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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Workplace Realities: Recruiting When Your Staff Turnover Exceeds 100%

I’ve lived, worked and managed HR in industries where turnover for certain positions and/or departments exceeded 100%. It’s not fun.

I recently read this article (“Panera losing nearly all workers in fast-food turnover crisis”) about the increasing challenges in the restaurant industry related to turnover and, I must admit, it induced numerous stress-inducing flashbacks.

While the article discusses automation – kiosks for customers and robots back-of-house – the highlights for me were related to the human impact:

  • “The job no one really wants– Experts who have studied the restaurant business for decades and work with national chains are divided over the extent to which fast-food jobs can be made better. Some do not believe there is no formula combining pay, benefits, training and culture that can save the human worker in this sector.”
  • “There are no other job segments in the U.S. that have higher turnover than the fast-food and fast-casual segments of the restaurant industry, according to DiPietro at the University of South Carolina’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. “Not even retail.””
  • “…the fast-food industry, which faces steep price competition, is handicapped by the inability to raise wages much, as well as its limited career advancement opportunities. It also has little history of offering competitive benefits. Only 14% of all fast-food restaurants offer sick leave, and only 16% offer paid time off.”
  • “She (Rosemary Battchair of HR Studies and International & Comparative Labor at the Cornell School of Industrial Labor Relations) said the labor problems can be solved by methods other than robots, such as chains putting more effort into hiring better managers and treating workers with more respect. That requires companies being willing to give workers more hours and more predictable scheduling. “That is not very costly for HR to invest in. It just takes managers to be frankly more competent and pay more attention to the issue. … Maybe they won’t optimize labor costs to the extent they want to, but it will pay off in lower turnover and more satisfies workers and better operations. That should not be hard problem to fix.””

And, as Batt also pointed out, “Because turnover is getting so serious and because chains have the ability to do the HR analytics, they can begin to cost out turnover and say, ‘This is not a cost we have taken seriously, because historically we were counting on high turnover model as acceptable.'”

All of it. Just all of it. 

A few of the realities I experienced:

  • A mindset that employees are as replaceable as the other supplies and materials used to run the restaurants.
  • The cost of high turnover is anticipated, expected and budgeted for much as the company budgets the cost of replacing xx.x% of the kitchen equipment each fiscal year.
  • Jobs are ALWAYS open and hiring is ONGOING. Of course, when squiring candidates through the recruiting process it’s impossible to discuss specific schedules because the shift, days and availability of hours will change, undoubtedly, before the person even reports for Day 1. This is based, of course, on how many people will either quit or start between now and, oh, two days from now.  
  • Benefits will be offered and touted (tuition reimbursement! flexible schedules!) because there are sufficient qualifiers in place to ensure a minimal number of employees will even get to take advantage of them. (i.e. “tuition reimbursement is available for full-time employees with at least 12 months of continuous service who are enrolled in a curriculum related to their job.”)
  • Annual wage increases of 1.5% – 3% (and on $9 per hour, a 3% increase equals 27 cents) ensure that the INSTANT a competitor starts paying an additional .50 per hour, the staff will practically leave mid-shift and sprint down the street to start a new job.

But…yet…sitting up in the corporate HQs somewhere far, far away from the day-to-day realities of life in the kitchen, HR teams devise catchy tag line and launch compelling CAREER sites even though, let’s face it, most job seekers are not viewing these gigs as ‘careers.’ While some folks may, in fact, start in a restaurant and ‘move up the ladder’ (and there are, certainly, people who work at corporate offices in ‘careers,’) these sites are promoting employment to candidates who are applying for jobs paying anywhere from $7.25 to (maybe, if they’re a ‘manager’ with 10 years experience) $12 per hour. 

So I decided to take a look at what the talent acquisition teams (and the multitudinous employer branding consultants) at limited service restaurants have put together on their various career sites. 

