In 2017, Uber had a resoundingly awful year. In its self-published June 2017 report, they identify a bevy of problems; potential discrimination in pay and promotion practices, an HR department focused solely on hiring and firing rather than retention, engagement, and satisfaction, and a generally offensive and intimidating culture. But, I would suppose that prior to all these public disclosures, the leadership at Uber would probably have described themselves as creating a highly competitive culture which fostered achievement and initiative. Their myopia created an inability to observe their actions and assumptions from a different point of view.
Several companies have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal fines, some over half a million, for government employment paperwork violations. With increased federal attention to issues of illegal immigration, one might expect volume and penalty recommendations to rise in 2018. I’m not suggesting that most companies in non-compliance intentionally violate the law. Likely, they suffer from significant short sightedness in terms of the importance of proper documentation in the often extraordinary complexity of employment law.
Within our consulting practice, it has been exceedingly rare to find a client company that intentionally makes bad or illegal business decisions. Almost always, problems are the result of a world view that lacks clarity. Nature, abhorring a vacuum, will often fill in those blind spots with amazingly poor assumptions.
So, how does a diligent leader correct their vision? They ask some new questions …
- Do I support my HR Leader? A good HR leader must be credentialed, experienced, and willing to speak up when you are wrong. This is a person who understands that HR provides much more than the management of transactions and employee complaints. Do you … Give her a seat at the table? Ensure that he is respected by other business leaders in the organization? Listen to what she has to say? If you own or run a smaller company, you may not have someone dedicated to your HR needs. If not, consider hiring an HR leader on a part time basis or employ a consulting company to provide this expertise.
- What are my employees saying? Get a monthly report of exit interview comments as those leaving the company will often be totally honest about the company culture, bad bosses, and other unseen pitfalls. Ask your HR leader for a quarterly summary of employee comments and concerns, collated by division and by subject matter so you can address any trends. CCI Consulting offers an engagement survey with one of the work products being a heat map that provides an ‘at a glance’ view of potential hot spots. These engagement surveys can be an early indicator of serious concerns.
- How do people interact with me? Broaden your conversations to include people with whom you don’t normally interact. Take your organization chart and next to each name write how many hours, on average, you spend with each person on a weekly basis. Is there a class of people you are ignoring? They may be the very ones whose opinions you need to hear. Or, you could administer a 360 Degree Feedback process where you would receive confidential, anonymous feedback from your manager, peers, and direct reports. This is often best delivered by an independent consulting company allaying employee fears of potential retaliation for providing honest feedback.
- What are the holes in my HR knowledge? Can you name the proof that you need to have on file that a ‘contract employee’ indeed meets the IRS definition? Are you thinking about how new state rulings on the legality of medical marijuana impact your workplace substance abuse policy? Having a basic appreciation for what you don’t know will motivate you to take action to become more informed. Engage with your HR leader in Human Resources conferences and presentations. Ask that they forward legal and thought leader updates to you from professional organizations, with a forward that explains in business terms how this impacts your organization. Ensure that your regularly scheduled meetings with HR include reviews of changes to employment law. Hire a consulting company to perform a company audit of your employment process including your I-9s or ask them to do a salary analysis to look for EEO anomalies. Use a law firm that specializes in employment law and get included in their update seminars and email distributions.
Whew, that sounds like a lot of work. But, it all starts with changing one simple thing … your world view. Just start asking different questions. You’ll likely be surprised by what you see and that new vision may just keep your company in compliance.
Operations & Project Management