WORKFORCE EVENT: ROI of Creating a Strong Company Culture

Most professionals agree, having a strong company culture is important.  Like most things in business however, only initiatives that produce results gain support (and investment).  Because strategies to develop, sustain, or improve a company’s culture like any other project requires time and money – the question is inevitable:  what is the ROI of culture?  On March 26th,  AZ Biz Link‘s workforce event hosts a discussion with a panel of experts on the topic of creating a culture that produces valuable results.

Moderator:

  • Kevin Black, Principal & Founder | Edge Challenges

Panelists:

  • James Murphy, President & CEO | Willmeng Construction
  • Julie Eklund, Director Human Resources | Kimley Horn
  • Michele Shuey, Global Director HR Business Partnerships & Employee Engagement | Nextiva
  • Teresa Marzolph, People Strategist & Founder | Culture Engineered
  • Gretchen Mastello, SVP Global People Operations | Axon

How Good Surveys Go Wrong. Choosing the Right Employee Survey for Your Business.

 

So, you want to know more about your employees.  Why not just run a simple employee survey, right?!  Unfortunately, this is the haphazard approach has been adopted by many companies and is why 78% of companies using employee surveys fails to see improvement.  Any survey produces data, but quality data comes when you use employee surveys strategically.  So, before asking your employees to take a survey, consider the problem you intend to solve using survey results.  Comparing five of the most popular types of employee surveys used today, which one best serves your company’s needs?

1.  Onboarding (New Hire) Survey

Purpose:  Onboarding surveys are designed to examine an employee’s experience from the time they apply for a position through the time the employee completes the “new hire” phase which is different for every company.  Often surveys are done at various integrals following their first day with the company such as weekly, or monthly.

Types of companies that can benefit from this survey:  Generally, companies are most interested in surveying their new hire process when they are scaling rapidly, seeing a significant drop in engagement amongst new hires, or new hires are turning over at a higher-than-normal rate.  By effectively using an onboarding survey, companies gain insight to what they are doing right and wrong when hiring and onboarding employees.

Tip:  A company will typically use survey results to answer the following, “are we hiring the wrong people OR are we hiring the right people yet failing to meet new hire expectations as their employer?”.  While more often than not, the answer is “both” – through analyzing survey data they can identify what side of the equation they are struggling with most, hiring or onboarding.

2.  360 Degree Survey

Purpose:  The 360-degree feedback survey is designed to solicit anonymous feedback regarding an employee’s performance from all levels within the company (supervisor, peer, and subordinate).

Types of companies that can benefit from this survey:  360-degree surveys are generally best suited for larger companies as launching and managing this type of survey is complex.  When conducted successfully, results from this survey can provide a holistic view of an employee’s performance.  360-degree surveys place an equal level of importance on lateral, subordinate and supervisor feedback whereas traditional reviews tend to view an employee’s performance with a top-down approach, taking only the supervisor’s perception into consideration.  Therefore, a company that places importance on working collaboratively at all levels within the organization will likely feel 360-degree surveys are of great value to their success.

Tip:  If you wish to launch a 360-degree survey, consider engaging an expert.  Feedback from 360-degree surveys has been criticized as unactionable and irrelevant to improving a company’s productivity.  Quality questions (proving to be valid and reliable), random sampling, and strategic coaching are key to using this tool effectively.

3.  Pulse Survey

Purpose:  The pulse survey is a simple and relatively short survey designed to get insight to the overall health of a company, often conducted more regularly than other surveys (so as to identify fluctuations in employee satisfaction or perceptions on aspects of the company).

Types of companies that can benefit from this survey:  Companies looking to gain quick and valuable insight into employee perceptions for the purpose of implementing strategic changes will benefit from this type of survey.  Because identifying trends is key to this process however, only those companies willing to share survey results with employees (to some extent), committed to addressing workplace issues (as identified in survey results), and conducting surveys on an ongoing basis should engage in this type of survey.

