Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eliminate This Word From Your HR Vocabulary!

On U.S. radio stations Randstad, the staffing agency, is running an advertisement that drives me up the wall by using a word that should never be associated with HR. Have you heard it? Can you guess what it is? Well here is the statement taken from their website

"Superior talent matches for a customer's temporary, temporary-to-permanent and permanent job opportunities through a unique, team-based solution."

The word that grates on me like finger nails on a chaulkboard is PERMANENT. In HR you never talk about permanent positions. That creates contractual language that you can be held to in court. Besides a permanent position is impossible. Every one dies, unless of course you are the detective in the Fox TV show New Amsterdam, who happens to be immortal.

So if you are using the word permanent, as in temp-to-permanent...STOP! Use temporary-to-full-time or something else. Unless of course you do hire people for life.. but that is kind of rare. Does not really give you many options if the person is not a performer.

"Cat's Paw": Avoid Being the HR Dupe

I learned a new phrase today so I thought I would teach it to you. I was reading an article on a case on discrimination that was headed to the U. S. Supreme Court before it got settled at the last minute. It involved a case of discrimination in which a Hispanic supervisor was biased against a black employee. The supervisor was made life difficult for the employee in a number of ways, including assigning him to weekend overtime work. The employee refused in one case. The supervisor took his case to the regional HR manager (who worked in Arizona, not New Mexico where the supervisor and employee were located). The HR manager told the supervisor to tell the employee that refusal to work would be grounds for termination. The employee called in sick instead of coming to work and was fired.

The employee filed a discrimination claim. Initially the courts dismissed the claim, but an appeals court reversed saying that HR was the decision maker, but it was based upon information provided by the supervisor and what was given was not the complete story. It was headed to the Supreme Court, but the company settled before it got there, paying out $250,000 and committing to alot of training.

In the description of the case they used the term "cat's paw." I had no idea what this meant so I headed to the Internet. Basically it is a term that comes from a fable in which a monkey convinces a cat to reach into a fire to retreive roasting chestnuts. The cat does so, gets its paw singed and the monkey gets all the chestnuts. The cat was duped into being the tool of the monkey, keeping the monkey from getting burned.

In this particular case the HR manager was the cat's paw of the supervisor. The supervisor, by not giving all the information, duped the HR manager into making a decision that the supervisor did not want to make or could not make, but wanted that result. The HR manager, by being remote did not know of previous bias against the employee or favoritism for other employees. The HR manager did not do his/her homework in the case.

The result of this shows that the company can still be held liable for decisions made with good intentions by unknowing parties if the complete story is not known. This means that HR managers need to thoroughly investigate before making recommendations on terminations, etc. As a consultant I occassionally get calls asking "can we fire this person?" I find out about the facts of the case, but my line of questioning always comes back to "Is there any reason to suspect that there may be some bias in this situation?" I ask that question several times, several ways.

So avoid being a "cat's paw" in situations. Don't allow yourself to be duped into making a decision to justify someone else's bias.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Measures and Metrics: What Is Your Discernable Impact?

Today's issue of the Staffing.org newsletter had an article entitled
Beware of Death By Metrics. The folks at Staffing.org are all about metrics.
In this case, as they relate to staffing. (Good site by the way.) But in this article they point out that getting caught up in measurements and metrics for the sake of measurements and metrics will get you nowhere. It will not get you the attention that you desire from the C-Suite. Many departments use, or over use, measurement to increase department efficiency. However, as they state: "...if you happen to be wearing all these additional measurements like merit badges and hoping senior management will notice, we have some bad news. They aren't, they won't, and career-wise you will eventually suffer death by metrics." There are two reasons according to Staffing.org "...first, the modest-at-best interest that C-level staff have in your efficiency; and second, the poor financial correlation between the efficiency implied by your staffing department's measurements and the success of the enterprise as a whole."

As the article points out "At the highest level of a well-run company, departmental efficiency is a management given. Decent managers are expected to be efficient. It's the low bar to staying employed." So being efficient, measuring what needs to be measured is important, not because it makes an impact, because it is how you keep your job. "C-Level staffs spend most of their time focused on the things that will have the biggest impact on the organization's success as a whole."

