Judging You (on your own recognizance)

As an HR professional, my legal bona fides derive from attendance at numerous employment law seminars coupled with dedicated (some may some obsessive) viewing of Law & Order over the years. And when I say Law & Order I mean the big three of the franchise: the original (Jack McCoy baby!), SVU, and Criminal Intent. I never had much use for “Trial by Jury,” “LA,” or “True Crime.”  (you had to go look those up didn’t you?) 

I can argue with you all day on the merits of the various and assorted ADAs who have strolled down the hallways of the courthouse. I can also dazzle you with my prowess at using legal and legally adjacent terminology like “trial judge,” “motion to suppress,” and “the Tombs.”  Naturally, when referencing “the Tombs,” I do so with a troubled countenance.

One of my favorite (often nail-biting) moments during the “order” part of any L & O episode is when this exchange goes down in the courtroom:

Defense Attorney “We request R.O.R. your honor.”

ADA: “Objection you honor. The defendant brutally committed heinous crime X. They have no ties to the community, possess a personal fortune of a bajillion dollars and will flee the country with nary a look back at the ghastly aftermath of their crimes!” 

Defense Attorney: “The defendant is committed to clearing their name of these false and utterly baseless allegations and is also the primary caregiver for 3 cats and an elderly aunt.”

The Judge: “The defendant is ordered to surrender their passport. Next.”

*****

R.O.R., as you may know, means “released on one’s own recognizance” and recognizance is defined as “an obligation to do something.”  In the courtroom this generally means the defendant signs a written promise to show up at scheduled court appearances, is able to receive bail without paying a bond, and may have to refrain from certain activities or meet with a probation officer while awaiting trial. 

The judge has complete discretion in this matter and their determination is based on factors such as prior criminal history, the severity of the charges, record of good behavior in the community and ties to the area such as a job or family. Interestingly enough the use of bail algorithms (a statistical tool called “risk assessments”) are increasingly being used across the country to aid judges in their decision-making. This is not without controversy however there is a fairly common concern that racial biases are embedded in the calculation (in turn feeding the machine learning going on behind the scenes) and merely serve to exacerbate existing racial disparities within the criminal justice system. Advocates for the use of these risk assessment tools believe that these tools eliminate human bias; Chris Griffin, visiting professor and research scholar at University of Arizona’s law school, has said “Instead of relying on an “amorphous” impression of a defendant, a judge can look at a defendant’s “demonstrated, empirical, objective risk.”

There are, of course, numerous jokes to be made about how one’s job can be like a prison sentence. (In prison you spend the majority of your time in an 8×10 cell; at work you spend the majority of your time in a 6×8 cubicle). 

Yet I also see similarities to the courtroom wherein we (HR professionals and organizational leaders) are in the role of the judge as we:

  • Hire on recognizance (HOR)
  • Recognize and reward on recognizance (RROR)
  • Investigate and impose discipline on recognizance (IIDOR)
  • Promote on recognizance (POR)
  • Terminate on recognizance (when one fails at their ‘obligation to do something’) (TOR)

And, thanks to all the fancy HR tech out there, we’re using algorithms to make our decisions and removing, bit by bit, the human discretion and decision making on which we used to rely. 

What would Jack McCoy do? 

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What’s New? Cool Kick-Ass HR Stuff!

Over the last 10 years I’ve used my blog to philosophically wax and wane about all things HR. I like to think I’ve had some profound things to say when I’ve taken on a particular topic but, of course, also realize there have been many times when I was musing merely for my own enjoyment. I’ve talked, over the years, about Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy (the first one), menstruation, clueless HR and organizational practices and, in one of my most popular recent posts, the disconnect between “conference HR” and “real world HR.”

(Q: how many pundits does it take to discuss culture, engagement or “why recruiting is like marketing”? A: probably none).

Nevertheless, I persisted.

And now, because I can, I’m using my little corner of the internet to talk about something exciting and, quite frankly, a bit promotional.

The company I joined last year (as Head of People) is heading towards a new and exciting future as we recently transitioned to a new moniker (Peridus Group) and unveiled our sexy new web site!

