Network. Learn. Develop.

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Hey HR Pros! If you’re not networking you are not only fighting it out on an HR island (not recommended) but you are also missing all the fun! I used to think “networking” was cheesy and cringe worthy, and only necessary when I was looking for a job. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Networking and continuous learning are things that make working in HR fun and rewarding. The fact that our work gets better as a result is a great bonus.

Traditionally, we’ve looked to our employers for learning and development opportunities. They either fund opportunities that we identify, or they put together webinar, in-person and online programs that teach us things we want to know and need to know to perform well in our roles.

For the knowledge and skills we need to perform in our current jobs, we are right to look to our employers for support. And wise, forward-thinking organizations will also be offering and encouraging us to utilize resources to develop skills we will need for the next iteration of our roles or promotion into a new opportunity with the company.

If you find yourself in an organization that is small enough not to have the resources, or one that is in a cost-cutting mode, you may find that learning and development is not a top priority. Now, I don’t necessarily believe this is a good decision, but that’s a topic for another post.

Even if you’re one of those lucky enough to have a fabulous talent development program in place and you get a “yes” answer for all of your requests for outside resources like conferences and events, don’t stop reading. Networking and development aren’t boxes we check and then move on. They are continuous, growing and changing needs that we should all attend to on a regular basis. Adding your own activities to your employer’s offerings just results in a richer, more effective mix.

If you don’t have resources available, then you will especially love these tips. Some people will tell you that you shouldn’t offer to fund any of your own development opportunities, because then your employer will not feel responsible for doing so. I disagree. So what if something is really important to you, you see it as critical to your path for your career, and your employer doesn’t agree or won’t part with the funds? If you go forward anyway, they are on notice that you really care about your development and your career, and if they don’t participate, they do so at their peril. Because if you invest in yourself without their help, you will attract other opportunities, and you may not feel as much commitment to your employer and vision for your future with them when those opportunities come.

Here are some fantastic (and affordable) opportunities for development and networking that you can take advantage of right now:

  1. Membership in SHRM: The benefits to your membership in the Society for Human Resource Management are so great that I’m not even going to outline them all here. You need to check out the SHRM website to fully appreciate it. This membership gives you full access to all of the resources you need to do your job with excellence and your employer should fund it, because it will benefit them immensely. But if they don’t, you should still become a member. Not only can you participate in free webinars, receive updates on legal and compliance changes at the national, state and local level, and get access to best practice tips and forms, but you can also participate in influencing legislative policy through the SHRM A-Team. I have met HR practitioners from all over the US and the world through my involvement with SHRM. It’s easily the best value of any development opportunity.
  2. Membership in local SHRM chapters: Your local chapter has some great monthly programming and shared resources, as well as fun events where you get to meet other HR pros in your own community. It also has superb opportunities for leadership that you may not be currently offered at your workplace. Leadership in your chapter gives you opportunities to get to know not only all of the members of your group, but others in your local business community as well. And my local chapter dues are less than $100 per year-definitely an affordable option.
  3. Social Media: There is a fantastic community of HR professionals on Twitter. They are generous, knowledgeable, fun and when you meet them in person you will see that they are authentic leaders. Follow them and interact with them to learn and develop your own skills in HR. There are also great LinkedIn groups for HR professionals as well as specialty areas like talent management, compliance and employee relations. Look to Snapchat for marketers, talent acquisition specialists and HR leaders just having fun. Instagram is a fun place to literally see what your favorite HR pros are up to, and Pinterest is a great place to find infographics that visualize processes and issues-and memes and comics to offer a few laughs about HR.
  4. Twitter Chats: Speaking of social media, there are a lot of great Twitter chats where you can interact with other HR pros and learn from guests that bring knowledge on different topics that may or may not be in your comfort zone. The bonus is that you can connect with more HR people on Twitter through these chats, and sometimes you end up meeting them in person, as I did during this year’s SHRM annual conference. Here are some to try: #nextchat (SHRM’s weekly chat at 3 pm Eastern on Wednesdays); #jobhuntchat, #CultureChat, #TChat, #OMCChat and more.
  5. Volunteer Work: Your skills and talents are in demand. If you work in HR, you know how to do a lot of things that are valuable to others. I have volunteered with women engineering students to help them with their pitch to potential employers and review their resumes. I’ve also taught single moms who are looking to develop their careers how to create a resume and apply for jobs. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Get out and help others, and you will get back what you give 100-fold, meet a lot of great people, and practice your own presentation and mentoring skills in the process.
  6. Webinars Sponsored by Vendors: Many vendors and suppliers that you don’t even have a current relationship with will sponsor webinars that are given by specialist HR professionals and we all can learn and benefit for free, and learn a little bit about the vendor’s services in the process.
  7. Local HR events: I will be attending Disrupt HR in Denver in September. Do you know how much it costs? $15. And they will be serving food (and have a cash bar). There are other events put on by your organization’s lawyers, insurance brokers and consultants that shouldn’t cost you a dime. Develop a presentation and apply to be a presenter at an event and you get double the experience-learning from others and flexing your public speaking muscles at the same time!
  8. Conferences: I funded my own trip to SHRM Annual this year, as well as another conference on Colorado legislative policy in DC. They were both well worth the investment. If you have the funds to contribute to your own development, consider getting in early on your dream conference-you will get the best bang for your buck with the early bird rate, and you can choose a more affordable housing option to keep costs low. Check out SHRM17 here.

