Outstanding Videos for Small Business Managers






Good to Know: Legal Cases


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  • Threat to kill is a fireable offense, right?

Not so fast, court rules — by Christian Schappel, HR Morning

This case recently went to court! Lessons abound for managers in this one.  Could this happen at your company?


This recent discrimination suit is pending a decision in the Supreme Court.

How would you rule?  Why?




Supervisors: You Won’t Believe How Easy It Can Be To Build Your Department’s Performance!


July 25, 2014

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Transform Your Group Into A Performance Building Team Through Friendly Competition, Peer Pressure and Mutual Support.

Are your people working as individual contributors in a production-focused function? Sometimes people find it increasingly difficult to motivate themselves over time to perform at their very best, in environments where the work they do is repetitive and similar from day to day. This can happen in both office and manufacturing departments.

good breakout session bing free to use and shareBy building a team environment you can enable them to build mutually supportive work relationships, re-energize themselves and one-another, and build performance. Use a variety of approaches over time. Following is a 3-step team strategy you might want to use.


Team Game Plan

Resources Needed:

  • Whiteboard
  • Flipchart
  • Markers
  • Time ear-marked for two 5-10 minute team gatherings per day, in an area not disrupted by noise or interruptions
  • A manual or automated method to collect performance data; ideally, data will be available real-time, or at least daily.

3 Steps:

1. Plan the day.  Gather your people together10 minute discussion at the start of their workday.

  • Communicate the day’s production goals (Put the goal on the Whiteboard)
  • Facilitate a group discussion about the goals, to anticipate obstacles and develop solutions and preventive actions.  Record anticipated issues and action items on the Flip-chart.  Involve your team members in the discussion and in recording the information on the flipcharts.

2.  Review progress. Pull your group together to update them on progress, sharing data on performance against the goal.

  • The team’s performance data (not individual performance) should be included with the goals on the whiteboard.  Ideally, you’ll do this mid-workday, discussing that day’s performance.
  • However, if your data for that day is not available due to system limitations, you may need to schedule your progress update at a different time.  In either case, a mid-day update will enable you to hold a follow up discussion on the earlier anticipated obstacles and the action items — re-energizing and renewing team-focus on the day’s plan.
  • Keep the meeting fast-paced, discussing issues and actions, not blame or side-issues.
  • Provide each team member with a handout including his own individual performance as well as the team’s performance as the meeting ends.

3. Establish a Winners’ Circle.  Make sure you communicate about this in advance, i.e. during goal-setting, explaining how people will be selected for inclusion in the circle.  Typically, people join the day’s Winner’s Circle as a result of meeting individual performance goals for the day.  Use a whiteboard and keep a daily, a weekly, monthly and calendar-year record. Keep these visible to the group continuously.

  • Put individual names into the circle based on factual performance data.
  • Set goals to grow the numbers of people in the Winners’ Circle.  As each of these goals is met, raise the goal, with the outcome of eventually achieving 100% of team membership in the Winners’ Circle.  Reward the entire team with small gift cards as they achieve these goals.
  • This will encourage people to help one another to improve performance.  It will also generate an element of peer pressure to perform.  Provide individuals with training as needs are identified by the individuals or by you as supervisor, ensuring it is done as a developmental activity vs. as a punitive action.


What are some other ways to help engage people and bring out their best performance and team spirit?

The H.R. Employee Relations Function: A “Hygiene” Activity Or A Strategic Value?


Employee Relations is one of the most important Human Resources activities in the company, because it is through the problem-solving and coaching, often in very difficult situations, that work relationships and trust can be built or broken.

Decisions and actions are made that demonstrate the organization’s real values and its philosophy about people. Employee Relations professionals tend to develop individual work relationships with employees as well as with teams, and are best positioned to have their fingers on the pulse of the workforce.

