If Its On the Internet, It Must Be True!

search_internetHow quick are we to believe what we read and find on the Internet!

Remember the State Farm Insurance commercials promoting their mobile app where the girl tells her friend “If it on the Internet, it must be true.” We laugh and roll our eyes at the stupidity of the comment…yet, so many people pass judgment or make assumptions based on what they see on the Internet.

I recently had a friend go through a personal ordeal because of information uncovered by another person on the Internet. This person, for whatever reason, had “Googled” my friend’s name and found questionable information…and then proceeded to make assumptions based on this information to degrade my friend’s character. No one further investigated the information or even asked him for an explanation to determine whether or not it was true and/or what were the circumstances. Instead, a lynch mob ensued, orchestrated by this person who played to the fears and emotions of others. Had an explanation been sought before taking action, the truth surrounding the information found on the Internet would have been revealed…and not been as bad as it was made out to be. Instead, my friend was ousted from this group because the situation had escalated beyond any chance of resolution and the person who spread this information was allowed to go home and gloat in the glory of his success.

Ridiculous, right? Upset? I was too.

And while I’m sure not many of us would have gone to the extreme that this person did, how many of us will admit that we too have jumped to conclusions based on the tidbit of information we see? Or worse – choose not to interview an applicant because they have checked that box on their application that “have been convicted of a crime.”

As a Hiring Manager, it is important to protect the integrity of the company as well as its employees. If an actual background check is not included as part of the pre-hire procedure, its not uncommon for many to resort to “Googling” a person’s name to see what public information comes up.

Should we take that information as gospel? Not unless you think like the girl in the State Farm commercial!

Just like with any other situation, we must get the full facts – from both sides if available – before we jump to conclusions, make assumptions or pass judgment whether it be verbal accusations or Internet findings. So, how to you handle it without worrying about any legal backlash? Use it as a talking point to gather information – and remember not ask in the tone of making an accusation.

For example: I had an applicant that noted that he had been arrested for armed robbery. He showed up wearing a suit to personally turn in his application so I decided to ask him if he wanted to expand on why he answered the question with a “yes.” He admitted that he had been arrested but stated that he was young and it was a case of being in the “wrong place at the wrong time” – he didn’t know at the time, but he had gotten in a car with a friend that had just committed the robbery when the police pulled him over and was considered guilty by association. Ten years later, he had kept a clean record, finished school and had different volunteer groups he had become a part of. His previous employer had gone out of business with the market, so was just looking a full-time job with a career path. I was impressed…so was the manager…so we gave him a chance. (Yes, he worked out…and eventually moved into an Assistant Manager position!)

We are bombarded with images and news of crime on a daily basis that it makes it easy for us to jump to quick conclusions without the benefit of the doubt….and this is all perpetuated by fear. Fear is the “evil you” sitting on your one shoulder always trying to drown out the “good you.” Will you let Fear win? Or will you question before making a decision?

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

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Do Not Use Overtime as a “Performance” Award!

thumbsWhether you are a seasoned or new manager – repeat after me:

 “Overtime is not an award for performance.”

Reality: “Overtime” is that necessary evil businesses have to face when a critical job simply needs to get done and it can’t be done within a normal allotted period of time.  Yes – employees like overtime because it means more money in their pockets…and companies hate it because it cuts into their bottom line profits.

So do not get into the habit of viewing overtime as that “extra something” you can provide an employee for doing a great job.

Its sounds like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?…yet, I recently came across a manager who told me just that – he wants to use overtime to reward certain employees.  As he went on to explain, the red flags started popping up like crazy!

When you view overtime as additional compensation you can “provide” to an employee, here are some of the potholes you will encounter:

1)      You will begin to view those employees that can’t work overtime as “non-committed” and even lazy.  It’s a quick judgment call managers tend to make without taking into account the reasons why some employees simply can’t work more than those 40hrs a week you originally hired them for.  This manager actually told me he saw no problem with cutting back on the hours of the employees that wouldn’t volunteer in order to give more overtime to those that would!