These are just some of the great ideas for learning and development as you own your own career. Which ones did I miss? Tell me in the comments below.

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Hair on Fire – Employees in Treatment

cocktail

Dear Kelly,

I really need help with this one. My employee of one year has been erratic lately, showing up more than two hours late for his shift on two occasions, forgetting to perform some very important safety protocols during his work, and lashing out at a coworker in violation of our employee conduct policy. I coached him on these occasions verbally and in writing, but things haven’t improved. At the most recent meeting three days ago, I let him know that if he arrived late or violated policy one more time, he would be subject to termination.

Today, he showed up an hour late, without a phone call or any communication. When he arrived, I handed him a termination letter, and told him that he was fired. His response was that he was an alcoholic and was attending outpatient therapy, but was having a hard time sticking to his program. I told him I was sorry to hear that but that he was still terminated.

I walked him out of the building and he left. My manager thinks I did the right thing. Now I’m worried that maybe it was the wrong choice.

What do you think?

Manny

Dear Manny,

Yikes! This is one of those sticky situations that doesn’t come up every day. I understand your concern, and I hope that part of your worry is about making sure this employee is okay. We all find ourselves sick and unable to work at one time or another, and hopefully your company is supportive of people who need help, by providing care through your employee assistance plan, health insurance benefits and short term disability salary continuation if those things are available.

That said, the repeated problems you described are serious, and you had no way of knowing your employee needed help for a medical condition, because he didn’t ask for it or disclose his struggles. He just kept messing up at work and not telling you about what was going on. But you can probably understand why he wasn’t too eager to disclose that he was in treatment for alcoholism.

Before we start talking about the situation, I will recommend that you consult your company’s attorney or another employment lawyer to obtain advice about what to do in this situation. Legal advice is critical in hazy situations like this one. So do yourself a favor and be sure to involve your HR manager as well as your legal counsel on the front end before completing a termination in a situation like this.

While it’s true that your employee should be held accountable for his failure to arrive at work on time, performing his essential job duties and adhering to your employee code of conduct, and his explanation doesn’t erase the prior behavior for which he is subject to discipline, this situation merits further analysis. When your employee told you that he was an alcoholic and had been seeking treatment, that statement could be interpreted as a request for leave as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.

A “qualified individual with a disability” entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is defined by the EEOC as:

A person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that he or she holds or seeks, and who can perform the “essential functions” of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. An “individual with a disability” is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

According to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), this standard of an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities has been interpreted to include alcoholism. If your employee was an alcoholic refusing to obtain treatment and repeatedly violated policies and did not perform essential job functions, then a well-documented termination would certainly be an appropriate option. If we consider your employee’s disclosure as a request for leave, then that infuses this termination with a distinct lack of clarity.

