Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.


C-Suite Edge: Keeping HR Eye-Level, Evaluating Partners and Rewarding Top Talent for Optimum ROI

No matter the organizational headcount, C-suite executives must focus due diligence upon talent management, workforce ROI and legal compliance. For any labor intensive organization, the keys to success rely upon increased workforce productivity, astute risk management and surgically cut talent dollars. In doing so, idle time, legal costs, under-utilization and any such wasteful spending must be avoided. Expert solutions exist and are catching on quickly. Those not paying attention will be left behind.

Employment law is ever-changing and requires daily research. Beyond pure legal advice, legal compliance experts need to deploy business acumen, organizational psychology and aligned mission commitment to deliver best decision tools and implementations. Top executives are earning spectacular ROI and competitive edge by finding their own perfect internal-external partnership balance. Some are outsourcing it all, but better options exist.

The options promoted here do not involve the outsourcing of the employment relationship. For many, outsourcing employees can be counterproductive to ROI. Employees want to feel part of a team, and in today’s world of “pay without play” where some label work a “choice,” employees often deliver commitment only with reciprocity and incentive. In many environments, outsourcing employees can be an expedient method of deteriorating engagement and productivity. Keeping workforce on the payroll and outsourcing certain or all HR management, however, can be a collaborative win for the entire organization. 

Third party expert operations have long been enjoyed by employers of all sizes and cultures. Employers under 200 are eligible to partner for all HR operations. Employers of limitless size find third party partnership extremely beneficial for talent assessment, education, compliance certification and change leadership. Most employers will attain betterment through a stable, highly competent and dedicated HR team, rather than revolving part-time talent with limited versatility. Employers who embrace external experts enjoy competitive edge and visionary foresight. Top quality is accessed with keen cost control, unbiased expertise, widespread case study and flexible utilization.

As we re-evaluate the HR team, workforce headcount only matters so much. For the average employer, the optimal team is comprised of functional management plus specialists and support under the direction of a Chief HR Operating Officer (CHRO), a right hand to the CEO. CHROs can be internal or external partners. An established CHRO already succeeding is always to be treasured and protected, as premier talent is undoubtedly rare and worthy of appreciation.

When selecting a professional consultant as CHRO, employers should seek quick adaptability, C-suite proven excellence, vast third party expertise and, of course, flexible utilization for cost control.  HR practitioners for top partner firms never stop learning, growing, embracing and delivering new value. Among many other deliverables, they bridge gaps and engage workforce into the company’s mission. CHROs should facilitate a highly effective and well-aligned supporting team.

Delivering fiscal due diligence, the average cost of third party partnership is less than the average cost of internalized operations. Done well, spectacular ROI is expected year one and builds substantially in consecutive years.  Through selection of the right partner organization, the HR team stays in place, benefiting from learning curve balanced with constantly emerging fresh ideas and case studies. Access to dedicated expert talent on demand without idle time is a steadfast cost reduction and quality optimization technique. Impartial third party experts avoid bias and deliver information with enhanced credibility. Everyone wins.

In some organizations, CHRO and CFO responsibilities are merged. This yields mixed results. Merging CHRO and CFO roles can produce conflict of interest or limited perspective; however, both CHRO and CFO need a clear grasp of fiscal prudence, organizational psychology and legal compliance. Ideally, each of these practitioners is ready to deploy as needed but never underutilized. Neither role should be subservient to the other.

Some fabulous internal HR leaders exist in today’s companies, and many of them are existing or future HRS clients. They call upon preferred partners for compliance, talent assessment, education, decision tools, case studies, affirmative defense and third party expertise. Astute business leaders recognize these top performers and keep them engaged with incentive and growth. Partner organizations deliver the tools and opportunities for such growth. 

Cookie cutter solutions are abused, overused and rarely appropriate in HR. Every employer is unique across widespread criteria, including but not limited to company brand, culture, history, demographics, business model and keys to success. Accredited consultants deliver the ability to assess and tailor programs which plug into these unique paradigms. Those who devote only to a single employer at a time and/or “job hop” do not necessarily deliver the third party expertise necessary to capture success opportunities.

