9 Do’s and Don’ts to Completing Your Self-Evaluation

Once or twice a year many companies undergo a formal performance review process. On average, most companies ask for their employees feedback by way of a self-evaluation. Most employees exude an audible groan, give it a cursory overview and write down the same garbage year after year.

As much as I don’t totally agree with the standard annual review process or the 360 review process on principle, I totally support the notion that an employee is his or her own best advocate. And if you are given the opportunity to speak for yourself, absolutely take it seriously and follow these do’s and don’ts.

Do keep a  running diary or file  ALL YEAR ROUND of all of your work accomplishments, projects completed, client accolades, awards, educational achievements and peer praise. Also, keep notes on areas you made mistakes, encountered the issue again and improved.

Don’t blow off the process by not writing anything or digging up last year’s review and re-writing the same things. This is a signal to your boss that you are not taking the process seriously. Why would your manager bother with putting any effort into your review or development, if you do not bother yourself.

Do provide concrete and clear examples of the competencies you have demonstrated over the course of the review period. For example, if your company prizes efficiency, provide an example of the time you identified a redundant process inside a workflow, brought it to the attention of management, and how the elimination of that process resulted in less time taken to complete the process.

Don’t sell yourself short. Provide any and all examples of your work accomplishments, do not make judgement calls on the level of impact to the business or department. Your role and your performance have a purpose to the company, otherwise the job wouldn’t exist.

Do provide areas that you may have failed in or areas of improvement. You should be the first one to bring this up, not your manager. It shows you have self-awareness and that’s important.

Don’t rate yourself as a “Meets Expectations” or “Average” on all rating categories. This is called Central Tendency Bias and highlights our human propensity for avoiding extreme categories. But this is just lazy, don’t do that.

Do review your performance reviews from prior years so that you can identify areas that you have improved upon over time. If you don’t have copies, ask your manager or HR.

Don’t forget to address your work goals. The review process is about the past but should also provide some direction for the future. Be the first to write down a few goals that you would like to address with your manager during the performance discussion.

Do proof-read your self-evaluation for grammar, spelling and content before you turn it into your manager.

Trump and the ACA

Hold on to your hats people. All the stuff you learned to do to implement the ACA will be methodically undone. And that’s if we are to believe Trump’s campaign rhetoric. For some of you, okay most of you HR folk, this will be a blessing because we all know that implementing this hot mess of a thing was stressful.

To recap, all of this started in 2010 with the passage of Obamacare as our GOP friends have so endearingly referred to the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The very utopian goal of the ACA was to provide access to affordable and quality health care coverage to all Americans regardless of age, income or previous health conditions, reduce the number of uninsured Americans and reduce healthcare costs overall. And then congress got ahold of it and made the ACA’s actual mechanics more complex  and nebulous than the instructions of a shitty piece of Ikea furniture.

The ACA eliminated lifetime maximums, eliminated denials of health care coverage due to pre-existing conditions, put limits on annual out-of-pocket maximums, raised the age to 26 for covered dependents and mandated free, no-cost preventive health exams amongst other things. The Individual Mandate of the ACA requires individuals and their families, with some limited exceptions, to have minimal health coverage or incur a penalty. To further this agenda, the ACA’s Employer Mandate required companies of a certain size to offer comprehensive, affordable group health insurance to covered employees.

It’s no secret that the GOP hates Obamacare and decries it as a symptom of a socialist government. Republicans have alleged that the program would actually increase health costs and result in death panels, whereby government bureaucrats would actually decide the life or death fate of those considered uninsurable.  The GOP painted a picture of the ACA as the final nail in the coffin of small businesses in the U.S., another example of over-regulation of business and yet another obstacle to free enterprise.

And even when the GOP was too busy dragging their feet in protest to just about everything the Obama Administration attempted to do in the last 8 years, they pledged to find a sliver of time to offer an alternative plan to the ACA. But hence, it was not meant to be, as we sit here today, they have not presented their alternative. And that is why Trump is in a world of shit now trying to figure out how to dismantle this thing while somehow safeguarding the millions of Americans who are now insured on the health care exchanges made possible by the ACA.

 

Here is what I think.

