As we round out 2020, I can’t help but hope that when we awake on (US) New Year’s Day, we will realize that this was an unpleasant dream. Unfortunately, the probabilities of this happening are slim to none. In reality, we continue to persevere through a pandemic, while grappling with some of the same professional topics. Managing remote workers is a prime example. A year ago, remote work was presented as a recruitment and retention tool on the menu of workplace flexibility options. However, today, it has become a necessary work function.
Having a workforce involuntarily transition to remote work can present different sets of challenges. They include onboarding new employees, leaders who find it difficult to make the shift and reduced engagement. However, working remotely also provides employees opportunities for increased creativity and autonomy. Both of which are great leadership skills. Leaders who are supportive and provide regular feedback set the stage for professional growth. This can eventually encourage employees to seek stretch assignments and eventually become the obvious choice for promotions. Leaders play a major role in employees’ success and the same is true for remote workers.
Employees desire to feel part of an organization that treats their employees in an inclusive and equitable manner. Here are a few suggestions on managing remote teams-
aIncrease communication- Take time to connect with remote employees whether it’s through email, IM or face time to keep the lines of communication open. This also reiterates their importance to the team. Increasing communication with remote workers also increases engagement and ensure that everyone on the team stays informed.
rAvoid the urge to micromanage- Studies indicate remote workers work on average 4 more hours a week than their in-office counterparts. This is attributed to flexible schedules and reduced commute times. Managers cannot monitor what employees are working on 100% of the time, whether they’re working in or out of the office. The goal is to focus on results. Productivity is evident based on results.
aSet clear expectations- communicate individual and team goals up front and often. Having regular debrief sessions to review tasks and projects, are a way of ensuring clarity of expected outcomes. It also continues to demonstrate how their work aligns with reaching team and organizational goals.
aBe flexible- Recognizing the diversity of your employee base and managing them as such, ensures their individual professional needs are met. Understanding differences in scheduling is important, especially when remote workers are juggling so many things during the day. Agreeing on definite times for availability is important. It demonstrates empathy and trust for both parties and will be remembered once we emerge from the current crisis.
rDon’t take advantage- Working remote sometimes means going above and beyond for some. Remote workers want to prove they can be trusted when not in the office. Encourage employees to take breaks and take advantage of vacation time. When employees fail to draw the line between work and personal time, this can present professional and personal issues.
As we prepare to round out the year, I think it’s safe to say that we have learned a lot about human nature over the past months. We’ve experienced a lot and are fervently working to ensure that our work environments are successful. This includes staying abreast of workplace trends and I’ve noticed that topics that were once taboo in the workplace have become more prevalent. A question I receive from managers is “How to address politics in the workplace?” As we attempt to move beyond the 2020 presidential election, inevitably, there will be perceived division, lingering feelings, thoughts and reactions that if left to fester, could have unwanted implications.
According to Diversity Best Practices, SHRM’s 2019 Politics at Work survey found political conversations in the workplace are increasing and causing conflict among employees:
56 percent of employees say the discussion of political issues has become more common in the past four years
44 percent have witnessed political disagreements in the workplace
42 percent have personally experienced political disagreements in the workplace
34 percent say their workplace is not inclusive of differing political perspectives
12 percent of employees have personally experienced political affiliation bias
Courageous Conversations in the Workplace
A suggestion is to have frank discussions around some of the issues causing discord in the workplace. However, it is not the easiest or most comfortable response. We spend more waking hours engaging with our work colleagues than we do our families. It is an interesting dichotomy, because we are expected to be innovative, inclusive and productive in the workplace. However, working with individuals with differing experiences and opinions can become contentious. This can be especially true during highly volatile periods in society such as presidential elections. When opinions are shared in an unproductive manner, such as negative body language, attire that demonstrates support for any political party and negative comments, it becomes a much larger problem that affects morale and productivity.
Proactively creating a safe space for authentic conversations can be helpful. This can be demonstrated by allowing employees the opportunity to understand that it is okay to disagree with each other, while making it clear that civility and respect for others are not negotiable in the workplace. It also positions HR and other leaders to create equitable policies and procedures concerning trends and issues that are revealed during the sessions.
Creating an environment for courageous conversations require a plan of action, as open dialogue about divisive topics can take a negative turn pretty quickly. These types of forums must have the right person or team of people to effectively guide the process in a way that diffuses conflict as it arises. These are individuals who are aware of their personal biases and can move past them, have proven facilitation skills and if they are internal, have earned a high level of trust within the organization. At the end of the sessions, the goal is to have positive changes to workplace behavior.
Below are additional tools and suggestions for addressing politics in the workplace from Glassdoor.com
Know Your Audience. Before launching into a conversation about politics at work, it’s best to do a check-in with those around you to see if your colleagues are willing to have a light conversation. Get a clear sense of who you’re engaging with and make the conversation optional.
Engage in Curious Dialogue Approach the conversation with genuine curiosity, instead of looking for an argument. If you’re trying to start a conversation with a colleague whose perspective you know to be different than your own, come from a place of curiosity. Consider saying, “I know we’re probably on opposite sides of the issue, and I’m really curious about what you think.”
Politely Leave Tense Conversations If you are wary of political conversations or if you sense that a conversation is veering off course, it’s important to have a palette of language that you can use to exit conversations you don’t want to participate in. Consider saying, “I’ve put myself on a news break. I need to step away sometimes as it’s refreshing to get a hiatus.” Alternatively, you can say, “This is an important conversation, but I’m not sure it’s right for me.”
Politely leave conversations that you don’t want to be involved in, and respect others’ needs as well, especially if you know that a colleague is not open to these kinds of conversations. Respect is the key to making this work.