Tip:  Prior to announcing or launching a pulse survey in the workplace, leadership must determine their commitment to addressing workplace issued identified by the survey, how they will share the results with employees, and the frequency they will conduct pulse surveys.  While employee morale will typically improve immediately following a pulse survey’s launch, they just as quickly deteriorate (or even worsen) if the company fails to engage employees in the action plan following the survey.  Keep in mind, survey trends are more important than any one set of survey results when it comes to pulse surveys.

4.  Employee Engagement Survey

Purpose:  Employee engagement surveys are designed to assess the level of which employees understand and care about their work as it relates to the company’s success.

Types of companies that can benefit from this survey:  A trending concept since the 1990s, employee engagement is believed by many companies and scholars to be key to creating and sustaining a high-performing business.  Employee engagement is especially critical to companies with a relatively flat organizational structure, comprised of a large Millennial population, and/or are in highly competitive industries.

Tip:  Keep in mind that changing employee beliefs and notions about work is a very robust and complex process.  While a good employee survey will provide insight into an employee’s understanding of how his/her work matters to the overall company’s success, your plan to change the employee-company relationship needs to recognize the manner in which your company informs, supports, and recognizes employees of their importance.  It is fair to assume your employees had some ideas and expectations of work before coming to your company.  Since hiring them however, you’ve either perpetuated or defied these ideas – both of which have different pros and cons, depending on their preconceived notions.  You can have a mission statement, vision statement, values, handbook, policies and procedures, but all of these are just words on paper until you act on them which will ultimately dictate the level of which your employees feel engaged in their work.  Review each way you, as a company, interact with employees and look to make it as meaningful of interaction as possible.

5.  Exit Interview Survey

Purpose:  Perhaps one of the most commonly used and widely recognized surveys used in the workplace, exit interview surveys are used to identify company turnover trends – why people are leaving the company.

Types of companies that can benefit from this survey:  Because the cost of turnover is considered to be so expensive (a study estimates 1.5-2x an employee’s annual salary), it is recommended that most companies conduct exit interviews when an employee leaves the company (voluntarily).  Exit interviews are even more critical for companies in industries where there is a labor shortage (regionally such as teaching or nationally such as skilled trades or truck drivers), or when companies have a high turnover rate (for the company as a whole OR within one group such as department, tenure set, or demographic).  Understanding why people choose to leave your company will help you hire, train, develop, and ultimately retain better.  Conducting exit interviews is a company’s first step in the process.

Tip:  While use of exit interviews is a common practice, most companies fail to do this well one reason – a lack of discussion.  The number one response people give in an exit interview to the question (or some derivative of the question), “why did you choose to resign from the company is “more money”.  Realize however that is a reason to accept a new job, not leave a job – for the sake of your company’s needs .  Were they looking for a job?  What prompted them to look?  Or if they were not on the job hunt, and instead were actively recruited by the new company, why did they take or return the recruiter’s call?  In most cases, candidates are unaware what the new job pays until they interview.  If these questions don’t work and the person insists he/she was not actively looking for a new job, don’t hesitate to ask the hypothetical question – what if your company was willing to match their new compensation, would they stay?  This question can work magic.  This one question has allowed companies to retain some of their best employees for a fraction of what it costs to recruit, hire, and train a new employee.  If you are unable (or unwilling) to match their new offer, it still gives you amazing insight into the other reasons they wish to leave.  These are likely the reasons that played into their decision to leave your company.  The position offer more money merely presented a manner of carrying out their decision to leave.  Don’t be surprised though if these conversations take some by surprise.  Quality exit interviews can be uncomfortable for the resigning employee and the company representative.  Because of this a neutral party such as HR is generally the best person to conduct exit interviews, or engage a reputable third-party to perform exit interviews for the company.  With valuable data collected from interactive, dialog heavy exit interviews, you start to see employee departures as learning opportunities – a mindset common among the best employers.

