Just Because You Can…Doesn’t Mean You Should

can openerWhen contemplating a course of action or implementing a new procedure/policy HR practitioners stand at a metaphorical crossroads.

In general the process begins with the question “can we do X?” which is a perfectly acceptable, and appropriate, place to start.  After all, as much as we may take umbrage at the relentless HR stereotype that we’re rule-enforcing bureaucrats who take great delight in policing every action there’s no denying that ensuring compliance and mitigating potential risk is an important part of what we do.

Yet…once it’s determined that “yes we CAN do X” it’s quite rare that the follow up question “but SHOULD we do X” is ever asked.

This doesn’t seem to rear its head in relation to matters that are fairly clear cut; wage and hour issues, EEO requirements and the like. Rather it pops up when there are nuanced decisions to be made or when one can opt to domore than is required.  You know… those times when one has the opportunity to enhance the employment experience and treat people like, well, people.

This has come to mind again after a number of recent conversations, discussions and consultations when business owners, HR colleagues and others have sought clarity on things such as:

  • Eliminating paid vacation and paid holidays for some (but not all) classifications of employees
  • Drastically alternating work schedules/work hours. Immediately. Like tomorrow.
  • Deciding that an internal applicant is not worthy of an interview because “we know we wouldn’t put him in that position anyway.”
  • Requiring an exempt employee to be on-site (8 AM to 5 PM) for the 40 hour Mon-Fri workweek even though a project deadline necessitated her working 16+ hours the previous weekend.  Not at the office Mon – Fri for full 40 hours? Just make sure missed work time is accompanied by a deduction from the PTO bank.
  • Charging employees’ time to their PTO bank for breaks needed to express milk
  • Opting to not disclose to an employee the reason for his termination

Ah yes.

Please…by all means…ask if you can. But don’t forget to wonder if you should.

 

“All The Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Layin’ In The Sun,

Talkin’ ‘Bout The Things

They Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Done…

But All Those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

All Ran Away And Hid

From One Little Did.”

Shel Silverstein

**********

this post originally ran at the HR Schoolhouse

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3 Things Your HR Department is Doing Right Now

old officeManaging employee data on spreadsheets

I recently read a job posting for an HR Director position with a mid-sized organization (several thousand employees). There, amongst the laundry list of job duties, was “Provide annual wage adjustments on Excel spreadsheet and relay wage increase information to the Payroll Department.”

Lesson: If you work in HR please don’t think you’re the only one who is behind the times. You’re not the only HR professional cobbling together your systems of record and HR data using spreadsheets, word documents and paper files.

Watching you

I had a conversation at a gathering this past weekend and a friend mentioned that his employer is “putting cameras everywhere. They’re all over the building now. They just want to catch us doing something wrong I guess.”

Lesson: No matter the reason for increasing the amount of cameras at a workplace (safety for staff, 24 hour monitoring for security reasons) rest assured that employees will be convinced the HR Lady decided to install cameras so she could catch employees in the midst of sinful transgressions. An employee once accused me of placing a camera in her office because we knew she changed clothes in there before heading to the gym; she was convinced someone in the security department was enthralled with sneaking peeks at her bra and panties.

Hiding Out

Last week a friend mentioned that her company’s HR Department (already well known for having a locked HR Department that requires employees to buzz for admittance) has recently spent a considerable amount of money ‘frosting’ the plate glass windows of the HR lobby. The explanation, as it has been relayed, is so that employees don’t see their co-workers and colleagues sitting in the HR Department.

Lesson: If your HR collateral claims your organization is warm-hearted, compassionate and open you need to make sure the HR Department understands the symbolism behind their actions. Ensuring privacy for sensitive conversations is a good thing thing but this group is sending the message (no one can see in our windows!) that the HR Department is a bad evil place just barely removed from the circles of hell. Even though the rest of the company’s employees dwell in cubicles and gather in collaborative work pods no one just pops in to chat with HR staff.

And that’s what your HR Department is doing right now.

They’re also probably on Facebook trading inspirational quotes and sharing pictures of puppies; you know, before updating the internet access policy that blocks your access to Facebook and YouTube and Twitter and…..

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The Pace of Business. The Pace of HR.

Atlas Rockefeller CenterI grew up in Wisconsin. I spent my childhood and HS years in the Milwaukee suburbs, headed off to college in central Wisconsin, and then returned to live and work in Milwaukee. It’s a bustling city and I’ve found that unless you’re from the area or have reason to visit you generally don’t have any awareness that the MSA is quite so sizable. We moved at a brisk clip and took care of business; might be that whole Socialist and Germanic heritage. Or because we knew a beer was waiting at the end of the day. I dunno.

Thirteen years ago we moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. One hour up the I-10 from New Orleans (let’s face it, the most unique city in the USofA), Baton Rouge suffers from an identity crisis usually articulated as “we are NOT New Orleans!”

