In case you missed it, there was a SHRM Conference Daily post this week with a very interesting headline. In short, the EEOC said that training doesn’t reduce discrimination. The logic behind the commentary had a few holes that I want to point out really quick, but I want to spend the majority of the time today helping you to understand what actually works for eliminating harassment. Here’s the synopsis:

The biggest finding of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace may be what it failed to find—namely, any evidence that the past 30 years of corporate training has had any effect on preventing workplace harassment. “That was a jaw-dropping moment for us,” said EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic in a Sunday Session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Two quick notes that need clarification:

  • There are 90,000 harassment claims, so training doesn’t work. What kind of training was used? How many of those complaints actually were legitimate harassment issues?
  • 90% of harassment is never reported. That means that hundreds of thousands of workers in the US are harassed every year. I don’t buy it. Working with a jerk or someone that is not always pleasant doesn’t equal harassment, but many people miscategorize it that way all the time.

How to Completely Eliminate Harassment

Want to absolutely crush harassment at your organization? It requires a culture that encourages ethical treatment of others. It requires a company that values not only individuality, but the fundamentals of respect and appreciation for others.

Think about it. We’ve all worked with people that simply didn’t respect others around them. Those people are the ones that often bring about harassment, because they do not have the respect for their peers and coworkers that is necessary for good working relationships.

So, we need to create organizations that are uncomfortable for those kinds of people. We need to make it unpleasant to be disrespectful by addressing it as a performance issue. We need to create an environment where those kinds of behaviors demand a swift and unpleasant response instead of sweeping them under the rug, brushing them off, etc. Harassment is serious, and not just in a “oh boy, we’re going to get sued for that one” kind of way. It can cost you great, productive employees and drive away the talent that your organization needs.

So, it may be no small feat, but crushing harassment is a worthy goal. Start today. Build a culture of respect and appreciation. Take issues seriously and address them promptly. Then you can reap the benefits of a collaborative, harassment-free workplace.

I’m blessed again this year to be attending the SHRM Annual Conference. Yesterday I spoke with a friend that I haven’t seen at a SHRM event in a while. I asked him about what he was most looking forward to, and he had a quick response for me: the people.

Yes, the content is good.

Yes, the general sessions are motivating.

Even the expo hall has a great set of vendors and providers to fill every possible need in the HR world.

But the people—that personal connection—is what drew him in more than anything else.

That made me pause, because I can remember a point in my career when I desperately needed the content. FMLA, 401k planning, and compliance sessions were my go-to for staying on top of the latest developments and information. I planned my agenda months in advance so that I could take full advantage of the experts available. But in this season of my life, I have begun to put more and more emphasis on the personal relationships around me as the main reason to attend SHRM.

But therein lies a problem.

For many attendees, the difficulty comes in translating that “relationship building” to a business case for someone to pay for you to attend the SHRM Conference. Saying, “I want to go make new friends” is a surefire way to get yourself laughed out of the room when you’re asking to go to the event, but there is an answer that makes sense. The true value lies in the ROI of the relationships you’re building. Here’s what I mean:

  • Several years ago I met Mike Haberman at an event. The guy is a whiz when it comes to compliance in simple, non-legal terms that we in HR can understand and implement. When I have questions, I reach out to Mike for help.
  • Someone recently reached out to me online to help her with a compensation issue within her organization. We had connected briefly in the past, and she was interested in getting some help to make sure her company did the right thing for the firm and its employees.

In each of these examples, we see that initial relationship paying off. That has true financial value. If we assume an HR consultant makes $100 an hour (round figures), and you save twenty hours a year in consulting costs by building out a network of competent, trustworthy people, then you can justify the cost of attending an event like the SHRM Conference.

Some of you might be wondering if this applies to you, even if you’re not a social butterfly. As an introvert, the social/personal connection is one that is tough to pull off for me personally. It has taken some time to get there, but now I have a set of experts ranging from employer branding and culture to compliance and regulation. And like a true HR pro, I look for ways to help my friends and colleagues in the industry by putting them in touch with these people as well.

I’m not saying you need to completely bail on the sessions or give up on the content piece, but you do need to make an effort to talk with a few people that you wouldn’t have a chance to meet for the other 364 days in the year. We’re all in this together, and the stronger the relationships are, the better we all become. As the great quote says, a rising tide lifts all boats. So take a few minutes today to connect with someone and start building a relationship (AKA networking). You’ll be glad you did.

Today marks my first day at a new company, and I have to say that I’m very excited about the weeks and months ahead. Two years ago I joined Brandon Hall Group as an analyst to see if that was the direction I wanted to go with my career. I’ve been doing an informal analyst “thing” here at upstartHR since 2009, and what I learned was the “formal” analyst role isn’t all that different from what I’ve done here. It all revolves around knowing the technology and trends and being able to discuss them in a way that makes sense for your audience. As I was telling a friend last week, it’s not something that you can study for or know overnight–it takes time, dedication, and effort to truly grasp the wide variety of concepts and inputs.

