Category Archives: training

Just How Bad Are We at Engagement?

dv2171020Engagement was certainly on the minds of speakers and attendees at the recent HR Tech Conference in Chicago. (Here’s a link to the conference site, FYI, which already has information about next year’s event.)

From this session covered by Mark McGraw, Engaging the Talent of Tomorrow, to this one covered by David Shadovitz, What’s Driving Engagement, there seemed to be a lot of buzz about what’s working at some companies (especially in McGraw’s post), what needs to be happening in terms of technology, training and the treatment of employees (particularly in Shadovitz’s post), and a whole lot more.

One study released at the conference but not mentioned yet came from Saba, showing just how bad companies still are at simply carrying out the basics — not only in terms of engagement, but overall management tactics too. That survey, completed in August, shows most businesses are “not in tune with their employees’ perceptions of engagement, training and career development,” according to Saba’s release.

With so much attention being paid to the need for keeping employees engaged, retained and productive, you’d think most companies are at least asking for more feedback, or figuring out better ways to ask for more feedback. Saba says no, that is not happening much at all.

For the most part, the report says, companies do not have continuous channels for engagement and feedback because the majority of employees are rarely asked for their feedback — less than a few times a year. Other highlights of the August survey of 1,200 U.S. HR managers and employees include these two points, suggesting some troubling gender issues wrapped up in all this:

  • Sixty-eight percent of baby boomers and 61 percent of female employees indicated they were rarely asked for feedback, versus 56 percent of male employees.
  • At the same time, women were also less comfortable giving their input. The survey showed only 56 percent of women are comfortable giving feedback, compared to 63 percent of men. “This implies a statistical disconnect that needs to be immediately addressed by HR and learning teams,” the report says.

Another gem from the release:

“Based on these statistics and anomalies in engagement, it’s understandable why more than half of HR leaders (51 percent) and employees (52 percent) believe their organizations do not have a good employee-feedback process.”

In terms of initiating better training programs to keep employees producing and staying put, companies aren’t doing so good there, either. Only 22 percent of employees believe their organizations are very effective in providing easy access to training and development.

What’s more, 86 percent of millennials, often the highest flight risk in the organization, indicated they would be more inclined to stay at their current company if they were given access to quality training and development. So what’s the holdup here? As Theresa Damato, vice president of global marketing at Saba, sees it:

“While most organizations will agree that talent is their most important asset, [this] survey highlights the struggle many have in effectively engaging, assessing and developing their people.

“Organizations need to focus on the critical role continuous development plays in employee engagement and retention. They also need to find new ways to improve effectiveness of talent programs through more frequent and consistent feedback channels.”

And for the most part, she and others at Saba indicate, that is hardly happening at all.

Except, it would seem, in the handful of success stories — or at least stories of successful starting points and strategic approaches — shared at HR Tech.

My guess is, if we’re doing this bad at the feedback basics, then this engagement conundrum/roadblock is  going to be on the minds of attendees and the agendas of many conferences to come.

Coursera Bets on Corporate Learning

The online learning company Coursera is making a push into the world of corporate training. Its new service, called “Coursera for Business,” repackages existing  courses and adds new tools for employer learning-and-development programs.

Coursera is a venture-backed company launched in 2012 with partners that include big-name universities like Duke, Stanford and University of Pennsylvania. Like other so-called massive-open-online-course providers, it has attracted much attention but struggled to find a sustainable business model. Most consumers are resistant to paying for online coursework and attrition rates in free classes are high.

For Coursera, corporate training may be an answer. Employers signing up for Coursera for Business pay to design custom programs drawing from the site’s 1,400 online classes, including titles such as “Business Analytics,” “Python for Everybody” and “Data Science.” The program offers certifications for employees and tracking tools for HR. Companies already signed up include BNY Mellon and L’Oréal.

Amanda Molaro, a publicist representing Coursera, declined to say what the service will cost. Charges are “dependent on the number of employees that they wish to enroll and the number of courses they sign up for,” she said in an email.

