Tag: human resources

HRInsights’ Weekly Lightbulb 10/5


This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb”  – Brightening Your Workplace

The most under-rated and under-utilized management tool?  THE SMILE!  It shows your co-workers how you feel, how you feel about them, and it creates a positive atmosphere from the get-go.  You should even smile at your competitors!

Are Your HR Metrics Being Set Aside?

In explaining How to Get Executives to Pay Attention to Metrics, Dr. John Sullivan states: “For metrics to be effective in altering behavior, they need to be both visible and immediately relevant to the audience that needs influencing, not the party producing them.”  Specifically, HR metrics are often overlooked.


Is it because Human Resources is an overhead department that rarely has a strategic impact?  If that’s the case, why don’t finance or supply chain operations get overlooked?  Dr. Sullivan has many suggestions and clues as to why HR metrics may not be as important to top executives as we’d like them to be.  I think that to be effective, though, the presentation of your metrics has to show them as aligned with the goals of the executives (i.e. budget impact, benchmarks and comparisons to industry standards).

With executive officers, it’s important to put your metrics into words that they will not only hear, but also listen and pay attention to.  Include revenue impacts and ROI.  To do this, it may be helpful to work with the CFO’s office to help translate the metrics into information that is relevant to them.  Try presenting your metrics as a dashboard thats easy to read with a summary of action steps specific to each metric.

You want to create the notion that big issues to you are not just HR issues, they are the issues of your organization.  Create a change in thinking that HR is a silo and does not touch every part of your company.  To do this, it might be helpful to include summaries that detail trending problems; problems that might not change much from period to period, but when forecasted, can transform into massive organization problems if not taken care of now.  The key here is to alert managers to issues and performance trends that will impact business if not taken care of.


Are You Prepared for Sick Season?

Sneezing Man

It’s that time of year again…  It’s the time for sniffles, coughs, sore throats and headaches.  The cold and flu season is frustrating for employees and employers alike, but what happens in the event of a flu epidemic?  Are you prepared?

Here are some steps for creating a response plan:

  • Divide the company into divisions/departments
  • Have each department determine worst-case scenarios
  • Proceed with each department in establishing what is essential in keeping each department moving
    • Who is essential? Who does their work if they’re out sick? What needs to get done and what can slide?
  • Integrate each departments’ plan into one company-wide plan listing contact information for key members
  • Also, an appropriate activation/deactivation factor will need to be determined
  • This could range from public health officials administering an alert to employee absenteeism from flu exceeding a certain percentage
  • Develop materials signifying symptoms of the flu and be ready to distribute these materials when the response plan is activated
  • Develop an information platform (internet/hotline) for employees, customers, vendors, and suppliers to communicate the epidemic status in a timely fashion
  • Also, keep supplies in place to prevent or slow down an outbreak
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Workplace disinfectant wipes
    • Face Masks
    • Tissues
    • Receptacles for used supplies

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, if an employee who is covered and eligible under the FMLA is needed to care for a spouse, daughter, son, or parent who has a serious health condition, the employee is entitled up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave during any 12-month period.  Keep in mind, covered employers must comply with the federal or sate provision that provides the greater benefit to their employees.

So, as opposed to laying off employees in this situation, we would encourage you to consider other options, such as telecommuting, and to prepare a plan of action specific to your workplace.

Government Help? A Different Twist!

Occupational Safety & Health AdministrationLet’s face it, few small business owners rarely smile when confronted with the acronym OSHA.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration conjure up scary thoughts for owners thinking unnecessary regulations and oversight into our businesses.  Various state regulation agencies offer similar ill feelings.

But, any successful enterprise does want a safe and healthy work environment where employees flourish.  There is no debate that the merits of a hard working and dedicated staff outweigh the problems with an organization that is unhappy and working against your goals.

There are many free services and benefits that the government offers small business entrepreneurs to help with organizational effectiveness.

  • OSHA provides free on-site consultations to help small and medium sized businesses identify risks in their workplace and give advice on compliance to OSHA standards.  These consultations are not enforcement visits.  In fact, OSHA consultants will not issue citations or report potential violations to enforcement staff.  Learn more here.
  • If your organization operates within the health care or construction industries, OSHA has developed specific modules and guidance that apply to your workplace.  Visit the Compliance Assistance Quick Start for the construction industry and the health care industry.  OSHA also provides a general industry module, which can be found here.
  • OSHA also provides advice and guidelines for organizations working with Hispanic employees.  Here you can find dictionaries, training opportunities, key OSHA publications in Spanish, and Spanish speaking workplace-safety videos.

