Monday, September 19, 2011

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Everything You Need to Know About the New NLRB Posting

Back in February I wrote a blog about a potential new NLRB posting requirement. At the time the NLRB was seeking comments on the new posting prior to implementing it. Now that the commenting process is complete, the NLRB has announced that all companies, with an impact on interstate commerce, post the new requirements titled “Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act.”

In the February blog, one of my concerns was that the draft version of the poster featured 15 bullet points that were pro-union and 4 bullet points that were pro-company. The final version is somewhat improved. There are now 14 pro-union bullet points and 5 pro-company bullets.

On one side, there really isn’t any new information here and all of it is easily available on the internet. An article on this new requirement in the Huffington Post states:

“The National Labor Relations Act is a 76-year-old law that outlines workers' rights to unionize and bargain collectively in most private-sector workplaces. The fact that the board would want Americans aware of these rights is apparently seen by some as catering to labor unions.”

While it is true that this notice doesn’t include anything new and is likely to get lost on the already overflowing bulletin boards of most employers, it has phenomenally bad timing. Republican congressional leaders are now threatening to defund the NLRB over this and other recent actions (like the Boeing case), and this can’t look good for President Obama as he advocates for the reduction of anti-business regulations.

Politics aside, employers must follow the requirements of the new law by November 14, 2011. The requirements are simple: Go online, find the new posting, print it and put it on your bulletin board. To do this, the NLRB has provided two options, one is 11x17 or if you have a small printer, you can print the two page 8.5x11 version and tape it together. In an amazing show of compassion, the NLRB will also allow those without internet access (or maybe a lack of paper) to go to the nearest NLRB office where they can receive their free copy.

In a nod to the fact that some companies utilize the internet, if you normally post your employee information on line, then you need to provide a link to this posting. To make it easier on our friends, we’ve included the following links:

NLRB posting 11x17 version
NLRB posting 8.5x11 version

Again, the due date for this new posting is November 14th and we’re looking forward to seeing it the next time one of us stops by to visit you. HRM Innovations, LLC is available to help with any questions you may have on HR or Management related topics and can be contacted at: or 269-615-4821.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Seven Steps to Effective Onboarding

We recently added a new employee at HRM. Carrie Nicholson joined us as our Director of People Placement. Getting her started and setting up an onboarding process was an automatic thing for us to do. However, I’ve noticed that with some of the companies we work with, onboarding is a term which is well known in HR, but can often get you a blank look when you mention it to other parts of the organization.

To start, onboarding is a more comprehensive form of a new hire orientation. The typical 2 hour new hire orientation presentation is supposed to fully inform an employee about the history of the company, get them to sign the handbook, apply for benefits, learn safety rules, and be ready to roll by 10:00 a.m. Onboarding goes beyond that and should help to fully initiate a new employee onto the team.

Here’s why onboarding is important: When you hire a new person, there’s a lot of anxiety – on both sides. Effective onboarding can help to lessen that anxiety. Here are some key things you can do to make the onboarding process go smoothly.

1. Set a specific schedule. Do this for the first week or so of employment and send it to your new employee in advance. Removal of some of the unknowns is a great way to reduce stress.
2. Explain the overall mission of the organization and how this position fits into the bigger picture. How will this position impact the organization?
3. Introduce your new person to the rest of the team and not just “Hi, this is Sue,” but “Hi, this is Sue and she’s going to be helping you do X, X, and X.”
4. Feed him. Meals are important to me, and so are people, so it was pretty uncomfortable when I started my very first professional job and got deserted by the entire HR department on my first day at noon. At a minimum, have a plan in place to feed your new person until he can develop a lunch plan of his own.
5. Communicate your performance expectations. What are the key measureables? How will they be evaluated?
6. Teach her about your company’s products. Do you make widgets? Have your new person spend time in the plant making them. If it’s not practical to do that, have her job shadow someone who does.
7. Explain the office nuances. Every office has their quirks and rules. Do you bring your own coffee cup or use the ones there? Do you pay for coffee or is it provided? Don’t make your new person learn the rules after they’ve just dropped the favorite coffee cup of your crabbiest employee.