Focus On Common Ground While you and your co-workers may not always agree on politics, you probably have core values that you share. Get back to those basics that bind you together. While you may not agree on the party or candidate that you support, you may find common ground on your shared support of Veterans, for example. Work with your colleagues on a project that reminds you that you’re all in this together. Because, despite your differences, you are.
Allow Derogatory or Disrespectful Comments Politics can be a very hot topic this year, however, it is completely possible to have a conversation that is respectful and honest without it becoming nasty. If you are going to engage in a political conversation at work, keep the conversation respectful and do not engage in slander, derogatory language or disrespectful comments.
If a disagreement turns into personalized attacks, the best course of action is to try saying something like, “The tone of the conversation is not appropriate for work and it’s no longer heading in a good direction. Let’s get back to work.”
Use Work Communication Tools to Promote Your Political Beliefs In the era of Slack, Google Hangouts and Jive, it can be easy to share an article about the upcoming election or your favorite (or not so favorite) candidate. However, this can be problematic for your colleagues. Creating a safe and secure work environment is paramount, and political conversations on the company Slack channel can make team members feel alienated or attacked.
Demonize the Opposing Views Politics can be very personal, and many people tend to hold tight to their beliefs. However, when emotions run high it’s imperative not to demean or vilify those who may hold views that differ from yours. There are consequences to alienating your colleagues who you work with every day. After all, any conversation or behavior that distracts from productivity and cohesion doesn’t belong at the office.
As leaders, we must have tenacity for creating inclusive and equitable work environments, continue to persevere and not settle for complacency. This is especially true when we’ve made the decision to accept the messiness and discomfort of embracing and leveraging differences. Determination is a requirement for success, let’s demonstrate in every area of our work.
This is a time of excitement, change and fear. We are excited about the crisp air of fall and its beautiful foliage. Also, nearing the end of the (calendar) year, organizations are evaluating business performance and planning next year’s goals. A lot of us are excited to round third base of 2020 and put it behind us.
Our human experience over the past months has been connected by allowing us to share our acquaintance with unexpected change. There have been changes in how we enjoy our favorite sports, celebrate holidays, life events and in our workplace operational practices.
Yet, lately, the underpinning of some of our professional and personal decisions are now derived out of fear. When will we feel safe about our children returning to school or our safe return to the workplace? Flu season is upon us, how will this affect the workforce during a pandemic? These life events affect us in many ways, including our mental health. There are individuals who have never experienced mental health issues until now. And those who are too familiar with trying hard to function daily.
Leaders, there is a huge opportunity to aid workers, by intently listening and regularly communicating available resources for coping with mental illness and creating work spaces where employees feel empowered to act when things seem out of sync.
Working in an environment that is encouraging, nurturing and perceived as inclusive can have positive effects on employees’ mental health. It also increases productivity. According to the CDC, “Depression interferes with a person’s ability to complete physical job tasks about 20% of the time and reduces cognitive performance about 35% of the time…” Additionally, “Only 57% of employees who report moderate depression and 40% of those who report severe depression receive treatment to control depression symptoms.” As we create strategies around engagement and inclusion, creating expectations for regular check ins with employees to build greater rapport, understand professional challenges and observe changes in behavior and performance can provide needed support
There are many resources available to organizations. Below, Human Resource Executive provides several strategies for assisting employees suffering from mental health issues.
Leadership—Role model a mental-health-friendly workplace from the upper echelons.
Organizational/Environmental Support—Implement an accessible mental-health plan
Communication—Frequently share information about policies, programs, benefits, resources and training.
Programs and Benefits—Offer comprehensive benefits that center mental health.
Engagement—Invite employees at all levels to take part in decision-making about mental health in the workplace.
Community Partnerships—Involve community stakeholders in executing the mental-health plan.
Reporting Outcomes:Continuously enhance offerings to improve employee well-being.
Mental health is as important as our physical health. Ensuring your organization has clear and openly discussed mental health support strategies builds a workforce that is trusting, engaged, productive and healthier.
An organization’s recruitment strategy should be inclusive of plans to target diverse populations. The need to remain competitive and innovative requires employers to move away from traditionally targeted audiences and implement practices that will align them to become Employers of Choice in this competitive work environment. Having a focus on creating targeted recruiting practices for African Americans and other diverse populations can increase employee engagement. According to an article by CNBC, “Black buying power was $1.4 trillion in 2019, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth.” And is “projected to grow to $1.8 trillion by 2024.” Additionally, intentionally recruiting from populations who can elevate brand recognition also makes good business sense. This sets the groundwork for increased innovation by broadening the chances of having the right people in the room making decisions.
However, the absence of targeted strategies will continue to omit diversity in the recruiting pipeline. “The unfortunate reality is that there is a very limited pool of Black talent to recruit from with this specific experience…” A recent statement made by Wells Fargo & Co. Chief Executive Charlie Scharf is one example of why there is such huge deficit. Unfortunately, this type of thinking lends itself to innovation stagnation. The “pool” is full of talented and qualified diverse candidates; however, organizations must move beyond the shallow end.
Leave No Stone Unturned
Brand- The talent competition is real. Your organizational brand is key to attracting top talent. Your organization’s website should reflect your commitment to diversity and demonstrate your commitment to creating inclusive and equitable work environments.
Educational institutions- Establishing meaningful relationships with students is beneficial. Organizations should consider volunteering in schools, as well as creating internship programs for high school and college students. This allows employers to engage employees through volunteering. It also leaves an impact with students as they transition into the professional world.
Delve deeper- Connect with churches, community-based groups, community colleges, workforce development programs and other training programs.
Recruiting diverse talent, such as Black, Indigenous, other people of color and women, requires intentionality, accountability and expansion of your candidate pool. It also requires commitment. As organizations seek to improve diversity, equity and inclusion, diversity recruiting is only one piece in the puzzle. We must continue to forge forward until we can put all the pieces together to form the perfect picture.
