What HR Won’t Tell You

You’re right in your assumption that HR knows things. Sometimes HR folks know all of the things. Because they support the business, they are likely to be communicating with all departments, all managers and Senior Leadership and they know what’s up.

While I personally take the position of being as transparent and honest as possible with all of my managers and employees, there are just somethings I’m not going to tell you. Sometimes it’s because I can’t, sometimes it’s because I don’t want to lean into that shitty conversation, sometimes it’s because I don’t like you and sometimes it’s because I’m lazy.

  1. We won’t tell you if and when you are getting fired. But we do know when the dark mark has been put upon you.
  2. We won’t tell you if the company has plans to eliminate positions or is planning a downsizing. We may tell you the company has hit some hard times, and tough decisions are being made to turn the ship around. That’s code for reductions in force.
  3. We won’t tell you that you are the office douche-bag or the office narc and no one likes you. Though sometimes I really want to tell you. So you’ll just stop already.
  4. We won’t tell you about certain policies of the company because we really don’t want to advertise them. Usually it’s because we know the policy is stupid and we don’t want to answer the hundreds of questions we will get if we remind you. (See: inclement weather policy/office closures and dress code policies)
  5. We won’t tell you if your manager is monitoring your email. But if you are on a performance improvement plan or had a disciplinary warning, you should be hyper-aware that someone in the company is probably watching your email, network and web activity.
  6. We aren’t going to necessarily spell our your rights as workers. That’s what labor law posters are for. Read them and ask your HR person sometime about the FMLA or the FLSA . Know your own rights.
  7. We won’t tell you your manager dislikes you. Though we may want to warn you, we just won’t tell you.
  8. We won’t tell you your candidate referral bombed his or her interview and the interview team resoundingly gave a thumbs down to hiring him or her. We will simply say that another candidate was more qualified.
  9. We won’t tell you when your manager is about to be terminated.
  10. We may not tell you, that you may have the right to review your employee personnel file, depending on your State’s laws and/or company policies. We may not necessarily suggest that you ask your HR team to review your own file periodically (wink, wink).

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.

 

The HR Glass Ceiling

HR has been very busy over the past few decades, very busy trying to figure out how to get ahead, how to reach those upper echelons of corporate leadership and really influence our function’s agenda. Us HR professionals seem to think we have some secret knowledge that if only if we were able to get in the ear of the CEO, we could really influence the success of the company.

It’s like the HR profession has its own glass ceiling to overcome. We’ve tried a bunch of things to chip way at that ceiling and they have failed.

HR tried rebranding efforts calling ourselves the people department or any assortment of silly names. This effort has failed to highlight our value.

For years, HR has hunted for the elusive “seat at the table”.  Meanwhile, through blood, sweat and tears, we have seen every other department, but HR, get that seat and we are still left at the kids table.

HR professionals went the way of consultancies. By being outside of the business, the business would finally realize how much they needed us. Wrong.

 

 

The problem is not the name of our department. The problem is not which seat we have at what table. And the problem is not whether we advise the company as an internal department or externally, as a consultancy.

The problem is gender stereotypes and the perceived value of masculine versus feminine traits in the business world.

The corporate world is traditionally assigned male characteristics and companies’ that show ultra-masculine traits are generally regarded in popular opinion as successful. Highly sought after leaders are goal-driven , confident, non-emotional, aggressive, independent, disciplined, strong, logical and rational. All typical masculine traits.

HR, a historically female-dominated profession, is described as having feminine characteristics no doubt due not only to the gender of those in the jobs but that HR deals with people issues. Successful HR professionals and departments are empathetic, patient, understanding, receptive, nurturing, affective and helpful.

The same reason women hit the glass ceiling is the same reason why HR isn’t taken as seriously as the IT department or the sales department or any other revenue generating department. It’s because traditional feminine characteristics are not valued in the business environment. They aren’t perceived  as the cold, hard traits that boost the bottom line, build profit and make shareholders happy.

This is not to say that HR should whine and sit idly by doing nothing because the culture holds us back. Oh no, HR needs to be disruptive. We need to push back. We need to be fuckin’ smart and demand that people respect our value. Once more minorities, millennials and Gen Z are sitting on corporate boards and in government, and once CHRO’s are legitimately considered as successors for CEO jobs, HR will no longer be seen as a department to tolerate but a force to be reckoned with.

 

 

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.

 

 

If I did that, I’d get fired.

Can someone explain to me how some people get away with stuff that any regular Joe (can I call you Joe?) would get shit-canned for in a hot minute?

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Let’s take Roger Ailes for example. Prior to this tub of lard’s 20-year reign as CEO at Fox News, good ol’ Rog was a media consultant for the likes of Nixon, Reagan, Dubya and Rudy Guiliani. (No wonder he ended up at Fox, eh’?) After multiple allegations of sexual harassment by on-air talent Gretchen Carlson and other women, Rupert Murdoch and Co. allowed Ailes the opportunity to resign with $40million in his pocket. Any HR professional with classic training will tell you that one, ONE confirmed instance of quid pro quo (“this for that”) sexual harassment and the accused will be terminated. No, they will not be given severance. No, they will not receive unemployment. Yes, they will get escorted out by security. Yet this piece of shit got to negotiate the terms of his departure from the company and left without the need to be gainfully employed ever again. I sure hope he learns his lesson while sitting in his home theatre watching Knute Rockne, All American whilst eating an endless bucket of popcorn.