Personally, it felt good to confirm that I have been on the right track for all this time and that the many hours invested into this site was a good way to build up my skills, connections, etc. for when I was ready to make the next step. Think about my journey so far. I’ve worked as an HR leader and in-the-trenches practitioner, but I’ve always wanted to have a bigger impact on the world around me. That mindset has led to numerous volunteer opportunities with SHRM and my local chapter, but it still wasn’t enough.

The New Gig

As I’ve always done, when I felt like I had learned everything I could, I decided it was time to move on to another opportunity. I have explored some new areas of HR and human capital management over the last two years, and now I have decided to move to a new firm with new challenges and opportunities.

Lighthouse-research-and-advisoryI am now the Principal Analyst at Lighthouse Research and Advisory, which allows me the freedom to explore the various areas of HR, talent, and learning that appeal to me without having to be pigeonholed in any particular area. Many of you wonder what the heck an analyst actually does (I know my wife is still asking herself that question all these years later). Here’s a short explanation:

  • Through regular briefings and updates, I stay on top of technology and how it is changing. I’d estimate that I’ve had one or two meetings with vendors every week for more than two years now.
  • Through regular corporate briefings and updates, I share research and gather intelligence from companies on their challenges and any other noteworthy trends.
  • I use those insights to help target advice and content for those vendors so they understand YOUR needs as HR practitioners. If you’ve ever bought HR technology, you know how hard it is. I’m hoping to make that easier in some way.
  • That insight comes in the form of white papers, research reports, webinars, conference attendance, speaking, and advisory sessions.
  • Occasionally I work with corporate clients to help them with their innovation, technology, or strategy plans. As I said, this stuff is complex and it helps to have an outside viewpoint when you’re contemplating a new direction.

That might not be super clear, but it gets us closer to home. :-) By the way, if you want to reach out to me about anything connected with Lighthouse, here is my email address.

I’m also a member of the HR Federation, a group of rockstar independent analysts that covers pretty much the entire market. Honored to be associated with this illustrious group.

And the best news yet…

It’s an exciting time for me and my family, especially since we have a new baby on the way! Yes, little peanut is due in November 2016, and we are all very excited for the arrival. With the baby coming and my desire to have more freedom and flexibility in my work, we felt like it was the right time to make the move.

As for my plans for upstartHR, I’m still here. My heart for small business, in-the-trenches HR, and witty banter hasn’t gone away. I still plan to write, share, and explore the best ways to improve your HR service delivery and work as a strategic player. I’m selling HR certification tools for the PHR and SPHR to help those of you who are looking to improve your capabilities as HR leaders.

Thanks for everything you do to support me and this site. I couldn’t do it without you!

Many companies are making an increased effort to promote diversity in the workplace, and for good reason. There are a multitude of benefits that diversity promotes, and every company can be improved by having a diverse set of employees. Here are some of the top benefits to be had by promoting and encouraging diversity in the workplace, and suggestions on how to build a diversified, inclusive work environment.

Create a More Qualified Company

In an extremely competitive economy, it’s important to hire the best possible employees. By selecting a diverse set of candidates to become part of the team, the company will be more likely to succeed. Employees with different perspectives and backgrounds create a more effective work environment. Continue reading

I’d love to say that I am perfect and haven’t ever made a mistake in my career, but we all know that just isn’t the case. While this isn’t like the time I set an ATM on fire, it is one of those moments that I relive over and over again with more than a little remorse. See if you can learn any lessons from my own experience…

Years ago I was recruiting for technical writers to join a growing team that I was putting together to support a government contract. Instead of the usual ones and twos, I was hiring a dozen people for this position at one time. It wasn’t your run of the mill tech writer opening, either. I was looking for people with experience writing to military specifications. I needed writers that could do some illustrations. I also needed at least one of the hires to know how to be a “provisioner,” the hardest job I’ve ever had to fill (yes, even harder than helicopter instructor pilots).

The skill set was very obscure, and I had to sift through tons of unqualified resumes to find the few that were a good fit. All this was capped off by an unreasonable deadline set by the customer–a surefire recipe for disaster.

Despite all of the things working against me, I was feeling pretty confident. We had an employee referral or two, and since it is a relatively tight community, I was able to get feedback on some candidates to know which would be a good fit and which wouldn’t before investing time into building rapport with each. I had a great first round of interviews with our pool of applicants, and we were moving a good number of them forward to talk with the hiring manager and the technical lead on the team.

I was working long hours, as I usually did during heavy recruiting seasons of the year. As with many small companies, I was wearing all of the HR hats, and recruiting was one of many of my duties. When a big effort spun up, it would put other things on hold, no matter how critical they might be. I’ll never forget trying to set up a performance improvement plan for a staff member, investigate another for harassment, and try to find a pilot to go to Hawaii for a year-long contract. I survived those hectic weeks purely on Diet Mountain Dew, which I no longer consume.

