Category Archives: employee policies

‘The 27 Challenges Managers Face’

Bruce Tulgan

Bruce Tulgan

I just came across an advance copy of a book due on shelves Sept. 15 that takes a pretty interesting stab at itemizing and enumerating every key challenge a manager will face in his or her profession. I’m sharing it here — “The 27 Challenges Managers Face” — because I’ve found the author, Bruce Tulgan, CEO and founder of New Haven, Conn.-based management consultancy RainmakerThinking Inc., to be pretty authoritative and sound over the years when it comes to manager-employee relationships.

HRE clearly concurs, as it will be featuring Tulgan in a webinar on Aug. 13, titled “Building a Better Boss: Engaging Managers to Inspire and Engage Workers.” In the webinar, he’ll discuss his latest research that finds “The Under-Management Epidemic,” first revealed in his company’s 2004 study, rages on 10 years later. According to the study, nine out of 10 leaders and managers are not providing their direct reports with sufficient guidance, support and coaching today. 

In his latest book, already listed on Amazon, Tulgan reiterates and underscores that fact, bringing together what he says are the 27 — not 26 or 28, mind you — challenges he’s heard repeatedly from managers over his 20 years of research. During that time, he says, he’s asked “hundreds of thousands of managers in organizations of all shapes and sizes, ‘What are the most difficult challenges you face when it comes to managing people?’ ” His finding:

Regardless of industry or job title, managers cite the same core issues — more than 90 percent of responses over the years refer to the same 27 challenges. The same cases come up over and over again — maybe it’s the superstar [who] the manager is afraid of losing, the slacker [who] the manager cannot figure out how to motivate or the two employees who cannot get along.”

As Tulgan says in a Q&A at the end of this link about the book, including excerpts:

It turns out that when things are going wrong in a management relationship, almost always, the common denominator is unstructured, low-substance, hit-or-miss communication. … Almost always, the ad-hoc manner in which most managers talk to their direct reports every day actually makes inevitable the most difficult employee situations that tend to vex managers. What is the key to avoiding most of these problems and the key to solving them quickly and with relative ease as soon as they appear? High-structure high-substance one-on-one dialogues with every direct report.”

For what it’s worth, I have talked to numerous experts over the years who have corroborated this need for more effective and authentic one-on-one business leadership, including folks at Bridgeville, Pa.-based Development Dimensions International, whose recent study finds a sorry lack of interactive-conversational skills among business leaders and managers worldwide. (I wrote about that study in this recent news analysis.)

As it is, and as Tulgan’s book lays them out — grouped in chapters according to stages of one’s management career and types of problems — here they are, all 27 of them:

1, when going from peer to leader; 2, when coming from the outside to take over leadership of an existing team; 3, when bringing together an entirely new team; 4, when you are welcoming a new member to your existing team; 5, when employees have a hard time managing time; 6, when an employee needs help with interpersonal communication; 7, when an employee needs to get organized; 8, when an employee needs to get better at problem-solving; 9, when you have an employee who needs to increase productivity; 10, when you have an employee who needs to improve quality; 11, when you need an employee to start “going the extra mile”; 12, when your employees are doing “creative” work; 13, when the employee you are managing knows more about the work than you do (I, Kris Frasch, suspect that might be something managers are experiencing more frequently these days, given our demographic shifts in the workplace); 14, when an employee needs an attitude adjustment; 15, when there is conflict between and among individuals on your team …

Breath …

16, when an employee has personal issues at home; 17, when there is a superstar you need to keep engaged; 18, when you have a superstar you really want to retain; 19, when you have a superstar you are going to lose for sure: how to lose that superstar very well; 20, when you need to move a superstar to the next level to develop as a new leader; 21, when managing in an environment of constant change and uncertainty; 22, when managing under resource constraints; 23, when managing through interdependency management challenges; 24, when managing around logistical hurdles; 25, when managing across differences in language and culture; 26, when you need to renew your management relationship with a disengaged employee; and 27, when you need to renew your own commitment to being a strong, highly engaged manager.

As Rainmaker puts it in one promotional, “The 27 Challenges are enumerated not in order of frequency or difficulty, but rather according to the bigger-picture human capital issues in which [they] fall. Like a guidebook through the real life of a manager — from the ‘new-manager’ challenges, through performance management, retention, and all the way to the latter career stage when so many managers face the challenges of ‘renewal.’ ”

Tulgan says he hopes readers will use this book like reference material, referring to the specific challenge one is encountering and his solution for overcoming it, maybe reading others to prepare a little, but then shelving it until it’s needed again.