Here’s what I found: 

Panera“Fresh, food, fun work”

Taco Bell Careers“Start with us…stay with us”

McDonald’s Careers“Where you want to be” 

Subway“Careers on the rise” 

Chipotle“The difference is real. Work with the food you love.” 

Burger King“Bring it @ BKC” 

Dunkin’ Donuts“Here today – here to stay” 

Chick-fil-a“Growing together, prospering together” 

Wendy’s“Are you a Wendy’s kind of person?” (“we love to have fun, and hopefully you do too”)

Whataburger“Do work that makes you proud” 

Raising Cane’s“We make fun of work” 

Sonic“This is how we Sonic” (“we encourage and attract wildly creative people”) 

KFC“Join our KFC Family” 

Dairy Queen“Create unbelievable moments in everyday lives” 

Popeyes“You belong at Popeyes” 

Qdoba – “Craveable food. Raveable careers.”

Well…if nothing else, I’ve now got a hankering for some good old-fashioned carbs and sodium delivered in a paper bag. 

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Walking Towards Futility: A Wellness Fail

It seems there is nothing that brings HR professionals as much joy as rolling out tortuous physical activities for unwitting employees in the name of “Wellness.” There are companies that, in the quest to promote healthy lifestyles (aka “lower health care premiums”) have mandated everything from Jazzercise to rock climbing to participating in a local 5k run/walk for their employees. And yes…mandated; meaning they’ve tied participation in such activities to performance appraisals and salary reviews.

I once worked for an organization that, to be fair, was very transparent about why it ran and supported a wellness program; to save money. Health insurance costs were forever rising at a seemingly exorbitant rate and, as the company had a self-insured medical plan, this meant each month the checks cut from the company checkbook were growing ever larger. In addition, those expenses that had not sufficiently budgeted for came right out of the end of year calculation for the bonuses paid to leaders. In other words, a few medical catastrophes spread across the employee population (or their covered dependents) might mean that VP Bob wouldn’t be able to buy his vacation home in the mountains.

Sad.

So, with lowering costs as the primary reason, the company launched a Wellness Program a number of years ago. It’s important to note that when a company labels such an initiative a “program,” you have your first clue it has nothing to do with truly caring about people’s health, financial stability or mental and emotional wellness. And this program, like many before and since, had all the hallmarks of failure including making participation a chore (“track your meals and turn in this checklist!”) and running multiple “Biggest Loser” contests which are just about the worst activity to run from both a legal and health standpoint.

There was also, as you may imagine, quite a bit of employee shaming that ran rampant. One of the HR zealots told me, with quite a bit of pride, that he saw it as his DUTY to promote healthy eating. He would wander through the employee lunchroom, on a regular basis, and stop and have discussions with employees about their meal choices: “Sandy! Do you really want to eat that leftover friend chicken? A better choice would be a healthy salad with some lentils and a vinaigrette dressing!”  (inner monologue from Sandy in Accounting: ‘get out of my life crazy HR dude.’)

At one stage, amongst this backdrop of ill-informed and ill-placed intentions, it was dictated from those-on-high that additional physical activities were needed in order to ‘get everyone healthy.’  The answer, determined by an avid runner sitting up high on the org chart, was to institute walking activities! This was to include:

  • Setting up an obstacle course in the company parking lot so employees could head outside during their 10-minute breaks and 30-minute meal time to ‘get in a few steps’
  • Running a Couch-to-5k challenge
  • Awarding points, on the employee’s annual performance evaluation, if they participated in one of several chosen Run/Walks on a Saturday morning

OK, you may think, those aren’t so bad (well, other than the tie-in to a job performance review). But here’s the deal:

This was not a 9-to-5 organization; people weren’t cooped up in an office and sitting at desks all day and thus eager to ‘stretch their legs’ at lunch time.

  • The majority of employees worked evening shifts or overnight so talking a walk in the parking lot would have meant strolling around, in the dark, at 11 PM or 2 AM.
  • The nature of the work meant that most everyone’s job included STANDING ON THEIR FEET and/or WALKING for the duration of their shift; by the time meal time came all they wanted to do was sink into a chair for a few blessed minutes.
  • This was in south Louisiana. In the summer. With heat, humidity and mosquitos as big as your fist.

