Tag Archives: Employee Relations

stay compliant rif checklist

3 Tips for Staying Compliant with a Reduction in Force (RIF)

Ask any business leader and they’ll tell you that a reduction in force, or a RIF, is one of the hardest activities to carry out. Often times good employees are hit by these decisions through no fault of their own, and the resulting morale issues can doubly affect the workplace in a negative way. That said, there are times when a RIF is an essential part of business continuity and operations. Today we’re going to explore some of the key things to know about RIFs.

What is a RIF?

stay compliant rif checklistA RIF is a time when employers have to reduce their employee headcount. This can be a handful of workers or a significant population. There are a variety of reasons why these might occur. For instance, maybe the company lost a large contract or a product has not sold as well as was expected, which means the workforce planning forecast was too high.

Essentially the employer finds out that the number of workers on payroll is more than the necessary number required to continue operating the business, and those additional workers need to be identified and separated. However, it’s not as simple as seeing that there are twenty extra workers that need to go — it’s important to pick the right ones so that the company isn’t hindered by this process any more than necessary.

3 Tips for Managing a Compliant Reduction in Force

A RIF is hard enough to go through without running afoul of legal requirements. No HR team wants to manage this fairly emotional process only to find out there are additional headaches and legal challenges on the other end. With that in mind, these three suggestions help to run a successful (and compliant) RIF:

  1. Get clear on the skills your company needs post-RIF so that you make the right decisions about who to retain and who to remove as part of the RIF. This is a core part of the HR strategic planning process and should not be overlooked in this exercise.
  2. Understand the WARN Act and its requirements. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act requires companies with more than 100 employees to provide 60-calendar days of notice in advance of plant closing and mass layoffs. Failing to comply with the law could cost the employer up to 60 days of back pay and benefits for each employee.
  3. Do an internal adverse impact analysis to understand the likelihood of legal action based on decisions. While we can’t always know what will happen, this is a great preventative measure. For additional ideas and examples, including how to calculate adverse impact, be sure to check out the rest of my post on how to stay compliant with RIFs.

What has been your experience? Any other ideas that might be worth remembering during this process?

how to comfort employees

How to Comfort Employees in Times of Need

I know I need to focus on engagement and our HR strategy. But how can I do that when some of our employees don’t even have homes to go home to?

When I had this conversation with an HR leader based in Houston just after the hurricane had unleashed flooding on the state, I had to think carefully about what I was going to recommend. In the end, what I told this woman was the same thing I will recommend today in more detail.

how to comfort employeesWhen employees are going through a tough time, we need to recognize the fact that they are humans.

People.

Individuals.

That man? He’s someone’s father, brother, or son. That woman? She’s someone’s mother, grandmother, or daughter. Just like the story I told in my initial episode of We’re Only Human when the podcast launched last year, it’s important to see people as people.

I haven’t lost sight of the fact that business often goes on as usual in many circumstances. Things need to get done. But by focusing on the person and their fundamental needs first, you can earn amazing loyalty that is difficult to quantify.

One really easy way to show that you care for someone in more mundane circumstances, such as when a child is sick, an employee is dealing with an aging parent, or even a more positive situation like the birth of a child, is to send something unexpected. Research shows that we don’t just like general surprises, we actually like to be delighted.

Spoonful of Comfort is a great example of how to do this with a relatively low investment. Recently my wife and I were struggling to handle several travel activities for my job while juggling the needs of our kids. Plus our youngest was facing a few doctor’s visits for some issue. Basically we were stretched to the max. Thankfully, the team at Spoonful of Comfort sent a care package over for me to test out and it happened to come at the exact perfect time for us. I was so appreciative!

  • We didn’t have to worry about pulling together a family-friendly meal
  • We were able to focus our time on our family needs and taking care of other priorities
  • One word: cookies.

If you’re looking for a simple, practical way to help your workers through a tough time, send them something that feeds their body while also meeting their need for appreciation and attention at the same time.

On a broader scale, people want to know that their employers care about them. They want to know that their managers and others are thinking of them, especially when things are difficult in their personal lives. In the instance of this horrific damage done in Texas, Florida, and elsewhere, it’s important for us as business leaders to stay in tune with what our employees need and make sure we’re offering a helping hand to the extent possible.

I can vividly remember when tornadoes ripped through north Alabama six years ago and one of our employees that had been with us for two days lost his home. Everyone gathered around him in spirit by donating leave so he could take the time with his family to recover and begin the project of replacing what they had lost.

