Common Sense Suggestions for handbooks, evaluating performance and complying with HR regulations

Practical Manager Training for recruiting, coaching and developing top performers

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Poor Manager/Employee Communications: Is HBR Poll a Wake Up Call?

A recent Harvard Business Review article revealed the results of a Harris Poll that showed sixty-nine percent (69%) of managers feel “uncomfortable communicating with employees.”

I am sure this is no surprise to most people — since as employees, managers or human resources professionals we’ve all experienced one or both sides of an awkward, ineffective interaction. 

The question is, what are you doing to address this seemingly pervasive problem?
Instead of shrugging your shoulders and attributing the problem to human nature, here are a few suggestions that are proven to help your managers become more effective communicators:

1.     Train your managers to give in-the-moment behavioral feedback. Many managers only know how to give criticism in 1:1 meetings or worse yet in annual performance reviews. The trend, especially with millennials, is to give feedback on the spot.

In the training, show how to give immediate feedback either in face-to-face conversations, text messages or by email with practical suggestions such as:

·      Feedback in person might be “Your creativity made all the difference!”
·      A text message with the ever-effective “Great job!” is generally appreciated.
·      Negative feed back in an email could read. “Your failure to show up at the team meeting this morning hurt the team.”

2.     Encourage senior management to lead by example.  If in-the-moment feedback is going to be part of your culture, top management needs to learn, it, apply it and reward it.

3.     Teach managers to focus on top performers- I am sure you’ve noted that most top performers take critical feedback to heart. Your management time is better spent with your best performers who will often thrive on suggestions and challenges for professional and personal growth.

4.     Consider letting go of performers who don’t respond favorably to feedback. At-will employment means that you can fire poor performers without giving warnings and improvement plans.  Make sure your employee handbook doesn’t make unnecessary promises of performance improvement steps prior to termination. Before termination, review your facts with a human resources attorney who may suggest offering a few weeks of separation pay in exchange for a release or may recommend a different approach if there is risk of a discrimination claim.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Incomplete Pay Stubs: Lawsuits & Big Settlements Waiting to Happen?

Failure to include any one of the nine items California requires on every pay stub may not seem like a big deal to you or your employees — until a disgruntled employee visits his or her attorney.

Here is how it works:  You have an employee who has never complained about breaks or lunch. You terminate this employee. The employee, angry over the termination, decides to visit one of the many employee class action law firms.

One of the first things that the lawyer will want to see is a pay stub.  Mistakes in pay stubs often are a signal to the lawyer that other mistakes, say in breaks or lunch, are also going to yield fruit. All the claims can be wrapped up in an attorney general class action demand letter to you.

Two small construction firms had this very thing happen to them this past year. Make sure you are not the next victim by correcting your pay stubs. If you use a third party payroll provider, make sure they are providing all the required info. You are responsible for their actions.

Check your pay stubs: Use the chart below to check your pay stubs. Confused about whether your stubs are in compliance? Give me a call at 650.518.0327. I’ll be happy to walk you through what’s required.

The Nine Items California Law Requires on Every Pay Stub

Total gross wages employee earned during the pay period
Total hours employee worked during the pay period
Number of units and rate for any piece-work the employee performed
All deductions from employee’s pay
Employee’s net pay
Dates in the pay period
Name and last four digits of employee’s SSN
Employer’s full name and address
All hour rates in effect during the pay period and the number of hours employee worked at each rate

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

KPMG Abandons Employee Engagement Surveys: Throwing Baby out with the Bath Water?

This month the employee engagement survey bandwagon stumbled when a long time proponent of employee engagement — KPMG— reported that all of their employee engagement efforts had not resulted in increased performance.  KPMG decided to forego the employee engagement survey.

What are employee engagement surveys?  They vary. Some HR Departments retain consultants to perform what I call the “lovey-dovey survey.” These surveys ask questions such as “Do you like your coworkers?” and “How do you feel about your employer? “

A different type of employee engagement survey asks questions like “Does your manager listen to you?” The downside of this kind of survey is that it often creates employee expectation that if managers don’t listen, the company will take action!

Some consultants implement employee engagement by looking at measurable results. One company successfully used employee engagement efforts through a pilot. The test group showed a 54% increase in comparable store sales.

So this begs the question, are companies throwing the baby out with the bath water when they abandon employee engagement including this pilot that actually has measurable results? 

KPMG is implementing a program of in the moment performance feedback. This is much appreciated by the experienced employees who don’t feel traditional annual employee reviews are motivating.

But how will the Millennial react? Millennials have been brought up with the accolade “good job” for every action they take. They received trophies in sports just for showing up and no special reward and feedback was given to the best players.  Experience with the “specialness” of Millennials has influenced some companies to get rid of any comparative feedback and they’ve abolished performance reviews all together.

Going forward, as companies like KPMG re-introduce measuring performance instead of relying solely on measures like “Great Place to Work” contests, HR and management will have to design motivating feedback mechanisms for all of their diverse employee populations. Baby boomers and Millennials are not motivated identically.

The decision making should evaluate keeping the employee engagement methods that have proven to result in measurable performance gains­ while getting rid of the surveys that focus only measure employee satisfaction without corresponding gains in productivity.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Rawhide Theme Song: A New Anthem for Zappos’ Holocracy Culture?

Zappos, famous for getting rid of all managers to form a “Holacracy” is in the news again. Apparently the “managerless” workplace doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Zappos has had to institute a three week+ training course to help new hires adjust. And there must be lots of new hires needed to replace the 200 employees who quit instead of accepting the Holacracy culture.

Even though Zappos embraces a “bottoms up” philosophy, the institutional decision to fire anyone who is late for 7 am orientation sounds pretty "tops down" to me. It’s also what brought to mind the theme song for the 60’s era Western, Rawhide.

Keep Them Doggies Moving, Though They’re Disapprovin’, Keep Them Doggies Moving. Rawhide!” 

I’ll also be interested to see how effective the herd culled by the zero tolerance for lateness policy will be for Zappos. I’ve always found that creative problem solvers just love to be treated like naughty children, haven’t you?