Monday, December 27, 2010

Termination Decisions: HR or Management?

So today it happened twice:

I'm watching "Better Off Ted" --> a show about a company focusing primarily on the research and development department of a large organization. It's the second season, second episode and the show is about potential lay offs in the department.  They are talking about the termination process and the line starts with "When HR decides to terminate someone..." My husband looks over at me and giggles. "See even TV says it's your decision to terminate people. No wonder people are scared of you." (He thinks he's funny.)

And then...

I'm reading my favorite online magazine, Inc. Magazine. The heading reads "2010: The Year in Bizarre HR" and of course I click on the link.  It's 9 different stories about terminations or warnings to employees for "bizarre" reasons.  And while it says "Bizarre HR" all I could really think was, "Bizarre Management". As far as I know, even if HR "approves" the action, the decision lies with senior management (at least it should).

Here's the article (it's quick and in a slide show format with the option for reading more for each story):

At the end of the day - there are usually three parts of a story - their side, your side and the part that isn't exaggerated.  My point however - management needs be the ones seen responsible for termination decisions.  A human resources department shouldn't be code for the "Place Blame Department" or the "Department of Bad Decisions".  If managers really want their employees to follow protocol they have determined is important to the organization, it is their responsibility to make sure it is understood and interpreted the way they want it to.  Buy-in is critical (this includes their OWN buy-in).  And then of course, compassion is needed when managing to the policies.  Policies should be flexible enough to be broken for the right reason.
If your intent is to implement a policy so you have the right to terminate someone - you're so not doing the managing - you're letting it be done for you. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Elevated HR Solutions: Think before you implement

Today, I had the huge honor of going to a company wide quarterly goal-setting meeting.  Not only did they score themselves on the previous quarter's results, they set new targets and goals, with dates and deadlines to meet and hit.  Really - it was an HR dream...

Two things came out of it for me:

1.) They make each other accountable for the goals that they set each quarter
2.) They aren't afraid to admit failure

I was in awe and delighted by the pragmatic and laser-like approach to the entire day-session. Yes - they spent a day developing new goals TOGETHER (as opposed to in silos like so many other companies I have been part of!)

The day also inspired the following...

Two goals were initiated by the operations/administrative department:

1.) The need for an employee handbook
2.) The need for a formalized performance appraisal system

While I applaud companies who try to be diligent around systems and processes, my question back to the team was simply, "Why do you want to formalize it? What is your end goal?"  Surprisingly, the answer back came in the form of a question, "Because it seems like it's what you're supposed to do?"

It's true - as companies start to grow, it becomes easier to manage information and communication by implementing a process or a procedure.  However, I encourage companies to ensure they know what the end result is supposed to look like before the decision is made to implement something.

So here are some questions to ask yourself and your team when deciding on whether or not to implement a new process or procedure: Will the entire management team buy in and commit to managing the same way?  Does each department or manager NEED to follow the same process and procedure?  Could this lead to more inequality down the road if there is a lack of buy in? Will it be seen as an administrative task or chore rather than something that leads to further development? 

Personally - I'm a fan of policies and procedures and performance development...but it has to fit the organization, the culture and of course, it has to promote and support employee engagement. If it doesn't, then at the end of the day you will find employees and management alike breaking (or trying to) all of the rules and ultimately defeating the purpose entirely.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Elevated HR Solutions: Things you should do if you're looking for a job

Typically, my blog is geared towards management teams and helping them to manage without having to have an HR department on their team when it comes to employee support.  But today - after a week of recruiting for one of my clients, I feel I need to do a special PSA to help those that are looking for a job...

In no particular order here are a few of my pet peeves:

1.) If you customize your resume to each job you're applying for (which I recommend) be sure to edit it and get the company / position right.  Nothing looks worse than you saying how excited you are to see a posting from Company ABC when really, you're applying to Company XYZ.

2.) Write down the jobs you're applying for.  When I call you for a phone interview I shouldn't be the one reminding you of the position you applied for and when.  Nothing says "I'm desperate and I'll apply to anything," like "Oh, um, can you remind me the position you're phoning about? Which website was it posted on?"

3.) If you're applying for a position be sure to look at your current facebook profile picture and/or security settings. While WHAT you look like isn't what is being judged, your choice of picture depicting WHO you are IS. One of my applicants was sitting on a toilet (outdoors), pants down etc.  While a hilarious picture, it was a judgment call I wasn't comfortable with.  Another one put up a December nude male calendar pin-up.  Again - what you do on your time is totally up to you.  But you're applying for a job.  Your choices are being judged. (PS - It's confirmed they are them, because they also leave their profiles quite wide open including city and graduation dates).

Yes - technically - recruiters are not to discriminate based on a picture. Pictures do not determine if a person can do a job or not.  Nor do resumes tell a complete story.  But I've got one position I'm recruiting for, and have close to 100 applicants.  It's pretty entry level so everyone brings the same skill set.  I need to start eliminating somehow - this is an easy first choice. Is it right? It doesn't matter.

If I can find you - make sure you make a good first impression.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Elevated HR Solutions: Articles like this give HR a bad name

Last week I received of an email from the Daily HR Advisor.  It's an American publication and as such, a lot of the information is almost foreign to me, despite the fact that we share a border (this is even AFTER I ran a few HR departments IN the US...).  But this title in particular made me angry - to the point where I couldn't even READ the article at first.