Early in my career, I worked on a team where my manager was obviously clueless about an aspect of the work our team was responsible for. New to the professional world, I thought it was just me. I quickly realized that was not the case after hearing most of the seasoned team members express their frustrations during the meetings after the meeting. I remember feeling lost and thinking I would never advance in the company because my leader was not capable of leading us. In hindsight, I realize that that leader could not give what they didn’t have. I also realized there’s more to a leader than the title. Leadership is a gift. When you can directly lead others, you are creating your legacy. Everyone you lead will think back to their experiences with you, good or bad, and draw from them. Therefore, a leader’s greatest asset is a continuous development plan.
Many organizations have robust learning and development strategies as part of the talent management goal of recruiting, developing and retaining top talent. However, most learnings happen in the day to day interactions and experiences. For those who are new to the professional environment, as well as more seasoned employees, having a leader who is self-aware and vested in their personal continuous development, regardless of title or tenure, is a win for everyone involved. Leaders who take time to invest in themselves set a standard for those around them. It demonstrates a desire for continual growth as well as traits of authenticity and humbleness. These leaders serve as positive role models for their teams, especially those desiring to take on leadership roles in the future. Leaders who are equipped with a range of skills are aligned to quickly pivot in the face of change as well as increasing team productivity. An example of this is how leaders have responded to all the change we have and continue to encounter almost daily. Those who did not bury their heads in the sand but made learning and understanding a priority demonstrated to their teams a commitment to personal success as well as the teams’ success.
Leaders who focus on a well-rounded development plan throughout their career are more emotionally connected, continue to drive performance over longer periods of time and decrease leadership gaps. There are three areas where leaders should focus their development- personal, professional and operational.
Personal Development Plan- Focuses on boosting emotional, physical and even spiritual health. This can be achieved through reading, listening to podcasts, making lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise and meditating. Even spending more time with those you care about can aid with this goal.
Professional Development Plan- Aimed at reinforcing business acumen in areas of specific interest. This includes topics like time management, Emotional Intelligence and Empathy training, coaching and mentoring, or the art of creating engaging presentations.
Operational Development Plan- This plan aids with developing skills that help you advance in or stay abreast of industry trends in your line of work. Continuous focus on expanding your knowledge and skills in the area directly aligned with your organizational responsibilities can save the business time and money. It also allows leaders to remain competitive, while reducing gaps in leadership knowledge.
Whether you are the CEO or middle level manager, do not be the snag in the team. Leading a team does not allow room for complacency or outdated methods. Effective leaders set good examples by investing in their personal development, providing resources, following up on team members’ progress and displaying commitment to the process. Having a team where everyone is focused on continuous growth lends itself to innovation, out of the box thinking and cutting-edge business solutions.
2020 is a year that no one expected. Octavia E. Butler, M. Knight Shyamalan, Stephen King or Jordan Peele could not have created a screenplay that encompasses the upheaval, uneasiness and confusion the world is experiencing. As we continue to adjust to minimal human interaction while sustaining our businesses, there is a backdrop of social issues plaguing society. As a result, unspoken lines are being drawn based on instances of microaggressions, unequitable pay and fear of authenticity in the workplace. To create spaces that are truly inclusive, we must seek to truly understand, stop overlooking negative behavior and become accustomed to being uncomfortable by engaging in courageous conversations.
These Conversations Are Important
The ability to have conversations that are forthright or courageous is a dynamic tool and especially effective in the workplace. The engagement opportunities can be used to motivate, engage and educate. Unfortunately, this skillset is not one that is emphasized in job descriptions or KPIs. According to a report by Coaching at Work, 2018, a whopping 90% of managers and leaders do not address poor performance or difficult behavior effectively. Of these 90%, 70% are either unable or unwilling to have the courageous conversation needed to address the issue. When delving even more deeply, the research found that 20% of managers and leaders are unable to have the conversation without using an aggressive style, while only 10% are actually having conversations with clarity, purpose and a style that engages rather than blames or shames the other. These conversations require resilience, bravery, honesty and empathy. Because it is in our nature to seek comfort, these interactions are avoided therefore allowing discord to fester.
Hot Topics with a Formulated Approach
Allison was one of two African- American women on the leadership team. She and the other
African- American woman are consistently being confused with each other by the division executive. Allison, who resents not being valued as an individual, recognizes this as an opportunity to have a conversation with the executive to discuss the importance of receiving respect in the workplace.
Preparation is key as these conversations can be stressful. This is an opportunity to take your leadership to the next level, no matter your formal title in the organization. The goal is to address the proverbial elephant in the room while clearly articulating your position, listening and proposing solutions.
Don’t Delay- When a situation arises that requires a courageous conversation, act fast. Avoidance increases resentment and inhibits trust, open communication, innovation and production.
Intention- When preparing for a difficult conversation, be sure to focus on the matter and check your “feelings”. If you start to get defensive, change your mindset and focus on growth and clarity by clearly stating boundaries and values
Location- Be intentional about creating a “safe” space. This includes a neutral meeting space, setting ground rules and having body language that is open and receptive.
Have Grace- The purpose of this conversation is not to demean or exert your power. Do not resort to petty insults, as this will reduce your credibility and the message will be lost. Always meet people where they are.
Immediately following the most recent incident, Allision sends an invitation for coffee and indicated that there is a matter she would like to discuss. Next, Allison takes the time to create talking points for reference. She also practices the scenario and possible responses/reactions she might receive. At the meeting, Allison states the issue while making sure her posture is open and welcoming. She also performs regular check-ins throughout the conversation to confirm that she is clearly articulating her message. Though obvious that the executive is initially uncomfortable, as the dialogue continues, the two reach a deeper understanding of each other and the importance of respect in the workplace.