Personally, I can’t imagine many other challenges than the ones listed above, but Tulgan assures me there are hundreds more. Solve these ones, he says, and you’ll have a pretty good handle on how to apply “the fundamentals of management to gain control of any situation.” People managing managers, he adds, should keep it on hand, too.

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Part-Timers’ Woes Spur New Legislation

Members of Congress, states, municipalities and unions are reacting forcefully to complaints from many part-time workers that their work schedules have become too unpredictable and erratic to allow for time to take care of other important matters, such as child care or attending college classes, according to a front-page story in yesterday’s New York Times by reporter Steven Greenhouse.

As Greenhouse documents in his story, employers that make heavy use of part-time workers — such as retail and restaurant chains — are increasingly relying on “on-call” scheduling of their part-timers, with the aim of ensuring that hours worked are more closely tailored to peak customer traffic, which is not always predictable. This can result, as the story documents, in situations like that experienced by Mary Coleman, an employee of the Popeyes fast-food chain in Milwaukee, who — after taking an hour long bus commute — arrived at her job one day only to be told by her boss to go home without clocking in, even though she was scheduled to work that day.

U.S. Rep. George Miller (D.-Calif.) plans to introduce legislation this summer that would require organizations to pay their employees for an extra hour if they were notified they had to work with less than 24 hours’ notice. He also wants to guarantee that workers receive four hours’ worth of pay if they’re sent home after only a few hours on shift because of low customer traffic at the establishment at which they’re employed.

Here’s what Miller (who serves on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce) told Greenhouse:

It’s becoming more and more common to put employees in a very uncertain and tenuous position with respect to their schedules, and that ricochets if workers have families or other commitments. The employer community always says it abhors uncertainty and unpredictability, but they are creating an employment situation that has huge uncertainty and unpredictability for millions of Americans.”

The story notes that Vermont and San Francisco have laws that give workers the right to request flexible or predictable schedules to make it easier to take care of children or aging parents and that New York City is considering similar legislation. Unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers and other organizations are promoting the “Fair Workweek Initiative,” which is encouraging the passage of legislation in cities across the nation that would discourage employers from using “just-in-time” scheduling.

Don’t expect this issue to disappear anytime soon. As Susan J. Lambert, a University of Chicago professor, told Greenhouse: “The issue of scheduling is going to be the next big effort on improving labor standards. To reduce unpredictability is important to keep women engaged in the labor force.”

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Curbing Social Media Misuse

online repMany organizations—some maybe more begrudgingly than others—have accepted that employees are going to spend company time using social media for non-work purposes.

New York-based law firm Proskauer’s “Social Media in the Workplace Around the World 3.0” study just offers further confirmation of that fact.

The firm’s global survey recently polled more than 110 multinational businesses from countries including Argentina, Canada, China, India, Japan and the United States, with 43 percent of organizations reporting they allow all employees to use social media for non-business activities. Another 26 percent said they permit some workers to use social media for personal purposes.

The survey also found, however, that 71 percent of those employers have had to take disciplinary action against employees for misuse of social media. That figure stood at 35 percent when Proskauer conducted a similar survey in 2012.

What sort of infractions are employees being chastised for? A Proskauer press release summarizing key survey findings highlights some of the most common ways workers abuse social media, such as:

• Misuse of confidential information (80 percent),

• Misrepresenting the views of the business (71 percent),

• Inappropriate non-business use (67 percent),

• Disparaging remarks about the business or employees (64 percent), and

• Harassment (64 percent).

“We think the spike [in such behavior] correlates with the growth in social media use for business purposes,” says Daniel Ornstein, the London-based co-head of Proskauer’s international labor and employment law group, and lead author of the 2014 study.

“This has two consequences,” he says. “Most obviously, the more people use social media for business, the more likely it is that there will be inappropriate conduct. In addition, the [more] social media [is used] at work, the more the boundaries between work and personal blur. This blurring puts people off their guard, and increases the chances of inappropriate conduct at work.”

Employers seem to be taking greater notice of the increasingly fuzzy line between work and play. The number of companies reporting they have policies governing social media use jumped from 60 percent in 2012 to 79 percent this year, and more than half of the organizations with policies said they have updated them within the last year.

In its survey report, Proskauer offers suggestions for guarding against inappropriate use of social media, such as conducting annual audits, providing thorough employee training, identifying specific risks, and implementing clear guidelines that include provisions designed to prevent social media misuse by ex-employees as well as current ones.

