Archive for the ‘Everything Else’ Category

Where to Draw the Line When Sharing Your Opinion at Work

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016
Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer column, The View from HR.

Any topic that preys on emotions, faith or morality is a fire-starter around the water cooler. “The Patriots are cheaters!” “The Tar Heels finally got caught.” “What is up with that Supreme Court decision?” “Trump is right!”

Polarization from our politics or religions is one thing. Workplace conflict caused by hardheaded emotional opinions is quite another.

There is nothing wrong with an opinion shared among respectful co-workers. Opinions are part of life and work. Progress and clarity come from opinions shared openly and appropriately. Problems are solved when opinions are aired in the right way.

No workplace can or should be free of opinions. That includes properly expressed political, religious and sports team views. Policies or handbooks prohibiting such are largely futile or counter-productive.

Unproductive opinions

Most unproductive opinions are the “my way or the highway” kind. Conflict flows from the dogmatic or preachy style of the speaker. Well beyond a normal opinion is the overly confident pronouncement. It shuts off debate and sends opposition underground. Business issues that could be solved and opinions that could be harmonized have no chance.

Worse yet, when the pronouncement involves an emotional, faith-based or moral topic, the seeds of workplace conflict are sowed. Unfortunately, the seeds may take a long time to germinate, showing up only after several more conflicts, a termination or a perceived mistreatment.

The aggressively outspoken evangelist who promotes an employee from her church but rejects an employee of another faith creates Exhibit A for the disappointed employee’s lawsuit. The decision may be unrelated to faith, but these suits are about the intent of the actor. Intent is usually proven through statements and behaviors. Emotional declarations make good evidence.

Offensive opinions

The other significant source of opinion conflict is an off-base or offensive statement. Sometimes, it is so offensive it requires an employer response. Maybe it was an honestly held belief. Maybe the speaker was never coercive or directive. Maybe the comment or action can be read two ways. The confederate flag stuck on workbenches in the shop might be an example.

Out-of-bounds opinions that offend reasonable people can become the employer’s problem. Even if no one in management made or endorsed the opinion, the failure to take action or clearly reject the opinion can become an issue. Situations vary, but it would be a bad idea to ignore truly offensive and repeated statements by employees just because they were not made by management.

Employers may not like the role of hall monitor, but when the hallway banter shoves people into unwanted emotional lockers, it is time for the principal to come out of her office. Failure to act can be raised in a future claim to show tolerance and acceptance of similar behavior.

We are rounding the corner on another long season of politics, pomposity and pronouncements by candidates and their supporters. Opinions that allow for respectful disagreement should be expected in any workplace. Opinions that carry a verbal stick or seriously offend reasonable people are harmful and may require action.

Using Effective Recruiting Sources

Thursday, January 28th, 2016

sources

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares the findings of a CareerBuilder survey that reveals where employers should be wisely spending their resources on recruiting sources.

According to a CareerBuilder survey of over 1,600 of their clients, job candidates, on average, use eighteen (18) sources when looking for a new job.  Understanding which of these sources are used most often will give employers insight as to where to invest their recruiting time on job posting sources.

Most companies typically do the same things when it comes to getting the word out regarding job openings.  There are employee referrals, internal databases, job boards, etc.  No secrets or surprises here.  So, which sources are having the most success?

Forty-three percent (43%) of those surveyed find the most success posting on Job Boards.  Thirty-two percent (32%) find the most success by posting on Career Sites. Seven percent (7%) have more successful hires coming from Employee Referrals and two percent (2%) are more successful recruiting candidates through an Agency.  Other sources combined to make up the remaining 16%.

However, according to Leadership IQ’s latest research, the most successful companies are finding their best people in what they call “The Underground Job Market” through employee referrals and networking.

As an employer, now that you have this information, what can you learn from it?  In order to ensure the best possible formula for recruiting success, an organization must have a multi-faceted strategy for sourcing candidates.  An internal database, or pool, of qualified candidates you have already spoken with and vetted is one of your best sources.

However, you should also make sure you post openings on targeted job boards and career sites.  This will attract candidates for your current opening. Establish an employee referral program which rewards employees for finding and recruiting qualified candidates for an opening.  This will encourage participation and engagement from your existing employees, as well as serve to preserve your corporate culture.  People are prone to associate with and recruit people who they are most compatible with.