Like many things in HR, this is simple, even if it’s not always easy in the moment. Pay attention to your people. Treat them like people. Meet their basic, fundamental need for attention and support. And in the long term, it will be worth the investment in the lives of the people that enable your business to function.

The Secret to Alienating Your Employees Over Time

I recently learned a great strategy that I can’t wait to share with you.

Employee: Hey Bob. I know you are busy. I just have a few quick questions. A few of us came up with this really great idea for the party.

HR: No.

Employee: Um, well, okay. So, Jim needs me to help him with this thing…

HR: No.

Employee: All right, then, just one more question…

HR: No.

Employee: Come on, you didn’t even give me a chance!

HR: (Smiles gleefully)

———

Let me tell you the secret to human resources: always say no. Whatever people want, just flat out turn them down. The great thing is that pretty soon, you can train them to stop asking for anything and settle for whatever you want to leave them with. They’ll stop bothering you and just get to work.

Clever, huh? Now you, too, can implement this kind of approach to human resources and make your stand for what you believe in.

News flash: if this sounds even remotely appealing to you, you suck and need to get out of HR.

This post was inspired by a recent conversation with an HR leader that was trying to help an employee with a major insurance crisis to cover his critically ill child. The response from one of her peers in HR? “It’s not our job to take care of them.” Ugh. Yes, we’re business leaders, but we’re also people too, darn it. Take care of your people and they’ll take care of you. Disregard, dismiss, or demean them and you will lose the best chance you have at being competitive in the marketplace.

Why is that so hard for some people to grasp?

9 Lessons for Running a Great HR Function

This weekend I was doing some spring cleaning. Well, summer cleaning, since I missed the spring season. Anyway, one of the things I found was a box of items I used to keep on my whiteboard next to my desk as reminders of important aspects of HR. These shaped the way I practiced HR and ran my department on a daily basis. I thought it would be fun to share the notes here to help give you an idea of what kind of HR I practiced.

running great hr department

1: Your Company Values

Your values statement should be the most tattered piece of paper in your organization.

Most companies pick out a few values as part of a management exercise or checklist and then forget about them. Want to hire great people that align with your mission? Use your values statement every day to keep measuring your candidates and employees to make sure they are on target.

2: Communication Breakdown

The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, dribble, and misrepresentation.

Continue reading

Should Employees Give Notice When They Quit?

I just wanted to say “thank you” for the last few years. I have enjoyed my work and appreciate the opportunity to contribute. As of today I am turning in my two week notice…

Like you probably have, I have had multiple versions of that conversation with managers over the years. Sometimes it’s painful, and other times it’s a relief to put in your notice to depart. But the question we’re examining today is this: should employees give notice when they quit their job?

My Workplace Philosophy

It is my firm belief that we should treat others in the workplace just as we would like to be treated. In many cases that has worked out well, and it is something that I don’t have to be ashamed of when I’m doing the right thing. Even when employers, like my last one, don’t hold up their end of the deal, at least I know I have done the right thing.

If you also believe in this approach, then you have a long, successful career ahead of you. At the end of your working days, at least you know that you have done the right thing by those around you at every opportunity. We all mess up, but keeping that as your guiding force over time will lead you to make more friends than enemies and more good choices than bad ones.

This applies to giving notice just as it does to most workplace situations. If I was a business owner and an employee was planning to quit, I would want as much notice as possible to get ready for the change. It takes a while to recruit and select a replacement, and while many people think there is a law around giving notice, the employee has no reason to give the employer a heads up if they don’t want to.

When to Skip Giving Notice

If you work for a company that consistently kicks people out when they give notice, then you do not have to give any warning before you depart. The company/owners/management give up their right to receive advance notice of your departure when they make a standard practice of not letting people work the entire notice period.

Most people in the workplace are on the verge of financial disaster. It’s a fact. That’s why it is so critical that an employer honors the notice period when it is requested. People need that income to bridge the gap before they start at a new employer. As an employee, if you are like the majority of Americans and living paycheck to paycheck, then you need to take this decision seriously as to whether you give notice or not. You don’t have to tell your employer you are leaving in advance if they have not given others a chance to work out their notice period. It’s not worth putting yourself in financial trouble if the company has demonstrated that it doesn’t honor a notice period.

I’ve had one employer kick me out the day I gave my notice. I was on the fence about providing any warning, because they had not treated people well historically, but I went ahead and did it simply because it’s in line with the overall  philosophy I mentioned above. The thing that was the worst about being locked out immediately is that I didn’t get to tell all of my coworkers and friends I was leaving. I’ve been on the receiving end of that situation and it is strange not to get at least a bit of closure when someone departs, especially if you have become friends over time.

