#HRHorrorStories – Day 5 – And The Award Goes To….

Head in HandsIf you have been following the #HRHorrorStories that were shared on #DTHR last week, you were probably thinking “yep, I’ve had that happen to me” or “I’ve had a similar experience.” Those of us that have been in the field for a while think that we’ve heard it all!

Well, get ready cause I’m willing to bet you never had this one happen to you! So, sit down, get comfortable, grab your coffee and drink it first before you read on…this may make you fall off your chair or spit your coffee out.

There were two stories shared – one that opened a lot of discussion about best practices and one that left us all speechless….and in my opinion wins the award for Best HR Horror Story EVER!

The first story was about an HR Manager finding out from another employee who had been surfing the Internet one day that a current employee of the company had been listed on the State’s Sexual Offender list. Of course, we know not to always believe everything that we read on the Internet, so the HR Manager did their due diligence and verified with the State Agency that is was in fact true. Once the employee was questioned, he admitted to the conviction and knowing that he was on the list but had indicated on his job application that he had no past convictions and was terminated that day for lying on his application.

Many companies do like to do background checks prior to hiring – sometimes its as simple as a reference check, sometimes its more involved such as a criminal or financial background check (although I personally think unless you are applying for a financial position, the company is over doing it but demanding a financial background check) and some companies will do a brief Internet check. This is a big reason why we advise jobseekers at any level to “Google yourself” and see what information comes up on the Internet about you including pictures. We do advise jobseekers to also be aware of what they post on Social Media as that may be seem by potential employers as well but not sure many companies actually take the time to check those before hiring.

The example provided also brought up the fact that many states have “Ban the Box” practices now that prevent employers from including questions about your background on the job application. This does make it harder to uncover such situations…but also begs the question: how in-depth of a background do you think your future employee needs? Does it really matter what they have done in the past when they are trying to make a change in their life? If they admit their past mistakes to you, will you hold it against them or praise them for their honesty?

Let me give you some food for thought: An employee with a past conviction for a DUI applies to your company for a position that will not involve him operating machinery or driving a vehicle. Should it matter that he has a DUI conviction? Will you question every time he is late or sick as alcohol-related instead of believing the reasons he tells you? Will it make you view him differently regardless of whether or not he does a good job? See what I mean…there isn’t a perfect answer but its something that every company needs to look at individually to decide.

Now….here’s the award-winning story!

As part of a company’s standard policy, all employees needed to go through a pre-employment physical. In this case, the new employees were allowed to start work immediately pending the results of the drug screen. (Rapid panels drug tests can provide you with immediate results, however proper testing and recording can take up to 24hrs for negative test and 72hrs for positive ones.) Well, this employee failed his drug screen. He was brought it, told of his test results and terminated.

A couple of days later – this ex-employee called HR and asked for a copy of his failed drug test. When HR asked why he wanted it, he said it was because he had bought a Drug Masking kit to guarantee that he would pass so he needed the results in order to go back to the store to ask for a refund on the kit! Of course, the company opted not to provide him with a copy. What the employee also didn’t realize is that many drug tests today are setup to look for those masking agents that have become so popular.

While many employees will try anything to pass a drug screen, companies requiring one as a condition of employment really should wait until the test results have been received before starting them. This saves you time and money spent on getting all their paperwork together and added into your payroll system. It also prevents any case of unemployment to be filed against you – even though they will not have had enough time to make you a chargeable employer, they can still list you as a previous employer if you had already let them start before finding out they failed the drug screen.

There you have it!

For anyone who ever thought that HR was just filling out paperwork and doing payroll, I hope you enjoyed reading all the situations and trials that HR professionals encounter on a daily basis. Yes, most of the stories shared are more common than you think….its just that you must have a great HR person on staff to handle these things so that you never had to know what happens behind the door to the HR office…

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#HRHorrorStories – Day 4 – Jobseeker No-No’s and Policy Pitfalls

Helicopter-ParentWMEach day this week #DTHR’s #HRHorrorStories has enlightened us to more and more “you won’t believe this” stories that happen on a daily basis in HR and have shaped how we do business. And in sharing these stories, we hope that others will learn too.

Day 4 of this series was no different. We went from talking about how implementing new policies in the workplace can backfire if not done correctly, to mistakes that jobseekers are still making that may be diminishing their chances of getting a new job and after-hours mistakes that even the best HR person can make.

