Do you rely too much on your gut reaction when interviewing potential employees? "Traditional interviews don't help you select top talent. In fact, a large study conducted by John and Rhonda Hunter at the University of Michigan on the predictors of job performance found that a typical job interview increased the likelihood of choosing the best candidate by less than 2 percent," according to David Meyer of the Galliard Group, family business consultants. Indeed, in my experience of thousands of interviews, the candidate that interviews well is not necessarily the successful employee.
I've had to fire employees over the years because their on-the-job behavior and contributions did not live up to their interview hype. You can make your interviews a better selection tool. But, you need to rely on other aspects of recruiting such as background checking, testing, and even, trying your candidate out on the actual job or part-time on a team. Seth Godin offers several novel ideas for attracting the best employees through interviewing the potential employee in unusual ways.
He says create a great company story (assuming there is a great story) and have a person who is a good story teller tell it to all potential hires. He also suggests offering the candidate a weekend job so you can check out their work style and cultural fit. (On the other hand, you can also have employees who love their products, their company, and their jobs enough so that they tell a great story, too - and with notable sincerity.)
More About Interviewing Potential Employees
- Job Interview Tips: How to Interview Potential Employees
- Unusual Job Interview Questions Help Select the Best
- Best Practices in Interviewing Employees
- Telephone Interviewing Potential Employees
Image © Lisa F. Young
An official, signed love contract policy should solve all of your potential problems with charges of sexual harassment at the end of a romantic work relationship. Right? I wouldn't count on it, even a love contract reviewed by your employment law attorney. Betsy Weber, a colleague and friend from the TechSmith Corporation, sent me an article, (Canoodling co-workers: Sign on the dotted line) from globeandmail.com, to let me know about this trend called love contracts. I hadn't heard that term before but the article about love contracts that she sent certainly made me think.
A love contract policy establishes workplace guidelines for dating or romantically involved coworkers. The purpose of the policy is to limit the liability of an organization in the event that the romantic relationship of the dating couple ends. The main component of the love contract policy is a love contract.
The love contract is a required document signed by the two employees in a consensual dating relationship that declares that the relationship is by consent. Additionally, organizations may include guidelines on behavior appropriate at work for the dating couple. Frequently, the love contract eliminates the liability of the company for any actions that occurred prior to the couple signing the contract.
Currently, according to Craig Silverman in the globeandmail.com, love contracts are mostly an American thing because Americans are more litigious than Canadians on employment law issues. Love contracts may help control thrill seeking behavior.
"'If you're only in it for game-playing and secrecy, then making the relationship public [with a love contract] takes away some of the thrill," says Janie Harden Fritz, an associate professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Duquesne University and the author of Problematic Relationships in the Workplace.
"Dr. Fritz says love contracts are a result of companies trying to manage workplace romances. She points to research conducted in 2001 that found 23 per cent of American companies asked employees to notify them if they were dating. By 2005, it had increased to 39 per cent."
Here's my take on love contracts: The Scoop on Love Contracts
More Thoughts on Love Contracts from Bloggers
In my consulting and contracting career, I have worked with 50 plus small and mid-sized manufacturing companies and with General Motors. Hotly contested issues in manufacturing and other industrial concerns include quality, production standards, employee empowerment and employee involvement, overtime distribution, safety standards, non-draconian supervision, and, believe it or not, employee dress codes.
To summarize in a nutshell, company managers are concerned that visiting customers will judge the quality of the product by the attire of the employees who build or make them. Employees demand a comfortable work environment because they are generally doing physical labor. All parties want to ensure employee safety so boots with stiletto heels on a metal grated walking platform won't fly. (Yes, an actual encounter with a totally ticked off employee when I told her she couldn't wear them to work.)
So, a dress code in manufacturing, construction, assembly, or skilled trades is a challenge. You want standards but you don't want a straight jacket. My fun story involves do-rags. In one company, many of the men, and even some of the women, wore a do-rag to work every day. My senior executive in charge of manufacturing seriously objected to how they looked at work and in the presence of customers. Making this remark to a group of employees, he almost caused a strike.
I arrived at the office to find 19 employees lined up by my office with a petition in hand. They wanted me to understand why banning do-rags was a bad idea. Turns out, as I conversed with the group, the majority wore do-rags because they only wanted to have to shave their heads weekly and thought the head covering better than stubble. The women said the do-rags kept their hair clean and out of their eyes.
The defining issue was the need for a head covering. We worked out a compromise that pleased both employees and management. The company purchased several company-logoed baseball caps for every employee and the do-rags disappeared. (Importantly, no one was able to identify a religious or health reason for wearing them, so the baseball caps solved the problem to everyone's satisfaction.)
Interested in images? Take a look at my photo gallery that illustrates both industrial dress and the use of safety equipment in the workplace.
Image Copyright Neustockimages
More About Work Dress Codes
Employee satisfaction is an elusive goal for many organizations. I believe that is because employee satisfaction shouldn't be a goal at all. Employee satisfaction is an outcome, an outcome of business practices that empower and enable employees to contribute to the success of the business.
I'm not saying that you can treat employees unkindly or with a lack of respect for their dignity and humanity. But, ethical, moral, respectful treatment of employees should be a given in workplaces. This treatment is a given in workplaces that experience escalating business success, serve customers, and retain their best employees.
Rather, the discussion about employee satisfaction should be about how to engage and empower employees. I'd like to know more about how to remove the barriers my organization erects that inhibit employees from contributing. I'd like to become superior at selecting employees who are engaged and empowered already.
I'd like to do a better job of providing a framework of expectations and goals that sets employees free to contribute because they know where they are supposed to be going and what they are supposed to be doing. And, I'd like to get better at providing regular feedback and only rewarding and recognizing real contribution.