For HR professionals, “the most important action is to get business buy-in for rolling out such policies and training that address the matter,” says Ornstein, “both generally and with regard to the specific risks their business faces.”

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Another Sign Your Talent May Be Bolting: Hooky

160611067-- sick employeeA month ago, almost to the day, Editor David Shadovitz posted this about a Utah State University professor’s study laying out specific behaviors to look for in top talent about to head out the door.

I thought the signs themselves, as revealed by researcher Tim Gardner, were interesting and deserve repeating. Employees about to leave, he found:

  • Offered fewer constructive contributions in meetings;
  • Were more reluctant to commit to long-term projects;
  • Became more reserved and quiet;
  • Became less interested in advancing in the organization;
  • Were less interested in pleasing their boss than before;
  • Avoided social interactions with their boss and other members of management; and
  • Began doing the minimum amount of work needed and no longer went beyond the call of duty.

Now, thanks to this from Monster Worldwide, we have another dimension to offer up in this flight-detection protocol: playing hooky. Or at least playing “I have a doctor’s appointment.”

According to Monster’s global poll, based on votes cast by Monster visitors from Dec. 2 through 6 of last year, 44 percent of respondents consider telling their boss they have a medical appointment to be the best excuse to leave work for a job interview.

The second-most-popular choice for getting out of work to interview for other work is also health-related: saying they’re sick, weighing in at 15 percent. Of course, the way I see it, both excuses — especially the latter — requires some play-acting as well, so perhaps there are some additional behavior traits we can read between the lines.

There were other non-health-related excuses — childcare, at 12 percent, and delivery/repairman at 8 percent — but faking personal health challenges topped the chart.

Especially interesting, I thought, were the differences in faking forte by country. As the Monster release states:

French respondents are the most likely to create faux doctor’s appointments when sneaking out for interviews, with 54 percent answering that they believe it is the best excuse;      conversely, French respondents are the least likely to fake an illness to excuse an interview-related absence, with only 7 percent selecting it as the best option. Respondents in the United States were the biggest proponents of the call-in-sick method, with 16 percent choosing illness as their preferred excuse. Canadian respondents were the least likely to use a delivery/repairman excuse, with under 7 percent selecting this option and were the most inclined to use a childcare-related excuse, with 16 percent picking this answer.”

Mary Ellen Slayter, a career-advice expert for Monster, says all employers ought to look at this as a reminder that “they have no choice but to be on both sides of this coin.”

“Making it easy for people to be honest is a good approach,” she says. “That means when you’re recruiting, make an effort to schedule interviews before or after work hours — or perhaps at lunch. With your own workers, don’t press them about how they’re spending their requested time off.”

As for what you’re supposed to do when you notice your top talent scheduling an inordinate number of doctor’s appointments, that’s anyone’s guess. I would think that might be a good time to start examining their engagement levels.

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Gap Bets on a Higher Hourly Wage

Everyone’s talking about the recent Congressional Budget Office report that estimated raising the nation’s minimum hourly wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016 could potentially eliminate 500,000 jobs, or about 0.3 percent of total employment. Opponents cite the 500,000 number, while supporters note that the report also estimated the higher wage would increase the incomes of 16.5 million low-wage workers in an average week.

San Francisco-based Gap Inc. isn’t waiting around — yesterday, CEO Glenn K. Murphy announced in a letter to the company’s employees that it would set the minimum hourly rate for its U.S. workforce at $9.00 per hour this year and establish a minimum of $10 per hour next year. “Our decision to invest in front-line employees will directly support our business, and is one we expect to deliver a return many times over.”

Murphy ended his letter with this:

The people in our company who engage directly with our customers carry an incredible responsibility. Our success is a result of their hard work, love of fashion and commitment. We hope this decision provides them with some additional support as they grow their careers with Gap Inc.”

According to a story in today’s New York Times, at Murphy’s previous position — CEO of Canadian pharmacy retailer Shoppers Drug Mart — he discovered that paying the chain’s hourly employees a higher wage than its competitors resulted in greater productivity per worker.

Gap employs 65,000 people in the United States at its Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and other stores. The company has not taken a public position on whether the federal minimum wage should be raised.

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Boomers and the Four-Day Work Week

Great post on jobs.AOL.com by Richard Eisenberg in which he outlines the benefits — and some of the drawbacks — of offering employees four-day work weeks, especially one group in particular:

Giving staffers one weekday off would be especially appealing to the biggest chunk of the American labor force – boomers.