Nearly 13 years ago, my family, and I relocated from the south. Within a few months, I accepted a role within an organization. However, the opportunity was short lived as I recognized early that it was not an environment where I could thrive. There was an incident where I was speaking with a leader within the organization. I was told that I should “invest in a course on public speaking because my southern accent was a distraction.” And apparently, “people from the south are not viewed as intelligent.” This person either did not realize or did not care that this was a direct insult on who I am. In that moment, I was no longer engaged, and had made my decision to resign.
Respect is defined as due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights or traditions of others. This is a powerful workplace tool as we have daily experiences and interactions that demonstrate how diverse we are. It is during these interactions that the presence or absence of respect can make or break professional relationships. The workplace is a microcosm of our societal issues, and we cannot control the mindsets and actions of others. Yet, we can control ourselves and how we respond to those with different beliefs and opinions. The lack of focus in this area will continue to result in the loss of employees, customers and profits.
Organizations can circumvent this deficit with actions to intentionally create inclusive and equitable workplace cultures. To achieve this, organizations must be prepared to expand their current practices and operate in ways that may be uncomfortable. This is not to imply that with these changes conflict and disagreements will no longer exist or we will have workplace utopias. Yet, the growth and benefits are infinite for organizations choosing to make this an area of focus.
The following tips can aid in fostering respect within the workplace:
Willingness to learn- Providing opportunities for employees to learn about the lived experiences of others is key. It is not enough for businesses to have high diversity numbers if the environment does not welcome and leverage the differences.
Equitable People Practices- Working to ensure policies and practices are in place to meet the unique needs of employees is important. Things like implementing floating holidays, gender-inclusive pronouns and language in all communications, gender neutral restroom facilities and implementing paid family leave are some of the ways organizations can demonstrate their commitment.
Consistency is Key- The worst thing to do is overpromise and underdeliver. There are changes that can be implemented quickly and others that will take more time and funding. The key is to stay the course.
Organizations should not focus on changing morals and beliefs. The goal is to elicit behavior changes that are fair and respectful across the board. Everyone deserves civility and respect. The alternative can be expensive for businesses.
Caretaker is an adjective that can describe a leader but is uncommonly used. However,organizational leaders are responsible for their workplaces and the wellbeing of their employees (during hours of operation of course). Under ordinary circumstances, this is a duty most leaders fulfill without batting an eye. However, the current state of affairs are anything but ordinary and leadersmust be their own caretakers in order to effectively lead others. So, how do you manage yourself and your teams when the stakes are high?
Leading amid any crisis can be stressful, not to mention a global pandemic that has resulted in the closing of thousands ofbusinesses,and the livelihood of employees literally resting in the hands of employers. Feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, and confusion often attributed to individual contributors are being experienced by leaders as well. It sounds daunting and some days (and nights) it is. This is precisely why leaders must be intentional about self-initiated care.
Fortify Yourself- It is imperative that leaders are mentally and physically sound, especially in turbulent times.Organizations expect their leaders to provide direction, quick decisions, stability, empathy, and execution, while making it look easy. However, leaders cannot be productive on a consistent basis if worn down.Guard your energy by taking time to exercise, eat balanced meals, drink lots of water and resting.
Take Care of Your Employees- and they will take care of you. Employees are loyal to employers who are transparent, authentic and who listen. Communicating care and concern for their professional and personal wellbeing can render a huge payoff. Your employees will remain engaged and dedicated to the work. This can aid with keeping businesses afloat and reducing turnover.When we emerge from this, employees should remember the response from their leaders in a positive manner.
Operational Excellence- While ensuring the safety of employees, organizations mustbe laser focused on profitable strategies and processes. This requires leaders to demonstrate ingenuity and the ability to seamlessly modify in an instant. The goal is for organizations to not only survive but emerge stronger than before. Good leadership is the foundation of success in this area.
Leading during a pandemic is not for the faint of heart. However, leaders who are realistic about the need for personal care can benefit from endurance, professional agility, and daily renewal of business clarity. Additionally, you are positively influencing others. Healthy leaders are smart leaders anda requirement for business sustainability.
Prior to COVID-19, remote work was considered a company perk. Yet, within a few weeks it had become mandatory and viewed as a business disruption. Though it seems inconvenient, remote work may be beneficial to our current employee engagement practices. Now that organizations are experiencing a lot of unknowns, positive workplace morale is vital to keeping businesses afloat.
Due to the pandemic, employees have heightened levels of professional and personal concerns. According to data from studies conducted by Willis Tower Watson and Josh Bersin Academy, the top four areas of concern for workers are financial security, health and wellbeing, family and productivity at work.
Although leaders cannot guarantee good health or job security, making time to keep employees engaged demonstrates that leaders are empathetic to the nuances of working from home. It can also align organizations to become employers of choice by enhancing their organizational brand.
Here are a couple of ideas that will keep you and your workers engaged along this journey.
Virtual Development Opportunities- Encourage workers to participate in online development opportunities. Whether sessions are provided internally or hosted by outside sources, workers will appreciate opportunities to learn new things. This is the time to think outside of the box and consider personal development options as well. They provide overall balance, and many are of low to no cost to the company.
Virtual Engagement Opportunities- These sessions are priceless. Whether you are simply “checking in”, discussing a project status or connecting the entire team, trust and a sense of worth will be the likely response from these interactions. Assign team members the responsibility of planning virtual activities. This can get their creative juices flowing, while creating an inclusive work environment.
Leaders who authentically demonstrate care and value for employees create engaging environments. They also provide a level of relief for those who work alongside them to keep businesses sustainable.
COVID-19 has brought a forced change within workplaces that most could have never imagined. It has caused leaders and their teams to experience an array of emotions, including doubt and confusion on how to move forward. As we reopen, we are eager to get back to business as usual. However, there is nothing usual or normal about how to proceed. Yet, during this time of disruption, effective verbal and nonverbal communication is going to be vital to the success of your business and your employees’ success. As you work to ensure their physical safety, there should also be a laser focus on inspiring, reconnecting and renewing your teams. Empathy is the leadership skill required make this happen.
