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?

 

 

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.

 

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

On behalf of all of us HR professionals that have been nice,  and not naughty this year, here are a few things, in no particular order, that we are wishing for:

  1. An HRIS system that actually does what it purports to do. Has a user-friendly interface. Doesn’t require a 45 minute hold to get a customer service rep on the line. And reps that are actually knowledgeable of both the platforms they represent and HR stuff.
  2. CEO’s and other company leadership that are less narcissistic, less bottom-line obsessed and actually DO value the contributions of his or her employees by showing them not just saying it.
  3. Fellow HR professionals who are less rule and policy oriented and more strategic and progressive thinking.
  4. Some clarity from the U.S. Federal Government on the ACA, and the FLSA, that balances both the best interests of the citizens and corporations.
  5. To stop giving companies the same rights and privileges as human beings. And if we can’t do that for some dumb reason than start holding companies accountable for their fraudulent and unethical actions, just as we would any individual person.
  6. Employees who require less hand-holding and are more self-sufficient.
  7. That HR stops being assigned non-HR things like coordinating company potlucks and buying office supplies.
  8. Some attention. A seat at the table. Some realization that if HR is done right, it can be a hell of a factor in the success of the business.
  9. For other non-HR professionals to stop thinking they know HR stuff. Cause you don’t.
  10. Our bosses to get the hell out of our way so we can actually lead some positive change within our organizations.
  11. More compensation, nice benefits and some recognition for our contributions to the company.
  12. A workforce free from toxic employees and dumb managers.

We are all very excited for your visit this holiday and will leave out some company branded pens and coffee mugs for you and your reindeer.

Love,

HR

The Pulse of Performance

If you’ve read my blog before, you might get the sense that I am ready to scrap the traditional performance review. Your sense is correct.

My problem is not the “annual” part, it’s the entire foundation of the performance review. The traditional performance review process simply doesn’t fit our current work world, which lives in days, weeks and months, not years and where the traditional management hierarchy doesn’t exist and where teams get a hell of lot more done that a department, where employees work flex schedules and don’t meet face-to-face sometimes ever, and where our companies span time zones, countries and cultures.

Also, why are we doing performance reviews? Are we doing them because that’s what we’ve always done? Are we doing them because we believe people want feedback on their performance? Are we doing them to reward high performers? Are we doing them to tie compensation with merit?

I would argue that companies should still have some mechanism to provide feedback to employees; however, the whole traditional review process should be thrown in the garbage and replaced with something that actually aligns to the work world of the 21st century.

If I worked with an unlimited HR budget and a leadership team willing to give it a try, I would initiate a performance pulse check. This pulse check would be much like the pop-up you get on a website after you make a purchase or engage in a customer service exchange that asks you to rate your experience with emoticons and asks for comments. Something like this:

customer-satisfaction-ratings-for-desk-email-replies

Both Employees and Managers would have the ability to request feedback by sending a quick pulse check. Employees could request feedback from anyone including their manager, project manager, team lead, peers or customers at any time and get on-demand feedback. Managers could schedule routine pulse checks, for example, monthly, quarterly or at the conclusion of a major project. Further, the manager could submit requests for feedback from anyone that interacts with his or her employee from peers, to other managers to external clients.

The application could include required or optional prompts to provide commentary and not just a rating if someone chose a poor or exceptional rating. Or, lay a roadmap to provide further ratings on other specific criteria or core competencies such as results deliverability, communication, negotiation skills, responsiveness, etc…

With the ability to give feedback in a wink of an eye, the assumption here is that more people would be willing to do so. The instantaneous feedback also provides more relevant data to the employee to act upon- the employee will know almost immediately whether a course correction is needed or to keep up the great work.

Over time, this data paints a picture of the employee’s performance trends which his or her manager can take specific action on. From the collection of feedback from multiple sources, the managers can determine key talent ripe for succession plans and also where training needs are essential for improved performance.

This should be the current and  the future of performance evaluations.

 

 

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 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.

 

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.