Dear Social Media Peeps

Dear Social Media Peeps,

If you put yourself out there expect people to respond. Otherwise don’t put yourself out there. Social media is social by nature. People share, discuss, learn etc. We cannot exist in a vacuum.

It is okay if you want to be on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and not engage in controversial topics. Plenty of people do that. I have seen many a picture of someone’s oatmeal they made that morning.

AlI I am saying is don’t post stuff that is provocative and expect everyone to agree. I only say this because I know someone who is doing that. He even asks people to only respond when they agree. In essence, he wants to influence others without being influenced himself. He wants to promote ideas and limit other people’s ability to express themselves.

Obviously we should all be respectful, but social media is one of the most democratic or representative of platforms. So if you have got something to say expect that others do as well.

Sincerely,

Brad Federman

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Piss Poor Performance Revews

Performance AppraisalAccording to SHRM and NCMM most organizations give themselves a poor grade for managing performance reviews.  They cite a number of obstacles including:

  • Time
  • Lack of training
  • More important priorities
  • Varying appraisal standards

What grade would you give your organization?  And why?

The Importance of Proper Preparation

Just as a good chef carefully prepares all aspects of a meal before plating each dish, successful HR professionals carefully map out every aspect of a task before executing it. In fact, HR professionals are probably some of the most well-prepared individuals in an organization—or at least they should be.

While thorough preparation is undoubtedly stressed in most professions, HR veterans have learned the value of being able to “expect the unexpected.” HR professionals know that all tasks require preparation. That’s true regardless of whether you are implementing an unfamiliar system, conducting a routine meeting with an employee, or pitching a new idea to senior management.

Although every situation requires specific preparation, here are some universal tips to keep in mind when approaching a task:

(1) Know the background. Being the most knowledgeable person in the room never hurts, but that is not always possible. Get as much background information as possible so you will understand the story behind the situation. Walking into a meeting without understanding why the meeting is necessary in the first place is not just uncomfortable, it is also irresponsible. Always take the time to research events leading up to a meeting, especially if you are a latecomer to the situation. Do not hesitate to reach out to other employees for a rundown of the situation. Keep in mind, however, that everyone has a different perspective, so it is a good idea to check several sources.

(2) Organize the evidence. Organization and preparation go hand in hand. When doing your prep work, make sure you stay organized so you can use those hours of preparation effectively. For example, if you spend hours investigating and preparing a response to a grievance, sitting down and writing the response will be much easier if you take the time to organize your notes into meaningful categories.

(3) Anticipate possible counterarguments and reactions. It is absolutely critical to anticipate push back from others. Sometimes laser focus on a matter prevents us from taking a step back and evaluating other perspectives. A lack of preparation will be noticed immediately when you are unable to effectively manage adverse reactions or counterarguments. For example, during a termination meeting with an employee, don’t take any chances. Hope for an amicable conversation, but prepare for the worst.

(4) Develop a Plan B. Being fully prepared means that you have already thought through a Plan B. Most of us have experienced situations in which our original concepts either didn’t pan out or were not accepted by senior management. Ideally, you should come prepared with several alternatives, but you certainly should have a solid Plan B. If you end up needing a Plan B, you will be very thankful you prepared one in advance.

The better prepared you are to tackle a challenge, the more successful the outcome will be. Your preparation (and resulting success) will not go unnoticed. Developing preparation skills will enhance your reputation as a reliable “go-to” person in your department and organization. Being a “go-to” person will allow you to know that you are valued by others and that you bring value to your organization. As an HR professional, it is your job to be an expert. Make sure you are prepared.

Originally Published in Words on Wise

Guest Columnist: Cassandra Lewis

FMLA Concerns

69% of employers are concerned that employees will abuse leave granted under FMLA and similar laws. What do you think? How are you getting ahead of this curve?

Freedom is not free, and neither is engagement.

man-free-signThe 4th of July – Independence day.  It is the day we commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.  From there, The United States of America went on to form a government and agree to a constitution.

However, the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution by themselves are just pieces of paper.  Many other countries that suffer from coups, military control, and sectarian violence have had similar pieces of paper.  If you look beyond the documents and think about history the real work and tests were in the political upheavals and wars such as the American Revolution and the Civil War.  And we are retested throughout our history.

We paid highly for our freedoms.  We paid dearly for those pieces of paper.  And in the end the spirit of “One Nation” won out.  Those pieces of paper reflect work, pain, sacrifice and the choice to rise above oneself or a particular group.

Engagement is no different.  Survey time –  It is the day we commemorate the adoption of the idea that our employees are valued.  Here is the difference between American History and corporate history.  Too many organizations, leaders, and managers see the survey as the work, the pain, the cost.  We are interested in results and fixing items, or as I like to call it, treating symptoms.

