Sunday, August 17, 2014

3 Worst Mistakes Managers And Supervisors Make

They say the perfect business has no managers, no supervisors, and no employees. Unfortunately, your business isn't perfect, and you have to deal with managers and supervisors who will make today's "worst mistakes" if you don't train them.

Here are the worst mistakes managers make:

Worst #1 — Failure to Be Honest in Performance Management

Supervisors and managers don't like to deliver bad news, so they just avoid it. They observe bad behavior, they accept poor performance, and they say nothing, then it's time to complete the performance appraisal. Since they've said nothing about the poor performance, instead of hitting the employee with the truth, the supervisor or manager simply awards a "satisfactory."

The manager thinks that he or she is sending a message, because "satisfactory" is considered a low rating.

This creates a double edged problem. First of all, nothing's being done about the poor performance, so it will just continue as a productivity drag.

Second, you're setting yourself up to lose a lawsuit—already, the manager's thinking doesn't match the written record.

And things are only going to get worse. Eventually, the poor performance is going to cause the managers or supervisor to take action.

The manager fires the employee, but, unfortunately, once again, the manager doesn't tell the truth. The manager says, "Sorry, due to budgetary restrictions, we had to let someone go."

Later, the employee sues, saying, "I found out there are no budgetary restrictions. The firing was because I am in a protected group."

Now the manager backpedals—"Well actually, the reason for the termination was poor performance."

Boom. The framework for the successful lawsuit is in place.

An employee with demonstrably "satisfactory" performance (as documented by his appraisal forms signed by the manager), was officially terminated for "budgetary restrictions." Now the manager is saying the real reason was poor performance.  Clearly the manager was untruthful at some point.

And unfortunately, the poor performance is not documented. The jury is going to side with the employee. Or, more likely, this case is going to settle.

Worst #2 — Making Snap Decisions When Responding to Employee Requests and Complaints

Certainly, many employee requests are annoying, or unreasonable, or even outrageous, but that doesn't mean that you can ignore them, or refuse them, or even react angrily to them.

That's not easy when, for instance, a key worker asks for FMLA leave with the busy season coming up. Or you had a very good shot at getting a proposal out on deadline and then the writer needs "bonding time." Or his "back is acting up" or her "migraines are getting worse."

Whatever the situation, managers and supervisors need to be trained to "keep their cool" and give the request due respect. Training managers to deal with these situations is relatively easy—Tell managers "If this kind of situation arises, say 'I'll get back to you,' and head to HR."

Complaints are similar in that they can be upsetting (especially if directed at the manager or supervisor in question) but must be dealt with respectfully. For example:

  • Allegations of discrimination, retaliation, or illegal practices
  • Questions about safety or a refusal to do a job because it is viewed as unsafe
  • A report of an illegal act or refusal to perform an act perceived to be illegal
  • Questions about wages, hours, overtime, etc.
  • Requests for workers' compensation
  • Requests for accommodation on the basis of disability or religion

Employees have rights in these areas, and they must be respected. In addition, be aware that your denying these rights will rarely look good in court. ("Even after being informed that the action was unsafe, you tried to force the employee to do it?")

As one expert says, "Don't let your managers and supervisors deal with these situations—they'll mess it up for sure."

Worst Mistake #3 — Basic Wage/Hour Stumbles

Employees will tolerate a lot, but start messing with their paychecks, and there will be trouble, guaranteed. Many wage/hour problems seem relatively small, but they can be magnified dramatically as class actions.

For example, say you fail to pay 5 hours of overtime per week to an employee. Call it 250 hours in a year, with a $10 an hour premium, and it's $2500. No big deal. Now multiply by 200 employees. Whoops, that's half a million. Double it and add in attorney's fees—yours and the employee's—and you've got a big number.

Here are the most common wage/hour failures:

Failing to Pay All Hours Worked

One common scenario is employees who put in unpaid hours willingly ("Don't worry, I'll finish that up at home."). That's thoughtful, but it doesn't relieve you of the obligation to pay. The other common scenario is when people are expected to do setup before clocking in (filling cash register, setting up tables) or do cleanup after clocking out. ("Do you mind just prepping for tomorrow after you clock out?")

Another increasingly common scenario is employees who are expected to take calls or answer e-mail on their phones or Blackberries (or home computers) off hours. If it's more then de minimis, it's probably hours worked.