Regardless of what survey you intend to use, keep in mind these three tips:

  • Don’t ask unless you plan to act. Asking an employee to share his/her opinion does two things – it engages them in the solution (holding them him/her accountable) and implies that you and/or the company value feedback as part of the continuous improvement process.  When you fail to act, employees will often feel betrayed or as their opinions are unimportant, causing them to underperform and in some cases even act out against the employer.  So, when you ask, make sure you’re asking with intentions to improve – not because it’s a “to-do” item on your list.
  • Who is asking is often equally as important to what you are asking. Many leaders fail to realize how fearful employees are in giving honest, open feedback to company leadership.  Unfortunately, retaliation is not as uncommon as we’d like in some workplaces.  So, if you are new to the surveying process or recognize employees may be uncomfortable sharing their feelings or insights with the company directly, engage a third party.  We all wish employees trusted us more, but trust is something that is earned.  Being sensitive to employee feelings by providing them an extra layer of anonymity is not only a great step in earning their trust, but also the only way to ensure that the data you collect is true and useful.  A censored survey only serves to inflate egos and ultimately serves no person or company for much else.
  • How you ask can make a difference. Are your employees comfortable taking an online survey, OR is it better to use a paper survey.  Do all employees have access to the same communication tools (ie Slack, email, intranet)?  By failing to recognize what level employees are comfortable with technology, you may inadvertently be censoring your survey results.  Have a communication plan for launching your survey – informing employees of when the survey is available, when it ends, how information will be used, where they can access/get their survey, whether or not the survey is anonymous, and information about the third-party administering the survey if you choose to engage a separate company.  You will need to remind people to participate.  Depending on the type of survey and reasoning behind the survey, you may even wish to partner with your marketing team to develop inspiring communications that will motivate employees to participate in the survey process.

Equipped with a purpose, relevant data, and the genuine intention to improve as an employer, surveys will be your key to shifting from a reactive, chaotic place of work, to a thoughtful, collaborative, proactive culture.  What survey is standing between you and a better workplace?

Innovative People Event: Upward Projects Culture

People problems taking a toll on your business???😖

In this new monthly series, prominent leaders share their stories of overcoming today’s largest business challenges by making CULTURE a priority. This month we feature the culture of Upward Projects, the Phoenix-based restaurant group behind Postino, Joyride, Windsor, Churn, and Federal Pizza.

A team of primarily part-time employees earning a supplemental income in an industry many consider to be cut-throat and riddled with chaos, Upward Projects has proven culture is not just for high-tech startups and corporate America. A “people-first” company, Upward Projects has expanded to 13 locations in three states since their start in 2001, maintaining a 4.1 out of 5-star rating on Glassdoor (a rating higher than even Zappos, famed for “delivering happiness”).

How do they do it?  On August 23rd, Upward Projects Director of Recruiting, Jason Spencer, and Area Manager & Executive Team, AJ Jolley share the challenges and wins of building a community with a mission to make people feel good.  Join the discussion!  Lunch provided.

Agenda:

12:00pm – Lunch & Discussion
1:00pm – Networking

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!!!

Culture Engineered Event – Innovative People: DoubleDutch

The Energy of a Team Coming Together

DoubleDutch brings the power of digital to some of the largest live events. Established in 2011 and headquartered in Silicon Valley, they took off on the startup tech rocketship of VC funding and fast growth. As is so often the case, the journey to profitability and category leadership proved to be an intense ride with towering peaks and deep valleys that might have made it hard for some companies to recover. But not DoubleDutch. How do you revolutionize an industry?  The DoubleDutch answer – create a workplace culture of curious, fearless people.  With a 3.9 out of 5-star rating on Glassdoor and a 92% approval rating of CEO and Founder, Lawrence Coburn (who by the way responds to every Glassdoor review, personally), they maintain their position as leaders within their space.

Want to know how they do it?  Join the discussion in Scottsdale, Arizona on April 18th!  We are proud to have DoubleDutch GM and recently promoted Global Director of Employee Engagement, Jackie Roberts share with us the innovative people practices of DoubleDutch.  Get your ticket here!

Feelings in the Workplace – An Insightful Tool or the New “F” Word?

