Tuesday, October 26, 2010

He needs to be terminated...do I have cause?

Here's a crazy tale: An employee can get drunk at a party, knock out a client and drive into a co-worker's vehicle as he is fleeing the scene.  In addition to that, you can have multiple witnesses and you still don't have cause UNLESS...

1.) You have a record of repeated behavior (written, with his/her signature agreeing to past behavior and the consequences of it - a good rule of thumb is at least 3 written warnings)

2.) You have offered him "help" for alcoholism and he has denied treatment (in writing)

3.) You have a policy that outlines expected behavior at events and the consequences of behavior

And even then, a judge may see it differently. Ugh.

You can take your chances and still let the employee go with cause. However, the minute he or she goes to a lawyer, they will come back and state that you not only need to provide minimum notice in terms of termination pay, you also need to provide additional monies.  It can then escalate into hourly invoices from lawyers and depending if you come to an agreement or not, court (and more hourly lawyer invoices).

So what should you do?

I would not want an employee who shows no control to be a representative of my company either.  That said, here is the simplest thing to do:

A.) Make sure your employment agreements have a termination clause that outlines you can terminate for any reason by providing termination pay (which is at minimum the provincial standards, but could be more)

B.) Terminate the employee without cause, which means you do not specify why you are letting the employee go. All you need to say is, "Your services are no longer required."

C.) Provide the amount stipulated in the employment agreement. At the very least, it needs to meet the minimum standards in each province.

In Alberta it looks like this:

    • one week - for employment of more than three months, but less than two years
    • two weeks - for employment of two years, but less than four years,
    • four weeks - for employment of four years, but less than six years,
    • five weeks - for employment of six years, but less than eight years,
    • six weeks - for employment of eight years, but less than 10 years, and
    • eight weeks - for employment of 10 years or more.
    Depending on the province you are in, this changes. So be sure to make sure your employment agreements reflect the right termination clause dependent on the province.

    Now all of this said, the employee may be entitled to more based on age, position, how easy it would be to find an additional position etc. Therefore, a common practice is to add an additional amount called "Severance Pay". This is up to each organization what amount they would want to add, but common practice is double. That said, you are not required by law to offer anything.

    Once again, I'm not a lawyer.

    But I've been there - in these exact situations, mulitple times. If you create an internal process and follow it consistently, you protect yourself. If you choose to go down the path of straight termination with cause, and provide no notice to the employee, you've had fair warning, and should expect a call from a lawyer.

    Sure, some employees do not have any idea what their rights are - but it just takes one that does.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Vacation Policy 101: Use it or...Lose it!?!? Can they do that?

    Just like clock-work, I'm getting the annual question from friends regarding their vacation policy.  "Heya - my HR department says I have to take all my holidays by December 31 or I lose them and won't get paid for them. Can they do that? I mean is that legal?"

    First a major disclosure here - I am not a laywer. So any advice I give does not represent that of a lawyer. 

    But no. They can't do that.  You are to be paid either in days off or in actual salary (and as a side note, depending on the province that you work in you have to ask for permission to get paid WITHOUT taking time off...the province actually WANTS you to take a break as well!)

    I am guilty of writing the same email, a "Friendly reminder from your friendly HR department" that basically states, "Don't forget to schedule your vacation time.  Remember it's a use it or lose it  policy".  But here's the truth - it never was (technically).  If the employee has earned it, it's theirs to take.  We knew that.  We just wanted you to take your vacation.

    Employers have valid reasons for wanting their employees to take the time off.  Not only do studies show that a rested employee is a much more productive employee, it makes sense for the employer's pocket books as well. I once worked in a company that allowed endless accrual.  One employee ended up terminating employment by providing 2 weeks notice (due to stress no less) and the company had to end up paying the employee out for 27 months of vacation.  At that time it was a $215,000 pay out.  For a tiny little company, this hurt.  A lot.

    I often get people saying, "Well I'd actually like to take 6 weeks off and travel, so I want to accrue my time from this year to next year."  I have never really thought of myself as Catbert (The Evil HR Director) but my initial thought was, if a company can have you be gone for 6 weeks, not replace you, do they really need you?  I mean come on people - I get wanting to take an extended vacation - but if you look at it from the organization's perspective, they too have a company to run.

    Now going back to the "Use it or lose it" policy. Look - they can't do it - they can't take your vacation time away. But they CAN schedule you your time for you.  So take your pick - schedule your own time or have it scheduled for you.

