Tag Archive for human resources

You CAN Bring the Sexy Back: ‘Branding’ Employee Discipline

dominatrix-mistress-with-her-whipIt seems you can’t click open your web browser without reading something about “Employer Branding.” Or “Talent Branding.” Good stuff to be sure; I think it’s important and critical.

What fascinates me is how we tend to explore this concept primarily from a talent attraction or recruiting standpoint. Oh sure, during the strategy phase of “employer branding” there is cursory attention paid to overall organizational culture and the end-loop/integration to the employee life cycle. “If we recruit these people,” says Mary the HR leader, “we need to think about retaining them.” Well…yeah.

So great care is given to ensuring that the brand carries on throughout the onboarding, performance management and succession planning processes. The Learning & Development team aligns their instructional design and training delivery to the brand. Marketing and recruiting teams work hand in hand and it’s a wonderful and glorious thing.

But you know what’s often neglected in this strategy planning? That which HR is often best known for: employee relations. ER, as defined by our friends at HRCI, is the interaction between employees and an organization (for example, communications, conflict resolution, compliance with legal regulations, career development, and performance measurement).”

For the non-HR types, this catch all category includes:

  • “Joe reports to work 30 minutes late 3 times per week”
  • “Maeve is an insufferable know-it-all who pisses off every single human being in the office”
  • “Bob told a dirty joke in the lunch room”
  • “the VP of Sales has been patting the derrieres of all the female account executives”

So, because this kind of crap goes on in every workplace your local HR Department creates an Employee Handbook/Policy Manual. This is where you find information about how you get paid, EEO statements, and your rights under the FMLA.

And nestled in amongst all those nuggets is the section that let’s you know what will happen if YOU are the one telling dirty jokes in the lunch room. But there’s often no attempt to think about brand here; this section of the handbook/policy manual/rule book is often given an authoritative sounding title like Code of Conduct or Company Rules.

Included in this section you will learn that when your manager does need to have a discussion, you may be facing:

  • A Corrective Action Notification
  • The Disciplinary Procedure
  • A Counseling Report
  • The Progressive Discipline Process
  • A Verbal Warning, Written Warning, FINAL Warning

Jesus.

And you’re given this on your first day of employment.

So even in the midst of all the #culture and #transparency and #WeAreFamily hoopla that connects your candidate/applicant experience to your NEW/NOW employment experience, you are slapped right up side-the-head with something that was left out of the employer brand strategy conversations.

HR professionals as tyrannical police agents? Moms? Headmistresses?

Dominatrixes?

I’m not saying we downplay important information by bathing it in sunshine and serving it up with lollipops and cotton candy. I am saying that HR teams, when working on an employer branding strategy need to connect all the dots. Language is important and the branding of your employee relations (discipline!) approach is just as critical as the branding of your career site.

So…what’s your brand?

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credit: image

The ennui of the average worker

60s-smud-office-470Once 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

Another View of HR ‘Big Data’

topdown3Last week I read this article explaining that “Big data knows when you’re going to quit your job before you do.” The article relates how VMware is using Workday to predict when and/if certain employees are in danger of leaving the organization. Workday’s Insight Applications, summarized here, are rolling out in 2015 and are designed to predict future business outcomes. Leaders with access to both internal and external data should, of course, be able to take advantage of opportunities while also cutting risk levels using the data patterns, predictions and recommendations that are embedded within the Workday system.

As the original article pointed out “By combining company data on employee hiring, promotions, relocations, compensation, employee satisfaction surveys, managerial decisions and job cuts with public data sets like the standard of living in the region and workforce demand for certain skills, Workday can spot patterns. Businesses can input decades of historical staff data into Workday to inform and customize the system’s recommendations. In one case, Workday analyzed more than 1 million data points for 100,000 employees across 25 years to come up with employment suggestions. To train the software, companies must look back on worker-retention predictions and give the software an electronic pat on the head for ones it got it right and a virtual swat with a newspaper for those it got wrong. The system learns over time how each company works and, like an experienced HR employee, develops a gut feeling for which people the company needs to keep a closer eye on.”

The evolution of HR. The stuff many of us get giddy reading about, discussing and exploring. For those HR practitioners who are able to realize the benefits of technology and big data, such as this, it’s like a whole new world; we feel like we’re sitting with the big boys (finally) when we have this information at our disposal.

Unfortunately though, when Ginormous Corporate Conglomerate A and Large Regional Bank Holding Company B start using this sort of technology, it doesn’t set so well with Sally Lunch Bucket and Joe Six Pack.

Using absolutely no data, algorithms, or regression analysis whatsoever I present to you, unedited, a few of the reader comments (505 as I type this) from the original article:

  • “It’s not a problem for those rare companies that actually value their employees properly and compensate them fairly.”
  • “Yeah, like they care if you’re going to quit.”
  • “Pay your employees better, train them well and treat them well and maybe they won’t quit!”
  • “This will only make employees less trusting of their employers.”
  • “A better idea might be to figure out WHY someone is going to quit… and how to fix the problem they’re quitting to get away from. Bosses won’t like that, though, since 90% of us don’t quit our jobs, we quit our bosses….”
  • “Does it also predict when your company quits you?”

There’s also lots (and lots) of HR bashing….

  • “HR becomes less human everyday”
  • “Over the last few years HR “professionals” have been trying to gain more and more power and influence in the corporate world. They sell unproven or ridiculous ideas and philosophies to upper management or board members and then completely destroy a company from within.”
  • “HR has ruined getting a job in this country, They created a cottage industry on uselessness.”
  • “HR = a parade of clowns”
  • “The ironic part of this whole thing is that this machine will probably be operated by someone in “Human” Resources.”
  • “How about HR just do their jobs? There is no need to rely on a program, they just have to get off of their butts and be active.”
  • “Human Resources. Neither human, nor resourceful.”