Emotional employee

Crying, yelling, arguing, fighting.  Not ideal in any workplace.  So, when the Huffington Post asked Culture Engineered for tips to include in their article, Crying At Work Happens. Here’s How to Handle It, According To Experts, we stressed the importance of taking a broader approach to such events.  Excessive emotion in the workplace is often and indicator of larger, underlying issues.  Here are some things to consider when emotions erupt in your workplace.

What’s the frequency?

How often are employees overcome with emotion in your workplace?  Weekly?  Daily?  By the hour?  While emotions are a healthy part of the human experience, they are consuming and leave little time or energy for productivity.  Too frequent of outbursts can suggest a culture of enablement or a stressful underlying culture where emotions bubble up.  Such a workplace benefits from training on managing emotions or communication, shifting to proactive interactions and away from reactive.  On the other hand, companies without emotional displays are not necessarily best either.  Life is full of ups and downs.  Given the significant amount of time spent at work, odds are, emotions will sometimes get the best of us at the office.  Letting go in front of someone requires a certain level of vulnerability and trust.  These traits are found within most successful environments.  A workplace without emotion may indicate a lack of trust or an expectation of apathy and therefore may benefit from opportunities to interact outside of work.  Company picnics and office happy hours are a great start, but trust is built by leading with integrity and compassion.  Train and encourage managers to have meaningful conversations with employees over shying away from emotional employees.

Is there a trend?

Where are the breakdowns stemming from?  If a select few are displaying signs of duress repeatedly, its less likely a company-wide culture issue.  Review the surrounding factors of each event, identifying trends.  Are the same people involved with each episode?  Are outbursts more prominent in one department or role?  Unfortunately, we often fail to talk about the string of events leading up to an emotional moment instead, focusing on the straw that broke the camel’s back.  If an employee breaks down because she was warned about coming in late that morning, there is likely more to the story.  Is there a history between the employee and manager?  Has the employee struggled to get to work on time in the past?  Why? These discussions are extremely valuable, helping employees to develop skills needed to succeed as well as uncovering organizational challenges within the company that may be temporarily are prohibiting it from greatness.

Employee behaviors can be signs of potential larger, developing issues within a workplace.  Companies willing to assess their workplace from this perspective can expect to have a more honest, committed, and successful workplace as result.  It’s not always a fun process, but when done right, companies benefit, greatly.

Your company culture – an asset or barrier?  We’re here to help.  Contact a Culture Engineer today by clicking here.

Culture Engineered Launches a New Tool for Schools!

Frustrated teacher

Today, Culture Engineered officially launches a survey focused on assessing the employee experience for educators as it relates to school performance.  The process began in fall of 2017 when a staggering number of requests were received from schools around the US in an effort to improve their workplace.  Not a surprise to many as the national teacher shortage has in recent years moved from a fear to reality.  The shortage especially taking a toll on schools in Arizona, 866 teachers reportedly having abandoned or resigned from their role within the first four months of the 2017-18 school year1.  Culture Engineered is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.

Education continues to remain in the spotlight for the state as Arizona Governor Doug Ducey recently announced his plan to restore $400 million to schools in fiscal year 2019, including $34 million for the second year of the teacher salary increase.2  A much needed salary increase as seen by most given the 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) survey ranked Arizona median pay for teachers 45th in the nation.3   A good start, but is it enough?  To be clear here, the “it” being money.  Can we expect an increase in pay to improve classroom interactions?  Will better pay make schools a better workplace?  While a raise definitely won’t make schools any worse, our 2017 research suggests that teacher pay does not necessarily guarantee a better performance or more success.  Of the ten attributes of the employee experience, educators appear to have a very unique expectation of the workplace.  Equipped with data and tools, Culture Engineered again applies the theory that happy employees produce superior results and looks to roll-out this process, starting with select Arizona schools in preparation for the 2018-19 school year.  Additional “school” survey modules are expected to launch late 2018 for other valuable roles within education including school Support Professionals.

Think your school could benefit from our data-driven approach?  Complete the school inquiry form by clicking here OR call us, 855.444.2404.

Wish to nominate an Arizona school to participate?  Click here.

Should you ban employees from dating?