While the essentials are somewhat universal, today’s business leaders enjoy a healthy range of HR options. Whether enjoying premier internal talent, premier external talent or a custom blend of the two, HR is never a remedial function. The HR function should be in the hands of those who deliver extraordinary legal knowledge, fiscal due diligence, talent management, lifelong learning for leaders, policy establishment, organizational communications, conflict reduction, operational efficiency and forward thinking, to name a few. HR is an executive function which, done poorly, can decimate an organization… and when done well, delivers impactful ROI, business sustainability and critical risk management. Today’s top executives keep it eye-level and empower extraordinary partners.

 

Article by Jessica Ollenburg, HRS Chief Empowerment Officer. Summary Bio. 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, May 05, 2014

 





P3 Compliance and Constructing Policies That Hold Up in Court

The Department of Labor tells us they are overwhelmed, understaffed and shifting additional burden to employers for employment law compliance. This can be a great deal for the average employer to undertake.  HRS has taken some time to prepare a quick “how to” blueprint for employers.

P3, also called “Plan/Prevent/Protect” or “P Cubed,” will require every entity covered by the FLSA, OSHA, OFCCP, and MSHA to make written plans ("Plan"), create processes ("Prevent"), and test the processes with designated compliance employees ("Protect").

The following guidelines create a simplified and sustainable P3 protocol:

 

1. Stay On Top of Changing Laws.

Review not only government postings, but also secure a 3rd party compliance expert as needed and for annual overview.  Our “overwhelmed” government states outright there is no government responsibility to educate employers.  Enforcement is their responsibility, however, and fundraising is high.  Case precedent law is just as impactful here as statutory law.  While it is necessary to be a member of the Bar to litigate or serve as “officer of the court,” it is not necessary to be a member of the Bar to be a legal compliance expert.  Full-time research commitment is essential for such expertise. 

2. Avoid Copycat or Adaptation of Other Employers’ Handbooks.

Beyond the immediate intellectual property law threats, other employers are not recognized as experts.  “Because Company X Did It” is not a reasonable defense. There are some terribly non-compliant practices circulating out there like “old wives’ tales.” Even policies that actually work for one company may not work for yours.

3. Build Legal Arguments from Day One.

Maintain records to prove either experts consulted on or approved your policies… or if self-constructed… save expert resources and statutory evidence as future “reasonable care” affirmative defense.  Use scenario planning to create and document activities which defend the company against complaint. “Willful violations” pose the greatest threat.  Negligence and lack of attention can be considered “willful” acts.

4. Protect Chain of Information.

Knowing what to keep and for how long as well as what not to keep are essential. Knowing who can have access and how to use this information without breaching privacy laws or risking discriminatory complaint are equally essential. 

5. Follow Policy Outcomes.

With the overuse of “cookie cutter” policies, many companies are unaware that better policy options exist.  Regardless of genesis for your policy, track outcomes to ensure it is working for you and not creating adverse impact or unlawful side effects.  Designate specific individuals with reasonable ongoing access, and empower them with job description authority to monitor policy success.

 

HRS offers extraordinary legal compliance expertise, P3 design services and further information on any topic herein. Consider an HR certification audit as proactive P3 compliance. ROI is exponential.


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, January 23, 2012

 





Writing Job Descriptions for Legal Compliance and Organizational Development Results

Templates exist for best practices job descriptions.  Some templates hit the mark and others fall short.  Our article outlines the minimum goals to be attained by job description creation as well as some helpful guidelines to writing a custom description.  Rarely can an organization pull a job description "off the shelf" from another organization and apply it without essential modification.  Consider a job description model only a starting point and invest the effort into customizing the instrument to your organization and your unique job.  The exercise of doing so offers value in itself. 

For starters, let us explore the goals.  A strong job description will...