Do you care about the satisfaction of employees who aren't performing at their utmost for their customers, their coworkers, and the business? I don't. In fact, I want them gone.
It's not my job to make up for an employee's lifetime of blah experiences, bad parenting, poor outcomes, half-baked contributions, failure to take responsibility, and unhappy life choices. All I can do is create a respectful work environment in which employees know what is expected and are enabled to do their jobs - successfully and effectively.
Employee satisfaction is largely a choice employees make. I'll try to stay out of their way while they create it.
Because of the rough economic times currently, some employers are reducing the benefits they offer employees. Other employers are asking employees to pay more of the cost of the benefits they receive. Employees are concerned that either of these actions might escalate. Employees and employers are becoming painfully aware of the true cost and market value of their benefits packages.
I wrote recently about the need to educate employees about their benefits and provided several suggested ways. Employers spend a lot of money on benefits and, only if you educate employees, will they perhaps appreciate the benefits you provide. In many ways, though, employees have come to look at benefits as an entitlement. Employers of choice have decent benefits packages and employees of choice have come to expect, at least, a standard benefits package.
Employers need competitive, comprehensive benefits to ensure you are recruiting employees of choice. A solid benefits package also helps you retain your good employees, and unfortunately, your under-performing employees, too.
Find out more about benefits for employees.
Every once in awhile, I have a fun story to share about benefits. I remember making a verbal job offer to a young person to hire her for her second job after college. (You know I am a believer in agreeing on the details of a job offer before doing paperwork. Except with senior employees there is usually not much to negotiate.)
Midway through looking at our list of benefits, she squealed with joy - no, there is no other accurate way to describe the sound she made. I waited. She squealed again, "Oh my God, you have a 401(k). Now I know I've really gotten to the big time. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you." Didn't I just tell you that employees don't appreciate the value of their benefits? Yup, but sometimes, in some cases, I am wrong.
More About Benefits
Compensation is one of the least understood aspects of your company's people practices and policies. Employees do not comprehend the true cost of your compensation package.
Employers don't want employees to talk about compensation with each other, so compensation can take on an aura of mystique. Companies rarely advertise their pay scales, so it is difficult to obtain meaningful information for the jobs in your market. Yes, I know salary calculators and online resources exist, but the comparison is still difficult.
Even more of a mystery than compensation, though, is the cost and the value of your benefits. According to a survey conducted by the Charlton Consulting Group and analyzed and reported in the HR Daily Advisor, employees "estimate the cost of benefits pay to be 30 percent or less over and above pay. In fact, according to government statistics, the average cost of benefits is nearly half again that ... 43 percent of pay."
Employers need to recognize that this employee misperception probably exists in your company. The key to helping employees understand the true cost of the benefits you provide for them is education. You need to communicate to people, starting in their job offer letters, the value of your benefits package.
This message should be reinforced during new employee orientation. The only way you can capitalize on your benefits dollars invested in your employees is if your employees know the value of your investment in them. One way to address this ongoing need for education is to provide an annual benefits statement to each employee. Another is to provide annual training that describes and summarizes the value of each benefit.
A third method, one that will most effectively communicate the value of your benefits, is to schedule an annual benefits evening for employees and spouses during which you review the fine points and the value of your benefits package for the family. This will allow employee spouses to appreciate the value of your benefits package and provide easy, knowledgeable access to benefits.
Don't assume your employees comprehend the value of your benefits - they don't. It's your job to educate to make the most of your investment in your employees.
Resource added on 4-20-09: Take a look at the Workforce blog to see what concerns employees currently about their benefits. They are worried that employers will begin to pass on even more costs to employees. Some employers are noticing an increase in employees accessing benefits for costly medical procedures and filling prescriptions. About a third of employers have increased employees' cost for benefits, and more plan to do so.
Many of the events and activities fostered in earlier years have become entitlements for the employees who have come to expect these perks as part of the way the company does business every day. It will be a difficult transition to help employees understand that free lunches, free beverages every day, and paid company celebrations and events had a powerful core reason for existing when they were created.
The newer employees have no clue about the history of the company or why these events, activities, and customs were created, what they hope to achieve, or why they are currently provided. I have long believed that companies need to do a much better job of educating employees about the cost of the benefits they receive and the reason the benefits are being provided, as an example. Before every event, the history and the reasons for holding the event should be communicated. Too often the newer employees never hear the company stories nor understand the uniqueness of the way in which they are valued in an employee-oriented company.
I am an even bigger believer in not allowing people to take for granted company provisions that were initiated to value people, but become entitlements when people fail to understand the history, the rationale, or the value. Yup, I'm on a roll today, having encountered several of these situations in recent months.
From Valuing to Entitlement
Here's an example, I worked with a small website design company whose president decided to bring in Friday lunch as a way to build his team. Team building was the sole purpose for the lunches. After a couple of months passed, he was approached by a group of employees who wanted to bring the food back to their offices instead of eating with the group. He reminded them of the reason why he brought in the lunch and explained that eating at their desk was not an option.
The next time I saw him, the story was even funnier, another group of employees approached him and said they didn't want to eat in every Friday. He said, fine, the lunch is a voluntary team building event. Their response? Well, if it's a voluntary event, than we'd rather that you just give us the money so we can buy our lunches somewhere in town... 'Nuff said? Last I knew, he had decided to bring lunch into the office twice a month.
Educate people and enable the recognition provided to support the development of the culture you want to create.