Traditionally, Employee Relations has been a primarily reactive function, responding when H.R. is called in by a manager or by an employee to help resolve a problem — a complaint of harassment, such as offensive behavior of a sexual, racial, or religious nature or a violation of a company policy i.e. safety, attendance/absenteeism, bullying, or drugs/alcohol or, a conflict between 2 people. It’s critical that the issue be looked into and addressed very quickly. Disciplinary action is a frequent resulting action by management, though not always. Sometimes it’s an issue of unacceptable employee performance, and a Performance Improvement Plan is put in place to help an employee get his/her performance on track to meet job expectations.

Employee Relations professionals are usually experts in company policy and employment law, and we have observed that the use of legal counsel has continued to grow over the past decade in management’s effort to ensure compliance with increasingly changing and often-complex legislation and workplace situations.  But, is that the sum total of the potential value of the Employee Relations function?

Today’s organizations have smaller Human Resources departments, and at the same time they need highly engaged employees to compete effectively. We have observed that Employee Relations can be a high value resource to organizations. Employee Relations people can build a wealth of knowledge about individuals and groups, including the following examples:

• Management/Leadership styles of supervisors and managers
• Leaders’ Credibility
• Work climate
• Training quality and quantity
• What motivates employees
• Receptiveness of leaders to employee suggestions
• What ideas employees have to improve products, processes and services
• How supervisors and managers guide people through change
• The frequency and content of communication to employees about the business , customers, competitors, and what unique value the company promises to customers that makes customers buy from the company
• Quality and frequency of performance feedback including metrics
• How sensitively and constructively leaders address performance or behavior issues
• Employees’ views on pay and benefits
• Employees’ views on training and advancement opportunities
• Fairness and Favoritism
• Who goes the extra mile, helps other people, and /or volunteers

This is a long list but it merely scratches the surface.  When Employee Relations is done as a proactive activity as well as reacting to problems, the organization can have access to important information that can guide initiatives, changes, and development programs.  In this scenario, Human Resources presents information and updates for discussion with organization leaders often, regularly. This information is used to identify appropriate actions to take and changes to make to build and sustain employee engagement and performance.

For example:
• Incentive programs may be created or revised
• Recognition programs may be developed
• Awards may be changed
• Career paths may be designed into the job hierarchy
• Training plans may be developed
• Gamification may be introduced
• Suggestion Programs may evolve
• Balanced metrics can be established to monitor engagement and its impact of the business

To become well-versed on the organization and the people, Employee Relations staff in this proactive environment orchestrates an effective array of activities, i.e.:
• Conducts 1x1s with employees
• Plans and facilitates focus groups on key business topics
• Puts in place small group sessions for employees to meet informally with senior managers
• Visits work areas
• Attends team safety and staff meetings, observing behavior and reading reactions.
• Understands the jobs that are done and the skills and personal qualities required
• Understand the business
• Provides feedback and coaching to supervisors and managers to help them improve their impact
• Supports managers in providing involvement opportunities to employees in improving products, processes and service delivery policies to better align these with the business strategy

By leveraging your Human Resources staff this way, management can remain in touch with the workforce and more confidently buy-in to engagement initiatives that can only succeed when they prioritize and practice them on a daily basis. When this happens, annual surveys add value by providing employees with opportunity to have a voice en mass. And, survey data is not surprising to managers because they are already aware of and acting on issues.

We believe strategic employee relations can be an integral component of engagement impacting an organization’s readiness and ability to deliver its unique value to its customers.

What do you believe Employee Relations can contribute? Should it be a hygiene activity or a strategic value adder? What is the current role of Employee Relations in your organization? What are the needs of your business? What changes might enable higher value from your Employee Relations function?

What Is H.R.’s Strategic Role?


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H.R. is generally a participant with the executive team in establishing the business strategy. But H.R.’s strategic role goes well beyond a team role in deciding the strategy. Execution is where most organizations struggle or fail, and H.R. can significantly impact execution.

There are six Keys to Strategy Execution KSEs) that are essential to optimize performance in any business. While H.R. is not singly responsible for all activities within each KSE, these provide an effectively targeted, strategic context for goal setting across all functions, including Human Resources.

