Thankful Client – Child Start

Golden State HR is your trusted small business partner.

“Child Start asked Cathy for some help around our pay structure and specifically we needed a current wage compensation survey.  She was a very quick study and quickly comprehended our  issues, our constraints and where we hoped to be over the next few years.  She worked almost autonomously as we were going through sequestration at the time, yet was able to provide us with short term concerns and solutions that needed to be addressed immediately and also a plan for the next few years that would get us to our goal.  Thanks Cathy!”

Debbie McGrath
Business Services Director
Child Start

Senior Professional in Human Resources

Contact Golden State HR today and work with a SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) professional. SPHR designates proven mastery of intricate HR laws and core practices that make organizations successful.

Finding Creative Ways to Foster Employee Development

How are you investing in your employees?  Most managers would reply that both time and money are lacking.  The “task” of employee development comes to mind at review time, when a deficiency becomes apparent or when an opportunity to delegate is missed due to the employee’s inability to handle the assignment.  Too often, development is relegated to a few half-day workshops, with no real follow up to ensure that the employee can assimilate the newly learned skills.

I’ve had to learn to be creative with employee development.  I had to train myself to recognize those perfect moments for feedback or suggestions; they can’t be scheduled, they just show up on their own.  Here are some of creative ways to contrive effective learning experiences:

  • When your employee comes to you with a problem, insist that they offer at least one solution.  It’s great that they recognize a challenge, but they can’t become dependent on someone else to solve it.  Recognizing a problem suggests that they are familiar with the situation and the probable causes – they are well equipped to devise a solution.  Presenting a problem is (tactical); solving a problem is value-add.  Asking an employee for the solution is an act of empowerment.

  • Train yourself to provide “on the spot” feedback.  When a problem is happening in real time, it’s the best time for a lesson.  Be respectful and constructive.  Offer a good business reason why the situation must change.  Ask what the goal is and analyze why their actions won’t achieve what they want; suggest alternatives or better yet, ask the employee to suggest alternatives.

  • Keep a diary.  Create a computer file to store your documentation, both positives and negatives.  Documentation is imperative should disciplinary action need to escalate.  When preparing and delivering a formal review, it’s effective to be able to offer these “real life” examples of what the employee is doing well and doing poorly.  Create reminders to follow up with the employee.

  • Assign projects in their entirety to the employee.  Let them own it. Provide guidance and support, but let them own it.  For example, I once had a situation where the entire employee file system was in need of revamping.  The employee who was assigned to the project was expected to educate herself on legal compliance and best practice, through research and workshops, design the new system, implement it and finally create and deliver a presentation to the executive team.  This gave her a sense of accomplishment and provided management visibility.

  • If appropriate, encourage employees to sit in on other departmental meetings.  This is an excellent way for them to understand the issues and challenges that they can possibly help to remediate.  It builds team spirit, positive relationships and visibility.

  • Encourage your employees to sit on committees.  It will result in the same results as above.  This is a great way for them to expand their responsibilities and broaden their perspectives of the entire organization.

  • Get the most out of a formal educational event.  If your employee is signed up for a training, have a discussion ahead of time to set the expectations of what they’ll learn.  Inform the instructor of these expectations as well.  When the class is completed, have a discussion with the employee as to how they will assimilate the new learning into their job, and be sure to follow up.

  • Advocate education.  If your budget can’t provide funds, encourage it anyway.  They are investing in their own careers.  Education can also be provided by books (ask for book reports to share with others or white papers for publishing), research, webcasts and podcasts.  Set goals for all of these.

  • Find a mentor.  This may be someone within or outside your organization who has the experience, knowledge and the right demeanor to act as an advisor to your employee.

  • Encourage employees to join professional organizations.  It’s an opportunity to expose and expand their career-related experiences beyond the walls of your workplace.

  • Practice good performance management.  Use a healthy and effective process to change behavior and improve skills.  Have the employee own their improvement. Make sure that expectations are understood. Set and enact consequences.  Recognize and reward improvements.

  • Put the time and effort into a high quality formal review.  Think of what you want for the employee and yourself and make sure the review delivers it.  Be open, listen well.  Revisit the goals set forth in the review regularly to keep them alive, head off any obstacles and inspire success.

A manager by definition, coaches and develops employees; it is an everyday, ongoing process.  Train your eye to recognize the learning opportunities.  Challenge yourself to find creative ways for employees to grow.  In the end, it pays off for everyone, for you, for the employee and for the organization.

Getting Recruitment Right

Whether you are replacing a departing employee or adding new staff, the prospect of recruiting can be daunting.  To find the right employee, a lot of time and effort needs to go into it.  Bad hires are costly, in time, training dollars, upheaval, morale poisoning, substandard work output and in some cases, complaints and lawsuits.  A robust recruitment process is your first best defense.

Yes, you must get it right procedurally.  An updated job description, a catching solicitation, extensive sourcing tools, prescribed interviewers, good questions, a background check and an offer are the essentials. Secondly, you must assure legal compliance throughout the process…discrimination avoidance, timing and handling of background checks and proper documentation are all governed by both state and federal law.  But today, the recruiting process is evolving quickly and you must evolve with it. More importantly, you must be strategic in your approach for each and every hire.