Don’t hold your breath. This thing is gonna take a lot of time to figure out. What was built in the past 6 years can’t be undone in one year. Trump states he will repeal and replace Obamacare. With upwards of 20 million Americans in jeopardy of losing coverage with the repeal of the ACA, I think Trump would have to think twice about pulling the rug out from under that many people.

I think the individual mandate is dead. No longer will all Americans be required to have health insurance and no longer will individuals who opt-out have to pay penalties. I think this is likely to be one of the areas of the ACA that is repealed quickly. Thus no more 1095 administration.

I think the employer mandate is dead. However, many medium to larger size companies had comprehensive and affordable coverage long before the ACA as a means to attract employees. For those companies, this won’t cause much ripple. For smallish companies that did implement a health care plan- they will have to decide to keep it to remain competitive in job market that is employee-driven.

Trump and the GOP are going to introduce some sort of Health Savings Account whereby companies are either required or strongly encouraged to make contributions. Ultimately this looks like a stipend that employers give to their employees to buy health insurance. They are also going to allow coverage to be sold across state lines which theoretically increases options and decreases premium costs.

Based on Trump’s 100 day plan, what’s clear is how fast he will act to repeal Obamacare. What’s not clear is what he will replace it with. And if I’m reading between the lines, I don’t get the warm and fuzzies that affordable, comprehensive health care coverage for all Americans is even a priority for Trump.  And this is scary because I am confident that healthcare costs will continue to rise, that the sick will get sicker and proper coverage will be out of their reach. But for someone born with a silver spoon in his mouth, who probably has the privilege of a personal physician available to meet him in his gilded tour at the onset of tummy ache, health care coverage for all just wouldn’t even register as a thing.

 

31 Not-So-Random Acts of Workplace Kindness

We could all use some kindness. Especially after the tumultuous U.S. election. And in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, try to practice a little kindness and empathy towards yourself and others.

Starting today, tomorrow, Thanksgiving or whenever, just start with these little suggestions around the office:

Day 1: When having a conversation with someone at work, look them in the eyes and listen. Put down your mobile device and really listen to what they are saying. This is called active listening and is unfortunately becoming a long-lost art.

Day 2: If you know a coworker who is struggling with something in their lives, let them know that while you may not understand what he or she is going through, that you will be there to listen to them if they want.

Day 3: Write a thank-you note to a colleague, describing what they did to help you and give it to them.

Day 4: Give someone at the office a genuine compliment.

Day 5: Clean up a mess in the break room or around that office that you did not make.

Day 6: Hold the door or elevator for someone.

Day 7: Smile at the people you see around the office today.

Day 8: Ask someone how you can help them today.

Day 9: Introduce yourself to someone new.

Day 10: Tell a coworker to have a good day.

Day 11: Bring a peer a coffee, a water, a soda or whatever their drink of choice is.

Day 12: Thank someone for making a difference.

Day 13: Write a friendly message on a Post-It and stick it somewhere for everyone to see.

Day 14: Tell someone all of the reasons you like them.

Day 15: Acknowledge the excellent service you received by writing a note to that person’s manager.

Day 16: Bring in food or snacks to your office or to your department.

Day 17: Say “Good Morning” to someone in the elevator or someone in the building.

Day 18: Sometimes we need to get away from the office for a short amount of time to re-set. If you see a peer struggling, take them to a nearby coffee shop for a break.

Day 19: Humor is healing. Tell someone a joke or send them a funny meme.

Day 20: If a coworker leaves something on the printer, bring it to them.

Day 21: Say “please” and “thank you” and mean it!

Day 22: Once you have read your monthly magazine subscription, leave it in the break room for someone else to enjoy.

Day 23: Take a coworker out for lunch.

Day 24: Pass along a great book you have finished reading to a peer at work.

Day 25: Take a walk around the office and just say “hi” to people. Bonus: get some steps in.

Day 26: Pick up a piece of litter you see in the hallway or common space.

Day 27: Interject when you hear gossip with a kind remark.

Day 28: Give someone their work time back and cancel a meeting.

Day 29: Lend your expertise to someone who needs it, whether in the moment or as a mentor.