Coworkers flirting

Recently, Culture Engineered was asked by the Huffington Post how an employee should ask a co-worker out on a date.  While a topic dreaded by most HR and People professionals, it led us to consider whether or not a non-fraternization policy still holds any relevance in today’s workplace.  Do these policies protect the company legally?  How does workplace romance impact a company’s culture?  Below we consider these challenges faced by employers managing employee conduct.

Non-Fraternization Policies and the Law

Traditionally, a company policy is designed to keep the balance of power between employees (as individuals) and the company as a whole – defining good versus bad conduct and consequences that are associated with the bad.  But, can policies apply to conduct outside of work such as with romantic relationships?   A quick glance at statutes in California (Lab. Code § 96k), Colorado (Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402.5), Louisiana (La Rev. Stat § 23:961), New York (N.Y. Lab. Code § 201-d), and North Dakota (ND Cent. Code Sec. 14-02.4-01), such a policy seems useless in preventing workplace romances from developing.  Local governments within these states have similar statutes and rules prohibiting employers from taking adverse action on employees for off-duty, off-company-premises conduct, so long the conduct is lawful.  Looking deeper however, interpretation of these statutes is narrow when it comes to office romances, failing to recognize a romantic activity as a “protected recreational activity”.  So, while non-fraternization policies may cause some gray areas to surface within a company, the good news is that when challenged, they are being upheld.  But a word of caution:  be specific.  A broad non-fraternization policy may constitute as interfering with employee rights to engaged in concerted activity, protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) – a BIG NO-NO.  These rulings have not been so favorable for employers (ie Guardsmark, LLC v. NLRB, 2007 WL 283455 D.C. Cir. 2007).

Romance Impact to Culture

Everyone likes a good love story.  How is this viewed today by employees when it’s happening in the workplace?  In the case of two California Department of Corrections employees working at a prison where the warden was having an affair with three other employees – not so good.  Although all employees engaged in the “relationship” were consenting individuals, the situation still resulted in a sexual harassment suit.  Not that surprising?    How about the fact that no sexual advances or harassing comments had ever been made to either plaintiff?  Miller v. Department of Corrections, No. S114097, 2005 WL 1661190 (Cal. 2005) plaintiffs alleged the favoritism shown to those who engaged in a sexual relationship with the warden caused the plaintiffs to be subjected to a hostile work environment.  The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs causing companies even more reason to be concerned about workplace relationships – even when consensual.  But with all the studies on workplace camaraderie and positive correlation with employee engagement, there has to be some benefit to employees liking each other enough to date, right? Unfortunately, modern studies on this issue bring something we already associate with workplace romances – complexity.  In a 2016 study, researchers sought to investigate the relationship between romance in the workplace and employee engagement.  Employees participating in a romantic relationship with a coworker for the purpose of improving their workplace status had lower levels of employee engagement.  While this result was anticipated by researchers, the impact uncertainty plays in workplace relationships with regards to engagement was not.  Rather than a decrease to employee engagement, engagement increases the more uncertainty within the relationship!  So while a recent CareerBuilder survey found 37% of people say they have dated a coworker of which 33% have led to marriage – clearly not all coworkers are thrilled about it.  But you have a policy, so that can’t be happening in your company, right?  The same survey shows that 45% of survey were unsure if their company had a dating policy.  Yes, another study to suggest only HR reads the handbook – great.

In summary – some guidance is needed in the workplace and when it comes to office romances.  It’s unlikely that a healthy balance will happen organically.  Too strict of a policy – a company is likely to lose talent and make for an unrealistic vibe in which employees are forced to leave or lie.  Too vague of a policy – layout the welcome mat for the NLRB and expect to have some weird discussions with your leaders (23% of CareerBuilder survey participants admitting to dating someone in the office say they dated someone at a higher level within the company).  Take a proactive approach.  Develop your policies around the culture you wish to create rather than reactively creating policies solely to ward off lawsuits.  Only good employees follow policies, bad employees look for loopholes – and find them.  Review your policies today – who are you tailoring them to?

Taking false comfort in blanket policies? Recent EEOC suits demonstrate the importance of effective accommodation discussions.