There are certainly many things to love here in the Red Stick; the food, the ever-present music, a fascinating history, and super friendly and welcoming people. We have gorgeous scenery, exotic wildlife, and LSU football … if that’s your thing. There are also characteristics that reside firmly in the negative column; a general aversion to anything progressive, the absolute worst traffic ever, an atrocious education system, and institutional racism and sexism that still snuggle companionably alongside the Sazeracs served to Tripp and Tiffany at the local country club or at the annual power-broker crawfish boils.

Oh…and we move slowly. V-E-R-Y slowly. And that, other than learning how to pronounce a whole new bunch of words, was the biggest area of acclimation for me.

Is it because of the heat? Any day now we’re destined to hit the upper 80’s/90’s and then resolutely remain there until October and, of course, our heat is like wrapping yourself in a wet woolen blanket. Do we take our time because we’ll break into a sweat if we pick up the pace?

Or is it, as some have postulated, because we believe in enjoying life? We like to stop and smell the roses (or magnolias)? We wonder “what’s the rush?” Laissez les bon temps rouler.

There’s something to be said for that.

Yet whenever I head out of town I notice the remarkable differences in how we not only “live” but also in how we “work.”

I spent part of last week in NYC with a colleague working with an HR team full of energized, super smart, young, and hip HR professionals. Well, certainly more hip than me. We rocked through a ton of content at a fast clip all day long and then, because unlike Baton Rouge there are things to do in NYC past 8 PM, we went out for drinks and festivities.

No moss growing under their feet.

And, it goes without saying, this team was not an anomaly.

I took a stroll through Grand Central Station, purposefully at commute time, to revel in the frenzied activity of harried suburbanites catching their trains. I sat at a table, mid-day, in Bryant Park to watch the go-go young investment bankers grab some Jamba Juice before continuing on with their important phone calls. While scoring some cocktails I chatted up a marketing dude (finance industry) at the bar; he was still in his suit (tie loosened) and had his computer bag at his feet…4 hours after the workday ended. He paused, mid-conversation, to take a 30 second phone call, send off a quick email (another 30 seconds), and then resumed our conversation.

That shit doesn’t happen in Baton Rouge.

Is that good…or bad? Certainly the desire for a certain lifestyle…fast pace vs. slow pace… boils down to personal preference. There are many individuals who purposefully choose to escape (isn’t that how it’s usually put?) so they leave DC or Chicago or pick-a-big-city and relocate to a less frenetic metro area or even a small town.

More power to ‘em.

I got to thinking though; does the speed at which the overall business community moves impact how HR moves? Does an HR team or an HR professional working in a sluggish environ become … well…sluggish? Can human resources professionals ideate and innovate and ACT when those around them are content to live by the mantra “don’t be in such a hurry; we’ll get there someday.”

What would Atlas do?

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Surprise Me Rob Lowe! #WorkHuman

workhumanThere are many things I’m looking forward to at the Globoforce WorkHuman 2015 conference including hearing from Tania Luna who is a trainer, consultant and “surprisologist.” She’s a founder, along with her sister, of Surprise Industries where, according to their website, they provide “a collection of non-routine experiences for non-routine people” as they focus on surprising and delighting individuals, couple and companies. Working with SI, a friend, partner, or employer can provide personalized and unique gifts, customize events to create memories, or schedule events ranging from a private yoyo workshop to a Michael Jackson class where one can learn the dance moves to MJ’s Thriller, Beat It or Smooth Criminal.

Imagine giving Karl in Purchasing (who loves loves LOVES MJ!) a never-to be-forgotten memory? That’s just one example but it’s illustrative of how organizations are refining their understanding of how human relationships at work can energize, excite, and transform the business. HR and business leaders are starting to “get it;” appreciation and recognition is much more effective when we bring the personal-and-human element back into the workplace. Karl probably doesn’t want another lapel pin to toss in his dresser drawer…but Karl will never forget learning how to moon walk.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about at WorkHuman. We’re going to explore engagement, recognition, psychology, and technology. We’re going to discuss the business impact of the human-centered workplace. We’re going to hear from keynote speakers including:

  • Arianna Huffington (Co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post)
  • Rob Lowe (Best-selling author, activist, and award-winning actor)
  • Adam Grant (Wharton School professor of psychology and best-selling author)
  • Shawn Achor (Harvard-trained researcher and NY Times best-selling author)

This is going to be good. I don’t even care which Rob Lowe shows up; I’m just looking forward to his stories about teamwork, risk-taking, work, and life. (Oh…and please please please let him talk about the Snow White at the Oscars thing…)

According to Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley “WorkHuman is designed to empower organizations to harness the transformative power of emotional connections among colleagues, and supercharge efforts to build a humanity-focused workplace culture.”

Interested in joining us? Use code RSWH15100 and you’ll receive $100 off the registration price.

I hope to see you there!

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