Empathy has been long categorized as a soft skill which makes some leaders shutter at the term. However, empathy is a smart skill, one that is beneficial in all areas of business. In times such as this, empathetic leaders can motivate their teams by creating some semblance of stability. As employees are forced to rely on leaders in ways they’ve not had to before, empathetic leaders are present, intuitive and intentional.
SHARE- The way you communicate is as important as what is communicated. Clearly sharing your plans and expectations for restarting is key. Delivering information in a way that is passive or high level is not the approach to take during these times. Also, be sure to balance care with candor. Employees will need to hear phrases such as “I understand, “I recognize”, “I have an open-door policy.” Additionally, be sure to remain informed of alerts and changes in safety protocols, and promptly communicate any adjustments to current organizational plans. Approaching this new era in a collected, yet open and authentic manner will convey the message “We will get through this together.”
LISTEN- WARNING: High levels of intuition required! Whether employees are returning to the office or continuing remote work, they are eagerly seeking balance both professionally and personally. Restarting may be met with verbal jubilation; however, body language and underlying messages may indicate otherwise. Take time to assess the situation by asking questions and managing your emotions before responding. Whether employees communicate excitement, confusion, or fear regarding reopening, listen. One thing we’ve all learned during this time is that we are processing things at different rates and in different ways. This is the time to read between the lines.
LEARN- Is your communication inclusive? How have you managed yourself and your teams during difficult times in the past? What can you do to help your team feel at ease? As you build your empathy muscle, lean into a deeper level of transparency with yourself by reflecting. None of us were prepared for an event of this magnitude. The key is how you respond.
Restrictions are eased, businesses are opening and most of the workforce has operated remotely for more than three months. As employees are expected to return to work, the single most asked question will be “what is the plan?” Whoa! Before answering this question, there are a few things to consider.
First, the plan must be detailed and flexible, as requirements for our work environments and the of the needs of employees continue to evolve. This is also a good time to research and benchmark with other businesses for ideas. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all transition plan, so please proceed with caution always considering the culture and needs of your organization. Additionally, be sure to include functions at all levels within the organization in the process. Engaging employees to understand their concerns during this time is vital. This can be accomplished through surveys and conversations and positions you to create a plan that is proactive and inclusive. Though sometimes overlooked, this detail can be the difference between a successful and engaged workforce versus one riddled with uncertainty, low production and potential lawsuits.
Next, complete a budget forecast. It is in your best interest to be honest with yourself about known cost and potential cost to reopening your businesses. For example, disinfecting during this time is non-negotiable. Purchasing products and hiring vendors can be costly. Especially as you increase the number of people in a workspace. Also, consider the layout of your organization. Are there modifications needed to create barriers between employees? Will workspaces need to be reconfigured to meet the requirement of maintaining 6 feet distance. After assessing, you may find that some employees should to continue to work remotely if your budget cannot accommodate the cost of taking necessary safety precautions at this time.
Additionally, consider the of mental and emotional health of your employees. Some are grappling with whether to return to work because of fear and high levels of anxiety concerning their health and safety. Offering development opportunities such as emotional intelligence, empathy and performance coaching for managers is suggested. It can aid with their ability to lead during this period of uncertainty. At the same time, hiring vendors to facilitate these conversations can also add to your expenses.
Lastly, communication above and beyond normal is important and can demonstrate to employees your genuine concern for their safety. Utilize virtual meeting platforms and emails to relay your plan. Creating a video that demonstrates safety protocols can also be impactful. Also, be sure to display notices required by OSHA so that employees understand their rights. Remain visible and personally check in with employees and encourage them to ask questions. As mentioned, we are working while creating the playbook. We are truly all in this together and with patience, empathy, trust and flexibility we can be better than before.
As businesses prepare to re-open their doors, they will be faced with many challenges from both their customers as well as their employees. While most employees are ready to return to “normal” it is unclear what “normal” will be. The only constant right now is we do not know what the future will look like.
In addition to addressing economic concerns, employers are tasked with rebuilding a workplace culture that must address the issues of fear of exposure, childcare demands, skill gaps, and pay. It is expected that workplace lawsuits will increase over the next year and unless employers are cautious, thorough, and utilize their HR Business Partners in this process, they will find themselves paying out high dollar settlement claims. As you prepare to bring back your employees, there are some key things to consider in how you communicate the message regarding returning to work;
Evaluate the new priorities of your business
Determine what skills will be needed to carry out business priorities
Evaluate the financial impact on the business regarding the number of staff needed to carry out the business priorities
The return to work notice should be written and outline the conditions of the return (i.e. date, #of hours, pay)
Include “at-will” employment language in the notice
Indicate if there is a change in job duties, schedule, or rate of pay (based on the business priorities)
When constructing your return to work notice, consider using your offer letter format for consistency purposes. This will allow you to address any changes that need to be noted and begin to build the expectation of how you will move forward as an organization. Consistency in communicating the message will help business leaders and employees understand the needs of the business and their role in helping build a successful “new normal.” Make a true effort to listen with Empathy, respond with Concern, and act with Compassion—it WILL make a difference!
Topic: Precedence vs. Policy: which one is driving your organization?
Your company policy states that when an employee is on short term disability they will not be expected to work and in order to ensure that they focus on their personal health their work email will be disengaged until they return to work. After a bad performance review, employee X complains about how unfairly they are being treated, especially since they were forced to work while out on leave. From your investigation you discover a copy of an email trail that clearly reflects that the manager had been communicating with this employee while they were on leave. When you confront the manager their response is that “the work needed to get done and the employee was willing." Upon further investigation you discover that other managers have also been communicating with and having employees work while out on short term disability.