    Here's the deal - if you've been too busy to utilize all of your vacation this year due to various projects, your manager AND HR will be sympathetic...ummm...SHOULD be sympathetic.  Work something out with them that is fair in both worlds.  But if it's because you had nothing better to do, I can't blame the company for wanting you to use it.  They need to balance their liabilies with their assets (which should be you).

    So in conclusion:  They can schedule the time for you without warning (the only "right" you have is that you have earned it.)  They can't take it away in it's entirety.  They do not have to pay you out for it in cash (unless you terminate).  But take the vacation you've earned - if for nothing more than to just re-charge those batteries. 

    A fried employee does no good to anyone.

    Now, if they keep denying you the option for vacation....you have an entirely different situation on your hands.


    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    Exit Interviews - Exposing hidden secrets upon resignation

    The lessons I have learned from the early days of my career are definitely amongst the most valuable.  Perhaps it’s because I was the most impressionable back then (not that I would ever admit it). I was ego-centric and thought I knew everything.  I have definitely eaten some very delicious humble pie in my career.  I always tried to brush it off quickly but as I have grown older (and hopefully wiser) I love to look back on the lessons I have learned. “Did I really do that?”
    One lesson learned in particular comes to mind after I attended a networking event and was asked if I conduct exit interviews and if I saw value from them.  My answer was “Yes and yes.”
    Exit Interviews are those meetings an organization has when they are off-boarding an employee.  Typically, conducted by an HR representative (or anyone that is not a direct supervisor, as it allows for more open and candid responses), it’s a set of pre-selected questions asking the employee what their experience was like while working for the company.
    My first exit-interview looked something like this:
    Me: “Why did you decide to leave?”
    Employee: “I got a better job.”
    Me (somewhat puzzled by tone, but trying to maintain control): “What about the job that makes it better?”
    Employee: “Everything.”
    Me (definitely flustered, voice cracking slightly): “Do you have any suggestions to make X a better place to work? Was there anything that would have prevented you from leaving?”
    Employee (leans in across the table, makes direct eye contact with me and in a very quiet, monotone voice says): “Don’t you think it’s ironic that you’re asking me how I feel now that I’m leaving when you had 5 years to get my opinion previously? Why would I want to provide you any feedback to make this a better workplace AFTER I leave. Go f**k yourself.”  (I’m probably paraphrasing everything BUT the last sentence.)
    Me (shaking, but trying to not let her see it, most likely on the verge of tears…I hadn’t really developed any sort of thick skin at this point): “I appreciate that.  If it’s any consolation, I’m new to this. You’re right, we should have asked you prior to you leaving.  That’s my fault.  May I take this as a suggestion for us to improve?”
    Employee (honestly surprised at my response…perhaps she was looking for a fight, but both her face and voice softened): “Uhh. Sure. Sorry, I shouldn’t have sworn.  It’s just I put my heart and soul into this organization and…and you just didn’t ever seem to care…”
    The interview actually lasted close to an hour and half and a week later I did an anonymous employee survey (big lesson learned).  She gave me a ton of examples (some were valid, some were just the opinion of a disgruntled employee) but I realized how important the information was that she provided.  And at the end of the day, it actually allowed her some closure too – she was harbouring a lot of feelings and by opening up, it allowed her to finally say what she always wanted to. She didn’t end up holding anything back – because she didn’t have anything to lose.
    That said, not all exit interviews provide a lot of valuable insight.  But if you ask the same questions, and implement a rating scale of some sort, you can use the exit interviews as one component towards a report card for the organization as a whole on a semi-annual or annual basis. 
    After a few exit interviews, from the same department, we realized the manager may need some additional leadership support. At another company, information regarding our compensation came up and we did a salary review, realizing we were not only paying at the 30th percentile, our benefits were not on par with the market at all. 
    While deep, dark secrets don’t always come to the surface – having a standardized approach to off-boarding an employee makes it easier for management to make decisions that affect the staff.  (But at the same time, it’s equally as important to ask the employees how they feel while they are still in fact employees.)
    Oh and one other thing – I don’t do exit interviews when the company has made the decision. I just think it’s asking a lot to get an employee’s perspective on things when you’ve just told them they no longer have a job.  But it’s the organization’s call. (Just a recommendation from someone who has been in the situation and realized this wasn’t a good call!)


    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Elevated HR Solutions: What to do when a management position isn't an option...

    You've all met the amazing sales person right? The one who dominates with clients, pitches a solution effortlessly, and arrives with the documents signed, sealed and delivered without batting an eye.  Now have you watched as organizations try to promote that guy into management? Typically - it's a massive flop.  The best sales guys are not meant to be the best managers - keep them in the role that they are good at.  I beg of you...please.  The best sales guys (in my experience) have been the biggest headaches for me.  Let's just say Michael Scott exists - in at least 1 out of every 5 organizations. 