As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) nears the end of their fiscal year, August press releases reveal a high number of disability and pregnancy discrimination issues.  Of the 18 EEOC sue and settlement press releases made so far this month, more than half include charges of discriminating on the basis of either pregnancy or disability, an increase from July.  But why?  While blatant acts of discrimination are somewhat rare, is it possible for a company to have well-intended practices with harmful and even discriminating impacts?  Taking a deeper look into the EEOC’s shared findings will likely have most companies taking a tough look in the mirror.

Is a request for a leave of absence actually a request for accommodation?

When most employers think of a medical leave, they think of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Signed into law in 1993, FMLA generally requires employers with 50+ employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to “eligible” employees for qualified medical and family reasons.  So, if a company has less than 50 employees, or an employee fails to meet eligibility criteria, the company is not obligated to grant the employee leave, right?  In short – no. In a 2016 publication, the EEOC (the agency tasked with enforcing Title I of the American with Disabilities Act, ADA) describes reasonable accommodation as “any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities”.  The publication is clear – an employer can be obligated to provide leave as part of an accommodation even where leave is not available.  Ultimately, the determining factor will be whether or not offering a leave of absence would cause undue hardship to the company.  But what constitutes as undue hardship?  Much like accommodation needs may vary by person, undue hardship will likely vary by company.  So, when Dependable Health Services, a healthcare staffing agency, denied an employee’s request to be reassigned to another department due to her pregnancy complications related to sickle-cell anemia, later terminating her employment one day prior to her scheduled return from maternity leave to “back-fill” her position, the EEOC challenged the undue hardship exception.   On a much larger scale, the EEOC also challenged the undue hardship experienced by multi-billion dollar department store, Macy’s, when it chose to terminate an 8-year employee rather than excuse a one-day absence she requested to tend to a medical condition (asthma).  Lesson here – if your company is covered by the ADA, get familiar on how to have an effective accommodation discussion.  Just because you do not offer a formal leave of absence, it does not necessarily mean you cannot offer (or be obligated to offer) a leave of absence as part of an accommodation.  Undue hardship will need to be assessed, keeping in mind a company’s definition of undue hardship may differ from that of the EEOC.

When an employee exceeds the amount of leave available, should the employer should terminate the employee in accordance with company policy?

Ask an HR person or labor attorney why having company policies or a handbook is important and you’ll most likely get a similar response – to protect the rights of workers and company interests.  Policies ensure fair and consistent expectations within an organization.  But as with most things, a policy is only as good as the reasoning behind it.  Not to suggest the adage, rules are made to be broken, company policies DO need ongoing review to remain relevant.  This is especially clear in cases where rigid policies or doing something a certain way “because it’s always been done this way”, is getting in the way of effective accommodation discussions.  In a recent settlement with Sensient Natural Ingredients, LLC, the EEOC announced Sensient will pay $800,000 as part of a consent decree.  The settlement stems from a 2015 lawsuit in which the EEOC claimed Sensient violated the ADA by discharging employees for exceeding the company’s restrictive leave policy and refusing to allow employees to return following disability-related absences.  Lowe’s too signed into a consent decree with the EEOC in an $8.6M settlement due to a pattern of systematically terminating employees regarded as disabled who exhausted a 180-day (later revised to a 240-day) leave policy without providing reasonable accommodation.  Perhaps this was best demonstrated in the EEOC’s notorious 2011 disability settlement with Verizon for $20M.  The settlement stemmed from Verizon’s “no fault” attendance policy, issuing disciplinary action (including dismissal) to employees with absence violations based on certain thresholds, without consideration of accommodation.  While the EEOC publicly makes no mention of the intent behind policies and practices for these companies, EEOC Chair, Jacqueline A. Berrien’s response to the Verizon settlement warns, “…an inflexible leave policy may deny workers with disabilities a reasonable accommodation to which they’re entitled by law – with devastating effects.”  Lesson here – give thought to the intention behind company policies on an ongoing basis.  Applying rules too broadly or rigidly without thought, while ensuring consistency, may do so at a far greater expense to the company and its employees.  A company’s success is built on the success of its employees.  When a company refuses to even hear from employees what they need to be successful, failure is unavoidable and where accommodations go unheard, EEOC charges await.