Day 30: Respond timely even if you say to the other person that you received their email and give a deadline for your response. People like to know they aren’t being ignored.

Day 31: Don’t leave someone hanging. If you are not down with their idea, say so. Be honest.

1b

 

 

Meetings are stupid.

Meetings are stupid. When was the last time you came out of a meeting feeling like you really accomplished something and it was well worth your time? When was the last time you felt energized after a meeting and ready to haul ass in support of the company? When was the last time you left a meeting understanding the true purpose for the meeting? When was the last time you walked out of a meeting thinking the same message could have just been communicated by a brief one-on-one, a team huddle or a frickin’ email? Probably, you left 9 out of 10 of your last meetings rushing to get back to your desk to answer all of the emails you received, make your return calls and get some actual work done. Additionally, you also then realized that you now had to work an extra hour to make your deadlines that were held up by said meetings. This is frustrating. I get it.

Most articles you read will give ways on how to make meetings more productive like have an agenda, stick to the agenda, have time limits and “hard stops”, assign clear action items and task owners, etc… But you know the drill, we end up having a meeting to address how to have meetings. And how many of you have attended those? That’s an hour of your life you won’t get back.

 

Some people will say that it’s impossible to get rid of meetings. But is it? Or are we just being lazy. Here are some ideas on how to get rid of  meetings or at least reduce the majority of them.

Get rid of meeting rooms in your office space. If we didn’t have meeting rooms, where would we congregate? Instead have smaller, huddle rooms and less of them. This will force people to think twice not only about having a meeting if a room is not available and accessible, but if the room is small, it will force an abbreviated session that will get down to the nitty-gritty of what needs to get communicated. Also, remove all comforts from meeting room spaces like coffee makers, water and food. Folks will be less likely to linger without those little luxuries close at hand.

Companies should spend time and money to train employees on effective communication. Yeah, I said it, don’t roll your eyes. What I see on a daily basis from CEO’s on down to clerical staff, in emails to meetings, from baby boomers to millennials is a sad indictment of what we consider to be appropriate and effective communication. This training should include training employees to become more self-aware in their own communication styles so that they can describe to others the best way to communicate to them. This training should include how to determine the best ways to communicate with others given their work styles and behaviors. This is literally a Comm 101 class where employees learn what the most effective vehicle of communication is given what is to be communicated. It answers the question, is my message best delivered verbally? by phone? by email? to an individual? to a team? Our human default is to call a meeting when we just can’t get our message across and it’s wasting time and pissing off a lot of people.

Like football, use a hurry-up, no huddle type of team get-together  to quickly and effectively communicate messages that multiple people need to know. This requires a strong Team Lead who is an effective communicator (see above) that can get right to the message, translate the message in a way that everyone effectively understands, and everyone knows where they are supposed to be and when by the time the Team Lead claps his or her hands to head to the line of scrimmage, so-to-speak.

Use good old-fashioned reports and technology. Yup, both.  If the goal of your weekly or monthly or quarterly meeting is to get status updates, by the time you are meeting everyone probably already knows bits and pieces of everything but also the information is old and useless. Scrap status meetings and require status reports from your team members on a routine basis that give you information on what happened this week and what’s projected for the week ahead. Provided this isn’t sensitive information, upload all of these individuals reports into a group share site so that everyone on the team or in the department can access them in real-time and on-demand. Managers and employees also get the added benefit of refining their individual writing skills too.

Ban meetings on Friday. The hope is to eventually ban meetings on most days of the week. Fridays should be dedicated to getting work done so that all employees can head into their weekend with a sense of accomplishment and ready to tackle Mondays with new work, not the crap leftover from the past Friday that was taken hostage to meetings.

 

Trump and the FLSA

****So…. news flash…. remember when I said there were several attempts to block the rule to no avail. Well, about that. Within mere days of the 12/1 comply date, a Federal District Judge in Texas has put a halt on the new overtime rules. Twenty plus States had filed suit stating the DOL had no authority to revise the FLSA rules and the Judge has sided with them pending further investigation into the law. Stay tuned folks, this should get interesting****

The U.S. populace has voted, and Trump is President- Elect.

