July 23, 2010
This is a touchy subject, but an important one. This is not a full list, as it could be a 5000 word posting, but there can be confusion at times, as to who really owns what in a business. Here are some limited examples:
An employee is utilizing work e-mail on a work owned computer to send and receive personal e-mails. This is an example of business owned property. When an employee utilizes the work e-mail address(s) to do anything outside of his/her actual position (i.e. political information, religious information, etc.) that e-mail is actually the property of the company, and therefore can be construed as company property. Anything stated in that e-mail as well as any content to and from that e-mail account is defined as company property.
An employee utilizes a work owned computer or even a personal computer attached to the companys internet connection is the companys property. There is a new side to this, and that is the utilization of a USB Modem (These can be purchased from a myriad of different providers), but the employee that utilizes their own personal lap-top or net-book on the company internet services, the content itself is the property of the company, not the employee.
An employee utilizes a work issued, or paid for cell-phone (The company name is the main payable on the phone), and uses it for non-work phone calls. The company itself has the authority to review calls made on that cell phone, as well as any charges that may be present on the bill. For instance:
Employee A Uses their company-owned cell phone to call friends after hours and talk beyond the minute limit, therefore incurring excess charges (these can range from over the limit minute usage, or even roaming minutes).
Employee B Uses their company paid for cell phone to download ringers or they decide to text a message to one of the pay per text services (i.e. KGB), and incurs excess charges.
In both of these circumstances, the company has the right to review and ask the employee to pay for the charges, start a disciplinary action, or even just confiscate the company-owned phone.
Here are a couple of other touchy situations that come up with the question of Who owns what?
Employee C has a locker on the job-site, with a lock on it. There is a question of some sort of illegal or other justifiable issue that comes up (drugs, theft, material of a questionable nature like pornographic material), the employer has every right to cut the lock or ask the employee to take the lock off to search the locker. As the locker itself is company property, to where the belongings are employee owned. In the event of a questionable illegal material, a law enforcement individual may need to be present.
Employee D drives a company-owned vehicle (the company name is on the title), and is suspected of carriage of materials that are contrary to business purpose (drugs, or materials of a questionable nature, etc.) That vehicle can be searched at any time, without express notice, and anything inside that vehicle can be considered company property.
Employee E drives a company paid-for vehicle (the company provides substantial financial assistance to the vehicle, but the company name is not on the title), the belongings inside this vehicle are NOT considered property of the company, even though the vehicle is subsidized by the company (mileage reimbursement, insurance reimbursement, etc.)
Having a clear and concise policy about what is owned by the company, as well as who owns what, can be a complex situation, something that People Wise can assist you with, contact us for a free consultation!
July 8, 2010
A review, hated by some, and loathed by others, but this activity is a necessary part of any business. There are ways to do it incorrectly, and there are ways to do it correctly.
Instance A — The Manager, whom has a full calendar of events and meetings schedules a review day for all employees in their department. This manager having very little time since they are heads of multiple projects, takes a cursory glance at the employee file and tries to remember the last time they and the employee have last talked. Remembering that the employee was called into the office to have a discussion about internet miss-use about two months ago. The manager has just 15-20 minutes scheduled for this employee and when they arrive the manager only brings up the topic of the internet miss-use, and sets that as the mood for the review. This manager prattles on about the effect of miss-use of time at work on the internet due to company policy can cause termination. The employee leaves the meeting with a lower morale and feeling of inadequacy, and their productivity the rest of the day suffers because of it.
Instance B — The Manager, whom even though has a full schedule, and multiple projects on their schedule, knows that the following week a day has been set aside for reviews. Once they get the reminder or sees it up-coming, familiarizes themselves with the employee file, and notes that two months have passed from a discussion about internet miss-use. This manager takes two seconds and sends an e-mail to the IT department and asks for a usage report, and states that they need it soon. Also the Manager while attending a conference call, reads over other information in the employee file, such as a recent certification or higher degree attained. Receiving the data from the IT department that the employee has spent significantly less time on the internet, a sheet of notes for discussion is created. On the day of the review, the Manager sets 30-45 minutes for the meeting. Opening the meeting, the manager brings up the new degree/certification, and the correction of the internet miss-use. Once this is done, the manager offers the employee a couple moments to tell them about the new certification/education experience that they worked so hard for. Time is spent talking about goals for the next period of time and the next review. The employee, elated about being able to share their achievements goes back to work with a new energy and passion.
So reading both instances, which is the incorrect, and which is the correct? If you answered A as incorrect, your right. Employees that are treated in the fashion of an assembly line are those that will not be as productive and full of passion of their work than others. It is the managers job to do these reviews, and to do them correctly. Unfortunately in todays economic times, the manager has almost too much on their plate, but when reviews come up, that plate must be juggled and time made in order to give profitable feedback. The word profitable feedback is the type of feedback that satiates the employee, and adds to their underlying need for not only acceptance but also acknowledgement.