At first glance, it may be tempting to assign H.R. to only one KSE, Human Capital. But we recommend that H.R. build its expertise and involvement over time to eventually impact and support the company’s performance in all six. Here’s why: the alignment of all organization activities, from people to procedures, policies, budgets, work tasks, and more, is critical to the organization’s readiness and capacity to execute on the strategy. H.R. is uniquely positioned and skilled to provide support and initiatives to enable alignment. We’ll talk about each KSE now.

1. Strategic Understanding
How important do you believe it is for each employee, temporary, regular, part-time or full-time, to understand the company’s strategy, how he fits into the big picture, who the competitors are and how your company differentiates itself?

Understanding this, being articulate about it outside work with family and friends, being able to act and perform in ways that maximize his contribution to that differentiation — this intimate knowledge is essential to fully engaging employee commitment and building employee performance.

Even in companies where strategy is discussed often, it is typical that only 13% of employees will achieve this level of understanding. Leaders need to communicate often and in an engaging way, using stories and language easily understood by all workers, so that they can relate to it individually.

What is Strategy? If we ask 10 executives we’ll probably get 10 different answers. Let’s define it in actionable terms here. Your company’s strategy is the unique difference, its differentiation, that makes its customers buy from you rather than going to a competitor.

Each employee should be able to explain who the company’s competitors are, what differentiates your company, and how his role contributes to that differentiation. Once each employee can answer each of these three questions fully and accurately, you’ll have achieved a strategic understanding in your workplace.

H.R.’s goals related to this KSE can become clear through discussing questions such as these:

How can H.R.:
• ensure there are varied, interesting discussions and mention of the strategy?
• partner with leaders to actively involve employees in using the strategy as a guide to prioritizing their work, making job related decisions, finding new ways to contribute to strategic differentiation?
• help to infuse these discussions and activities with enthusiasm and excitement?
• build strategy into all aspects of employment beginning with recruitment?

2. Leadership
There are 3 dimensions of Leadership that significantly impact an organization’s effectiveness in executing its business strategy, including a Leader’s:
• credibility throughout the organization
• ability to prepare and move employees through change
• delivery of communication on a daily basis that effectively focuses the attention of employees on the organization’s strategy, and that is clear, meaningful and actionable

Credibility is required because in order to have certainty about what must be done and how, an employee must have confidence that leaders have set a direction that will provide a good future for the business and that they know what must be done short and long term to achieve it. Often-times, leadership credibility can be strengthened through effective leader communication about the strategy.

Strategy also provides a context for change. Change is usually needed in order to continually align and fine tune the organization’s alignment with that strategy. Leaders who make the connection for people, between changes and the strategy, through two-way communication, continuously build their credibility and employee commitment.

In addition, strategy needs to be adjusted or changed periodically in order to meet changing customer needs, competitors’ advances, technology change and other change that occurs in the business environment. Discussions about these changes are essential to ensure the continued understanding of the workforce.

Delivery of strategic communication on a daily basis that is interesting, varied, and that creates memorable employee experiences will also contribute to leadership credibility and build engagement.

In establishing its strategic goals for this KSE, H.R. might find the following questions useful. How can H.R.:
• help leaders to be consistent, clear and engaging in their messaging about the strategy?
• ensure the purpose, rationale and strategic impact of change are explained to employees in a way that is meaning for each individual?
• partner with leaders to engage in two-way strategy-focused dialogs with employees?

3. Balanced Metrics
Effective development, use and communication about an organization’s metrics can help keep employees focused on delivering the company’s unique differentiation. Metrics can be shaped to work as guides employees can use to prioritize daily tasks and activities, to make countless job-related decisions during the course of each day, to determine ways they can contribute to the unique value the company provides to customers, and find ways to better align policies, systems, practices, projects and other activities.

Using both leading and lagging indicators is to your advantage in measuring performance for individuals, groups and the organization as a whole. Leading indicators can be used to spot problems and obstacles early, in time to minimize or prevent impact on customers or on financial metrics. Lagging indicators measure financial results.

H.R. can partner with leaders to build a scorecard including an effective blend of (a limited number of) leading and lagging measures, and to establish routines for regular updates and problem-solving discussions with employees.