We just thought it might be a good idea for you to be aware of the potential valuable insights available to you from organizations such as OSHA.  Explore the OSHA small business page for more ideas that may be helpful to your organization.

There Is Only One REAL Customer

This past Thursday I had coffee with a longtime senior HR executive who has been working as an independent consultant for the last seven years. A former colleague who thought it would be valuable for us to meet introduced me to him. During our conversation, he was sharing a story about directing one of his teams and he was imploring them to be focused on serving the needs of their “internal clients” (the company’s employees).

This characterization of HR’s mission (and you hear it from IT people as well) always makes me cringe.

For any company there should be one client, one customer and those are the people and businesses that purchase and use your products and services.  To follow any mantra that is internally focused is taking your eye off the ball, which is ultimately serving the REAL customer or prospect.

Many HR folks will claim that they can’t impact the relationship with the real customer.  As an example, what do my compensation and benefit programs have to do with satisfying the person buying our products? Directly, there is likely to be little impact. But from a different perspective, the quality of these programs to attract top-notch talent, motivate them and reward them will have real consequences for a customer’s interaction with your company. A collective employee mindset that keeps the end user in focus no matter the distance from the direct engagement will undoubtedly benefit the business.

Many HR (and IT) groups will actually take it a step further and survey their “internal clients” to assess how they are serving them. Does it really matter if HR gets good grades from the other employees but the company’s sales are down and it’s losing market share? How about reconstructing the survey in a creative way to determine the effects of these functions for the real customer? If you are doing this, let me know. If you’re one who is working on behalf of internal customers and think I don’t get it, let me know that too.

It smells like…

The smell of fresh cut grass reminds me of football. Every time I smell it, I immediately have fond memories of my youth: running, sweating, hitting, and learning about hard work, discipline, and team play. You might know that there is a whole science that studies this tie between the sense of smell and memory and this type of memory is often referred to as a “Proustian Memory”. It’s named after Marcel Proust, the novelist. He describes this phenomenon, spurred by madeline cake and tea, in the opening chapter of Swan’s Way, the first novel in his work, Remembrance of Things Past.

So the other day, I was walking the neighborhood and due to the circumstances explained above had my recurring Proustian Memory.  And it got me thinking are there other smells that provoke clear memories for me? I realized that there are plenty of “smells” that have provoked certain memories throughout my business career.

  • The smell of a poorly performing employee and the memory that I thought they would get better
  • The smell of a difficult, slow paying customer and the memory that I thought we could work things out
  • The smell of a not quite perfect job candidate and the memory that we hired them because we needed to fill the seat.

There are plenty more of these Proustian-like Memories throughout my career both good and bad. Oh, by the way, the complete memory for each of these scenarios is that I was completely wrong. The poor performer didn’t get better. The difficult customer got worse. And you should never fill a job just to fill it.

Unlike my football memory, those cited above are not fond. Sniff through your business. The smells of today will bring back the memories of yesterday. While you can’t change the past, you can learn from it and change the future.  What Proustian Memories do you have?

What does HR mean to an outsider? A simple analogy.

HRInsights is fortunate to have two impressive interns working withe us this summer, Kyla Kelly and Lizzy Rewalt. In this post Lizzy, soon to be a junior at the University of Michigan, shares her impressions as a young person interviewing for the first time…Good perspective for business owners and HR…

As an undergrad, and newly immersed into the business dating world (or, as some would call it, ‘job searching’), I have quite a bit to say about HR practices across different companies.

The varying processes created by each company for hiring, and the standards associated with each directly impact my desire to work for them.  When a company fails to realize the importance of the candidates they are looking to hire, they are indirectly telling the candidate:

  1. “We, the HR department, will not be interested in developing a relationship with you, or helping you grow professionally”
  2. “Our lower standards for hiring directly correlate with the low quality of our current employees/your potential future co-workers”
  3. “The inefficient operation of our HR department is suggestive of inefficiencies elsewhere in the company”

On the contrary, a company that pays significant attention to the hiring process will attract conscientious candidates who are eager to demonstrate and deliver on their value.  A cycle of excellence and mutual respect will begin, leading to more positive growth for the company.

The best interviews I’ve had were the most engaging and challenging.  Interviewers who are prepared, (or just talented at impromptu BS-ing) will not only reap the most benefit from the interview to gauge if a candidate is a right fit, but they also set a high standard for future candidates that will flock to their company.

