The Only Thing Leaders Should Have Top Of Mind For 2018 is Integrity

Integrity

This is the time of year that predictions are made and data is shared about what the strategic and operational goals are for the upcoming year. Although management firms spend an inordinate amount of time and money collecting this data all year long for these much-coveted reports, there is rarely anything earth-shattering about what CEO’s, business leaders or professionals have to say about where their focus will be in the new year. The usual banter will be about increasing engagement, improving candidate experience, technology, finding the best talent etc. As you can see, nothing really shocking.

However, 2017 has been illuminating. I wanted to say “different”, but that would mean that what I am about to share is new as of this year and it isn’t. In fact, what I will share is the result of something somewhere in the archives of time that started off as a snowball and is now an avalanche of end-of-the-world proportions crushing souls and careers to boot. This thing I speak of is the erosion of integrity and values in business.

2017 is the first year in my existence where just about every month there has been some company, company head or public figure who has come under scrutiny for either illegal or unethical practices. There have been so many “sorry’s” and “apologies flung around this year that it is becoming nauseating and unbelievable. The travesty in it all is that people who knew that all of this unethical and illegal behavior was the very thing that contributed to the fame, fortune and prestige always knew the things we see playing out. They were just waiting and hoping that the rest of the world would see it someday. So what has changed this year? For the first time ever and for reasons unknown to me, people were willing to believe the stories otherwise known over the years as individual gripes, “crazy talk”, imaginary happenings, urban legends and conspiracy theory this year. Suddenly, what was always in the shadows and dark got its much-deserved light via social media, blogs, livestreams, and a lot of bravery on the part of people who chose to break their silence.

In a lot of ways, this year has been one huge coming-out party and not in a good way. Whether it is our government and the corruption of the day or the growing list of sexual harassment and assault charges following the Harvey Weinstein debacle, it has not been a good year for US companies and more specifically humans as a whole. The latest debacle is set at Huffington Post. According to an article published yesterday by Gizmodo, Arianna Huffington ignored sexual harassment claims made by workers in her New York office while she was still running the company. The article goes on to state that one such former managing editor whose sexual misconduct was known to her also garnered a transfer to HuffPost India as a result of an HR investigation.  How an investigation that leads to the proof that an employee of yours is engaging in sexual misconduct doesn’t result in a termination is beyond me.

Without diving too deep into this particular story, I prefer to examine the over-arching narrative of CEO’s and leaders, in general, both men and women who consistently overlook, engage in, and embrace unethical and illegal practices as a means to secure opportunities, line their pockets and the pockets of their shareholders and investors. I would be lying if I said I had never encountered leaders or employees behaving unethically who somehow managed to keep their jobs, lives, and lifestyles intact. It has disgusted me. I often spoke up about it only to be met with “Well you know it is John Bae. Yes, he is a jerk and misogynist, but he brings in a shit ton of money for the company, so we have to tread lightly”.

Frankly, I am glad 2017 raised a proverbial mirror to all of the things that make us suck at being human. Now, that we all know and finally see what we all knew was commonplace in business how do we move forward in trust? Can “building trust within my organization” really be on your scorecard when your foundation has been flooded with the truth and is now crumbling as a result?  Can you genuinely accept that accolade for best company for women when you have investigations sitting on your desk overlooked and predators collecting checks on your dime? Can you really call your company culture “diverse and inclusive” if you secretly donate operating budget to the KKK or 45’s ongoing campaign? Note: “Diverse” and “inclusive” is maybe not appropriate if the latter applies.

Suddenly, no company, CEO or person is safe from the truth. Your money, prestige, and power are on a timer and the time is nearly up. The only thing leaders should be thinking about going into 2018 is integrity. I’m not sure where along the journey, so many decided that money trumped having values, meant destroying lives and doing it with a smile. Now is a time to ask your employees to blow the whistle internally before the public has its way with you and your brand. It is time, to be honest, and say sorry because you mean it. It is a good time to make amends and provide whatever you must to make it right with the people who show up daily to impact your bottom line.

Everybody needs to take one long hot shower to wash the filth of 2017 and before off and start anew in 2018 with a focus on treating employees, customers, and citizens of this world with the dignity they deserve as a matter of being a fellow human. It may cost you revenue. You may piss off your board of directors and investors, but isn’t it time for “good” to make a comeback?

For some starter tips on cleaning house, revisit an Aristocracy of HR throwback: The Untouchables: Why you should stop salvaging bad employees at every level.

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.

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