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How about that asshole derp, John Stumpf, now, former CEO of Wells Fargo? If I presided over the theft of at least one customer, my ass would’ve been tossed on the streets and I would never work in this town again. Who wants to take bets that Stumpf has a high-ranking job at another financial institution within the next two years? As you may have already heard, Wells Fargo fired 5,300 employees and was fined $185 million for fake accounts opened by employees since 2011 as a response to the high-pressure sales tactics required and rewarded by an incentive-laced bonus program. Fingers were pointed by Wells Fargo higher-ups at the lowly Wells Fargo associates. When grilled in front of a congressional committee, Stumpf, insisted the culture of the company did not contribute to the unethical practices of management and employees while also testifying that he “did not know that level of detail” when the Committee outlined Wells Fargo’s various public sales tactics. Oh yeah, and also Stumpf dumped a shitload of company stock sometime after he found out about about the accounts. It was the largest stock sale he made to date. If I did that, I’d get fired and I would probably be in jail.

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And the mother of all “Chief Predatory Officers” Dov Charney. Sexual harassment was so ingrained in the culture at American Apparel that the employee handbook actually warned that the company was a “sexually charged” environment. As the name of the company suggests, this was not a company filming porns, this was an apparel design and manufacturing company. Indeed, Dov did his best to create said culture- it has been a matter of fact that Mr. Charney masturbated while being interviewing by a magazine editor, walked around his offices in his underwear and stored videos on company computers of he and company employees and models engaged in sexual acts. Charney also stands accused of misusing company funds. American Apparel finally ousted Charney but now finds itself in bankruptcy proceedings. But don’t you worry, Dov is back on the fashion scene. In August 2016, Dov reported he received a $10 million dollar loan for a new t-shirt venture.

Now excuse me while I take a shower to wash off the sleaze.

Work/Life Balance Is a Myth

Allow me to let you in on a little secret, Work/Life Balance is bullshit.

Much like the Easter Bunny, the Lochness Monster or calorie free macaroni and cheese, work/life balance is a myth. Just as Hallmark made up Sweetest Day to boost it’s bottom line, Work/Life balance was made up by Corporate America as a concocted promotion to convince employees that work and life are binary.

Corporate America created the problem, named the problem and then offered “solutions” to the problem. Corporate America created the problem, squeezing every little ounce out of its employees to increase their revenue streams, fatten the owners’ pockets and please its shareholders. Not surprisingly, this turned Americans into over-worked, over-stressed humans who felt put into a position to choose job or family and life. And voila, Corporate America invents the concept of Work/Life balance capitalizing on this zero-sum game. Americans choose work and lose, and Corporate America reaps the rewards. To quell the simmering anger, Corporate America threw us all a bone by offering “Work/Life” balance programs such as flexible scheduling, part-time opportunities, work-from-home, job shares and childcare-at-work. Yet, even with these programs Americans still report being just as overburdened as they were 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago.

In a 2016 New York Times Article by Susan Dominus, Rethinking the Work-Life Equationthe author recaps the TOMO study by Phyllis Moen and Erin Kelly, professors studying the interaction between work, family and health. Moen and Kelly offer up what they call “Work-Life Fit”. Think of this concept not as life and work on the same linear plane, think of work as one little cheese wedge in the Trivial Pursuit playing piece of life.  Like this:

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And, in order for this mind shift to take place these things need to happen:

1) Give employees almost total control of how they work- including where, when and how they work. Focus on the outcomes of work against company goals and objectives and not how many hours employees work. As the TOMO paper states, this shifts flexibility from being a privilege to a given. Treating employees as self-sufficient human beings by empowering ownership of their work product should result in adult-like behaviors. In the end, most employees just want to do the work. Who cares how they do it?

2) Pay more-than-living wages. Let’s actually rethink compensation and the value of the work that employees provide your organization. Stop basing compensation on  your competitors, FLSA mandates and wildly fluctuating market conditions, and pay employees based on the purpose of his or her work towards the desired results of the company. Can’t find the money? Look no further then your top executives. Does the success of the company really and truly fall on the shoulders of one or two men and women? I can’t even really think of a scenario in today’s world where that could even remotely be true. As workers become more specialized in their expertise and skills, CEO’s and President’s, rely on a more collaborative team of knowledge workers to achieve the company’s vision and mission. Consider this, in 2015, CEO pay increased 16.4% from the previous year while every-day workers got dicked with a meager 2.4% increase to base salary. The money is there, it just needs to be given to ALL of those in the organization that bring value and worth.