Now HR folk are wondering what will become of all of the stuff we have had to implement within the last 8 years from health care reform, to newly defined protected classes to the FLSA. Let’s chat for a sec on the FLSA.

To recap, in March of 2014, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum to the Department of Labor to simplify and modernize the FLSA rules that govern exempt versus non-exempt status, provisions that were last reviewed in the 70’s. The DOL issued final rules in May of 2016. The new rules stated that any employee making $47,476 (from $23,660) or less had to be non-exempt regardless of his or her job duties. Further, the salary threshold would be reviewed every three years (next time: 2020) and would be indexed against the 40th percentile of the lowest wage region of the country. These rules are effective 12/1/2017. (Note: Trump does not actually become President until his inauguration on 1/20/2017) The utopian goal behind the changes was to stop greedy companies from working their employees 70 hours a week  whilst still paying them dirt-cheap salaries and not paying an extra dime past 40 hours. Good for the American worker, right?

Everyone proceeded to lose their shit, because if there is anything crusty CEO’s hate more than regulation, it’s overtime. God forbid that an employee be paid for putting in a little extra time on behalf of the business and expect to be paid for it. Employees can be so greedy sometimes, geez. So anyways, there were several attempts to block the rule or delay it but to no avail.

Here is what I think:

  1. Companies who are subject to the FLSA still have to get compliant with the new law by 12/1, that’s in less than 3 weeks from now. So get your shit together and do the right thing. Remember Trump will not be sworn in until January 20th.
  2. If I am to believe anything Trump said on the campaign trail, which was minimal on content and more about fire and brimstone rhetoric, I think his sights will be set on blowing up the ACA and deporting illegal immigrants rather than the DOL changes.
  3. However, the new overtime regulations could just be the low hanging fruit that his administration feels would get him a quick win with corporations, small business owners, the aforementioned crusty CEO’s, etc…
  4. The DOL will NEVER go away and neither will the FLSA. The FLSA has been in place since the 1930’s and no presidential administration has challenged its existence. And if the FLSA doesn’t go away, the DOL will still be around to enforce it.
  5. Since the FLSA is sticking around, the salary test will still be a thing. I think if Trump focuses any attention on this matter at all, he will likely reduce the salary threshold but I do not believe he will roll it back to the original salary of $23,660. Trump still wants to appear favorable to blue-collar American workers. Artifically suppressing salaries would not fare well for him and his loyal followers, if their behavior at his rallies is any indication, will be very vocal in their displeasure.
  6. I believe Trump’s administration will leave intact the duties test as a means for businesses to use these tests to justify “gray” area positions as exempt. This will enable companies to better defend their classifications in the unfortunate event of a DOL inquiry.
  7. The reaction of #7 above could be that certain states pass their own “labor standards act” which defines exempt versus non-exempt status based on a higher salary threshold than that of the federal FLSA law.
  8. Or, the States, in an attempt to simplify the duties test could pass laws that define a certain percentage of non-exempt tasks that would govern the exempt or non-exempt status of a position. For example, the State of California, mandates that for (most) job roles which contain 50% or more “non-exempt” tasks, those roles MUST be classified as non-exempt and are then subject to overtime.
  9. The DOL has been preparing to ramp up classification enforcement. I don’t think Trump will limit or reduce the DOL’s authority, but I think he will minimize the department’s resources (i.e. staff) to the point that the DOL would no longer be able to go full-force.
  10. One of the likeliest things to go away under a Trump administration is the review of the salary threshold every three years. I think there will be a one and done change to the salary threshold and that’s that.
  11. Let’s get real, most companies have been hiding behind the duties test for quite awhile knowing full well they would not be able to successfully defend a position’s exempt status. I think the overtime rule changes have given companies a window to “make it right” without becoming the target of a DOL audit or wage and hour suit. So, irrespective of what The Donald does or does not direct his team of monkeys to do, treat your employees and the law (as it stands today) with some respect. Give the role’s the proper classifications they deserve, put some limitations in place with respect to employee overtime, and focus on other things that matter, like what the hell happens with the ACA.