To establish strategic goals supporting this KSE, the following discussion questions may work well. How can H.R. partner with leaders to:
• identify and select a limited number of metrics, using both leading and lagging indicators, to use in monitoring and communication with the workforce?
• leverage existing meetings and systematize high employee involvement in discussing updates and problem solving based on use of metrics?
• help ensure the metrics chosen are ones that employees can understand, relate to, and act on?

4. Activities and Structure
Diagramming your business as a flow of activities is a powerful step toward building competitive advantage. The resulting diagram is your Value Chain, or your customized model of activities that deliver your valuable product or service for the market. This concept was first developed and introduced as a standard business management tool by Michael Porter in his 1985 best-seller, ‘Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance’.

Alignment of your Value Chain enables you to deliver, with excellence, your company’s unique differentiation (aka your Value Proposition). For example, a recent article in Forbes, “Customer Service: What Southwest Knows And You Don’t (Hint: Being Nice Isn’t Enough)”, by Micah Solomon, described how Southwest Airlines aligned its organization around creating an exceptional customer experience for its clients. The story described a customer’s experience when his plane was late, causing him to miss his connecting flight – and when disembarking the plane, Southwest’s gate staff provided a connecting boarding pass to him, and to other affected passengers. Instead of rushing around under stress to find and book new connecting flights, he was able to go to his new departure gate. This simple sounding action could not have been accomplished by one caring gate keeper. To make this happen required that Southwest align its systems and its staff with the strategy.

Organization structure and culture must also be aligned to support the strategy. For example, a functional structure is efficient due to specialization. A product-aligned structure can be more effective in organizations where teamwork is essential to getting work done.

In one organization, the strategy requires a culture of high employee involvement with decision making authority in the hands of front line employees. This works well when the value proposition is one of customer service and satisfaction, as trained employees can make decisions to address customer needs and problems quickly.

In another organization where work processes and methodologies are tightly governed and checked by regulatory agencies, a culture and structure designed to limit variation and centralize decision-making may work best.

H.R. does not need to have personal expertise in all of the functions of the Value Chain, in order to impact alignment and subsequently, strategic performance. Goal-setting for this KSE might be supported by discussing how H.R. can:
• enable discussions in each department, that identify new and existing activities that contribute the company’s unique value/deliver on the value proposition
• partner with leadership to involve employees in identifying needs for management support or changes in structure and culture that will empower employees to initiate action that contributes to the unique differentiation of the company
• facilitate discussions to map the Value Chain

5. Human Capital
Three critical dimensions of Human Capital management include: • Targeted Training • Knowledge Sharing • Talent Management
We believe you’ll agree that these dimensions can have significant impact both short and long term on the organization’s success in executing on the strategy.

Targeted Training refers to training and development activities that are needed in order for employees to perform key work inherent in the strategy. This can include specific job competencies; new technical skills for product and service design, support and troubleshooting, internal business processes and systems; relationship building, problem solving, and project management; leadership skills and more.

Knowledge Sharing is currently recognized as essential for growing and/or changing organizations. A systematic approach that makes it quick and easy for employees to document and share knowledge i.e. what they learned in training, learnings from experience, success, mistakes, and networking — can save time when new people are getting up to speed, can shorten learning curves as people take on new responsibilities or projects, and can provide opportunities for visibility for those who are highly knowledgeable and/or respected as informal leaders.

Talent acquisition, succession planning and other Talent Management activities all enable continuity for the business. A company’s ability to find, attract, hire, develop and retain people whose skills, knowledge and interests align with their jobs and the business strategy, is key in building the value of its intellectual property and human capital. These intangibles impact the company’s ability achieve its strategy and its sustainability into the future.

H.R. is uniquely positioned as a function to make an especially strong impact on the business through this KSE. To continue to build its positive impact on the Human Capital KSE, H.R. might discuss with its team and its peers:
• what can be started, stopped, improved or changed in the Talent Management arena that would better equip the organization for the future, with the right people who have the right skills to deliver the strategy?
• what ”hygiene” work of Talent Management can be automated or outsourced to allow existing staff to focus on strategic activities?
• what Talent Management knowledge and skills need to be developed, hired or brought in through consultants, in order to improve the function’s alignment with the strategy?

