how to tell if someone is lyingWhat are the signs that a person is lying?

  1. The person rubs their forehead or neck
  2. Perspiring, trembling and blushing
  3. Delayed nodding to support an answer they’ve given
  4. All of the above

If you’ve been in HR for very long, you have probably run across some employee relations or management issues. Inevitably, someone will end up lying to you before too much time has passed. But how do you detect when someone’s not telling the truth? How do you know when to dig deeper on a question that someone’s trying to avoid answering? I recently ran across a free guide from i-Sight (link below), and I thought it was a resource worth sharing. Continue reading

helicopter parents at workHelicopter parents at work-fight or submit?

I ran across this interesting NPR article the other day about helicopter parents in the workplace. Every time I run across a news story or magazine article about these outrageous behaviors, I have to shake my head. I don’t know where the bright idea comes from for parents to continuously weaken their children, but it’s not having the effect they’d hoped.

When you support a muscle or tendon for a long period of time and never let it perform its intended function, it will atrophy. The same applies with children (and yes, for this discussion I’m talking about 18-22 year old children!). When parents continue to make decisions, intercede on their behalf with college professors and employers, and fight their battles for them, the students will never learn the critical behaviors required to function without parental support.

Some employers are closing the parents off, and rightly so. If you can’t interview without a parent backing you up, there’s no way you will be able to handle a stressful  job without calling them for help every half hour.

Others are welcoming the contact. They are using a thought process similar to mine detailed in recruiting a candidate’s family, hoping that if the family is intrigued, they will push the candidate to take the position.

The point where their thought process and mine diverge is that I think it applies only after the person has been interviewed and selected for the position. Some employers are allowing parents into interviews and salary negotiations, which seems ridiculous to me.

Anyone else having to deal with helicopter parents at work? I’d love to hear some of the crazy stories…

Retention Management

Retention management is a responsibility that is pushed from HR to managers to executives and back again. As the ones closest to the action, supervisors can have a positive impact on employee turnover if they take the right steps.

“People leave managers, not companies.”
Marcus Buckingham in First, Break All the Rules

Whatever your turnover rate is, it could always be better. Especially when the estimated cost of turnover is 30-50% of the position\’s salary, and that can jump to 400% for highly specialized or senior level positions! There are many ways that you as a manager can influence this statistic. Don\’t believe me? Here are 11 ways to improve your retention rate.

  1. Feedback-providing regular, honest assessments of someone\’s work lets them know you care
  2. Regular meetings-take the time to be transparent about what you know
  3. Explanations of work-remind people of the end purpose/goal for the work they are performing
  4. Goals for the future-help your team members develop positive, challenging goals
  5. Work/life balance-when work and life come into conflict, don\’t make them choose between work performance and family
  6. Professional development-give opportunities to learn and grow; people appreciate the managers who challenge them to be better
  7. Ask for (and seriously consider) input/opinions-when they know you are honestly asking for input, they\’ll be honest with you
  8. Focus on strengths-give tasks based on strengths when possible; it gives people something to look forward to and ensures the work is being done well
  9. Serve them-servant leadership beats fear-based leadership every single time; if you\’d rather be feared than respected, it\’s time to hang up your manager hat
  10. Clear expectations-if you want something from them, make it obvious; hinting and beating around the bush just frustrates everyone involved
  11. Internal equity-treat your high workers well and challenge your low performers to get better; treating both parties the same is a recipe for disaster

If I had to boil that down to two short and sweet actions, it would be walk and talk. Get out of your office/cube and go see your people. Take opportunities to not only talk with them about what you know, but to ask them for feedback on your performance.

One question I often receive is “but what about my low performers, isn\’t that good turnover?” If we\’ve taken the time to put an employee through the disciplinary process and they still aren\’t turning around, then yes, there are sometimes no other options. But that is to be exercised only after you\’ve attempted activities like those listed above. It\’s a last resort, not a quick fix to a performance problem.