The idea is not a new one. Coursera already had a deal with Yahoo to train engineers, and other MOOCs — which include Udacity, edX, Udemy and others — also have explored the corporate training realm. Udacity’s Open Education Alliance, for example, offers “nanodegrees” in subjects such as web design and data analysis. And in 2014 Microsoft worked with the French business school INSEAD to develop online sales training.

Experts have been forecasting for years that MOOCs would take root in the world of corporate training. After all the hype and disappointments that have marked online learning, Coursera’s big push offers hope to those who think that moment has arrived.

“This will be the sustainable revenue stream” for MOOCs, says Curtis J. Bonk, a professor of instructional systems technology at Indiana University. “The corporate training world is a significant place for their business model.”

Bonk also thinks the trend is good for companies that need ways to help employees develop at a reasonable cost. Online platforms can be far cheaper than building classrooms and hiring instructors for in-house training.

As evidence that MOOCs are gaining ground, Bonk points out that Coursera offers a huge number of certificates that are gaining real value in the employment market. “That’s what the business world wants,” he says. “It’s more self-directed, employee-driven … it makes a lot of sense for the corporate world.”

 

Getting Incivility Under Control

Does incivility take a toll on today’s workplace?

Well, if we’re to believe the findings of a recent study out of Michigan State University, the answer is yes—and maybe more than we’d like to think.

ThinkstockPhotos-579244800To capsulize, the researchers, who have published their work (titled Who Strikes Back? A Daily Investigation of When and Why Incivility Begets Incivility) in a recent issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, found that experiencing rude behavior reduces employees’ self-control and leads them to act in a similar uncivil manner. (In doing their study, they asked 70 employees to fill out a survey relating to incivility and its effects three times a day for 10 consecutive workdays.)

Of course, this finding is not all that surprising. As human beings, we’re easily influenced by those around us. Right? Probably the more interesting finding is the unintentional nature of so-called “incivility spirals”—i.e., when acts of incivility lead to subsequent acts of incivility.

As Russell Johnson, an associate professor of management at Michigan State University and the study’s lead author, explains …

“When employees are mentally fatigued, it is more difficult for them to keep their negative impulses and emotions in check, which leads them to be condescending and rude to colleagues. This happens even for employees who desire to be agreeable and polite; they simply lack the energy to suppress curt and impatient responses.”

That’s certainly a troubling thought, especially if you work at an organization in which incivility is clearly visible at the highest levels.

The study also found that incivility spirals occurred in workplaces that were perceived as political (i.e., where co-workers “do what is best for them, not what is best for the organization”).

Because the “intentions and motives of others are less clear” at such organizations, the researchers report, employees have a harder time understanding why they were targeted and how best to respond.

You’ve got to think, I might add, that this inevitably would take a serious toll on employee effectiveness and productivity.

In response to what they found, the researchers emphasize the need for managers to provide employees with clearer feedback on “the types of behaviors that are desired,” both informally through day-to-day interactions and formally through the performance-management process.

Certainly great advice. But is it enough to prevent incivility from spiraling out of control?

Leadership-Development Woes Continue

It seems there’s still a whole lot wrong with leadership development.

540869810 -- HR leaderThe latest survey on the subject — from Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning — finds only 7 percent of organizations believe their leadership-development programs are best-in-class.

And even among those best-in-class programs, the survey finds, 40 percent of respondents feel leadership development is only important — not fundamental — to business strategy. Those top programs also struggle mightily with both measurement and innovation, it says.

Worse still, the majority of business managers and L&D professionals aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on the impact or relevancy of their leadership-development programs. Seventy percent of L&D professionals expect leadership development to become a strategic priority in the next three years, compared to only 47 percent of business managers … with only 19 percent of the latter group strongly agreeing their programs have a high relevance to the business issues they face.

The survey and its report makes a loud clarion call for more companies to stand behind their leadership-development programs and take them more seriously. As Ray Carvey, executive vice president of corporate learning and international at HBP, says:

“Although these survey results do not completely surprise us, they do show that, when leadership-development programs are designed and developed as a strategic priority, aligned to both goals and key challenges, businesses have a better chance at growth.”

