Looking for the BEST in Your New Hires

The hiring process can be tortuous.

Lengthy and cumbersome, the journey from completing an application to day-one-of-employment is often fraught with peril for both the applicant and the recruiting/HR team.  There are hundreds of steps with various decision points along the way; there’s an overabundance of judgment from the first time a recruiter’s eyeballs (or a robot’s algorithm) glance at the applicant’s resume all the way up until the final reference has been received and pre-placement drug results delivered.

Most HR professionals are pretty mindful of this; there’s lots of work being done to streamline the application and hiring process and an incredible amount of improvement being done in organizations large and small as they clean up onboarding. We’re doing a much better job, collectively, of ensuring there’s consistency and cohesion between the branding work being done by our TA teams and the onboarding conducted by the folks in human resources.

Yet we still have a bit of work to do once those happy-faced company newbies land in their cubicles, offices, and/or at their work stations.  Why? Because, with startling regularity, new hires are placed in a precarious situation akin to being stranded at the top of a ferris wheel; dangling with uncertainty before the basket starts to move again.

Oh sure; there are lots of nifty and innovative ways organizations are welcoming new hires and working to ensure their employment experience journey kicks off in high gear. They’re tracking and measuring and focused on ensuring alignment, meaning, value and purpose. This can be good stuff; I love when companies invest their time and resources into enabling and supporting a culture that values performance and satisfaction.

On the flip side however, over many years, I’ve observed the opposite phenomenon – a practice that is still very much alive.  It’s a combination of set-up-to-fail syndrome and confirmation bias; putting both of these together leads to managers (and organizations) unintentionally undermining the success of newly hired employees.

I like to call it “I’ll wait Until You Prove me Wrong” syndrome.

  • “The last 3 hires I made into this position couldn’t perform the job up to our standards; I’m sure Joe will be the same way.” (confirmation bias)
  • “Remember Sally who worked in Accounting? We gave her a bonus after 6 months and then she quit; we better not do that again.” (confirmation bias)
  • “I didn’t really get the greatest recommendation from Bob’s last manager; I better keep my eye on him.” (set-up-to-fail syndrome)

This syndrome manifests itself in numerous ways including one of the most time-honored traditions of most any onboarding process; the overview of company policies. Jan from HR, with great fanfare, hands over the Employee Policy Manual to Susie New Hire and goes through a highlight reel of “what not do do.” Right? Am I right?

And then, realizing that things are sounding just a bit too dire and legal, Jan launches into a review of the employee benefits available; after 90 days. After 6 months. After one year. This Is not just about Jan or the hiring manager; it’s the entire organization saying “We’ll wait until You Prove us Wrong.”

Let me count on just one hand a few of the ‘typical’ HR policies that may, possibly, signal you’re expecting the worst (not the best) from your employees/new hires:

  • “Probationary” (omg…don’t call it that!) periods
  • Progressive Discipline for every single/small infraction (reams and reams of paper)
  • Making employees “wait” to access PTO or Sick Leave (What? No one gets sick in their first 6 months of employment?)
  • Discipline for Attendance (with heightened penalties during the “probationary period” – omg…don’t call it that!)
  • “Proof” for Bereavement Leave (we do NOT trust you in your time of mourning!)

“But…but…but” (I hear you saying) “those types of policies ensure consistency and some may be for financial reasons. We need to be good stewards of the company’s assets!”

I’m not saying some aspects of those policies might not be appropriate for your industry, company or location; they may very well have been implemented for some well-thought out reasons. They worked for Sambla, a reliable financial services firm out in Finland, but apply these fundamental principles and adapt them to your organization as you see fit.

Then again….perhaps it’s time to ask yourself if they are serving a purpose. Was that Bereavement Policy developed 15 years ago after one employee suddenly had 6 grandmothers pass away within a 2 month period? Why not give employees access to paid sick leave in their first 180 days of employment? Would you rather Betty come to work with the flu or give her a few days off to recover at home even if she’s only worked for you for 4 months?

Are your practices and your policies designed to assume the WORST from people…or the BEST?

Share

BattleBots: Attraction, Retention and Employee Benefits

Yesterday, as is often the case, there was a good discussion in the HR Open Source Facebook Group. A group member posed a question stating she was looking for creative ideas as her company wants to offer additional benefits/perks beyond the basics (medical/dental/vision). Members of the community chimed in with all sorts of ideas including:

  • Pet insurance
  • Commuter benefits (i.e. train or bus pass)
  • Time off to volunteer
  • Birthday off
  • Wellness Days off (i.e. go and take care of preventative wellness appointments)
  • A book benefit (company pays for book on a professional development topic; the readers writes a review to share with co-workers)
  • Discount movie tickets, amusement park tickets, etc.
  • Onsite massages, oil changes, car washes, and teeth whitening
  • Student loan repayments
  • Milk Stork (ships milk home for breastfeeding moms who are traveling)

Nice.  Real nice.