In our first story, we talked about implementing new office policies. 9 times out of 10 the person creating such policies is at an upper-level in the company and does not solicit the input from those managing at lower levels…and this can lead to unforeseen problems. For instance: many companies have embraced becoming a drug-free workplace. Most commonly, you will see that companies utilize a pre-employment drug test requirement and even a post-accident one. But, what happen when you incorporate random drug testing with immediate termination the result of a failed drug test? Well, you may find out that you are firing about 80% of your employees. One restaurant chain found out just that!

There will always be situations that trigger the need for a new or revamped company policy. However, it is best to include those at the lower levels in the company (department supervisors and maybe even longest tenure employees) in the policy discussion in order to determine how to best word it and roll it out. Don’t simply look at other companies and decide you want to do that – and then just copy what they are doing. Each company’s environment is different as well as its employee culture and both need to be taken into account when formulating a strict yet not business-threatening policy.

Our next group of stories shared centered around the “you won’t believe what this Jobseeker did!” category. Many in HR have joked for years that we could write a book on the various things we encounter talking to candidates and what happens during the interview process. But these series include some examples that you wouldn’t believe unless you heard it from the Hiring Manager herself:

  • Candidate’s mother took “helicopter parent” to the ultimate degree when not only did she accompany her daughter to the job interview, but called the Hiring Manager after her daughter was told she was not being hired to demand to see the resume of the person who did get hired to know why her daughter didn’t get the job.
  • Candidate got a ride to the interview from his Probation Officer and told the Hiring Manager during the interview that his “P.O.” had come with because he had to go for a mandatory drug-screen following their meeting.
  • Candidate who brought their kids with to the interview because they couldn’t get a sitter “but its okay, they can wait in the lobby.”
  • Candidates – still in 2015 – using inappropriate email addresses like “bigjugs69@….” and LinkedIn photos that are selfies wearing too revealing outfits or with backgrounds showing drinking or partying.

Not much a company can do to counter these types of jobseeker mistakes, but if you know of friends or family that may be doing these things – please talk to them! Yes, first impressions go a long way and are truly an important factor in the hiring decision process!

Our last story talked about those infamous office parties and the problems with over-drinking and open bars. One company held an after-hours office party and distributed drink tickets for their open bar as a way to “control” the amount of drinking their employees would do. Unfortunately, not everyone does drink at these parties so when a HR executive went around to ask if anyone didn’t want to use their tickets, he collected them, ordered about a dozen drinks and went off to a table by himself to consume them…while shouting profanities and rude comments the more he drank. Was he trying to get himself fired? Or had the stress finally gotten to him and he simply “snapped”?

Many companies have done a great job at trying to control such office parties – partly because of concern for their employees but also because many jurisdictions now have laws in place that hold the company responsible for damages or accidents their employees are involved in even after leaving such events. But the reality is: can we ever really control such a thing unless we do away with alcoholic beverages at functions entirely? There really is no way. Some people simply don’t know how to control themselves and some have either very small or very large tolerances for alcohol. Drinking has become more of a “social mark” than a needed aspect at company events so if you worry about such problems coming up, may be a good idea to stay non-alcoholic in the beverage department and let the employees “enjoy an adult beverage” on their own after the event.

#HRHorrorStories Day 3 – Extra Pay & Bad-Mouthing Co-Workers

water_cooler_chat-e129234989560211Continuing the series of #HRHorrorStories on #DTHR, we talked more about some of those common everyday mistakes employees – and managers – can make that can cause real headaches!

We have all had that dream….and even joked with the Payroll Manager about doing it…of finding those mistaken “extra zeroes” at the end of your paycheck. Even in today’s automated world where you think such mistakes can’t happen…they do. It is a Payroll and HR headache when a paycheck mistake is made and needs to be corrected. But what it worse is if the employee knows a mistake was made and not only doesn’t say anything about it but goes ahead and spends the extra money anyway!

Even without needing glasses….you are going to know if you normally get a $340 a week paycheck that a mistake has been made if your paycheck suddenly says $34,000! It today’s horror story – that mistake was made and the employee went out and spent all the money before the company found out. When questioned, he even admitted he knew it was a mistake but figured he would wait to see if the company noticed and came back to him to collect it!

The employee was fired and some of the money was able to be recouped by the company, but it begs the bigger question: What has happened to morals in the workplace when an employee justifies stealing as the “company’s mistake”? Is this the sign of an unhappy work environment? A company can put all kinds of “checks and double-checks” in place to review payroll to catch such mistakes ahead of time, but some errors will still occur – especially when processing larger number of employees – so may be a good idea to look around at your own workplace at your employees and see if you notice any performance “red flags” that may cause them to keep quiet on mistakes like this one.