I can remember when a friend’s son turned in his notice and the boss started treating him terribly during his notice period. My friend was thinking that his son had to stick it out until the end, but I let him know that if the manager was treating his son poorly, then he didn’t have to stick around and take it. The manager gave up his right to a notice period when he started acting like a fool instead of appreciating the employee for giving enough notice to start finding a replacement. He was incredibly relieved and basically told his son to collect his check and get out of there.

Reasons to Terminate Someone Immediately

That said, there are some reasons from the company perspective that would warrant an immediate termination. As an HR pro, these are the big reasons I would not allow someone to work a notice period.

  • Open investigation against the employee
  • History of issues/offenses
  • History of irrational behavior and the position to do something unpleasant (HR, security, IT, etc.)

In case you’re wondering, these situations would encompass maybe 5% of the workforce. The other 95% don’t fall into this camp and shouldn’t be shoved out the door like yesterday’s garbage. Sooner or later that kind of treatment catches up with companies and they can’t hire high quality talent to replace the ones that left.

What’s your take? What is the right way to give (and receive) notice? 

And for those of you that like a little drama, just be glad this guy doesn’t work for you.

Want to End Harassment? It’s a Culture Thing (#SHRM16)

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.

Employee Investigation Best Practices

Investigations are one of the toughest parts of working in HR, because you have to work between very fine boundaries and there is always going to be someone upset with the result, no matter how gently you tread. In the various investigations I’ve been a part of, I have picked up some tips and tricks that help to make the process more smooth. No matter the result, if you know you’ve done your best and have given the most definitive answer possible, then that’s pretty much the only way you’ll have a satisfied feeling after you close the books.

I still vividly remember one of the first serious investigations I was a part of. Does this scenario sound familiar?

Employee comes to you claiming she is being harassed by a supervisor. The only witness is the best friend and coworker of the employee. The employee has been having consistent performance issues for some time and was on the verge of a performance improvement plan at the time of report.

So, how do you proceed? It’s a tricky road, especially since the employee is also a military reservist and the manager has voiced complaints about her service in the past…

The Benefits of Investigations

I do want to say this. While it’s not all roses and candy canes, there are some positive benefits of investigations worth noting:

  • Doing it properly and impartially helps to defend the company against litigation
  • Doing it fairly and quickly helps employees to see that the process and people involved are trustworthy

Again, not pleasant, but definitely worthwhile.

The Top Five Investigation Mistakes

I’ve seen many investigations go wrong, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s walk through the top five mistakes I see and how to counteract them.

  1. Delayed action
  2. Poor planning
  3. Retaliation
  4. Lack of follow up
  5. Losing objectivity

Delaying is a problem, because unlike your favorite pair of yoga pants this doesn’t get better with time. Whatever your reason for delay, get over it and get to work. Too busy you say? How would you like to explain a $95 million judgment to your boss? Yeah, I thought so. Move this to the top of your list, get to work, and get it done.

Planning is an issue. Most inexperienced HR pros freeze when the investigation hits their desk. But the pros know that following the plan/process is the fastest and most painless way to get through. Taking a little time to put together a simple plan will not only help to improve the results and reduce your stress–it will also help to make sure you are consistent across a variety of investigations, topics, etc.

Retaliation is a huge problem. The EEOC is trying to determine new guidelines regarding this issue. I always start every investigation with a clear message to everyone involved: retaliation will not be tolerated by anyone throughout the entire process, whatever the result turns out to be.

Lack of follow up can be another hangup. It’s tough to make sure you touch base with everyone after the fact, because you know that as soon as you file that report with the right people you have to get back to the work that has been stacking up on your desk since you started the investigation. Even if you can’t share results with the people involved, at least let them know when you wrap it up. And you do create and file a written report for each investigation, right?

Finally, losing objectivity is my Achilles heel. There are two sides to this that get to me. The first is trying to remain objective despite obvious and outrageous evidence presented at the outset. It’s hard to assume that someone is innocent until proven guilty, but you need to ingrain that into your thought process. Secondly, if someone becomes emotional it’s very easy to want to comfort and share your own opinions, but that doesn’t help anyone. Keep a lid on it.

Bottom line: we all have issues. Still, it’s up to you to help make sure your organization isn’t blindsided by something that could have been addressed in its early stages.

What interesting, weird, or crazy investigations have you carried out? Any tips to share?