it comes to connecting with their employees, and therefore don't know that any needs exist.
"As an OD/Training professional, I've experienced a lot of disconnectedness among corporate leaders, middle managers and rank and file employees to the extent that turnover is largely based on the fact that people felt that they weren't appreciated. I've been in situations when I have tried to effect change by building relationships with senior management--I call it my personal value stream/proposition--and yet, I feel that I'm looked upon as some kind of 3-headed alien.
"When the brick walls get higher and stronger and company leaders simply don't buy in, it can be pretty demoralizing to a facilitator of learning who has the tools to bridge those kinds of gaps. I've always believed that Training pros struggle the most when empathizing with employees who really want to learn and grow and being frustrated when there is no care or support from the top. What a ping pong match that is!
"Well, this has been long-winded enough. Thanks--Really! for listening."
Your thoughts, please.
More About Resignation Letters
- Resignation Letter: Spouse Relocation
- Resignation Letter: Returning to School
- Resignation Letter: No Reason
- Resignation Letter: New Job
Image Copyright Martin Novak