The author of the article then states, "The high bar for being recognized as a star manager is making a discernible impact on the annual report." What a great statement. For the people at Staffing.org that discernible impact for a staffing department would be "...focusing relentlessly on staffing's core functions: locating and hiring splendid people, at a reasonable cost, as quickly as possible. "

DISCERNIBLE IMPACT! What a strong and succinct statement. Spend some time today and think about what you are measuring in your HR department. Is it to make you more efficient? Good thing, you need that to keep your job. But are you measuring the one thing that will make that discernible impact on the bottom line of the organization?

If you truly want that ever-sought "place at the table" that is what you will have to do to get there.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sex and Guns: Challenges for Employers

Making the news here in the SE US, Georgia in particular, has been the story of an office romance that has caused the employer difficult times. Office romances have always been problematic for employers. This one, involving the head of The Department of Transportation and the Chairman of the Board that oversees the DOT, has ended poorly, with the DOT being the big loser. The Chairman resigned last week because of the relationship and the Head of the DOT has a hearing today on whether she should retain her position. So two talented people may be off the job and the DOT will be scrambling. They violated agency policy which prohibits that type of personal relationship.

Office romances cause employers headaches. The company may try to prohibit them but they can prevent them. After all people who work together all day long may have a tendency to form those relationships. Some are single, some are not. Some of these relationships are successful, many are not. The employer ends up with the burden of monitoring these relationships because of the liabiltiy that failed relationships may bring in the area of sexual harassment. You even have to monitor people around the couple in question because they may find their behavior to create a hostile environment. This is particularly the case when the pair involved are in a "superior-subordinate" relationship as in the DOT case. So what needs to be done? Ban them? Fire people involved? Require one to quit? (Have to be careful here about sexual discrimination.) Give me some feedback. Take the poll to the left.

So much for the sex part of today's post. Now to the guns post. Florida just passed and signed into law a gun rights law that allows employees to carry guns in their cars. Employers cannot prohibit it. Georgia has passed a similar law, though it has not yet been signed into law. Employers are encouraging the Governor to veto this law. The Georgia law does have some allowance for prohibiting guns on company property as long as the employer owns the parking lot. To see a good post on the Florida law read Kris Dunn's post at HR Capitalist entitled Dealing With Employees Who Are "Strapped" - Guns in Cars...

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ever Hear of E-RACE? Me Neither.

In a press release newsletter I receive from the EEOC I was reading about a staffing company being sued by EEOC and losing. In the article there was a reference to a February 2007 initiative by the EEOC called E-RACE. Being the curious type, and having never heard anything about this, I followed the link. I discovered that E-RACE stands for Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment. As the introduction says "In an effort to identify and implement new strategies that will strengthen its enforcement of Title VII and advance the statutory right to a workplace free of race and color discrimination, EEOC is instituting the E-RACE Initiative."

"The E-RACE Initiative is designed to improve EEOC’s efforts to ensure workplaces are free of race and color discrimination. Specifically, the EEOC will identify issues, criteria and barriers that contribute to race and color discrimination, explore strategies to improve the administrative processing and the litigation of race and color discrimination claims, and enhance public awareness of race and color discrimination in employment. As a framework for implementing the E-RACE Initiative, EEOC has developed a set of detailed E-RACE goals and objectives to be achieved within a 5-year timeframe from FY 2008 to FY 2013." You can click on the link to see these objectives.

My first thought in reading this was "I thought that is what the EEOC has supposed to have been doing all along. Why is it a new initiative?" They go on in their verbage to ask the question "Why Do We Need E-RACE?" They answer the question with a discussion of how many claims there are and how they seem to be increasing. Well that is fine. And racsim and colorism do need to be eradicated. But the real reason for this new initiative seems to be that the EEOC has not been doing their job as well as they should have and they needed to kick themselves in the butt and did so by this new "initiative."