Many of them could use the free day to take their parents to doctor’s appointments or handle other eldercare duties, spend time with their grandkids, learn new skills and transition into retirement. Four-day workweeks can also let them cut their commutes.

After a parade of positive comments from experts on why four-day work weeks can be beneficial to employees (both young and not-so-young) and employers, Eisenberg then flips the coin to ask Jessica DeGroot – founder of the Third Path Institute, a Philadelphia-based group that aims to help employees lead “integrated” lives – why employers may not be more embracing such schedules more often:

1. Strong organizational norms on who gets ahead at work. DeGroot says managers tend to promote staffers who “put work first,” which typically means showing up every weekday.

2. Four-day workweeks add complexity to managers’ jobs. “It’s much easier to say to everyone, ‘Come in at the same time every day and work long hours,’” she says.

“Often, it isn’t that employers don’t want to offer four-day workweeks, it’s that they’re not sure what’s in it for them,” says [SHRM's co-leader of the Society for Human Resource Management Workplace Flexibility Initiative and partnership with the Families and Work Institute] Lisa Horn.

But one reason boomers may NOT appreciate a 4/10 schedule (four days a week, 10 hours per day) is simple, according to Groot:

“I’m 52 and I don’t have the energy I had when I was 22,” DeGroot says. “With a 4/10 schedule, I’d need the other day to recover and that defeats the whole purpose of a four-day workweek.”

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NLRB Constitutionality Issue Raised in Hearing

Had an interesting chat recently with Ron Chapman — Dallas-based labor and employment attorney with Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, and outside counsel for D.R. Horton Inc.

Gavel and JudgeHorton, a Fort Worth, Texas-based homebuilder, is appealing the National Labor Relations Board’s January 2012 ruling that its individual-arbitration mandate every employee was required to sign, waiving their rights to class action, violated Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act protecting employees’ rights to take such action to improve their working conditions.

Chapman had argued before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Horton’s behalf on Feb. 5 and said the hearing “went well.” (Here is a link to recordings of all the oral arguments presented in that case that day. Scroll down; you’ll find it. Here, too, is a piece that ran recently in the Dallas Business Journal offering some additional background.) Chapman expects the court to rule within 60 to 90 days.

What was especially interesting, Chapman told me, was the follow-up he received from the court three days after the argument. The court, he said, was directing both sides’ attorneys to draft additional briefs arguing whether they think the constitutionality of the NLRB board make-up at the time of its decision needs to be addressed before a ruling can be made. (As you’ll recall, in its recent decision in Noel Canning v. the National Labor Relations Board, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit invalidated the recess appointments of three members of the NLRB because, the court found, the U.S. Senate was not in recess at the time President Barack Obama made the appointments.)

For reference, here is an HREOnline blog post by Web Editor Mike O’Brien about that appeals-court ruling declaring Obama violated the Constitution when he bypassed the Senate to fill the NLRB vacancies. Here, too, is a Q&A O’Brien conducted with Joel S. Barras of Reed Smith on the ramifications and implications of that ruling.

Interestingly, this is the first case I’ve come across in which attorneys for both sides are being asked for their opinions as to whether a ruling can go forward or not without first addressing the constitutionality of the NLRB make-up in question.

Obviously, if Chapman and his counterpart both rule the appeals court’s decision should proceed without any bearing from the Canning case, then it will proceed. But, as Chapman told me, “if we both were to say it should not proceed until the constitutionality issue is addressed, then the board would not decide this case at this time.”

If you consider Barras’ description of such scenarios and multiply them out to all the cases decided by the NLRB with the Obama appointees, it could get messy:

It is important to note that, even if [regional] cases are invalid and the NLRB members lack the authority to take direct action, many of the board’s processes will continue. The various NLRB regions will continue to investigate unfair labor practice charges, issue complaints and try cases. Administrative law judges will continue to issue decisions and find violations of the Act.

The losing party, however, will likely appeal the decision to the board, which will effectively stay the [administrative law judge's] decision. That case will then be left in limbo until a quorum is properly appointed and rules on the decision, which would likely be delayed given the tremendous backlog of cases. In some limited instances, the board’s general counsel may seek injunctive relief in federal court to force a losing party who has appealed the decision to comply with the [administrative law judge’s] order, pending the NLRB’s eventual decision.