Image © Getty Images / Stockbyte
I was reminded of several facets of working with people that are important to me, however. And, every consultant has his or her own special way of highlighting these principals. Stephen Covey was an internationally renowned pro, so I enjoyed observing his process and his method of interacting with the group, too. I was also impressed with the caliber of the people who helped him onsite. Probably fourteen FranklinCovey staff members were onsite helping with the seminar and product sales.
My favorite take-aways from the day, other than enjoying the time spent with TechSmith staff at the seminar, were these: I am a teacher and a learner; these have been my life missions no matter what job I have held or in what consulting practice I have been engaged. So, Covey's take on why to teach what you learn is important. In teaching, you:
- Learn better yourself,
- Become motivated to live the information,
- Increase your ability to listen within another individual's frame of reference (empathic listening),
- Legitimize change, and
- Bond with the audience.
Leadership is communicating people's worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.
Organizations have six cancers: criticizing, comparing, complaining, competing, contending, and cynicism.
Finally, the four most chronic problems organizations experience are:
- No clear purpose or vision,
- Underutilized talents and potential,
- Bureaucratic, misaligned systems, and
- Low trust.
More About Leadership
- Secrets of Leadership Success
- Leadership Values and Ethics: Secrets of Leadership Success
- Lead the Team: How to be the Person Others Follow (Covey spoke of servant-leadership.)
- Leadership Vision
Socially-conscious is defined in many ways by different companies. I have written about forming a "green team" at work to look at ways to recycle, reclaim, and use less. Many employees are excited and energized by the green effort to contribute.
Indeed, I learned recently that all beverage cans and bottles have been recycled at a client company for years because several employees decided to spend their weekend time recycling them. But, environmental causes are just one road to travel for the philanthropy efforts of your employees.
And, in fact, with the disagreement that exists today about whether global warming actually exists, whether plastic or paper bags at grocery stores are more environmentally friendly (research says they are equal), and whether recycling even helps, it may not be the only definition of "socially responsible" for many workplaces
For example, my trash removal company sent out a letter a few years ago that said they would no longer recycle because they had no evidence that their huge investment in recycling was paying off, and they had huge evidence to the contrary, that it was not, so, no more recycling. Plus, they provided the evidence for interested customers.
If you sponsor company teams in your workplace, you will want to assign one of them responsibility for philanthropy, with approval from the leadership or executive team.
The philanthropy committee in our company finds many worthy causes in which the employees want to invest money or time like the local food bank. They also make sure we sponsor activities that positively position our company and look out for our company's best future interests.
We are currently working with schools and child-attracting technology museums to ensure our software developer pipeline for the future. The company gives to programs that encourage the love of technology, math, and science.
Whatever you do as a company - do something - business is a powerful contributor to the world community and Human Resources leaders need to partner with community relations staff to make their communities more viable.
Charitable giving and philanthropy are often part of the Human Resources Director's job description. Treasure the responsibility and use it for causes in your community.
Adults need a learning environment that reinforces their ability to apply the information received in training back on the job. This can be somewhat accomplished by class discussion and talking about what to do based on case study content. The learning becomes more relevant with practice on the job that is then shared back in the training session.
Working with a client recently, I asked the participants to practice giving or receiving feedback or resolving a conflict in some situation that would occur between scheduled class sessions. (I always try to provide a choice so that each person encounters some situation in which they can practice. After all, I don't want to encourage them to go out and start conflicts, as an example.) They brought several interesting summaries of their experience trying to implement the ideas learned in training. We all learned from their shared experiences.
But, the most important concept that I have learned about training over the years is that the training must echo and reinforce the company's values and desired leadership and management style. So, it's best done internally by someone who knows the company and its desired culture. That is how you train the organization's leadership brand; it is how you ensure employee learning and training transfer. This is how I have provided training - always. Outside seminars and workshops have their place in leadership development, but the fundamentals must come with consistency and a shared vision of what the organization is trying to create.
So, imagine my delight when I received this book excerpt from Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood (pictured) about using training to help organizations develop their leadership brand. It exactly reinforces what I believe and you'll enjoy and learn from their training tips.
More Training Transfer Tips to Make Training Work
- Tips for Weekly Training
- Everyone Wins! More Tips for Training Transfer
- Twelve Tips for Training Transfer
- Ten Tips to Make Training and Development Work.
Image Copyright Dave Ulrich & Norm Smallwood
The dress codes and image collections on my site have proven popular. They're so popular that have brought in a number of questions from readers about dress appropriate for each environment. A frequent question is whether underwear should show - it shouldn't - and yes, serious and frequent violation of the work dress code can result in disciplinary action.
Key to an effective work dress code is that a business reason or purpose exists for its level of formality. At a client company a few years ago, a business casual dress code was developed because frequent client visits necessitated presentable staff and several front office employees came to work most frequently attired in beach gear.
The dress code worked for a number of years until the client was several years into product development and consulting had gone by the wayside. Employees complained about the business casual dress code because no one ever visited. They sought a new level of comfort including jeans and sandals. Since no reason existed for the business casual policy, the policy became a casual dress code and employees were delighted.
We've developed a couple of photo galleries to illustrate both business casual and formal work dress codes. Enjoy, and remember the essential business purpose as you establish your work dress code. You'll experience better compliance and less employee push back and complaining. And, for workplace harmony, that's a good thing.
Image © Getty Images / Jack Hollingsworth
Zappos is a company I admire. I have written about their Human Resources policies in the past. Since the dawn of Twitter ( follow me), I have followed the postings of Zappos' CEO, Tony Hsieh. He gave a keynote speech, Delivering Happiness, this past week at the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW). (See About.com's Scott Allen's takeaways on a session he attended on how to network at a conference.)
For some insight into creating a customer service culture, take a look at the slides from his presentation. In addition to the service culture, he also discusses how to provide a work environment in which employees are happy, too.
