Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Exposing Breasts in the Workplace: Part of Healthcare!

Ok now that I have your attention, get your mind out of the gutter. This has to deal with the Healthcare bill. The Healthcare Bill, officially, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the "fix-it" bill being signed today, contains a broad spectrum of issues to which we must pay attention. The items are diverse and include not just insurance regulations, but also requirements to post caloric values of foods by all fast food restaurants, taxes on medical devices and drugs, taxes on Medicare wages and even a revamping of the Pell Grant program. (Explain the healthcare implications of that one for me!)

One of the little known aspects of the PPACA is the requirement for companies to provide unpaid breastfeeding breaks. This is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and "....requires employers to provide reasonable, unpaid break time to employees who are nursing mothers to express breast milk for their infants. The Act amends section 207 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and requires an employer to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. The employer shall also make reasonable efforts to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." (Source: Smith Gambrell & Russell, LLC Client Alert, March 25, 2010.)

Employers of fewer than 50 employees are exempt from this amendment if "...such breaks would 'impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer's business.'" Hmmm... how do you really deny this one regardless of the size of the company?

One challenge here is recording of this time so you can make it non-paid. I think it would cost more to attend to the recording of time than it would be to just allow the mothers the time to perform this act. So a possible solution is just make it paid break time. But of course then you will have to deal with all the whinny men and women who don't get this paid break time. However, it would put them on par with all the smokers who take unathorized breaks to get their fix.

Anyone have a suggestion on what is going to be the best way to deal with this? I am all ears.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Strategy Alert: Too Few Workers and Union Activity

Here are some strategic tidbits to start your week off. First, I am sure you heard that Craig Becker was given a recess appointment to the National Labor Relations Board. If you are not sure why this is important read my post NLRB Nominees: Loading the Dice in Favor of Labor Unions. If you consider yourself strategic you would have already been planning for this, but in case you haven't been paying attention here is what you might plan for. With Becker and Pearce both getting appointed you can now expect a much more union friendly environment. There have already been indications that this Democrat (read Union) controlled board will overturn many previous decisions of the board under the Bush administration. One possible ruling may be having the Weingarten Rule reinstated for non-union workers. Weingarten established the right of representation for workers who feel they will be disciplined. Employers who refuse to allow this representation may be charged with an unfair labor practice, even if no union is present, and may be required by the NLRB to reinstate the workers and pay back pay. Having this right may encourage workers to review the other "benefits" of having union representation. (If you would like a history on this back and forth decision see this 2004 article from Law at Work.) 

The second strategic point is farther off in the distance, but you need to plan for it now. The Dukakis Center at Northeastern University just released a report projecting a significant labor shortage by 2018. A couple of highlights from the report include:
  • By 2018, with an expected return to healthy economic growth but no change in current labor force participation rates or immigration rates, there will likely be more jobs than people to fill them.
  • If the baby boom generation retires from the labor force at the same rate and age as current older workers, the baby bust generation that follows will likely be too small to fill many of the projected new jobs.
  • There could be at least 5 million potential job vacancies in the United States, nearly half of them (2.4 million) in social sector jobs in education, health care, government and nonprofit organizations.
  • The loss in total output could limit the growth of needed services and cost the economy as much as $3 trillion over the five-year period beginning in 2018.
The report, called After the Recovery: Help Needed, reports that some of this shortage may be offset by enticing Baby Boomers to stay in what they call "encore" jobs. These are mostly medical, social service and education positions that not only provide income but also provide personal fulfillment to the baby boomers. This frees up younger workers to fill other positions.

Obviously if you are in healthcare right now you need to pay heed to these numbers. 2018 is not that far away. But everyone needs to pay attention to this. Issues include:
  1. What jobs do we have that we may be unable to find workers for?
  2. How will changing technology alter the job picture for us?
  3. What is the composition of our current workforce? What is the expected loss to us?
  4. What possible training will we need to do and what will be the expense?
  5. How will we do this training?
  6. Who or where do we need to team with to insure a future supply of workers?
  7. What effect will this have on our recruitment structure and compensation structure?
These are just some of the issues. So ask yourself am I being strategic?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Did You Know That OSHA Repairs The Holes in SOX?

