The Cloak of Silence: Why Your Employees Won’t Communicate

The Cloak of Silence-Why Your Employees Won't Communicate

There are all of these articles about communication and engagement. I have contributed my thoughts in some of them. They are all useful in some regard if you want to get to the bottom of your engagement and communication issues. Except, we would have to include the one nuisance variable that most leaders and companies won’t cop to and that is: The cloak of silence.

We are working and living in the age of knowledge. We have more data points than we can use and have more information at our finger tips than previous generations. If given a chance, most leaders will cite wanting to understand their employees better. They want to understand things like motivations, propensity to leave, career aspirations etc.

What makes this problematic is leaders and companies want to know these things, but are often times not willing to ingest and digest the answers. Often times, when the answer they receive is unfavorable for them or the company – they react. The reaction is negative and usually sets such a tone that any further or future communication like it will be non-existent, censored and/or stifled.

Around the time of the 9/11 attacks here in NY the MTA came out with this whole campaign that said: ” If you see something, say something.” Many businesses latched onto this saying and started using it as a way to appear as though employees should feel free to share the things they are noticing and should feel safe to do so without fearing retaliation. There are some good eggs that truly stand by having an open, honest and communicative culture.

Others still, prefer a cloak of silence. They prefer for employees to be seen and not heard. These are companies that like when people speak up to praise the organization and its leaders. Companies that prefer a cloak of silence literally squash and black list anyone who dreams of raising a concern or anything deemed unfavorable for the company.

Let us examine through this example:

I worked for a company in a previous life that loved to hold town halls. If you know anything about town halls you know that they are meant to be open forums where people can come to have their ideas and concerns heard by those in power. The goal is that healthy debate and conversation is brought to the table by the constituents and those in power so that amicable solutions can be implemented.

When we had town halls, they spent weeks communicating the importance of our participation. It was even shared that no question was “dumb” or “irrelevant”. Yet, the first town hall I attended at this company was quieter than a church during Sermon. The CHRO spent an hour speaking about projects, opportunities, our organizational scorecard and then asked for questions. One of my co-workers raised her hand and if looks could kill she would have been dead. She continued to ask her question about adding additional members to our team, because of the excessive workload. Her question was answered abruptly and dismissed.

After the town hall, some of my more tenured co-workers spoke among themselves about how this employee who spoke up never learns her lesson. As in, she should have remained quiet instead, because clearly her question was not welcomed.

Every subsequent meeting and town hall was marred by a cloak of silence. We all knew that it wasn’t worth our time to ask questions or raise issues in these meetings despite what leadership was saying. They didn’t really want to know. It was all about faking their way to engagement and open communication – except they were doing a really poor job at it.

If you have noticed the same in your company here are some tips for building trust and getting your employees to communicate with you again:

1) Don’t ask questions, if you don’t want the answers. What people experience in their jobs day-to-day is very real. Don’t ask them to lie to you so your feelings aren’t hurt. Your employees have a right to not work in fear and you deserve to hear the truth so you can improve.

2) If delivery of certain messages are your concern, set a few ground rules for your town halls and meetings. Let’s be honest, sometimes intention doesn’t meet delivery at the finish line when it comes to communication. Having a few ground rules for meetings and town halls will help to set the tone. Be sure that your employees know you will abide by them as well.

3) When they speak, you listen and then take action. What is the point of having all of these data points, if you are going to simply hoard them – only to do nothing with it. When your employees speak up it’s an act of bravery on their part. The way they know that you have heard them is by acknowledging what was said and taking action.

Communicating doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you get over your own fears and needs to control what and how your employees say something – it will be a smoother ride for both parties.

Startups Are Enjoying Human Resources A La Carte

Image courtesy of Flickr.com.

The definition of “a la carte” is: separately priced items from a menu, not as a part of a set meal. I am seeing a trend in my business that suggests that HR has a value in businesses still, but the need and delivery preference is more “a la carte” in nature. This means that smaller companies and startups don’t have the capital, need or want for a full-fledged HR department, but will seek out different aspects of HR expertise as the need arises.

How does this work?

Let’s just say you have a startup and you have five employees currently.  Perhaps, you operate your business in multiple states and have a mix of both contractors and employees. At some point (hopefully not when it is too late) you are going to need to understand if you are complying with all of the employment laws. Moreover, you will want to know that you have a sound plan for managing people as you grow.