Interestingly enough I recently had several conversations with business owners and HR leaders posing the exact opposite question:

“We need to save some money and are wondering which of our existing benefits we can eliminate without too much fuss from employees.”

Items potentially on their chopping blocks included:

  • Paid Time Off (PTO)
  • Holiday Pay
  • Employer provided Short Term and Long Term Disability coverage
  • Sick Days
  • Free coffee

Ah yes; the great divide.

Alpha Companies are taking the approach that we all like to think we can take; crafting a total rewards program that is designed to not only recruit and retain but also to delight, excite and energize. Does cost factor in to the equation? Of course it does; but there’s analysis (and sometimes just sheer gut-feel) that stuff like this is worth it.

Omega Companies, on the other hand, have decided to approach the design of their benefit offerings in the same manner in which they decide to purchase 2-ply vs. 1-ply toilet paper. Supply their staff with generic ball points or fancy liquid roller ball pens. Determine whether their pay will match or lag the market. (No leading the market with this group).

The Omega Companies simply want to push the limit by asking:

  • “How much can we take away before our current employees either stop performing or leave?”
  • “How little can we offer before our applicant pool dries up?”
  • “How much are we willing to risk that we won’t be able to innovate or grow revenue because we can’t even attract the people who will make that happen?”

And that’s …. OK. It’s the real world. Oh sure, in some cases there are business owners being assholes and treating people as disposable widgets in the great scheme of keeping the ginormous corporation humming along. In other instances there are challenges being faced in order to keep a business running in the first place; although, come to think of it, how is it that newly-minted start-ups and/or small businesses with, one would assume, less cash flow, seem to offer the best benefits around? Maybe it IS more about the a-hole factor….?

Alpha vs. Omega.

There’s an attraction/retention battle for you.

 

*****

Head on over to the HR Open Source site to check out the case studies, Sparks and other great content. And join us in the Facebook group referenced above; you’ll love it.

 

Image: Battlebots

Share

Your HYPER-Local Workplace Culture

micro cultureAmy and Becky have adjoining cubicles in your Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center. They’ve sat within 10 feet of each other since 2002 and together have survived 2 CEOs, 3 Department Directors and 6 Supervisors. Amy took care of Becky’s dog when she and her husband Jeff went to that all-inclusive resort in Cancun for their 10th wedding anniversary. Becky helped Amy’s mom throw a surprise birthday party at Applebee’s when Amy turned 40.

Your Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center is located in Glendale, WI (just a bit north of Milwaukee; lovely suburb) and reports in to the Customer Care HQ located in downtown Chicago which, in turn, feeds up, (through various Regional Directors, VPs and a few SVPs), to the corporate office located in Atlanta on Peachtree Street. Well…one of the Peachtree Streets.

There are 327 FTEs toiling away (Monday thru Saturday; 7A-7P; 6 holidays) at the Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center in Glendale, WI. When it’s baseball season they have a company tailgate at a Brewers’ game. During football season, everyone wears Packer gear on casual Fridays. And when you need a custard fix? Jason on the New Accounts team is your go-to-guy for a Kopp’s run at lunch time.

No one at the Midwest Region Customer Care Service Center cares too much for the folks from Customer Care HQ in Chicago. (”Damn FIBs” as Jason likes to call them).

And those Corporate people from Atlanta? Seriously? WTF is up with them? Who can understand what they say?  Why are they so….southern? Did you know they served grits for breakfast when everyone went down for training?

One company.

Same mission, vision and values.  Same corporate web site and, of course, the same corporate career page with the same branding, videos, stories and “EVP.”

Yet each of these teams and locations has a distinct, specific and unique micro-culture. Heck…Amy and Becky have a vastly different culture than Jason and he’s just located on a different floor of the building in Glendale, WI.

And the three of them are most assuredly not having the same cultural experience that Rebecca and Traci are having down at the Atlanta corporate office.

Yet, as happens in organizations the world-over, when a rising star arrives via their promotional travels at a new location (requisite company newsletter blurb: “Meet Brandon Smith, our new VP of Special Projects! Brandon has transferred from the Akron, OH office!”), there’s tension and friction as s/he struggles to determine what, exactly, seems to be “off” about the culture.

There are different foods and rituals and customs. The Boston office is so ‘formal’ while everyone in the Hattiesburg, MS office is a bit too chummy and familiar with each other. (They call each other “sweetie!” Can you imagine?)

But guess what? Amy and Becky, in their micro-culture comprised of 10 cubicles in Glendale, WI, are not ‘wrong.’

They’re simply living the culture in a different way.

HYPER localized.