But running a couch-to-5k challenge? What’s wrong with that? Well, when the average hourly wage is just over $12 per hour it’s a bit much to expect someone to purchase appropriate footwear ($150? $200?) and pay the entrance fees for a 5k.

As for those somewhat-mandated Run/Walks and 5ks, well, all of them (I mean all of them) occur on Saturday mornings; usually kicking off between 7 AM and 9 AM. On a day, and a time, when the vast majority of employees were either just getting off shift after working all night, or, sleeping because they had worked until 3 AM.

Oh yes…there were many wellness fails at this organization:

There was no consideration of the fact that in a multi-gendered workforce that spanned ages 18 to 80, individuals would have not only varying physical abilities but also differing metabolisms.

Activities and plans were formulated by leaders with lots of disposable income and disposable time. Their prism of privilege meant they never gave any thought to the fact that employees had multiple jobs to make ends meet or ate white bread and processed-lunch-meat sandwiches because they couldn’t afford to purchase fresh fruit with granola when their take home pay for the week was $300.

This stuff drives me crazy.

Pass me the quinoa please.

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For a recent conversation “Calling BS on Wellness Programs” – check out this episode of New Yawk HR where we also offer some helpful (hopefully) tips.

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Company Values: Not the Same as It Ever Was

I have, over the course of time, participated in and/or facilitated numerous activities designed to create, define and encapsulate company “Mission, Vision & Values.” 

Quite often, because some training facilitator settled on a way to approach this exercise in 1987, this process has involved a cross-section of employees and other stakeholders settling themselves into a room armed with flip charts, markers, and cartons of post-it notes. There may have been focus groups, assessments, surveys and iterative discussions prior to this day but THIS one-day event (with catered lunch!) has been the culmination of hours upon hours of work. I’ve seen some raw emotions too; at one organization a senior leader, not accustomed to a collaborative process, stormed out of the room flinging papers and markers in her wake.

Good times.

Certainly there are some people who think this is a colossal waste of time; fluff dreamed up by management consultants and HR folks. After all, thinks Mr./Ms. MoneyBags CEO, “our missionis to make money, our visionis to make MORE money, and our valuesare to make that money in whatever way we need to make it.”

I, however, have always believed that clarity around M/V/Vs not only aligns people across an organization but provides a guiding point – a lodestar if you will, for everyone to follow. 

We recently went through this exercise at my company and, let me say, it was GREAT! No conference rooms with post-it notes for us though; we’re 100% virtual so we worked through the process via Zoom calls and whiteboarding things out on Google Docs. There may or may not have been adult beverages involved.  

What I have determined, over the years, is that the mission and vision part is relatively easy; why we’re here and we’re going. Most every company can easily articulate this with just a modicum of prodding.

It’s the values part that leaves people flummoxed, confused and exasperated. It can be an arduous task for leaders to allow employees to not partake of some serious self-reflection but also to have the discussions around the “not so good things” about a company’s deeply-held beliefs. (Inverting the question and asking “what is our company NOT” or “what do similar organizations do that we would NEVER do?” can lead to some interesting discussions).

So because it’s hard, and then because it’s safe, these M/V/V teams end up just tossing word-salad up on the wall and calling it a day. This, my friends is why 99.9% of organizations have the same values: teamwork! communication! service! integrity! (blech). Watered down pabulum. 