Ouch.

So how do we prepare for this tsunami of distrust when rolling out a new technology such as this? Something that brings to mind, for a fair number of people, an Orwellian society?

We pay attention to keeping the human element in mind, that’s how. We communicate across the organization – not just with the C-Suite execs who have given the blessing to our endeavor. We share the why, what, and how with Joe and Sally. And then we share it again.

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Earlier this year I had a conversation with a VPHR for a large regional company that was looking to hire a Regional HR Manager. This position, based in a large metropolitan area, has HR responsibilities (primarily employee relations) across a 3 state region and also serves as an HR Business Partner for a company-wide line of business.

Big company. Big data.

And, as part of this movement to using data to more effectively manage initiatives and projects, the VPHR outlined her expectations that her HR team be viewed as, well, business partners. She didn’t believe a need existed for her HR team to travel to company sites or meet with employees. Unless, of course, it was necessary as part of an investigation.

“We’ve got the technology and the systems and the data,” she summarized. “I don’t need the HR Managers spending their time in the field.”

I wonder what Joe and Sally would think of that? “Human Resources. Neither human, nor resourceful.”

 

Why Your HR Lady Likes to Tell You “No”

1950s_family_lifeThere’s an interesting dynamic often at play in the workplace when the CEO/Owner/Company President serves as an ersatz father figure while the beleaguered HR lady is assigned the role of substitute mother. (And yes; I realize I am assigning genders of male and female based along stereotypical lines but since the human resources profession hovers around 70% female, for purposes of this narrative that’s what we’re going to work with here).

While Dad fulfills his often-absent but always-looming role as patriarch to a motley assemblage of children (the employees), Mom is left to perform the day-to-day care taking duties. It’s a 1950’s sitcom wherein she wears sensible pearls and high heels while vacuuming, wipes a stray tear here and there, and serves as the nurturer when little Johnny comes home after escaping a schoolyard taunting. But it’s only when Dad arrives home from the office at the end of his busy day that true wisdom can be imparted and the final lessons dispensed. After slipping off his suit jacket and inserting his feet into soft velvety slippers (monogrammed of course), Dad sits little Johnny down (along with big brother Bobby and middle child Susie) and shares today’s important life lesson; how to deal with schoolyard bullies. Perhaps the lesson covers why it’s important to work hard and save one’s own money to purchase a new bike. Dad likes to cover the sorts of topics that led the children of the post-WWII generation to write songs like “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

“Your Mother wants what’s best for you,” Dad is fond of explaining in these fireside chats. “Sometimes she has to tell you “No” so you’ll learn what it’s like to sacrifice, work hard, and earn what you deserve.”

Numerous parents have operated by these instructional principles for decades. And your mom, like mothers everywhere, operates from a place of love where she does things with your best interests in mind.

Your HR Lady/HRMom often thinks the same way.

After all, your HRMom has historically been charged with watching out for your well-being and making sure you’re taken care of from cradle to grave (health care benefit enrollments to retirement plan meetings). She has, unfortunately, been charged with crafting the dress code policy, laying out the rules of behavior and etiquette, monitoring the break room refrigerator, and having conversations with you about hygiene and bathroom habits. In HRMom’s world, Joe in Purchasing might as well be a disgusting teen-age boy the way he clips his toenails at his desk!

As a new parent, she starts off with the best of intentions and tells her friends she needs to “cover up the outlets so the baby can’t stick her fingers in them.”

Before you know it though, HRMom is reminding her children to “Put on a sweater before you go outside because I’m cold” and “We’re going to your Aunt Helen’s so you most assuredly cannot wear jeans!”

“You think it’s not fair? Life isn’t fair” she likes to say. “What part of NO don’t you understand?” she’ll ask when you attempt to argue a point.

When HRMom says “I’m not asking you. I’m telling you” she’s letting you know that you best comply with the antiquated rule/policy/edict she is quoting.

Her coup de grace, as it is for mothers everywhere, is merely to expertly arch an eyebrow and inform you “Because I said so, that’s why!”

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When real mom, living in the pre 2nd-wave feminist world, said “Just wait until your father gets home” she was deferring decision-making authority – and moxie – to the headship.

When HRMom says the same thing it feels a bit like she’s abdicating ownership. Doesn’t it? But perhaps saying “No” is the only way she can retain some sense of control. Power in a powerless world.

Unlike mom-at-home who offers you homemade oatmeal cookies fresh from the oven to demonstrate her love and care, HRMom can float through her day in a somnambulistic state; proffering words of wisdom and platitudes designed to keep you in line; semi-cocooned in blissful tranquility designed to ensure you toe-the-line and don’t drift off into teenage delinquency.

And then your HRmom reads an article like this – telling her that an entire new job category is being/has been created for “Employee Happiness Manager” and “Aim-to-Please Specialists.” HRMom reads this:

“ Nuha Masri, 25, says she can’t imagine working at a company without generous perks. They impressed her at Google, which also offers “nap pods,” and then became “so mundane, you just expect them,” she says.”

So you, figuring that HRMom wants you to be happy while simultaneously forgetting that she has already told you her job is not to ensure your happiness, ask for a change to the cafeteria offerings. Or suggest casual days all week long. Or inquire about adding a “bring your pet to work day.”

And you know what your HRmom – and Dad for that matter – is going to say to that, don’t you?

“I don’t care if Billy’s mom let him do it. If Billy’s mom let him jump off the bridge would you want me to let you do that too?”

In other words…no.

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this post was originally published on LinkedIn