If you own a startup and you already recognize what you don’t know – you may opt to bring in someone with HR expertise to audit what you have done to date and help you figure out what the right roles are as you continue to expand your business. That HR person doesn’t necessarily need to be a permanent fixture within the company, but they are a call away if some other “people” related concerns crop up.

This option of a la carte HR services is a flexible option for startups and smaller companies. When you initially start your business, money is scant. You are lucky if you have enough to bring on someone for a couple of hours – let alone a full-time HR Generalist. Bringing in HR expertise as it makes sense for your company not only keeps you in compliance, but ensures that you have someone looking at your growth through the lens of your people.

Let’s take something as simple as recruitment. You are a startup. You’re using multiple sources to create buzz for a few new roles you have within your company. It has been my experience that recruitment efforts are made constantly without a look at whether the company is getting the biggest bang for their buck. Now this oversight isn’t specific to startups and smaller companies, but the impact of those missteps are much more visible and palpable when you are in a growth state.  There are also cracks and/or bottlenecks in their hiring processes that get overlooked. Again, not a mistake that hasn’t been made elsewhere – but a mistake that can hinder your growth as a startup before your business begins to gain traction.

How do you build an empire without considering what people you will need to get there?

This is the one question every founder should be asking themselves. As a founder of my own company, I am fortunate to have the big ideas and have a deeper appreciation for utilizing HR practices to enhance my business. I have that advantage since I worked in HR for ten years prior to going out on my own, but what about those founders who aren’t like me? Are they shooting themselves in the foot by not having some HR expertise in their back pocket?

My answer is: Yes.  You may not love what HR has stood for over the past 30 years. For that matter, I am not a fan of the stances we take when it comes to certain organizational issues. However, I think we can all agree that ping-pong tables, unlimited time off and flexible work schedules haven’t exactly solved the unhappiness at work quotient if you speak to people working at startups.

Startups are often regarded as the anti-establishments working in mostly unorthodox ways that don’t conform to a specific business standard. In many ways, it has been helpful to see something other than the usual corporate modus operandi at play; but perhaps there are some fundamental things we can’t wish away. I think one of those fundamental things is HR. You may wish HR didn’t exist, but there is virtually no way for a founder to be successful in growing their business without a plan for how you will manage the people that will be pivotal in helping you grow your empire.

Here are some things you need to do now if you don’t have an HR consultant on speed dial or an in-house HR person:

1) Look at your current roster of employees and consider whether you are complying with all of the employment laws in your state and federally. If you can’t answer a resounding “yes” to that question,  you need to find someone to look at your workforce immediately.

2) When you find the HR authority for your business, don’t just look for a popular blog, do some research. I shouldn’t have to tell you how popular “faking it until you make it” has gotten. Be sure that you vet your HR person’s expertise and feel comfortable with their approach to your needs. This can be sorted in a consultation. Do your homework.

3) If you’re looking to keep this endeavor budget-friendly, choose one area that touches your workforce and allocate funds for that. Focusing on improving one area that can have a positive impact on your company is better than doing nothing at all.

3a) While we’re on the subject of budget, make sure you allocate budget for HR in the first place. I don’t care if this is for a cluster of consulting hours. HR expertise for your specific needs is not free. Having some budget can get you the right professional.

For those of you who have been reporting that HR is dead, it appears on my end that it is still very viable and much needed. We may need to rethink how we package it, but we are far from being six feet under.

If you don’t believe me, even Fast Company agrees. Check out their May 2016 8 minute read article about it here.

There’s Nothing Kush-y About Marijuana Legalization: What Businesses Need To Know

Image courtesy of Flickr.com.

Marijuana Legalization has been a topic that evaded me until recently. I had no real interest in it. That was until I started watching a channel called Viceland on my Amazon TV. There is this very interesting show called ‘Weediquette’. The show is hosted by Krishna Andavolu and chronicles him visiting not only U.S. states that have legalized marijuana – but families and businesses affected by the changing landscape of medical and recreational use of marijuana globally.

While the general approach is to focus on how your state is handling the legalization of marijuana – I believe it is beneficial to understand the larger story of how marijuana legalization is being navigated by the average citizen. If you are knowledgeable about how it affects citizens on the whole in your state – it is likely to inform you of how it could or maybe influencing your employees.