There is an old saying that "You learn something new everyday." (For those of you with memory problems that statement is "You learn something knew everyday", LOL) Well today I did. I got One Minute Memo from the Seyfarth Shaw law firm entitled OSHA Steps Up Enforcement of Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Claims. My first reaction to that headline was WHAT????  What does OSHA have to do with enforcing Sarbanes-Oxley violations? I was truly puzzled. What does violations of a financial disclosure law have to do with the agency that does safety inspections??
Do you know the answer? (Before you read the answer.)
Well it turns out that anyone that claims violations of Sarbanes-Oxley, in particular claims retaliation for reporting violations, must make the claim with the US Department of Labor. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor. And they just happen to have a lot of experience in investigating claims of retaliation for safety violations. As quoted in The Whistleblower Provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 by George R. Salem and Laura M. Franze:
"In the past, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reviewed the bulk of the complaints received by DOL, probably because most of the current whistleblower statutes administered by DOL involve allegations of safety violations. OSHA also has significant experience in handling allegations of retaliation. It is possible that a new unit, possibly one with specific financial experience, will be set up to handle initial investigations under Sarbanes-Oxley. However, OSHA currently has jurisdiction. Under current practices, the DOL investigates and then issues a “determination letter.” If the letter determination is not accepted by both parties, or the case is not otherwise resolved, the matter is assigned to the Office of ALJ and goes to administrative hearing. These hearings are relatively formal and resemble full-blown trials."
This was written in 2003. Given the One Minute Memo from Seyfarth Shaw it is apparent that no new unit was created. So if you are a public company who retaliates against employees for reporting financial violations you will be dealing with OSHA. Given that the Obama Administration Department of Labor has already announce increased enforcement in Wage & Hour and workplace safety this is an indication that SOX enforcement may also be stepped up. As a result Seyfarth Shaw recommends "...employers covered by SOX ... take steps to minimize the risk of claims alleging retaliation for protected whistleblowing. In particular, covered employers should promulgate appropriate ethics and anti-retaliation policies, train supervisors to comply with those policies, and implement hotlines and other methods by which complaints can be fielded and appropriately resolved without actual or perceived retaliation."
The lesson here is to make sure you darn your own SOX before OSHA comes in and sticks it to you!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Free Agent Nation" A Thing of The Past? Not In My World.

I came across a report the other day from Towers Watson (the merged result of Towers Perrin and Watson Wyatt) that basically declared the "free agent nation" dead. The concept of "Free Agent Nation"  was developed by Daniel Pink of Fast Company Magazine. It was used to describe a notion that you only worked for yourself and sold your services to a succession of employers. Tom Peters and other were (are) heavily invested in the concept as well. Thus, you had control of your career, your options, your education and your compensation. If you did not like working for someone you then left and "sold" your services to another buyer. I personally was and still am a big believer in the idea. To me, being tied to one employer, whether or not you like it, is allowing yourself to become entrapped in VICTIM MENTALITY.

Thus, I was somewhat surprised to come across the Towers Watson report Jobless Recovery in the U.S. Leaving Trail of Recession-Weary Employees in Its Wake, According to New Study. Sure you would expect to read that people are tired of being laid off  or losing their jobs by job elimination. But surprisingly this has lead to a CULTURAL ATTITUDE SHIFT and people are now looking for more permancy in their relationships with their employers. The report states that "A startling eight out of 10 respondents want to settle into a job, with roughly half saying they want to work for a single company their entire career and the rest wanting to work for no more than two to three companies." Whoa! Are these people wanting to return to the their fathers' world of work? The report also says that  this is driven by the recession. They state "This move toward workplace “nesting” is no doubt influenced by a perceived dearth of job opportunities, coupled with U.S. employees’ lower appetite for the risks inherent in changing jobs. In fact, more than half (56%) of the U.S. workforce expects little change in the job market over the next year, and over a quarter (28%) anticipate continued deterioration in the employment picture."