In Instance A, the manager does not take the necessary 2-3 minutes to e-mail IT or a front line supervisor about whether the internet miss-use has been corrected or not. Nor does this manager take an additional 2-3 minutes to read through the employee file to see that this individual took the initiative and got that higher degree or certification. In this instance, both the manager has failed the employee, and the employee may fail the company by taking their knowledge asset to another company. Fail Fail
In Instance B, the manager does take the necessary 2-3 minutes for the e-mail, takes the 2-3 minutes and reads the employee file, and the light bulb goes off above their head. Setting the tone of the meeting with a congratulations for the certification/degree and acknowledging that the internet miss-use issue has passed. The manager has done their job, and the employee has been positively reinforced. Win Win
In todays busy business environment, managers have a tendency to just fly into a dreaded review, and not look at it as a way to retain, if not source for a new asset for a project. This is a learned experience, not an inherited one. Effective managers LEARN how to do reviews, and follow-up on errors or why the employee gives a low job satisfaction review in an exit interview for instance. Long gone are the days like in the movie 9 to 5 where a manager is only responsible for a few tasks, they are responsible for a multitude of tasks, of which the most important one is change along with employees. As a manager, stagnation is the killer of profitability, and constant change is the fertilizer for a productive profitable employee.
As always, contacting People Wise is a benefit when these issues come up, and consultation services, being inexpensive, reap the rewards of productive employees!
December 4, 2008
A friend of mine over at Training Time (www.trainingtime.com) published this article and I had to share. It is funny but way too true to ignore.
There are countless articles and books that promise to tell employers how to boost employee morale. They may or may not be right, but there is something we all can be certain about. There are easy ways to kill employee morale. Thoroughly. Some of them are simple; some take time. But they all work.
So with some levity and a lot of truth, here are 8 great ways to destroy the spirit of even the most dedicated of employees:
8) Start new hires with promises of raises, promotions and other perks, and then “forget.” One of the best ways to destroy morale from the start is to make promises to your new hires, and then never mention them again. Truly creative morale-smashers may want to extend this technique to existing employees, so even seasoned workers can share in the disappointment.
7) Make rules that defy logic and then enforce them – harshly. If your employees don’t come within miles of a customer, ban jeans and make them dress up for work. Prohibit personal decorations on desks. Send out a memo limiting the time in the restroom to five minutes. Whatever it is, make sure the consequences of these performance-related violations are severe – letters of reprimand, docked pay – anything to make them fear for their jobs.
6) Play favorites. Everyone remembers the teacher’s pet – bring that dynamic into the workplace. A great way to destroy employee morale is to make it clear that a few people can get away with anything, while the rest must toe the line. Or consider the reverse scenario… selectively enforce the rules with a few employees while letting the rest off the hook. Morale is certain to take a nose dive.
5) Skimp on necessary tools, equipment or technology. Invite employee discontent by maintaining a tight hold on the purse strings when it comes to the tools employees need to do their jobs well. Dole out pens, paper and other office supplies like they were the items about to tip the company over the financial edge. Create a make-do attitude, and then hold employees to standards unachievable given the lack of good tools and equipment.
4) Maintain an atmosphere of fear in the workplace. This technique can take many forms, but one of the most effective is to keep employees wondering whether their jobs will exist tomorrow. Dwell on declining sales, especially if you can do so in several contexts. Ask them casual questions about their spouse’s job security. Drop small but favored perks such as water bottles, good coffee or the annual company picnic. Productivity and employee attitude will fall simultaneously.
3) Show employees you don’t trust them. Make sure employees know they are not at all trusted. Double and triple check their paperwork, logs and products. Listen in on conversations. Hide behind cubicle walls and eavesdrop on employee discussions. Search them as they leave, even if they have no access to anything of value. The impact on morale and work quality will be noticeable almost instantly.
2) Make it an us and them atmosphere. Demand that staff- level employees take cuts in pay, hours or benefits. Postpone or cancel promotions. Delay replacement of worn-out but needed equipment and furnishing. Then give the executive staff new 22” flat panel computers. Talk about how hot it was on your trip to Italy. Complain about how your Porsche is always in the shop. After all, they should be happy to have a job, any job. Right?
1) Wherever possible, reinforce the idea that they are replaceable. This is the number one way to kill employee morale. For every person employed in your company, there are at least a dozen applicants eager to take their position. Let your current employees know that, whether through words, deeds or environment, that they could be replaced tomorrow.
October 13, 2008
With immigration law heating up, it is imperative that businesses small and large alike understand their responsibilities. This video tutorial gives an overview of the history, proper completion, storage, and destruction regulations, of the Form I-9.