  • Serve as an effective tool for employee selection and orientation to specific position duties and evaluation criteria.
  • Establish a training checklist for new hires or incumbent job changes.
  • Provide a point-by-point quality of work itemization for performance appraisals and ongoing performance management.
  • Document position goals and performance standards.
  • Protect the firm from legal risks through written documentation of position requirements.  Establish ADA, FLSA and EEOC compliance.
  • Benchmark the position for accurate compensation scale review.
  • Facilitate a merit-based compensation system by clearly identifying distinguishing characteristics between positions and position levels.
  • Communicate recruitment parameters to safeguard the hiring process.
  • Effectively distribute workload among team members to ensure organizational “right sizing.”
  • Manage legal risks in employment law by comprehensively documenting the position requirements and performance requirements.
  • Allow team members to measure their own performances between formal performance appraisals.
  • Establish individual accountability.
  • Internally market the position to each relevant team member through controlled terminology and quick communication of the “keys to success” in the position.
  • Enhance training and thereby minimize relevant turnover.
  • Validate the need for pre-employment testing/screening toward legal risk management.
  • Protect team members not selected for promotion from failure to understand selection decisions.  Protect the company from challenged decisions.
  • Assist supervisors with the performance appraisal system by providing written reminders of the goals and expectations actually communicated to the team members.

 

Job Analysis should involve both incumbent employees and their supervisors.  Not only should the tasks and position goals be documented, but in crafting and weighting such considerations, the keys to success and risks of failure should also be considered.  The consideration and the documentation of facts are two different things.  The final product will be edited and filtered for content and purpose. As an example, we document what an employee is responsible to do to avert problems, but we do not necessarily document the potential problems themselves.

Typical categories of information include Job Title, Immediate Supervisor, FLSA Status, Mission/Summary, Essential Tasks & Responsibilities, Supervisory Responsibility, Job Requirements, Working Conditions, Physical Demands, Skills & Learning Goals, and Disclaimer of Management Ability to Modify.  Some descriptions may include Department, Pay Grade, Work Hours, Location/Site Travel and more.

When crafting language, measurable benchmarks must be present to ensure the standards are meaningful and reliable.  Legally compliant language is essential to ensure compliance and perception of compliance at every stage of employment.  Desirable behaviors should be documented in detailed description.  While some label behaviors as"soft skills," successful leadership recognizes that behaviors drive results often more than skills do.  Behaviors need to be measured both on the job and at pre-employment assessment.  The HRS Assessment Center supports just that! Owning a characteristic is not as important at appropriately deploying that characteristic when it counts.  In order to pay a bill, one needs not only to have the money but also to write the check.

Job analysis questionnaires, sample job descriptions, outsource assistance and more information are available from HRS.  We wish you great success with your project!

 

  

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, September 26, 2011

 





Disability Leave: How Much is Too Much?

Fueled by ADA, FMLA and countless ever-changing statutory concerns, employer confusion has sparked over-generosity.  Employers are giving against their will and caving in beyond necessity.  While competitive offerings remain critical to attracting, engaging and retaining the right talent, benefits that reach the greatest number of top performers are most valuable.  Disability benefits may or may not be integral to that mix, specific to the overall company offerings and keys to success. Disability leave, disability law and disability insurance are each distinctively different topics.  Accordingly, we have taken time to debunk the myths and blueprint the actual requirements.

ADA Leave: Recent legal precedents validate that employers need not provide “indefinite leave” nor any disability leave that produces “undue hardship.” According to circumstance, four weeks beyond FMLA entitlements has been a typical benchmark for ADA leave.

Employee Paid Disability Premiums: Where the company does not pay premiums or administer benefits, such disability insurance plans may be exempt from company benefit rules.  While it is unlawful to penalize employees for the allowable use of company benefits, benefits not provided by the company may be carved out.  Written distinction is mandated through a well-crafted policy.

Advance Notice:  Wage, hour and employment laws are quite clear that while an employer may be granted certain latitude in practice, advance notice to employees is critical to legal compliance.  Burden rests upon the employer to provide clear advanced notification of policies.  Again, a well-crafted proactive policy satisfies this requirement.

Benefits During Leave:  The company needs not pay benefits during leave not legally mandated.  In fact, the same is true during certain legally mandated leave.  Employers may craft policies that stipulate leave to be employment separation.  Such leave can then have its own consistently applied definition, eligibility for rehire and seniority recaptured, if so desired, upon rehire. Employees are eligible for COBRA as of the employment separation date, which becomes the qualifying event.

