Friday, April 28, 2017

HR Basics v. Frills

Build a strong foundation before adding the juice bar


For 26 years, we’ve been chasing an elusive goal – employee engagement. In 1990, Boston University professor William Kahn published a research paper that sought to explain why some employees connected with their work more personally than other employees. He discovered something he called "engagement". We’ve been after it ever since. At that time, the research showed that only about 30% of employees were "engaged". Today, that number hasn’t really changed. Obviously, we’re doing something wrong, and keep on doing it. Sound familiar?

While I’m not sure what the answer (or, more likely, answers) is, I believe I know one huge obstacle. We simply fail to build a strong foundation. Without that, there is nothing to support all those nice-to-have perks that we think we must have in order to get "engaged" employees. Of course, it seems clear that all those desirable perks don’t really add much to the engagement formula, either. If you don’t have a proper foundation, you’ll miss other, equally important concepts as well. Do you want a culture of respect and civility? Do you want professional and business growth? Start with your foundation.

Many big companies and even start-ups have focused on adding perks to their workplaces in some pretty impressive ways. In-office yoga and massages, X-box, PlayStation, and yes the ubiquitous Foosball tables. Google with its bocce-ball courts or spa services is another good example. While I’m sure that some of these things make some of the employees happy, some of the time, happiness does not promote engagement or productivity.

A solid HR foundation should encompass at least the following:

  • Improve performance management processes and accountability
  • Provide employee training and development
  • Enhance effectiveness of the senior management team
  • Improve leadership development programs
  • Maintain appropriate compliance standards

No combination of spa services, game rooms or juice bars will fix a broken culture and bad management. If you don’t think this is important take a current look at Fox News, Uber, our military academies, Sterling Jewelers, and many more. These are just the cases that have hit the national news. Ask these companies if the PlayStation prevented the situations they’re now facing.

Gallup’s surveys consistently show that the most powerful driver of engagement is high-quality leadership and coaching. At least 70% of the variance in engagement scores across business units comes from employees’ feelings about the managers to whom they report. 

Satisfied or happy employees are not necessarily engaged. And engaged employees are the ones who work hardest, stay longest, and perform best.

"If you're engaged, you know what's expected of you at work, you feel connected to people you work with, and you want to be there," says Jim Harter, Ph.D., Gallup's chief scientist of workplace management and wellbeing. "You feel a part of something significant, so you're more likely to want to be part of a solution, to be part of a bigger tribe. All that has positive performance consequences for teams and organizations."

Developing your leaders and their leadership skills is imperative. Many of the qualities that drive effective management are learned behaviors: good communication, project management, conflict resolution, ethical behavior and more. HR can foster this development if given the opportunity and appropriate resources.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace is a comprehensive report, but worth the read.  For easier reading and finding your interest, the subsections are broken out. Take a look.

For a great summary of the report, head on over to China Gorman at TLNT.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Final Update – Maryland General Assembly 2017

And the votes are in………

Wow. Kind of a surprising session this year. It started off quite active in terms of employment law/workplace regulation, seeing returns of many bills presented repeatedly over the last several years, but ending with only one significant bill being passed – almost. More on that below.

We saw returns of so-called "predictive scheduling" laws, minimum wage increases, attempts to bring the failed federal overtime minimum salary increase to Maryland. All of those efforts failed to make it out of committee.

Just like the old saying that we don’t really want to know how sausage is made, many of us probably don’t know, or want to know, the whys and wherefores of how and what laws gets passed. I find it fascinating, however. This session left me with more questions than usual.

The first (and probably most obvious) question is why so many bills were proposed but failed to get much attention at all in committee? The easy answer would be that the legislature was focusing all its attention on getting the paid sick leave bill passed – even at the expense of one of the two minimum wage bills. Neither minimum wage bill received much discussion and didn’t progress through committee to the degrees of the past, despite all the marches, protests and "fight for fifteen" events around the state and around the country. Did they lose their appetite for this movement? Hard to know. 

Events in Baltimore City surrounding raising the minimum wage there to $15.00/hour by 2022 highlighted an interesting situation. While the Baltimore City Council did indeed pass that law for the city, Mayor Pugh vetoed it, saying she felt putting Baltimore City in a "donut hole" relative to surrounding jurisdictions would be detrimental and she would rather see such a change coming at a state level. But…………..when an effort was made by some council members to call for a special meeting to override her veto – they couldn’t get enough council members to sign on, therefore killing the law at least for this year. Given the hue and cry from the council for quite some time over this issue, I have to wonder why they couldn’t pull it together enough to force the meeting and override the veto. When push came to shove, they …..dodged. Might there be a hint in this concerning actions at the state level?

Both minimum wage bills in General Assembly failed. One – raising the minimum to $12.50/hour, received an unfavorable report in committee and was withdrawn. The other, raising the minimum to $15.00/hour and eliminating the tip credit for tipped employees, died in the Senate Finance Committee – no action. Hmmmmmm.

Passing laws to prohibit employers from seeking salary history information from applicants has increased this year (Philadelphia, New York City, and Massachusetts among them). A bill presented here in Maryland this year was expected to get at least a fair amount of discussion, if not actually passed. Instead, it fell pretty flat.

Two "predictive scheduling" bills were presented too late in the session and were referred to the respective Rules committees as is procedure when a bill is presented after the normal deadline. This step is often a formality and the bills are passed through. Not the case with these bills. They languished in the Rules committees. Both of these bills were amended from prior years and now specifically targeted the retail establishment rather than all employers. 

Now we get to the paid sick leave bill. You’ve heard all the speeches, all the politicians, celebrities and others (most of whom have no idea of what it’s like to run a business, by the way)? You’d have to be pretty oblivious to have missed all of this by now. So, two bills were presented this year (two seems to be the preferred number of options here in Maryland). The Governor’s submission – calling for 5 paid leave days (not just sick leave), applying to businesses with 50 or more employees – didn’t get any discussion whatsoever. They simply ignored it. The state Democrats fought over their own bill – see the summary here

So, this bill sat around in both the Senate and the House committees for at least a couple of weeks. Presumably, they were talking back and forth about how to reconcile the two versions (and they were different). But, you would think that based on how important they felt it was to get people covered with paid sick leave, they would have acted a bit quickly. Instead, they didn’t (it appears) make the final decision to put the Senate version to a full vote until it was too late to override the expected veto – during the current session. Assuming the Governor vetoes this bill – and he has promised to do so – they will have to wait until January to vote to override. What kept them from getting it out in time for the Governor to register his veto, and for them to vote to override?

Interesting question. In order to override a veto in Maryland, our state constitution calls for 3/5 of both houses to vote for the override. The House passed the bill with a small cushion of 2-3 votes. However, the Senate passed the bill with the exact number it needed – 29. In other words, if there is even one defection, they will not be able to override the Governor’s veto. A lot can happen between now and the third week of January 2018. Does the loss of appetite in the Baltimore City council for the minimum wage bill hint at what may happen? When push comes to shove in January, will the votes be there for paid sick leave?