To date, there are 25 states in the U.S. that have legalized medical marijuana use and just four states that have legalized both recreational and medical marijuana use. According to Governing.com, the four states where marijuana has been legalized for both recreational and medical use is: Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington.

What makes the legalization of marijuana particularly difficult is the following:

1) Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level.

2) Much of the state legislation is so vague that it is hard to understand what is permissible and what is not.

3) Safety concerns and increased employer liability for undetected and undisclosed marijuana use.

This isn’t the first time HR practitioners have had to lead in the face of legislative uncertainty. Nevertheless, it doesn’t make our jobs easier.

My colleagues at Assurex Global have been kind enough to share the infographic below with me. It outlines the state of marijuana legalization and what you should know and be doing to safeguard your organizations.

 

Infographic via Assurex Global.

Infographic via Assurex Global.

When There Are No Resources For Your “Human” Resources

When There Are No Resources For Your Human Resources

I completely get that there are many businesses that continue to feel the pinch financially. With that “pinch” it requires cutbacks in certain areas and in some cases across the board. One of the areas I am seeing some less than reasonable cuts in is: supplies and tools. You may be thinking that this is extremely reasonable to do in a time of strained budgets, but it really isn’t.

Please know when I say “supplies and tools”, I’m not talking about the kind of cutbacks that result in getting rid of the colored post-it notes to go with the budget yellow ones. I’m talking about cuts to supplies to the extent of employees not having enough resources to do their jobs.

Still in the dark? Here’s an example.

A world-renowned law enforcement agency with millions of dollars earmarked annually for its operation has a printing paper deficit. In many of its departments it is a requirement to print various pieces of information to complete several of their processes. The printing paper deficit has gotten so bad that employees hoard reams of paper when they are ever lucky to receive a shipment. The hoarding of paper means that many employees are left without any paper which then causes them to beg and barter among themselves for company resources to get their jobs done.

To make matters worse, there are two said printers in some of the departments with high-volume printing work, which means there are constant interruptions to the flow of work to wait for other printing jobs to finish before retrieving their own work.

One day, there was very little paper, computers were having a moment, and one of the printers was out. Keep in mind that there is also a quota looming over these workers heads for having to have a certain number of queries done on new hires per day. With no letting up on the queries despite the severe deficit in office supplies to get the job done, the employees are left thinking: ” What do you want me to do?”.

Let’s talk systems and tools.

How do you have employees show up and expect them to work without access to the very systems they need to get the work done? In a recent instance, an employee went almost four months without having properly assigned codes and access to the systems they needed to get their job done. Instead, they had to use the usernames and passwords of a co-worker to complete work. During this time of sharing usernames and passwords, the co-worker changed codes frequently without sharing this with the new employee – so you can imagine there were several lockout instances.

Again, I can’t understand how we can talk about employees being unproductive, yet not give them the resources or tools necessary to get the job done.

If your budget is scant or you have fallen into this rut without realizing it – let me be your light and guide to proper onboarding and productivity measures:

 1) No one should be transferring or hired into your company without being allocated the pertinent tools, resources and/or access to systems. You want productivity on day one and your employees want to be productive. Create a simple system for onboarding new people so that their access to things doesn’t fall through the cracks. It is not your employees’ responsibility to onboard themselves and properly assimilate. We must do better!

2) Purchasing office supplies is not your employees responsibility. Now, I’m not saying if your employee enjoys a certain expensive pen or supply that they shouldn’t be responsible to purchase it on their own dime. I am saying that if you cannot afford printer paper, you have a bigger cash flow or budget problem on your hand that needs to be addressed. Outside of maybe teachers and healthcare professionals purchasing applicable uniforms, there is no good reason in my head why an employee should have to purchase supplies out of their own money to complete your work.

3) Less is only more when employers are saving dollars. Sometimes you have to invest. If the expectation is for a high-volume of work to be churned out, you need to speak to your staff regularly to keep a pulse on how the technologies, tools, processes and resources available to them are working out. Often times, we see the work getting done and assume all is well on that front. The reality is your employees – in many cases are moving mountains, dealing with your cutbacks and creating workarounds to get your work done. The least you can do is check-in with them and make the investment when it is clear it is time for an upgrade.

 When it comes to work, we are only as productive as our environment and resources will allow. Work ethic matters as well, but for the sake of the article we will assume most people come to work with an intention to do their best. Give your employees the support, resources and tools they need and watch them thrive.