Leaders and leadership-development programs behaving badly is no new tune in this profession. This post from earlier this year lays out the problem as one of corporate sponsorship. Or the lack thereof.

This study back in 2013 by Development Dimensions International finds most leaders worldwide still lack the fundamental skills to lead and still don’t know how to have important yet basic leadership conversations with their ranks and teams. So leadership-development failure? I think so.

This piece on HREOnline.com cites, as the majority of programs’ foibles, the failure to link leadership development to strategic objectives.

Which echoes nicely with what Carvey thinks. In his final parting shot of hopefulness, he says:

“While it’s easy to read this report as L&D teams are consistently being overlooked, or not doing a great job interpreting and responding to the needs of the business, there is a big silver lining here: Leadership development programs, when they work, absolutely have an impact on business success.

“L&D teams must embrace new ways of aligning with the business, demonstrating relevance and proving impact, not only to change the perception of leadership development in their organizations but also to better prepare their businesses for future growth.”

How you go about assessing that alignment, and adopting strategies to ensure your business and leadership-development initiatives are better connected, is entirely up to you, of course. Just don’t assume it’s “all good.”

Is Diversity Training a Waste of Time?

Diversity programs haven’t done much to actually increase diversity in the workplace.

This is the conclusion recently reached by sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev, who drove this idea home throughout an article appearing in the July/August 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review.

The authors point to volumes of past research that they say reinforce the notion that diversity efforts—mandatory diversity training sessions in particular—may be well-intentioned, but often miss the mark.

“Firms have long relied on diversity training to reduce bias on the job, hiring tests and performance ratings to limit it in recruitment and promotions, and grievance systems to give employees a way to challenge managers,” wrote Dobbin and Kalev.

“Those tools are designed to preempt lawsuits by policing managers’ thoughts and actions,” according to Dobbin, a professor of sociology at Harvard University, and Kalev, an associate professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Tel Aviv University.

Laboratory studies, however, “show that this kind of force-feeding can activate bias rather than stamp it out. As social scientists have found, people often rebel against rules to assert their autonomy. Try to coerce me to do X, Y or Z, and I’ll do the opposite just to prove that I’m my own person.”

Dobbin and Kalev’s HBR piece is based on their own examination of three decades’ worth of data, culled from more than 820 United States-based businesses as well as interviews with hundreds of line managers and executives.

In conducting their analysis, the authors found that companies saw representation of some demographic groups actually drop in the five years after they made diversity training programs obligatory for managers.

For instance, the share of black women in management roles decreased by 9 percent on average in that time, while the ranks of Asian-American men and women declined by 4 percent to 5 percent.

“Trainers tell us that people often respond to compulsory courses with anger and resistance,” added Dobbin and Kalev, noting that many participants reported feeling more animosity toward other groups after taking part in such programs.

The authors outlined other ways in which diversity training efforts are typically derailed.

Threatening undertones, for example, help to upend many diversity training programs.

“ … Three-quarters use negative messages in their training. By headlining the legal case for diversity and trotting out stories of huge settlements, they issue an implied threat: ‘Discriminate, and the company will pay the price.’ We understand the temptation … but threats, or ‘negative incentives,’ don’t win converts.”

Dobbin and Kalev contend that companies achieve better results “when they ease up on the control tactics” in delivering diversity programs.

“It’s more effective to engage managers in solving the problem, increase their on-the-job contact with female and minority workers, and promote social accountability—the desire to look fair-minded.

“That’s why interventions such as targeted college recruitment, mentoring programs, self-managed teams and task forces have boosted diversity in businesses. Some of the most effective solutions aren’t even designed with diversity in mind.”

It’s the Eve of Digital Disruption

As its name suggested, HireVue’s Digital Disruption 2016 in Park City, Utah was, for the most part, all about distrupting HR through technology. More precisely, the vast majority of the content surrounded hiring, HireVue’s roots. But as CEO Mark Newman made quite clear during an opening general session titled “New Wave of Disruption,” the South Jordan, Utah-based firm is no longer just about talent acquisition. It’s now about coaching and developing talent, too.

