New Years Resolutions Part 2

Last week I wrote about what HR should not  be doing in the New Year.  Of course,  it’s easy to sit and point out the faults in other companies and learn from those. But I think it’s a bigger challenge to filter through loads of information to find ideas that work for the companies we support.

In the spirit of last week’s post I have collected some ideas to provide guidance for your 2012 HR New Years resolutions.  I tried to leave out examples of “grand” gestures (such as providing free cafeterias) because those are not always practical for smaller companies. Instead I focused on ideas I think can work in any organization.  In the words of Jay Kuhns: No Excuses!

1. Remember that HR is local, keep your ear to the ground and stay abrest of what is going on in your local communities. Resolve to do the right thing or advocate for the right thing when there is a local problem.  For example,  in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene,  over a million people in Virginia did not have  power.  Many local companies gave out ice to their employees and opened their facilities to employees families.  Resolve to help your employees and your local community, do this not because its good PR but because it’s the right thing.

2. Encourage your employees to take vacation and actually mean it. Does your company have a generous vacation policy? Do people actually use it? Resolve to be the employer where employees actually take their vacation.

3.Resolve to build an environment where people and their opinions are valued; and no I’m not suggesting the rubber stamp “Open Door” policy.  A great example of this is the movie studio Dreamworks.  They encourage any employee to pitch a movie to executives,  if they aren’t sure how to do that,  employees can take a class to learn how to pitch an idea.  Talk about walking the walk,  talking the talk,  and teaching people how to do that.

What about you? What are your HR resolutions in the New Year? Leave it in the comments,  can’t wait to hear from all of you!

New Years Resolutions Part 1

I am wary of setting New Years resolutions. I know the track record for keeping them is abominable (at least for me),  but I understand the motivation.

It’s December 31st and you are feeling reflective on the past,  hopeful about the future… or it’s the morning of January 1st and you are questioning why you thought it was a good idea to mix Tequila and Champagne (it’s not trust me).

Either way I think it’s part of human nature to take a deep breath after holiday craziness and start thinking about what needs to go and what can stay.

Part of the important process of deciding your New Years resolutions can be deciding what NOT to do: no mixing tequila and champagne,  no longer baby sitting the annoying kids across the street,  etc; you get the idea

Based on the past years events I can tell you some resolutions you may want to consider in your HR group. Even with a hangover you should see these are not a good idea:

1. I will not discriminate against those that are unemployed  when making hiring decisions

2. I will not be the company that fired someone over the phone

3. I will be smart enough to realize that anything can be posted to Twitter…such as the $10k spot bonus I gave my employee’s while the company is cutting jobs.

4. If work conditions are unsafe for my employee’s I will not station ambulances outside the warehouse and have fresh employees waiting to replace the sick ones, instead I will advocate for employee safety and health.

Stay tuned! Next week,  I will be posting what you should resolve to do in the New Year!

YOU Set The Tone

Yes, you read that correct. YOU set the tone for your organization, your team, your department, your colleagues. And guess what? It doesn’t matter what role you are in!

We’ve all had to deal with “that guy/gal” Their rudeness is legendary. What do we do when confronted with this blaring example of all that is rude? Do you ignore it? Back down? Confront it with your own brand of snarkiness?

How you deal with that person is part of how your reputation evolves at a company. If you are in HR your reputation is critical.

Let me repeat that: If you are in HR your reputation is critical.

I can’t advise you how to behave or act in every situation or with every person but I can tell you that your actions as an HR professional in your organization set the tone.

Respond with your own brand of snarkiness? Looks like the HR group now has a reputation for being snarky and rude. Good luck getting employee’s talk to you. They no longer trust you.

Setting the tone trickles down the organization and back up. You can’t control other people but you can control how you react.

What type of organization do you want? Know that? Then act like it!

How Urgent is that Email?

Early in the week Paul Hebert wrote a provocative post about out of office email messages, reading his post made me think about one of my biggest email pet peeves: the “high priority” flag.

I used to think these were necessary but now I tend to wince when I see the red exclamation point in my inbox.

You see the problem is that the high priority flag is rarely used as intended. I would say that 9.75 out of 10 times when I receive a high priority email, the email is rarely high priority.