Our next horror story is one that many #jobseekers actually are concerned about when going for interviews. A Hiring Manager held a 90min interview with a candidate….and not only thought he was a different person applying for a totally different position, but started calling the candidate by the wrong name during the interview! Its embarrassing to the Interviewer but also frustrating to the Interviewee who now feels his/her time was wasted and their candidacy not being taken seriously. And that leaves them with a negative impression of the company.

An interview should be set up and tracked like any other appointment. And Hiring Managers need to be taught that “interviews” should not be viewed as simple “meet-n-greets” where you are only focusing on whether or not there is a match in personality. Yes, Recruiters and HR Managers usually put the candidate through the “grilling” process of uncovering their skills and qualifications in the initial interview but follow-up (or second interviews) should be conducted with the same level of attention and detail. Keep your yourself organized by printing out and bringing with you – to have in front of you – the resume of the person you are interviewing regardless of whether or not you have prepped for it.

Our final horror story is one that many new employees make when just trying to fit in and be accepted by their new fellow employees and supervisors. When asked what you think about another employee, refrain from speaking ill of them is always a good business practice as well as personal code of conduct. You never know if you may end up finding out that the person asking is related to or married to that employee!

#HRHorrorStories – Day 2 – Bathrooms, Bomb Threats & HR Safety

Shining-Nicholson_2381314bIf you have worked in HR, you have had your share of stories that most people will never believe. Day 2 of Drive Thru HR’s #HRHorrorStories reminded many people of this fact but also the lessons we learn from each other.

Our first story involved an employee injury that took place in the company restroom. Unfortunately, while bending over to pick up a pen the employee struck his head on the toilet paper dispenser which resulted in a gash in his forehead requiring stitches. Thankfully he reported it to HR right away and the HR Manager was able to detail the report to include photos of the employee’s injury as well as the scene of the accident. Of course, when Workers Comp saw the claim, they questioned it.

Let’s face it – accidents will happen regardless of how many precautions are taken. But as embarrassing as such incidents are, it is important to remind employees that all accidents must be reported right away so that 1) they receive any needed medical attention immediately and 2) so that witnesses can be questions and the incident investigated to collect as much detail as possible so that all information is available should a Workers Comp claim be questioned. In most cases, Workers Comp carriers require that you file a report with them within 24 hours of the incident. The longer you wait to file the report, the more the validity of the claim starts to come into question…mainly: did the incident REALLY happen at work or is the employee just trying to claim it did?

Our second story involved an employee calling in a bomb threat. Why? Because he arrived at work slightly intoxicated and simply did not want to work, so thought it would get everyone out of having to work that night. The employee didn’t expect that his call would be recorded when he called 911 or that they would be able to trace it back to the instead of the facility. The shutdown of the facility while they searched it for a bomb did get the employee and his co-workers out of work for a few hours…but ended up costing him his job and his co-workers overtime they could have earned for that week.

We can definitely file this one under “stupid things employees do” but have you had employees show up to work intoxicated? Have you ignored it and let them work anyway? Alcohol is a mood altering substance that affects the part of the brain responsible for self-control. While everyone knows your reactions slow, you may see someone unable to walk upright or their speech be slurred, the real issue is that drinking can invoke stronger than usual emotional responses…usually causing people to become more tearful or aggressive. An employee who is intoxicated is just as dangerous if they are not operating equipment as if they are…and that is where some managers do turn a blind eye. All judgment becomes impaired due to alcohol and if you suspect an employee has been drinking, its best for everyone involved to have a conversation with them and send them home for the day without penalty.

Stress causes a lot of people to pick up habits such as drinking as a temporary relief and those same people may not realize they have become or on the road to becoming an alcoholic as a result. Check with your Health Insurance provider about some of the free seminars that may offer as part of your plan and have them come out to do a presentation to your employees on the effects of alcohol and drugs…as a reminder.

Our last story was one that many HR folks have experienced at least once in their career and that is threats of violence from a recently separated employee. We don’t train managers or HR folks on how to handle such incidents in the workplace because so many companies don’t believe that its a real problem but you will notice from so many news stories over the past year that this type of situation is happening more and more. Thankfully, the HR Manager kept a cool head and was able to call a co-worker while on speakerphone and ask her to call the police which caused the disgruntled ex-employee to leave.

What are the tips we tell people to use when having to terminate an employee:

1) Never hold the meeting alone – always have another person in the room. Typically your best choices are to have HR and the immediate supervisor in the room.