Recruiting has evolved technically. Not that long ago, employers simply put a print ad in a paper.  Over the last few decades, we have seen web postings, online recruiting sites, internal web-based applications and job boards, electronic candidate databases and social media.  Organizations can’t afford to lose pace with these developments.

The candidate pool is more diverse than ever.  With global reach and instant access, your candidate pool can be maximized.  However, employers must be culturally savvy and able to effectively interact with peoples of multiple generations, nationalities, physical capabilities, ages, genders and more.  The recruiting process must be able to handle thousands of responses quickly, as well as identify the best suited candidates.  The sourcing activity must be able to appeal to all age groups and technical abilities and be able to reach those passive candidates who are not actively searching.

Competition is fierce.  Even with the recession just behind us, competition for talent is real.  Job requirements are specific and ever evolving, so recruiting efforts must be carefully targeted and able to outdo others courting the same talent.  With baby boomers retiring, the predicted worker shortage is becoming a reality.  Also, since the labor market is global, competition extends worldwide.  The new generations keep attentive to opportunities and don’t’ exhibit the loyalty organization’s enjoyed in the past.

Your employer branding is vital.  Your recruiting process may be your future employees’ first experience with your organization.  Your branding as an employer is just as important as your product branding.  You are selling, so you need a marketing and sales strategy that has the right message and the right time to the right candidate.

Your recruitment needs a strategic approach.  Your process needs to reflect your organization’s vision and values.  It needs to be well planned and executed. Each hire needs its own well thought out approach – it’s not a one size fits all.  The ROI on talent procurements must be maximized to keep organization’s on target, competitive and profitable.

This is meant to provoke reflective and creative approaches to your recruiting efforts.  I invite all readers to share their best practice or creative approaches to recruiting by commenting on this blog.

For a more comprehensive overview of an effective recruiting process, see my white paper:  Getting Recruiting Right.

Tame Your Time!

Time is one of the universal things that most people don’t have enough of. yet we all have as much as there is.  When we look at the things that we have to do, want to do and should but don’t do, it is impossible for most of us to accomplish all of the “to-do’s”.  Some of us are so busy doing “things” that before we know it, so much time has past often leaving the important things still yet to be completed.  Many people agree that they need some skills training in the areas of time management and personal productivity.  Wouldn’t you love to achieve all of your goals, spend time enjoying things you love and still have al little time left over?  You can do it!  It will require a bit of “reprogramming” your time

The first thing to understand is that we have different styles of managing  time.  Some people like to  dive in and get things going, while others like to plan very methodically.  Some of us prefer to do the easy things first, while others want the big things off the plate ASAP.  There are those who procrastinate because they don’t like the task before them, while others, like myself, procrastinate because they want the task done perfectly, and that requires a block of focused time.  You may be one of those who love lists, and love to cross completed tasks off, while others prefer to be fluid, and assess tasks as they come.  The point is that it is important to understand your style and work with it, as well as understand the style of others in order to maximize team performance.

Remediating Employee Performance

Virtually everyone, when looking over their careers, has experienced some sort of performance remediation at some time.  If properly and effectively handled, the action was beneficial.  It’s really all about learning – one actively engages in an activity (or may not), someone notices that the performance could be better, gives feedback and perhaps instructions, and we change the way we perform in a better way.  It helps us grow professionally and personally.  So why is performance remediation so detested and subject to frequent procrastination?

Most managers view the process as a conflict, and most people avoid conflict or deal with it poorly.   The prospect of telling someone that they are not doing something in the best way or not meeting expectations can be unbearable.  Conflict is natural and the process of resolving conflict in a healthy manner helps us grow emotionally and professionally.

The most important aspect of engaging in a disciplinary action is to treat the recipient with respect at all times and to focus on the action as a learning experience that will help the employee’s performance become more valuable to the organization and to themselves personally.  In fact, the word discipline comes from the Latin disciplina, which means teaching and learning, and discipulus, which means student.  So, imagine your employee doing a task incorrectly.  Your first thought is “Wow, here’s an opportunity to help Joe grow professionally and become a better worker!”  You are starting on a positive and upbeat note…don’t lose this mental setting!  Half the challenge is keeping yourself on a positive platform.

My favored way of engaging in performance remediation is using a process coined by Dick Grote as “Discipline without Punishment”.   He differentiates “discipline” into three categories:  building superior performance, coaching and formal disciplinary action.