When it comes to onboarding new employees, Carrie was really easy. In part, because I’ve hired her twice before: Once as a supplier when she was a manager with Kelly Services and then several years later we hired as the HR Manager at ASMO when we hired her to manage the process she had set up.

I must do a fair job with the onboarding, she keeps coming back, or maybe it’s just the food….

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

There's an App for That

When I first got my smartphone, my exposure to apps was limited to the ones that my kids downloaded. I will admit to having fun using my phone as a light saber, drum set, and playing a game that saves innocent cows from alien abductions. I soon discovered there were apps for lots of things besides games. Just when I thought my smartphone phone could provide just about any resource I would ever need (except maybe a bottle opener), there’s a new app that is pretty much guaranteed to cause headaches for HR professionals.

The creator? None other than our own beloved Department of Labor. The app? A time tracking app that allows you to track your hours worked and time spent on breaks and meals. The app also helpfully includes links to the DOL rules on wage and hour laws on the department’s website. Even more conveniently, it allows you to email your time worked records and provides instructions for filing claims with the DOL. Here’s the link: DOL Time Tracking App

I’m concerned about this new app for several reasons:

1. Wage and hour laws can be complex and confusing. Instead of encouraging employees to work with their respective organizations to resolve questions and concerns, this app takes that discussion directly to the DOL – and that isn’t going to resolve anything quickly or cheaply.

2. Employees now have a tool to “stockpile” their pay concerns and then submit a claim for the past year, or more.

3. The app creates a set of duplicate records. If my phone says I was at work at 6:00 a.m., but my employer says I started at 7:00, who is the DOL going to believe?

There are some things that you can do to limit your liabilities in this area:

1. Ensure that you are following the wage and hour standards to the letter. If you aren’t certain about how to pay in a certain situation, get expert help.

2. Use an electronic time tracking system for your non-exempt employees. Especially using one with a biometric scanning feature will ensure that the time tracking is accurate.

3. Include detailed hours worked records on pay stubs and then document in your pay policy a requirement that employees report any pay concerns or discrepancies within a specified period of time. This may avoid large back payments and should make the employer records the definitive record.

Those organizations with positive employee relationships should still have the opportunity to work wage and hour questions out internally. For those organizations that aren’t following the rules or don’t have great employee relationships, this may be a great motivator to take some steps in that direction.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How to Fire Problem Employees

Last month I wrote about hiring the perfect employee. But what do you do when you make that bad hiring decision? At this point in my career, I’ve released over 1,000 people either through layoffs or terminations. While my physical resemblance to George Cooney is striking, I have no plans to be like his “Up in the Air” movie character.

What I have learned are ways to do it well. Here are six key points:

1. Don’t wait to fire: Once you’ve done what you can to help the person and have decided that he or she is truly not a fit for the organization, don’t wait to remove them. You don’t want to frustrate your good performers.

2. It shouldn’t be a surprise: If you are communicating performance results, attendance concerns, and company financial information, no termination should be a complete surprise.

3. Treat them with respect: Many years ago, a neighboring company pulled all of their employees together into a conference room and announced that the plant was closing. Employees were required to stay until a security guard came and escorted them out of the room, collected their possessions and then off the premises. When I interviewed them, even years later, they were still angry about how they were treated.

4. Don’t blame the person: The employee being terminated is going to be feeling bad enough already. Don’t point out their weaknesses as failures, but do explain why they aren’t a good fit for the organization.

5. Let them blame you: You aren’t going to win an argument with the person at this point, so why try? Let them state their opinions.

6. Put the reason for the termination in writing: They say the average person retains only 10% of what they hear. I would argue that number is even lower when the previous words were “You’re being let go…” Give the employee something to refer to when they get home. More importantly though, draft the letter as though you were writing it to a plaintiff’s attorney. If you carefully explain that the employee is being terminated because this was the fourth sexual harassment complaint filed against them in a 12 month period, few attorneys are going to be interested in taking the case.