As with most employee handbook policies, one size does not fit all here and legal compliance can be complex.  HRS is available to weigh situations on their own merit and customize policies to unique company practices.

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, August 29, 2011

 





2011’s Most Important Organizational Communication Lessons

2011 finds employers in eclectic places, damaged by recent economic impact, confused by new legal mandates, often acclimating to corporate restructure, balancing technology’s influence and typically cautiously optimistic in a mode of strategic change… some finding great new opportunity as the dust settles. Organizational communication, both internal and external, is substantially impacted by these adjustments. The keys to success are keen skill sets in organizational communications, companywide, often at employer burden of training. The following are the 5 most commonly missed opportunities to succeed and a brief resolution theory.

1. Compliant Communications:

Anti-Harassment, HIPAA, social media and intellectual property are just a few critical learning topics of employer responsibility.  While it is true employers are not always responsible to actually control human behavior, reasonable care in training, policy establishment and enforcement are essential to company success, affirmative defense and risk management.
 

2. Cost-Benefit Analysis:

Employers are found over-communicating and under-communicating change to the point that the cost of communication is disproportionate, upward or downward, to the actual benefit of the change.  Consider the costs of employee communication including preparation, costs of miscommunication and time away from work when developing the communication rollout plan.  Calculate the anticipated benefits, and weigh accordingly for your blueprint.
 

3. Lopsided Sales Cycles:

In the effort to find the best price point or value, employers are demanding staunch sales cycles from prospective providers.  More than ever we see 3+ proposals sought for a 3 or small 4 figure acquisition…too much.  If you want to find the best value, treat your “vendors” as “partners,” keeping in mind their costs become your costs.   Find ways to help your providers keep their costs down.  Don’t sloppily force information repeats, listen carefully, streamline correspondence and be creative.  Prices are prices. Bullying is not negotiating. Together you can build collaborative strength.
 

4. E-mail Versus Traditional Communication:

Rules exist for communication media choice.  Know them and train them.  E-mail is the least invasive, most easily queued at convenient times and facilitates immediate documentation. Live discussion with or without body language, however, can be more efficient for transactional type exchange. Videoconference is a growing option.  Without proper training as to when each should be deployed, debates emerge as to the media choice, further contaminating topic discussion.
  

5. Blameshifting:

With fear of job security alive and well, elaborate schemes are being plotted and deployed to “save one’s skin.” Sadly, the individual who best plots and conceals usually wins, and here the company loses.  The blameshifting target was usually too busy actually working and owning workplace integrity to have won this nasty unproductive game.  When a team member “blames” a vendor or another employee, please investigate and monitor.  Your team members should be rewarded to help company stakeholders do a better job.  Those willing to throw another “under a bus” are far less valuable to you than those working toward greater good.
 

Communication is the means of knowledge transfer and collaboration toward unified goal.   When it is compromised, so are profit, growth, risk management and sustainability. Further detailed analysis and solutions on any topic herein are available through HRS.


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

 





Candidate Screening by Video Technology Reveals Mixed Success

As global talent assessment experts, HRS has spent many years researching success of video technology use in screening.  We’ve reviewed dozens of platforms and learned from thousands of employers.  Recently, with the continued emergence of videoconferencing use in business, video skills gain importance.  However, screening platforms are still showing flaws.

The first major flaw lies in the difference between skills just being on camera as opposed to actually “addressing” the camera.  These two skills have little or no correlation between them.  Addressing a known audience can be far more comfortable than addressing an unknown (camera) and vice versa.  Even the company’s sales reps appear “frozen” and ill at ease in certain platform demos.   Videoconferencing typically allows the visibility of and interaction with an audience, a different dynamic altogether. As a regular speaker, I find it infinitely easier to “come alive” with dynamics when I have an engaged and participative audience.  A flat, unresponsive audience is a challenge, and often a burden, to an educator.  Entertainers sometimes enjoy that challenge, yet entertainers and educators are two different characters.  Consider the actual video skills requirements of the job, and align the screening dynamic with the job’s parameters.

