It’s Not Them. It’s Us.

HR playlist

I’m sitting here at the 5+-month mark since my state first implemented #StayAtHome orders. Since then, as has occurred across the globe, we’ve moved into new phases (“woo hoo! restaurants and hair salons are open!”) and then dialed back when people, looking to get their party on, packed newly opened bars well above the allowed capacity (“boo! bars are now closed!”).  We now have a statewide mask mandate in place which, as should not surprise anyone, is being contested with legal injunctions because we now live in a world where things designed to promote good health and courtesy/concern for our fellow citizens has become ridiculously politicized.

HR practitioners, for the most part, view their pandemic practices and policies as non-political. What I’ve noticed however is a whiff (perhaps even a strong stench) of extreme pro-business ideology creeping into numerous HR/business deliberations and responses. Lots and lots of actions that, by their very essence, come across as extremely anti-employee.

This is not to make light of the real challenges that HR professionals have faced during 2020; they’ve had to move quickly into uncharted territory and amass a huge volume of new knowledge. That being said however, there are many who have quickly reverted back to their typical and traditional mindset – spinning a golden oldies playlist at an event when the partygoers have changed.

Amongst the songs being sung (over and over and over) by HR practitioners I regularly hear these Top 10 hits: 

  • Games People Play – “Our employees are claiming they have COVID19 symptoms/exposure just to get out of coming to work.”
  • Money Money Money – “No one wants to work for us because they’re making more money with expanded unemployment payments.”
  • Baby Come Back – “We’ve required all employees to return to the office; even those who were successfully working from home.”
  • Face Time is the Best Time – “No; we’re not going to consider remote work moving forward.” 
  • The Schoolhouse Blues – “Despite schools remaining closed for in-person classes we need everyone back to the office.”
  • We’re Getting Screwed – “Our employees are taking advantage of us/Covid19/ ** the situation **”

Yes; some people are crap. Yes; some people will do whatever they can to not-come-to-work. Yes; some people will spin fantastical stories or attempt to find work-arounds. 

But when we work in HR we need to approach every day and every situation with the mindset that people are inherently good and operating with the best intentions. We must avoid using sweeping generalizations that categorize our employees (OUR employees; the ones we decided were good enough to come work for us) as people whose only goal is to engage in battle with the company.

I get it; there are daily changes to safe-opening guidelines from the CDC and/or state and local entities. Our leaders and managers are demanding we fill open positions and we’re struggling with applicant flow. We’re still managing the complexities of the FFCRA in the US. 

Yet we need to navigate all these things with a modicum of grace and a measure of humanity.  We need to understand that:

  • People are fearful of this virus and do get tested if they’ve had exposure or symptoms; the only reward they get for this, in many situations, is a lower paycheck due to “unpaid” LOA.
  • If people are making more on unemployment, perhaps it’s time to take a long-hard look at the company’s compensation/wages and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Why are people being forced to return-to-the office when they’ve successfully been working from home? Why are butts-in-chairs in one building so critical?  
  • Parents (or other family members) are struggling with a lot of uncertainty around sending their children to school OR they’re faced with the need to oversee remote learning. What about providing assistance rather than forcing them to make a difficult decision? 

So let’s change up the playlist and find some new music. (I hear those K-pop stans have some suggestions…..). 

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The Importance of Using the “Write” Language

write-up

“I’m going to issue a write-up.”

“He should be written up.”

“Her manager is going to give her a write up.”

“HR must be present when a manager gives an employee a write-up.”

“Should I write-up this employee?”

“The employee refused to sign the write-up.” 

“Write-ups don’t work; our employees are still doing the same thing.” 

***** 

I can barely begin to tell you how I abhor this list. These articulations, as captured above, have recently appeared in various and assorted Facebook groups where HR practitioners gather. And while HR folks are accused (and sometimes guilty) of any number of bone-headed maneuvers, the language used by many around employee performance is one move that’s in serious need of adjustment. 

“Write up” (used as both a verb and a noun) is up there in my top 5 most-hated-phrases-uttered-by-HR-people. 

It’s lazy. It’s infantilizing. And it reduces the manager/employee relationship to one of parent & child. Or school principal and pupil. Or lord-of-the-manor and servant. The use of this phrase communicates everything wrong with an organization’s culture, its views on performance management and the employee experience.

It has to go.

I implore you HR – stop being the master of the one-note samba (“write up!”) and sing a different tune. 

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Tips for Your Virtual Happy Hour #workfromhome

We’ve been doing virtual team Happy Hours at Peridus Group since WELL before virtual team Happy Hours became the new normal. Now, with numerous people working from home for the first time, they’re finding ways to socially interact from a safe distance. Replicating the joie de vivre that results when a co-worker says “let’s pop down to the pub after work” is an easy way to maintain one’s sanity and promote a sense of normalcy. 