In addition to racism and colorism there are also other increasing areas of discrimination. What about AGEISM? As a baby-boomer I would like more protection there. How about another initiative? I suggest PAGE, Protecting Another Graying Employee! Tell me what else you would like to see.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Carnival of HR for April 16th

This week's collection of the best of HR related blogs is published at Compensation Force.

Take a look an read some great articles... we are talking leadership, worklife balance, business acumen, a world without HR, brain exercise and much, much more. No better place to sample some of the best HR reading you can do in such a short period of time.

Pricing and Geography: A More Effective Method of Pricing Jobs

Ann Bares, at her blog Compensation Force, has a great post about pricing jobs in different geographical locations. This is an issue that many an HR person has struggled with if they have multiple locations. Two people doing the same job, requiring the same skill level, however, they are located in two different geographical areas, of which one is more expensive to live in than the other. When this happens there is pressure to pay the one more than the other. And the basis that is often used is Cost-of-Living.

Ann suggests that rather than using cost-of-living it would be more effective to use cost-of-labor as the more appropriate measure. She gives several examples of places that have high cost-of-living indexes but lower cost-of-labor indexes. So check out her blog, by clicking the link above, and get a better understanding of this effective way of pricing a job.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Unions and Democrats: Bad News for Companies in 2009

According to an article in Kiplinger's online newsletter organized is preparing to spend enormous amounts of money on the presidental, congressional and other campaigns this election year. According to the article "Organized labor will empty its huge war chest in the coming months in a bid to elect pro-worker candidates to the White House, Congress and state and local offices. The AFL-CIO has approved a record political budget of $53 million, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has budgeted $70 million." They will be spending twice the amount that business is spending in an effort to get as many Democrats elected as possible. And they are coordinating the efforts to avoid redundancy in the campaign.

The reason they are doing this is that a Democrat controlled White House, Congress and State Houses will be much more friendly to union favorable legislation. This is important to them as they try to regain their strength from a long period of losing membership.

One area they are in particular trying to be influential is in the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The article states "The top legislative priority for unions next year is to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, which would require employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers sign pro-union cards. Union organizers stress that putting a Democrat in the White House and increasing the clout of Democrats on Capitol Hill would vastly improve the bill's chances. Passage of the bill would greatly boost unions' organizing efforts, helping to replenish their ranks." Additionally, "Other legislation on labor's agenda includes paid family leave and a reworking of job definitions to make more positions eligible for union membership."

Please pay attention to the two highlighted areas above. The so-called Employee Free Choice Act is anything but. It takes AWAY an employee's ability to choose, in an intimidation free setting, whether or not they wish to be represented by a union after they have had an opportunity to hear the pros and cons of union representation. EFCA allows for a union to get employees to sign cards, often in an intimidating setting, and then forcing the employer to recognize and negotiate with the union without a secret ballot election ever being held. This law is not about employee choice! It is about the second highlighted area. It is about unions making things easier for them to replenish their depleting ranks!

If it passes, due to a Democrat controlled administration, it will be bad news for employers and business in general. So pay attention to the election, pay attention to union activity, pay attention to what employees are saying.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Replacement Planning: Are You Prepared for Your Star To Get Hurt?

As a baseball fan, the Atlanta Braves in particular, I spent sometime this weekend listening to the ball games as I was driving around town. In Sunday's game Tom Glavine, starting pitcher for the Braves, hurt a hamstring and had to come out of the game after just 19 pitches. Unfortunately the Braves lost to the Nationals. He is listed "day-to-day", which means he may or may not be ready to pitch again next time his turn is up. Not a happy situation for the team or for fans.

The amazing thing about this is there will be a competent pitcher there to take his place. Perhaps not the star he is, but there will be someone there to take his place. Immediately. This got me to thinking, how many businesses would be able to do that? Most businesses would go for a period of time, with the position open, while they looked for a replacement.

Business does not do nearly the job with either replacement planning or succession planning that professional baseball does. Professional baseball has a system of minor leagues that allows them to be continually developing talent. Thus, when a worker on the major league team goes down they have a replacement in the wings ready to fill in immediately. The replacement may not be as good, may need sometime to get up to speed, but the team does not miss a beat. They don't delay output while they wait for a replacement to show up.