2) Try to hold the meeting in an open area but distanced from the other employees. A conference room is a top choice because its usually more open space and located close enough to the exit that the ex-employee doesn’t have to walk through the facility on their last walk out.

3) If you are going to hold the meeting in your office, position you desk so that you have the ability to exit the room if the ex-employee tries to come at you or block your way.

We can’t prevent every possible situation that may occur with an employee or in the workplace, but sometimes its just taking that step back to evaluate your environment and take a look at your best practices to see what precautions you can take right now.

#HRHorrorStories – Day 1 – Your Employees & The Internet

fashion-week-etiquette-horror-storiesThis week on Drive Thru HR (#DTHR), the topic is HR horror stories…those incidents and events that not only left us speechless but also spurred changes and policies in the workplace.

On Day 1, the topic of discussion centered around employees use of the Internet at work – more specifically, visiting inappropriate sites while on company time.  Not really a shock there with use of the Internet part of many employees’ daily duties.

Many companies have put policies into place in an attempt to “monitor and control” usage on company computers and while on company time:

”The Internet is intended for business use only.  Use of the Internet for any non-business purpose, including but not limited to, personal communication or solicitation, purchasing personal goods or services, gambling and downloading files for personal use, is strictly prohibited.

Consistent with applicable federal and state law, the time you spend on the Internet may be tracked through activity logs for business purposes.  All abnormal usage will be investigated thoroughly.  Employees learning of any misuse of the Internet shall notify a member of management.

Violation of this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including discharge.”

Some companies have recognized the potential for harassment in the workplace as a result of inappropriate Internet usage and have added additional comments to their Internet Usage Policy:

“Our company’s policies against sexual and other types of harassment apply fully to Internet usage.  Violations of those policies are not permitted and may result in disciplinary action, up to and including discharge.  Therefore, employees are also prohibited from displaying, transmitting and/or downloading sexually explicit images, messages, ethnic slurs, racial epithets or anything that could be construed as harassment or disparaging to others.”

But, with use of the Internet such a part of each employee’s daily routine, how effective is it to have such a policy?  In a story shared, it was an IT Manager who had violated the policy – the person responsible for monitoring all other employees’ usage.

This comes back to a company needing to be “proactive” rather than simply “reactive.”  Remember: policies are put in place to guide the employees, make them aware of limits and for use in disciplinary cases.  But, a company cannot simply think setting a policy and reviewing it with employees if enough to monitor such things.

There will be “signs” before the misuse of the Internet begins to occur.

What are the two main reasons why an employee will pull back from their job duties and start surfing the Internet while on company time?

1) The Employee is dissatisfied with their job so it’s a form of rebellion, and

2) The Employee truly doesn’t have enough work to keep them busy so they turn to the Internet to fill their time.

And both of those come back to interacting with and managers your employees.  Don’t be so wrapped up in carrying out your own duties that you stop paying attention to your employees.  You don’t need to micro-manage them, but by simply having open communication lines between you and them allows you to know when they are looking for work to do, may be ready to tackle a new and more challenging project, have hit burn-out or have frustrations brewing that if not addressed will escalate and potentially cause damage to the co-workers around them as well.

Yes, Your Company Needs a “Snow Day Policy”

snowday1Growing up in Chicago, I have seen my share of blizzards.  Just last night we had one that dropped 20 inches on the city, making it the 5th largest snowfall to date.  Other areas have seen their share this season as well, especially those on the East Coast.  Are we “equipped” to deal with such storms?  Sure, we know its coming and so we prepare for it best we can but that doesn’t make the conditions any less dangerous.

Kids wait like vultures waiting to pounce on the announcement that school will be closed the next day…don’t you think your employees wish they could get a “snow day” when storms like this hit?

If you stop to think about it, even as managers these things will run through your head:

1) Will I be able to get my car out? (Yes, even if you have a garage this question is common)

2) Will the streets be plowed?  And if they are, will they be safe or icy?

3) How much time to I need to give myself now to still try to make it to work on time?

4) What do I do with the kids if they get the day off?

5) Will there even be any customers today?

Etc…

Aren’t there times when even you wonder if it makes sense to come into work that day?  And yet, we still push our employees to do so.  Sometimes even using guilt: “Do you know how many people don’t have the choice to call off on a ‘snow day’? You think cops and firemen get the day off?”

Is it possible for everyone to push to get themselves to work regardless of the weather? Yes.

Does it make sense for an employer to require them to do this? No, not always

…And here’s where we get into the reason why your workplace should consider a “Snow Day Policy” if you don’t already have one.