Rather than grab the "bull by the horns" (idiom explained) and reinventing themselves many workers have expressed a desire for "stability". As reported by the Global Workforce Study "...the GWS found that:

  • 51% of those polled said there are no career advancement opportunities in their current roles, and another 43% believe they must leave their organization and join another in order to advance to a higher-level job. 
  • Yet, despite these obstacles to advancement, and the erosion of many of the benefits fundamental to the traditional and highly paternalistic deal, fully 81% of respondents said they are not actively looking for other positions."
Well the bad news is, despite many workers wanting to return to the state of the nation in the 1950s where everyone went to work for one company and stayed for life (e.g., IBM ) those days are over with. As quoted in the GWS report “ 'For many employers, the recession has put the final nail in the coffin of the traditional ‘deal’ that once existed between employees and employers,' said Max Caldwell, a leader of the company’s Talent & Rewards business." (My emphasis)

So if you are one of those people who are hoping for stability from your employer WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE! The only stability you can hope for in your work life is what you make through what you know, your education, your experience and how you continually upgrade your skills or reinvent yourself. By making yourself continually valuable you make yourself continually employable. Now you may get fortunate enough to be able to "sell yourself" to one employer for a nice long "contract." But don't count on lifetime employement. Be prepared to seek out and secure another "contract". If your skill set looks like everyone elses then you have nothing unique to sell. Make yourself unique.

As someone who has been a "free agent" for a long time I am a big believer in the concept. I do not believe at a time when so many people find themselves with an opportunity to take control of their lifes that we will see "free agency" go away.

Who else out there has made themselves a successful free agent? Any advice for others?

Monday, March 22, 2010

EFCA After Healthcare: Rising From the Dead?

Much of the talk over the past year about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) dealt with the fact that not much was going to happen with it until HealthCare had cleared or died. Well as we all know, the Senate Healthcare Bill passed the House of Representatives on March 21 and will be signed into law by President Obama on March 23. So what now for EFCA?

Will EFCA now rise from the dead? If it does the version that will be worked on will be that of Senator Arlen Specter (pun not intended by happily pointed out.) An article in the September 17, 2009 issue of the Washington DC Employment Law Update blog dealt with Specter's "Compromise" version of EFCA. It pointed out that Specter's compromise gets rid "Card check" aspects of bill. However, quoting a Washington Post article, writer blogger Jay Sumner stated "...the amended EFCA would try to make union elections more fair by sharply limiting the time between organizers' declaration that they have enough support to call an election and the day of the vote, to reduce the potential for employer intimidation. Organizers would also be guaranteed access to workers if employers held mandatory anti-union meetings on company time. And the penalties for employers who break labor law rules would be triple what they are today."  (The emphasis is mine and points out a bad precedent. Unions have all the access they need to have after work. A time that the employer does not. Unions have the right to visit in the homes of workers, employers do not.)

The second part, and more dangerous part of the bill, gets altered as well. Sumner points out "As for the equally contentious arbitration provision, the amended bill would still impose forced government arbitration if the parties cannot agree to the terms of a first contract within a specified time period, but would establish a “last best offer” model for final resolution. Under this approach, the arbitrator chooses between the two parties’ contract proposals, rather than exercising unfettered discretion on contract terms."
Sumner summarizes by stating "While on the surface these amendments appear to temper some of the more controversial terms that have been anathema to business interests, the changes are not drastic enough to attract wide-spread support within the business community, most of which is opposed to EFCA in any form and in particular is opposed to first contract arbitration. In fact, this version of EFCA – unlike the original bill – would provide union organizers with unprecedented access to the workplace. While the suggested bill would preserve the representation election process, the shortened election period would limit an employer’s ability to present its position to employees so that employees can make a fully-educated decision on unionization having heard both sides." (The emphasis is mine).

This compromise is bad news. By stripping the "card check" from the bill and preserving "secret ballot elections" much of the uninformed will think that the bill is palatable. IT IS NOT!

So lets not let down our guard! Pay attention to what is going on. I am sure unions are chomping at the bit to get this pushed through. And as the Healthcare bill showed DEAD AND BURIED may only be a perception and EFCA may yet rise from the dead and walk ZOMBIE like to reality.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

HR Carnival: The St. Patrick's Day Issue

Jessica Miller-Merrell over at Blogging 4 Jobs is the host of The Kiss Me I'm Irish version of the HR Carnival. As is usual for all the HR Carnivals there is a wealth, in this case a pot of gold, of information to be found. In Irish lore if you catch a leprechaun he must give you his treasure. Well Jessica was the leprechaun and she has surrendered her treasure of a multitude of blog posts. So read about leadership, tools for HR, social media and more, including yours truly. So link on through and get educated.