In the building superior performance stage, concentration is given to getting the employee on track and keeping them on track.  Rule #1, the platinum rule, is to acknowledge good performance.   Since we expect good performance, it often goes without mention, but surveys show that praise is the number one motivator, much more than money.  The flip side is to confront poor performance, or to put it more positively, engage in improvement.  First, consider the expected performance.  Then, verbalize the actual performance, being mindful of an objective presentation.  For example, “You always show up late” is an arguable statement.  “I noticed that you came in fifteen minutes late last Wednesday and Friday” is factual.   The next step is to determine the cause:  is it a deficiency in knowledge or a deficiency in execution?  For a deficiency in knowledge, the action may be formal training, on the job training or job aids, such as process flow charts.  For a deficiency in execution, the action may be removing obstacles, providing feedback or assessing what performance you’re actually incentivizing.  For example, if you’re pushing the number of calls answered in a call center and what you really want is great customer service, you may have to reconsider what the employees’ goals really are.  After an appropriate timeframe, reassess the employee’s improvement.  If there is a positive change, practice the platinum rule:  acknowledge good performance.  If not, move to the second phase:  coaching.

The coaching session requires some preparation.  The desired and actual performance must be defined, the good business reason for the change must be verbalized, the logical consequences must be determined and the subsequent action steps must be formulated. The meeting should be planned with care:  a private setting and a reasonable time.  During the coaching session, get right to the point, but allow time for the employee to be heard; by listening to their side, you will be able to ascertain that your planned action is appropriate.  Next, discuss why the employee must change and get the employee’s agreement to change.  This is important because not many people will default on a commitment.  It’s not only the behavior/performance that is at stake, but also the employee’s word.  The action steps for improvement should be determined and confirmed; it is advisable to have the employee suggest the changes that need to happen – they will have more of a stake in the improvement.  Lastly, agree on the consequences for failure to improve and be committed to enacting them.  After the coaching meeting, be sure to document the discussion and to follow up in a reasonable timeframe.  If the employee improves satisfactorily, apply the platinum rule; otherwise you will need to engage in the formal disciplinary process.

Your organization may have a progressive disciplinary process; be sure to follow it and/or consult with the appropriate official when engaging in formal disciplinary action.  This has become an area for litigation risk.  The Discipline without Punishment model suggests the following steps:

    1.  Oral reminder:  after an oral reminder, check in to see if the situation has improved satisfactorily.  If yes, commend the employee; if no, move on to a written reminder.

    2.  Written reminder:  it is advised that a preprinted memo is not appropriate – it’s intimidating and there’s no room for documenting the discussion at hand.  Instead, have the discussion with the employee and tell him/her that you will document the conversation.  Stress that it’s the employee’s responsibility to remediate the situation, and that they had agreed to do just that.  Probe deeper into the issues.  Gain the employee’s agreement to change.  Let him/her know that this meeting constitutes a written reminder and that you’ll follow up with a memo documenting the discussion, agreement and consequences for failing to remediate.  Here’s what should be included in the memo TO the employee, not ABOUT the employee:

  • Names of all present
  • Date and location
  • The specific problem
  • A record of all previous conversations
  • A detailed statement of the continuing problem
  • A statement that the situation must be corrected (not improved)
  • A statement of the specific change that must be made
  • A statement that failure to correct will lead to further action
  • A statement that in addition to solving the immediate problem, the organization expects the employee to maintain an acceptable level of performance in every area of the job.
  • A record of the agreement made with the employee to correct the problem
  • A record of any action the employee agreed to take to correct the situation
  • A closing statement that expresses the belief that the situation will in fact be corrected.

Meet with the employee later – a tight, focused meeting.  Review the memo.

Should the employee sign?  Legal advice would say “yes”.  Dick Grote feels that you’re telling the employee that they’re a liar and that in fact, most employees will not deny the meeting took place.  Again, follow up:  commend an improvement, move on if there is none.

Step 3:  Decision Making Leave:  when deciding to enact the decision making leave, give some notice and make arrangements for the employee’s absence.  It is advised to pay the employee for the leave.  Why?  Although unpleasant, on an unpaid leave the employee simply “does the time”.  A paid leave sends the message that it is the employee’s duty to really think about a serious change or choose to leave.  Have a preplanned meeting for the employee’s return and ask for their decision.  Document the actions.   As always, follow up.  Commend improvement.  If the situation remains unchanged, move to the final step:  termination.

Step 4:  Termination:  at this point the employee has been given every chance to change.  It is their decision that the termination is enacted.  Dick Grote says “termination is not the final step in a disciplinary process, it is the failed result of a disciplinary process”.  It is wise to consult your organization’s HR representative before moving to a discharge.  Prepare yourself; ask yourself the questions you may face should you face a jury, such as “Did you do everything possible?”, “Was the employee given reasonable time to improve?”, etc.  Have all the necessary paperwork complete (in California, have the final check including unpaid vacation and unemployment information).  Be prepared for anger or tears.  When you meet with the employee, get to the point and hold to your decision.  Afterwards, document the action.  Remember, be respectful no matter what the employee’s response is.

Hopefully, “nipping issues in the bud”, or dealing with performance issues as they come up, will lead to a successful resolution and the employee will be better for it.  A manager’s job is to develop, teach; therefore remediation is a manager’s duty.  Helping your employees develop brings great satisfaction and success to your management career.

Much of the information presented is included in Dick Grote’s “Discipline without Punishment”.  It is a “must have” for anyone managing employees – and “oldie but goodie”.