A single approach to recruiting is not enough to make you successful.  There will be specialty jobs which require very targeted approaches, including perhaps the support of an agency.   There will also be jobs requiring a certain level of soft skills in addition to education and experience.  For these, you may find yourself “smiling-and-dialing” to locate the right candidate.

Lastly, there are two important considerations to remember when putting these strategies to use.  The first is, a recruiting technology is only as good as the people who use them.  Make sure your team is well-trained on getting the most use out of career sites and job boards.  As with any technology, if you do not use it correctly, it will not work for you.  The second thing to remember is to accurately measure your source for each hire.  These statistics will tell you and your management, which strategies are working well and help to drive budgets for investing deeper in certain strategies.

Should you need assistance developing a new approach or validating your existing one, please contact Tom Sheehan on our Advice & Resolution team at (919) 878-9222 or tom.sheehan@capital.org.

 

The Truth About Affirmative Action…

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

In today’s post, CAI’s Manager for Affirmative Action Services, Kaleigh Ferraro, sheds lights on what exactly affirmative action is and what it means for your business.

I get asked all the time “What is affirmative action?”.  You’d think since I am the manager of affirmative action services at CAI that I wouldn’t have difficulty in answering that question.  You’d think that, right?

The truth is I do struggle to answer this question.  Not because I don’t know what it is but more because I’m not sure what answer the person asking really wants. Are they interested in a quick summary just highlighting a few main points?  Or do they want more detailed information including all requirements and analysis.  I can provide both.  I tend to provide more detail.  For those of you who have spoken to me – you’re welcome….or I’m sorry.   What I’d like to address here is high-level information.

What Affirmative Action IS:

Affirmative action is based and builds on the principles of equal opportunity laws.  It is intended to provide opportunities for defined protected groups and give them equal access as others in the population. Groups covered by affirmative action are: race, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, disability and veteran status.  Affirmation action laws are intended to:

  • Help eliminate discriminated members of groups who have been historically disadvantaged
  • Provide proactive action-oriented programs to include members of protected groups in employment
  • Assist in removing barriers for employment and level the playing field in the workplace

What Affirmative Action is NOT:

To me almost equally important as identifying what affirmative action is, is to educate people on what it is not. There is often a misunderstanding of what companies must do as affirmative action employers. Affirmative action is not:

  • Quotas/ Set aside programs
  • Preferential treatment and selection
  • Different standards
  • Selection of unqualified individuals

Affirmative Action Programs (AAPs)

If certain headcount/contract amounts are met, federal contractors and subcontractors are required to develop written affirmative action programs.  These programs are intended to be a management tool to ensure that equal employment opportunity is occurring in the workforce.  These programs should identify the extra steps contractors are implementing to include covered, protected groups. Written programs must be developed on an annual basis and include:

  • AAPs include analysis of the contractor’s workforce. Analysis includes comparing the demographics of the company in relation to the demographics of qualified individuals in the labor pool.  Where the company is underrepresented, placement goals are established (women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, protected veterans).
  • AAPs include a narrative which is a communication tool for what the contractor/subcontract has done or intends to do for the AAP year. This includes the company’s good faith efforts to address under-representation or impediments in employment practices.
  • Contractors must also annually review employment transactions (hires, promotions, terminations) that occurred in the prior twelve months,   often referred to as adverse impact analysis.  The analysis is used to determine if there are significant differences in selection rates between groups (females vs. males, minorities vs. non-minorities).
  • Contractors are also required to annually review compensation practices/systems to evaluate if there are gender, race or ethnicity based disparities.

While the AAPs could be viewed as a paperwork exercise, they really can be much more.  Use them as the tools they are intended to be to identify and address areas in which there are opportunities for good faith improvement.  Improvements to processes are definitely recommended where adverse impact exists in employment transactions or where unexplained disparities exist in compensation as monetary liability exists for companies in those areas in the event of a government audit.  Develop realistic and attainable goals for your organization by using your developed AAP as your guide.

If you need help understanding the requirements or how to implement your company’s program, please contact Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager of Affirmative Action Services, at kaleigh.ferraro@captial.org or 919.713.5241.  We also invite you to sign up for our free one hour webinar AAP: Preparing Data for Analysis on Feb. 9th.