Tips for a valuable accommodations discussion:

  • Educate first-line managers on the signs that an accommodation discussion is needed. A company may have a request form available with HR, but this is often not how accommodations discussions surface.  Is an employee struggling to meet performance or attendance expectations?  Often the employee and first-line manager are the most knowledgeable as to “why”.  If the “why” has anything to do with medical reasons for the employee or employee’s family or dependents – they should know this is a sign to engage HR or someone more familiar with accommodation discussions.
  • “What do you need to be successful here?” – make this question a part of your company’s culture. Where needed, outline expectations and then ask what someone needs to meet those expectations.  This question is not only key to a successful accommodations discussion, but a question key to supporting any employee in their goals.
  • Give genuine consideration to requests. Although some requests may in-fact cause undue hardship to an employer, consider the request before responding.  Research what it would take to grant the accommodation.  Tap internal resources, careful not to share confidential information where inappropriate.  This accommodation process is indeed, a PROCESS.
  • Deliver the decision to the employee in person (by phone if face-to-face is not an option), followed up with appropriate documentation.
  • Encourage the employee to keep lines of communication open. Often accommodations can change as can the needs of a job.  The employee should feel empowered to initiate these discussions with appropriate parties (management, HR, etc) should needs change in the future.  Encourage employees to be proactive in this process, owning their success.  Ultimately, an employee’s willingness to engage in and initiate these discussions will depend heavily on their initial experience.  Both the employee and the company have a shared interest in making the process valuable.

Need help in creating an environment that fosters valuable, effective conversations?  Contact us today!

Does Comey’s interview satisfy workplace investigation criteria?

Objective. Genuine. Thorough.  The three keys to a successful workplace investigation.  Granted, consequences of today’s Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing extend beyond those directly involved but also the security of a nation.  But from a business perspective – Comey is a former employee, the government an employer, Trump a top executive, and the Senate Intelligence Committee HR in this serves as the “investigation”.  How do you rate it?

It’s fair to say that no one looks forward to a workplace investigation.  When handled correctly though, a well-done investigation helps to maintain the ethical integrity of an employer and its people, identifies areas where improvement is needed, and ensures everyone plays an active part guarding and creating their workplace culture.  But when tensions are high – as they usually are when an investigation is underway, how are investigations to be handled?  Here are some tips.

Investigate without bias.

Investigations usually fall to the company’s HR professional.  But what happens if you do not have an HR person?  Or, what if your company’s HR person is involved in the investigation?  Should an HR professional be tasked with investigating his/her own boss?  In such cases, look outside the organization for someone to conduct the investigation on the company’s behalf.  An example being Uber’s relatively recent decision to hire former U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, to investigate allegations of discrimination and sexual harassment (which has already led to several changes).  Often attorneys and HR consultants can assist in these investigations.  Sign them to a non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement, ensuring findings remain confidential.  While this may not protect a company from legal claims made by employees (active or former), it minimizes risk of an outsider person having loose lips.  Additionally, hiring a person or firm to conduct an investigation suggests the company is making a good faith effort to maintain a fair and ethical culture, which can help should a formal legal matter later surface.

Seek truth, not agendas.

Unfortunately issues prompting an investigation are the result of a culmination of pitfalls.  Often the issue could’ve been addressed or prevented altogether early on by better communication, transparency, accessibility, or even policy.  Investigations can be painful for companies perhaps even more so for good-intended ones.  It is important therefore, to keep in mind that investigations are part of the process in becoming a better company.  Best to uncover an issue sooner versus later as problems often perpetuate over time.  Do not censor investigation results for fear they will expose the company is imperfect.  Be genuine in resolving issues and improving a company’s culture over all else.  A good company can endure valuable criticism.  A good investigator is an honest one.  An investigation that instead seeks to vilify a scapegoat in hopes of allowing a company to save face ultimately serves no one, for long.

It ain’t over, ‘til it’s over.