3) Paid Family and Medical leave for all working Americans. Fair warning, throughout my blog, I’m going to beat this one to death. The United States is literally the only developed, first world country with ZERO nationally mandated paid parental and sick leave laws. So you can give us all the stupid flex schedules you want company, but if I have to decide between my health and work, I’m choosing my health. If I have to choose between my family or my job, I’m choosing family. This is not because I’m financially secure but  because my more actualized self compels me to make decisions that I will not regret on my death bed. And also, I’m little pissed Corporate America that you would force me to choose one or the other.

In reality, all of these things will take time and a great cultural shift to happen. As an employee of a company, think about how you can individually set boundaries for yourself, think about when and how you will turn work off, think about what emails and calls you will accept outside of work hours if any at all, and consider flexibility and ownership of work when you accept a job offer.

 

If Hillary Becomes President

Hillary Rodham Clinton

My post last week, If Trump Becomes President, hypothesized the impact of a Donald administration on the work world and HR. Historically, Democratic administrations have used the courts and their own executive powers to pass final rules and regulations that keep us HR folk very busy (see: ACA, FLSA, FMLA, ADA, etc…).

I can probably sum up a Hillary Clinton presidency like this: “more of the same”. While Hillary has her own agenda and plans, she will continue the policies and programs passed by the Obama administration.

Headline: Clinton Administration Creates “Good Paying” Jobs for Americans. Like Trump, Hillary promises to create jobs for Americans. She promises “good-paying” jobs  in an effort to strengthen the middle class. Based on her platform, Hillary intends to create jobs in the public sector, in the energy and tech sectors and also by increasing American manufacturing. Extrapolating further, Clinton’s initiatives to build and reinforce the country’s infrastructure signal a potential increase in construction jobs. And yes, these will be union jobs HR folks because, as Hillary states, “When Unions are strong, America is strong”. For those HR professionals already experiencing difficulty filling those energy and tech jobs due to a lack of skilled talent, Hillary hopes to increase your talent pool by “creating a life-long learning system better tailored to 21st century jobs”.

Headline: “HillaryHealth” expands ACA, Medicaid and reduces Americans out-of-pocket health spending. Will we still refer to the Affordable Care Act as “Obamacare” when he’s no longer in office? No? Then I propose “Hillary Health”. If Hillary plans to shore up and expand the Affordable Care Act, she will have her hands full as insurers stage an exodus from state-run exchanges. In a Hillary-led world, perhaps she will make administration less complicated both on those who need health care but also on HR professionals and Benefits Administrators.

Headline: DOL Goes Gangbusters on FLSA Enforcement. The FLSA’s new overtime rules are passed by Hillary and crew but, to throw a bone to small businesses, are implemented in a phased-in approach that also offsets the automatic indexing provision. The Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division commits additional resources making overtime compliance its number #1 priority. HR departments around the country must get smarter on the FLSA and begin to document the reasons why jobs are classified exempt or non-exempt. These changes force HR professionals to strategize on compensation with a future-facing approach and use “non-traditional” workers (i.e. gig workers, part-time and job shares) to reduce company expenditures.

Headline: Within 4 years, Clinton Narrows the Pay Gap . Hillary narrows the pay gap by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. Wages and pay decisions become more transparent. All private employers are prohibited from asking job applicants about prior salary history and are prohibited from verifying wages via references. Further, HR drives employers to compliance by creating compensation philosophies, conducting annual compensation surveys, reviewing compliance annually and recommending salary adjustments based on internal equity. HR Departments create forms and documentation to back-up pay change decisions. HR Professionals support publishing salaries of employees to further transparency. HR Departments across the U.S. should boost their comp knowledge and prepare to invest in internal data analytics around discretionary and non-discretionary pay.

Headline: Paid Family and Medical Leave for All U.S.-based Employees. While Trump promises to pass paid maternity leave, this proposal seems to reinforce archaic gender stereotypes and familial roles. Hillary promises paid Family and Medical Leave for working Americans, and thus families no longer have to choose job or family member or their own health. While a triumph indeed for all Americans, it will be long overdue. Out of the 193 countries in the U.N., the United States is the only high-income, developed country without paid parental leave.

Headline: The Expansion of Federally Protected Classes. Under a Clinton administration, I highly anticipate the addition of federally protected classes and continued empowerment of the EEOC to enforce anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation laws. HR Professionals would be served well to brush off that harassment prevention training and deliver it annually.

Headline: Hillary Nominates Obama as Replacement for Justice Scalia. Considering his political and legal career, Obama seems like a likely nominee to replace Justice Scalia. This will get interesting. There is a current contingent of Republicans that are in favor of ticket-splitting, they will vote Clinton for President but split the ticket, voting for Republican House and Senate Candidates. Republicans hope this strategy will moderate Hillary’s “liberal agenda”. A left-leaning Court + Executive Branch could equal a very active 4 years for HR departments across the country.

Hillary has a reputation for getting shit done. So I’m not betting against her. If she is elected President, I suspect that this will be an opportunity for HR practitioners to demonstrate our value to the organization as a strategic business leader and consultant.