Technically it sounds like you terminated this employee prior to his disclosure. But issues of fact may remain here.  The EEOC does not generally view technicalities favorably-their view is likely to be that your employee disclosed his condition at the 11th hour and asked for help, and if you don’t make an effort to engage in the interactive process at that point, you may be held accountable for violating the ADA.

If your employee had gone home after being terminated, then called at some later date to talk about how his medical condition had caused his poor performance and requested help at that point, then it would be much clearer that you had terminated employment based on documented performance problems, without him having requested a reasonable accommodation.

Let’s look at the benefits to your company for allowing your employee to stay on and take leave for treatment:

  • You retain a knowledgeable and experienced resource on your team, instead of losing the investment you’ve made in that employee and incurring turnover costs
  • You promote loyalty and gratitude from that employee, and hopefully a more productive and motivated employee when he recovers and returns to work
  • Your other employees respect and appreciate that you care for your employees when they are vulnerable and sick, and that you will support them through difficult times as well if they need help
  • You reduce legal risk and potential reputational damage that can arise from EEOC action

One caveat: if you routinely drag your feet in dealing with performance issues, and this is an employee that everyone recognizes should have been terminated a long time ago but wasn’t because management didn’t do the job, then you may encounter frustration, both from upper management and coworkers. But don’t give in to the pressure to terminate an employee abruptly in a situation like this when in truth you haven’t been on top of performance management and discipline in the past. If you find yourself in that situation, it is probably worth the additional time and work to give the employee the opportunity to get well and perform his job duties, and manage him appropriately going forward.

You also mentioned that this employee failed to adhere to an important safety protocol at work. If an employee is in a work situation where being under the influence of alcohol presents a safety risk to himself and others, you may be within your rights to randomly test for the presence of alcohol after he returns to work from treatment. Certainly, your reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing protocols should still be utilized, consistent with what all employees are subject to in your workplace.

Again, consult with your HR team and attorneys to get specific advice about how to proceed.

Good Luck!

Kelly

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Friday Facts: Puppy Crate Training

Friday Facts-Puppy Crate Training

I have been reading a lot about puppy crate training lately. Disclosure: I am a poor crate trainer. Fourteen years ago, I tried to do it with my first Doodle, and failed miserably. I hate hearing puppies cry.

I read a lot of articles about the right way to crate train, and learned that the best way to do it is to get the puppy to want to go in the crate of his own accord. This is easier said than done. This puppy will even avoid eating his food in order to stay away from the crate. I put the bowl inside the crate and the most he will do is to take a few bites, with his back legs stretched way out in order to keep them out of the crate.

Next I will be trying to give him some bits of chicken or so-called “high-value treats” to get him to venture further in. In the meantime, here is what my puppy likes to do:

puppy

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Photo Credit: Kelly Marinelli

I Believe in a Big Candy Jar

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Those who know me understand that I’m kind of a health nut. But I love candy. Jelly beans, Skittles, salt water taffy, Airheads, Mentos (the fruit kind-not the mint ones) and any other chewy, sweet stuff you can find. I also love chocolate, the darker and more bitter the better.

My candy jar is almost always full on my desk. It’s not a weenie candy dish that will show a big gap when you take a piece. It’s an overflowing jar with a lid and you are always welcome to come by and see me to take a piece or two. While you’re here I’ll expect to hear a little about your day, what you’re proud of, what’s bugging you, and what you think about what’s going on at work and in your life.

People often remark on the candy jar, whether it’s full, what’s in it, and when there will be more chocolate. They give me a hard time and pretend to steal a piece as they hurry by and give me a sly smile. They interrupt my work to talk about things that are important to them when they are just “stopping by for candy.” And I love it.

Sometimes people will fill the candy jar. It’s never required for anyone to contribute candy, and I don’t complain when it empties. The dish makes happiness for everyone, even those who don’t eat the candy. It spreads goodwill among everyone who sees it. When they give to the candy jar, they’re part of that warm feeling too.