2)      You will tend to play “favorite” with certain employees who are always volunteering to work overtime.  This doesn’t give others the chance to earn some overtime or show you how they can be a dedicated employee.  Think about it – its typically a factor brought up during an employee’s performance review.  They become resentful when you point out how they never went “above and beyond” the job…yet, you may be to blame – not them.

3)      Interactions between the employees you “award” overtime and those you do not will become increasingly tense and volatile.  But here we go again – you as the manager will blame the employee for their reaction to the environment that you created.

4)      Overall employee job satisfaction will begin to diminish and you will find them simply doing the bare minimum that is needed to get their job done and not be fired.  Forget trying to get 110% out of them…why should they?  They aren’t being “rewarded.”

Money is one of the biggest driving factors in employee performance and job satisfaction…and nowadays, all employees want to make more money.  But, be smart about how you go about coming up with “creative” ways to make that happen.

A reward for one should never be balanced out with a punishment for another.

Shame on Companies for NOT Hiring Veterans!

Monster.com put out a “Veterans Career Confidence Index” in November 2011 to gauge how both veterans and employers view employing our vets in civilian jobs.  At the time, 77% of employers “agreed that veterans or those with prior military experience are prepared for a career transition out of the military.”  What a great thing to see employers feeling this way!!

Until I read the follow-up on this statistic re-released six months later…

Now – only 39% of those employers feel that way.  No wonder so many of our vets our doubting themselves and feeling discouraged about finding work back in the civilian world.

This angered me…until I determined that is simply a matter of employers not being adequately educated about what these jobseekers bring to the table.  So, here are some key factors that employers need to be aware of and think about when recruiting and interviewing our nation’s veterans:

  1. If you really break it down, the “military” and “corporate” reporting structure aren’t all that different…both have layers of authority where directives (or “orders”) are sent down the chain through and requiring each level to add its own adaptation to complete.
  2. Soldiers aren’t just taught to follow orders…they are taught to lead and motivate others.  And we’re not talking the “Full Metal Jacket” version you may assume but how to lead with authority but as a team.  They have to build a trust with each other because their own lives may depend on it…so in a way, they are better at the leading and team-building than your everyday employee.
  3. A soldier’s skill set is learned on-the-job but with oversight so they can master their trade and perform it correctly without supervision.  Most of your employees will learn on-the-job but either self-taught or with minimal supervision and then thrown to the wolves.  Which would you think would be able to perform the task quickly and correctly the first time?
  4. Military experience means attention to detail: in their work, in how they dress, in how they interact with others.  What do they say?  Takes two weeks of conditioning for something to become a habit?  Well, these are “habits” instilled in our veterans from the first day of Basic Training and then become a way of life for them.  You care about your employees’ appearance to the consumer, right?

When you come across the resume or job application from one of our vets, I don’t want you to feel “obligated” to talk to them or hire them simply because they are vets…and they don’t want you to either.  They want to be recognized for the skills and experience they can bring to the table.

I’m not a veteran myself (dad was a Vietnam Vet and I was in AFROTC) but have been around enough military personnel (both family and friends) to feel that companies that don’t feel these folks can transition from military to civilian life need to take a step back and rethink that.  You may also be surprised to know how many of your own employees have military experience…but you just didn’t know it.  This new generation of “vets” is not that much different from those that served in Vietnam or Dessert Storm.

I would really like to know what “questions” or “reservations” companies have about hiring these vets…so, let’s hear them so we can talk about it!

A Psychic Side to Every HR Professional

quoyeWhen some people think of HR professionals, they think “paper pushers” or “company rule enforcer.”  Others, nickname us the “counselor.”

An effective HR professional needs to be – as Mae West put it – fluent in body language as well as a good listener.  We have all come across friends and family that “tell us one thing” but we can sense we either aren’t getting the full story or the truth.  Employees are no different – and keep in mind, most are afraid to reveal the full truth because they fear for their job.