A bonus is the website for Blogging 4 Jobs. If you are looking for work, or know someone who is, this is a site to check out.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Lesson from Drucker: Can We Really Ignore People in an Intellectual Capital Economy?

I have a book called The Daily Drucker (Click the title for Amazon) that I enjoy reading for the daily wisdom. Sometimes there is something HR related, sometimes not. Today's subject came from The Practice of Management and deals with balancing objectives and measurements. To Drucker an emphasis totally on PROFIT was dangerous and undermined the future of the company. He suggests that are eight areas in which performance and objectives have to be set. Two of these are people related. These eight include:
  1. Market standing
  2. Innovation
  3. Productivity
  4. Physical and financial resources
  5. Profitability
  6. Manager performance and development
  7. Worker performance and attitude
  8. Public responsibility
He said these key items may require different emphasis in different businesses at different times and stages, BUT, as he says, "...the areas are the same, whatever the business, whatever the economic conditions, whatever the business's size or stage of growth." 

Manager performance and development and worker performance and attitude WHATEVER THE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS! Unfortunately far too many companies have ignored this sage advice and it is going to cost them. Lack of training in managers and lack of attention to employees in an economic downturn is going to cost many companies the talented people the will sorely need to reap the rewards of an upturn in business. In a day and time when many companies rely so heavily on the talent, intellect, and learning of their people it dooms a company to failure to ignore managerial development.  Stack on top of that a general mistreatment, or at least an lack of understanding and compassion for the plight of your workers and disaster happens.  All this is adding up to what many foresee as a mass exodus from companies by talented workers who supply the intellectual capital so many companies trade on today.

So take a look at your company. What objectives and goals have your set for the development of people that may forestall an exodus of your brain power? It is not too late for everyone. You can still recover but you must move swiftly and with purpose to re-engage and revitalize your workforce.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Update of Union Activity

With all the talk about Healthcare one would think that no other legislative activity is going on in Washington. Alas, we could not be so lucky. There is still plenty of activity going on. So here is an update on various activities that are taking place.
  1. The folks at the Labor Relations Institute published this blog post with a great run down on what is happening with the Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA Update They point out that EFCA has become a shorthand statement for aggressive union tactics and warn of recess appointments of NLRB nominees Becker and Pearce. (They have to be recess appointees because they are so union biased their appointments are being blocked by the Senate.)
  2. The folks at CrediblyConnect that Unions Don't Have EFCA (Yet), But Have Won Other Victories That Make It Easier to Organize Employees . These include changes in the rules that had required Unions to reveal how and where they spent their members money. Secretary Solis made changes that now allow the Unions to not disclose their finances.
  3. @OhioLaborLawyer on Twitter pointed out that unions are not happy with some Democrats and plan to punish them at the polls. Read Unions taking on Dems who don't toe labor line that was published in The Hill.
  4. Attorney Eric B. Meyer linked to an article in S.C. Politics Today about South Carolina taking the bull by the horns and protecting the state from EFCA legislation in  Secret union ballots gets OK in Senate.
  5. Lastly, also from The Hill, we have Police, firefighter unions see chance to expand collective bargaining rights which discusses in roads, outside of EFCA, that public safety unions are making.
Regardless if you are currently dealing with unions or not you need to read this stuff. With changes at the Department of Labor, the NLRB, and in legislation  you may at some point soon be dealing with union activity. And the more preparation and information you have the better off you will be.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lessons in Ignorance: The Intersection of FMLA and Workers' Comp

I had the good fortune to attend a legal update hosted by the Atlanta Law firm of Drew Eckl & Farnham. The afternoon session on employment law was moderated by attorney Joe Chancey (a very well spoken attorney). Joe used a verison of the Socratic Method and posed several scenarios to the audience and solicited answers from them. He then had a panel attorney give the correct answer. The session was very good, but in listening to the answers that the HR people in the audience give I was dismayed at the lack of knowledge displayed. (Guess that is why they were there for education.) I of course knew all the correct answers. (He says with great humility!)

One scenario posed dealt with a workers' compensation situation and FMLA. There was a lot of confusion about this scenario. Many people did NOT know that you can run Family and Medical Leave time concurrently with someone being out of work for Workers' Comp. Not only can you do that, you SHOULD do that. Otherwise you run the risk of extending considerably the amount of time someone can be away from work. Many audience members thought that Workers' Comp time had to play out entirely before someone could be charged with FMLA time. One audience member was even unaware that FMLA could be used for your PERSONAL illness. She thought it was for family only. (I sighed heavily at that.)