First – Safety

This means yours as well as your employees.    Watch weather reports – listen to traffic reports.  If you are hearing about numerous accidents starting and major streets or even highways being shut down, that is Mother Nature holding a big sign saying “STAY PUT.”  Even public transportation will run into service problems in this weather – buses can be delayed and trains can even stop running…but thinking they HAVE to get to work, the employee will try to find some way to get there.

People think they are protected being in vehicles.  Some forget to use caution when turning or even observing the speed limit.  Why?  Some of it is pure ignorance to the danger….but some is the pressure they put on themselves because they think their employer will hold it against them if they are late or don’t come in.  As an employer, how would you feel hearing your employee was in an accident while attempting to get to work under these conditions because you told them they had to or – worse – didn’t tell them to stay at home for the day.

Emergency vehicles cannot respond as quickly under these conditions so even if you car ends up in a ditch or just stalled on the side of the road, you could be waiting for hours for help.  If the vehicle isn’t running or – guess what – runs out of gas, now you are stranded with no heat…and even sitting inside a vehicle in certain temperatures can put you at risk for frostbite.

Second – Productivity

Let’s be honest…if only a skeleton of a crew can get into work that day, how much work will really get done?  And what if the employees that did make it into work that day, spent the morning shoveling – don’t you think they will be physically wiped-out…which can then translate to mentality wiped-out as all the things they need to do when they get home to finish dealing with the storm fill their head.  They will probably want to leave early in order to get those things done so that things can return to “normal” the next day.

Third – Cost

When an employer thinks “Snow Day,” they probably think of two things: 1) how much money am I loosing in production and/or sales if we close for the day? and 2) will the employees expect to be paid for this time away?  Both become factors is why most companies opt NOT to close for a Snow Day.

If you are worried about loosing money if you close for the day, how about thinking about how much it will cost you to stay open on a day like that?  For businesses that focus more on production – your output won’t be at the same levels with a minimal staff however your overhead costs to be open won’t change.  You will still have to run electricity and will probably have to run the heat even higher to offset the absence of bodies that would normally fill up the empty space.   So, in a way, it is costing you more money to be open.

If you are worried about loosing sales, think about this: are your customers going out in this weather?  More than likely, they are also sticking close to home and avoiding driving.  Even if you operate more on telephone sales, your clientele will probably be too busy with kids, shoveling, etc. to be calling to inquire about your services.  Scaling back on staff or even closing your doors for the day won’t have as huge an impact to your profits as you may initially think.

And last but not least – Employee Morale

The days of the “loyal” employee who did anything to make the company happy are long gone.  Today’s employees want to feel appreciated by their employer.  Showing that you care about their safety and well-being, with something as simple as a Snow Day, will go a long way to building morale in the workplace.  It is one of those things that your employees will brag about to their family and friends – how their company “actually cares.”  When employees feel appreciated, they naturally do more to help the company and go that extra mile without you having to ask or motivate them further.  Don’t you want more of that?

Options for setting-up a Snow Day policy

There are two ways you can set up your Snow Day policy – paid or unpaid.

1) Paid = Don’t be afraid that if you decide to set up a Snow Day policy to allow the day to be paid by the company that employees will “expect” an extra paid day or two every year even if weather doesn’t demand it.

Simply state in your policy that: Upper Management will determine the night before or morning of whether or not weather is severe enough to warrant shutting down for the day.  If it is decided that the company will close for the day, all non-exempt employees will be paid their full shift for the day and those hours will not count towards overtime for the week – same as with vacation or holidays.  If it is decided that the company will open, all employees will be excused for late arrivals but non-exempt employees will not paid for missed time.

You will need to determine who will be the decision maker and what method of communication will be used to notify the employees (i.e. email or phone trees).

2) Non-Paid = Yes, you still can show your employees that you care without attaching a paid day to it.
For non-exempt employees, let them know that you will allow them to work extra hours on the remaining days in the week to bring their weekly total to 40 hours.  With so many employees living paycheck to paycheck, the loss of a day’s pay can scare many of them into finding a way into work so giving them the option to make up the hours removes that fear and keeps them home safe for the day.

For exempt employees, let them know you are fine with them working from home.   They can still check emails, make calls and work on projects without coming into the office.  Tell them you will treat it like a normal work day and expect them to be available by phone or email during the normal business hours.

Don’t be Ebenezer Scrooge!

Little things like a Snow Day for your employees can change the attitude of your employees and help you in attracting new talent for your company.  Your consumers will notice it too.   When you look at how much your company can gain from something so simple, the costs that might be associated with allowing a Snow Day for your employees should be a non –issue.