6. Market Discipline
Throughout this article, we’ve continued to reinforce that a strong connection is needed between the organization and its strategy. Market Discipline is the term coined in books about strategy, referring to the decision that a business must make as to its differentiation or value proposition. Treacy and Wiersema’s three strategic disciplines are (1) operational excellence, (2) product leadership, and (3) customer intimacy.

It is generally recognized that while a company needs to perform well in all three disciplines, it must choose just one of the three to do with excellence, as their differentiation.
To deliver on one discipline, with the whole organization aligned to the strategy, requires resources and costs money.

Can a company choose 2 or all 3 disciplines for differentiation? Let’s answer this question with some more questions, this time. Would a company be able to align its organization and its people to be both operationally excellent and provide product leadership? How much would operating cost be impacted? How would differing goals impact teamwork effectiveness, and work processes?

Perhaps H.R. could set a goal on this KSE, to open up a good discussion to reach agreement among the leadership team on the Market Discipline tradeoffs and choices.

We are convinced that now is the right time for H.R. to take and leverage its seat at the table to make its strategic impact. As businesses work to re-build and grow following years of economic adversity, it is now H.R.’s skills and expertise relative to critical “intangibles” that can be highly leveraged to make a difference, to build success for the organization both short and long term.

To execute effectively requires Market Discipline, Strategic Understanding, Leadership, Balanced Metrics, Activities and Structure and Human Capital, all strategically aligned and continuously improving. These KSEs are the pillars for successful execution and achievement of the business strategy.

Is your H.R. organization ready? What does it need to do next?
If your H.R. function is one of the many who are evolving to achieve its strategic potential, the following prioritization and action planning tool may help.

Priority Action Graphic from Prana

To use this tool, review each KSE individually. As you read across, you’ll see the second column, LOS Class, refers to the results of completing our Line-of-Sight assessment. If you’re using this chart without having used this assessment tool, skip this column and go instead to Influence. How much influence does your H.R. team have with each KSE’s set of decision makers? Rate your influence with 1 being high, 2 medium, 3 low.
Then evaluate the priority based on the business need for action on each KSE. Rate this 1-4, with 1 being high, 4 meaning the KSE work can wait longer. Then make your decisions on each KSE area to act (go) or not (no go), using the last column on the right. Then, develop your goals and action plans for the “go” items.

Feel free to contact us with questions. We’re here to help. Go ahead, make your strategic impact for 2014. It’s H.R.’s greatest opportunity to add value to the business.

H.R. Legal Updates For Small Businesses


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Employer handbooks: 8 areas to watch, Employee Benefit Advisor

CA Court’s Recent Ruling on Overtime Pay

What Kinds of HRAs are Permitted Post-ACA, by David C. Smith at ebn.com

An in-depth look at the EEOC’s new Enforcement Guidance on pregnancy, by Robin Shea, Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP

New rates for ‘affordable coverage’ under ACA announced, by Kevin R. McMurdy on Employee Benefit Advisor

 Family Medical Leave Act – New Definition of Spouse Impacts Employee Eligibility

The Truth About Trust, Engagement And Organization Performance


???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As managers in today’s organizations,during an economic recovery that is challenging even to the world’s top 1% of businesses, our primary concerns are about building business performance and growing. The fact is, the top 1%, including Fortune 500 companies, are not necessarily the models of successful leadership that we might emulate, since many of them have been recipients of government interventions designed to support them financially: aid totaling $63 billion dollars in government subsidies funded by taxpayers during the past two decades – according to a February 26, 2014 article, “Fortune 500 Companies Receive $63 Billion In Subsidies” by David Siroto on pando.com. This surprising-to-me statistic aside, it is incumbent on us as business leaders to create paths to successful achievement of high performance and growth, despite the challenges we face.Our solutions must be found by looking within our organizations, since business performance and growth are in the hands of our workforce. According to the S&P 500, today’s businesses are primarily valued based on their intangibles, including assets such as intellectual capital, talent, and leadership’s ability to execute the strategy. Engaging our people, developing them, leveraging their skills, knowledge and experience, and retaining them — are the recognized keys to our success. In recent years we’ve learned that Employee Engagement is primary in driving performance. Fortunately, we have lots of knowledge and many experts on engagement to guide us — but, as with other strategic objectives, our challenges lay in the execution much more than in developing the plans.