The majority of people remain professional throughout the process. In fact, many times, it’s our own anxiety about having the meeting that drives the process over the edge. I had one forklift driver who knew she was going to be laid off. She came into the glass office where I was doing layoffs and she was carrying a large cardboard axe. She handed it to me before throwing herself on the desk. Realizing she thought I was the executioner, I pretended to use the axe to “take off her head.” Several years later I received a thank you note from her stating that she had gone back to school, gotten her degree in accounting and that she loved her new career.

As difficult as the process may be, many times it leads to good things for the person and helps to motivate them to find a spot that really is a great fit.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Hire the Perfect Employee

When I meet people, I generally categorize them into three groups: Those that I avoid, those that I would invite to join me on my deck, and those that I would hire. One of the mistakes a lot of companies make is to hire people from the second group. A person can be friendly and enjoyable and fun on my deck, but that doesn’t make him/her a good employee for my company.

The first step in finding the perfect employee is to honestly understand how your organization functions. As a consultant, I visit 4-5 different companies in various industries each week. They have vastly different cultures, markets, sense of urgencies, and hiring needs. What might be a great candidate for one employer could be a complete failure for another.

For example, I’m a high energy, creative, type A personality that is most productive prior to 10:00 a.m. If you are looking for a lot of change in a short period of time with some out of the box ideas, someone with my personality might be a great hire. However, if your organization is heavily bureaucratic, that decision would be a disaster.

When you design your selection process, take a good look at the skills required, the personality and the culture. Can your organization tolerate an HR guy that’s hyperactive at 6:00 a.m. or a great salesperson who doesn’t have the detail orientation to fill out an expense report but can sell like crazy? Some can, some can’t.

Don’t settle for what you think is the ideal employee. Take the time to complete a job analysis to truly and honestly understand what works and what doesn’t before you bring someone on board. You’ll hear the “hire for talent” or “hire for skill” mantra, but when we design selection systems, we don’t settle for one or the other and you shouldn’t either. Instead, profile the entire job and candidate. If you know what the ideal candidate looks like from all aspects, you’re much more likely to find what you want and need. If you don’t you just might find yourself with an energetic HR guy on your doorstep at 6:00 a.m.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to Sucessfully Drive Change

I’m always fascinated by the dynamics of leaders and their organizations. Some leaders are able to successfully drive major changes without a backlash and others simply can’t. This past week, there was a local organization that handled some changes exceptionally poorly. Here’s the background:

A local church implemented sweeping changes which included the firing of half of its employees and the elimination of music during services. In communicating this, the Bishop sent a five page letter to the congregation. According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, the letter “rebukes the church community for retribution, name-calling and dissent.” The letter also stated, “Some of you might feel compelled to leave the congregation and, if that’s what you choose, may God bless you on your journey.”

The result? The letter ignited a long simmering conflict and subsequently resulted in an assault charge filed with the police after a 78 year old member of the congregation claimed she was shoved by the priest. The priest has since resigned.

Certainly there are times when leaders can and must make tough calls. However, when you do, there are some steps you can follow to minimize the disruption and bad feelings, including:

Communicating the problem in advance: Chances are your employees already know what’s happening. Keeping them in the communications loop will ensure that they perceive the problem the same way you do.

• Asking for suggestions: There are several advantages to this:

1. You might just find a great idea you hadn’t previously considered.

2. People will be more willing to accept change if they have a voice in making those changes – even if you don’t pick their suggestion.

If you have to do something really unpopular, try this:

• Explain why the change is necessary
• Apologize for the necessity of the action
• Whatever you do, don’t blame the members
• Do provide an opportunity for them to vent and provide feedback (small groups or individual discussions are best for this)
• Communicate a plan for moving forward to better times

The moral of the story? When you lead or have responsibility for controlling an organization, you can’t make arbitrary decisions without negative fall-out. If you attack and blame your members, they will fight back. It’s always better to engage them in implementing the solution than to arbitrarily force a change. That’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy and just might be enough to force your calmest employees to lose control.