October 7, 2008
I presented to a group a while back and used some scenarios to prompt discussion about best practices in dealing with Sexual Harassment complaints. The result was a very fun and engaging conversation.
Many people from the group asked for a copy of the quiz to use in their trainings. Here is just one of the scenarios with the discussion points.
The “He Said-She Said” Sexual Harassment Scenario
Jane works for Bob. After successfully completing a project, Bob tells Jane he will treat her to lunch. The next day, Jane sends an email to Bob’s supervisor: “Yesterday, Bob asked me to go to lunch with him. I was not sure that was right, but he’s my boss. At lunch, he propositioned me. I want something done about this.”
The supervisor knows Bob to be a dedicated family man. He does not know Jane very well, but has no reason to believe she is a liar. He calls Bob, and tells him what Jane said. Bob is outraged, and denies everything. The supervisor then calls Jane and tells her that Bob denies the accusation. He asks if there were any witnesses. Jane says there weren’t, but swears that what she said is true.
Faced with a “he said-she said situation”, the supervisor puts a memo in their files, and tells them both to act responsibly, and avoid any future situations that might cause problems.
Was Bob’s supervisor correct in conducting the investigation?
The story states that the supervisor knows bob well but does not know Jane very well. It is always best to have someone who is unbiased conduct the investigation. He should have either went to the HR department or (if no HR) hired an outside consultant to investigate.
Did Bob handle the investigation properly by only speaking to Bob and Jane?
Even though the story states that there were no witnesses to this particular incident it is always a good idea to conduct interviews with various people who have contact with the people involved. This may just be a symptom of a chronic problem that needs to be addressed.
Since the case turned out to be a “he said-she said” and no harassment was proven, was the supervisor correct in only documenting the claim and results of the investigation?
Both parties are clearly uncomfortable at this point. In order to avoid retaliation against Jane or further issues, I would try to move Jane under a different supervisor or into a different department….Although, one would have to be very careful that Jane was onboard with the move and would not be losing anything as it could be construed as retaliation if she viewed it as a demotion of any sort.
Remember that these are just the best answers in my opinion and should not be looked at as legal advice as I am not a lawyer. I designed this quiz to create conversation around best practices…not really to be a step-by-step guide. Every situation is different and you should always consult with an HR professional or an attorney on a case-by-case situation.
October 3, 2008
I recently came across an article titled “30 Interview Questions You Can’t Ask and 30 Sneaky, Legal Alternatives to Get the Same Info” on HR World, which caused quite a stir. Check out the article and the comments at http://www.hrworld.com/features/30-interview-questions-111507/.
Why all the outrage in the HR community? The article, although filled with good information, was presented as a way to use legal questions in order to try to trick the applicant into revealing information that we can only assume would allow the interviewer to make a hiring decision based on discriminatory criteria.
The bottom line is this, the EEOC does not mandate what questions can be asked in an interview. The interview (and its questions) is not the issue; it is what criteria you use to make the hiring decision that matters. You should hire the most qualified person for the position using only criteria that makes sound business sense for the position in which you are hiring.
Here are five quick tips to keep your hiring legal and to get the right person for the job.
- Take the time to create a detailed job description. This should include the physical requirements for the job, the hours and travel needs, the required skills, experience, and education needed to perform that job, and the personal attributes that are aligned with the business’s desired value and culture (to ensure organizational fit).
- Use the job description to create a structured interview. A structured interview simply means one in which every applicant is asked the same questions. This is a best practice because it ensures consistency which can help to keep the interviewer on the right track, and gives you consistent criteria to compare in order to make the best decision in the end.
- Take notes. These notes should be kept for one year. If you are ever questioned about a hiring decision it is imperative that you are able to look back at the notes from every candidate for that position to show why you made the decision that you made, again, based on business need. One word of caution – only write notes that have to do with the business criteria. Do not jot down things that could be construed as discriminatory such as; has three kids, will be ready for retirement in three years, overweight, etc.
- Don’t go it alone. Always have more than one interviewer present during an interview. This will not only protect you in a he-said/she-said situation but can also negate the affects of stereotyping or hiring from your gut. The other person will help to balance you out by giving you another perspective.
- Don’t stereotype. Everyone does it to some extent or another but in an employment decision it can get you in trouble and will not yield you the best employee for the job in the end.
Here’s an example: you are hiring an account supervisor who needs to be available to travel with very little notice. You interview Sue who mentions her six kids during idle chit-chat with the receptionist and you overhear. Next, you interview Bob who is a 20 something bachelor. You assume that Sue might have a hard time picking up at the drop of a hat where Bob will be available whenever you need him. However, the reality is that Sue’s husband is a stay-at-home dad and Bob is responsible for his elderly mother and can not travel overnight.
If a job has a particular requirement such as travel, heavy lifting, long hours, physically challenging environments, or whatever. Make them clear during the interview and ask (every applicant) if they can meet that requirement. When they answer, take them at face value.
