Undercover Employees: How To Foster Inclusion When Workplace Covering Abounds

How can you create an inclusive workplace when your employees hide key aspects of their identity at work? One Harvard Business Review article reported that as many as 61% of all employees participate in some form of covering. In her 2019 article, Ashley Kirkwood describes covering as hiding or downplaying some aspect of one’s identity for fear of drawing unwanted attention or in an attempt to make others more comfortable. During this interactive virtual presentation, thought leader, Ashley Kirkwood, Esq. of Mobile General Counsel will explain covering and provide some tangible tools to uncover cultural landmines in your company that foster exclusion versus true inclusion.

About the Presenter, Ashley Kirkwood:

After graduating from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law with honors, Ashley started her career at one of the largest law firms in the world, Kirkland & Ellis LLP. While there, she tried cases on behalf of large insurance companies. She also landed in the pages of the American Lawyer after a hard-won victory in a federal civil rights jury trial! Soon after that trial, Ashley left Kirkland to work at another large law firm where she represented employers in employment discrimination and sexual harassment cases. It was there that Ashley decided that she wanted to represent emerging businesses in order to help them bulletproof their businesses!

Ashley makes her expertise accessible by providing legal products for the busy entrepreneur! She frequently provides legal trainings open to all via her Facebook and Instagram accounts. You might catch Ashley serving as an on-air legal correspondent for a local Chicago television network or speaking at a college or corporation!

Ashley is committed not just to entrepreneurs, but also to students. She and her husband, Chris, run a nonprofit, The Kirkwood Foundation, where they teach students on Chicago’s West Side about high paying legal, medical and STEM careers.

Building an Inclusive Arizona: Sales

CO+HOOTS Foundation Executive Director Lisa Glenn Nobles and Culture Engineered Founder Teresa Marzolph discuss how we can build an inclusive Arizona ecosystem focusing specifically on diversity in the sales cycle. The first in our monthly series on Building an Inclusive Arizona, this conversation will focus on the need for diversity in the Arizona business ecosystem and help companies develop a common language and best practices around inclusive sales cycles.

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

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!!!

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?

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.

 

Independent Contractor or Employee? The IRS & DOL Have the Answer. Do you?

US map of MOUs

Are your independent contractors actually employees?  Guidance from the IRS and DOL.

IRS guidance.

The IRS focuses on the following three “common law rules” to distinguish independent contractors (IC) from employees:

  1. Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?
  2. Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)
  3. Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

DOL guidance.

The Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) provides a bit more guidance to employers with the following six factors.  Important to note the DOL also states that “no one set factors is exclusive”, depending on a “number of economic realities”:

  1. The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business.
  2. Whether the worker’s managerial skills affect his or her opportunity for profit and loss.
  3. The relative investments in facilities and equipment by the worker and the employer.
  4. The worker’s skill and initiative.
  5. The permanency of the worker’s relationship with the employer.
  6. The nature and degree of control by the employer.

A DOL commissioned survey suggests 10 to 30 percent of businesses misclassify employees as Independent Contractors, resulting in a number of individuals without employee benefits or protections.  The WHD has called this issue “one of the most serious workplace issues within the US”.  As a solution, the IRS and WHD teamed up to form the DOL Misclassification Initiative.  To date, 37 state agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to both share information and enforce issues related to misclassification.

Has your state signed an agreement with the IRS?  Access the interactive map here.   Need help making sure your employees and Independent Contractors are correctly classified?  Contact a Culture Engineer today by clicking here!  Also, stay up-to-date with workplace topics and tips by following us on Twitter @Culture_Ngineer.

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?

Contact a Culture Engineer