Things HR Needs to Break Up With

HR- I think we are in a dysfunctional relationship. The things I used to love about you are now driving me freaking crazy. The things are not moving forward and there is really no explanation for it. I think we are just going through the motions. You know this isn’t working. I think it’s time we break up.

Here are some things I think HR needs to break up with.

  1. Performance Reviews- all performance reviews. Not just the annual performance review. Changing the frequency does not make a difference. HR needs to let go of the notion that performance is something that we can or should document and formally discuss once per year, or bi-annually, or quarterly. Within the rapid pace of the modern workplace where projects and priorities change daily, constant and daily feedback is required. The vast majority of the workplace is already populated by Millennials and Generation Z- these groups of folks take in their information best when its short, fast and often.
  2. Traditional Full-time, Part-time Permanent Classifications of employment. Business must flex, flex or fail. The great thing about our current workforce is that there is plenty of talent out there looking for options- options to work on short-term project based assignments, longer-term contract-based initiatives, as consultants, as overseas resources or traditional regular full-time employees. HR should explore this available menu of talent options, build talent pipelines accordingly and present these options to the business as viable staffing options.
  3. Recognition Programs- it’s great to be recognized for a job well done, or for excellent performance on a key project. Programs that mechanize the natural expression of appreciation and thanks come across as inauthentic. Rather, HR should focus on hiring people with emotional intelligence who have a general behavioral propensity for delivering authentic gratitude to their peers. HR also needs to hold those same people accountable for that behavior.
  4. Managers and supervisors. I would venture to say that the majority of managers and supervisors are ineffective. They are ineffective for a number of reasons and mostly it is not their fault. Managers are often working managers and their people management responsibilities are compartmentalized as secondary duties. Most companies do not hold their managers accountable for people management responsibilities. Technically excellent employees are promoted to management because the company doesn’t how else to promote them. And, managing people is not fun or easy, unless you have a passion for leadership, most people do not want to manage (read: babysit) others. In our world where the only constant is change, HR should instead focus on the correlation of various soft skills to leadership, elevate those individuals and focus on readying internal talent to take on short-term assignments as team leaders and project coordinators.
  5. Wellness Programs- I simply believe wellness initiatives and programs do not fulfill their mission, and that employees don’t really put a lot of value in them. I think employers love to say they have them to attract talent. I believe employees like to have the options available. If wellness programs were the answer to the work/life balance thing, and work/life balance is a made-up thing (which I believe it is), then of course it doesn’t work. Most HR teams I know, love the idea of wellness but the actual execution is time-consuming, stressful and ultimately not rewarding for either employees, the company or HR.

On behalf of all HR, this is over, it’s not you, it’s us, we are just different now. And we have grown apart. 7f2c652740dc3783adec4aafa05aa2ce

How HR failed Wells Fargo


Last week, Wells Fargo announced it had terminated upwards of 5000 employees and agreed to pay $185 million in penalties in a widespread scam involving thousands of illegally opened accounts by employees. In articles published after the announcement Wells Fargo personal bankers, detailed the high-pressure sales tactics encouraged by an aggressive incentive-based compensation plan and unscrupulous management. Bonuses, merit increases and other perks were awarded to employees who opened multiple accounts or sold additional services to customers. Investigations completed both internally and by external regulators found illegal ghost accounts, unauthorized funds transfers and forged documents. In addition to actions already taken, Wells Fargo stated it will also change hiring and training practices, cancel their incentive-based pay program (next year), and conduct ethics training for all employees.

Where was HR in all of this? I am left to assume that HR at best, voiced  their complaints but  were then forced to gag themselves by leadership in the name of what was best for the shareholders, or, at worst, actively supported the pay scheme, the unrealistically attainable goals and thus the degrading employment culture of Wells Fargo, where employees had to choose a job or their integrity. In one fell swoop, Wells Fargo Human Resources failed its employees, the company and gave the HR profession a kick to the groin.

1. Where was HR when this incentive-plan was introduced, vetted, approved and rolled out? In a post-2008 financial crisis world, how was there not someone in HR warning Wells Fargo leadership of these inevitable negative and illegal consequences?

2. Does Wells Fargo have complaint procedures? I would assume so, especially for a company based out of California. I’m assuming that at least one employee had to have witnessed the behavior and reported it to the attention of his or her manager and HR. What did HR do with the employee complaints?

3. What about Whistleblower provisions? Publicly traded companies are REQUIRED to have whistleblower provisions and are REQUIRED to communicate these policies to employees, usually by way of a Handbook or Governance Manual that is acknowledged at time of hire. Did HR encourage or discourage protected whistleblower activity?

4. Did HR conduct an internal investigation at any point leading up to this ? If so, what actions were taken? If 5300 employees have since been terminated, the behavior was widespread, chronic and conspicuous. Even if an employee did not make a complaint, HR had to have known what was going on. The unethical and illegal practices actually had names, for example, “bundling” and “pinning”. If these practices were so blatant as to have been named, how did HR not know? Did they turn a blind eye? Or, were they oblivious? In this scenario Wells Fargo HR was either complicit or ignorant, and neither are a defense for illegal or unethical behavior.

5. How were employees promoted to management? Based on reaching sales goals? If promotions were based on performance and performance tied to meeting sales goals outlined in the incentive pay plan that is under fire, then Wells Fargo’s management was populated by unethical and unscrupulous individuals. No wonder they had an environment where employees were encouraged to do whatever was necessary to fulfill sales quotas. And, no wonder employees with questionable or flexible ethics were hired by said managers. Again, where was HR’s involvement in internal Wells Fargo hiring and promotion procedures? Did they have any oversight of hiring practices at all?