Remember, interviewing is not easy. Even the most seasoned of HR professionals makes a bad hiring decision from time to time. However, by taking a systematic approach and using tools such as the job description, structured interview questions, pre-employment tests, and background and reference checks you can increase your chances of a good hire by up to 80%.
September 22, 2008
Top companies realize the affects of employee wellness on their bottom line. This is evident by the billions of dollars spent on wellness initiatives by larger corporations every year.
Think you can’t start a wellness program for your small business? Think again. There are literally hundreds of ways to work on wellness at any budget. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started.
- Spark People – SparkPeople’s mission is to SPARK millions of PEOPLE to reach their goals and lead healthier lives. They offer nutrition, health, and fitness tools, support, and resources that are 100% free! On their site a company can start a “Spark Team” where employees become members. They earn points by reading articles and meeting the health goals that they define for themselves. A small business could easily create some excitement about a program such as this by offering a small prize to employees who earn a certain number of points. Check them out at www.sparkpeople.com.
- Purchase health and wellness magazines to leave in the break room.
- WELCOA.org is another great place to start. They offer numerous resources to get a wellness program started. My favorite is an eight-page monthly publication that costs as little as .29 per issue.
- Walk or Build for Charity – This will not only improve your employee’s health but can also be a great team-builder, marketing event, and will boost employee morale. There are numerous opportunities in every city. Habitat for Humanity is just one. Don’t forget to involve your employee’s family and friends for added work/life balance!!!
- United Way 2-1-1 – I have mentioned this before, but what a great resource! You can now offer your employees assistance in all sorts of areas for free by using this resource. In the Kansas City area check out their site at http://www.unitedwaygkc.org.
September 15, 2008
Five years ago, The Gallup Organization began creating a feedback system for employers that would identify and measure elements of worker engagement most tied to the bottom line–things such as sales growth, productivity and customer loyalty.
After hundreds of focus groups and thousands of interviews with employees in a variety of industries, Gallup came up with the Q12, a 12-question survey that identifies strong feelings of employee engagement. Results from the survey show a strong correlation between high scores and superior job performance. Here are those 12 questions:
• Do you know what is expected of you at work?
• Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
• At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
• In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work?
• Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?
• Is there someone at work who encourages your development?
• At work, do your opinions seem to count?
• Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?
• Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?
• Do you have a best friend at work?
• In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?
• In the last year, have you had opportunities at work to learn and grow?
Reprinted with permission. Copyright 1992-1999 The Gallup Organization, Princeton, NJ. All rights reserved. Gallup and Q12 are registered trademarks of The Gallup Organization.
As a small business owner or manager, you may be asking yourself how to find the time to keep your employees engaged. It is not as difficult as you might think and may be the most important step to improving your bottom-line.
Here are some easy steps to take.
1. Develop job descriptions for each job. Be sure to work with your employees in development.
2. Use these job descriptions as the basis of a performance evaluation system. By scheduling these every six months you will be sure that your employees continue to focus on their top priorities.
3. Hold weekly staff meetings. They do not need to be long, but this is a great way to ensure that everyone stays up-beat and gets regular praise and direction.
September 2, 2008
If you have employees, you need an employee handbook.
Improve your existing policies
Writing an employee handbook is to your employment policies what writing a business plan is to your business. It is the act itself that can help you improve. Let’s face it, as small business owners we are often so busy that we can neglect our employee issues. When this happens our interactions can become an exercise in putting out fires, rather than acting proactively.
By partnering with an expert, whether your attorney or an HR professional to think through policies that will help your business run more effectively, you are taking the first step to becoming an employer of choice.
Stay out of court
Many times the key to staying out of court is in consistency. Without having clear expectations written down consistency is difficult.
Because some states regard an employee handbook as an employment contract, handbooks can sometimes be a detriment to employers who find themselves in court. However, you can minimize your risk by using precise language and effective disclaimers.
Motivate your employees
Employees are at their best when they know exactly what you expect of them. You can use your employee handbook as a tool not only to lay down the law of the land, but also to let employees know exactly what they are working towards. Add sections about performance appraisals, raises, and promotions to let your employees know what steps to take to get ahead.
When hiring someone new an employee manual can be used to communicate your desired culture and make your company appear more professional. Use the first few sections of your handbook to give a history of your company, your mission and values, and add a welcome letter to let them know who your company is. The first day can set the tone for years of great success.
When rolling out a handbook to existing employees, take it as an opportunity to create excitement. Let them know how much you have grown and plan on growing in the future and be sure to let them know how they have contributed to that growth.
If you google “Employee Handbook” you will find thousands of sites offering inexpensive handbooks that can be downloaded on the spot. However, when you use somebody else’s handbook are you creating your culture? Find a company that will partner with you in writing your handbook to ensure that it represents your company and not someone else’s.