While we have a well-established process for performance appraisals, that annual/semi-annual conversation should be a restatement of the facts you both already know and understand. Neither party should be surprised during review time, so make sure you are regularly building in opportunities to provide two-way feedback. Your people will appreciate you for it!

new hire welcome letter

Have you ever wondered how to send a new hire welcome letter to get the employment relationship started on the right foot? I started sending a letter to new hires last year, and I’ve tweaked it over time to cover more questions, beef up explanations, and pretty much share as much information as I possibly can with our new employees. I’ve included my version below, so if you’re considering adding this into your new hire process, feel free to borrow/use some of this. (If you want more help with onboarding and new hire orientation, check out the free new hire orientation eBook!)

The Pinnacle new hire welcome letter

Welcome, [Name]!

We are excited about your first day with Pinnacle. Be forewarned, you’ll have a lot of information thrown at you on the first day, and it probably won’t slow down for a while. A piece of advice: take notes!

We use the phrase “drinking from a fire hose” around here sometimes, and it’s an apt description for the pace of the work we do. Don’t let that worry you, though. Along with that work comes an amazing manager, a supportive team, and a group of leaders that really does care about you and your work.

We’re different from other companies. Other companies say that, but at Pinnacle, it’s true. We are just over four years old and fairly small (about 70 employees at this time). We are growing quickly, and that is as a direct result of our reputation for doing great work. We aren’t a 5,000 person company with dozens of locations. You aren’t a faceless number to us. We treat our people like adults, because you deserve that. We’re a small business doing big things (or “small, but mighty” as we like to put it!).

You have a lot of questions as the resident newbie. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there and it’s understandable. Here are some of the most common questions and answers to get you started. If you have something that isn’t answered below, your supervisor would be happy to assist!

A few things you need to know about your work

  • What do I wear? We have a casual atmosphere in the office. It’s business casual most days, and many of us wear jeans on Fridays. Remember, we’re more focused on the work than your clothes!
  • Who do I ask questions of if my manager isn’t present? We support each other, so you can get questions answered by anyone. The most common questions can go to [insert operations team description/focus areas].
  • What do I do if I have a computer problem? Send an email to [support address] describing your problem to open a trouble ticket.
  • What are the standard working hours? With your key, you can get into the building 24/7 if necessary. Some of the engineers work 6:00-3:00. Some of the operations staff work 8:00-5:00. Find something that is comfortable with you and communicate that with your supervisor.
  • Will I have to work overtime? Evenings? Weekends? At times we will have flurries of activity that require some overtime, but it’s not a regular/weekly occurrence.
  • Will I have to travel? How often? Who makes travel arrangements? Travel isn’t something we do often, but it’s not unheard of. If you are required to travel, speak with your manager about who is responsible for making your travel arrangements.
  • How flexible are my work hours? One thing we appreciate at Pinnacle is the person you are outside of work. We work hard to be flexible when work and life events conflict. During those times stay in close communication with your manager if possible. It’s more about fitting your work into your life than the other way around.

A few things you need to know about your department

  • Who will I be working with? First and foremost, you’ll be working closely with your manager. They will be able to answer most of your questions or point you in the right direction if they cannot. The rest of your team will be [short description of department].
  • Who are the “movers and shakers” in the organization and how can I become one of them? The neat part about Pinnacle is that we all have our unique roles and responsibilities, and we all have a time and place for to be the “mover and shaker.” Doing your work well is a surefire way to establish your credibility as a foundation for future professional and organizational growth.
  • If I have ideas, suggestions or concerns, what channels exist to share those concerns? If it’s an idea, we have a Big Ideas database on SharePoint that you can use as an outlet for sharing new, innovative ideas. If you have concerns, your manager or theirs will be the next likely step.
  • How do people prefer to communicate in this organization? (Face to face? By e-mail? Phone?) Depending on the topic, we use all of these methods. Inside the office, we use Windows Messenger chats for quick back-and-forth conversations. Because we have locations across the US, we use email to do much of our official communication. Phones are perfectly acceptable when you need a quick answer and email isn’t fast enough. And face-to-face conversations (or “huddles,” as we like to call them) are key to solving many of the issues we run into on a daily basis.