Yes I realize many companies don't have the money that most major league teams have, but there is still a lesson there. Does your company have a replacement ready to go for your "first stringers?" Are people cross-trained to fill in or take over? Do you have a "minor league" system in place, aka a succession plan? Are you developing people?

Another lesson that we can take from professional baseball is the search for talent. Scouts are always looking for talent to place in the system. Do you have "scouts" watching for talent?

Think about baseball and learn the lesson. Baseball is all about their "human resources." They have nothing else to offer. So maybe we can take some lessons about how we manage our human resources.

Just a thought from an HR professional who is a baseball fan.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Darn I Didn't Make This List: The Top 10 Overpaid Jobs

Looking back through some old newsletter mail, I ran across this BLR article reporting on an article in CareerJournal.com. It was written by Chris Pummer of MarketWatch. The title of his December 2007 article was "The 10 Most Overpaid U.S. Jobs And the Little Effort They Require." His list looks like this (and includes some of his comments)(mine are included in bold):
  1. Mutual fund managers (Does anyone actually understand what they do?)
  2. Washed-up pro athletes in long-term contracts (Whoa, this hits home as a Braves fan ala Mike Hampton)
  3. CEOs of poorly performing companies. "These long-time losers draw multimillion-dollar severance packages as a reward for their failed stewardship." (Again hits home here in Atlanta with Home Depot.. watch out GM!)
  4. Orthodontists. "This isn't brain surgery: Orthodontists simply manipulate teeth in a growing child's mouth -- and often leave adjustment work to assistants whose handiwork they merely sign off on."
  5. Motivational speakers and ex-politicians on the lecture circuit. "Former President Reagan raised the bar back in 1989 when he took $2 million from Japanese business groups for making two speeches." (This is the one I really wanted to do!)
  6. Real estate agents selling high-end homes. "While most agents hustle tail to earn $60,000 a year, those in affluent areas can pull down $200,000-plus for half the effort, courtesy of the fatter commissions on pricier listings." (Well we know Real Estate is location, location, location. Guess that applies to where the real estate agent lives too.)
  7. Skycaps at major airports. "Many of the uniformed baggage handlers who check in luggage at curbside at the busiest metro airports pull in $70,000 to $100,000 a year--most of it in cash." (See how this one turned into a lawsuit at Kris Dunn's blog.)
  8. West Coast longshoremen. "Unlike their East Coast union brethren who compete with non-union ports in the South and Gulf of Mexico, the West Coast stevedores have an ironfisted lock on Pacific ports. Given their rare monopoly, they can disrupt U.S. commerce...and command exorbitant wages..."
  9. Major airline pilots. "The pilot's unions are the most powerful in the industry...In what amounts to a per-passenger commission, the larger the plane, the more they earn--even though it takes little more skill to pilot a jumbo jet."
  10. Wedding photographers. "Photographers earn a national average of $1,900 for a wedding, though many charge $2,500 to $5,000 for a one-day shoot, client meeting and processing time that runs up to 20 hours or more, and the cost of materials. The overpaid ones are the many who admit they only do weddings for the income, while quietly complaining about the hassle of dealing with hysterical brides and drunken reception guests." (Hmmm.. I like photography, maybe a part-time job is in order.

I had mixed feeling about this list. First, I was happy my profession was not on it. I would hate to take all the flack from friends for being overpaid. Secondly I was envious, HOW CAN I GET ON THIS LIST! LOL

I wonder if any of the workers on this list have any "equity" issues??? Hmmm ... my guess is NO!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Want To Make A Change In HR? Speak Up!

A favorite author of mine, someone I consider an unofficial mentor, Harvey Mackay, wrote a weekly newsletter entitled "Find the courage to speak up and face challenges." He was discussing worklife in general and had a number of good quotes. But it got me to thinking about the application to the field of human resources.

If you get together a group of HR people quite often they sit around bitching and moaning about how bad things are in their job, their company or in their field (actually an activity common to groups of employees in general.) They gripe about management not listening to them, not having "their place at the table", not being proactive, laws being passed that are ridiculous or difficult to work with, etc. When asked why they are still there, or why management doesn't listen to them, or what they did about the law being passed what you hear is mostly excuses. Typically the gripers don't do or say anything about the situation.