We remain, at our core, a boutique consulting firm fixing problems and doing cool shit. We consult on HR Technology + Systems work (especially Workday integrations, implementations and managed services), Talent + Recruiting (contract recruiting and RPO), and NOW (here’s the new stuff!) we’ve added an HR + People Strategy practice headed by yours truly.

The HR + People Strategy group aligns with our firm’s raison d’etre: providing talent strategy and solutions for independent thinkers.  On the HR + People Strategy side that translates to mean “this ain’t your mama’s HR” since:

  • We believe the future of HR includes tossing aside non-functioning legacy practices in order to create people strategies that are vibrant, pro-active and nimble. 
  • We share research and insight that can inform decisions and drive innovation in all areas of an organization’s people operations and the experience of its employees. 
  • We don’t take what many think of as the typical (and stereotyped) human resources approach. While we’re mindful of underlying compliance and legislative issues (hey; we’re the SMEs after all) we like to focus on the “possibilities” … not the policies. We push our clients to contemplate “what CAN we do rather than what CAN’T we do.” 
  • And I, as the architect of this group, am most assuredly not your mama’s HR ……..

So yeah; pretty exciting. In addition to providing general consulting, project work and training/workshop facilitations, we also offer an HR managed service option which is ideal when the company doesn’t have a dedicated and experienced human resources leader or the Leadership team/HR Leader could benefit from additional support on planning, strategy and implementation of forward-thinking people strategies that can boost the attraction, recruitment, retention and development of talent.

Wanna chat about what I’m doing now? Hit me up at robin@peridusgroup.com.

Let’s work together!

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How a TYPO Reinforced Company Culture

Working in human resources means that one spends an inordinate amount of time writing and sending out “official” missives and documents to employees. Very important things like policies, handbooks, sternly worded admonishments, and memos about cleaning out the refrigerator.  And while an e-mail informing employees they are not to feed donuts to the alligator (yes; I’ve sent that one) can be cranked out in a minute, some of our HR tomes take considerably longer to complete.

Recently, our HR team has been working on a revision of the Employee Handbook; some additions, a few deletions, and a bit of clarification. You know the drill.

We finished writing and let it marinate for a few days. We did a spell check, several read-throughs and a bit of formatting in order to finally release this magnum opus to the in-boxes of our expectant and eager workforce.  Then, task completed, we settled in to await the satisfying “pings” signifying that acknowledging e-signatures were flooding in from our enthusiastic team members.

Hold the accolades though because (ruh-roh!) we got notification there was a typo. A decent typo too; not something that HR people spell wrong every day like FSLA (fat fingered typing), HIPPA (laziness) or Workman’s Comp (stuck in the 1970’s).

It wasn’t the f-word or anything (which would have really been epic!!) and the employee was not upset or offended by any stretch of one’s imagination. But, had this scenario played out at some of my previous organizations, it would have led to oodles of hyper-ventilating HR ladies running around clutching their pearls while TPTB screamed through the phone lines.

However, as none of our HR team members are particularly fond of pearls and we possess an actual sense of humor we had a better idea. Let’s run a contest!!

So below is what we immediately (well, after 30 minutes of non-stop laughter) sent to all employees: 

**********

Attention all employees!  

As you know, one of our company values is Embrace That Which is Unusual (meaning we like stuff that’s quirky, offbeat and, well, funny). Another value is Ubiquitous Uniqueness (in other words, the company is made up of HUMAN BEINGS).  

Because we’re human beings (and spell check doesn’t catch EVERYTHING) there’s a little typo in the just released Employee Handbook. And, because we found it hilarious (!), we’ve decided to run a contest:

THE GREAT WORD SEARCH CONTEST RULES

STEP 1: Search the document for the word that, according to the Urban Dictionary, is described thusly:

Synonyms:

1. Most swear words and obscenities.

2. Thrush, herpes, the clap, syphilis, and venereal diseases in general.

3. Anything worthy of the following descriptions: shit, minging, crap, etc.

Usages: 

1. OH xxxxxxx!

2. Oh dear, I think I caught the xxxxxx off old Bertha.

3. This is a pile of rotten xxxxxxx!

STEP 2: Send an email to HRLady1or HRLady2 (by Wednesday 9/25 at 8 AM CST) telling us:

  • The offending word
  • Page number

All entrants will go into a drawing and the winner will receive an Amazon gift card!