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Quality of Hire

Experiencing some buyer’s remorse with your latest hire? It’s probably your recruiting and selection process. Like most employers you have sourced candidates using various resources & methods, reviewed dozens of resumes for required and preferred competencies, experience, and skills, then phone screened, then interviewed (using behaviorally-oriented questions, of course), then maybe final interviewed and then made a decision. You set your expectations high because the candidate nailed the interview and you are confident in the criteria with which you made your selection decision. Within 60 days, the general consensus is your new hire sucks. Is this result really any wonder? The current recruiting and selection process outlined above has no proven correlation to the quality of your hire. It never has and it never will. Your good hires were based on sheer luck of the draw.

Think about it. Everyone can be a super-genius, rocket scientist with an MBA, a PhD and an MD on paper, right? Since all recruiters and hiring managers ask the same routine questions over and over in interviews, candidates have had practice crafting really good answers. And almost everyone in the world knows you bring your A-game to the interview. Combine several hours of a polished, charismatic and well-rehearsed candidate with all of the interviewer biases known to man and subjective, gut-level decision-making based on interview answers about PAST behaviors and successes, and you have a situation ripe for bad decision-making.

If you and your company are serious about spending your efforts, energy and money to hire the best and brightest, banish your antiquated recruiting and selection process today and replace it with a process that actually provides you real information and data to base your most important decisions upon.

  1. Beef up your referral sourcing methods, not only with your current employees but specifically your high-potential employees and your successful business partners and vendors. Referrals are built-in references. Not to mention no good employee wants to tarnish the reputation of the one who referred them, so you have a built-in back stop against crappy performance and behavior. Tap your high-potentials, as I suspect they run in circles with people similar to them. Don’t forget to ask your company vendors and other business partners for their referrals. Make the referral bonus meaningful determining its value position-by-position and by the level of difficulty of finding qualified candidates for that position.
  2. We live in a knowledge economy and we need knowledge workers. How do we test knowledge? Cognitive tests of course. We can train skills but we can’t increase intelligence. Also, require transcripts from your candidates transcripts will show you what classes the candidate took and their individual grades in each class. Does the candidate’s education show a history of taking challenging courses or 101 courses. Decide if you like to see candidates who have taken really hard courses and earned B’s and C’s or candidates who have taken “Rocks for Jocks” and bowling classes and earned A’s.
  3. Incorporate aptitude screening. Require work samples from your candidates. Or, for the final round of interviews, define a fictional business problem or challenge and ask the candidate to write a white paper or develop a short presentation. The interview becomes the presentation or delivery of the white paper. Interviewers base their evaluation on how well the candidate presented his of her ideas, the ideas or solutions themselves and an in-depth review of how the candidate went about preparing for the exercise.
  4. References. In my opinion, we do not give references the attention they should receive. Candidates should bring several references- character, educational and professional. HR should have a robust process around gathering reference information, crafting really good questions for references by determining what information you are looking for or is important for the job and documenting the answers.
  5. Build in a character test. I’ve read about companies that involve everyone from the driver, hotel concierge and receptionist into the interview process by creating scenarios that the candidate responds to and the interview team is provided feedback from these participants. Was the candidate courteous, respectful, professional and polished in their interactions with everyone? Or were they rude, arrogant, or discourteous when they thought no one was looking?

The current recruiting and selection methods have not proven valid. Dump them and get creative with your organization’s steps for finding quality hires.

Imperfect HR.

Some of the most talented HR professionals I know, diversity certified and all, are also some of the most bigoted people I know. Yes, it’s true. HR professionals are racist, sexist, xenophobic, classist or any other -ist, there is. We drink, we smoke, we do drugs, we swear, we commit crimes, we talk behind people’s backs, we are unethical, we are registered democrats or republicans, we know what “Netflix and Chill” means and the list goes on.

After all, we are human. And we live in this world. And we are exposed to the same things any other human is exposed to growing up. So, just because we chose the HR profession does not mean we are perfect, or somehow immune to stereotypes or don’t act with bias.

So, to HR professionals who act like Ms. Perfect, I must say, that like most people, I want to punch you in the face. No one likes you. In fact, you are the reason why employees hate HR. Because you get all on your soapbox about enforcing all the rules, like your “you know what” doesn’t stink. Act like a human who is imperfect and is accepting of others’ imperfections. You are not in the HR profession to lord over people, or be the work police. You are there to support employees and tell them when what their doing is inappropriate because it’s illegal or against company policy, you are not there to cast ethical judgements.