Becoming a Zappos employee starts with four weeks of service training and orientation. It ends with an offer of $2,000.00 to leave the company. Figuring that any employee who accepts the offer was never committed anyway, they consider this money well-spent. Their work environment is casual. The phone service reps have no quotas or other employee-incentivizing, anti-customer devices, as another example of cultural expectations.
On the subject of employers incentivizing the wrong behaviors, my colleague, Avram Piltch, who works for Laptopmag.com, recently investigated a report that employees of one of the big office supply stores are incentivized to sell add-ons such as Product Protection Plans. Some stores may even have a quota. This may cause some sales staff to engage in customer unfriendly behavior such as withholding laptops from customers uninterested in ad-ons.
Whatever your pay plan, make sure it is incentivizing the behavior you'd like to see from employees like Zappos does.
More Related to Today's Post
Not everyone wants to be in management, nor is everyone suited to management. Additionally, there are a limited number of managerial roles within each company. And, with my philosophy of employee empowerment within a framework of clear direction, this is good.
This week, we are finishing with the topic of employee mentoring and onboarding because the company has been hiring employees at a rapid pace for several years. One of the important points I've learned (don't you always learn and teach at the same time?) is that we have a lot of work to do in the onboarding arena.
We have employees who have been with the company just a short time trying to teach the culture and the company ways to new employees - new employees who may, in fact, know none of the rationale for why things are done the way they are or how components of the culture originated. Additionally, the employees know and may have read the company's mission and vision, but we really need to turn that into a discussion so the meaning, the direction, and the values become clear to them and owned by them.
So, we're forming a team to take a look at the whole process of bringing employees into the company. Not just a 4-8 hour boring discussion with Human Resources staff about benefits and policies and paperwork, in a true employee onboarding process, you have the opportunity with new employees to teach your culture and expectations. The new employees will feel warmly welcomed and appreciated. This is your first step with new employees within the new challenges of employee retention.
Shared with me by Paul Middlin of the TechSmith Corporation, this is an interesting article at the Construx Conversations: Software Best Practices blog about scaling up quickly if your company is rapidly growing.
More About Employee Onboarding and Integration
- New Employee Orientation - Employee Onboarding
- Orientation Vs. Integration
- Employee Orientation: Keeping New Employees on Board
- Creating a Mentoring Culture
Image © Getty Images / Manchan
While looking for research about whether a college degree is predictive of later work success, I came across an article that looks at some psychological factors about who succeeds at work. Conscientiousness rules for most occupations unless you need a creative person for whom conscientiousness may be a liability. Michael Mount, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Iowa, with:
"his colleagues analyzed more than 117 studies of personality and job performance. Conscientiousness consistently predicted performance for all jobs from managerial and sales positions to skilled and semiskilled work. Conscientiousness is the only personality trait fundamental to all jobs and job¬≠related criteria, said Mount. Other traits are valid predictors for only some criteria or occupations."
According to Psychologist Joyce Hogan, PhD, of the University of Tulsa: interpersonal skills have recently gained attention as predictors of job performance.
"'They are the icing on the personality cake,' she said. 'Interpersonal skills can energize or inhibit natural personality tendencies.' For example, a naturally introverted person with good interpersonal skills can muster enough extraversion to make a public speech, she said. Likewise, a naturally hostile and aggressive person can appear sweet and charming, she added.
"As the workplace moves toward teamwork and service¬≠oriented jobs, evaluating interpersonal skills becomes increasingly important, said Hogan. But it's difficult to study these skills because no classification system exists. She is working on a model classification system that would include sensitivity to others, trust and confidence, responsibility, accountability, leadership and consistency."
Take a look at Which Traits Predict Job Performance? for some interesting thoughts on that topic.
"The key to any effective salary-savings program is to target the individuals who add little value compared to their salary. The process of selecting low-performers can cause turmoil among employees, so managers take the easy way out by cutting a portion of the salary of every employee."
Furloughs are usually a terrible practice, in my mind, because they fail to differentiate your best performers, or the people who are generating revenue and profits for your firm, the employees you really want to keep, from the employees who barely contribute.
The amount of work and the number of customers does not diminish when an employee is furloughed. They are just squeezed into fewer hours to the detriment of all. Dr. Sullivan has thirteen reasons why you might not want to do furloughs in your organization.
Related to Furloughs
Answer: It is difficult to speak to individual situations without knowing the policies of the companies you are asking about. That said, many companies have a policy of only directing potential employers to HR with managers and others forbidden to speak to the potential employer. In these cases, dates of employment, job title and salary are likely the only pieces of information given. If you left in good accord and signed a document that gave your former company permission to talk about your performance, perhaps they will.
And, again, if it is the new employer's policy that they must speak to, as an example, your former boss, and they treat all candidates the same, then their policy is their policy.
Have you tried inquiring further of either your potential employer or your former employer? This is the format I recommend for checking references when the company will speak to an inquiring potential employer. I only recommend doing this kind of a check if the employer is ready to offer the candidate a position.
Checking the references of a large number of candidates is time consuming and impractical and I prefer not to spend the time unless I am really just confirming that I have a great candidate. You may wish to speak to an employment law attorney, and I am not an attorney.
More About Reference Checking and Job Offers
We spent some time this year reviewing Human Resources Software Technology Systems because it was past time to bring employee data online. The selection process was limited to technology systems that would interact flawlessly with our existing payroll and accounting systems. The effort to select the system was led by our able technical department manager with support from Human Resources staff. It is in the data entry stage now and I'll report from time to time how the selection and implementation worked out.