This session pointed out that there is a great deal of lack of education or knowledge in many areas of HR, but particularly in the arena of intersection of FMLA, ADA and Workers' Compensation. I do not have the space here to cover that topic, other than the lesson mentioned above about running concurrent calendars on FMLA and Workers' Comp time. But if you have to deal with this it is critical you understand this. The mistakes can be very expensive. In fact I may develop an E-book on this topic. So stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Happiness at Work: Hourly vs. Salaried

I saw an article today on CareerBuilder, unfortunately I can no longer find the link. It dealt with the subject of hourly workers being happier than salaried workers. (My apologies to the author for not providing a link or the proper attribution.)

The premise of the article was that hourly workers are happier than salary workers because they see the direct result of their efforts in their paychecks. The ultimate "line-of-sight" connection. The author also mentioned that when you become salaried you start working more hours and thus your "hourly wage" decreases, hence you are unhappier in your job. As an hourly worker if  you work overtime you get extra compensation for hours worked over 40 hours in a week (or 8 hours in a day in California or under union contracts.) Supposedly you are also happier because you don't have to make decisions.

Of course the downside of being a non-decsion making, hourly employee is that often in an economic downturn you are the first to have your hours, hence your pay, cut and often are the first one to also lose your job.

So what are the upsides and the downsides of being hourly? Here is my list.
The upsides include:
  • Lower personal cost of entry. You don't have to spend as much time getting educated. So you get into the earning catagory 4 to 5 years sooner than someone who goes to college.
  • You get to leave your work at work.
  • Don't have to make too many decisions at work.
  • You have the potential for overtime.
  • That direct tie of amount of time work = amount of money made
  • Easier to replace an hourly job when one is lost (depending on economy)
  • You have to punch a time clock.
  • You are often the first to go.
  • Job is probably not high on the Maslow/Herzberg "self fullfilment" scale.
  • You don't get to make any decisions at work.
  • You eventually don't make as much money as a salaried exempt employee.
  • You get labeled as "non-exempt" and have to have that explained to you.
  • Your self worth is based on what you make rather than what you do.
For the Salaried positions just reverse these lists. So what do you think. Can you add to these lists? Or would your lists look different?

 (BTW, some of this is tongue in cheek. There are days .....)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Performance & Recognition: Does Your Unspoken Culture Weed Out the Flowers?

In his book Thrive! (Amazon link), consultant Alan Weiss tells of the Tall Poppy Syndrome, a cultural phenomenon of Australia (and as it turns out of other British based cultures.) Wikipedia describes it thus: "Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) is a pejorative term used in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada to describe a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers. Alternatively someone is said to be a target of tall poppy syndrome when his or her assumption of a higher economic, social, or political position is actually presumptuous, attention seeking, or without merit." We see the same cultural phenomenon in many United States high schools, often talked about as a culture of underachievement and usually associated with minority groups, although not exclusively.

I have also seen this in American business as well, depending on the employee group. One Union shop I worked in promoted just such an environment. If you stood out from the crowd you received unwanted criticism from your fellow workers. We even have well known phrases used to describe these people who stand out that include: Brown noser, ass kisser, and suck up. The social pressure these employees were put under to NOT achieve, to NOT stand out was enormous. And given a union environment where wages are given on "time in grade" basis there was no monetary reward for being outstanding.

In American business we like to think that we have a culture of meritorius achievement. But do we really? I know of businesses who have recognition programs, yet the employees do not want that recognition. They are afraid they will be harassed if their picture is on the wall or their car will be keyed if they are parked in the special spot. And do our pay systems REALLY promote merit, when the maximum you can give someone is capped at 2%?

So look at your organization. Do you have a culture that chops down the Tall Poppy? Do you have a system that kills the flowers in your company and keeps the weeds?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The HR Carnival: The Hangover Edition

What is the major element of a hangover? It is a major THROBBING HEADACHE! (or so I have heard.) And that is what this edition of The HR Carnival is all about, things in HR that cause headaches. These include new regulations, cultural changes, technology changes, acclerated learning, online privacy coaching, jobs, healthcare and watching UNDERCOVER BOSS! So link on over to Talented Apps for the Hangover Edition and see if you can find the cure for your HR headache.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Essence of Performance Management

In Collapse Jared Diamond writes "Businesses have changed when the public came to expect and require different behavior, to reward businesses for behavior that the public wanted, and to make things difficult for businesses practicing behaviors that the public didn't want."

