Monthly Archives: November 2012

Greener Grass

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You know the old adage  the grass is greener on the other side -until  you have been sitting there a while, and another plot of grass seems better than where you are even though it was new and shiny once and appeared better than where you were before.

It’s cyclic. Most people get complacent and want more/better/etc. This is true in lifestyle and career.

So I’ve got a  two part theory on how to retain employees who have gotten comfortable and looking to move on. Part one: give them more work and/or work that is more meaningful/difficult than they are currently doing. Part two: let them interview elsewhere.

Personally I have found that when one has reached that comfort zone and they are unhappy they want a challenge. They most likely rock out the metrics of the job and would enjoy more scope and/or depth to what they are doing. Let’s face it, the workforce is not made up of robots who are just cogs in a machine – and no  one enjoys feeling as if they are! (And don’t talk to me about how they should be grateful to have jobs – that scare tactic doesn’t work, even in a down economy because we are still people with hopes, dreams, fears, and lives outside of work and what we do for work.)

Now, a caveat to the first part – be sure that you give your people the time, tools, resources, etc to handle the additional or more difficult work. Just because they are efficient and productive doesn’t mean that they will easily be able to add this extra into what they do now.

I’m sure you are most curious about my wild part two. I have found that most employees when they see the reality of what is “out there” be it internally or externally they develop a better appreciation for where they are or clarification as to what they want/need. To hedge your bets on the side of retaining your employees, don’t place stigma on this so that they will chat with their HR rep or manager and train them. Train them on how to interpret job descriptions, interview questions, salary discussions, work environments, etc. Yes, it means that some of the smoke and mirror employers use will be taken away from your organization too – but in this day and age with social media and increased methods to find information it’s better to play it straight.

Knowledge is power. Knowing what really is out there will empower employees to make decisions. And if you are worried that your culture/pay/etc isn’t up to snuff to retain? Maybe that is something that can be worked on. Sure there will always be desperate people out there who need a job – any job – but once they get it and grow comfortable, then what? Think long term both for your business goals and for the human resources to achieve them.

Business Leader

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I’ve had skin in the HR game for over five years now. I’ve had my history lesson on how Personnel was created and then evolved to Human Resources and have seen the desperate fight to “have a seat at the table.” Now that we have “the seat” HR is evolving into Human Capital Management and being a Strategic Business partner/leader.

Raise your hand if you just won buzzword bingo. lol

One of the unique elements I have seen in this evolution is how the movers and shakers in HR and those that truly have “seats” or consult understand the greater picture of what business really is – all the moving parts of what is sold, why it is sold, how it is sold, how it is created, how materials are obtained to create it, the books are managed, people are managed, and profit made.

Being strategic, one must not just know all that and juggle it, but also see life through that perspective so that opportunities can be seen and taken at a moment’s notice, policies and procedures shifted smoothly and swiftly to stay on top of the market and social media/PR.

Let me give a non-HR centric example. Recently I had the pleasure of attending a book signing for a local chef (Kevin Gillespie of Woodfire Grill and soon Gunshow, season6 of Top Chef) that had “made it.” I have friends that either currently or previously have worked in the restaurant business; I’ve done my time washing pots and serving food (although in a hospital, not a restaurant); and I’ve seen more than my fair share of tv shows like Next Iron Chef, Next Food Network Star, Top Chef, Food Truck Race, various Anthony Bordain shows, Kitchen Nightmares, Dinner/Restaurant Impossible, etc. to have an idea of what goes into the varying levels of chefdom and how a restaurant operates successfully.

There are chefs that love to cook and are good at it. There are celebrity chefs that on top of loving and being good at what they do, also have personality. It is possible to be either of those and not successful in the long run. To be successful as a chef one must think beyond their kitchen, beyond that restaurant, and to branch out to writing cook books, taking part in competitions, consulting, and various ways of getting their name out there which may or may not include tv shows. (Sounds pretty familiar right – work thine behind off, diversify your work portfolio and ye shall be fruitful. This formula translates into most roles and businesses.)

Listening to Kevin speak I heard true genius. Not only is he a culinary master (making it to the finale of Top Chef as an example), he has the down to earth personality that makes him likable, has grit and gumption, and business savvy. His cookbook Fire In My Belly is a cookbook like none other, and he meant for it to be that way. He thinks outside the box and isn’t afraid to act outside of it either. Those certainly strike me as sign posts for strategic leadership and success.