Today's guest author, Clay C. Scroggin (pictured), brings fifteen plus years in HR technology to his new venture, CompareHRIS.com. His new article, Five Steps to a Human Resources Software Technology System emphasizes what to do at each of five steps in selecting a system.
Interested in a game plan for finding a Human Resources Software Technology system that fits your needs, budget, and company growth? These five steps will help you select a Human Resources Software Technology system.
- Determine your Human Resources technology needs.
- Find the Human Resources software system vendors who match your needs.
- Set up Human Resources Software Technology system demonstrations.
- Research your short list of potential Human Resources Software Technology systems.
- Select your Human Resources Software Technology system and obtain approval.
You may have noticed that I have published several articles recently on this topic. They are filling an area in which I had little to offer and I am happy to say they have expanded the site's usefulness across all aspects of HR.
Image © Clay Scroggin
More HR Technology Resources
Anyone who works for a business has stories to tell about candidates and background checking. I once called a potential employee's first reference and found he had given me his wife as a reference. When I asked him what he was thinking, he replied that he had talked with his wife the night before his interview about whom he should use as references. She told him to pick people who liked him and would say nice things about him. Who better, he asked me. Hmm.
On another occasion, I audited a client's hiring process and found they were not doing background checks. At the same time, they were experiencing huge product losses due to employee theft. Long story - short, but they were eventually able to fire several people for theft and several others for different reasons including attendance.
In the most astonishing example of hiring without a background check that I have experienced, they had hired an employee who was recently released from prison. He served time for arson and part of his sentence was to make restitution to the building owner of $100,000. Guess who was stealing products to pay his debt. Yup, you guessed it.
Background checks are a critical component, if not the most important component, of your hiring process. Our guest author, Joshua Levy (pictured) talks about five significant issues in background checks. You'll want to take a look.
Image Copyright Joshua Levy
More About Background Checks
No matter your job or your industry, this year remains a challenge for employment. In 2013, 509,051 employees experienced a lay off, according to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a Chicago-based outplacement firm.
This number is expected to increase. With January and February numbers in, 2014 has already seen 86,942 employees laid off.
These odds are not in your favor, but you can increase your chances of keeping your job by increasing your value to your company. Let's face it, companies do not lay off their best employees unless the employee works in a non-critical position or the company is suffering near death throes.
But, you need to have a strategy about how to keep your job. I've listed a few in my newest poll and highlighted ten strategies in How to Keep Your Job. What's your strategy for staying employed in the current economic climate? You do have a strategy - don't you?
Please take a look at what others have said and respond in What's Your Strategy for Keeping Your Job?
More about Employees and the Economy
- Take Charge of Economic Uncertainty
- How to Prepare for Unemployment While Employed
- How to Ask for a Pay Raise in a Tough Economy
Quote of the Week - More Quotes
Dane, a reader who works in the pharmacy industry, writes to us to share these words for trying times: "I believe the anonymous author who wrote the Serenity Prayer was a little vague
intentionally. The ideals Serenity, Courage and Wisdom are much too precise to be
paired with the ambiguous word, things. Things such as doors, rocks, fences have
never caused the disruption in my life that people have.
"When I learned to name the
specific thing I had to accept, that I can change, then and only then, was I blessed
with the needed Serenity, Courage and Wisdom. I enjoy my journey through life more when I
am not creating my own hardships."
"God grant me the Serenity to accept the
people I cannot change, the Courage to change the one person I can - myself - and
the Wisdom to know if it is my problem or their problem."
I've offered several versions of a business casual dress code on the site for awhile, and they have been popular with readers. So, I thought I'd expand my dress code coverage by adding a formal dress code and, especially, a casual dress code.
There is a funny story here. My husband and I have a software development company where employee dress had become so casual a few years ago - think sun dresses with spaghetti straps and plunging necklines, bare, dirty feet and you get the picture - that we wrote a dress code. At that time, we still did some consulting and, occasionally, clients visited the office.
Fast forward ten years later. We have become a product development company where customers, clients, and business partners almost never come. Yet, we still adhered to the business casual dress code. The employees began asking why, especially our millennial employees who were not too far removed from college.
So, we had to look in the mirror and ask the "why" question. And you know what? We couldn't come up with an answer to "why," so the dress code was changed to casual. This is my first stab at writing out a casual dress code for work. Have fun with it. As with all policies available on this site, you may use or alter them for your personal use only. They may not be published or sold.
Image ©Christopher Robbins / Getty Images
This is far from the truth. In fact, if you truly enable people to make decisions about their work, their products, their customers, and their jobs, you set good employees on fire with motivation. Of course, you need to provide the overall direction and you also need goals and an agreed upon picture about what success in accomplishing a particular goal looks like. They do need to have the context in which to make good decisions.
And, you need to have the mindset that not everything needs to be your way or match your picture of "how" you'd accomplish the goal. In no case, no matter how empowering or directive the leadership style practiced, should responsibility and accountability for decisions go by the wayside. But, empowered employees, with appropriate direction within a strategic framework with clear goals, can set the world on fire. The debate will rage on forever, about directive leadership vs. empowering leadership, and there is some evidence that there may be times and circumstances for both.
Dr. Keith M. Hmieleski, assistant professor of management at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth and Dr. Michael D. Ensley of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. found different phases and stages of an organization require different leadership styles in: A Contextual Examination of New Venture Performance: Entrepreneur Leadership Behavior, Top Management Team Heterogeneity and Environmental Dynamism.
Especially in certain settings, a more directive style may work better, but when you read between the lines, the directive part of the leadership style appears more closely linked with setting the goals than overall leadership:
"Most striking among the study's results is that the empowering style of leadership, commonly thought to be most effective with heterogeneous teams in industry environments of rapid change, was clearly shown to falter under those very conditions.