The Future of Work Needs Flexible HR Technology: A Look inside Recruiterbox

 

Image courtesy of Recruiterbox

Image courtesy of Recruiterbox

 

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored product review. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from.  I am not formally employed by Recruiterbox. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

I have long discussed the perils of ill-implemented HR Technology. I have also discussed the necessity for HR Technology that can grow and bend with the whims of the business.

As someone who worked in Talent Acquisition for virtually her  entire HR career, I know the pain points  when it comes to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) all too well. I have lived through everything from ridiculous error reports for minor input mistakes to larger-than-life SaaS solutions that consistently overpromised and under-delivered in the way of ease of use.

As both a former HR practitioner and now as a business owner/analyst assisting companies with making technology decisions for their businesses, I have often wondered why technology that has been designed to streamline the hiring process has instead made hiring more difficult for everyone involved.

Let me be fair…we have evolved.

In fairness, it probably wasn’t the intention of the founders of several of the applicant tracking systems we know to deliberately make recruiters’ and hiring managers’ jobs harder with their creation.

If we look at the ATS historically, there was a time when ERP systems were the best, new products on the market for tracking the steps of candidates and hires. ERP systems weren’t necessarily ideal, but they got the job done – albeit in an excruciatingly painful manner.

We evolved with Software-As-A-Service solutions – understanding that the nature of how business and work gets accomplished was changing to a more on-demand and flexible approach. This approach continues to be at the forefront of what is needed from the ATS whether you are an enterprise company or a small business.

The Workforce is changing.

The workforce is a mix of Millennials, Boomers, Gen X, Gen Z and even some Traditionalists. It is a mashup of full-time, part-time, freelancers, temporary, remote workers and per diem employees. With a mix of all of these demographics funneling into companies of all sizes, it is an absolute necessity that companies have an ATS that is dynamic enough to capture all of the information available to us, malleable enough to change workflows, users and processes on the fly, and easy enough to use – that even the least tech savvy employees in your organization will enjoy using it.

Meet Recruiterbox

I had the pleasure of chatting with the one of the three co-founders of Recruiterbox, Raj ShethRecruiterbox is a 5 year-old, self-funded recruiting software company that doesn’t try to be anything more than what it is intended to be and that is a seamless, easy-to-use technology that makes hiring a productive activity.

During my demo with Raj, he summed up the reasoning for why Recruiterbox exists as follows: “Traditional HR software is cumbersome and built for process – not for productivity.” He went on to explain that so much of what we do takes place in email, yet there is no way to draw from this data source.

As a former recruiter, I can attest to how many resumes and discussions took place in my email. In return, I had the task of figuring out how to properly document those conversations in the ATS.

Raj and his team have gone to great lengths to see that productivity, communication, and user experience are the cornerstones to this software.

How do I know?

I put my super user hat on and spent the past week and a half utilizing their free trial to test the capabilities of this software.

RB Social Footprint

Social Footprint Screen

Here are some features that really resonated with me:

  • Truly configurable workflows. The first thing you do when creating a new opening in Recruiterbox is to design your workflow. They give you three delivered workflow stages that you can edit to suit your needs. I appreciated this feature, because different openings call for different steps towards the hire at times. With this workflow editing option, Recruiterbox is giving you, the organization the power back to make changes to your hiring process as needed. I did not need to log-in to a different portal to make my changes nor did I need extensive training to learn how to configure the workflow. Everything in Recruiterbox is extremely intuitive.
  • No more post- job fair or compliance nightmares. When you sign-up for Recruiterbox you get a company-branded email that allows people to apply to your company with one email. When the candidate sends their resume to this email, it automatically loads their resume in the system. You as the recruiter or coordinator can assign the candidate as you see fit thereafter.  If you don’t like this option, you can also batch upload resumes via zip file into the system. This is a nice feature if you like a paperless process like me.
  • Capture the candidates you find on the web with one click. Recruiterbox has a Google Plug-in that allows you to pull in candidates into their “Prospecting” dashboard. You know those candidates that you happen upon during a Boolean or LinkedIn search? You can capture their name, email, phone number, referral source, and resume with this plug-in. Minimal parsing makes for 100% successful execution every time.
  • Want to know where your candidates hang out on the web? Recruiterbox captures each candidate’s social footprint so you can see how they present themselves across all social platforms.
  • Interview scheduling made easy with a dose of video. In Recruiterbox, you can easily schedule everything from a phone screening to a Skype Interview. You have the option of confirming your interviews or you can send prospective schedules to candidates for them to confirm their acceptance of the designated timeslot. Two clicks from within Recruiterbox allow you to launch Skype when you have installed the Skype plugin on your desktop.