Can you rectify this situation and get your organization on track?
The answer to the question is YES you can! Several things need to happen quickly in order to restore organizational balance within your organization.
Education & Training
Educate the current manager on the long term effects of operating outside of company policy. While on leave, if the employee gets injured while performing work for the company, it may become a worker's compensation issue. It also could become a violation of FMLA as well as a possible workplace bullying issue (if the employee can produce enough evidence to prove they felt bullied into doing the work). Review the performance review with the manager and determine if some areas need to be revisited. A performance issue may truly exist and the manager may need help in properly addressing it outside of the review process.
Train all managers on the legal implications of violating company policies and setting precedence. Many managers are unaware that they can be personally sued for their actions and they may/may not be covered by the organization.
Follow up with the employee
Oftentimes once an issue is brought up or a complaint is filed, there is little to no follow-up with the employee. In order to restore harmony and build trust, communication is key. Depending on the circumstance, HR professionals may find themselves in the role of mediating or facilitating conversations with the affected parties. Ensure that all parties are given proper voice space, courtesy, and respect throughout the process. Managers need to feel that they can continue to lead their departments and employees need to feel that they are valued and respected. Both parties need to feel that they are being heard and treated fairly throughout the process.
Human Resource and Organizational Development professionals play a significant role in building and maintaining a work environment that is built on trust and respect. Through proper coaching, education and training of all staff it will become easier to build a cohesive team across the entire organization.
If you have any questions or need more information on this topic, please complete our Contact Form, or contact Tina Macon by telephone at 513-289-5073.
How to prevent a culture change from becoming a culture SHOCK
You are the Director of Human Resources and it’s a typical Monday morning-(traffic, coffee, check emails), and then you are summoned to a meeting with your boss (the CEO). You sense something is wrong and you begin to do a mental inventory to determine if you missed something that would have caused the boss to call an unannounced Monday morning meeting. When you arrive you are met with a room full of people with the same perplexed look on their faces as you- now you know something major is going on and are growing concerned regarding what is about to happen. Your boss announces that she is leaving the organization and the “second-in-command” is charge…effective immediately! Your boss is highly regarded and is viewed as a caring leader towards the employees. The culture has been very relaxed; inclusive with open communication at all levels of the organization-except with the COO. Some long-term employees have stated that it has been a pleasure to come to work under her leadership and for the first time they have really felt a part of the organization. The COO is the second-in- command and has a very different style. He has a reputation for being a bit of a “bully” and very confrontational. People tend to avoid him for fear of being criticized and disciplined if they go against his wishes. Now that he is the new CEO there is a fear that anyone that is on his “list” will be let go soon. The COO views himself as a good manager with strong leadership skills. He frequently reminds the staff that his decisions are based on what’s in the “best interest” of the company-- not what’s popular with the staff. After the meeting, you get several requests for meetings to discuss employee concerns about the change in leadership and what this all means for the organization. As you adjust to the news, how will you help to navigate the organization and stabilize concerns?
Help the employee understand why the change is a problem for them
Probe to determine if they have ever been through a change in leadership
Discuss how they have previously handled a change in leadership
Greet (ownership of feelings)
Allow voice space for employees to express how they are feeling about the change
Ask them to clarify what they would like to see in the new leadership
Ask them how they would like to proceed (some may choose to exit the organization)
Defeat (de-escalation and right coursing)
Coach the employee on how they may begin to adapt to the change in a positive manner
Remind them that it is okay to acknowledge and own their feelings
Provide guidelines for properly channeling their feelings (calm discussions, asking clarifying questions)
Once you have attained employee feedback it is critical that you present solutions to your new boss that are positive for the organization and are in line with company goals and objectives. For example, stating that employees are interested and willing to continue to pursue new ideas to grow the business by 25% over the next fiscal year and would like to continue the employee feedback committee are tangible deliverables that the CEO can attach value to for the company and would be willing to continue. Being able to effectively communicate at all levels of the organization in ways that share a consistent message and in a manner that is easily understood by the recipients (no matter what level/rank within the organization) will aid in you becoming a strategic partner with your new boss as well as maintaining a trusted culture that your employees desire to have.
If you would like more information on this topic, please contact us for further information.
Company policy states that all expense reports must be reviewed and approved by the employee’s direct supervisor before they will be approved for payment. You as the manager tend to overview expense accounts and do an occasional “spot check” to ensure accuracy-for the most part they are typically accurate. On a recent “spot check” you discovered a $100 charge that seemed out of the ordinary. As you begin to dig deeper you discover that this employee has charged several thousands of dollars to the company for their personal use. When you question the employee they dispute the charges. In fact, they get agitated by the fact that you seem to be “snooping” on them. They accuse you of unfair treatment and state that “everyone else is allowed to spend a few dollars” so why are they being singled out? What should you do?
Q. Should you deduct the total amount in question from the employee’s paycheck?
A. No! some states prohibit an employer from deducting money from an employee’s check without authorization
Q. Should you fire the employee on the spot for falsifying expense reports?
A. No! you should consult with your Human Resources office to conduct a thorough investigation prior to termination. Human Resources will consult with their legal resources to ensure they are in compliance with state and federal laws.
Q. Should you consult other managers to gain an understanding of how they have handled previous situations?
A. No! You should have a confidential conversation with your Human Resources Representative to ensure that this sensitive matter is handled appropriately.
Once the investigation has been completed you will work with your Human Resources Representative to develop a plan of action that will address several issues;
The facts of the case and what the appropriate next steps should be with the employee(or other employees involved)
A change in how you the manager will review expense reports moving forward
Development of a communication strategy outlining the new expense review and approval process to all of your employees
A review and update of internal processes to ensure that checks and balances are in place to properly manage company resources
Be alert to the widespread implications of company policy and process violations and the impact they can have from both a fiscal and legal aspect.
