The Lifers

prison cell

So, I’ve shared that I recently started a new gig at a big company that has a long, long history. Like other organizations I’ve worked in, it’s poised on the precipice of big change, so “change management” is front and center.

In my role, I get to see people every day who have worked with the organization for their entire careers. They aren’t at retirement yet, but they’ve been there for more than twenty or thirty years. They’ve seen HR people come and go, and heard about this or that change initiative that’s also come and gone. Some of it may have stuck, but mostly not.

Some of them know that they should get on board, but they are just tired: tired of working so hard to take care of their families, tired of worrying so much about whether they will be able to pay for their medical bills, and tired of hearing about this new idea that’s going to make things so much better. They also suspect that all this change will put money in the pockets of the people at the top, but won’t bring a lot of great things to them.

But others are actually energized by the change, even if they’ve been at the company for a long, long time. They know that the changes will make the company stronger and better, and when the company is stronger and better, we all benefit from greater security, pay raises, good working conditions, and the pride that comes with doing a great job and making the company successful.

Others still are just saying, “Let me do my job.” I don’t want to hear about any of this, and I just want you to leave me alone. And by the way, keep it down. You are disturbing my peace and quiet, and I was here first, long before you.

You can’t put the Lifers all in one bucket. They have different ideas, different feelings, and different motivations. But one thing they all have in common? They want you to recognize what they’ve already contributed and respect them for still being there. And I do.

Now, about those changes I mentioned…they’re still coming our way. And I’ll be there to help the Lifers negotiate them, the best I can.

Photo credit: Tim Pearce, Los Gatos via Foter.com / CC BY

Communication Requires Actually Talking

communication

I have a group of clients who like to use leverage. This means they will email instructions on a particular issue like they are a done deal, then tell you to move forward with their direction. They will simultaneously copy in other people not likely to agree with them, and pretend like there’s no further discussion needed.

While this does make for some laugh out loud moments on my part when I read my email, it doesn’t make for a functional, interactive and productive group dynamic when the person copied has a tantrum. In situations like this, I usually invite a leader to weigh in.

Except…sometimes they don’t take the opportunity to provide clarity. In that case, it’s up to me to recognize the need and take a stand with a firm recommendation. That recommendation is often not the last word, and the arguing continues. Even then, in some cases, a leader won’t engage to hear both sides, and make a decision to put the issue to rest.

It’s then I know we not only have a problem to solve today, but a development need for tomorrow as well. Communication requires actually talking to one another, hearing all of the details, risks, costs and benefits, and then making a decision that everyone agrees to live with and move forward under.

The decision is definitely important, and it’s up to the business to make one. But it’s also about the communication. That is something we can and must facilitate in HR.

Photo credit: jackracker via Foter.com / CC BY

Onboarding Yourself

welcome

Many articles are out there that tell us in HR how to onboard a new employee. But there are things you can do as a new addition to the team that will ensure your success, and as much as we wish every onboarding would be 100% complete and effective, you can’t rest on your laurels and expect everything you need to come to you. It will increase your success if you make sure that these critical things happen:

  1. Find out who your resources are for the critical things you need on day one.
  2. Ensure you have access to technology you need.
  3. Ask questions-don’t pretend you know everything and risk making mistakes because you were too proud to ask.
  4. Take responsibility for the job on day one-don’t make excuses about the challenges that predated your arrival.
  5. Be friendly, open and understanding while you learn the lay of the land socially-don’t make assumptions about people based on a single interaction, or what others tell you.

These are just a few tips-I am living them right now as I start my third week in a new role, at a new company. Please share your thoughts in the comments about what you think I should be doing as I onboard myself!

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Photo credit: alborzshawn via Foter.com / CC BY

Change. It’s What’s Up!

coffee

I am starting a new job today. Having already met my team and the extended departments I’ll be working most closely with, I have to say I’m more excited than nervous.