Here’s How to Master Doing Less Better…

Thursday, January 21st, 2016
Tom Sheehan, HR Business Partner

Tom Sheehan, HR Business Partner

In today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares the importance of HR professionals staying focused on one or two projects at a time rather than spreading themselves too thin.

Because of its inherent support role, the HR function and its leaders typically have a strong service orientation. That means that as ‘opportunities’ to support and serve the business are brought forward, there is a certain eagerness to please the customer. HR professionals frequently struggle to identify and prioritize which HR projects to push forward to the organization.

Because of the desire to please, HR teams typically conduct too many initiatives, often with mediocre results. Conducting too many projects dilutes the effectiveness of each initiative, and wastes valuable resources.

When deciding which HR initiatives are top priorities, answer these three questions:

  1. To what extent does this HR initiative further the key business objectives that have been laid out for the organization?
  2. If we decide to move forward with this project, what project or initiative must be bumped or moved down the priorities list?
  3. Can we articulate a true return on investment on this project?

Here are the most typical projects that the HR team may undertake:

  1. Improving leadership development
  2. Implementing new technology
  3. Restructuring the organization
  4. Delivering on recruiting initiatives
  5. Measuring and improving workforce performance
  6. Enhancing employee engagement

At the end of the day, HR professionals and their teams would benefit greatly by ‘doing less better.’  That may mean selecting one or two projects to focus on and delivering outstanding results on each of them. Do not move on to the next project until the current project is fully executed and has had a chance to take hold. Being able to stand your ground and appropriately push back when being pressured to take on a new initiative is often a key success factor.

Nothing will ‘short-circuit’ your credibility more quickly than a series of half-delivered projects with mediocre results. The ‘customer-requested’ projects should of course be added to the master list of projects and prioritized appropriately. The master list should include dates and timelines as well, and undergo periodic review with the leadership team.

Frequently, HR leaders are challenged by the business with a ‘critical’ training opportunity for the problem du jour. The expectation by the customer is that HR drop everything and hastily complete the training project. This ‘drop everything’ approach to training is frequently misguided and should also be weighed against existing priorities and projects. It is critical to remember that there is an opportunity cost associated with every project. Never allow a new ‘discretionary’ project to come at the expense of delivering on the strategic promise.

If you think you may need help rethinking your department’s priorities, please give our Advice & Resolution team a ring at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Practicing Mindfulness In The New Year

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

mindfulnesshcwThe post below is a guest blog from Meaghan Roach who serves as Health Management Advisor for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

As 2015 has come to a close and we begin to embark on the adventure of another year, many of us will be making resolutions, promises to ourselves and our loved ones for a happier, healthier, better 2016.

But the reality for most adults is that we are too busy, too stressed, and have a to-do list a mile long. Frankly, when are we ever going to catch up on our daily activities, let alone find the time to better ourselves?

The answer may be found in mindfulness. UC Berkeley defines mindfulness as the practice of “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” Mindfulness can be cultivated through quiet periods of meditation, focused breathing techniques, and intentionally noticing your surroundings through each of your senses.

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article chronicling the success of a mindfulness and meditation program at Aetna. While most business leaders are spewing the standard “do more with less” and “increase productivity by working harder, faster, longer” jargon, Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini is taking a different route. Aetna began a mindfulness training program back in 2010 to teach employees how to better manage stress and center themselves throughout the day through yoga and meditation.

Aetna isn’t the only company instituting mindfulness practice into employee lives. Other major companies, like Intel, General Mills and Google, have created their own mindfulness programs. Google offers over a dozen courses on mindfulness to their employees, and the most popular of these courses – “Search Inside Yourself” – is now offered to other companies as a way to train leadership teams on bringing the practice into their own organizations. The list of participants in the SIY Leadership Institute yields more high-profile companies and institutions, including Ford, Comcast, American Express, and several universities.

Clearly, mindfulness is taking the corporate world by storm, and for good reason. Aetna’s program resulted in a 36 percent reduction in perceived stress by participants, and has increased participant productivity by an average of 62 minutes per week, which computes to $3,000 in increased productivity per participant each year. In addition to reducing stress, mindfulness has also been shown to improve your ability to focus, boost productivity and creativity, and increase your Emotional Intelligence, a key indicator of job success.