**********

To quote a member of our sales team: “[this is] the first time ever I’m excited to read an employee handbook. You have accomplished the impossible.”

#WinningHR

p.s. we sound fun don’t we? You want to hang out with us, don’t you? If you’re heading to the #HRTechConf in a few weeks, come meet us in person and enjoy a little “Afternoon Delight”

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Turnover, Retention and the Crusade to Assign “Responsibility”

Ask most any HR Leader “what’s your biggest pain point?” and I guarantee that retention/turnover will be up there amongst the top 3 answers. Quite often this answer is partnered up with its companion “recruiting/hiring” since, of course, they share space for all eternity on the organizational mobius strip. 

Depending upon one’s company, the responsibility for lowering turnover/increasing employee retention may be a shared goal (as it should be) or may belong to a specific department: usually HR. 

Which is crap.

When Stan in the Distribution Center resigns it’s not due to the interactions he had with Karen in the HR Department or Sherrie in Recruiting. (Recruiters are another group that tend to have their performance measured, inaccurately, on turnover numbers). It’s quite likely that Stan didn’t even resign because of his direct supervisor or department manager. Oh I know; every speaker at every HR conference for the last 2 decades has posted a slide with the seemingly profound words “people leave managers…not companies!” (And then they act like they are the first person to ever say this and all the attendees furiously scribble these seemingly transformative words in their notebooks). 

I detest that pablum statement. Are there horrible, toxic and downright inept managers out there that drive people away from organizations? Of course there are. But people do leave companies; I certainly have. People may have the best manager in the world BUT that manager’s hands may be tied by the company. 

People quit, resign, mentally check out, get fired and just plain stop-showing-up for a variety of reasons. And yes; while some people get fired for an egregious act wherein they may go out in a blaze of glory, there are sufficient numbers of people who are terminated for performance because, well, they just stopped trying or caring.

NONE OF THIS IS THE FAULT OF THE HR DEPARTMENT. Heck, I would argue, again, that quite a bit of it is not even the fault of the person’s manager.

The reasons why people leave their jobs can be classified, fairly simply, into either PUSH or PULL factors.

Push factors are those over which the organization has control. This includes factors such as overall company culture, pay and benefits, working conditions, trust (or lack of trust) in leadership, and opportunities (or lack thereof) for development or career progression. Push factors may also include the annoying co-worker in the next cubicle, the lack of up-to-date technology one has to do their job, and the company’s propensity to rule via death-by-a-thousand-cuts-HR-policies. 

Pull factors are those things that are outside of your organization (and outside of your control). These factors include family responsibilities (a move, family care issues), personal decisions (returning to school), commute and travel issues, and personal/family finances that necessitate a change.

Some may argue that the siren call of a competitor (they pay more! they have free snacks in the breakroom!) is a PULL factor. In the vast majority of cases I disagree; the number of regular employees (i.e. not top tech talent, the superstar marketing professional, etc.) who are recruited (sourced, called, woo’ed) for another job is pretty slim. But even if it does happen, there is some underlying PUSH factor that leads the person to go through an interview and application process beyond simple curiosity. 

They want to leave. And NOTHING you can do is going to get them to change their mind. 

So what IS the role of Human Resources?

HR’s responsibility is to recognize and understand the reasons why people leave the organization, identify the problem areas, and develop solutions to lesson the impact (financial and otherwise). This requires gathering data (exit interviews anyone?) and synthesizing it, appropriately, to provide some real multi-layered answers. 