 

Application form configuration screen

Application form configuration screen

The list of positive attributes to this system is endless. As we speak they are working  launching an improved and robust reporting and analytics module. As you well know, I have a penchant for companies who are relentless about improving their product  through good data.

If you are a company of 1-1000 employees and in the market for a new ATS, Recruiterbox is worth your attention.  You will find the pricing to be reasonable and  the value immense.

For a free demo, click here to sign-up or watch their video demo.

Need more convincing? Read a case study from one of their clients, Beauty Brands here.

Bonus: Get a free copy of Co-Founder, Raj Sheth’s  E-Book prePARE: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Hiring. Click here to download.

Beware Knowledge-Poaching Leaders

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about things I needed CHRO’s to know about what the organization needs from them. I wanted them to know what kind of leaders their employees deserve. I find myself wanting to have this discussion again after yet another anecdote about an ill-equipped CHRO.

I have often heard that leaders don’t need to be knowledgeable in every facet of their employees’ work to be effective. That may well be true in some scenarios. However, it is my belief that time spent in the trenches is valuable not only for the purpose of understanding what your employees go through – but also so you bring something other than a title to the table when you are called to it.

Some of the best leaders I have known have worked their way from the bottom to the C-Suite. I also know people that haven’t held every role on their way to the top, but are relentless about rolling up their sleeves and keeping themselves current on all things HR. As a business owner, I  know what I know and I know what I don’t know. As such, I seek out the people and resources that are needed to help me execute my tasks and business goals. I may not be an expert in everything, but I am willing to learn and/or I research what I don’t know so I can have an intelligent conversation about the work that needs to be done.

Here’s a thought…

Don’t become a leader , if you choose to be a figurehead rather than a team member. The world can use less people who look the part versus fitting the part. Personally, I have had enough of watching people in the C-Suite sitting in meetings and town halls completely oblivious to what is going on in their organizations. It isn’t becoming to not understand the basic tenets of your niche – when it is that very expertise that you got you hired for the job in the first place. It is equally uncool to take credit for your teams knowledge and expertise.

Experts often say you shouldn’t be working in your business day-to-day as a CEO. I both agree and disagree with this sentiment. I know that going forward I will need to delegate work so I can work on business development and other aspects of my business. Conversely, I have been all things in my business out of both necessity and utility. I now know what has to be done in all aspects of my business and how it should be done.  It would be impossible for me to provide the proper direction and vision to a future employee – without having experienced being in their shoes.

Additionally, if my team members bring something new or innovative to my work that was previously overlooked by me, I have a duty to give them the credit for their effort and ideas. Being a knowledge-poacher is not only disingenuous, it is a morale killer.

Put yourself in the place of one of your employees for a second. Think about how exhilarating  it is to think you have come up with a solution to an issue or to know that you created a unique program or initiative. Imagine the pride you would feel as an employee to hand the deliverable off to a manager or leader realizing its potential for recognition by the right people – only to have said leader take credit for your work. How would you feel?

As a leader, you don’t have to know it all or be everything to everyone. You do have a duty to ensure that your employees efforts and great ideas are recognized. You are not less of a leader, because your employees excel at things you don’t. If you are a knowledge-poaching leader take a good, long look at yourself.  Heed the following warnings because this is your plight:

1) Employees who are victims of knowledge-poaching leaders eventually move on to greener pastures where their talent can not be hidden (I am proof of this).  This likely means high turnover for your organization.

2) When the victims of your poaching do move on, everything will eventually crumble around you. It only takes that one key employee to leave for the weakest links to be exposed. This run of hiding behind other people’s talent never lasts indefinitely.

3) Your poaching affects all of your employees whether they are the ones being poached or not. In the case of one of my colleagues, he questions the ethical, moral, and organizational ramifications of not speaking-up in defense of a co-worker whose knowledge, expertise and efforts are being poached. 

True leaders aren’t insecure because their teams are strong. They celebrate the strength of the team with pride and acknowledgement.

Don’t be a knowledge-poaching leader!

 

Translate »
Font Resize