A few things you need to know about Pinnacle

  • Do we have a strategic plan? What does it entail? The strategic goals of the organization are developed and shared on an annual basis by the Leadership Team. The corporate goals/strategy for 2012:
    • [Goal A, B, C, Etc.]
  • What are employees rewarded and recognized for? As previously stated, doing your work well is the best way to go. It sounds simplistic, but many organizations don’t have the transparency and flatness of Pinnacle. You interact on a daily basis with everyone from the CEO to a customer site lead to the engineers at corporate. They can tell when you are doing your work well, and good news like that travels quickly.

Questions? 

———–

Again, this is just one piece of a new hire process that touches on our culture in multiple ways. Anyone else use a similar tool with new hires? Care to share what sort of content you cover in this “welcome” document? Here’s an example of one of the welcome letters to new employees that has stuck in my mind for years.

When times are tough, job stress typically increases, from the top echelon of management to the workers on the front lines. Communication can suffer, too, as leaders hold back less-than-positive information to avoid adding to workers\’ worries. As a result, a culture of fear and lack of trust can pervade any business, with employees looking to the future with uncertainty and looking to leadership for answers they may not get.

Fear and lack of trust are the building blocks of conflict. While it\’s a normal aspect of business, human resources and management don\’t always handle conflict as well as they could. For example, in many firms, the first response is to bring in outside experts, to conduct mediation sessions or workshops, in an attempt to diffuse tension and improve morale. These costly consultants are usually unknown – and therefore not always trusted by the parties involved. And they often leave the company in the same situation in which they found it.

A better way to deal with conflict is to prevent it in the first place. When leaders build a culture of trust and work to improve their own conflict resolution styles, workplace wars can be a thing of the past. In this way, effective leadership can save company morale – and save money, too.

Can a Culture of Trust Lead to a Conflict-Free Workplace?

Eliminating workplace conflict may seem like an impossible task – and in some firms, it will likely never go away completely. But decreasing conflict, and diminishing its impact, is doable. A company culture built on trust can significantly improve employee morale, increase productivity and add to the bottom line. Here are three ways to move toward a conflict-free workplace through trust:

  • Encourage tolerance and respect for everyone. No matter what their age, gender, physical characteristics, or socio-economic or cultural background, all employees deserve to be respected as unique individuals, not mistreated because of their differences. Comments, jokes, gossip or any non-productive talk about co-workers cannot be tolerated in any forward-thinking company. Conduct cultural awareness training to foster inclusion and create a foundation of respect and trust for all.
  • Keep communication flowing. Over-communicating can be a plus in a fast-moving work environment. Set goals, outline expectations, clarify roles and explain procedures – and repeat often. Encourage feedback and questions – no matter how trivial – to help build clarity. And avoid hiding information or keeping bad news from staff to build trust and reduce stress.
  • Teach people how to listen and empathize. Anyone can learn how to be an active listener – especially when their leaders model the behavior. Here\’s how: in conversation, make every effort to be fully present; don\’t interrupt; and repeat back what you think the person said. Nothing does more to make a person feel valued than to know they\’ve been heard.
  • Promote passion. Let your staff know it\’s okay to take a stand on something they feel passionate about. It\’s also fine to disagree with someone\’s position. A positive way to handle disagreement is simply to acknowledge feelings and empathize with the person. Working through small difficulties can lead to increased confidence, respect and trust all around.

It\’s true that even a strong culture of trust won\’t prevent every workplace conflict. But that doesn\’t mean it\’s time to call in the mediation experts. When handled properly by skilled leaders, conflict can be harmless, and even lead to positive change.

Revamp Your Conflict Resolution Style

When people of various cultural and social backgrounds, or with different needs and goals, are put together in a confined space, anything can happen. But conflict is not always a bad thing. Becoming a great leader requires learning how to effectively resolve workplace conflicts to affect a positive outcome.

Here are some ways to boost your conflict resolution skills:

  • Let the facts be your guide. Eliminating speculation, assumptions and conjecture can go a long way toward avoiding conflict. Show employees how to take an analytical approach to their interactions. Ask clarifying questions and get to the bottom of a situation, to learn what people really think and understand about it. Focus on the problem at hand, not the people involved. And stay objective!
  • Always be courteous. Leaders must conduct themselves with high standards of behavior. When managing a conflict or stressful situation, treat everyone involved with courtesy – even if you disagree with him or her. Not only does it foster feelings of value, but courtesy also develops respect. And you cannot lead if your staff has no respect for you.
  • Crowdsource a solution. Ask for input from the parties involved, and be open to their ideas for solutions.
  • Learn to negotiate. When a conflict has reached an impasse, it\’s time for a strong leader to negotiate a solution. If your negotiation skills are rusty, find the training you need to develop them. Negotiation goes hand-in-hand with leadership success.