    The same goes on in the tech world - you've met him.  That guy who sits in the corner and knows the server inside and out, or the guy who can develop a software program without thinking and have it do, look, feel even smell the way you want it to.  But can he talk to people? Typically - not really.  Should he be leading a team? No. Not if it doesn't play to his strengths. Not if he doesn`t have help.  That's just asking for a disaster.  And yet, many organizations still do it - promote those into management that simply shouldn`t be.  But why?

    It's one of two things: recognition (of the title/status) and money (perception that management makes more). 

    So if management isn't the answer - what can an organization do?

    Have you heard the term dual-career ladder? If not, it is a set of one or more non-supervisory jobs in a job series which receive higher pay than traditional non-supervisory jobs because they require the performance of higher level and more complex duties and possession of advanced, specialized skills not generally required of similar non-supervisory jobs.  How is that for technical HR talk? (Yup, even we speak geek occasionally). 

    Simply put - you have two paths of growth in an organization:

    1.) One that recognizes the technical growth and promotion as a subject matter expert, paying the individual for the levels of growth as they would from a managerial side

    2.) One that recognizes management skills and ability to lead

    It seems easy and works even in sales - make him a subject matter expert and get him to talk about himself and his success in training sessions (sales guys love that!) just don`t give him management titles or responsibility.  He`ll end up making more (especially those on commission) because they are doing what they are really good at - and they help the organizatio by providing valuable tips they`ve been successful with.  As for the techie - send him to courses, give him a new title representing his knowledge etc., and don`t forget about the pay increase (for this to work, it has to be on par with a manager`s pay increases).

    The pitfalls - don`t undervalue the technical side.  Employee`s aren`t stupid and if they feel like you`ve made the technical side a lot harder to achieve in order to achieve recognition and monetary rewards, they are going to want to become managers instead.  Make both ladders tangible and exciting and have them pick which route they want to take to the top.  Empowerment. Choice. People love that!

    You have a need for both in your organization - so provide the option and of course, walk the walk as you talk the talk.  There aren`t always enough management spots open - but there are always ways to recognize success.

    Want to learn more about implement Dual Career Ladders? Visit http://www.elevatedhr.com/ and contact me!

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Elevated HR Solutions: Recruiting blunders you need to avoid

    If in the next 18 months, you were going to lose 46% of your new hires - would you change something with regards to your recruiting methodology?

    Based on a new 3-year study completed by Leadership IQ, this isn't just an anomaly...it's the norm.  Surprisingly, only 11% fail due to a lack of technical skills, meaning the candidate's interpersonal skills (or lack thereof) contributed to their failure in the position.  (As a side note: The majority of those that fail can't accept feedback, can't manage/understand emotions and lack motivation.)

    As per a previous blog I wrote, make sure you understand the questions you are asking and know the answers you are looking for - sticking to this will increase your success rate in finding the right candidate. But there are a few other recruiting blunders you can avoid:

    A weak job description/posting.  There is an art to this: post too little and a credible candidate is most likely going to look the other way. Instead, you are going to be flooded with unqualified candidates.  Post too much: a credible candidate is likely going to get bored just reading it (and may even think they are under qualified for the role.) 

    The job posting needs to give a good understanding of what the company is like and it needs to balance qualifications and responsibilities of the position, all wrapped up in a tight package.

    Speed Interviewing.  Unfortunately speed interviewing is not as successful as speed dating (and I guess I don't really know how successful speed dating is either...but I digress.) I know you're busy - but trying to squeeze in a bunch of interviews in between conference call calls, client meetings, employee sessions and networking events is just a recipe for disaster.  If you want to really watch out for key signs like motivation, receiving feedback and emotional tendencies you can't be worrying about the next fire-fighting session you're about to encounter.  

    Taking time to to really analyze the interview afterwards, and write notes about the candidate that will help you reflect later on when selecting the best candidate for the position.

    Using only one source.  I get it - job boards are expensive.  But choosing between workopolis or monster and simply waiting for candidates to come in isn't how you would do sales, so why is it the way you would want to attract a great candidate?  Your friend here is SOCIAL MEDIA - twitter, facebook, and their more professional cousin, linkedin, is a great way to advertise (and best of all...it's free!) 

    Social Media also connects with candidates who aren't really looking, but if they see your tweet, status update, or network activity, they might think twice about it and actually apply.

    Keeping "hush-hush" about the position. Sometimes it's part of your strategy to stay quiet about a new position...but for the most part, be open and honest about what you're looking for internally.  Not only are some of your best candidates probably sitting right in front of you and ready for the next challenge, your employees are also your walking billboards/advertisements.