So, to employees who think HR professionals are some beacon of virtue, I’m here to burst your bubble. We are not. And if most of us tell the truth, we don’t want to be. As HR Practitioners, we understand that our job is to interpret and enforce, where necessary, company rules, policies and procedures, even if we think in our heads those same rules, policies and procedures are dumb. Its the job we accepted when we chose this field.

So, maybe HR professionals are really good at operating in some sort of dissociative state where they can disconnect their personal selves and thoughts from those of their professional selves, to do their jobs really well. How else are we able to shut off the bias and make sound recruiting recommendations? How else do we push that stuff way deep down to be able to investigate someone accused of wrongdoing and make disciplinary recommendations without shattering under the weight of contradiction?

But, eventually, this dissociation will break us. It can only be a temporary mechanism. Eventually, strong HR practitioners will have to go through the process of self-actualization. Eventually it will be too exhausting to have a personal self and a professional self. The two shall have to meet. We have to embrace our flaws and accept ourselves the way we are. Good HR professionals realize they can still be unconventional without needing to shock or disturb people. They become empathetic with the plight of all humans and therefore shed those biases and stereotypes. Really, really good HR professionals also resist enculturation. They use all of their experiences to make their own decisions rather than allowing workplace culture to dictate those decisions. They become leaders, not followers.

 

Great Leaders Possess 7 Things.

Leaders are born, not made. That’s why there are so few.

Beyond the knowledge, beyond the education, beyond the certifications, great leaders exhibit what are known as soft skills. Soft skills, according to Wikipedia, are a, “combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes and emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) among others”. I further argue that soft skills are more nature than nurture, either you have them or you don’t. In most circumstances, since humans are who we are, these particular soft skills can’t be trained, mentored or developed.

Soft Skill #1: They Listen More than They Speak. A higher power gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Great leaders practice active listening. They do not bring smart phones into the room, they do not multitask by attending meetings with their mobile device or laptop, they do not get caught up in distractions or side arguments. Great leaders focus with attention on the other party, they listen,  they filter the message, repeat the message and affirm it.

Soft Skill #2: They know in what ways they suck. And surround themselves with people who do not suck in those areas. In other words, great leaders know they are not perfect, they know what areas they excel in and work very hard to excel in them. They also know what their weaknesses are. And instead of exhausting precious time and energy on the futile task of turning weaknesses into strengths, great leaders befriend others with complimentary strengths and learn from them. Further, great leaders are okay with sharing power so they have no issue delegating authority.

Soft Skill #3: They inspire through the art of story telling. Great leaders have a vision, and instead of coldly outlining their plan in bullet points, outlining objectives in a Powerpoint presentation, great leaders craft a story. Stories are the vision of the leader come to life, with emotion and color. Leaders know that the audience will find a connection in that story that relates them to the vision inspiring their employees with a purpose.

Soft Skill #4: Leaders do not define conflict negatively. Great leaders are ok when another disagrees with them, great leaders invite dissent. Great leaders do not let the vein in their forehead protrude when challenged, they do not pound their fist on the table and they do not harbor resentment. Great leaders, knowing they aren’t always right, ask for others’ positions and arguments, great leaders, per the aforementioned Soft Skill #1 listen, and great leaders consider this information when carefully weighing decisions.

Soft Skill #5: Great leaders understand they work for the people they lead. Not the company’s bottom line, not the shareholders, not the Board of Directors and not for their own personal worth and glory. Leaders obviously have some accountability to all of these parties, which while a heavy burden indeed, is also why they get paid the big bucks. Great leaders inherently know that taking care of their people will take care of the rest.

Soft Skill #6: Are human barometers. They can tell when the vibe of the room just isn’t right. They know when their people are stressed, conflicted, overworked, etc… because great leaders feel it. And they do something about it.

Soft Skill #7: Are comfortable taking the unpopular position when he of she knows it’s the right position. Great leaders also possess a stubborn wilfulness to march through the stream of bullshit detractors even risking their very jobs and livelihood to do so.