Well if you find yourself in that group pay attention to Mackay's words, from a story he relates, "...That inspired him to speak up whenever something didn't work. He says it was the beginning of his realization that you have to make up your mind to speak up if you really want to change things." He further advises "Chances are, others share your concern. It takes courage to speak up—perhaps there's a fear of retaliation, concern about being labeled a complainer, or a reluctance to rock the boat. Stay calm, be logical and present your case in a clear and positive way. No whining! Waiting to see if things get better on their own really isn't a reasonable strategy."

If management doesn't listen to you, ask why. Want a place at the table? Ask what has to be done to get there. Don't like a law that is pending? Write your federal or state representative and express your informed, professional opinion. Not allowed to be proactive? Ignore it an do something about it. Courage!

In HR, when we deal with a sexual harassment situation we often ask the "victim" if they have said something to the harasser. We encourage people to do so, to stand up and say something. Yet quite often we do not stand up for ourselves. We adopt a victim mentality about HR not changing.

It is not hard to find examples of people exhibiting that courage. Find someone and use them as an example. One of my favorite bloggers, Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist likes to rock the boat. Read him for a dose of courage or guidance on how to address something.

Poking the beast with a sharp stick to see if it is awake can be exhilarating every once in awhile! Give it a try. LOL

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

"Survey Says": Well I Am Not Quite Sure!

Surveys come out everyday. We are a survey happy society (at least in the US). Seems sometimes we can only operate if we know what everyone else is doing. So here goes...

A Hay Survey on the slowing economy reports that nearly 1/3 of the CEO's and HR executives polled reported that they were freezing or considering freezing wages, especially for executives, management and professional groups. They also report others are going to implement changes or plan changes to their healthcare benefits (27 percent), retirement/pension benefits (20 percent), and training and development programs (28 percent). At the same time many express that retaining or motivating high performers during the economic downturn is a major concern. (DUH!) So some are looking at changing high performer retention programs.

A survey by conducted by BlessingWhite asked the question "Assuming you have a choice, do you plan to remain with your organization through the 2008 year?" They asked this of North Americans, Europeans and Asians, with the majority of responses coming from North America. They found that North Americans were more likely to stay than Europeans and Asians and that gender had little to do with it. This was a poll conducted in December 2007 and January 2008. They did find "Only 7% of employees from North America said there is "no way" they plan to remain with their current employer, compared with 11% of Europeans and 8% overall. Overall in 2006, 6% or respondents said there was "no way" they planned to stay put." So there was a slight increade in discontent and North Americans were definately more likley to stay.

A third survey, conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), found that nearly 54 percent of employers plan on offering signing bonuses to new college graduates whom they want to hire this year, up from 47 percent in 2007. "Among respondents who plan to offer a bonus to all entry-level college hires, the average signing bonus is $4,450, up 25 percent from last year's average of $3,568. However, two-thirds of those using bonuses expect to offer them to just selected candidates, and average bonus offers vary according to a number of factors, including the candidate's degree and degree level, NACE notes."

And the last poll, conducted by Compensation.BLR.com, HR managers don't see cutbacks coming despite the much ballyhooed recession. "When asked "Does your company plan to grow in size in 2008?," 63 percent responded "Yes, we expect to hire additional staff." Meanwhile, 24 percent responded "No, we expect the size of our workforce to stay the same." Only 14 percent responded "No, we may even cut back on staff this year."

So, what do we have here? A mixed bag for sure.
  • CEO's and HR executives freezing salaries, while offering hiring bonuses to new hires. That is certain to make your current workforce unhappy.

  • North Americans not really deciding to go anywhere, but now that they have read that bosses are freezing salaries and college kids are getting bonuses maybe that will change.

  • HR is hiring additional staff. Are you offering them bonuses or are you getting the experienced employees from the companies that are freezing salaries?

  • If you want to hire perhaps you need to take a look at Europeans and Asians, they seem to be more restless than Americans and might not be put off by salaries being frozen.