    Formalize a recruiting referral program, and you will get your employees searching for top notch employees who fit the culture and the mold of the company. Based on experience, most employees won't refer candidates unless they are great, as they are putting their neck on the line for the candidate.

    Only hiring for technical ability.  As I said above, only 11% failed due to a lack of technical skill.  But an amazing "techie" (who knows it) can have enough arrogance to bring down an entire organization.  You can train the technical, but it's a lot more difficult to train the interpersonal side. 

    Why ruin an entire department/organization by bringing in a skilled employee who doesn't realize the size of their ego?

    Simply put: recruitment is an art (and even a little bit of a science). It takes time for mastery. If you need help - there are many great professionals out there to support you and if time is of the essence, it's also a great return on investment.


    Monday, October 4, 2010

    RadioShack Gaff: Update

    My typical HR engagements with small businesses look like this:

    Business:) This is my problem.  What can we do?
    Me:) Here is solution A and the pros and cons are X.  Here is solution B and the pros and cons are Y.  Here is solution C and the pros and cons are Z.   What are your major goals and concerns so  that I can further help you narrow down your choices?
    Business:) D and E
    Me:) Based on that my recommendation is F.

    Now think back to 2006 and when Radio Shack decided to let 400 employees go by email.

    Radio Shack:) We need to do a reduction of 400 employees. How should we do it?
    HR/Legal team:) Let's email them all. Then everyone gets the message at the same time and we don't have to worry about the grapevine.
    Radio Shack:) Sounds great.  We'll also save a ton on paper and postage.
    HR/Legal Team:) Yes - using the fastest form of information transfer is really the best idea. It's simple and easy.

    Now, I'll admit - when I put on my management hat, I see operational efficiencies galore: management doesn't need to fly around facing the people and looking at them in the eyes while they are told they no longer have jobs, paper is saved (good for the pocket and the environment) and no one has to be paid to lick stamps!  But seriously? This really happened? Someone thought this was a good idea?

    Quote for quote, this what the 400 unlucky employees read the following when they showed up to work: "The work force reduction notification is currently in progress.  Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated." 

    So never mind the bad press that they should have been prepared for, when employees feel they are treated without respect or dignity they are much more likely to claim wrongful dismissal - and with 400 fighting together, I don't care how good your legal team is...an organization is hooped.

    So here's the update 4 years later:  Radio Shack's annual revenue has dropped about 16 percent (or nearly a billion dollars) and its annual income has dropped about 24 percent.  How about employee satisfaction? Well let the client service tell you that story!

    At the end of the day - it doesn't matter how big or small your organization is.  Treat people with respect - if you were in their shoes and you were about to be terminated, do it the way you would want it done to you.  Losing your job isn't the end of the world, but how you help them move to the next stage makes a difference...for them...but also for you.  It shouldn't take an HR expert to guide you this way and point out the pros and cons. 

    But if you need one...I'm here - and I will guarantee if we work together, I won't cost you your credibility that Terri Hatcher and Howie Long helped to build for you in those terrible commercials or a billion dollars in lost revenue.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    What would an HR Blog be without some recruitment tips?

    I still remember the first interview I did – was I 19 years old at the time? Trying to pretend I was 30? (Shutter, as I’m now that old…focus…) Anyway, I remember walking in with my list of questions, hair tied back tightly, poised and seven minutes later the interview was done. I didn’t feel good about the questions and worse, I had no idea if the candidate was even any good because I forgot what I was even asking. In addition to that, I hadn’t even bothered to write down what she actually said. Yup, utter disaster. But I did learn a lot. I needed to understand what I was asking and why.

    In 2007, I stumbled across the following and have used this as my base ever since. I recruited for many years before it, but I sincerely got better once I implemented this formula.

    Question #1: "Where did you get that tie/jacket/purse/blouse?”

    Purpose: Develop the rapport needed to get the interview off the ground.

    Every interview should begin with an icebreaker. It helps nervous applicants calm down and builds a sense of trust. If you have a 45-minute interview, you should spend at least the first five minutes trying to connect on a neutral topic. Make the person feel at ease and you'll solicit better information—and much more honest responses.

    Alternate Version 1: "How about those Flames?”
    Alternate Version 2: "Were you affected by the heat wave/cold snap?"
    Alternate Version 3: "Did you have a good holiday?"

    Question #2: "Talk about a time when you had to overcome major obstacles."

    Purpose: Get a clear picture of the candidate's past performance.