Every HR pro should have the equivalent of a candy jar-something colorful, irresistible and fun in your workspace that welcomes people in. Maybe yours is a bunch of funny office toys for people to squeeze, throw or shake, or tons of funny magnets, stickers and posters for them to read and have a laugh with you.

Inviting people to be present in the moment with you is a great way to enjoy work, do great HR, and make life more fun. My candy jar does that.

What’s your candy jar? Share your ideas in the comments.

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10 Steps for Finding and Keeping the Right Hires

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Sometimes I daydream about the ideal HR world. Yes, it’s filled with rainbows and trees that grow salt water taffy. Even in my HR dream world, I need to hire people and help my clients do the same, so this is my ideal talent acquisition process. Tell me if this is what it looks like in your perfect HR vision:

  1. You have a clear view of which jobs are likely to be open, and when. You gathered, reviewed and analyzed the data on your hiring in the past three years, and you know which jobs and job groups tend to need filling. You also know the seasonality of your business, and can plan ahead for hiring needs.
  2. Job seekers and referrals to reach them are already in your pipeline. You know many sources for great candidates that you can reach at the click of a mouse or by placing a phone call, because you are continuously doing the groundwork of sourcing for your most-often open positions.
  3. You have job postings updated, paired with sticky videos and graphics, and ready to go at a moment’s notice. With all of the many platforms for recruiting, and all of the creative work your company’s marketing group is doing, why reinvent the wheel? Encourage your Talent Acquisition team to partner with Marketing to come up with effective messages and graphics that are consistent with the branding and marketing your company is already doing, and tailored toward recruiting new hires.
  4. You know where to post to find the right-fit candidates. You can’t post openings on your website and forget it if you want to effectively recruit in today’s market. Reducing your time to fill, attracting the right candidates, running an efficient hiring process and getting the right hire all depend on being intentional in your posting. In addition, since you are looking to increase diversity in your job seeker pool, you are also reaching out to specialty sources to post your openings.
  5. Your recruiters know the jobs and your hiring leaders’ specific needs. Do your recruiters know how to screen job seekers the right way, so your hiring managers are getting the best group of candidates to review? Instead of having a “check the box” mentality, your recruiters are willing and able to understand the job so that they can analyze the job seeker pool in a more sophisticated way. You make sure your smart TA team is functioning at their top efficiency and effectiveness, and not making excuses about how they don’t have time to fully evaluate candidates. And there’s absolutely NO “fire hose” candidate throughput. Managers don’t have time for that!
  6. Your Talent Acquisition team is willing to tell managers the truth, even if they don’t want to hear it. Like many managers, mine sometimes want to insist on looking for the candidate that doesn’t exist-the early career Harvard MBA with 10 years of experience in mergers and acquisitions that is excited to relocate to Sioux Falls for a salary of $40,000 per year. Your recruiters and TA leaders have built trust with the business, so when they push back, hiring leaders may not like it, but they will listen.
  7. You know which competencies lead to success in the roles at your company, and how to assess for them in the hiring process. You provide training and development for hiring leaders and others on how to effectively interview and assess talent, whether you have pre-hire assessments formally implemented or not. And you look back at how hires have performed, so we know if we’re doing it right.
  8. You have access to compliance resources to ensure that your recruiting and hiring process is not only effective, but consistent with legal requirements. You understand the potential for adverse impact and discrimination, and know how to avoid them in your talent acquisition activities, as well as how to properly document your processes to reduce risk.
  9. You use data to pinpoint the sourcing, recruiting and hiring activities that deliver the best ROI. You don’t just throw things out there-you continuously review performance and assess against benchmarks that make sense for your business. Then you adjust your process for maximum value.
  10. The first-year onboarding program at your company is up and running for every new hire, starting at offer acceptance. You know that when you deliver an offer letter and receive an acceptance from a new hire, there will be a seamless handoff to the background check process, ordering needed equipment and space, and delivering a welcome gift to your newest team member. When she arrives at work, she will instantly become a part of your team, learn about company culture and values, and begin her training to set her up for success in her new role. She also will feel the warmth and appreciation of your employees and management, and be glad she decided to spend a big part of her life working with your company toward mutual success. And she will hear from her manager, mentor and HR at regular intervals to identify her needs and reinforce the company’s culture and values, over the course of the first year of her employment and beyond.  