  • Why are HR departments and CEOs not using the same figures? Not that CEOs and HR not connecting is unusual.

  • It would be interesting to know what companies are doing to keep the "high performers" given the salary freezes and benefit cuts.

So let's do our own survey. Please participate in the poll to the left in the column.

Thanks, I will let you know the results in about 10 days.

Monday, April 07, 2008

EEOC Drops Internet Applicant Definition Clarification: "We Can't Agree So Forget It!"

After four years of attempting to clarify the definition of "Internet applicant" the EEOC said they have been unable to reach any agreement on a clear definition with three other agencies, so they are now saying the definition in the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (the one they were trying to clarify) is good enough! Well thanks for all the hardwork! They have concluded that “the precise definition of the term ‘applicant’ depends upon the user’s recruitment and selection procedures. The concept of an applicant is that of a person who has indicated an interest in being considered for hiring, promotion or other employment opportunities. This interest might be expressed by completing an application form, or might be expressed orally, depending upon the employer’s practice.” Well thanks a load!

The OFCCP has done a better job of definining Internet Applicant. It's definition is:

"An Internet Applicant is defined as an individual who satisfies the following four criteria:

  • The individual submits an expression of interest in employment through the Internet or related electronic data technologies;
  • The contractor considers the individual for employment in a particular position;
  • The individual's expression of interest indicates the individual possesses the basic qualifications for the position; and,
  • The individual at no point in the contractor's selection process prior to receiving an offer of employment from the contractor, removes himself or herself from further consideration or otherwise indicates that he or she is no longer interested in the position."

So the solution to this dilemma is to adopt a procedure similar to the OFCCP's definition, adapt it to what works for you and then be CONSISTENT with it. First, only accept resumes or applications when you have an opening. Secondly, have minimum qualification that must be met before someone can proceed. Thirdly, make any preliminarily "qualified" applicant express further interest by filling out an application. This will eliminate the resume broadcaster. If someone wants to seriously be considered for a position they will do so.

Hopefully this will cut down on the number of applicants you have to track and will make life a bit easier on the ol' HR department.

Friday, April 04, 2008

FMLA Definately Needs To Be Cleared UP!

First let me admit I do not do any FMLA administration. My company is too small and most of my clients are as well. But I do get questions about it occasionally and as a knowledgeable HR professional I should know the answers. Well I got posed a question about the rolling year calculation and I was not sure of the answer, thought I knew but I was "iffy". So I posed the same question to a large group of contacts and got back an array of answers. So this indicates that ALOT of people don't know. I even used a help service and the answer they gave was not conclusive either. However, they gave me a link to an article that does give a definitive answer. You will find the link below.

First, here is the scenario. A company uses a "rolling year" calculation, as is recommended. An employee goes out on FMLA on Dec. 1, 2007 and is off the next 12 weeks, returning then around March 1st or so. The question is, when would this individual be then eligible for leave again? December 1, 2008 or March 1, 2009? The company's policy reads March 1. My answer was December 1. The answers from the group were divided.

Well, I am happy to say, my answer was correct, at least according to this article by the attorneys of Harper Gerlach PL. Here is the link to the article, which appeared in the Florida Employment Law Letter.

SHRM has alot of material available to members on the proposed FMLA regulations and on the front page of my company website, Omega HR Solutions , there is a link for the US DOL comment site. If you wish to comment on the proposed changes I would suggest you read this material.

FMLA obviously is, after 10 years, still a confusing and complicated law. With the changes that have occured with the addition of military provisions it has become even more complicated. So educate yourself!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Carnival of HR: All The Best Blogs In One Place

Rowan Manahan, creater of Fortify Your Oasis, is hosting the Carnival of HR. This is a collection of articles from all the best HR blogs. If you are looking for an informative read, and a short cut to a large collection of great blogs then click HERE. Coaching, bullying, leadership, compensation, benefits, discrimination, value of women, hiring employees, employees quiting, and looking good. These are just some of the topics you will find in today's carnival. And of course I am featured too...

Enjoy the reading and pick out some favorites you would like to link to and read all the time.