    Variations on this question should actually comprise your next several questions. Don't hesitate to guide the candidate through the variety of tasks (both tangible and theoretical) necessary to perform the job, and listen carefully to how he or she has handled such challenges. Pay attention to intangibles: some people are better at performing in interviews than on the job. If your candidate continually plays the role of hero or victim, that's a red flag that you're probably not getting the whole story.

    Alternate Version 1: "Tell me about a time when you wrote a report that was well received. Why do you think it was successful?"
    Alternate Version 2: "Describe a time when you hired (or fired) the wrong person."
    Alternate Version 3: "If you had to do that activity again, how would you do it differently?"

    Question #3: "What interests you about this position?"

    Purpose: Find out how the candidate feels about the job and the company.

    People apply for jobs for plenty reasons besides the obvious ones. Asking a candidate why he or she wants the position gives insight into their motivation. The answer may be personal (such as a narrative about what spurred them to seek a new job), or it may connect the candidate to the company: her experience with the brand, the mission statement, or the organization's role in the community. Any of these answers (or some combination) are acceptable—a personal answer can communicate trust, and a connection to the business indicates loyalty and a sense of ownership.

    Alternate Version 1: "Where does this job fit into your career path?"
    Alternate Version 2: "If you had to convince a friend or colleague to apply for this job, what might you tell them?"
    Alternate Version 3: "What motivated you to apply for this job?"

    Question #4: "Is there intelligent life in outer space?"

    Purpose: Find out what kind of thinker the candidate is and how he deals with surprises.

    This is your curveball, designed to make the candidate ad-lib instead of just reciting well-rehearsed answers. How much will he or she play along? As long as it's not too short or too long, virtually any response is a good one. But pay attention to attitude, the way the candidate approaches the problem, and the ease or difficulty they have in coming up with a response.

    Alternate Version 1: "How many phone books are there in New York City?"
    Alternate Version 2: "How do they get the caramel inside a Caramilk bar?
    Alternate Version 3: "Why do people climb mountains?"

    Question #5: "Imagine we've just hired you. What's the most important thing on your to-do list on the first day of work?"

    Purpose: Learn about the candidate's judgment and decision-making skills.

    This is an example of a situational question, which is like a behavioral question in that it's designed to assess judgment, but it's also like a curveball question because it illuminates the candidate's thought process. You want to see whether he demonstrates the competencies and priorities that are important to the job.

    Alternate Version 1: "Say a coworker tells you that he submitted phony expense account receipts. Do you tell your boss?"
    Alternate Version 2: "How would you handle an employee whose performance is fine but who you know has the potential to do better?"
    Alternate Version 3: "What would you do if you got behind schedule with your part of a project?"

    Question #6: "Why did you get into this line of work?"

    Purpose: Measure the fit between the candidate's values and the culture of your company.

    It risks a long, drawn-out answer, but this type of question will help you select candidates that fit your company's culture. It's not about finding people like you, or people with similar backgrounds that led them to your company, but about getting a sense of their values and motivations. Concepts like values and culture can be subjective and difficult to define, but you should be looking for someone whose work ethic, motivations, and methods match the company's. This isn't a quantitative measurement so much as a qualitative one. Coke and Pepsi may seem the same to people outside the soft-drink industry, but each houses people with different approaches to making cola and running a business.

    Alternate Version 1: "What do you like best about your current job?"
    Alternate Version 2: "When did you realize this would be your career?"
    Alternate Version 3: "What keeps you coming to work besides the paycheck?"

    Question #7: "But enough about you. What about us?"

    Purpose: Find out if the candidate has done his or her homework.

    It's a cliché to end an interview with the standard, 'So, any questions?' But the fact remains that you really do want to let the candidate ask a few things of you. Reversing roles communicates that the company seeks an open a dialogue, and it helps you ascertain just how curious and knowledgeable a candidate is about your company. If he doesn't ask any questions about the job or the business, it's a safe bet his heart isn't in it. Listen for insightful questions that demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of the circumstances of the job, the company, the competitive landscape, or the industry.

    Alternate Version 1: "Where do you think the company should be in ten years?"
    Alternate Version 2: "What's your opinion of our new product?"
    Alternate Version 3: "Have you seen the company's new ad campaign?"

    Finally - there is a debate about what to do when the candidate is a dud - do you keep going and waste both of your time in effort to make the candidate feel good about coming all the way down for an in-person interview or do you just cut your losses early when you know it's a done deal? Personally - when I know it's a done deal, I turn the interview into a commercial for the company...the purpose, turn a dud of a candidate into a walking billboard for how amazing we are.  At least I didn't totally waste my time!