Anyway, I was working hard. One thing that I have always felt was a differentiator for me as a recruiter and HR leader was that I put the extra effort into communications, and it had paid off. I got massive results from my LinkedIn invitations to candidates. I had high readership and engagement from internal staff on HR communications I developed. I knew that skill set, while it took time that could be used on other activities, was going to continue paying dividends over time. But one day, for some reason, I snapped.

Yes, I snapped. If you’ve ever met me in person, you’d have a hard time believing I could snap at anything. And yet I did. 

One of the candidates I was chasing for the final slot had been leading me on and was slowly becoming less responsive as the days went by. I thought I might be losing him, but despite everything I put into every conversation, there didn’t seem to be a way to turn it around.

Finally I asked him point blank what the issue was. Why was he backing off? Was there something I could do to fix it?

And the guy responded with something that drove me over the edge.

He said that he had heard the company wasn’t very good to its employees and that he wasn’t interested in working at a place like that.

And it happened. I. Went. Off. 

Now, before I tell you what I said, I want you to understand something. I had worked for the company since it was a startup. I knew every employee and spouse by name, and I was pretty darn good about knowing their kids, too. People loved the company and the work. We had phenomenal leadership and a great mission. We prided ourselves in taking care of our people financially, professionally, and personally.

One time, an employee’s house blew away in a tornado on his first day of work. We all pitched in to make sure he had leave to cover his time away with his family to pick up the pieces. We really worked hard to take care of these people just like they were family. I agonized over absolutely every detail to make sure the company was the kind of place that I would be proud of my own kids working for. I had employees from our partner companies calling me daily asking how they could join our team because our employees were so darn happy with their jobs and the company.

And this guy had the nerve to lie and say that we didn’t care. 

I responded back to the guy and told him that after reviewing his resume, I didn’t think he was a good fit for the company. Now, or ever. We didn’t need people like him on the team anyway. Good riddance. So long, jerk…

And you know what? I felt great! It was so awesome to get that off my chest.

For about five minutes.

Then I realized I had just treated this guy the way that the fictional company he imagined us to be would have done. And I am still kicking myself all these years later for doing it and proving him right.

Within half an hour I sent an apology, attempting to salvage the contact for future efforts even though I knew it was probably toast. The next morning I immediately went to my boss and explained what I had done, telling her that I had even apologized after the fact. She knew that I was going to beat myself up about it worse than anything she could do, so she let me off the hook.

What’s the lesson here? The moral of the story? Well, we all know that we should never respond to anyone, in any situation, in a spirit of anger. That time it got the best of me. I also learned that I should never respond to emotionally-charged situations via email on my cell phone, because I tend to be more direct and less concerned with the message in general when I’m responding via that method. Painful reminders that stick with me to this very day. The final one is to try and keep stress from getting to you. Yes, it’s easier said than done, but we all know it never leads to positive outcomes.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the guy never replied back to anything. I never talked with him again, and I can’t even remember his name at this point. But I will never forget where I was and what I was doing when I read that note from him. Or how it felt when I realized what I had done.

Over the years I’ve recruited many, many more people. I’ve never again responded to any of them, no matter the situation, in anger or in a way that would embarrass the company or myself. That was a painful lesson to learn and one that still haunts me when I think about it, but I am glad to know that it only took one instance to make it stick with me.

Ever done anything embarrassing as an HR or recruiting pro? Feel free to respond anonymously in the comments. 

This week I have a treat for you. I had the opportunity as part of my role on the #SHRM16 social media coverage team to interview Rohini Anand, Senior Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer. She will be speaking at the SHRM Conference on June 20th from 2:00-3:15 in case you are interested in seeing her after reviewing this interview.

rohini anand sodexoBen: Just to get the ball rolling, please tell me about yourself and what you do at Sodexo. 

  • I currently serve as the Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Global Chief Diversity Officer for Sodexo
  • I am responsible for the strategic direction, implementation and business alignment of Sodexo’s integrated global diversity and inclusion initiatives, as well as Sodexo USA’s sustainable development, wellness and corporate responsibility strategies
  • I also lead the organization’s sustained culture change initiatives, as well as its integration in the overall business growth strategy

Ben: What is Sodexo’s biggest challenge when it comes to diversity and inclusion today?  Continue reading

Employees are the heart of every business, and your biggest asset. They’re the people who make sure things get done when and how they’re supposed to, managing your processes, interacting with customers and clients, and showing up day after day. While of course their main motivation is the paycheck at the end of the day, today’s employees are also looking for a satisfying work place in which they feel they play an integral part. Doing all you can to keep company morale high means securing happy employees, and satisfied employees make loyal ones. Keeping your employees feeling content and satisfied in the work place means making sure they’re comfortable, and one aspect that often takes the backseat is office design. Want workers who are proud to come in every day? Make sure their work space is conducive to that feeling with these office design tips.

Take Temperature into Consideration Continue reading