Selling Compliance

No one in HR wants to be considered a Peter from Peter and the Wolf.  But yet, when it comes to compliance issues, it is easy to fall into that trap.  We are often running around saying “we can’t do that!  We’ll get in trouble!”   After a while, leaders start to tune us out.  To be effective, we have to seize a case for compliance in terms of business.

Consider this:  What if we looked at employment laws and regulations like best practices with teeth?  Now, I get that this is controversial.  Very, very few people would design a diversity program like the OFCCP’s affirmative action regulations and other examples certainly exist, but bear with me.  What if we looked at the underlying reason for a particular law and compared that with a business goal?  Wouldn’t they be similar in most cases?  Would that make it easier to sell compliance?  The answer: You betcha!

Take for example, paid sick leave.  As of December 31, 2016, 37 jurisdictions (mostly cities, counties, and some states) had enacted paid sick leave laws.  While paid sick leave is certainly a trend at the local and state levels, many employers have understood that they needed to provide sick leave to employees for decades.  These businesses knew that if they didn’t offer the paid time, they would not get the talent they were looking for and employees might leave if they didn’t have the time to care for themselves and their families.  While paid sick leave is now law in some areas, it has long been a recruitment and retention tool for employers.

For an employer in a jurisdiction with a paid sick leave law who doesn’t offer it, HR is now in a position where it needs to sell the benefit as a legal requirement.   HR could package a proposal like this – paid sick leave is needed to get and keep the talent we need and the new ordinance provides a framework to do that.  Would that be an easier sell?

What about sexual harassment?  We know that anti-harassment laws were designed to protect women in the workplace so women could be productive, safe, and contribute our skills.  These laws also try to create workplaces built on the respect for all employees.  These are business goals.  When there is a culture rife with disrespect or disharmony, productivity comes to a near halt.  Turnover increases.  Employees are disengaged.  No business leader wants this to happen.  Preventing and then stopping harassment in its tracks protects the workplace and protects the business from legal claims and PR nightmares and keeps the focus on where it should be – the organization’s mission.

CEOs care about talent.  They care about finding the best talent the can and holding on to the great talent they have. According to PwC’s 2017 CEO survey, talent remains a top priority and as does diversity.  When we view employment laws and regulations as things that can be aligned with business goals, it becomes easier to get buy-in from the top.

This works for every employment law.  If you can’t come up with a business goal, try me.  I believe there is a business goal attached to nearly all employment laws.  I’ll accept the challenge to find one for your organization!


Photo by Redd Angelo available at

DC Lessons For Every Organization

I use examples and metaphors a lot when conducting a training or explaining complex matters.  They’re helpful illustrations of what to do or not do in any given situation. In the last ten days, my cupeth runneth over with examples of what not to do.  These examples highlight poor business and human resources decisions that can take an organization to the brink.  Below are just a few.

(Disclaimer:  This post is about the goings-on in Washington and is more than a bit critical. But, please don’t confuse these lessons for political lessons.  They are organizational lessons that every employer should learn, know, and practice.)

Inconsistent messaging creates distrust. When managers say the sky is blue and the CEO says the sky is orange, employees are confused, skeptical, and grow increasingly concerned about who is telling the truth.  This is especially the case when the CEO repeats the statement or repeatedly contradicts managers.  Distrust is a bedrock of low employee engagement and low productivity.

Documenting important conversations creates credibility. He said-he said (or the more common he said-she said) is frustrating to anyone conducting an investigation.  We don’t know really know who is telling the truth.  But, when notes of conversations exist whether in memo, email, or journal form, those notes create credibility.  The mere writing down or typing out what was said close in time to the conversation means the notes show what really happened. Employment attorneys love contemporaneous notes because juries believe notes over manager testimony.  They’re like silver bullets in litigation.

Poorly handled terminations can haunt you. Using CNN to terminate is a mistake, and last week, I outlined some alternative methods.  The news this week illustrates exactly how a bad termination can follow an organization for a good long while, even when the organization doesn’t want it to.  An executive may want to change the narrative off of a termination but those affected may still want to know more.

Competitors shouldn’t see or hear an organization’s trade secrets. If the CEO of Coca-Cola shared the secret recipe for Diet Coke with the Chief Marketing Officer of PepsiCo, at least one termination would happen even if the CEO had the “right” to do so.  Trade secrets are secrets for a reason, they are the lifeblood of an organization and protect the organization and the individuals in it.  When shared intentionally, inadvertently, to curry favor, or to coordinate efforts, the organization suffers.

Boards of directors need courage to get rid of executives. It is hard to cut ties with an executive.  It takes courage to work against constituencies that may include the very people who put the executive in the position and/or take action when the bottom line will be affected.  Nevertheless, in cases where an organization’s goals cannot be met because of the distraction the executive causes or the nefariousness (i.e. alleged criminal conduct) of the executive, directors must find the courage to do what’s best or feel the wrath of shareholders.

Organizations, employees, customers, and shareholders deserve leadership that values transparency (when appropriate), understands the organization’s goals and focuses on them, and treats employees with dignity.  Simply put, individuals in and around an organization deserve better.

h/t to Jim Hankins.  Jim is a great corporate and HR Compliance Consultant in Colorado.  Check him out!
Photo by Anthony Walasik available at