The New Year is the perfect time to interject mindfulness practice into your life and the lives of your employees. The holidays are often synonymous with stress and over-indulging, but the New Year brings the promise of a fresh start, in which we can shape our present lives to better fit our ideals for the future.

So, how do you begin? The idea of jumping headfirst into meditation may seem daunting, but that is not the only way to cultivate mindfulness in your daily life. Try creating a small habit at the beginning of each day: when you arrive at work, sit quietly for two to three minutes, doing nothing but feeling your breath and taking note of your surroundings.

For a beginner’s course in attentively using your senses, consider the raisin. This popular practice in mindfulness, especially mindful eating, has the participant experience a single raisin through sight, smell, feel, and taste.

For more information on starting a mindfulness program, and promoting employee well-being in a broader sense,  please reach out to HCW’s Health Management Department.

Create Core Values That Will Strengthen Your Business

Thursday, January 14th, 2016
Rick Washburn

Rick Washburn, A&R Manager

In today’s post, Advice & Resolution Manager Rick Washburn shares helpful tips for businesses looking to create core values that will put them on the track to creating a better and more intentional workplace.

A company’s personality is comprised of core values that guide the way employees’ think, feel, act, and perform. A company’s core values also directly impact the decisions and actions of the organization.  This can be an extremely powerful enabler or derailer of a company’s business  results.

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Volkswagen blamed their damaging emissions crisis on a chain of mistakes and a “culture of tolerance for rule-breaking” that allowed deception to continue within the organization for many years.  Engineers deceitfully added software to their cars that would lower nitrogen oxide emissions in its diesel engines after realizing that there was no legal way that engines would pass U.S. exhaust standards.  Volkswagen’s internal investigation revealed that parts of their organization had a “mindset that tolerated breaches of the rules.”   The consequences have been devastating:

  • Over a 4% decline in global sales within 30 days of the disclosure
  • A $3.85B loss in the 3rd quarter
  • Significant loss of customer loyalty and trust
  • The enormous cost of recalling and repairing 11 million cars world-wide

Does your organization have core values that define your culture?  Do they reflect the current desired state and the fabric of the organization?  What does the organization do to reinforce, “walk the talk,” and keep the core values alive and relevant?  What could be worse than when a company says it values one thing and does another.

Here are a few tips that HR leaders can use to formalize or revise their company’s values:

  1. Involve others in the establishment of company values. Gather input from employees, customers, and other key organizational stakeholders.
  2. Management must commit to the values. Commitment to values starts at the top. Leaders must take the company values into consideration when they make important decisions and refer to them when they explain why these decisions were made. Values should not be abandoned even in the face of economic crisis.
  3. Set realistic expectations. Management should communicate to employees that everyone should strive to act consistently with the values but that it may not always be possible. For example, there may be times when holding a meeting on a weekend is unavoidable and an exception must be made.
  4. Continuously monitor how well the organization lives up to its values. Management should consciously make time to regularly reassess the authenticity of its actions vs. its values. They should also survey employees to find out if they feel the organization is living up to its values.

For more information on core values, culture, and creating a better workplace, please call our our Advice & Resolution team at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. If you have any further tips for formalizing company values, we’d love to hear them – so let us hear your suggestions in the comments!

How to Lose Your Best Employees in 10 Easy Steps

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

Michelle Smith, VP of Marketing at O.C. Tanner

In anticipation of CAI’s upcoming HR Management Conference, one of this year’s speakers, Michelle Smith, shares the 10 toxic practices that will cause your business to lose its top talent.

Named one of the most influential women in the incentive industry, Michelle M. Smith, CPIM, CRP, is an accomplished international author and speaker, Past-President of the FORUM at Northwestern University, President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association, Vice-President of Research for the Business Marketing Association, and Vice-President of Marketing for O.C. Tanner.

What could be more essential to both organizational success and the corporate bottom line than talent?

Most of us would agree that having the right talent is crucial for success and sustainability, yet many of the people in our employ continue to be marginalized and neglected, often taking a backseat to the various other matters that occupy our workdays as leaders.

And the problem seems to be pervasive.

While writing The Talent Mandate: Why Smart Companies Put People First, author Andrew Bennett spoke with a prominent business school professor who noted improvements and innovations in every area of business – except in talent management. In fact, the professor said no corporate function today lags behind as dramatically as how we manage the employees for which we are responsible.