6. Right or wrong, HR is the cultivator of culture. HR with the partnership of leadership, intentionally brands company culture by designing missions, visions, company values and standards of conduct. HR is charged with measuring that engagement to culture and fixing it when it’s broken. How could Wells Fargo tout Company Values all the while knowing its employees were fraudulently opening accounts, and receiving monetary incentives for doing so?

7. In a more recent article, the CFO of Wells Fargo pointed the finger at underperforming employees. Not management and not HR. Who hired these under performers? Who was in charge of monitoring their performance? Did these employees get put on progressive discipline or PIP’s when their performance did not meet expectations? All of these things sound like stuff HR handles. Was Wells Fargo’s HR department on vacation during all of this or completely inept? In this case, they are not even worthy of a good
finger-pointing by their own CFO.

It is clear that there is plenty of blame to go around at Wells Fargo. As I continue to read all of the articles about the continued fall-out from Wells Fargo, the question I continue to ask myself is, Where was HR?





Straight Talk on Harassment Training

Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Prevention Training is the worst! How can training employees and managers to contribute to a corporate environment free from discriminatory and harassing behavior be bad or even the worst, you ask? Because harassment training is stale, it begets stupid commentary and it has to exist in the first place. 

First, the content is dry, it’s boring, it’s routine. There is no way to make this training fun. I can’t even sell it as another “tool in your toolbox.” I’ve developed training at two different companies,  created two different presentations and both were exactly 24 Powerpoint slides of the same content. Protected classes- check; history lesson of Federal law- you bet; examples of discrimination- oh yeah; sexual harassment- both hostile environment and quid pro quo- yup, got that. Retaliation, Code of Conduct, verbatim policies copied and pasted from the Employee Handbook- it’s all there. As much as I want to be an HR Extraordinaire, there is no way to brush the wand of innovation over this training. The only thing to hope for is new material. Despite the number of companies where training is mandatory and where hordes of employees have all been trained en masse, the corporate environment year over year miraculously keeps the pipeline of palm-to-forehand dumbshit-tery a-flowing.harassment

Second, the unending number of asinine comments. Not the straight-up ignorant comments that led to the training in the first place, but the inane comments that fly out of the employees’ mouths when the training is announced. You know who are the absolute worst, Managers! Yes, Managers somehow come down with a case of uncontrollable mouth diarrhea as soon as the training invite hits their inbox. “Now that I’m trained, I’m free to harass, right?” “Is this training going to teach me how to harass better?” and “Oooh, you can’t say that, that’s discrimination against (insert any characteristic that’s not actually a protected class)” Hardy-har-har, you witless buffoons.

Third and finally, Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Prevention Training is the worst because its even a thing.
Why can’t people just come to work, get the job done, have a friendly conversation with his or her colleagues and then go home? Somehow in that basic transaction, we find ways to bash other people for characteristics they can’t even control. Somehow we just have to be better than someone, even at work, to make ourselves feel better. On the other hand, if everyone minded their P’s and Q’s in the workplace, at worst, I probably wouldn’t have a job and at best, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

The Emperor’s New Clothes: Casual Attire in the Workplace

Casual attire is the worst! At many a companies I have worked for we have offered “Casual” dress as a benefit or perk of employment, whether that meant Casual Fridays, a relaxed dress code during the summer or a Jeans for Charity campaign. Inevitably, a casual dress code policy sets up the slippery slope of what or who (the employee or the employer) defines appropriate from inappropriate attire. In summer time, especially, what constitutes casual becomes a spectrum ranging from your basic jeans and sneakers ensemble to what one would wear rolling into the club. This leads to a mounting level of complaints  from “old fuddy-duddies” about too-tight dresses, too short-shorts, cleavage revealing tops and man sandals that then leads to the passive-aggressive “Dress Code Reminder” email from Human Resources.

As an HR professional extraordinaire, I hate casual dress as-a-perk. Not because I hate perks, not because I hate hearing complaints and not because I hate sending passive-aggressive emails, though those last two things are annoying. No, I hate casual dress code because personal appearance in a professional setting matters. Good, bad, right or wrong, a polished appearance changes the way you do what you do, it changes the way your colleagues and business partners approach you and it contributes to the opportunities you receive in your company. Much like making your bed in the morning signals a start to the day ahead, dressing the part mentally prepares one to bring it at work.

Picture, if you will,  a project meeting in which you have to delegate major aspects of a project. All things being equal, are you going to delegate that super important action item to Associate A dressed in a button-down collared shirt and slacks or Associate B dressed in cargo pants, a Def Leppard Concert T-Shirt and ratty sneakers? Associate A sends the message that they care about what they do, they care about the success of the company and they view their fellow colleagues as internal customers of the company. In short, Associate A gives a shit. Associate B does not.

Okay, okay, okay, I hear the arguments, I get it. Casual dress is a benefit, employees like it, employees can be themselves, employees feel more comfortable, etc… And perhaps, in a tech start-up, working 3rd shift  writing code, no one cares that you are working in your PJ’s. But, I bet you that same pajama-wearing IT geek still wore his spiffy suit that Mom picked out to the interview at the tech start-up for the 3rd shift programming job. And why? Because appearance matters, it gets you in the door, it sends the message that you care, it demonstrates that your the employee who is gonna kill it on that super important project. 191eubuj0iv26jpg