One more thing: if my company’s TA team is working as a department and sharing its expertise with other areas of HR and the business, it goes without saying that we won’t have silos and we’ll work together seamlessly, learning from each other and supporting each other. It’s my ideal HR world, so I get to have it the way I want it!

What did I miss? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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High Potential Programs: Handle with Care

high potential

In theory, so-called “High Potential” identification programs make sense. Organizations and leadership should be aware of the employees who are most likely to become future senior leaders and who should be identified as potential successors for critical roles that may need filling. They should also be exposed to accelerated developmental opportunities to keep them engaged and prepare them for these future opportunities.

What I’ve observed in practice, though, is that these programs tend to be less effective than they are in the theoretical realm. Todd Warner recently wrote a brilliant article in the Harvard Business Review called Three Reasons Why Talent Management isn’t Working Anymore. Warner pokes holes in these programs as they are ordinarily implemented, pointing out how they tend to result in promotion of familiarity and compliance, and they proceed in lock-step according the plan instead of considering the complex contextual environment of your organization and evolving strategy, which tends to change over time. All of these issues are critically important and should be addressed when implementing any talent management and succession planning program.

There are additional issues that develop when implementing these programs that deserve some attention and thought. If leaders and HR managers consider these pitfalls, they are less likely to interfere with a thoughtfully conceived and effectively implemented program.

  1. “High Potential” talent management plans can alienate and drive away high performers who aren’t considered among the “chosen few” to be in the “HiPo” group. These high performers may have rightfully been excluded-or misidentified. After they leave for greener pastures, leadership tends to recognize this as an affirmation of their original choices-those who left weren’t committed, didn’t have the passion and talent that the “HiPo” group possesses, and their talent and performance fades in memory once they are no longer a part of the organization. This self-fulfilling prophecy can be a recipe for mediocrity.
  2. Perception is Reality. I have heard this come out of the mouths of managers in dysfunctional organizations, not as a warning, as in, question perceptions, and look for facts and analyze data to get true results. It has been spoken with a shrug and a sigh, as in, using your energy to promote the right perception among leadership is something we all have to do here. That is a complete waste of time and money, creates animosity and distrust among employees, and stands in the way of even small change initiatives. Just create the right perception of yourself and you will be in the “High Potential” group that is allocated greater Talent Management and development resources. This dysfunctional environment can cause even the most engaged team members to lose faith in the organization and can erase gains created by even a well-managed HiPo program. Once High Potentials are promoted, the rest of the organization hasn’t been set up to trust them as leaders. The lesson? A culture of transparency and trust is key.
  3. Playing the Game. If HR isn’t careful, instead of performing the critically important function of giving strategic advice on succession planning and developing identified employees to ready them for promotion, we will end up creating an elaborate game in which only the team members who are highly manipulative and political-minded will end up the winners. Meanwhile, team members who could challenge the status quo, show true leadership and bring real success are overlooked, lose interest and move on to contribute to someone else’s bottom line.
  4. The Extrovert vs. Introvert Continuum and Gender and Culture Differences. One of the critical elements of a High Potential employee as compared to a high performing employee is aspiration. Aspiration, ambition and striving to move up are all qualities that can be present but may be expressed in different ways by true HiPo employees, but may not be recognized consistently by evaluators. Consider the differences in your employees and how they may express themselves based on who they are.

What should a wise Talent Management and HR professional do to combat these tendencies?