Making Special Arrangements

Another wage/hour problem that crops up is that managers and supervisors make special arrangements with employees. For example:

Offering comp time in private sector. There's no such thing as comp time in the private sector. If employees work, they get paid. (Hours may be exchanged during a work week, however; a non-exempt employee can leave work early and make up the time the next day with no problem as long as both days are within the same work week.)
Lesser or no overtime rate. No matter what employees agree to, or even ask for, they must be paid time and one half their regular rate for overtime hours.
After clocking out. Before clocking in. Employees may want to "help out" and work some hours off the clock, but that is not permitted. If they work, they have to be paid.

Failing to Properly Calculate the 'Regular Rate'

The regular rate, the amount on which overtime is calculated, includes non-discretionary bonuses, shift differentials, etc. If such bonuses are awarded after the pay period closes, you have to go back and recalculate.

Wage and hour, one of what, 20 things you need to train managers and supervisors on? Training is critical, but it's tough to fit it in. To train effectively, you need a program that's easy for you to deliver and that requires little time from busy schedules. Also, if you're like most companies in these tight budget days, you need a program that's reasonable in cost.

Thanks to Steve Bruce / HR Daily Advisor BLR / BLR Business & Legal Reports

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

3 Things We Can Learn about Compensation Communications from the News

The news is always a great place to learn about communications skills and methodology. How to keep things positive while you deflect charges like a "Teflon" president. What happens (or doesn't) when you don't build consensus. The list could go on and on.

Oddly enough, the teachable moments for me in the last few weeks have come from the Occupy Wall Street movement. I keep thinking that their words can teach people in our business a lot about compensation communications. After all, participants in Occupy Wall Street have a message to send that they hope will change behaviors in large groups of people, especially those in organizations. See what I mean?

Let's take a look.

  • Describing their purpose. They have told news sources that they are mainly protesting social and economic inequality, corporate greed and corruption. The words make their efforts sound straightforward. But I've also been thinking about the impact on the listener. Even as you hear their philosophy, you may be thinking, "But it's not that simple." Or you may be thinking as I did, "Do they mean me?" As in, since I work in and around corporations, does your criticism apply to me, too?

Lesson? Neither of these reactions will encourage me to listen or act. I'm pointing this out to show that words really do have power and that there's a communications lesson here for us. If your audience doesn't "get it" the way you think they should, you have spoken but you have not influenced their opinion. This can easily (and regularly) happen if you don't audience-test your compensation communications. You can create communications that have no impact, or barely the impact that you want, because your audience doesn't get it the way you assumed they would.

  • Explaining how. As the audience for Occupy Wall Street over the last few weeks, have you learned how they would go about the change they are promoting? Any idea what they think your role should be? What the world will look like after they have achieved success?

Lesson? If Occupy Wall Street's representatives have talked about these things, the information has gotten lost. But we need these details to be vibrant and compelling if we are going to react in any way that would lead to change. We need to be able to envision what the changed world would look like, what we would be doing in it and what's in it for us to make the effort to get there.

  • Communicating best when something goes wrong. I live across a bridge from Oakland, so I have heard a lot about that location's story. If they weren't having problems, I would have heard a lot less even though I am in the neighborhood. We all may be the 99%, but we feel most comfortable talking to the guy next to us who is probably on the same wavelength.

Lesson? It's a nuisance to struggle to be  understood. It takes a lot more effort to speak clearly and understandably to those outside of HR and we put it off a lot. As a result we wait until we can't avoid it, like the end-of-year performance management and compensation activities. Then, we talk to those outside the department but rush back inside our own group -- where we can speak among friends -- as soon as we can. We've got to get out there more often if we want to be understood and achieve change.

It seems like such an complex and interesting time in our world. Interesting, I think, because there so much to learn from watching and listening. (As soon as I stop hyperventilating and get my fingers out of my ears!)

Margaret O'Hanlon is founder and principal of re:Think Consulting. She has decades of experience teaming up with clients to ensure great Human Resource ideas deliver valuable business results.  Margaret brings deep expertise in total rewards communications and change management to the dialog at the Café. Before founding re:Think Consulting, she was a Principal in Total Rewards Communications and Change Management with Towers Perrin. Margaret is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), Pacific Plains Region. She earned her M.S. and Ed.S. in Instructional Technology at Indiana University. Creative writing is one of her outside passions, along with Masters Swimming.

Thanks to Margaret O'Hanlon / Compensation Café

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Monday, June 2, 2014

5 Common Pitfalls Of Work Friendships

How not to end up fired and friendless.