Your company needs more help but you aren’t sure if it’s time to add more staff. Your Senior Leadership team approaches you about bringing on temporary workers or Independent Contractors to fill in the gaps indefinitely until they can “figure it out.” Read what guest columnist, Anitra Walden-Jacobs of Jackson Lewis P.C (Cincinnati, Ohio) advises what to consider when considering utilizing a “Contingent Workforce”. Jackson Lewis P.C. specializes in representing management exclusively in workplace law and related litigation.
The “Dos” and “Don’ts” Of Managing A Contingent Workforce
Anitra Walden-Jacobs Attorney at Law
As employers continue to look for ways to do more with less, they have increasingly relied on a variety of arrangements commonly known as "contingent work." The contingent workforce typically consists of independent contractors, temporary employees, and seasonal and leased workers.
Companies have many reasons for choosing to utilize a contingent workforce, including avoiding certain obligations and potential liability associated with regular employees. However, a contingent workforce is not without its own risks, especially when the company – or someone authorized to act on the company’s behalf – does something to change that relationship in the eyes of the law.
To maintain the benefits of a contingent workforce, employers must be careful to safeguard the scope of their intended relationship and ensure that contingent workers do not become employees under the law. At the same time, it is also important to create a sense of inclusion for your contingent workforce. To assist with that endeavor, here are a few best practices for utilizing a contingent workforce:
DO leave the selection of temporary workers to the service provider, including recruiting, interviewing and on-boarding. Remember, you want to keep a distinction between your temporary workers and your regular employees. This is especially important with terminations. The temporary workers are employed by the temp agency – only the agency can fire those workers. If you no longer want a temporary worker at your workplace, communicate with the agency and have the agency handle it.
DO make contingent hires familiar with your corporate culture. Just because a worker is not regular employee does not mean he or she should not be familiar with your corporate culture and general expectations.
DO provide access to the same services regular employees enjoy. While contingent employees are not eligible for the same benefits as your employees, you can still allow contingent employees to have access to the same services as regular employees. This may include simple things like being permitted to park in the same lot, enjoying access to employee purchase discounts, staying informed about casual days, and being invited to office parties. It will improve morale, and happy workers are productive workers – even if they are not your employees.
DO consider positions on a case by case basis. Money, while important, should never be the sole reason to hire a contingent worker instead of a regular employee. If the position requires a lot of company control with little flexibility, it probably should not be outsourced to contingent workers. Likewise, why would you want to spend considerable resources training someone who you plan to replace on the next project?
DON’T create confusion when it comes to benefits. Your benefit plans, such as health insurance and paid time off, typically specifically exclude contingent employees from participation. You do not want to risk violating your plan. You also want to avoid taking actions that would support a finding of an employee/employer relationship in the eyes of the law.
DON’T risk misclassification. Again, part of the appeal to using a contingent workforce is being able to avoid the requirements of certain wage and hour and employment statutes that only apply to employees. You can pay someone via 1099 and call them an “independent contractor,” but if you are controlling the means and manner by which they complete the assigned tasks, the law may consider them an employee and your company will be required to comply with those statutes.
DON’T forget the contract. What you call it (i.e., “Independent Contractor Agreement”) is not determinative. What matters is what you want the person to do and how much control you have over how they do it. Clearly establish in writing the terms of your working agreement with a contingent hire. Do not rely on verbal agreements or casually mentioned expectations. Instead, create a written agreement in which the employer and worker both clearly define their expectations, working terms, and goals, as well as the estimated length of the assignment and the anticipated deliverables.
DON’T throw your managers out there without a safety net. Make sure your managers have clear guidance on how to deal with issues that may arise with contingent workers. Consider having training on the issue and invite your managers to submit questions beforehand so everyone can be on the same page.
DON’T ignore complaints about contingent workers from your customers and, especially, do not ignore complaints from your own employees. You can still be exposed to liability in how you respond, so respond quickly and appropriately.
About the author….
Anitra Walden-Jacobs is an associate at Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents and counsels employers with respect to a variety of workplace matters, and uses a proactive and collaborative approach to correct current issues and prevent future problems. In addition to conventional labor and employment issues, Anitra also assist employers and Third Party Administrators with managing issues arising under the Ohio Workers' Compensation Act. If you have questions regarding this topic feel free to contact Anitra at Anitra.WaldenJacobs@jacksonlewis.com, www.jacksonlewis.com.
You have a great referral for your accounting position and because it was from a trusted source you extend the offer and settle on a start date very quickly. One (1) year later things are not going well at all. There have been some "questionable" transactions made by this employee on the company credit card. You are discussing appropriate steps with your employment attorney and the question is asked about the information gleaned from the background check. Your response is that a background check was not conducted...
Read further to view what Jane McFadden from HR Profile has to say regarding the importance of background checks - regardless of your company's size.
Why does a company run a background check on their potential employees? Security, Safety, Cost, Confirmation?! The answer is all of the above. It is in a company’s best interest to know as much as they can about the person they are getting ready to hire, to be able to assess if that person is going to be a good fit within your organization, environment, and culture. Background checks have become common practice in hiring today, but it wasn’t ALWAYS that way, and not ALL companies do background checks- even though they should, only 96% do. As a small business you might think you know everyone you hire, they’re all family or friends of family. And your company is so small you know what everyone does, so you don’t need to worry about fraudulent behavior. Maybe you think you can’t afford it- but my question is can you afford NOT to? You can’t always tell an apple is bad just by looking at it.
Hiring is expensive. It can cost a company 4-10X a person’s salary to replace them- which is a huge expense to a small company. Small businesses require specialized strategies in order to succeed, and many small companies don’t take into account the benefits of the screening process. Like hiring qualified candidates with a track record of good work, protecting employees from potential safety issues and negligent hiring lawsuits.