  1. Widen the circle. Who is reviewing the information upon which you base your identification of high potential employees? Yes, managers will fill out the same forms, and give evaluations based on the same criteria-but if only one or two team members are charged with making preliminary identifications, then you are entrusting your organization’s future to their analysis of the collected data and their ability to conclude what it says about the potential for future success. Maybe that makes sense, since your HR team is well trained in making recommendations like these-or maybe it doesn’t, and you haven’t even thought about it. Unless you are making decisions in a blind process and based only on objective criteria like assessment scores (highly unlikely and not advisable) then the perspective of every reviewer could be quite influential.
  2. Expand the data set. Does your team think they have the right people identified? Broaden the criteria you are looking at and make sure consistent criteria are being used to identify High Potentials. Bersin by Deloitte has a maturity model for High Potential programs, and at the bottom are programs that are ad hoc in nature, with no clear criteria. Make sure your program is fully business-integrated and consistent in order to get the best results.
  3. Calibrate Initial Decisions. According to Korn Ferry, 70% of High Potential employees are misidentified by managers in their initial assessment. Two-thirds of those initially identified are actually high performers, but not necessarily High Potentials. Misidentifying participants can harm their careers and interfere with organizational success by setting people up to fail.
  4. Evaluate results. It doesn’t matter how top of the line your HiPo program is if it doesn’t deliver the results you need for succession planning. According to CEB, five out of six HR professionals are currently dissatisfied with the results of their HiPo programs. Evaluating results and changing direction when needed is a best practice.

High Potential programs can be a useful tool for identifying successors and allocating development resources for the greatest return on investment, but the potential downside risk is high if the program is not carefully designed, managed and evaluated. For more information on the criteria commonly used to identify High Potential employees, see this overview in Forbes.

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If You Did Not Document It, You Did Not Do It

fired

Sabrina Baker recently put out a great blog post on the Three Reasons Employee Documentation is Necessary. Go read it-her reasons are all justified and worth considering.

I too hear a lot of complaints from management about having to document what’s going on with their employees. Managers are too busy for that, right? Often, there’s a very real employee performance situation that needs to be resolved, it goes on for a long time (maybe through multiple managers), everyone is frustrated and the manager gets to the end of her rope and wants to “finally” fire the employee, who has been a bad performer for years. Our first question in HR is always, “Where is the documentation?” The answer may be that the employee got average annual performance reviews and no notification that anything was wrong. Or the manager may have told him (verbally) repeatedly about some things he needed to improve.

Besides legal compliance, how does documentation help your managers?

Checking Understanding. The employee may or may not have understood what to do, had the tools he needed to do it, or understood the implications of not doing it. That’s where documentation comes in handy-as a form of communication that can serve as an opportunity to check understanding on the part of both the manager, who thinks she is being clear, and the employee, who could think it’s either no big deal or his manager is just nit-picky and/or won’t actually follow through with any consequences. This is especially true if the employee has been flying under the radar with mediocre or bad results for many years and has been rewarded with a raise or bonus.

Ensuring Consistency. Documentation also serves the important purpose of helping managers ensure they are consistent in delivering coaching and performance messages to all team members over time as well. When you’ve documented your communication and actions, you can go back and review them when you are working on a future, similar case, to eliminate unconscious bias or emotional interference that may cloud your judgment. And if there is ever any question about a manager’s motivation, the documented facts and observations are there to speak for themselves, instead of managers having to rely on a busy and sometimes faulty memory to retrieve information. It enhances a manager’s confidence when delivering difficult messages and dispel any sense among her team that team members are treated differently. She can focus on the human energy on her team and generate trust in her as a leader.

Not only is it legally risky not to use documentation in implementing discipline for violating policy, or managing performance on an ongoing basis, it’s a total waste of time and a morale killer for everyone involved. Managers need to understand how documentation benefits them in managing the performance of their employees, how putting in a little time to put it in writing will pay off dividends down the road, and also how it’s required as part of their expected performance as managers.

Guess who can help deliver and reinforce this message? HR! Don’t just tell managers that they can’t do what they want to do because documentation is required for legal or policy barriers-relate it to the business reasons that enhance the success of the organization. I’m always in favor of saying “Yes, and this is how you do it” as opposed to always being the “HR No Machine.” Bringing the “no, no, no” is a way to make sure you get tuned out and kept out of the loop. Be the the go-to resource to help your managers develop the documentation skills they need, and make it as easy for them as possible to do their best work and support compliance at the same time.

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