Rusty Rueff
Rusty Rueff

Though still a small portion of its business, with around 30 clients, Newman noted that HireVue Coach, a recent addition to the firm’s Team Acceleration Software Platform, is already growing at a fairly fast clip. He predicted that it soon will become a substantial piece of HireVue’s overall business. To date, he noted, training has been ineffective; it doesn’t stick. But by leveraging the power of video, he said, employers can now change employee behavior (primarily for those in customer-facing positions) in a fundamental way.

Of course, as you might expect, Digital Disruption (now in its third year), like most user events, was chock full of client success stories. Hilton. United Airlines. Vodafone. Netflix. But it also featured a number of speakers who looked at bigger-picture issues impacting HR.

One who personally stood out for me was Rusty Rueff, a former recruiting executive at PepsiCo and Electronic Arts who now sits on a number of boards and is an investor in several Silicon Valley start-ups. (I personally had an opportunity to meet Rusty a number of years ago at a much smaller gathering of CHROs.)

Rueff, in a general session titled “Craft(ing) of the Future,” suggested that those in recruiting need to stop thinking of recruitment as a profession and begin to think of it as a craft.

“A profession is defined as an occupation requiring prolonged training and a formal qualification,” he said. “Doctors and lawyers are a profession. But a crafts person [exercises a skill] in making something. We make something of people. We make something of organizations. We make something of cultures.”

To illustrate his point, Rueff recounted his days running recruiting at Frito Lay, where he was charged with interviewing candidates all day long, week in and week out.

“One day, I said to myself, ‘I’m the most powerful guy in the company?’ he recalled. “My other voice said, ‘What are you talking about?’ And I said, ‘No, I’m the most powerful guy in the company! because if I wanted everyone to have green eyes, I could do that. I could screen out everyone who didn’t have green eyes.’ That’s pretty scary, because I’m out there deciding what the organization’s culture is going to be by who I let in and who I screen out.”

Rueff recalled that he believed at the time that the HR function at Frito Lay needed change leaders—so that’s who he brought into the organization.

“I was a lowly little guy [at Frito Lay],” he said, “but I got to change the culture.”

Rueff told those attending that a crafts person needs to be, among other things, agile—someone who is able to adopt new ways of thinking. He added that such a person is like “an actor who can play many different kinds of roles on many different kinds of stages.”

To be successful, Rueff said, those in HR and recruiting are going to need to begin thinking like data scientists. “You don’t have to have a degree [as] a data scientist,” he said. “If you’re good with numbers, you can be one.” In other words, it’s a skill people can learn.

In addition, he said, they have to “think like the software-design architects of today, not yesterday. [People] who are fast and nimble.”

And they need to think like personal trainers, he said. “One size fits one when it comes to talent in the future.”

Speaking to this notion of one size fits one, another presenter, Molly Weaver, offered up a great example during a session titled “Stop Screening Out Great Talent.”

As director of talent acquisition at Children’s Mercy, Weaver said she was saddled by a hiring process that was way “too long” and “cumbersome” for applicants. So about a year ago, Weaver and her team unveiled a unique program called “Interview First.”

Instead of encouraging job candidates to apply for a specific job, “Interview First” enables them to submit a video via the company’s website in which they share something about their background and what they would like to do at Children’s Mercy. (Yes, you guessed it: Children’s Mercy, headquartered in Kansas City, uses the HireVue platform.)

Each day, two recruiters are assigned to review the videos that come in and parse them out to the appropriate recruiters (Children’s Mercy currently has 10 recruiters and jobs are divided into clinical and nonclinical). The idea behind the initiative, Weaver said, was to just give people a chance to tell their stories. By putting these videos at the front end of the process, she said, Children’s Mercy is able to quickly capture a lot of great talent, people who otherwise might have left the process.

Just because they aren’t the right candidate for one particular job, she said, doesn’t mean they aren’t right for something else at the company or an opening down the road.

Once the videos are evaluated, potential candidates are told they should consider applying for a particular position right away, there may be something for them down the pike or they’re not really a good fit.