These days, positive change is always invigorating to me. But I think it’s long been that way. I remember being disappointed when the rhythm of changing semesters gave way to the long, long stretch of work that ran far into the future, past the horizon that I could see. It took me a while to figure out that work actually has its own rhythm of change, whether you’re changing jobs, projects, goals, teams, or just changing your focus. Growing and learning is continuous.

Today I will be joining a crew I respect in a role I know how to do well, at a company I will be proud to work for. I really couldn’t ask for anything more in following my new path.

Solve will continue, but will cease to be my primary focus for the time being. I will keep posting as I’m able, with a fresh perspective that comes with jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Put the coffee on-here I go!

Photo credit: Infomastern via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Network. Learn. Develop.

Social Media1

Hey HR Pros! If you’re not networking you are not only fighting it out on an HR island (not recommended) but you are also missing all the fun! I used to think “networking” was cheesy and cringe worthy, and only necessary when I was looking for a job. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Networking and continuous learning are things that make working in HR fun and rewarding. The fact that our work gets better as a result is a great bonus.

Traditionally, we’ve looked to our employers for learning and development opportunities. They either fund opportunities that we identify, or they put together webinar, in-person and online programs that teach us things we want to know and need to know to perform well in our roles.

For the knowledge and skills we need to perform in our current jobs, we are right to look to our employers for support. And wise, forward-thinking organizations will also be offering and encouraging us to utilize resources to develop skills we will need for the next iteration of our roles or promotion into a new opportunity with the company.

If you find yourself in an organization that is small enough not to have the resources, or one that is in a cost-cutting mode, you may find that learning and development is not a top priority. Now, I don’t necessarily believe this is a good decision, but that’s a topic for another post.

Even if you’re one of those lucky enough to have a fabulous talent development program in place and you get a “yes” answer for all of your requests for outside resources like conferences and events, don’t stop reading. Networking and development aren’t boxes we check and then move on. They are continuous, growing and changing needs that we should all attend to on a regular basis. Adding your own activities to your employer’s offerings just results in a richer, more effective mix.

If you don’t have resources available, then you will especially love these tips. Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t offer to fund any of your own development opportunities, because then your employer will not feel responsible for doing so. I disagree. So what if something is really important to you, you see it as critical to your path for your career, and your employer doesn’t agree or won’t part with the funds? If you go forward anyway, they are on notice that you really care about your development and your career, and if they don’t participate, they do so at their peril. Because if you invest in yourself without their help, you will attract other opportunities, and you may not feel as much commitment to your employer and vision for your future with them when those opportunities come.

Here are some fantastic (and affordable) opportunities for development and networking that you can take advantage of right now:

  1. Membership in SHRM: The benefits to your membership in the Society for Human Resource Management are so great that I’m not even going to outline them all here. You need to check out the SHRM website to fully appreciate it. This membership gives you full access to all of the resources you need to do your job with excellence and your employer should fund it, because it will benefit them immensely. But if they don’t, you should still become a member. Not only can you participate in free webinars, receive updates on legal and compliance changes at the national, state and local level, and get access to best practice tips and forms, but you can also participate in influencing legislative policy through the SHRM A-Team. I have met HR practitioners from all over the US and the world through my involvement with SHRM. It’s easily the best value of any development opportunity.
  2. Membership in local SHRM chapters: Your local chapter has some great monthly programming and shared resources, as well as fun events where you get to meet other HR pros in your own community. It also has superb opportunities for leadership that you may not be currently offered at your workplace. Leadership in your chapter gives you opportunities to get to know not only all of the members of your group, but others in your local business community as well. And my local chapter dues are less than $100 per year-definitely an affordable option.
  3. Social Media: There is a fantastic community of HR professionals on Twitter. They are generous, knowledgeable, fun and when you meet them in person you will see that they are authentic leaders. Follow them and interact with them to learn and develop your own skills in HR. There are also great LinkedIn groups for HR professionals as well as specialty areas like talent management, compliance and employee relations. Look to Snapchat for marketers, talent acquisition specialists and HR leaders just having fun. Instagram is a fun place to literally see what your favorite HR pros are up to, and Pinterest is a great place to find infographics that visualize processes and issues-and memes and comics to offer a few laughs about HR.
  4. Twitter Chats: Speaking of social media, there are a lot of great Twitter chats where you can interact with other HR pros and learn from guests that bring knowledge on different topics that may or may not be in your comfort zone. The bonus is that you can connect with more HR people on Twitter through these chats, and sometimes you end up meeting them in person, as I did during this year’s SHRM annual conference. Here are some to try: #nextchat (SHRM’s weekly chat at 3 pm Eastern on Wednesdays); #jobhuntchat, #CultureChat, #TChat, #OMCChat and more.
  5. Volunteer Work: Your skills and talents are in demand. If you work in HR, you know how to do a lot of things that are valuable to others. I have volunteered with women engineering students to help them with their pitch to potential employers and review their resumes. I’ve also taught single moms who are looking to develop their careers how to create a resume and apply for jobs. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Get out and help others, and you will get back what you give 100-fold, meet a lot of great people, and practice your own presentation and mentoring skills in the process.
  6. Webinars Sponsored by Vendors: Many vendors and suppliers that you don’t even have a current relationship with will sponsor webinars that are given by specialist HR professionals and we all can learn and benefit for free, and learn a little bit about the vendor’s services in the process.
  7. Local HR events: I will be attending Disrupt HR in Denver in September. Do you know how much it costs? $15. And they will be serving food (and have a cash bar). There are other events put on by your organization’s lawyers, insurance brokers and consultants that shouldn’t cost you a dime. Develop a presentation and apply to be a presenter at an event and you get double the experience-learning from others and flexing your public speaking muscles at the same time!
  8. Conferences: I funded my own trip to SHRM Annual this year, as well as another conference on Colorado legislative policy in DC. They were both well worth the investment. If you have the funds to contribute to your own development, consider getting in early on your dream conference-you will get the best bang for your buck with the early bird rate, and you can choose a more affordable housing option to keep costs low. Check out SHRM17 here.

These are just some of the great ideas for learning and development as you own your own career. Which ones did I miss? Tell me in the comments below.

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Photo credit: mkhmarketing via Foter.com / CC BY

Hair on Fire – Employees in Treatment

cocktail

Dear Kelly,

I really need help with this one. My employee of one year has been erratic lately, showing up more than two hours late for his shift on two occasions, forgetting to perform some very important safety protocols during his work, and lashing out at a coworker in violation of our employee conduct policy. I coached him on these occasions verbally and in writing, but things haven’t improved. At the most recent meeting three days ago, I let him know that if he arrived late or violated policy one more time, he would be subject to termination.

Today, he showed up an hour late, without a phone call or any communication. When he arrived, I handed him a termination letter, and told him that he was fired. His response was that he was an alcoholic and was attending outpatient therapy, but was having a hard time sticking to his program. I told him I was sorry to hear that but that he was still terminated.

I walked him out of the building and he left. My manager thinks I did the right thing. Now I’m worried that maybe it was the wrong choice.

What do you think?

Manny

Dear Manny,

Yikes! This is one of those sticky situations that doesn’t come up every day. I understand your concern, and I hope that part of your worry is about making sure this employee is okay. We all find ourselves sick and unable to work at one time or another, and hopefully your company is supportive of people who need help, by providing care through your employee assistance plan, health insurance benefits and short term disability salary continuation if those things are available.

That said, the repeated problems you described are serious, and you had no way of knowing your employee needed help for a medical condition, because he didn’t ask for it or disclose his struggles. He just kept messing up at work and not telling you about what was going on. But you can probably understand why he wasn’t too eager to disclose that he was in treatment for alcoholism.