 

 

 

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Social Media Strikes Again

Calling himself @theoldcfo on Twitter, Gene Morphis got done in by his use of new media — Twitter and Facebook, in particular.

Morphis, who was CFO of Francesca’s Holding Corp., made the mistake of posting inappropriate information about company doings, according to the Wall Street Journal:

On March 6, for instance, he tweeted: “Dinner w/Board tonite. Used to be fun. Now one must be on guard every second.” The following day, he posted “Board meeting. Good numbers=Happy Board.”

On March 13 Mr. Morphis posted on Facebook about a company earnings call: “Earnings released. Conference call completed. How do you like me now Mr. Shorty?”

Months earlier, on Dec. 5, he posted about another investor call. “Cramming for earnings call like a final. I thought I had outgrown that…”

Mr. Morphis also posted about an investor road show on Jan. 27: “Roadshow completed. Sold $275 million of secondary shares. Earned my pay this week.” (The retailer held an initial public offering last July.)

The company said it launched an internal investigation with the assistance of outside counsel after discovering the activity on Friday afternoon. The company said Mr. Morphis was “terminated for cause.”

Francesca’s did have a social-media policy, according to the article, but creating a workable policy is no easy task in this ever-changing social-media world.

We recently ran an article on HREOnline™ that addresses the “Legal Ambiguities of Social Media,” by Seyfarth Shaw attorneys Jeffrey Berman and Erin Dougherty Foley. It’s definitely worth a read.

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Force Feeding

In the highly watched case of Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court of San Diego County, the Supreme Court of California handed down its decision (PDF) this afternoon, ruling — bottom line — that employers must provide meal breaks, but don’t have to force their workers to take them:

On the most contentious of these, the nature of an employer’s duty to provide meal periods, we conclude an employer’s obligation is to relieve its employee of all duty, with the employee thereafter at liberty to use the meal period for whatever purpose he or she desires, but the employer need not ensure that no work is done.

Steven Katz, an employment attorney with Reed Smith, says the opinion is “a clear victory for common sense.”

In deciding that California law requires employers to give employees the opportunity to take a meal break, but does not force employees to take a meal break that they do not want to take, the Court declared the law to be precisely what employees and employers have always thought: it is the employee’s choice to take a meal break, not something forced on employees by the government. Employers no longer have to say “no” to employees who prefer, for example, to work through lunch and leave early to attend their child’s school play.

He says it frees employers from “the specter of frivolous lawsuits,” and is “truly a win-win for employees and employers. The only clear losers today are the lawyers who make money off of waging class-action lawsuits.”

Sarah Goldstein, an employment partner at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo, notes there are other issues reviewed by the court and that there “will very likely still be some growing pains as the courts deal with various scenarios, implementation strategies and hiccups in the aftermath of Brinker. ”

Employers should plan how they will train managers, employees and payroll staff, so that policies are ready to roll out when the decision is ultimately rendered. Also, as employers begin to conduct year-end policy and practice reviews for 2012 updates, they should review existing meal and rest period policies and practices and begin to consider what changes, if any, will need to be made pending the possible outcomes of this decision.

 

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And the Winners Are …

Gallup has just announced the winners of its 2012 Great Workplace Awards.  Twenty-seven companies were named to this year’s list, including three companies that have made the list for a record six consecutive times. The award is based on multiple criteria, according to Gallup, including overall engagement levels and evidence of the impact of high engagement levels on important business metrics. Gallup says it compares the applicants’ results against its database of millions of work teams in approximately 170 countries. A panel of experts chosen by Gallup reviews each organization’s portfolio, which consist of “quantitative and qualitative components.”

Rather than list all 27 winners, I thought I’d just highlight the organizations that have won the award multiple times, beginning with the six-time winners:

ABC Supply Co., Inc. (six-time winner)

Hendrick Health System (six-time winner)

Winegardner & Hammons, Inc. (six-time winner)

Stryker (five-time winner)

Adventist Health System (two-time winner)

Atlantica Hotels International (four-time winner)

Central Retail Corporation Ltd. (two-time winner)

Indian Hotels Company Limited (three-time winner)

Intermountain Healthcare (two-time winner)

Mars, Incorporated (three-time winner)

MemorialCare Health System (two-time winner)

Self Regional Healthcare (five-time winner)

Siam Commercial Bank (four-time winner)

Standard Chartered Bank (two-time winner)

The PNC Financial Services Group (four-time winner)

Transitions Optical, Inc. (three-time winner)

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