Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Court Decisions Muddy ADA Accommodation Definition

Jonathan R. Mook, attorney and ADA expert, wrote an excellent article about recent court decisions regarding "Reasonable Accommodation" and how these circuit court decisions have made it more difficult for employers. The article written in HR Magazine (sorry SHRM membership required) points out that three different Circuit Courts have decided cases that require employers to apply reasonable accommodation not only to individual with actual disabilities under ADA, but also to individuals perceived as having a disability. He feels this split court situation will eventually end up in the Supreme Court and he encourages all HR people to pay attention to this developing situation.

In his article he gave a very clear example of how to determine if an accommodation is needed and whether it is reasonable. There are four steps:
  1. Conduct a job analysis
  2. Identify performance barriers
  3. Consider potential accommodations
  4. Assess reasonableness in choosing among reasonable accommodations (The point here is that the reasonable accommodation selected does not need to be the best accommodation possible. It just has to allow the individual to perform the essential functions of the job.)

Here is also a link to the USDOL website on the Accommodation Process.

Watch the news and the SHRM website for news on this newly developing application of "reasonable accommodation."

Monday, January 29, 2007

Where Do You Fall?

Blogger Carmine Coyete in a blog called Slow Leadership talked about the number 1/9/90. Carmine's point about this number was that 1% of people do, 9% comment or refine and 90% do nothing. "Maybe just one in 100 people will come up with ideas for change and decide to try to see them implemented.....Maybe between 5% and 9% of people will respond by taking up the idea and looking to see if it has any merit. They will discuss it and add to it, maybe alter it somewhat, and exhibit at least some willingness to see it turned into action.....The remaining 90% will almost certainly do nothing, and outwardly register little or no interest either."

The point about the 1/9/90 Law is a little deeper than what I have portrayed, so you need to read the entire blog. But it got me to thinking about HR people. Many times I have heard HR people complain about only being reactive. Never being proactive. Yet they seldom do anything about it. I wondered if this fits the 1/9/90 Law profile. One percent of HR will do something proactive, 9 % will applaud it and work with it and 90% will either ignore it or complain about.

What do you think? Click on the link, Slow Leadership, to read the entire blog.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Avoid Being a Cultural Knucklehead in HR

In Human Resources we often deal with people from other nations, whether employing them locally or dealing with them in International operations. Sometimes we travel internationally for business or pleasure. As we do so we find that there are many cultural differences (stating the obvious), however, often we apply our language, references and ways of doing things. As a result we look like a "cultural knucklehead." Well here is an blog article on How Not to be a Cultural Knucklehead in Global Business, written by Pamela Slim.

In this blog you get some great advice and tips on dealing with a world different than your own, like:

  • Don't use baseball analogies when talking to a global audience.
  • Stay away from "country insider" metaphors and analogies.
  • Plan for a level of interaction appropriate for the culture of your audience.

These are just a few tips, there are more, and even more in the comments section.

I found this very informative and made me think of a conversation I had with a native French speaker and how many colloquial terms I used in my explanation of a subject. I wish I had read this first.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mandated Sick Days- The Next "Minimum Wage"

According to a report in Workforce News In Brief San Francisco is leading the country with mandated paid sick days, a law effective in February. It required companies to provide 9 paid sick days per year. Sen. Edward Kennedy is proposing a similar bill on a national level, requiring companies of 15 or more employees to provide seven paid sick days. “This is the next worker issue after minimum wage,” says Deven McGraw, COO of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “People are starting to understand the predicament that low-wage workers in this country face.”

Opponents point out that this is destructive to many companies PTO policies and could be an administrative nightmare.

If you have any feelings about this, one way or the other, now is the time to start talking to your Congressional legislators.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Peek Into the Mind of a Union President

There is an interview in Wall Street Journal Online with Andy Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union, SEIU, that is very revealing. Stern is a new voice in 21st Century unionism and if you are not paying attention to him now, you may end up paying attention to him in the future. Read this interview for a peek into his mind.

Freakonomics as a Lesson for HR

I am reading a very interesting book called Freakonomics ( I know, I am behind the curve). The premise of the book is the study of incentives. Don't let this, or the fact that it is an economics book, frighten you. It is VERY interesting. One of their fundamental ideas is that "Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. And understanding them.... is the key to solving just about any riddle, from violent crime to sports cheating to online dating." (Told you it was interesting.)

Further, they describe "... the study of incentives: how people get what they want, or need, especially when other people want or need the same thing." And "There are three basic flavors of incentive: economic, social, and moral. Very often a single incentive scheme will include all three varieties." As I was reading this I was thinking this is also the cornerstone of human resources. We are always wondering how to motivate employees. What incentives do we use to make them work better, harder, smarter, longer? And often we are puzzled. Why does one thing work for one person and something else works for the next person.

There are some good insights in this book for human resources managers and I strongly suggest you read it and try to apply those insights to your work place.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I read this great quote on Seth Godin's blog. Although he was discussing marketing I thought it more than applied to human resources.

"But the art of management is in understanding that all problems are different, and that your intuition and insight are the key."

This piggybacks very well on the blog from yesterday. Reading, education, and a variety of experiences will help develop that intuition and insight you need to have to deal with the variety of problems you deal with on a daily basis.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Want To Be An Expert?

One of my favorite motivational authors is Harvey Mackay. He writes a weekly column that is often filled with wisdom that is applicable to most of us. This week he writes on "Are You Working On You?". I won't repeat the entire column here , I will let you read it, but he writes about how little people read today. However, in his column he cites some numbers that I found interesting.

  • If you read just one book per month for 12 straight months, you will be in the top 25 percentile of all intellectuals in the world!
  • If you read five books on one subject, you are one of the world’s foremost leading authorities on that subject!
  • If you read just 15 minutes a day – every day, for one year – you can complete 20 books!