"'Fast-moving environments demand fast decisions," notes TCU's Hmieleski. That's where directive leadership comes in. A directive leader can rapidly clarify what work needs to be done in the moment and by whom."
"The new study shows that both styles have their place, depending on the circumstances. For instance, with heterogeneous teams in stable industry environments, empowering leadership shines as the clear choice because stable environments provide time for team members to reach cohesive decisions. In that environment, directive behavior can grate on team members and reduce their commitment to the venture.
"With teams that are more homogeneous, the opposite effects were found. In dynamic environments directive behavior is unnecessary because team members already tend to share the same goals. In those circumstances, companies performed best when led by empowering leaders.
"In stable environments, ventures with homogenous top management teams had the most success when led by directive leaders."
Periodically, a reader's question has universal appeal and application so I am sharing both the question and my response. This particular question comes to me a lot, particularly from people who want to transition into the field of HR. With little to no formal education in HR and little job experience, what can the individual do to quickly impact their ability to work in our field? How would you respond to Ann's question?
Reader's Question: let me introduce myself. My name is Ann and I am a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) graduate. I have several years' experience working as an accounts assistant, administration assistant, data entry operator and so on. I am 30 years old now and I wish to make an upward progress in my career and Human Resources interests me. But all the HR vacancies (even HR assistants) require HR experience. So I thought of studying further to increase my chances of getting an HR position.
I am planning to do a Graduate Certificate course in Australia and there are two options:
- Graduate Certificate in Human Resources
- Graduate Certificate in Humanities and Social Science
Which one do you think might give me a chance to put a foot in the door in HR? I would be most obliged if you could provide advice in this matter. Thank you for your time and thoughts.
My Response: I am unfamiliar with many graduate certificates, so it is difficult to comment on specific ones, but I would think that one that allowed HR study, if that is your goal, would be better. However, I have several additional ideas.
Preparing to Work in HR
- Why not interview some successful HR managers in your community to seek out their advice about getting into the field of HR and how you can prepare. Many HR people are willing to do these informational interviews and it is also a way to get your name, as interested in HR, out into your community.
- Is there any way that you can take on additional tasks in your current job that take you in the HR direction? Many people started in HR by doing payroll as an example. Talk to your boss and your company's HR person about your goal and get advice. Maybe there are ways the departments can share you.
- Work with a decent resume writer or your college career services office to take your accounting experience and make it sound useful in an HR department. Numbers people are always needed in HR, so perhaps this experience can provide a bridge into an HR career.
- Can you take a brief leave to do an HR internship?
- If you have no grad degree in HR or business, consider that they are becoming more important in HR and might make you more employable.
Apply for HR Jobs Without Experience
I would apply for the positions that require experience. Work with your resume and cover letter to make your current skills and tasks relevant to HR, and apply.
Here are some thoughts on getting into HR. Thoughts on transitioning to HR from another field. Readers share their thoughts about how they made their transition into HR. Readers share their more detailed stories about how they transitioned to a position in the field of HR.
Best wishes and good luck. May you make all of your dreams come true.
Image Copyright Bobbieo
Employee-friendly organizations that value, empower, recognize, enable, provide feedback to, and fairly pay their employees will not have a recruiting or an employee turnover problem. Yes, employees are more difficult to find, especially employees with web, software development, IT, and science experience, and in some career fields the rate of college graduation is way below what the world needs universities to produce. But "good" companies will attract employees more successfully than others. "Good" companies will experience less employee turnover.
Competitive salary, competitive vacation and holidays, and tuition reimbursement are three basics in employee retention. Especially for millennial employees, these are the holy grail for recruitment and retention. But, employers can reduce employee turnover in many other ways. (If you think these read like the Golden Rule, you're right, they do.) Reducing employee turnover is dependant on the total work environment you offer for employees.
Poll: Why Do You Stick With Your Employer?
- Good coaching from and interaction with my boss.
- Opportunity to learn new skills.
- Good compensation and benefits package.
- Challenging, rewarding, interesting work.
- Like my coworkers.
- Talent and vision of company management team.
- Mission of the company.
- Respectful treatment.
- Recognition for a job well done.
- Just can't seem to get motivated enough to leave...
- View Results
Image © Phil Date
HR Solutions, Inc., a Chicago-based management consulting firm specializing in employee engagement surveys, analyzed recurring themes in employee surveys and compiled the following top ten list. These are the items employees consistently complain about on the surveys and when interviewed.1. Higher salaries - pay is the number one area in which employees seek change.
2. Internal pay equity, particularly having concerns with "pay compression" (the differential in pay between new and more tenured employees).
3. Benefits programs, particularly health/dental, retirement, and Paid Time Off/vacation days. Specifically, many employees feel that their health insurance costs too much, especially prescription drug programs.
4. "Over-management" (A common phrase seen in employee comments is "Too many chiefs, not enough Indians").
5. Pay increase guidelines should place greater emphasis on merit.
6. The Human Resource department needs to be more responsive to their questions and/or concerns.
8. Improved communication and availability (both from their supervisors and upper management).
9. Workloads are too heavy and/or departments are understaffed.
10. Facility cleanliness.
The job satisfaction study included over 2.2 million respondents with 2,100 organizations representing various industries, all surveyed by HR Solutions, Inc.
This is Happiness Happens Month and I'm a believer that responsibility for my happiness rests most with me - or not, as I choose, so I'll focus next on happiness at work.More Information About Employee Happiness
I've been doing team building and training for a long time. In the process, I've watched fads come and go. Particularly memorable were fads in the 1970s and early 1980s when t-groups and experiential seminars were mass attended. One of the most memorable was Werner Erhard's est program with its Zen references and its force feeding of aspects of scientology. Thousands spent thousands to learn that their brains were machines. I would never have returned except that my husband wanted to finish the program.