Weaver pointed out that affirmative-action laws aren’t a concern for Children’s Mercy (a government contractor) here, since these individuals aren’t applying for a specific job.

So how is it working out for Children’s Mercy? To date, 120 positions have filled through “Interview First,” including nine individuals who were rehires. Interestingly, the new hires, on average, had applied seven times before.

Certainly, a pretty good start in disrupting a process that is clearly in need of some serious disruption, I think.

How Microsoft’s LinkedIn Deal Could Change HR

The HR tech world just got a big new player. Really big.

Once Microsoft closes its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn late this year, the software giant will own a service that has become increasingly important to HR departments around the world. With Microsoft’s resources behind it, LinkedIn could become a massive force not only in recruiting, but in the larger world of HR, experts say.

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner said as much in an email to his staff on Monday announcing the deal.

Among the business opportunities for Microsoft, he noted, is “expanding beyond recruiting and learning and development to create value for any part of an organization involved with hiring, managing, motivating or leading employees. This human capital area is a massive business opportunity and an entirely new one for Microsoft.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean a Microsoft-backed LinkedIn will be moving into payroll, benefits administration and other bread-and-butter HR applications, though.  Many experts see the company integrating LinkedIn data into Microsoft Office tools, but not moving wholesale into new lines of business.

Under Microsoft, “LinkedIn could become a network for learning and collaboration,” providing HR departments a tool for connecting employees, says George LaRocque, a well-known HR technology consultant. “I think that’s the direction.”

LinkedIn already is a force to be reckoned with. Though far smaller than social-media titans like Facebook, it virtually owns the world of professional connections, with over 100 million active users and four times as many profiles. It’s increasingly necessary for an active business person to have a presence on the site, which has made it a critical resource in many businesses — particularly sales and HR.

The company posted $2.9 billion in revenue last year. About $1.9 billion of that was in its “talent solutions” business, the company says. Most of that came from recruitment services, which include premium search functions, targeted job postings, a referral tool for current employees and company branding. Through its April 2015 acquisition of the online tutorial site Lynda.com, LinkedIn also has a solid presence in training.

Though revenue was up 41 percent from 2014, in other ways LinkedIn has lost momentum, which is what helped make it an acquisition target. After disappointing earnings, the share price had dropped by 50 percent — from over $260 in February 2015.

Many experts say the marriage with Microsoft makes sense because the two companies don’t overlap in services, yet cater to the same audience — business professionals. That opens up the potential for connections between Microsoft productivity tools and LinkedIn’s vast people database.  The immediate opportunities may be in customer relationship management — an area where Microsoft already has a presence with its Microsoft Dynamics software.

The reality, though, is that no one knows what Microsoft plans to do with LinkedIn — likely including Microsoft itself, notes LaRocque, principal analyst and founder of New Providence, N.J.-based #hrwins.

“I think we’re all going to be reading tea leaves for a little bit on this one,” he says. “The opportunities are endless.”

But most experts say Microsoft is most likely to build on its strengths as a provider of tools that business professionals use every day. LaRocque sees the company connecting LinkedIn’s Lynda tutorial videos to Excel, for example, so that users can get immediate help.

He and others don’t see this as a beginning of a move to take over HR technology — or even just recruiting.

“I have a hard time thinking Microsoft is excited about getting into talent acquisition,” though LinkedIn may well stay in that business, LaRocque says. On the other hand, LinkedIn’s networking and communication functions could become another “pillar” of the company’s Office 365 platform. “They’re impacting HR technology in a huge way,” he says. “But they’re not the classic HR player.”

Kyle Lagunas of the IT market research firm International Data Corp. has a similar view. He sees three key opportunities for Microsoft in the acquisition: LinkedIn’s in endorsements, recommendations and posts.

If properly leveraged by Microsoft, LinkedIn endorsements — in which users rate each other for various skills — could be used internally “to map influence across various subject matters, skills and capabilities,” he notes in an email.