While there is no test or check that can guarantee you’ll never have an issue with an employee, it is true that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior. Due diligence is necessary to protect your business and your employees. There is no law that says a company must run a background check on every employee before they hire them. But there are laws that guide how a background check must be performed, and those laws are mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Background checks can include criminal records, credit checks, driving record, social security number trace, employment and education verifications, violent sex offender searches, and many more- all determined by the type of position you are looking to fill. FCRA’s biggest requirement is the candidate must know the check is being performed. Under the FCRA, as a small business you can have limited legal immunity, by using a third-party background pre-employment screening company, like HR Profile.
A job application won’t provide all of the necessary information that employers need in order to make an educated decision about whether or not they can trust the person applying. Conducting employee background checks allows employers to review an applicant in a comprehensive manner to help small business stand out among the competition and operate in a cost effective manner. Employees who don’t need to worry about hiding something can devote their time and attention to the success of the company, creating a positive atmosphere and culture. Running a background check ensures that you will hire better qualified candidates, improve turnover, safety, and security within your company.
My biggest rebuttal when talking with small businesses is “we only hire people we know”, which is great! But what you talk about with people personally rarely involves any derogatory information that would come up in a background check. People don’t tend to brag about their criminal records, especially to friends and family.
Background checks don’t only highlight the bad and wrong candidates have done, they also highlight the success and experience the candidate possesses. It is a great way to determine in a broad and thorough way if the candidate will be a good fit for your company. A background check will confirm your candidate has what it takes to make a difference in your organization based on their past experiences.
Studies have shown that 50% or more applicants have lied on their resume. 25% of applicants have a criminal record. Wouldn’t you like to know who? Invest in background screening services that will allow you peace of mind, knowing you hired a qualified professional.
Rosie is a Senior Project Manager for XYA Company. She likes to be involved with the development of new projects and working on new assignments. She makes decisions and really isn’t concerned with how others view her actions. However, her manager has noticed that she seems to “get bored” easily and doesn’t seem to want to see things to completion. In Rosie’s mind, getting the project off of the ground is the “completion” and someone else needs to worry about the day-to-day details. Her manager doesn’t want to lose Rosie, because she has brought some very creative and profitable ideas to the table. Her co-workers find her demanding, a bit insensitive, but she does seem to have the best interest of the company at heart. People are a bit intimidated by her and are reluctant to “make waves” when dealing with her. Anthony was recently hired as a Project Manager to work directly with Rosie. Anthony performs best when he understands the rules and processes that must be followed in order to be in compliance. He has a strong attention to detail and likes to have some time to process information that he is given and doesn’t like conflict. The manager is seeking guidance in how to best Coach Rosie and Anthony and help them build a positive working relationship.
Managers often find themselves trying to “fix” conflicts between their employees without understanding the driving forces of the individuals. When you understand how people think, solve problems, express themselves, and interact with others, you can begin to understand their behavior styles. The significance of understanding these factors is that if offers insight into what is needed to have effective, productive, and relevant conversations in order to build a cohesive team.
One way to begin to understand these factors is the usage of a behavior assessment. The DISC assessment is an effective way to ascertain a complete picture of what is important to both Rosie and Anthony in approaching the same issue. When Rosie begins to understand the reason Anthony might not be as responsive as she would like is because he needs time to ensure that what she is asking to be done can actually be completed and not put the company at risk and ensure that the company is profitable. Anthony will need to understand (and perhaps adjust his timing) that Rosie makes quick decisions because her goal is to have the company be seen as innovators in their industry and continue to outpace their competition to ensure their company profitable. Both employees want the same outcome. Having a clear understanding about both employees’ behavior styles will help the manager effectively construct their coaching strategy. If you would like more information on how the DISC assessment could help your teams build a better communication model contact Tina Macon at Tina.firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tina R. Macon, MA, CBA, CEQC AllMac & Associates Organizational Development Consulting & Training November 6, 2018
I recently met “Mike” who was working at a well-known coffee shop. He was very friendly, talkative and even paid for my cup of chia tea latte because the associate waiting on me was someone I knew. He said “any friend of hers is a friend of mine- it’s on me.” The workers all seemed to love him and called his name frequently to answer a question or help fix a problem. As I was leaving the coffee shop, I thanked Mike again for “making my day” with his generosity. He asked me if I had a minute to talk and I happily obliged him. He wanted me to know why he treated me to my cup of chia tea latte today—because of the way his company treats him. This is a second career for him -he retired 5 years ago. At the urging of his (at home) CEO’s request to find something to do with his spare time, he decided to go to work on a part-time basis. The company quickly recognized Mike’s positive approach to his work as well as his passion for excellence in how he treated not only customers but everyone he worked with. He turned down management roles with the company because he just wanted to be an “ordinary” employee until he came across a manager that changed his perspective about the company. Mike stated that he appreciated how his manager valued, talked to and showed appreciation for the staff and how the staff enjoyed working “with” not “for” this manager. When this manager asked him to consider a management role, he said yes because he knew that he would be valued and supported. It became clear to me that this manager’s style of leadership has become contagious across the organization –the pride amongst the employees in the shop, how they treat customers, and how much passion they have for the work that they do left me with the impression that this must be an excellent place to work. I will definitely be a repeat customer at this location!
As leaders, what type of energy and message do you want to share with those that you are entrusted to guide, coach, and train? What is your definition of Operational Excellence and is it the same message that your team is communicating to others? Operational Excellence is an attitude of working with the distinct intent of showing a consistent, clear, and passionate message of how what you do matters. In today’s job market, applicants are seeking out organizations that are intentional about Operational Excellence and employees are leaving those organizations that are not. Is the message that your employees are sharing about your organization similar to the one that Mike shared with me? Regardless of the number of employees, Operational Excellence should be a part of every company’s DNA if they want to stay competitive and attractive in today’s labor market.
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