That’s astonishing, and it’s also lunacy when the ‘War for Talent’ continues to rage and employee costs represent a majority of corporate expenses.

These things will cause your best people to leave

The author suggests we keep doing the following if we want to free ourselves from our brightest, most dynamic, and highest-potential employees:

1. Hire for the past, not the future. Choose talent based on what worked before, not on where the company is heading now. Emphasize candidates’ narrow former experience over a more generalized, nimble agility to adapt in a fast-changing world.

2. Downplay values and mission. Send the signal that anything goes in pursuit of profit, making employees guess about what choices are truly acceptable. Fail to spend time articulating to your workers why they come to work every day and how the greater community benefits from their efforts.

3. Bungle the teams. Avoid mixing generations and skill sets, instead grouping like with like and producing stale and predictable solutions that are safe and excite no one.

4. Put jerks into management.Reward the old-fashioned, autocratic style that stifles unorthodox, creative thinking and feels threatened by fresh ideas, energy and dynamism.

5. Measure hours, not results. Keep an expensive cadre of stern enforcers busy with policing everybody. Don’t trust your talent to use their time wisely. Crack down on social media. Forbid personal activities during the workday, even as you continue to expect work to be conducted long into the night and over the weekend.

6. Promote people straight up the ladder. Fail to give employees exposure to different parts of the business through lateral moves or cross-training, giving them the sensation of being narrowed over time, rather than being broadened and improved.

7. Leave talent management exclusively to HR. Expect the professionals who must deal with an increasingly complicated variety of personnel issues to also be exceptional visionaries in hiring. Detach the C-Suite and other leaders from talent recruitment and development since it’s not their department.

8. Hoard information. Keep decision-making securely ensconced in the executive wing. Avoid empowering mid-tier managers or employees lest they suddenly become entrepreneurial and unpredictable.

9. Don’t bother with training. It’s costly, and employees will probably jump ship with their new skills. Instead, have your workers do the same tasks over and over in the very same way.

10. Hire outsiders. After you’ve failed to train and develop your best people, follow it up by stifling their ambitions for increased responsibility. When they come to you and say, “I’m leaving,” express astonishment and outrage.

If these sound at all familiar, you’d better hope your competitors are following the same game plan or your organization could be in big trouble.

Either way, all is not lost. Please join me on March 10th at the HR Management Conference for “Winning the War for Talent in a People-Led Economy” to learn more about how to attract, develop and retain the best talent.

The presentation is full of tested research, insights, and tools for HR leaders to advance their organizations and their own careers. The session will help those looking to evolve professionally, or to be viewed more strategically by senior leadership, as these concepts can fundamentally change the future of leadership, recognition and engagement. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

Transform Your Business With These 5 New Year’s Resolutions

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

In today’s post, CAI’s HR Business Partner Tom Sheehan shares the important resolutions HR professionals should be aiming to tackle in the New Year.

The New Year is here, and I imagine many of you will have already set goals you hope to achieve by the end of 2016.  As HR professionals, odds are attracting and retaining talent will be some of your top priorities for the year.  To meet these goals, I would like to call your attention to five resolutions that if followed will be instrumental in creating success for your business this year.

  1. Narrow the Front Door to Close the Back Door
    Commit to improve the screening and selection processes to ensure that poor fit candidates don’t join the organization. In particular, use structured interview questions to assess for cultural fit, and incorporate realistic job previews. In short, by acting as the ‘gatekeeper of talent’ and narrowing the front door, you will reduce the unnecessary turnover of employees leaving via the backdoor.
  2. Hire for Attitude, Train for Skill
    Winston Churchill famously said that ‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG DIFFERENCE.’ It is much easier to train a new hire on a set of work skills than to correct issues with their attitude. If you want to know about their attitude, check their references thoroughly.
  3. Onboard New Hires with Real Purpose
    Make certain that the new hire process utilizes a formal, scripted plan for the first 90 days. Include check-in points for an HR representative to make sure things are still on track. Hold the hiring manager accountable for ensuring that the process unfolds according to plan.
  4. Dump the ‘once a year’ Performance Review
    Resolve to make the performance management process something more than a ‘check-the-box’ exercise. Train managers on how to give performance feedback on a regular basis. Encourage managers to have weekly one-on-ones with their staffs. At a minimum, there should be a formal mid-year check-in between the employee and the manager.
  5. Do Less Better
    In our zeal to please (and support) our internal customers, HR has traditionally had a hard time saying ‘No’. As a result, we are often overextended and inefficient. Endeavor to prioritize your HR initiatives and select fewer projects to start. In doing so, you will improve execution and results.