The real work and the significant investment come after a survey.  Most companies spend 80 cents on the survey and 20 cents on follow up.  That concept needs to be turned upside down.  An easy way to test my theory out is to look at survey results of companies.  One of the lowest scoring items on any engagement survey is…

“I had an opportunity to discuss the previous organizational survey results with a member of management.”

In fact, in a recent survey we just completed only 21% of employees felt that they had a real opportunity to discuss the previous results with a member of management.  If a company cannot even meet this threshold there is no way they are supporting an engaged culture.

Let’s put a stake in the ground and change our approach to engagement.

  • Start a conversation.  A conversation is a two way dialogue.  Engagement follow ups and action planning needs to be a conversation.  Unfortunately, most managers are held accountable for having a plan not engaging their employees.  Managers comb through the results, diagnose the issues without really understanding them, create an action plan on how to fix engagement levels, and then share that plan and work with their employees.  Employees bless the plan because they do not want to be seen as questioning their manager’s thought process and ideas.  Hey, they are not stupid, and the employees feel less engaged after the survey follow up process then before.
  • Fix the problem.  One reason we talk with our employees or hold focus groups is to better understand the “Why” behind the ratings.  If employees don’t feel recognized it could be for any number of reasons.  Maybe the recognition is not specific.  Maybe you rely too much on programs rather than making it personal.  It could be that you are not providing enough recognition.  Or it could be that you are counteracting the recognition by your ability to find things wrong more than you do right.  I could go on.  The point is, knowing the “Why” is what helps you move forward.
  • Execute a strategic, disciplined approach.  If you want employees to believe that the company truly cares about employee engagement then make sure you have a plan.  When will they hear about the overall results?  How? Will they receive anything in writing?  When will they hear directly about their team or department?  This effort should be run like a military campaign from the top down.  It should be as transparent as possible and ensure that everyone receives the same or similar messaging.
  • Make the invisible visible.  You will not get credit for actions your employees cannot see or connect to the survey feedback.  It is critically important to tie an organization’s, department’s or manager’s decision and actions back to the survey feedback.  Too many times organizations make positive changes, but do not get credit for them.  Marketing is a part of responding.
  • Create a culture.  What happens after 2-3 months when the action plans are finished?  Back to business as usual.  And all that progress is lost because employees see the survey and action planning as an event.  But nothing really changes.  Creating an engaged environment is more about creating a culture that breeds trust, reduces fear, creates connections between employees and the organization, promotes the ability to focus on the right things in the right way and to work with pride toward something that has meaning.  In order to create that culture and maintain it everything changes.  The way we talk, behave, our meeting structure, our organizational structure, who we hire, who we promote, how we hire and promote, the things we measure, the stories we tell and so on.

Surveys tell us how well we did last year at creating and maintaining that culture.  In the end, responding to the survey is not the answer.  Why?  Because those survey results reflect the work, pain, sacrifice and the choice to rise above oneself or a particular group, or our inability to do so.  It is not the paper that matters.    It is price we paid for that culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Staying out of trouble: the importance of progressive discipline

Progressive discipline is an essential tool for management, particularly when it’s combined with good documentation and communication practices. Progressive discipline systems are designed to help employers apply fair, consistent disciplinary decisions. Proper documentation and communication strengthen the legal defensibility of those decisions and protect the company from false accusations.

Mutually beneficial
A structured system understood by both managers and employees takes some of the guesswork out of the relationship. Employees aren’t wondering what penalties could come next, and managers can be confident in their disciplinary decisions.
The ultimate goal of correcting undesirable conduct requires communication and collaboration, particularly in the early steps of the process. Because each step is progressively more serious, the system starts with mild “penalties” such as coaching or supplemental training. The employer and the employee can focus on what will work best for the employee to improve his conduct and avoid more serious discipline down the road. Employees are often invited to participate in the problem-solving process and can work with the employer to develop a performance improvement plan (PIP). Involving the employee in the process will increase her engagement and likelihood of success.

Typical steps, essential elements
Generally, progressive discipline systems follow five steps: (1) coaching or reviewing expectations; (2) oral counseling; (3) written warning; (4) suspen¬sion; and (5) termination. Throughout all steps, there are certain elements managers must maintain. First, the employee must be informed explicitly of the unacceptable behavior and understand the specific actions that constitute the unacceptable behavior. Likewise, the employee must be made aware of what desirable behavior looks like. Perhaps most important, the employee must be informed of the manager’s expectations moving forward and the consequences of a failure to comply.
While most progressive discipline systems loosely follow the structure above, the specifics can vary. In a unionized environment, the system is usually sub¬ject to negotiation. A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) often contains detailed provisions addressing progressive discipline. Therefore, if you have union¬ized employees, your managers need to be acutely aware of the disciplinary provisions in the CBA. A violation of a contract provision will be taken very seriously by the union and could escalate to arbitration or litigation.

