Why We Can’t Disconnect.

France recently passed a Right to Disconnect bill providing employees the right to ignore work emails after hours without repercussions. Some have applauded the bill saying that it gives workers their personal lives back. Still others are skeptical that the law will really abolish a behavior that has become so conditioned in workers across the world.

Though benevolent in its motivation, the law won’t be successful. And even if it’s somehow successful in France, its D.O.A. in the United States. That’s because this law doesn’t address the real causes that lead to our inability to disconnect.

Only super humans set healthy boundaries. By many accounts, the current U.S. populace is one of the most debt-ridden, addicted, medicated and obese in history. This says a lot about our ability to say “no” and set healthy limits and boundaries for ourselves. That same underlying inability to set boundaries in our relationships with food, money, drugs and alcohol also prevents us from setting healthy boundaries with our work life.  If we can access work from our mobile device or laptop, we will answer that work email or take that work call.

The normal 8-5 factory of office job is no longer as the world has transitioned from the Traditional Economy to the Knowledge-Based economy. The boundaries that were once defined for us- punching a time clock  and using our hands to make a widget on a factory line- are the way of the dinosaur, extinct. Because most work can be done anytime and anywhere, individuals must rely on themselves to set their own boundaries. Which, as mentioned above, we aren’t good at.

We have been conditioned to be connected. Humans fear disconnection. In Daring Greatly, How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brené Brown writes “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. The power that connection holds in our lives was confirmed when the main concern about connection emerged as the fear of disconnection; the fear that something we have done or failed to do, something about who we are or where we come from, has made us unlovable and unworthy of connection.” Constant connection to work means knowing the latest and greatest, it means coming to work on Monday with no surprises, it means being one step ahead of your colleagues and in many workplaces being connected all of the time is recognized as an admirable trait worthy of public praise and maybe even some additional compensation. Why, with all of this positive reinforcement, would we not want to be connected?

 

 

How To Ask For More Money. Part I.

Feeling overworked and underpaid? Join the crowd. In a March 2016 article from Fortune, only a little more than 1/3rd of Americans feel they are paid fairly. As an HR Representative counseling employees, I often hear a multitude of reasons why people are unhappy to some degree with their salary. From the perception to being “on-call” all of the time, to doing more than what their manager realizes to just plain feeling undervalued, employees are starting to wonder how to take steps to ask for more money.

Before you barge into your manager’s office demanding more money with little to know argument to back up your request, which never works out well for anyone, I strongly urge you to do the following.

Do your recon.

First, you need to do a little reconnaissance. Schedule a meeting with your Human Resources department and tell them you want to discuss your compensation. You need to find out if the company has a compensation philosophy,  does the organization tend to pay above market, do they pay to meet market averages or do they lag the market? A lot of companies right now are opting to pay median salaries, giving raises each year that just beat cost-of-living inflation, while awarding performance with discretionary bonuses. This is a less riskier option for companies than awarding high salaries in a ever-changing economy that can render a business obsolete in 6 months. Ask HR how the company recognizes performance. You also have to consider how your company is doing overall and where your company is in its life-cycle. If your company is in start-up or decline mode, they likely do not have the capital to be throwing around on employee raises. As the old saying goes, you can’t get blood out of a turnip. Other questions that are helpful to ask are if your company assigns salary ranges to each position and where your position lies on a career track (junior, mid-level, senior-level). Also ask your friendly HR professional for his or her recommendation on how to approach a salary review or request inside of your organization. Any HR practitioner worth their salt, will be able to give you an honest response. If your HR rep is squeamish about your questions, that may be a red flag that your company has an old-school mentality around compensation transparency which still isn’t all that unusual to encounter these days. Yet, it’s good to know this about your company.

External Research.