I’ve seen this theory congruently proven throughout my undergraduate experience.  My business fraternity’s (Alpha Kappa Psi, Phi Chapter at the University of Michigan) ‘hiring’ process is intricate.  Recruitment is the single-most important aspect of our organization because our people create our success, (a theory that should be similarly upheld in the business world).  The more we expect from our candidates, the more the fraternity grows.  Our members dedicate days of their time to recruiting: seeking out prospective candidates, preparing events, maintaining contact with candidates, interacting with them, reviewing their qualifications, and voting on the final selection.  In return for our dedication to this process, we have seen more involvement and loyalty from our selected recruits.  Recruitment periods that weren’t taken as seriously by the current membership resulted in a fade-away and disappearance of the selected candidates over time.

Whether you can measure it quantitatively or not, conducting your HR department properly and efficiently will only result in a greater ROI for your business.

Care about your business.  Care about your HR.

(Startupnation thinks so too: http://www.startupnation.com/articles/1399/1/human-resources-small-business.asp)


A few days ago, I met with a small marketing company to provide some feedback on an HR-related product. As part of our introduction to each other, one of the owners took me on a tour of their office space. Just to keep this in perspective this was a fairly small, leased office space.

I was absolutely impressed. But not by what you might think. Yes, the office space was warm, welcoming, beautiful and the furniture was clean, current and comfy; but it was what the owner chose to point out and what he was telling me that struck me the most.

I realized very quickly the owner was not showing off the space, but rather the culture of the company. Here are some of the items that were most impressionable during the tour.

• There was a display of their Core Values with recent (within the last week) postings by employees recognizing the work or actions of other employees as it relates to one or more of the core values.

• The owner described why they had the cubicle style they chose which were both economical and functional to promote interaction with each other.

• The artwork on the wall was actually some messaging that they had used on a “coaster gift set” that they had given to their clients. Their gift had cultural meaning not just a trinket.

• A bulletin board displayed current storyboards or other work so that all employees could see the work product and accomplishments.

• There is a traveling award that is passed on among employees to recognize those learning and/or teaching.

• The staff has a daily (brief) morning meeting to assure all team members understand what is going on and the work priorities.

To some of you these may seem trivial but I was completely impressed. This is an organization of 13 employees. I have been witness to several organizations that are much larger with not nearly the focus or commitment to Core Values, culture and employee engagement.

Don’t let your space define your company. Define your space, culture and engage your employees. Just a few simple things can make the difference. Leadership of the organization sets this example.

What does your space say about you?

The Latest Changes @ HRI

Last Wednesday, we pushed the latest changes to the always improving HRInsights. The driving force behind our work is to provide businesses with a simple, low cost but robust tool to get HR work done. Whether a business owner wants to be proactive in establishing a core HR infrastructure or deal with a problem, we provide multiple easy ways to get it done. So, as we make changes, we are particularly concerned that we remain uncluttered, simple yet impactful. The latest changes are focused on providing more transparency to the subjects and dialog that is going on throughout the site. There is a healthy discussion of not only Human Resource issues but business topics, as well, and these items can be very helpful to any business. Our Community, which is a free forum, is continuing to grow with both business people and HR folks sharing opinions, anecdotes, and breaking news items. We’d love for you to come in and share your experiences and expertise. Expect more improvements to come…You can check us out @ www.hrinsights.com.

Set Expectations On Day One

I had some time in between meetings the other day so I stopped by my local Panera Bread restaurant to pass the time. While I sat in the restaurant enjoying my soup and iced tea, I couldn’t help but overhear a store manager conducting a new hire orientation. This was my lucky day. I had picked the front row seat! There was the customary stack of papers that needed to be filled out, but what caught my attention was the communication between the manager and new employee regarding the company’s sexual harassment policy.

The manager told the new employee that she should just sign the policy and read it later. He said, “It is our sexual harassment policy that says that we don’t do that here.” I am pretty sure it said more than that. One thing is for sure, the manager should have said more to the employee about it. He brushed it off as if it was an unimportant formality and not a big deal.

This is one of the most important policies for any company. If only the manager would have spent just two more minutes on this topic, he would have set some key expectations for the employee and for the entire work environment.

Every company should have a basic sexual harassment policy which is reviewed in EVERY new hire orientation. Just spend a couple of extra minutes and it will be meaningful. If I had to make three quick summary statements, here is what I would say to new hires:

1. Our company doesn’t tolerate any harassment of any kind in our workplace. This includes harassment of a sexual nature.

2. If you experience or witness any harassment, please bring it to management or HR.

3. You will not experience any retaliation for bringing valid harassment issues to the attention of the appropriate members of management.

Watching and listening to this orientation made me realize that so many managers just go through the motions. They obviously don’t realize the impact they have in setting expectations for new employees and the entire workplace. Setting expectations begins on “day one” for new employees.