I remember attending another program for spiritual awakening in which the defining moment of the day occurred when attendees were told to take on every person in the room to get to the top of the pile of all the attendees at the session. A man I know kicked and clawed his way to the top of the heap of bodies and let out an exultant scream as he stood at the top of the piled up people. (I stood at the side and watched in amazement while being called "unenlightened" by a seminar leader.) Yup.
On another occasion, we were participating in trust exercises at a seminar and we were told to fall over backwards into the arms of our waiting "trust" partner who would catch us. Against my better judgment, truth to tell, I allowed myself to fall over backwards and I hit the ground with a painful thud. What on earth possessed you, I asked my "trust" partner. I wanted to see how you'd react, he responded.
So it came as no surprise to me that, at one point in time, I can remember being asked constantly if people in my sessions were required to do group hugs or touch each other. The question became so common that I used to start training and team building sessions by telling people I didn't do group hugs. Don't laugh, because the sigh of relief was often palpable. And, coming from their experience of the 1970s and even the 1980s, the attendees' questions and memories were reasonable.
On the flip side, all of this could still be happening and I'm not "cool" enough to be in the loop. I hope not.
So, I'm a fan, especially for work-related team building, of the kind of ice breakers and team building activities I write for this site. Today's new ice breaker is Your Favorites - An Ice Breaker. Everyone can identify their favorites.
And, sometimes people even hug each other goodbye in my sessions - but it's their choice, not mine. It also has nothing to do with "enlightenment" per se unless they found something in the session enlightening.
Effective relationships and learning are the mainstays of organizational success today. Organizations that find meaningful ways for their employees to connect are more likely to realize greater productivity, enhanced career growth, freely flowing innovation and overall improvement in employee performance.
Group mentoring is a value-added tool for connecting employees and advancing learning within your organization. One-on-one mentoring, with a mentor who exhibits the characteristics needed by successful mentors, is one of the key methods you can use to develop employees. Whether singly or in groups, employees benefit from learning and exchanges with more experienced employees.
I've had several mentors over the years. Dave Schmidt, my first senior HR Director boss, helped me figure out the hierarchy and the way the world worked at General Motors.
Ron Carr, the skilled tradesman who took me on weekly plant walks so I could learn the manufacturing environment without ever having worked in it, paved my path to acceptance as their training coordinator by the tool and die guys. (Quite a feat at the time...)
A beloved friend who spent many hours with me when I was starting my business, Leslie Charles is especially memorable because she even took the chance to subcontract training work to a neophyte consultant. And, we're still friends and confidants twenty some years later. I consider myself blessed and lucky. You can find mentors, too.
But, believe me, you don't spend twenty-five plus years in a successful consulting career without plenty of help from others. It's the same in the workplace. The more help you have from others to learn and grow and practice, the more successful you'll be.
Learn about group mentoring from Dr. Lois Zachary (pictured). You'll also want to look at these additional mentoring resources.
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: There is no law against asking for age on a job application or background checking forms. That may vary from country to country or state to state.
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 for 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
This question is so important for people who want to work in the field of Human Resources that I thought I'd post the question and its answer here.
A reader, who is working on a two year degree, which according to her college, would assure her of an HR job upon graduation, has received different information from her HR contacts working in the field.
I burst her bubble further. Agree or disagree with me? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
See the answer in Qualified for an HR Manager Job with a 2 Year Degree?
Image Copyright Jacom Stevens
Poll: Does an HR leader need a degree?
- Absolutely. I wouldn't hire one without a degree.
- Most likely. Only degreed candidates have the background and skill set necessary for today's HR leader.
- Probably. There are too many candidates that have degrees to settle for one without a degree.
- It depends. Some HR leaders have experience that trumps the need for a degree.
- No. An HR leader does not need a degree.
- Absolutely not. An HR leader never needs a degree.
- View Results
More About Human Resources Careers
Interested in how long to retain employee records?
Today's question from a reader concerns how long an employer is required to keep employee records.
Here's a good employee records retention resource.
Image Copyright Stanislav Mikhalev
More About Employee Personnel Records
Need help with negativity at work? The typical workplace has its ups and downs in terms of employee negativity. Many workplaces are trying to be employee oriented to cure negativity and encourage engagement. But, even the most employee oriented workplace can shudder under the weight of negative thinking.
When employers understand the causes of negativity and put in place measures to prevent negativity, negativity fails to gain a foothold in the work environment.
A couple of years ago, Towers Perrin and researchers Gang & Gang interviewed employees and discovered the five main causes of negativity at work:
- An excessive workload;
- Concerns about management's ability to lead the company forward successfully;
- Anxiety about the future, particular longer-term job, income and retirement security;
- Lack of challenge in their work, with boredom intensifying existing frustration about workload; and
- Insufficient recognition for the level of contribution and effort provided, and concerns that pay isn't commensurate with performance.
Negativity at work exists for other reasons, too. Employees become upset by decisions, new policies, and changes in direction. An employee may not like his new boss. Communication and employee involvement go a long way toward solving the day-to-day negativity, but deal with the above five to cure the most pervasive reasons for negativity.
What causes negativity in your workplace? How do you deal with a negative coworker?
Image Copyright iStockphoto / Nicholas Monu
More About Negativity at Work
Interested in performance improvement plans? PIPs are a popular topic with readers because so many organizations do them wrong and use them for all of the wrong reasons. I receive many questions from readers in email and when a question might interest other readers, I share them. Can you add to my advice from your experience?