Analyzing engagement, we can see that Trust is the essential foundation. How do we develop trust? Many would say that we build trust by being honest and by doing what we say we’ll do. But, when you think about it, there’s more to trust than that, isn’t there? I trust people who care about my well-being; who value me and my work and who I can count on to help me to succeed. Do you use similar criteria (and more) in deciding who you’ll trust? On reflection, in the past decade, leaders and managers have been faced with challenges we’ve never before encountered. Leaders have made difficult business decisions with hard trade-offs that impacted the employment of millions of people. People have been downsized, work schedules were reduced with pay reduced accordingly, salaries were frozen, and managers’ focus shifted from people-leadership to tasks, goals, efficiencies, metrics and measures. Training and development budgets were cut, rewards and recognition diminished, and jobs were eliminated by management choices to off-shore them. Looking back, it’s not surprising that the over-riding message received by employees from these collective actions in recent years is actually counter to any message of caring about our people. Trust has been lost. But now, more than ever, leaders and managers need their workforces to improve business performance.

Interestingly, decades ago, multi-year studies by Elton Mayo and Nathaniel Hawthorne that involved changing lighting in a Western Electric plant resulted in a conclusive result that became well known as The Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect is described as increased performance resulting when management shows that they care about their people. This early research discovery fits with today’s knowledge about the impact of Employee Engagement levels on organizational performance. Indeed, managers showing they care about their people and people’s performance are inter-connected.

Today’s leaders are reading articles and books about engagement, strategy and execution regularly. By integrating these ideas and assessing our organizations, we gain insights and solutions can be crafted and tailored to fit our business needs. I am convinced that Employee Engagement needs to become a priority within the business strategy. Then, organizational leadership, systems, policies and practices must be aligned with the strategy. And, like other business strategies, it’s execution that needs executive level attention and support.

Showing employees that leaders and managers care about them is critical to building Trust, which is the foundation for Engagement. Engagement is the driver of business performance improvement and growth.

Following are 5 targeted tactics managers can include in initial action plans to build organization performance and growth, through a strategy of Employee Engagement, starting with Trust.

  • Providing broadened, company-paid, proactive wellness programs that do not require employee disclosure of related personal information. For example, on-site fitness centers or reimbursement for memberships conveniently located for employees; cafeterias serving affordable, healthy foods; child day-care options reducing related stress and expense
  • Designing safety initiatives that support employee well-being. For example, a manufacturing organization might, well in advance of summer, set up a team including employees and managers to locate water and other beverages enabling quick and easy access to all employees, to ensure people are able to remain hydrated during the hot working conditions we know will come in the months ahead; providing safety coaches who walk the floor to provide helpful coaching or reminders to employees in safe lifting, proper use of PPE and other safe practices
  • Making time to follow annual performance planning with regular, frequent, and supportive (individual and team) feedback and discussions
  • Sharing information that enables employees to find meaning and purpose in their work. For example, managers might find various, interesting ways to educate employees about the business strategy, so that each employee understands clearly how he contributes to delivering on the company’s differentiation through the work he does and how he does it on a daily basis; sharing information about competitors, customers and the use of the company’s products and services.
  • Solicitation of employee input on changes that impact their work, prior to change decisions; including employees in monitoring change initiatives to obtain and utilize their feedback throughout implementation.

To drive strategic performance such as this, managers are usually good at setting goals and developing action plans to execute the strategy. And, some organizations use systematic approaches to monitor and measure execution. Participation by senior leaders and/or support from the right consultants can be invaluable in turbulent times such as these, when managers are pulled in many directions due to pressing operational demands for their time.

Is your organization taking action to improve organization performance? Is engagement a priority component of your company’s business strategy? What is working? Please share your ideas, opinions, knowledge and experience.

Re-printed from LinkedIn on June 26,  2014