This was the title: Challenge: Prevent off-the-clock work and time thievery.  What do you think this is about?

Okay, so admittedly I did eventually read the article, and basically it's a lawyer who is giving the advice that if you allow employees to work after hours they can come back and sue you.  They go so far as to say stop giving them blackberries and make sure the overtime policy is clearly laid out.  In addition, it also said to police your employees so you can make sure employees stop stealing time from you, the Employer. 

This type of stuff frustrates the heck out of me. I hate policies for the sake of policies. Some of my clients prefer to run their organization with strict guidelines.  Unfortunately, these same companies have the lowest employee engagement levels.  In contrast, employers like Google have policies that state, "Don't be evil."  I like policies that are employer and employee conscientious - policies that meet and serve purposes for both sides.  It allows and encourages employees and managers alike to be accountable. 

In a case like "time thievery"  I am a big fan of talking to employees about their performance rather than strict  guidelines -- I recently read a quote that said, feedback about a blind spot was the best gift you could give anyone. 

Okay so regarding the issue relating to employees who sue for having to work overtime - it pains me to say it, but implementing a policy probably is the right decision for an employer to do.  It definitely will mitigate your risks. 

To the employees who claim they are working over time for answering emails outside of work hours - have fun staying stagnant.  Working hard is part of recognition and rewards. You just prevented yourself from a great career and opened the door to a boring 9-5 job.  Well done.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Elevated HR Solutions: Culture Therapy

"Wow - it sure isn't what it used to be."

"Remember when we there was no such thing as..."

"It's just different now."

Do any of these phrases sound familiar in your organization?  Start-ups suffer from it most.  As companies grow, and more employees are brought on indicating success, something funny starts to happen. The old ways of doing things, suddenly don't work anymore.  Communication doesn't seem to be as free as it once was. Change of course, is inevitable. After all, if you aren't changing, invariably, you aren't growing either. 

But is there something an organization can do to keep that passionate, energetic buzz they had when it was just a four or five person team?  The answer is an emphatic "Yes!"

First and foremost, management has to agree they want to maintain the culture. They are the ones that have to continually believe in the original principles that guided them at the onset of their success.  Management needs to remind themselves of the core characteristics that define what it means to be at the company.  In addition to that, they need to review the values that underlie the character and behavior of the organization.

One of the recommendations I make to clients who are in the 10-15 employee mark is to create a time capsule that they agree to review annually.  Write down the keys to success and review with all staff annually - this demonstrates your commitment, gets buy-in and new feedback from employees and helps to maintain storytelling.  Storytelling not only connects employees to the company, it also connects employees with each other. 

Oh and one other task for management - be sure to make everyone own the culture from today and into tomorrow.  It's everyone's responsibility - if your staff are complaining, get them to be part of the solution. Cultural therapy is a requirement that begins with management but is supported by the entire community in your organization. 

Hiring for fit, encouraging the existing employee pool with rewards and recognition, keeping production teams small and scheduling regular Q/A sessions are keys to cultural therapy as well.

Want more info? Visit

Friday, December 3, 2010

Before your company jumps into the social media party...

This post was originally published on the Business Instinct  Group blog!  Click on the link to view it here!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Lessons learned from a coffee shop

The other day I was in a coffee shop talking to a friend about a presentation I was about to make.  While we are never quiet when we are together, I didn't think our volume was out of the norm either.  An...ummm...more "mature" gentleman was sharing one of the few plug-ins (for our laptops) and was sitting closer than I prefer to have strangers sitting next to me, so I knew I was being even more extra cautious of our volume.  As we were wrapping up our discussion, in a gruff voice, he says, "Are you one of them HR ladies? Cause you sound like you're an HR lady."  I smiled politely and said, "Well I help companies with their HR, yes."  What he said next...well let's just say, I wasn't exactly prepared for it.

"I hate HR people. This little know it all, pulled me into a boardroom and said I was done.  I worked for that company for 22 years and just like that, I was done.  Stupid.  I mean, they think that Gen Y has all the answers, but who's going to teach them. I'm the only one that knew how to do anything.  Guess I should have seen it coming. They'd been asking me all these questions and really, until the last day, I didn't really understand it.  I just kept giving them answers over and over again.  Now I guess they were just raping me. I hate HR people."

Blank stare. What else was I supposed to do?  I rummaged for my keys, put away my lap top and quietly said, "I'm sorry."

"Sorry? Ahh, don't be sorry.  Now I get to play the stock market all day.  I should have quit years ago. I hated my job.  I was just there for the pension - which HR totally screwed up on. Changed it and didn't really explain it.  Left me almost near penniless.  Good thing I'm good with these computers.  I get to do what I love, and it turns out I'm pretty good at it."

Blank stare. "That's good," I somewhat mumbled.

"Yup - I can definitely tell you're in HR."

Blank stare. This meant he hated me without knowing me. "How's that?" I asked meekly, preparing myself for something awful.

"You were doing a presentation on recruitment, right? You don't have to be a brain surgeon to figure that out!"

I awe.  But I did learn a lesson - staying in a role until someone tells you it's time to be done isn't worth it, unless you love doing it.  Then they may as well take you out on a stretcher!  But otherwise - if you're not long for the job, chances are, no one is long for you!