If you focus on just what the person is telling you, how much information are you missing out on?  What’s the bigger underlining problem that could affect not just the employee but others or the company as well?  Or is there a potential new idea that the employee is afraid – remember, its now always a “problem” so don’t go into a dicussion already expecting that.

Trust is a big part in getting the employee to open up to you – and that should always be worked on first – but sometimes, their body language will give you clues to help “fish” information out of them.  I told a friend recently that I prefer discussion in person rather than over the phone or text because then I am able to “see” when they are getting upset, when they are about to go on a rant that may need to be reigned in and when they are about to shut down.

What are some key body language signs that I look for:

1)      Tapping their feet or figiting with their hands – they are nervous or anxious…either way, they are looking for a quick visit and exit.

2)      Constantly looking down – not maintaining eye contact can mean a couple of things: either they are still reliving the situation in their mind or they are embarrased to.

3)      Arms folded – this one is a no-brainer, they are on “guard” and prepping for a fight

4)      Blank stare into space – they are about to shut down.  They are beginning to tell themselves not to share anymore.

5)      Increased breathing – can point to a couple possibilities: either they are trying to control their emotions or their temper is beginning to build up

6)      Increased swallowing – they are fighting back tears

7)      Sweat or redness in the face – yep, temper is building up and about to explode

Paying attention to a person’s body language seems like common sense but is something you have to train yourself to do from the start of the conversation – not wait until things heat up.  Employees need to vent but they also need to know that you are truly “in their corner”…and that comes from both listening to them and making them feel comfortable enough to share their thoughts.  Reading their body language helps you adjust to them – don’t force it to be the other way around.

Remember: your job is to uncover what they aren’t telling you and pair it with what they ARE telling you to paint the full picture.

Employees Skipping Breaks – Why You Should NOT Encourage It

lunchThe dynamics of the workplace have changed from employees simply punching a timeclock to this world of “working until the job is done”…regardless of the number of hours it takes.  As employers, we push our employees to give 100% and employees, in turn, have had it burned into their brains that they need to give 110% to keep their employer happy…and keep their job.

Speed is the winner in this game: so employers and employees are constantly trying to stay two steps ahead of the competition from working longer hours to constantly checking their smart phones for new emails even late at night while at home.  The worst offenders are salaried employees who simply just don’t know how to turn their work off when they leave the office.

Let’s look at the statistics on this…

CareerBuilder conducted a recent study and found that:

–         32% of employees take less than a half hour break for lunch

–         5% taken less than 15 minutes

–         One in 10 employees never even takes a lunch break

–         16% actually work right through their lunch break

Add the pressure of the job market still not back to pre-2008 standards and I would even venture to guess that those numbers would be higher depending on the industry or current workload.  So while we may be getting more out of our employees, is it the right thing to do?

Laws on breaks will vary from state to state, but in Illinois: “An Illinois employee who is to work 7 1/2 continuous hours or more shall be provided an unpaid meal period of at least 20 minutes. The meal period must be given to an employee no later than 5 hours after beginning work.”  What is not stipulated is whether or not the employer has to require the employee to take their break…and here is where companies can run into hot water if they aren’t careful.

But aside from taking a “legal” look at this, the more important considerations to take into account is how this is affecting your employees work product and job satisfaction…two things that can cost more in the long run with potential worker’s comp issues, excessive time off, and negative attitudes.  And the last one is the hardest to control in this world of Social Media where a “bad day at the office” can lead to a Twitter posting or Facebook status update putting the company in a bad light.

Getting away from their desk…even for 20min…allows them to detach both physically and mentally from the job, giving their brain just enough time to “reset” itself to tackle the rest of the day.

If its something that occurs once in a while, I wouldn’t concern myself.  But, if you are in an industry where employees are working long hours consistently…make sure they take that break!