The only thing worse than a workplace investigation is revisiting a workplace investigation.  Buckle down, complete it, follow-up with all involved, and document it.  While it is rare that post-investigation conversations are full of sunshine and rainbows, even bad news is better than the assumptions typically made accusers, or the accused.  Investigate every aspect possible.  Thorough investigations are often time consuming and yes, unpleasant.  As mentioned previously however, issues prompting an investigation are likely due to a multitude of mishaps, oversights, and miscommunication.   Botched investigations may be viewed as willful or retaliatory.  Do not let your investigation be another symptom of company growing pangs.  It may be the most costly one of all.

Need help with conducting your workplace investigation?  Contact us today.

 

WHERE HAVE ALL THE TEACHERS GONE…..AND WHAT ARE SCHOOLS DOING TO KEEP THEM?

According to a report by the Learning Policy Institute, four leading factors, contributing to a national teacher shortage are: 1) a decline in teacher preparation enrollments, 2) district efforts to return to pre-recession pupil-teacher ratios, 3) increasing student enrollment, and 4) high teacher attrition.  While often labor shortages can be temporary, reflective of a change to an industry or economy, this four-part combination, consisting of issues in attracting new teachers as well as retaining existing teachers suggests more of a failing culture of an entire profession.  Even be more alarming?  How school districts are responding to the shortage when compared to other industries faced with this same challenge.

Education is not the only industry experiencing a labor shortage.  Various news sources suggest that the US is suffering from labor shortages in skilled laborers, truckers, manufacturing, landscaping, and even hospitality.  It is however perhaps the industry with the slowest reaction.  Though reasons for each shortage may vary, it’s important companies within each affected industry look to focus recruiting and retention strategies around these driving forces.  When faced with staffing challenges employers are forced to innovate and again give attention to their most valuable asset – their people.  So, as dealerships shift their recruiting efforts to technical schools, or companies incorporate profit sharing incentives into skilled laborer compensation packages, it seems very little has changed in recruiting or retaining teachers.  Below are two of the most common “people strategies” implemented in a time where competing for talent is fierce.  Are schools in your community competing for talent?

Get social.

Perhaps the most powerful strategy given the role social media plays in society – social media, when used wisely, can be helpful in both attracting and retaining talent.  Monster.com provides a brief case study of Sodexo, a company committed to helping corporate clients improve performance and promote well-being through a variety of life service offerings, who after incorporating social media in their recruiting efforts saw a 25% increase in candidates. In a separate Monster.com article, social media is labeled a “virtual water cooler”, a powerful tool when shaping a workplace culture with intention.  Although navigating the world of social media within the workplace may be tricky – particularly for the public sector – is it a risk worth trying?  With growing student enrollment, high attrition, and low recruitment, shortages are predicted to grow to 112,000 by 2018.  By monitoring social media accounts and implementing a healthy social media policy, could school districts create a brand worth following?

Know your team.

What drives your teachers to teach?  As any manager or supervisor should be able to answer this simple yet important question about the people that report to them – a Principal or Superintendent should be able to answer this same question regarding their teachers.  Whether through a survey or one-on-one conversation, knowing your team is key.  If you can’t answer this question about the team you represent, make it a point to ask the question next meeting.  The asking is the most important part.  Recognizing and respecting their answer is an extremely close second.  The answer they provide, keeping in mind that it may change over time, is the key to keeping them engaged….and whether the private sector or public sector, engaged employees are critical to success.  According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, engaged employees have 41% lower absenteeism, 24% lower turnover, and 17% higher productivity – all extremely beneficial when workload is high but headcount is low.

So, while many discussions focus on better pay and benefits – also important aspects to consider when examining a labor crisis such as that of teachers – consider what the schools are doing in your community now regarding these two solutions that can be done for minimal cost.  They are solutions well-tested in the private sector, helping to distinguish the ideas of tomorrow from the antiquated traditions of the past.  Cinematographer, Conrad Hall said, “You are always a student, never a master.  You have to keep moving forward.”  Can the lessons in human capital learned from business be key to advancing education forward?

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