Recommendations shared among LinkedIn users could provide a powerful tool for recruiters, he says. And companies could track posts on LinkedIn’s Pulse service to help workers develop — and demonstrate — expertise.

Another HR tech expert agrees that the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal will lead to new tools for HR departments, but not fundamentally change the landscape.

Kathryn Minshew, CEO of a career site called The Muse, notes that the two companies both target established white-collar professionals. She doesn’t see that changing with Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn — leaving plenty of room for businesses like hers.

“I think this acquisition is a great thing  for the industry — it validates the core role that HR has,” Minshew says. ” Companies are starting to realize that products and platforms in the human-capital space have a much broader impact.”

Muse, with 50 million site visitors annually, serves a diverse population of workers with an average age of 29, and 60 percent female. Those people, she says, may keep their resume on LinkedIn, but The Muse “is where their heart is.”

“I don’t know that the human-capital space is ever meant to have a single winner-take-all,” Minshew says. “There’s a lot of room for those who want to take a different approach.”

Two Tough Lessons on Training

New commercial truck drivers must cover thousands of miles with a trainer before they can work on their own. For women, that means ThinkstockPhotos-57533192spending weeks in close quarters with a boss who most likely is a man.

What could go wrong?

A pair of recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission cases suggests the situation is every bit as risky — both for drivers and employers — as you might think.

The cases involve two trucking companies that got in trouble over sexual harassment of female trainees. One escaped major sanctions and may even recover legal costs from the agency, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lawyers call a victory for employers.

The other … let’s just say it didn’t go well.

That company, Missouri-based Prime Inc., is one of the nation’s largest long-haul truck companies. After a female trainee charged the company with sexual harassment and the EEOC sued, the company in 2004 adopted a new procedure: women trainees were paired only with female trainers.

But in the end, the new procedure apparently did far more harm than good.

Because the company had only five women trainers, according to the EEOC, women trainees had to wait a year or more to get in. Men, however, were accepted immediately.

In 2011 the EEOC sued again, and U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Harpool didn’t have much trouble concluding the training practice was discriminatory. In April he signed a consent decree ordering the company to pay $2.9 million to 68 women who had applied to the company’s training program.

The settlements, which include back pay and compensatory damages, ranged from about $29,000 to nearly $92,000 each. The company also agreed to hire all the women immediately. In addition, the company paid $250,000 to another female driver trainee who had brought the complaint to the EEOC.

On top of that, the company — which finally ended its same-sex training policy in 2013, two years after the EEOC filed suit — promised not to reinstitute the practice.

Was Prime’s 2004 training policy a well-intentioned response to the first complaint that accidentally led to a second one? Or a passive-aggressive jab at women who had complained? In a final order in the case dated May 26, the judge says he can’t tell.

“While Prime’s same-gender training policy was illegal, misguided, and ill-advised, the court is not willing to find … [it] was evil or malicious,” Harpool writes.

The other trucking company fared better in its battle with the EEOC. On May 19 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that Iowa-based CRST Van Expedited Inc. may be entitled to $4.5 million in legal expenses it incurred battling the agency over another sexual-harassment case.

The case stems from a 2005 claim by a female driver trainee who said she was sexually harassed. Two years later the EEOC filed a class-action suit on behalf of 250 women whom it said had been victimized. Most of those plaintiffs were dismissed, however, after the court found the EEOC had not properly investigated their claims.

Employment lawyers lauded the Supreme Court’s ruling as a victory for employers.  The ruling “has made clear that a defendant may be entitled to recover attorneys’ fees even absent a victory on the merits,” write Lindsey M. Marcus and Michael A. Warner Jr., partners in the employment law practice of Franczek Radelet in Chicago.

Though the outcomes were very different, the lesson for folks in HR is the same: Training, like trucking, can be a risky business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A ‘Love Letter to [all the Bad-Rapped] Managers’

Who hasn’t heard and read the reports in the last few years on the real reason employees leave their employers? Bad managers, right? 522472388 -- managerNo doubt anyone visiting this site has seen and heard them.