Proper documentation is key
The safety net provided by a progressive discipline system is inextricably dependent on proper documentation by management. With proper documentation, the system can successfully establish the employer’s effort to correct misconduct before considering more damaging disciplinary action. Then, if an employee is ultimately discharged, management can be confident in its decision. (For additional advice on the right time to terminate an employee, see Jerry Glass’ “Words on Wise Management” column “Are you really documenting performance” on pg. 5 of our March 2014 issue.)
Effective documentation before, during, and after the process serves as a solid record when facts are called into question, demonstrating that the company acted in accordance with its policies and procedures, and encouraging cooperative behavior.

All documentation not created equal
Illegible shorthand notes cannot be considered proper documentation. For your documentation to be effective, you should use your own words, write chronologically, be specific when possible, date and time stamp all documentation, provide the informa¬tion to all parties involved, and always file a copy.
Documentation should not be tedious or overwhelming. If you make it a habit to maintain simple records and follow the above guidelines, it will become second nature. Just ask around—most managers who properly document the disciplinary process have thanked themselves for it later.

Author: Cassandra Lewis a labor analyst for F&H Solutions Group.

Originally published in Words on Wise

 

To ‘Rank and Yank’ or Not

Does your organization need forced ranking? An overlooked source of guidance sits within your quality improvement framework.

“Zero defects” is a popular slogan, but quality management warns that not all defects are equally bad. Zero defects can impede quality if you try to drive out every defect. Optimal process improvement is applied only where its value exceeds its cost.

In November, Microsoft ceased its long-held performance management practice of force ranking employees, just as Yahoo introduced the same practice. Does your organization need forced ranking? An overlooked source of guidance sits within your quality improvement framework.

The Microsoft announcement emphasized the company’s goal to encourage teamwork and collaboration. Lisa Brummel, Microsoft’s executive vice president of human resources, stated, “No more curve. We will continue to invest in a generous rewards budget, but there will no longer be a predetermined targeted distribution. Managers and leaders will have flexibility to allocate rewards in the manner that best reflects the performance of their teams and individuals, as long as they stay within their compensation budget.”

Yet forced ranking can clarify performance differences and allow (or force) managers to improve or remove low performers. One Forbes report suggested that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo’s CEO, “inherited a workforce that was bigger than it needed to be and riddled with paycheck-cashing clock-punchers. Precisely because it’s so big, figuring out who the slackers are isn’t easy.” This description may overstate reality, but it illustrates the point that forced ranking has value when restructuring benefits from better revealing high- and low-performers.

David Calhoun, the former CEO of Nielsen Holdings who had a 27-year career at GE, has defended the forced ranking system, saying, “At GE there was only one objective … to force an honest discussion between your manager and you. And there’s nothing that quite forces that more than employees knowing … how that manager ranks them, and then asking that manager, ‘Tell me where I rank and tell me why.’”

Let’s retool this debate using quality management principles: Performance management, including forced ranking, should be applied when value exceeds cost, and that depends on the consequences of the defects discovered and corrected. The defects are unaddressed poor performance (lingering problems) or unrewarded high performance. This helps explain the Microsoft/Yahoo distinction.

By scrapping forced ranking, Microsoft will likely see some high performance not rewarded as handsomely and some poor performance lingering longer. That’s a good trade-off if the lost value is less than the increased collaboration created without forced rankings. Microsoft used forced ranking for a while, which may have removed most low performers, so the value of detecting low performance is less. Microsoft may also now be better at rewarding high performance without rankings.

By adding forced ranking, Yahoo will incur new costs (in managerial time and effort, public backlash, employee resistance and internal competition). That may be worth it if its workforce is too large, and poor performance is costly and hard to identify. The defects of unaddressed poor performance and unrewarded high performance are more consequential at Yahoo, so the quality improvement value of forced ranking is greater.

Microsoft and Yahoo have engineering-driven cultures, where leaders make quality improvement investment decisions like this every day. Hopefully, those leaders are as rigorous in decisions about forced ranking.

One thing suggests they could do better. The quality improvement discipline suggests that a single approach is rarely valuable for an entire process, let alone an entire organization. Targeting matters. Yet, Microsoft and Yahoo both seemed to make these decisions for their entire workforce. We know the consequences of high and low performance varies across jobs, so one-size-fits-all is almost certainly not optimal, just as with software or any other process.

How will your organization decide about forced ranking? Too often, it is with anecdotes or a one-size-fits-all solution that swings from one extreme to the other. A better answer may be as close as the quality improvement processes you already use.

Originally published in Talent Management