In the interest of helping our fellow humans, here are a few of our top tips guaranteed to make your HH rock: 

  • Unless you’re doing your home-office/remote-workin’ from your kitchen (and thus with ready access to the refrigerator), make sure to bring the entire bottle of wine (or liquor and mixers) to your home office. That way, when it’s time to pour a fresh one, you don’t even have to step away from the festivities!
  • Put someone in charge of music; assign a walk-in tune to each team member and play it when they enter the chat room. My preferred walk on tune is “SexyBack” by JT.

  • A fun game to play is “let me show you my neighborhood/backyard/favorite restaurant down the street.” Give someone screen sharing capabilities, pull up Google Maps, and take a virtual tour of BFE!

  • Props and costumes add a certain pizzazz to any Happy Hour. We have one team member who occasionally dons a tiara and another that we like to make put on her super-hero cape. Lots of LOLZ!
  • Give new hires a thrill when they realize the invite to “drink alcohol on the clock” comes from the HR lady! (actual quote” “wow! I never worked anywhere where HR planned and coordinated the Happy Hour!”) 
  • Play a game together – live! For our virtual holiday party this past December (eons ago…), I created a holiday trivia quiz (somewhat NSFW) using Kahoot. Everyone downloaded the app and we played together (20 seconds per question!) with the ability to watch the leaderboard while sipping our adult beverage of choice.

Raising my glass to everyone – stay safe, wash your hands and CHEERS!

Photo by Yutacar on Unsplash

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Employee Experience: More than a Buzzword

Employee Experience (EX) is one of those phrases that, if one were so inclined, could fill a “Buzzword Bingo” card at most any HR conference/event over the last few years. We’ve been talking about it for a while now so, inevitably, there are folks already casting about looking for the next shiny-object-du-jour.

I say hold up; our understanding of the importance of the employee experience, and our ability to make improvements, is nowhere near the “check it off the list’ phase.

So what is it… exactly? One easy definition is “employee experience is the “user experience” of your company — it’s the intersection of employees’ expectations, their environment and the events that shape their journey within an organization.”

It includes understanding the moments that matter – for all employees. It requires HR professionals to step outside of their interaction with the experience (a process and interaction THEY created!) and put themselves in the shoes of the end-users (employees). It’s about nurturing a workplace environment where every individual can feel a sense of belonging and be successful.

It’s something we should continuously discuss – and we’re going to do just that next week!

Join me on next week’s #MercerChats (on the twitterz!) on Tuesday, 11/26 at 10 AM ET when we discuss “Who’s Driving the Modern Employee Experience?”

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The ennui of the average worker

Once upon a time people worked in offices like this. Desks lined up in neat and orderly rows. Handbags tucked securely inside drawers. Open concept…well, for some of the employees.

As this picture dates from the 1960’s, my guess is this was where the gals in the secretarial pool sat. The fellas, no doubt, had plush and luxurious offices with windows.

I am worn out just looking at this picture.

Now for all I know these busy employees were doing stimulating and enthralling work. Maybe they were processing multi-million dollar wire transfers to exotic foreign lands or solving complex engineering problems.

Perhaps Beatrice there (2nd desk, cat eye glasses, bouffant hairdo) read The Feminine Mystique and realized she too suffered from ‘the problem that has no name’ so she marched out and got a job a few years ago.

At first it was fun. There was something new to learn every day and she was thrilled, beyond belief, to feel productive and empowered. She learned to operate that fancy multi-line telephone on her desk and initially found the endless repetition of running adding machine tapes hour-after-hour somewhat soothing. Mr. Jones, her boss, was very nice to ‘his girls.’ which is how he referred to Beatrice and her coworkers Enid, Maeve, Wanda Mae and Gladys. He (well, his wife) made sure the girls got a bouquet of flowers on their birthday to place on their desk, and he never (ever!) raised his voice; he didn’t want to upset anyone lest she be having her monthly female visitor.

But then boredom set in. Excruciating, teeth-numbing, soul crushing boredom.

Beatrice, after several years in her job, has moved from satisfaction to the point of contentment. But this is not contentment that resulted, as one might have anticipated, in continued happiness and acceptance. Rather, it resulted in further listlessness. Restlessness.

Ennui.

Beatrice became what we call today, 50 years later, a ‘disengaged employee.’

Disengagement at work is not always due to compounding negative forces; it can just as easily arise due to ennui.

Perhaps that’s a ‘problem that has a name.’

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image of 1960’s workspace via Sacramento Municipal Utility District

this post originally appeared at the HR Schoolhouse

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