Shred!

It’s the week between Christmas and New Years. You may be still be overdosed on food, family, friends, and festivities.  This week is kind of a fog in most offices.  So what could we do that wouldn’t require too much?

We shred.  Make it rain paper!  Take out those old personnel and recruitment files, and get the little delight as several sharp blades chew through now irrelevant information to make more room in your soon-to-be irrelevant file cabinets.

What could you get rid of?  You can probably get rid of a lot.  First, check your document retention policy.  If HR does not have one, check with your Finance or Accounting group.  They might have one that covers your files too.  If you have a policy, follow that.

Second, if you don’t have a policy, determine what record retention laws apply to you.  If your organization is a federal or state contractor, your records are covered by different laws and regulations.  For example, the EEOC regulations require employers to retain recruitment records for one year, but the OFCCP requires recruitment records to be retained for two years.  State law may have additional requirements for you as well.

Third, prepare to shred.  Put all the payroll records that are more than four years’ old in one pile, the personnel files of employees long since departed from your organization, and the old copies of employee handbooks in separate piles.

Lastly, find your shredder and giant garbage bags.  Order a pizza.  Pretend you are a group of roadies preparing for a concert.  Make the confetti.  It’s fun!

 

Photo by Jordon Conner on Unsplash

Happy Birthday, tHRive!

Today is a big day!  Today, tHRive Law & Consulting turns one.  In just the past year:

Human resources and employment law are ever-changing and exciting.  Our work touches nearly everyone, making it incredibly meaningful and challenging.  This is why I love it.  I can’t think of another area of business or law I’d rather be in.

tHRive Law & Consulting made it through one of the most significant milestones of any start-up – the first year.  I could not have done it without the support of so many and the confidence of my HR tribe.  For that, I am eternally grateful.  Thank you!

Now, onto the challenges of year two!

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Free Speech & What You Can Learn

Question:  You’re a recruiter.  You have a promising candidate who has successfully been through a couple of interviews.  You sit down and google his name.  The results show a picture of a white supremacist rally with his face in the crowd.  What do you do?

Much has been said over the past ten days about free speech in the workplace.  While there have been many reminders that free speech doesn’t really extend to the private workplace, an undercurrent is stirring.  The complaint has been that people should be able to say whatever they want without any consequences to their way of life.  If it is unfair for someone to get fired after supporting a white supremacist rally, frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Today, we are blessed and cursed that the world has become more transparent.  This is all thanks to social media and a 24/7 news cycle.  Depending on the privacy settings, we can see what people were up to ten years ago.  We can look at their Twitter page to see their “off the cuff” statements about the world, their coffee selections, and frustrations with a particular airline.  All of this is good information for employers.  Imagine these typical concerns when hiring that can be answered by media:

  • How will this candidate respond to stress? A rant 18 months ago about a delayed flight that when on for six tweets each with escalating hatred could be a good indicator.
  • Will this candidate be a good representative of our company? An Instagram post of her doing a keg stand in a company t-shirt could be okay for a beer distributor, not so great for a Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter.
  • Will this candidate be a positive influence? Chronically negative Facebook posts complaining about everything from her car, her roommate, her dog, her etc. could all indicate a Negative Nelly who could become a toxic employee.
  • Is this candidate passionate about the job? Tweets sharing articles about her job and what that job will look like in the future are excellent indicators of passion.

All of this gives employers a more complete picture of a candidate.  Social media and news websites can share a great deal of information that can reduce an employer’s risk too.  Googling a candidate can show you postings of violence or discriminatory comments that every employer wants to avoid.  It can show intolerance that when brought into the workplace can create liability under discrimination statutes or other liability like negligent hiring.

Here’s what I recommend all employers do – google candidates.  Look at what you can.  (Don’t breach any privacy settings though.)  When you do it, follow these steps:

  1. Decide what will disqualify a candidate well in advance. At the initial intake interview, ask the hiring manager what on social media or in the news would disqualify the candidate.  You can have standard disqualifiers, like violence, bad grammar, bigotry, etc., but there may be a few disqualifiers for a specific job.
  2. Make HR do it. HR is particularly aware of unconscious bias and may not be a decision-maker.  For these reasons, HR can compare the disqualifier list to what they find in a google search in as neutral way as possible.
  3. Wait as late in the process as you can. Googling all 600 candidates for a particular position is a waste of time.  Google when you’re down to your last few candidates.
  4. Ask the candidate. I know this may be shocking to some, but you should ask a candidate about what you find.  You could have the wrong person.  The candidate might have a good explanation.  Even if it is something for which no reasonable excuse exists (e.g. bigotry), by asking you get the much needed feedback to the candidate.  This does not have to be confrontational.  Just ask for their side of the story. On occasion, giving someone a second chance may be appropriate, but you’ll never know unless you ask.

If the “fictional” recruiter above discovered a picture of a candidate wielding a tiki torch at a white supremacist rally, the recruiter should feel comfortable moving on to another candidate.  Employment at-will has given employers’ the ability to move on.  They should use it.

I will fight for anyone’s right to free speech. Discourse is important to our way of life. That said, I will also fight for a company’s right to have consequences for that speech.  Employment and labor law have defined the limits of free speech in the workplace (talking about working conditions, wages, etc.).  While it is important to have all kinds of viewpoints in the workplace, no workplace should have to tolerate hatred, bigotry, or other sentiments that one gender or race is superior.  Period.

 

h/t to Ali McGinty for her review, smarts & co-teaching!
Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash

 

 

More DC Lessons: Leadership Edition

Two months ago, I posted some lessons from DC.  Because DC (and more accurately, the current occupant of the White House) continues to be the gift of organizational lessons that just keeps giving, this post provides some more lessons for every organization.  We’ll call this the leadership edition.