Before we start talking about the situation, I will recommend that you consult your company’s attorney or another employment lawyer to obtain advice about what to do in this situation. Legal advice is critical in hazy situations like this one. So do yourself a favor and be sure to involve your HR manager as well as your legal counsel on the front end before completing a termination in a situation like this.

While it’s true that your employee should be held accountable for his failure to arrive at work on time, performing his essential job duties and adhering to your employee code of conduct, and his explanation doesn’t erase the prior behavior for which he is subject to discipline, this situation merits further analysis. When your employee told you that he was an alcoholic and had been seeking treatment, that statement could be interpreted as a request for leave as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.

A “qualified individual with a disability” entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is defined by the EEOC as:

A person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that he or she holds or seeks, and who can perform the “essential functions” of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. An “individual with a disability” is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), this standard of an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities has been interpreted to include alcoholism. If your employee was an alcoholic refusing to obtain treatment and repeatedly violated policies and did not perform essential job functions, then a well-documented termination would certainly be an appropriate option. If we consider your employee’s disclosure as a request for leave, then that infuses this termination with a distinct lack of clarity.

Technically it sounds like you terminated this employee prior to his disclosure. But issues of fact may remain here.  The EEOC does not generally view technicalities favorably-their view is likely to be that your employee disclosed his condition at the 11th hour and asked for help, and if you don’t make an effort to engage in the interactive process at that point, you may be held accountable for violating the ADA.

If your employee had gone home after being terminated, then called at some later date to talk about how his medical condition had caused his poor performance and requested help at that point, then it would be much clearer that you had terminated employment based on documented performance problems, without him having requested a reasonable accommodation.

Let’s look at the benefits to your company for allowing your employee to stay on and take leave for treatment:

  • You retain a knowledgeable and experienced resource on your team, instead of losing the investment you’ve made in that employee and incurring turnover costs
  • You promote loyalty and gratitude from that employee, and hopefully a more productive and motivated employee when he recovers and returns to work
  • Your other employees respect and appreciate that you care for your employees when they are vulnerable and sick, and that you will support them through difficult times as well if they need help
  • You reduce legal risk and potential reputational damage that can arise from EEOC action

One caveat: if you routinely drag your feet in dealing with performance issues, and this is an employee that everyone recognizes should have been terminated a long time ago but wasn’t because management didn’t do the job, then you may encounter frustration, both from upper management and coworkers. But don’t give in to the pressure to terminate an employee abruptly in a situation like this when in truth you haven’t been on top of performance management and discipline in the past. If you find yourself in that situation, it is probably worth the additional time and work to give the employee the opportunity to get well and perform his job duties, and manage him appropriately going forward.

You also mentioned that this employee failed to adhere to an important safety protocol at work. If an employee is in a work situation where being under the influence of alcohol presents a safety risk to himself and others, you may be within your rights to randomly test for the presence of alcohol after he returns to work from treatment. Certainly, your reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing protocols should still be utilized, consistent with what all employees are subject to in your workplace.

Again, consult with your HR team and attorneys to get specific advice about how to proceed.

Good Luck!

Kelly

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Photo credit: mariobonifacio via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Friday Facts: Puppy Crate Training

Friday Facts-Puppy Crate Training

I have been reading a lot about puppy crate training lately. Disclosure: I am a poor crate trainer. Fourteen years ago, I tried to do it with my first Doodle, and failed miserably. I hate hearing puppies cry.

I read a lot of articles about the right way to crate train, and learned that the best way to do it is to get the puppy to want to go in the crate of his own accord. This is easier said than done. This puppy will even avoid eating his food in order to stay away from the crate. I put the bowl inside the crate and the most he will do is to take a few bites, with his back legs stretched way out in order to keep them out of the crate.

Next I will be trying to give him some bits of chicken or so-called “high-value treats” to get him to venture further in. In the meantime, here is what my puppy likes to do:

puppy

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Photo Credit: Kelly Marinelli