We’ve certainly written our fair share, from criticizing managers’ reluctance or inability to truly promote career development to pinpointing the need for managers to grow their big-data skills to lamenting the unhappiness and decimation of the middle-management ranks in general, which of course supports the theory that unhappy managers make for bad bosses.

Which might be precisely why this recent post by Maren Hogan on the HR Examiner site, My Love Letter to Managerscaught my eye, an eye that’s always on the lookout for something counterintuitive (warning, she doesn’t hold back on some of her descriptors). That or the fact that I am a manager, so a love letter to me … well … what’s not to like?

Counterintuitive does seem to be the operative word here, when you consider all that’s been said about retention and turnover, and the especially egregious part managers play. As Hogan puts it,

“Retention issues? It’s the manager’s fault.
Productivity problems? Blame the manager.
Engagement dipping? Someone get management in here!

Can this really be true? After all, many of these problems have roots in giant, macro issues. The economy, changing workforce dynamics, an always-on mentality spurred on by technology advances. It’s sort of simplistic to blame the manager, isn’t it?”

I especially like what she says about this mega-trend, if you will, of citing management as the reason people leave work, hate work, aren’t engaged and aren’t productive. She thinks this trend “could be part of a blame culture that has slowly seeped into our workforce over the past couple of decades.” In her words,

“Whether we’re blaming millennials for the faster pace and fancy [results-only-work-environment] perks, or blaming executives for the glaring inequality between them and us, or blaming managers for every issue in the workforce, very few seem to be stepping up to take personal accountability.”

She’s got some helpful suggestions for employees who might be prone to disparaging their managers, such as considering how they, themselves, might change the situation before blaming their direct supervisor; doing better and faster work if they don’t like what’s been assigned to them so they can prove they’re capable of taking on something more interesting; taking self-assessments of their most-productive times during the workday and building their reputations as team players; and even getting better at confronting difficult and destructive employees themselves, so managers aren’t blamed for failing to take action.

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, first, I kind of agree with Hogan that managers have taken a bad rap for far too long for the ills of corporate culture.  More importantly, though, I believe employers and their HR leaders could go a long way toward curing some of those ills by paying more attention to the workloads and expectations placed on their managers.

They might also consider committing serious capital to training all employees in personal accountability, starting with Hogan’s list above.

Can Sexual-Harassment Training Backfire?

An article in the British newspaper The Guardian has sparked new debate in HR circles over whether sexual-harassment training can cause more harm than good.

The article recounts research suggesting that training may make some men less sensitive, not more, to appropriate boundaries in the workplace. Among others quoted in the piece is Lauren Edelman, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley :

“Sexual harassment training may, in fact, make it less likely that males will recognize situations that are harassing … Sexual harassment training may provoke backlash in males.”

Some of the research pointing in this direction is more than a decade old. One often-cited study from 2001 concluded that men who had training were less likely than those who didn’t to recognize or report sexual harassment.

But some research is more recent, suggesting the problem is not going away. In one 2012 study, a sociologist interviewed workers and sat in on training sessions. Justine E. Tinkler, now at the University of Georgia, concluded that they often resisted the message:

“Gender stereotypes are used to buttress perceptions that sexual-harassment laws threaten norms of interaction and status positions that men and women have an interest in maintaining.”

sexual harassment

Related research has found that sexual-harassment training can mostly inspire fear among workers.

This is a hot topic with many in the HR field. Many who weighed in online acknowledged the problem, but argued it’s less of an issue if the training is of high quality.

Writing in Slate, Nora Caplan-Bricker cites a 2013 study that, she says, “suggests that it is possible to teach people how to identify sexual harassment — and to convey how company policies treat it — without inciting a backlash effect.”

Studies suggest that training that lasts at least four hours, that is interactive and led by an expert or direct supervisor, rather than an HR specialist, are most effective, Caplan-Bricker writes.

Many employment lawyers seem to agree. One is Richard Cohen, a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles. He writes:

“After conducting my fair share of harassment trainings, and studying, critiquing and/or sitting in on numerous others, I come down on the side of those academics who believe that harassment training is helpful and productive when done right.”