In terms of Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs), how does a manager do them? Is it appropriate for the manager to go "fishing" for feedback from other managers about the person on the PIP?
For example, if someone is serving their client group, and is put on a PIP, how does the manager find out if building trust has improved for the person on the PIP without asking each week for feedback from the client group? Is this the right procedure?
Also, in your experience, do PIP's really work? Or are they usually just a start of a paper trail to build up legal defense to fire someone? I am a fellow human resources professional and I have not had experience administering PIPs before and I don't know if my boss is doing them right?
Yes, I have seen PIPs succeed many times and sometimes they don't succeed, too. With motivated employees who went astray, it is as if you finally got their attention. I sometimes liken a PIP to hitting someone up side their head with a two by four since no other performance coaching seemed to be working. (Really, I'm a non-violent person.)
Following a successful PIP, the key for the manager is vigilance. You cannot allow the employee to slip back into the performance that earned him or her the PIP in the first place. I never do a second PIP because, at some point, our adult employees need to take responsibility for his or her own performance and success. (To be honest, I don't really like to do them the first time because of the manager's and the Human Resources staff time they take for development and feedback. And, one more time, these are adults. Right?)
To answer the next part of your question, it is appropriate for a manager to confidentially solicit employee feedback or improvement from another manager, as long as that manager is the customer of the employee's service. Feedback from another manager is also appropriate if the second manager directs part of the employee's work or a team on which the employee participates. It is not appropriate to solicit performance feedback from employees, unless the solicitation is part of an informal or formal 360 feedback process.
A PIP is often the start of paperwork that will eventually result in employment termination. That should not be the goal of the PIP although I suspect, in many organizations, it is. With this potential in mind, however, you need to make sure that:
- the goals are completely relevant to the job,
- enough detail exists to enable the employee to succeed,
- as much as possible, the goals are measurable, or if not measurable, the expected outcomes are described in such a way that the manager, HR and the employee can agree whether they were reached or not.
Meet with the employee every couple of weeks to discuss progress. Document all follow-up meetings and progress - or lack thereof. If you see little progress occurring despite these best efforts, it's time to consider firing the employee.
Perhaps readers will add to what I have suggested from their experience. Please respond in comments.
Image Copyright iStockphoto / Sheryl Griffin
More About Performance Improvement
Are you interested in team building activities that you can do in your workplace or close by? Recently, an organization development consultant wrote to me to tell me that in his workplace, they were looking for ways to informally build teams and teamwork.
It sounded like such a good idea for an article that I wrote one for him. I have written about informal team building at work many times, but I've never gathered all of my ideas in one place before. Plus, I have ideas that were not used in the piece, so another will be forthcoming.
Team building activities that you can do at work have such a positive impact because they are ongoing and reinforcing. So many team building activities are a one shot deal where a group of employees attends an offsite meeting. Then, the follow-up after the meeting, which is where the reinforcement of the good, positive feelings must occur, does not happen.
With team building activities in the workplace, that occur frequently with cross sectional groups of employees, you have a real chance to create a sense of teamwork across your organization.
Why don't you take a look at my 15 team building activities, try some of them out at work, and let me know how they went. Feedback would be enormously satisfying.
Image Copyright Michael DeLeon
More About Team Building at Work
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 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
Know the meaning of Memorial Day? Memorial Day is the opportunity to remember and honor "military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle," says About.com's Rod Powers. Learn more about the history and observance of Memorial Day.
In normal years, I am at our cottage for the long weekend and always pass an old cemetery on our way. The gravestones are always decorated and flowers rest near many of the graves.
We've decided that a local Veteran's association must maintain the cemetery as so many of the people are unlikely to have living relatives in the area. What thoughtfulness this demonstrates and all who pass the cemetery seem to pause for a moment to remember.
Annually, I watch the National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C. It is a moving, respectful tribute to the men and women who have died in service to America. About.com's Rachel Cooper covers all of the Washington, D.C. region and does a particularly fine job of covering events that make Americans proud to be Americans.
Image Copyright Jane Norton
This debate about putting salary in job postings becomes more important as job applicants are willing to settle just to have a job. This could cause retention chaos as jobs become more available or motivation damage for people who are under-employed, under-utilized, and bored.
The Debate About Salary in Job Postings
Employers argue that not supplying the salary range gives them more flexibility in considering a wide range of candidates, especially in cases where they may have some flexibility. Some also believe that the first party to supply a number in a salary negotiation is in the weaker negotiating postion. Job applicants argue that they don't want to waste their time applying for jobs that pay outside of the salary range which they require.
Applicants say that an online job application for an employer's applicant tracking system can take an hour or more to fill out. So, it is unfair to withhold salary information that would have helped them decide whether to apply. It's one thing to enter a resume online, but entirely different to fill out an application, participate in interviews, and more, for a position that he or she cannot afford to accept.
Another piece, when you hire an employee, to the salary negotiation puzzle is that employers frequently ask candidates to provide either their current salary or their expected compensation with the application.
I have seen all sorts of advice about how to respond to this request. But, the reality is that, if the employer asks for this information with the application, the application is not valid, and the applicant need not be considered, without supplying it.
I can see all sides of this debate and have taken positions on both sides in the past. The online job application world has made me rethink much of what I believe, however, because of the time job applicants invest. I now lean toward believing that employers should supply salary information, albeit a broad range, in job postings. Your arguments have convinced me. Can you convince me otherwise?
Poll About Salary in Job Postings
So, what's your opinion? Do you include salary on your job postings, or not - and why? Is "competitive salary and above average benefits" enough to attract the most qualified applicants? Please vote in my poll so we can all see current thinking.