But in our recent foray into encapsulating and defining our company values we didn’t settle for the mundane.  I’m telling you, not only was the process great but I so love what we came up with that I feel the need to share. Let me present, the Strio Consultingvalues:

  • No Doors and Open Windows Lots of companies talk about an “open door” culture but we embrace a culture with no doors and wide-open windows. We’re transparent and accessible to our clients and to each other. Got a question? Ask it. Need access to someone? You got it. Think something sucks? Bring it up.
  • Doing Things Right Means Doing the Right Thing We’re honorable and trustworthy in all our interactions; integrity is non-negotiable. We play it straight from the get-go and, if we screw up, we own it. The needs and interests of our clients are top of mind. Always. 
  • Embrace That Which is UnusualWe’re OK with being weird. Really. We consider it a badge of honor to be of strange or extraordinary character. Got humor? We like that too.
  • Unburdened by Tradition We’re not bound by the traditional walls of an office nor are we stuck in the typical nine-to-five grind. With a reverential nod to workplace customs that have served us well, we take great delight in consigning the soul-sucking, outdated ways of doing things to the trash heap of business practices as we focus on the future of work. We pride ourselves in the way we work; we’re creative, adaptable and fast-moving – and we help our clients work this way too.
  • Bold and Brainy We surround ourselves with people who exhibit insatiable curiosity; people who read, learn, explore and debate. We like people who ask “why?” and we love nothing more than answering that question.
  • Ubiquitous Uniqueness Our community – our company – is made up of human beings and we celebrate the individual. Be yourself. Be unique. Be special. Live your best life.

What we believe, how we operate and what’s important. These are ours and no one else’s; and most definitely NOT the same as it ever was. 

********* 

Heading to WorkHuman? Join me for the panel Beyond Buzzwords: Real Talk on What it Takes to Create an Amazing Culture”with Michelle Prince, SVP, Global HR, Global Head Learning & Development, Randstad; John Baldino, President, Humareso; and Niamh Graham, VP of Global HR, WorkHuman.

Haven’t registered yet? Use code WH19INFRSC for a discount! 

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I Refuse to Maintain the Status Quo

I dare say that most humans are creatures of habit and routine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in our hurly-burly lives it’s nice to rely on muscle-memory so we can drive the same daily route to the office or know that Friday evening will inevitably be comprised of pizza, pajamas and movies. The usual and ordinary tasks we have are pretty straightforward when we do them the way we’ve always done them.

Naturally this tendency to adhere to the tried-and-true carries over into our work life. Whether we’re cranking out TPS reports or processing journal entries we get into the flow and rhythm. This is also a good thing. People who take comfort in the unremarkable may find a sense of peace cranking through mundane tasks. And for those folks who chafe at “sameness” day-after-day, entering automatron mode allows them to churn through the repetitious soul-crushing chores that exist in every job.

Now envision a department filled with people simultaneously jogging on the procedural treadmill as they push out the same reports, take the same phone calls, and sit in the same meetings week after week. Picture rows upon rows of cubicles. Department after department. Floor upon floor. A humungous organization located in either a suburban office park or on a busy street in a bustling urban city center.

Certainly all those workers are providing some sort of value as they strive to meet organizational goals while, undoubtedly, participating in the latest Corporate (HR) program-of-the-month designed to simultaneously boost engagement, track OKRs, and determine annual compensation increases?

There may be a fancy new name to this program-of-the-month but, let’s be real –  it’s the same old state of affairs.

And when you’re part of an existing entity, whether that be your job/company or your personal life/family, there’s an incentive to maintain the status quo.

It’s easy.

It’s cozy.

It’s safe.

And while human resources professionals are particularly adept at (and quite fond of!) maintaining the status quo, we are not alone amongst our corporate brothers and sisters.  In the corporate setting we’re often more keenly focused on reducing risk rather than setting our sights on maximizing potential.

So we make the “safe” hire. We stick to the same procedures whilst also building additional steps and creating complexity for the most insignificant processes (“let’s have the SENIOR Director sign off for all office supply purchases too!”). We rely on last year’s numbers (and the year before and the year before that). We look backward (only) instead of looking forward. We research other companies’ ‘best practices’ instead of designing our own ‘NEXT practices.’

We stay on the hamster wheel.

I get it. I totally get it.

But as for me? I want to try new things. I don’t want to settle for merely doing what’s easy, comfortable and that-which-has-come-before.

I refuse to maintain the status quo.

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