Follow these resolutions and you will likely find a positive impact across your organization. Not only can it help transform your business for the better, but it also will improve the credibility and faith in HR and establish a reputation and culture for doing things the right way.

For further questions about how to achieve your HR resolutions in the New Year, please contact our Advice & Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Don’t Let Behavioral Issues Hamper Strong Performance

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016
Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer column, The View from HR.

Employees succeed with the right combination of aptitude and attitude. Technical skills are insufficient if poor behaviors dominate. Great behaviors cannot overcome basic technical failures.

Most managers are effective when discussing a hard-skills gap with employees. “Liz, when you seal a sterile container, make sure this checklist is followed, including a label with the seal date.” Easy. The discussion is all business, not personal. The skills can be trained. There is often a right way and a wrong way.

Behavior and attitude issues are different. Employees (and managers) bring their own versions to work. Our genetics and years of living formed patterns. No training class or checklist can cure behavioral problems quickly. There are fewer rights and wrongs. It seems too personal.

Because it is hard, many managers avoid conversations about behaviors until something blows up. “You make me crazy when you act like that!” “You are hard to work with, everybody says so!” “You’re fired!”

When we train managers in communications skills, tools and acronyms help them transfer new knowledge to the workplace. One of my favorites is B.I.T. Instead of getting angry and ranting, have a “Behavior-Impact-Tomorrow fit” the next time behavioral problems cause work problems.

Behavior

Focus on the observable behavior, not your guess at intent. For example, if you tell an employee “you are rude to team members during our project reviews and shut them down,” you are assuming the intent to shut people down. The employee will become defensive and never agree they meant to be rude or to stifle debate.

Instead, describe the observable behavior: “Several times during our last team meeting, you interrupted before the other person finished their thought. This has happened in other meetings as well.”

Impact

Next, describe the impact of this behavior. “When you interrupt someone who is trying to explain their idea, several things happen. It can prevent us all from learning something valuable. It can chill others from challenging your ideas. It also hurts your ability to receive a fair shot for your own ideas. For example, I saw Mary back off her idea yesterday when you interrupted before she finished a sentence.

Tomorrow

“Tomorrow, I expect you to listen well to teammates and work hard to understand what they are saying. Ask them questions to understand their ideas. Hear them out before you ask them to hear you. Tomorrow, spend time listening to the speaker to understand, rather than inserting your response. Sit on your hands if you need that reminder. It will benefit you and the team.”

“Stop interrupting people!” is better than ignoring the problem, but providing a tool or technique to improve behavior works better. Describing the future state and giving more feedback after the next meeting make your expectations concrete.

Getting the very best from every employee is a manager’s main purpose. Motivation, rewards, clarity, engagement and recognition all play a part. Coaching and corrective discussions can be just as important, especially when behavioral problems prevent excellent performance.

If you have any further suggestions as to how managers can improve behavior and attitude issues, please let us know in the comments! For questions, please contact our Advice & Resolution team at at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 if you encounter any further challenges with the growth of your small business.

How to Create an Attendance Policy That Fits Your Culture

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

In today’s post, CAI’s Vice President of Membership Doug Blizzard shares helpful tips to create an attendance policy that will work well for the needs of your business.

Absent.  Tardy.  Leave early.  Words that have made managers cringe since the first workplace.  “Attendance” can be a real hornet’s nest that can go in many different directions.  When you’re too lenient people can take advantage. Too strict and it can damage morale and/or drive away good people.  Finding the right balance can be tricky even for the most seasoned of managers.

When you think about an employee’s overall work performance, job requirement number one is that they come to work, right?  Duh. Well “come to work” isn’t as straightforward as it used to be, particularly for workplaces with higher numbers of “white collar” employees.  Telework, telecommute, and flextime are all much more prevalent today than say ten years ago, and all of them seem to live in a realm above something as disciplinary or 1970’s sounding as absenteeism and attendance.

So step one for a good manager is to understand the company’s stance and/or policy on attendance or absenteeism and then fall in line with it.  I’ve seen many technically minded managers fail when they attempt to implement their own attendance policy in the absence of a clear company policy.