Solid Leadership is All You Need to Control Workplace Conflict

In today\’s economically challenged business environment, a company can deal with conflict by bringing in outsiders, or by making internal improvements that foster proactive conflict resolution. When workers learn to deal with conflict by observing their leaders and practicing their own conflict resolution skills, trust and mutual respect only increase. And as a result, morale and productivity rise along with them.

This guest post was provided by Jason Monaghan with University of Notre Dame Executive Online Education. Jason works with the faculty and staff at Notre Dame Online to develop skill sets for the leaders of tomorrow in Negotiations, Leadership and Management and Business Administration.

As an HR pro working for a government contractor, I had my first run-in with the Federal Service Contract Act (SCA) last year. Let’s just say it was a memorable experience. But seriously, if you’re working in the private sector and don’t have interaction with the government, you might be wondering (as I was way back when): What is SCA? How does it affect our company? How do we comply with it?

Well, I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I can get you started in the right direction.

Federal Service Contract Act wage determinations

A wage determination is a specific minimum wage set for employees of a certain category. For instance, a Senior Technician in Limestone county on an SCA contract would have to be paid a specific rate. On top of that minimum wage requirement comes a special stipend to cover benefits. For more information on wage determinations or to look one up, check out the WDOL website.

Federal Service Contract Act health and welfare stipend

In order to ensure that the workers are paid not only a minimum wage, but also a suitable amount for benefits, the employer is required to pay a set amount for “health and welfare” benefits. These benefits include, but are not limited to: health, dental, and vision insurance, life insurance, 401(k) savings match, education reimbursement, military leave, etc. The stipend amount varies by contract, but the important piece is to make sure you are providing at least the minimum amount per hour worked. If not, then you must pay the remaining stipend out in cash. Check out the resources below for more information on how this works.

Other Federal Service Contract Act requirements

There are so many twists and turns in the SCA regulations. Even numbered wage determinations are handled differently than odd numbered wage determinations. You can skip the stipend if you provide enough benefits, but you have to “true up” the numbers at year’s end to be sure you provided enough. Some employers separate their SCA employees into a separate “benefits pool,” allowing them to not pay them benefits and only pay the stipend, which is easier on the employer (though not necessarily on the SCA employees). It’s just one more administrative burden that HR pros working for federal contractors have to handle!

More SCA resources

Again, this is just a quick overview to get you started, but  I hope it was helpful. Any questions about the Federal Service Contract Act? Feel free to leave a comment below and I can try to help you find an answer!

We use employee surveys at work to measure employee satisfaction, gather confidential feedback, and uncover hidden issues and trends lying under the organization’s surface. Some companies spend money and time on expensive survey tools, but as long as the right questions are asked, the followup is more important than the method.

I personally like Google Docs as a tool for creating a quick and easy (and free!) employee survey. Here’s how to do it:

  • Go to Google.com/docs
  • Log in or create a free Google account if you don’t have one already.
  • Click “Create”
  • Click “Form”
  • Enter the information you’d like your survey to contain
  • Click the link at the bottom of the screen to view the published form
  • Highlight the link, right click on the link text, and press Ctrl + C on the keyboard to copy the link
  • Open an email and press Ctrl + V on the keyboard to paste the link into the body of the email
  • Send the email to your employees!
  • To view the responses to the survey, log into your Google Docs account and click on the survey in the document list to open the spreadsheet full of responses

There’s more to it than that short explanation, but that is the most basic way to create and distribute an employee survey in less than ten minutes. To give a little better illustration, I created this short screencast to show some of the steps involvled. Click here to open the screencast video in a new window. If you have questions on how to do this after reading the directions and watching the video, feel free to reach out to me for help.