There’s good leadership.  There’s bad leadership.  There’s truly atrocious leadership.  There’s a failure of leadership.  In all cases, leadership has a role in creating healthy workplaces. Healthy workplaces, regardless of waist-line sizes and the existence of lots of fruits and veggies, are places where employees thrive, feel valued, and are built on a system of fairness.  They are also compliant workplaces.

Over the past few weeks, there have been some truly spectacular examples of atrocious leadership.  A few examples are below.  These examples demonstrate how a workplace can go off the rails and foster environments that are not compliant with the law.

Loyalty as blind devotion is badTrue loyalty to a leader and/or an organization means sharing opinions and taking action in the best interest of the organization – especially when the organization has made or is about to make a mistake.  Loyalty has costs, and those costs can sink an organization.  Take for example, Uber.  When employees signed a petition to return former CEO Travis Kalanick, it was a signal that the culture at the center of Uber’s six-month catastrophe was an even bigger problem than a single individual.  Potential fix:  Define loyalty as raising voices to share problems and solutions.

Threats are bad.  Leadership by threat is perhaps the worst kind of leadership.  Employees in fear perform poorly.  Potential fix:  Build trust with employees.  Let them try something and fail in a safe environment.  You’ll be better for it.

Not recognizing and celebrating differences means there won’t be any.  The value of inclusion has been rightfully gaining traction, not only because it has real benefits, but it is also where we’re going as a world.  When we don’t recognize differences or choose to be “colorblind,” we automatically discount groups in the workplace.  This drives employees out and makes it harder for us to find new employees. This will bring a workplace out of compliance with diversity under an affirmative action plan.  Potential fix:  Embrace (please, not literally) the diversity already exists in your organization and work towards building a more inclusive workplace.

Narcissism has more cons than pros.  Narcissistic leaders, including Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bonaparte, and both Roosevelts, accomplish some great and not-so-great things.  They have loyal (see above) followers, but their blind spots are huge and often spell their downfall unless checked by internal leaders, shareholders, employees, the press, and consumers. In fact, at least one study found that narcissism is a bad leadership trait.  Potential fix:  Encourage leadership to seek out different opinions and understand that the best ideas may not come from the leader.

Criticism in public is a mistake.  The adage that leaders “praise in public, criticize in private” remains solid advice.  When leaders publicly criticize their teams, they undermine the organization’s own progress.  It may inspire the targets of that criticism to leave, but other leaders could look to leave too.  Plus, it is not a good look.  We don’t celebrate parents who eat their young, so why would we celebrate leaders who do the same?  When an employee believes she has been criticized unfairly, she is more likely to bring a lawsuit.  Potential fix:  Handle differences and performance criticism behind closed doors.  (Isn’t this HR 101?)

Get & keep your facts straight.  This one should go without saying, but don’t lie.  Employees are smart.  They figure out your lies and will leave because of them.  Fix:  Don’t lie.

While I would really love to use DC as an example of a great organization doing right by its employees and customers (i.e. us), it looks like we’re in for more lesson learning.

 

Photo by srikanta H. U on Unsplash

SHRM National First-Timer

This year, I was given a great opportunity – attend my first SHRM national conference in New Orleans.  I got to spend three days with 17,000 of my HR friends, meet the people I have been following and listening to, and learn from some smart speakers and attendees.  It was amazing and downright exhausting.

Here are some of the things I took from the conference:

The worst loss to deal with is the loss of life and love, followed closely with trust. Kat Cole got everyone craving Cinnabon and thinking about how we build trust with the right doses of humility, curiosity, courage, and confidence.  We fail when we’re too far away from the front lines of our business, are unwilling to do the right thing, and don’t change policies to keep up with the organization’s needs.  We need to consider whether individuals can trust us, how we rebuild trust when we do something to harm it, and put integrity at the center of our organization.

Some healthy skepticism is important. Much of Laszlo Bock’s keynote was super – give your work meaning, trust your people, hire people better than you, etc.  But when he discussed paying people “unfairly,” there was a healthy dose of skepticism from the audience and twitterers.  Mr. Bock believes that you should pay people based on how well they perform and how much they are “all in.”  These disparities can be up to double the amount you may pay someone else in the same role in Mr. Bock’s opinion.   This is really something given Mr. Bock recently left Google where his pay practices are now subject to a significant lawsuit that The Guardian headlined as “extreme” gender discrimination.  While I agree that paying people based on their performance is good in theory, when the discrepancies appear to include a dose of discrimination, we have a problem.

Be disruptive.  Jennifer McClure‘s presentation about DisruptHR included some nuggets from these events, including my personal favorite, “Respect the data, but make human decisions.”  Jennifer encouraged her audience to be disruptive, but that doesn’t mean that they need to revolutionize.  Small changes can be disruptive too.

If you have a brain, you’re biased. Yes, I knew this before, but David Rock’s discussion on the neuroscience behind unconscious bias was great.  Mr. Rock started out talking about how to sell diversity initiatives – it’s not just about improving the bottom line, it’s also about making better decisions.  He spoke about how it is very difficult to work against individual biases, so work on the bias at work as a team.  I was both fascinated and challenged by his presentation.

My favorite HR tweeple are super. I love Twitter.  I’ve met some great people online, who I had not met in real life who I could call up to ask questions or ask for a smidge of reassurance.  I got to meet these people IRL at SHRM, and they are just as cool, friendly, and smart in person.  It was so great!  John Friend is right, “SHRM is HR Christmas.”

I can’t wait to go again next year!