This got me thinking about some of the classes I have taught in the past nine years. I survey the class (a group of people who are trying to advance in their career, hence they are in a certfication prep class) and I am usually dismayed by how little anyone reads anything. Well reading this column and these numbers made me think... if you really want to be an HR expert all you have to do is read. Look at these numbers... one book a month.. 5 books on one subject... just 15 minutes a day...

So in 2007 become an expert... read 5 books on HR and another 7 in business, classics, whatever and you will be on the top of the heap.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Book Review: The Nature of Leadership: Reptiles, Mammals, and the Challenge of Becoming a Great Leader, by B. Joseph White, Reviewed by Mike Haberman

Having a professional background in dealing with people in a wide variety of leadership positions and an early educational background in studying animal behavior I looked forward to reading a book subtitled Reptiles, Mammals and the Challenge of Becoming a Great Leader. The premise of the book is that there are two sides of leadership, a hard and cold reptilian side and a soft and warm mammalian side. This dichotomy is pretty much the same as the numbers versus people sides of leadership or management.

White, who is the President of the University of Illinois, spends a brief chapter on various leadership theories. These include a bit on McGregor’s Theory X and Y, Blake and Mouton’s Leadership Grid, a little Herzberg and McClelland. He writes about the theory that leaders are born and not made, but then goes on to talk about a “leaders can be made” (hence his book.)

Using his reptilian/mammalian analogy, White puts his model of leadership together as a pyramid. The base of the pyramid consists of four characteristics. First is a desire to be in charge, followed by ability, strength and character. Without these you have no hope of being a leader. The implication is this is what you are born with.

The second component of his pyramid is the reptilian and mammalian traits. The reptilian side is described as “cold-blooded”, disciplined, economic sense, financial management, attention to detail, detached and analytical, among others. The mammalian side is “warm-blooded”, nurturing, people sense, attention to context, communication ability, delegate, empower, and others.

He then spends a couple of chapters describing the characteristics of these two sides. He warns us not to make value judgments about the “reptilian” traits being bad or the “mammalian” traits being good. He argues that both sets of traits are necessary for great leaders to have. The problem with this however, is that people do make judgments on labels and my guess is that not too many potential leaders would be thrilled as being described as having a reptilian style. Not many people want to be known as a “snake.”

The apex of White’s pyramid of leadership consists of the qualities he associates with being a great leader. According to White to be a good leader you must have both the reptile side and mammalian side capped with innovation, risk-taking, an appetite for talent, and what he calls the “helicopter view” and the “sparkle factor.” The “helicopter view” is perspective, looking ahead, back and sideways. The “sparkle factor” is charisma, presence and magnetism.

The book is an easy read that mixes in his personal leadership “journey” along with his observations about his leadership “heroes”. I think his reptilian/mammalian analogy is somewhat flawed (some reptiles can show great tenderness and some mammals can be very hard and cruel). However, it is somewhat of a novel way to discuss the “hard” and “soft” sides of management and leadership. I was left with a mixed message about the ability to become a great leader. He tells you what it takes to become a great leader but also leaves you with the message “if you ain’t got it, you ain’t gonna get it.” But, that said it is an easy introductory book on the concepts of leadership and is good for people who have not read a lot on the subject.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Learning to Swim in HR

First let me wish everyone a Happy New Year!

My favorite author, consultant and "hero" is Alan Weiss. He has a monthly newsletter that I look forward to receiving at the first of each month. His newsletter this month began with an article entitled Sink or Swim. He starts off with the relating that he read the entire O'Brian series on Jack Aubrey, a captain in the British Navy. (Russell Crow starred as Lucky Jack in the movie Master and Commander Far Side of the World.) Alan relates that in reading the historical notes he learned that "...virtually no British common seaman knew how to swim. In an age when a sinking boat meant almost certain death, these sailors couldn't swim a mile to a beach or even a hundred yards to floating wreckage or a stray boat. Although the admiralty never thought it necessary to teach the skill, surely the sailors could readily have learned it during the long assignments when ships were often becalmed for days on end. They didn't. "

Alan then goes on to say "I meet a lot of people like those sailors. On the lighter side, there's the 20-year airline ticket clerk, still using one finger to type and taking five times as long, never having bothered to learn to type despite it being a key element in the job. On the darker side, there is the teacher who never did understand the need for testing understanding, and never got around to mastering it, thereby undermining learning."

He then has the admonition "If you insist on being the bartender at the party but have to keep apologizing because you can't make a margarita, I have a suggestion: Either stop being the bartender or learn to mix a margarita, which I'm pretty sure is somewhat easier than splitting an atom. While it may seem astonishing to you that sailors, whose lives were spent on the ocean, never learned to swim, then contemplate the fact that I constantly meet department store clerks who have no idea where anything is."

He then ends his comments with the statement "I have no idea why people make little attempt to master the simple things in the environment which can vastly improve their lives and, perhaps, even save them. I mean, you'd think people would rather swim, than sink, wouldn't you?"

I was astonished by the fact about the sailors and amused and dismayed by his other observations, but, it is this last statement that really got me to thinking. I thought about things that I may not know or may not do that fall into this catagory. And that got me thinking about HR departments in general.

Dave Ulrich, in his book Delivering Results: A New Mandate for Human Resources Professionals, talks about delivering flawless administrative services as one of the necessary steps in being seen as "business partner" material. You can't have a place at the table if you can't deliver even the basic services of HR flawlessly. Which brings me back to Weiss' point about mastering the simple things.

At the beginning of this new year can you deliver, can you answer the questions, do you know the answers? Or are you like the sailor thrashing about in the water unable to reach the flotsam that will save his life. If there are things you should do or know make it a resolution to make a change. Learn to swim and be determined not to sink.