She's your boss-- and your friend (at least when she can actually loosen up and act like a normal human being). As the lines between professional and personal life become increasingly blurred, and people spend more hours of the day working (or at least pretending to), it's unrealistic to think that work can't-- or shouldn't-- engender true friendships. Nonetheless, there are six common missteps that can spell doom for the ever-tenuous dance between colleague and friend:

Drawing Inadequate Boundaries: You need not put Saran Wrap around your cube, but you must find a way not to violate the first tenet of professionalism: maintaining adequate boundaries. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time to let your team members know about your blog, or confide to that intern about that you went through a bit of a hallucinogenic phase in high school. Tread carefully. Whether it's too loud of personal phone calls or having a bright-pink email signature listing every last one of your favorite movie quotes, it can be quite tempting to reveal too much-- greatly damaging your professional identity in the process.

Creating an All-for-One and One-for-All Partnership: If you and your closer-than-close work buddy are virtually indistinguishable from each other (it's a bad sign if your bladders are in sync because of all the dual coffee and bathroom breaks), then you're denying yourself the opportunity to shine as an individual. And you're also entrusting your professional identity-- and future opportunities-- to someone else, who might be a fabulous friend but a less-than-stellar worker. If a natural, genuine friendship develops with a coworker, by all means, enjoy it. But don't let your bosom-buddyhood keep you from being seen as your own person.

Overindulging in Gossip: What would a workplace be without a little dirt? The answer is hard-- and quite boring-- to imagine. It's a natural human instinct to discuss other people, and it makes sense that in a self-contained community such as a workplace, occasional gossip-- just like passive-aggressive kitchen notes-- will happen. But becoming known as the office snarker, or being indiscreet or hurtful in your discussions, will only lose you trust-- and keep you from moving forward, both personally and professionally.

Letting Your Work Friends Be Your Only Circle: If your office is particularly close-knit, or you work grueling hours in a particularly emotional environment, you might truly feel like your coworkers understand you even better than your family does. In fact, the concept of the "work spouse"-- that partner-in-crime who gets you through the day-- is just beginning to get attention. But just as we all need relationships outside our family, so too do we need friends outside of our workplace. Outside friends might not know a thing about your TPS reports, but they'll be more able to provide you stress relief and distraction-- and better able to ring the the alarm bells if your work seems to be leading you down an unhealthy path.

Expecting To Be Treated as a Friend Instead of a Coworker: You might have the best boss in town. You're close, it's comfortable, and you count her among the people you care most for in life. That's wonderful! But it can easily come back to bite you if you forget that she's still your boss. Sometimes when you've got such a great rapport, it's easy to start expecting to be treated a bit better than everyone else, or to be surprised when special consideration doesn't come your way. Don't fall for this. Your boss expects you to follow the same procedures and rules as everyone else, whether your kids have playdates together-- or you share a shoe-shopping obsession-- or not.

Adapted from "The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing, Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends" (St. Martin's Press), by Andrea Bonior, Ph.D.

Thanks to Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. / Psychology Today

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

10 Things To Remove From Your Resume

20 Seconds.

That's the average amount of time that an employer will spend scanning your resume. The phrase "Less is more" has often been used for design purposes, but it can apply just as well to your resume. The point is to keep only information on your resume that is clear, simple and that supports your brand/message. It is a balance of having just enough information to draw the interest of an employer, while leaving room for you to further explain during an interview. The more irrelevant information you add to your resume, the more it dilutes your key message. Employers today also look right through fluff words and are rather annoyed by them.

So, you ask, "How can I power up my resume and make sure it contains the precise balance of information?" Consider the following:

  1. Replace the "Objective" statement on your resume with "Professional Profile." Employers today are not that interested in what you want. Your opening paragraph needs to be a strong message that summarizes your background and indicates what you are best at. That creates a theme that is then followed by your 'proving' that you are great at these things by showcasing supporting accomplishments in each job.
  2. Eliminate superfluous, or "fluff" words. I can't tell you how many resumes start with "Dynamic visionary…" I call these fluff statements as anyone can make them and they add no real value to your resume. Keep your message on point and stick to the facts. If you want to express these traits, demonstrate it with what you have achieved or accomplished.
  3. Watch your grammar. Sentences in resumes are written like headlines and are in the first person. In other words, the statement "I am known for consistently exceeding my sales quotas" becomes "Known for consistently exceeding sales quotas." Another one of the biggest mistakes when writing a resume is when people mix first person and third person. For example, although "Easily learns new software" sounds right, that is the third-person ("she learns") and should really be "Easily learn" ("I learn"). Small but important point, as you do want your resume to be grammatically correct.
  4. Include one telephone number rather than multiple numbers. If you must list more than one number, make sure to specify under what conditions the other numbers should be used.
  5. Do not include discriminating information. Avoid information that can lead one to discriminate against you, including age, sex, religion, marital status, and ethnicity. This includes the use of photos that should never be on a resume unless your face is an important part of your job (e.g. modeling, TV, etc.). In fact, some employers are forced to ignore your resume if it contains such information because of the chance that they may be accused of discrimination later in the process.
  6. Keep information on your education specific to the degree received, major, institution attended, and if appropriate, your GPA. You do not need to reveal your graduating year, the institution(s) you transferred out of or high school attended.
  7. Include only experiences that are relevant to the job. Employers are not interested in achievements or abilities that are not applicable to the job. If you are in sales and you helped develop an Access database to track supplies, that's nice, but not relevant. Also be cautious about listing your associations or volunteer work that is irrelevant or may be in conflict with the potential employer.
  8. Eliminate technical skills for basic software programs. Most employers today expect you to be familiar with the basic computer programs, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
  9. Do not include references unless requested. Employers today expect you to offer references when requested, which is typically during the latter part of the interview process. A top five Peeve of recruiters is seeing "References available upon request" on the resume. Do you really know anyone who would refuse to give references?
  10. Maintain a reasonable length for your resume. If you are a recent graduate, most employers do not expect your resume to be more than one page. However, if you have had considerable professional experience that your resume should be two to three pages. Note the notion all resumes should be one page is not true especially in this market. Resumes need to have enough detail to support your positioning so a two to three page resume is acceptable. I always tell my clients a resume has to have a compelling message and be easy to read, so after you have tightened up your content, format it to have a decent amount of white space.

Finding the right balance of information for your resume can make it impactful. It's not about how long or short your resume is or how many employers you've worked for, but finding the right information and words to present it in the best light to demonstrate that you have the specific experiences and skills the employer is seeking. So, keep in mind the phrase, "Less is more" when creating or updating your resume.

Don Goodman, president of Resume Writing Service – About Jobs is a nationally recognized career expert.

Thanks to Don Goodman / Careerealism

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

4 Roles Every Project Team Needs

Over at the HBR Blog Network author Michael Schrage says that CEO's should assign their top creative thinkers to fix up the organization's most boring and ineffective processes. He says that this shift in thinking—putting the brightest employees on the "most trivial/scut work" projects will send a powerful signal to the organization: "Improving efficiency and effectiveness for the entire organization — for everybody — should be a top management and top talent priority, too."

OK, I'm on board with the premise. But here's where this idea could potentially break down: many of those "top talent" types that Schrage is talking about abhor the mundane. My experience tells me that many creative types aren't wired for perfecting processes. Even if an executive could convince the high-performers of the project's merits, the daily grind of ferreting out the inefficiencies of the process would probably drive most "idea people" insane.

For a "put your top talent on your worst business processes" strategy to work, a leader needs to understand that there are four basic project roles* that people enjoy. The key is, not all people enjoy the same roles in equal measure and not all people are equally good at all four roles. Here's a rundown of the 4 roles every process improvement project needs:

Create – this role is about ideation. People who naturally "create" love coming up with ideas (some of them outlandish) and then handing these off to people who will organize their copious and somewhat random stuff into a workable solution.

Advance – creating connections is this role's strength. A person who loves the role of "advancer" loves to bring people together, create coalitions and ensure that all stakeholders' voices are heard.

Refine – think of this role as the "red pen" editor. People who naturally gravitate toward this role are able to take an existing idea and make it better. They can easily spot the gaps or inefficiencies in a process.

Execute – "Get 'er done" is this role's motto. Milestones and action plans are this role's sweet spot. People who are skilled in execution can keep the project moving along, and will deliver on time and under budget.

Here's my caution to a leader considering Schrage's recommendation to put the "top talent" on clean-up duty for messy company processes: be sure that the talent you select not only can create, but can advance, refine and execute. Most likely, this is going to require a diverse project team, because most Creators love ideation but abhor refinement. Likewise, most Refiners love to edit the process, but find ideation tedious. And so on.

All of these roles must be fulfilled if an organization is to succeed in shedding what Schrage calls the "computational crap and digital detritus that inevitably occur when organizations try to keep going and growing fast."

Thanks to Jennifer Miller / People-Equation / The People Equation blog by Jennifer V. Miller On Workplace Dynamics

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