Here are some circumstances when the high priority email is un-necessary:

  • It’s actually an emergency- in this case you may want to actually pick up that weird thing on your desk that you never use,  it’s called a phone:I’m going to let you in on a secret…people receive so few phone calls these days that you may actually be able to speak with someone who will help you in a much quicker fashion then if you sent an email or IM. I’m not kidding about this,  try this next time you are trying to get a hold of someone.
  • Every email – I am sorry but every email you send is not high priority, no matter what company/business line/department/group or manager you work for.  You should not send out every email designated as high priority.  Do you know what happens when people realize you send out every email high priority? People ignore it – you have now become the girl/guy who cried “Email Wolf!”
  • The email with pictures of your wedding/new baby/bridal shower/new house/ etc; Yes, Virginia, this person exists as well.  Under no circumstances should you flag a personal email as high priority at work….it’s annoying and unprofessional at the least.

Do not get me wrong, I understand the need for the high priority flag, I’m just asking for some sanity when you use it.  If you use it on rare occasions when you truly need rapid response time I get it, I understand,  I will open your email first thing when I see it.

Think of the high priority flag like ancho chili powder- it should be used sparingly or you run the risk of annihilating the taste of your food,  or in this case the message you are sending.

Target, the NFL and HR


Reading my favorite Monday Morning QB column yesterday,  I couldn’t help but find it interesting that Peter King had awarded Anthony Hardwick,  “Employee of the Week.” If you haven’t heard, Hardwick is the the Target employee who started an online petition asking Target to change their Black Friday hours.

For those of you not aware,  Peter King does not write about employment,  employees or labor issues unless it concerns the NFL,  but he does provide some occasional comments on hot topic issues. This has been a hot topic all week, it wasn’t just Peter King talking. The New York Times featured an opinion piece about Hardwick’s efforts and searching for Anthony Hardwick returns about 2.4 million results,  not all flattering of course.

Back in the good old days when I worked in retail (about eight years ago)  I didn’t have to go in on Thanksgiving Day,  instead I got to start at 8 AM on Black Friday,  still early but at least I could enjoy the holiday with my family.

The issue of holiday work hours is not something that is new or has recently bubbled to the surface.  No one  likes to work on or after a holiday,  especially when those hours start encroaching on the actual holiday.  Trust me,  there is almost no one shopping at the mall at 7 PM on Christmas Eve and almost no employee that wants to work that shift.

On the other hand,   companies need to make money,  to make money they have to be open for business.  This may include being open for business on days when most people are off (for example Saturday/Sunday/Black Friday).

What can HR do for employee’s and the company to make everyone happy on Black Friday? That’s a silly questions isn’t it? No one will be happy about the latest and greatest plan/policy put into place to handle scheduling on Black Friday.

What you should do is focus on making sure your company is not the one receiving 190,000 signatures protesting your business hours; I really don’t think that is the kind of attention you want.

So what can you do? I have a few suggestions,  take a look and tell me what you think.

1.  Do you have enough employee’s available to cover the hours you will be open as well as the prep time before opening (unloading trucks, setting up merchandise displays, etc;)?

2.  Along the same lines are you an attractive employer for seasonal/part time workers ? Do you offer merchandise discounts to seasonal employee’s or only to regular employee’s? If you don’t you may want to look into this.  I’ve heard from multiple people that are very willing to work even the worst schedules if they can get good discounts and/or  believe there is potential to become a regular employee.

3.  Do your employee’s know how to complain? Do they know where to go if they have questions or concerns about policies or strategy? Keeping a true open door policy means that you will have to hear the good and the bad employee suggestions,  still that’s better then seeing your employee’s complaining about your strategy on MSNBC or CNN.

4. Do you have a game plan when employee’s “go rogue?”  Do you think Target is doing the right thing by stepping cautiously here?  Or would you advocate a strict policy or plan of action if employee’s go over the heads of management or skip management entirely and takes their issue to the world?

5. Most of the coverage of this issue has been a cacophony of hysteria from both sides, ranging from opinion pieces about the decline of our culture to others saying that Hardwick should just be greatful he has a job. I don’t disagree with either side, I think if we really don’t want people to work on Thanksgiving day we shouldn’t go to the store and stand in line.  If the customer isn’t interested in buying a tv at 10 PM on Thanksgiving night,  the store wouldn’t be open.

What do you think? Do you think Hardwick and others should “suck it up?” or do you think Black Friday store hours are getting out of hand? Any suggestions to prevent employee’s from taking their grievances public?