To me that is the essence of performance management. Read that same statement this way, in the context of managers and employees: "Employees have changed when their manager came to expect and require different behavior, to reward employees for behavior the manager wanted, and to make things difficult for employees practicing behaviors the manager didn't want."

To often we try to make this process more complicated than it actually is. Behavior reinforcement theory at its simplest.

Note: For those of you working on PHR/SPHR this is Skinnerian Reinforcement Theory found in Module 3.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Reasons Some HR Departments Make Disasterous Decisions

I have just finished reading Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond. The book is an excellent and eye-opening discussion of how societies, both ancient and modern, have determined their own fates. Some have disappeared and some have survived and thrived. The book ends with a warning about where we as a global society are headed today. I heartly recommend it and thank an unremembered Tweeter for suggesting it. But my purpose today is not to talk environment or history. As with many things I read I try to apply the lessons I learn to business and human resources. And there are a couple in this book I will be posting about.

The lesson for this post deals with Diamond's four reasons some societies make disasterous decisions, and as you can see my title for this post is a take-off on his chapter heading. The four reasons are as follows:
  • Reason 1- Groups may do disastrous things because they fail to anticipate a problem before it arrived. One of the lessons I try to teach in the PHR/SPHR certification classes I conduct is that HR should be viewed as a system and not a collection of programs. There should not be a comp program, a recruiting program, a safety program, a training program, a retention program, etc. There needs to be an HR system the interweaves all of those pieces. Failure to do so can lead to unforseen consequences, such as a bonus program that leads to decreased morale due to perceived imbalances in the way it is administered. Having a system mentality may help you anticipate disasterous results and avoid them.
  • Reason 2- Failing to perceive a problem that has actually arrived. There are three reasons this may occur. First, the origins of some problems are literally imperceptible. Second, distant managers who are not on the scene may fail to realize there is a problem. Third, the problem has grown at such a slow trend that the people in the midst of the problem do not see the problem. Decreased morale leading to a slow talent leak may be a good example. Onsite managers do not perceive there is a problem because "that is just the way things are" and distant managers do not visit often enough to perceive it. Perhaps no one is tracking the people losses or lack of productivity close enough to notice.
  • Reason 3- Failing to attempt to even solve a problem once it has arrived. There are several reasons for this that fall under the term "rational behavior." These include: feeling unempowered to make a correction; thinking it is "not my problem", or even more insidious, "it is in my best interests to not make a correction" or being selfish. I once did a post on the Munchausen Syndrome, where managers make problems in order to solve problems. I know many HR "professionals" who do not feel empowered enough in their jobs to suggest solutions and some that even avoid doing so because they fear for their jobs and don't want to "make waves." Other rational behaviors include a clash of interests between upper management and front line managers or HR.
  • Reason 4-  Even though we perceive a problem we still fail because the problem may be beyond our present capacities to solve, a solution may be prohibitively expensive, or our efforts may be too little and too late. Decreasing productivity, turnover leading to a brain drain, massive safety violations, major FLSA violations, class action discrimination or union activity are all examples that might fit into this catagory.
Diamond's discussion of these reasons as it applies to society is much more thorough than is my discussion here of how it applies to HR. I suggest you read Chapter 14 of this book (if you are not reading the book) to get a further analysis.

The good news is that none of this has to happen. It however requires couragous leaders and couragous people. For a Human Resources professional to meet this challenge they must do the following:
  • Be educated in ongoing HR issues and have a SYSTEMS mentality.
  • Be aware of trends in the community, the workforce and the industry in which they work.
  • Have a broader perspective than just the "immediate".
  • Be aware of how other organizations have addressed and solved, or failed to solve, problems of a similar nature.
  • Be courageous. Have a VOICE. Don't be afraid to address the "rational behavior" that is counter productive to the success of the organization.
I hope you follow my advice and read Diamond's book and apply his societal lessons to your workplace. You will be a better HR professional for it.