Next, you also need to do some external market research. You need to hit the internet and find out what data is available on salary ranges for your position, think payscale.com, glassdoor.com and onetonline.org. But heed caution here and build in a margin of error. These websites usually cite self-reported data and individuals usually inflate their salaries when asked. Additionally, these sites do not take into account certain nuances that make an apples-t0-apples comparison very difficult- different geographical regions, international versus regional organizations, successful versus declining companies, and booming industries versus dying industries. You may also want to reach out to recruiters in your area or network and ask them what they see is the going rate for your position. But, proceed with caution for the same reasons stated above. Also, don’t forget the monetary value of your benefits. The company probably pays for a portion of your health insurance and matches your 401(k), even though this isn’t money deposited in the bank every 2 weeks, doesn’t mean it isn’t compensation. You need to figure out the value of your benefits as part of your total compensation to understand what you are truly being paid to do your job. Now, with this information, you can create an acceptable range of what you think your position is worth.

 

 

Once you have done all of this stuff, you are ready to put your plan into play. Tune in on Thursday for How To Ask For More Money, Part II.

 

2017 HR Trends

‘Tis the time of year when you read all of the lists, the Top 10 of this, the Worst of that, the Best of whatever. You have probably also seen more than your fair share of trends for 2017; tech trends, political trends, etc… Following suit, here are my thoughts on the 2017 trends for the HR profession.

  1. HR Practitioners particularly of the Business Partner or Generalist variety must strive to demonstrate both their business acumen and also their HR and employment law knowledge. In 2017, HR Practitioners should stop asking whether certification is required to practice HR (it is not, but) and start getting certified. The profession as a whole needs to own our sphere of knowledge. If any professional thinks they also can be HR-savvy and we in no way differentiate ourselves, the farther our occupation fall towards obsolescence. Further, certified HR practitioners needs to broaden their business acumen by pursuing an MBA or pursuing industry-designations.
  2. HR Professionals should begin to learn the basics of programming, data analytics and become social media experts. These skills are no longer the future of the job, they are are the present and current needs of HR practitioners. As more and more of our profession can be automated combined with the rise of artificial intelligence and augmented reality, bots will be able to do  the tactical stuff we do now as well as interface with employees directly. Additionally, HR should stay abreast of all technology trends and how they may apply to disrupt the HR profession.
  3. Heightened emphasis on the Employee Experience. For several year now, we have been in an employee-driven marketplace. As I do not see this changing in 2017, companies will be challenged to compete for talent based on the employee experience and HR has to take the lead on this. From the time a candidate enters our company vortex to the time they terminate and even beyond, HR needs to review all of its processes, policies, physical space and operations and ask themselves how it positively contributes to the employee experience at their company.
  4. HR will have to take the lead or involve themselves closely as we continue to see the rise of and evolution of the Digital Workplace. HR has to step up and consider how the Digital Workplace challenges traditional notions of management, organizational structure, communication and how we understand the basic concept of work. These ideas should be generating out of HR, we have to become the innovators of the workplace.
  5. Federal deregulation is likely under the Trump Administration so HR will see a lot of change (as usual), and will have to respond accordingly to the repeal and possible replacement of the ACA and how that impacts benefits offerings and health insurance plans. While the Federal government is deregulating business, be prepared to see a lot of activity impacting the business world and workplace at the State-level particularly with respect to the minimum wage, requirements around eligibility for overtime, parental leave laws, deregulation and/or legalization of recreational marijuana, sick leave laws, and more activity around protected classes specifically sexual identity, national original, criminal history and compensation history.
  6. Strategic talent acquisition. Each new role within a company deserves a very specific and strategic recruiting plan, not a one-size-fits-all post and wait for them to come strategy. Employee referral programs and social media recruiting should be maximized to find the right candidates.
  7. Personal Time as a right and not a privilege. The right of the employee to disconnect without adverse employment actions. Recently France passed a Right to Disconnect law, giving employees the legal right to ignore work email when they are off the clock. As wellbeing research shifts to understanding the negative impact to employees of being “on” all of the time, there will be more and more social pressure on companies to enact policies setting boundaries around work time and non-work time.