Let’s now turn to how to handle the chronically late or absent professional employee.

Strike three you’re out!  One strategy is to adopt a very strict attendance policy.  Every tardy, leave early, or absence is documented to the minute and after a preset number has been exceeded disciplinary action ensues.  While this approach is a way of life for many employers who have large numbers of hourly employees, it will sound totally foreign to more white collar environments.  If you’re managing in a strict policy environment, perhaps this article isn’t for you.  Otherwise, read on …

Keep those germs out of here! It bears saying that you really don’t want sick employees in your workplace infecting other workers, a situation some call “presenteeism,” meaning they’re present but very unproductive because of an illness (and infecting others making them less productive).  And this advice goes for you as the manager when you’re sick.  No one wants you there and you’re setting the wrong example. Work from home if you must.

But what about the person that is just sick a lot? There are a few regulations you must consider that deal with sickness such as the Family Medical Leave Act (must have 50 employees or more) and potentially the Americans with Disabilities Act (15 employees or more).  Once you’ve exhausted those requirements, you may find that you just can’t continue to employ someone who is chronically not there or late, even if they have a legitimate reason(s) for being absent.  My typical advice is to stay focused on job performance.

If someone is always calling in sick or late, if you’re paying attention, their job performance is suffering as measured by project completion, customer satisfaction, effect on other employees, cost, etc.  Focus on the performance and not the “sickness.”  The more you make it about the sickness the more you’re making their case for being “disabled” or covered by some other law.

What about the person that is out a lot and/or absent who really isn’t sick?  Think of all the reasons, legitimate and not, for someone to be absent.  Hundreds of scenarios.  Some are obviously ok and not ok, many are grey.  Do you really want to have to make an individual decision every time someone is absent as to its legitimacy?  That’s why my advice, absent a clear policy, is to stay focused on job performance, unless of course they are misleading you as to why they are out, in which case disciplinary action is usually called for.

In fact, I don’t believe in regulating attendance very strictly on professional exempt employees unless someone gives me a reason to do so.  We compensate professionals with a salary to get a job done regardless of how many hours that takes each week.  The more you treat them like hourly employees, for example strictly regulating their attendance, the more they will fall into an 8 to 5 mentality, which is not what you want from a professional employee.  I had a technical manager that insisted on managing his exempt professionals with our hourly attendance policy.  He was flabbergasted that the professionals demanded overtime pay whenever they stayed late or worked during a weekend.  Again, he created that 8 to 5 mentality.

But what if their job performance isn’t suffering? Perhaps some of your “best” employees just don’t like to work to a strict schedule. You’re concerned if you lean on them they might leave.  I would look to your company culture and policy.  If your firm expects people to work a strict schedule then you will need to reign in your prima donna or risk losing other people and /or getting in trouble yourself.  Other employees who aren’t out a lot are watching your every move.  At some point their attendance will also start to slide if they see you’re ineffective in dealing with it.

What about consistency? Should you give more leniency to a long service solid performer who gets into a temporary bind or do you treat them the same as you would a six month employee?  Trying to be 100% consistent with attendance on professional employees is a losing proposition.

When to take action? When someone’s attendance is affecting their performance or others, or is so far above the norm from the average employee, it’s time to start the disciplinary process.  Follow your company’s process, or in the absence of one I like the three strikes rule.  Talk to them about it once, then provide a written warning, then on strike three let them go.  At each step make it clear what successful attendance looks like and the consequences for not improving.  And make sure you document every step clearly so you can go back and see a clearly communicated line from offenses to termination.

One policy or two? Am I suggesting you treat exempt employees different than hourly employees?  Well legally they are different.  The hourly employees typically only get paid when they work unless you provide them with a paid time off benefit.  Absent a policy, I would also stay focused on performance with hourly employees when it comes to attendance issues.

You may be the problem. Your own management style and behaviors can greatly contribute to or reduce employee absenteeism.  Poor management causes more employee “sickness.” Chose to be a good manager.  Set clear and high expectations, hold people accountable, and treat them like adults and you’ll be amazed at how those attendance issues you’re having go away.

Have any more questions about how to tailor an attendance policy for your firm’s culture? Call our Advice and Resolution team today at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

If you have any further ideas about how to handle absenteeism, please let us know in the comments!