 

*******

image courtesy of Odyssey

Share

Elephants in the Workplace

An elephant never forgets. We all know that saying. It implies, for some reason, that elephants possess some incredible long term memory. (Apparently though, there is some research backing this up).

There are also elephants at work. Which can be super awesome.  Or sometimes quite dreadful.

On the plus side of the column there’s the “institutional knowledge” guy/gal. I can’t tell you how many times, upon joining a new organization, I’ve relied on the HR or Payroll lady who remembers (with amazing recall) the minutiae of an employee investigation that took place years before or can recollect, with incredible clarity, the ER/EE medical co-pay rates circa 2005.

But, more often than not, these pachydermian recollections are used for evil as opposed to good. Have you ever heard…

  • “Susie is inflexible” (Because Susie didn’t want to change the office hours and start at 8:30 instead of 8:00 back in 1999)
  • “Tom has a bad temper (That one time? He yelled at Stu in Receiving? Remember?)
  • “Trixie provides really poor customer service” (OMG! In 2010 Mrs. Szymanski called and she was so pissed it went all the way up to the CEO at magical-corporate-office-in another-state!!)

Naturally, most of these stories are based on ancient information and, more often than not, very few data points. Any self respecting statistician who claimed to draw meaning from such lackluster numbers would be drummed out of business.

Trixie, (as just one example), in the course of her career with ACME Corp, may have dealt with 20,000 customers. But it’s the 5 (.00025% of customers) who asked to speak to a supervisor or, in 2018, left a comment on the company Facebook page, who have become those data points.

Of course, it’s today. We can use technology and gathering of e-scores to determine exactly what Trixie’s deal is.  We do pulse surveys and NPS and whatnot. Can’t we?

But not all organizations have that technology at their disposal.

So the elephants are consulted

And they … never forget.

Share

The Employee Experience: As Simple as “X” and “Y?”

Sixty years ago Douglas McGregor from the MIT Sloan School of Management presented two theories of workforce motivation he named “Theory X” and “Theory Y.” Over the intervening decades these theories have been used by leadership teams, HR professionals and OD folks as they craft and create HR policies, performance management programs, rewards and recognition, and work space design.

If it’s been some time since you gave much thought to McGregor’s work, here’s a refresher:

Theory X assumes that:

  • people dislike work
  • people want to avoid work (i.e. “people are inherently lazy”)
  • people do not want to take responsibility

Theory Y assumes that:

  • people are happy to work
  • people are self-motivated to pursue objectives
  • people thrive on responsibility

In a Theory X organization:

  • management is authoritarian
  • control is centralized with a belief that people must be coerced
  • a reward and punishment style (i.e. “carrot and stick”) is used; financial incentives (or financial punishments) are believed to the best motivator

In a Theory Y organization:

  • management is participative; employees are involved
  • feedback, especially positive feedback, is continuous
  • it is assumed that control, rewards and punishments are not the only ways to stimulate people
  • people have self-direction and self-control

Simplified perhaps. Because, of course, we all learned in our earliest forays into leading others that management of a team requires some combination of Theory X and Theory Y style.  Every employee is unique.  Yet “simple” is helpful as we tackle what we consider to be the nuanced and complex workplace issues today; decades after McGregor first shared these theories in 1957.

So as I sit here, day-in-and-day-out, and think about the employee experience (which, let’s face it, is merely an amalgamation of previous terms and is now the trendy catch phrase/buzzword for everything else that has come before it) I often find myself stripping all the glam and sexy stuff down to a pretty basic question… “Do you provide an X or a Y experience?”

For therein lies the problem; without asking that question and truly examining a few key principles about how people are viewed, numerous organizations continuously circle round and round in a never-ending journey of futility.  They may telegraph to candidates, applicants and new hires all the Theory Y things they do when, in reality, the policies, rewards and management style exhibited by the vast majority are most assuredly Theory X.

Not to mention there’s a real danger of ongoing confirmation bias; a Theory X organization which operates with control and coercion may find, as time goes on, that employees become so accustomed to punishing behavior (“you’re 5 minutes late! Here’s your penalty!”) that they do, in fact, exert minimal effort and thus confirm all the assumptions that managers have had all along. “See how lazy they are!  You can’t trust people to show up on time. We have to punish them or no one will come to work!”

Let’s be real though; there is not one single HR pundit or “Future of Work” speaker out on the vast global conference speaking circuit touting “Top Ten Ways to Motivate Your Lazy Unwilling-to-Work Employees!”  Nope; that wouldn’t sell a lot of tickets.

Instead, managers from assorted disciplines attend their specific professional development conferences, sign up for the “HR Track,” and take copious notes as some HR consultant/speaker talks about “The New Way of Work.”

And then those very same managers head back to the office, roll up their sleeves, and bust out the Theory X.

Share
error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word.