 

Common Mistakes Managers Make on Performance Reviews

It is a rare phenomenon in HR to see a performance evaluation from a manager that even meets our expectations let alone exceeds them. Here are a sampling of a few common mistakes I see on the regular:

  1. The manager uses the annual performance review to rake an employee over the coals for his or her entire prior year’s performance. It is NOT okay to use the annual performance review to tell the employee they’ve sucked all year. As a manager, why would you endure that? Think of all of the lost productivity and pissed off coworkers. If you wait a year to tell someone they’ve not performed to your expectations, guess what, it’s not their fault, its yours for not having the spine to confront it sooner.
  2. Failure to clearly communicate expectations and objectives of the position. Granted, this discussion should be happening within the first week of a new hire’s onboarding with the company and should also be reiterated during ongoing performance discussions. This exact thing is the reason you see employee’s rating themselves as exceeds expectations, while the manager is left scratching his head wondering how the hell his employee could lack such self-awareness. In the absence of this information, an employee will always default to what they believe are the expectations and objectives and perform accordingly. Duh.
  3. Failure to keep any documentation from the review period to look back to. And thus rely on memory. An HR professional can always tell by a manager’s vague and sweeping statements in a performance review that he or she has no fucking clue what his or her employee accomplished all year. You know what also gets forgotten when only memory is relied upon? An employees’ weaknesses, fails,  and areas of opportunity. Fast forward to 3 months later when Mr. Manager is in HR’s office  complaining about his employee’s performance issues. HR pulls the performance review and lo and behold nothing has been indicated on the evaluation, but Mr. Manager insists this has been happening for months or years. Sorry, Mr. Manager, your documentation does not back up your accusation. Discipline and termination are going to be pretty difficult to justify.
  4. Never awarding an employee anything other than a “Meets Expectations” although his of her performance clearly goes above and beyond. This is a great way to actively disengage your employee, reduce his or her productivity and send your employee to the next job offer that is extended. If your employee is killin’ it at work- give them the props they deserve. An “Exceeds Expectations” should never be elusive but it should be reserved for the rare but deserving “A”-game employees.

But to the HR folk who see the above on a routine basis, I would ask what they are doing in their respective organizations to fix it. Rampant crap reviews are more indicative of poor training and unclear managerial expectations than they are any single manager’s fault. HR- get your shit together, and start whipping those managers into performance review ninjas.

How Is This Not a Thing?

The future of HR is the bot. In fact, I’m not sure if it’s the future or we, as a profession, are just catastrophically behind in the way we leverage technology to further our tactical and strategic purposes. Yeah, pretty sure the latter is the culprit.

In basic terms a bot is a software application that can run tasks that are both simple and repetitive. Just like every other technology, bots have evolved. Add artificial intelligence to bots and you get virtual personal assistants, like Siri.

Next sprinkle in some emotional intelligence to that bot, and you have a new virtual HR Representative that can interact with human employees.

This new virtual HR bot, let’s call him Toby, will revolutionize HR.

Instead of staffing HR help desks and employing an army of employee relations representatives to answer the same mundane questions day-to-day, employees can instead access on-demand a bot from an internal portal or on their mobile device and ask questions that are most relevant to them at that moment. Routine questions that clog our HR inboxes and take up our precious time can be virtually eliminated. Toby can answer questions on where to access employee pay stubs, how much your individual deductible is, and when your self-evaluation is due.

Further, Toby can pinch hit as your on-demand Manager resource. When your managers have pressing questions and concerns such as initiating a status change, or an FLSA question, or a training need, he or she can simply access Toby for exactly the information they require at that moment rather than waiting on their HR Specialist to be available or wasting time sifting through training materials or public drives or FAQ’s to access the information.

Consider the possibilities of using bot technology, Toby in this instance, as your orientation and onboarding specialist. Toby is programmed to communicate with your new hire prior to their arrival, preparing he or she for their first day, assisting them with new hire paperwork and benefits enrollment and being a touch point in that first crucial 90-days of any new hire’s experience with the company.

Toby, our friendly bot, is also available at any time to take first reports of injury, employee suggestions and initial complaints. Toby can also conduct stay and exit interviews. Rather than waiting for a manager or an HR representative to be available, employees can access Toby 24/7 while the human HR team collects all of the data retained by Toby iand allows us to focus more on the overall alignment of HR with the business.

There are probably hundreds of more HR responsibilities that bots can take on to create a successful life cycle for the employee. This idea radically changes the playing field for the skills and competencies that are required of human resource professionals. I’m game, are you HR?

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.