There are areas, fully in the control of HR, where adjustments can be made:

  • Attraction and recruiting initiatives lay the foundation for retaining talent and HR/TA needs to get this shit right. The “employer brand” should be real and truthful; there should be no sugar-coating of what the day-to-day reality of working at the company is like. Never (ever) should applicants be promised one thing to get them in the door and then the organization delivers an employment experience that is entirely different  
  • HR, with some heavy-lifting from managers, manages the onboarding experience from the time-of-offer to a date well after the newbie employees start. HR should dive deep to ensure onboarding includes sufficient aspects of cultural assimilation, socialization and opportunities for relationship building (in addition to all the “how do you DO your actual job”) 
  • HR staff should work with managers, and equip them with the training, time and resources, so they can provide a high-feedback/high-touch work environment. Do some supervisor/manager training? Sure. But back that up with the time and money to let them do-what-you-hired-them-to-do.

In addition, there are certainly other areas where HR professionals can have an impact on some of the PUSH factors including offering pay and benefits that are competitive and at appropriate levels and ensuring development opportunities truly exist (and aren’t just paid lip service on the company career site). HR professionals should also do some soul-searching and find ways to ‘lighten up’ on the draconian, bureaucratic HR policies and procedures that provide much of the fodder for the “I hate HR” crowd. 

Easier said than done of course. Depending upon ones’ level in the organizational hierarchy (i.e. any layer below the CHRO) and/or the size of the organization it can be a downright futile exercise. Karen the HRBP covering a small region for an enterprise with 50,000 employees unfortunately doesn’t have much input into the drafting of the corporate HR policies or defining the compensation philosophy. (YET SHE IS STILL TOLD SHE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR TURNOVER!) 

Here’s the deal though…

So often, when lectured by a CEO/Owner/Big Shot VP that she is responsible for lowering turnover, Karen in HR (as mentioned above) who is sitting out at a regional site and has no real power to make deep and abiding organizational changes, will do a bunch of “activities.” She’ll hand out water bottles with the company logo, order in pizza, and kick off an Employee of the Month award. 

But no one’s going to stay just because they might – one day – win the “Employee of the Month” award and receive a $25 gift card and their name on a plaque hung in the breakroom.

The Push/Pull factors are still there.

*********

How much do I like this diving into this topic? So much that I’ll be speaking about it at the Talent Success Conference in September. 

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People, Culture and Inclusion: #CultureFirst19

I’m spending a few days in San Francisco at Culture Amp’s #CultureFirst19 event. The conversations (which I love!) are centered around building and nurturing company cultures that are competitive advantages.

The attendees at this event are super engaged and “get it” – these are people who are passionate about transforming work. One aspect I find particularly inspiring is the folks I’ve run into who are relatively “new” to the People/HR profession and are here – purposefully! – because they have both a desire and an ability to create (from the ground up in some cases) workplaces that are people-centered from the get-go. Oh sure, there are conversations occurring in every nook-and-cranny in the hall about linking employee insights/feedback and performance data (sounds very HR, I know). But the dynamic of these chats is not “traditional HR” – yeah…I think you know what I mean. There’s energy. There’s positivity. There’s talk about “what’s possible” and the future is viewed not with fright or skepticism but with eagerness.

Culture Amp (the company) is an employee feedback and analytics platform well-known for providing insight (and actionable advise) to its customers using engagement and performance data. I’ve been a fan for a number of years as I’ve watched the company grow and expand while remaining true to their mission and focus. Solidifying this for me, yesterday, was the fact that Didier Elzinga (CEO/Founder) opened the conference with a wonderful (and very human and personal) session.

There are numerous exciting things coming out of this event (stay tuned for what I learned about Foresight Engine!) but there’s one thing I jumped on immediately: Culture Amp’s Diversity and Inclusion Starter Kit.

This is a free (yes) tool available to anyone: small orgs, large orgs, Culture Amp customers and non-customers alike.

Using this starter kit will provide you with access to:

  • a research backed D& I survey
  • advanced analytics
  • clarity and understanding (stuff like heatmap visualization and embedded NLP tech)
  • insights based on your specific org’s survey results
  • recommendations (and inspiration) to start driving change

If diversity, equity and inclusion are top-of-mind for you — check it out. Here’s where you can sign up.

#culturefirst

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