To toot my own horn, I picked up on his savvy and asked if he planned for future books to better describe the business of being a chef – the short answer is yes. I’m already mentally planning on getting his trio of books (Fire and the next two in the series as Kevin described them) for my brother in law who is an executive chef. (Good salesmanship, Kevin!)

Going back to the idea of being a business leader and partner coming from the Human Resources discipline, it is our role to see this bigger picture for our good, the good of our company, and the good of our profession. We are not just paper pushers that say no and hide behind a desk. We get out there, nourish talent to be the best it can be; look at the whole ecosystem of the company, industry, and economy to do the best possible for everyone. That is what being a real partner is and should be.

Employee Engagement – from the EE perspective

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The topic of employee engagement has been popular for the past four-ish years due to the economy and limited time/resources to pander to employees and have lots of “nice to haves” to increase morale and retain talent.  From the tone of the prior sentence, you can guess my feelings on the matter, although I fully admit it is due to personal experience.

From an employee perspective – what I hear from friends, family, and strangers when out in public – engagement is a myth. Employees will either love, hate, or be indifferent about their job regardless of how much or how little effort an employer makes to engage them.

Engagement is an internal meter. Just as how some people are more positive than others or more depressive than others – so to engagement with regards to their job and/or employer. I believe that is why this article recommends personalizing rewards; however I see this approach as time consuming and expensive for an employer and thus small likelihood of it happening. Seeing how the UK is addressing engagement is heartening, to a point.

A software company that a friend works for has a compensation strategy to lead the market, great benefits, onsite cafeteria that is very tasty (so they say), open concept office, lots of opportunities to do fun things, and a SLIDE.  Yet based on what I have heard from said friend and another I know at this organization the ratio of engaged/happy/malcontent employees fits what I have (unofficially) witnessed in many other organizations.

My recommendation (which is not legal advice) is do what you need to based on your company policy (similar to compensation strategy) and to stay current with peers in the industry/geographical region. But don’t expect miracles if you go above that.

It’s time to put the employee engagement discussion to bed, as it is getting us no where. Only we as individuals can impact our own engagement.

Tipping year I found myself in the UK for the first time, luckily I had a friend who had lived there previously with me to navigate both locations and social norms. One of the biggest cultural norms I had trouble with was the concept of was tipping. I tipped our tour guides, hotel maids, when I placed an order at the pub, etc – until she told me otherwise.

The holiday season is nearly upon us, and in the US the talk about how to tip various people in our lives is going to become omnipresent. There are articles that suggestion holiday tips for your hair stylist,  newspaper delivery person, etc. This discussion also highlights the controversy over whether or not and how much one should tip, specifically when eating out.

This post is more about the latter than the former. I happened to catch an episode of ABC’s The Talk which stimulated the thought for this post. The points I heard which prompted me to post were that one speaker felt that tips are optional and all gravy for the server; another speaker had previously been a waitress and admitted that there is a low wage (currently $2.13/hour federally, states may vary) and tips are necessary to get closer to a living wage.  (Note: Living wage is a whole other discussion!)

While the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is not a living wage in most areas, if you read the link above to the Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division fact sheet, you would see that employers must pay – even wait staff – this $7.25 per hour. The catch is that tips make up the difference between $2.13 and $7.25 (and could increase their hourly wage to above $7.25.)

Note: In the case where a state minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage, the higher is what the employer must pay.

What I have not heard in any discussion of the topic, is that if the tips are not sufficient to meet the minimum wage (be it federal or state) then the employer must make up the difference.

For example, in Alabama (that uses the federal minimum wage) if a wait person works for 5 hours on a slow shift so they took in only $5 of tips, they don’t bring home a gross of $15.65 for the day, they bring home a gross of $36.25 (=7.25*5). Why?

(5*2.13)+5 = 15.65; 15.65/3 = 5.22/hour which is below minimum wage. Thus the employer must make up the difference between the $5.22 and $7.25 per hour.

Keep in mind, this is over a weekly basis, not daily as the example implies.

If one is familiar with commission pay structure, where there is a draw  forget that as it applies to tipped employees. The amount the employer pays between earned minimum wage and federal/state minimum wage is never paid back to the employer from the employee.

So, back to the original discussion. Should you tip? Yes. Do you need to so that they can earn more than $2.13/hour – that is up to you. It is best to bring up any issues as they happen and directly, instead of being passive aggressive with tipping. But being passive aggressive won’t impact their earnings and minimum wage.

Personally, I don’t do holiday tips. I tip well at the point of service. I tip 20 or more percent depending on service, and rarely tip below that.