The second major flaw lies in the platform’s validation.  Some platforms align with the proven concept that the best interviewers often are those who have the most practice. Sales and substance are two different concepts, and for many, these are sadly mutually exclusive.  We researched several platforms which have specifically positioned themselves to major market employers whose keys to success lie in turnover versus employee retention. Not all organizations are talent based. In fact, many large organizations rely upon “plug and play” capabilities which create sustainability without reliance upon specific talent.  The important takeaway here is to find a platform which aligns with your corporate goals for talent lifecycle. You may adopt more than one platform if you do not find an integrated solution.
 
The third major flaw is legal compliance.  While the federal and state governments are mandating appropriate timing to potentially discriminatory data collection, inappropriately deployed video screening can heighten risks of noncompliance.  Structure a program consistent, compliant and true to the job description for best protection. These are the same risks discussed in our teachings on social media use in screening.

The fourth major flaw lies in BFOQ test of reason.  Unless a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) is prominent, the screening technique is at risk.  If video skills are not necessary to the job description, do not consider video skills in the screening.  How people present in person, in writing, via telephone and via camera are all unique characteristics independent of one another.

HRS has pioneered telework principles and use of global technology for decades.  We understand the benefits and the risks. Many technology options are available, appropriate to individual job requirements.  Video may or may not be the solution, and please adopt the platform which truly represents your best interests.  We use video technology often… but selectively according to the actual job requirements and career path lifecycle.  Detailed research is available from HRS.

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, June 14, 2011

 





Top 2011 Initiatives for HR Risk Management & Cost Savings

This year’s most popular goals of employers large and small are to manage new legal risks, reorganize staff for best efficiency/future growth, and manage human capital for improved cost savings.   The following checklist provides framework to suggested 2011 initiatives.
 
 

1. Identify and control emerging legal risks.

More than 20 areas of statutory and case law have changed in the last year alone.  Government audits can newly be random rather than triggered solely by complaint as before.  Fines are a vehicle for government fundraising.  Employers must not only get compliant as cost control but must also gain reasonable care certification from 3rd party expert analyst. New ISO practices are emerging for HR.  Discreet compliance reviews are available to provide essential investigation plus affirmative defense certification. Avoid using non-profits in this role as they are not lawfully eligible to advocate on your individual behalf and can only advocate for their memberships on the whole.
 

2. Reassess HR needs.

With the wealth of HR/OD resources available, the best way to safeguard your HR initiative is to ensure no idle time and to ensure you have secured the appropriate change management resources.  This is not a time for old school thinking and rote maintenance behavior.  This is time for invention and transformation. Have full time resources for full time needs maintenance.  Draw upon external experts to suggest and design change.
 

3. Enjoy the ROI, cost savings and future planning benefits of employee assessments.

Deploy testing that predicts employee performance and learning needs throughout the life cycle: pre-employment, advancement, change, trainability and exit, at a minimum. Personality profiles do not get that done.  In baskets, role plays and job simulations provide meaningful data.  Expect at least a 100:1 return on your investment.  Reject instruments that fall short.
 

4. Create and enforce a lifelong learning culture for leaders.

Leaders who burn out or who miss opportunities to transform others are toxic to your environment.  Leaders should be seen learning.  Trainers should be seen learning to train.  Leading and training are not “common sense.” Commitment to external education sources is critical, but speaker seminars are the least effect learning venue.  Consider learning workshops in your environment at which real-time case studies can be explored and resolved to better apply learning and safeguard time away from work.
 

5. Stay in touch with employees to monitor engagement, troubleshoot, facilitate and be proactive.

Proactive solutions are typically 5-10% the cost of reactive solutions.  Accept that what is past may or may not be prologue.
 

External resources can provide outstanding facilitation to these action items, and please think of HRS during your proposal process.  3rd party objectivity, specialist research, multi-employer relevant case studies and flex talent bring value added your internal time simply is not licensed to bring, no matter how competent and no matter how dedicated.  The collaboration between internal and external talent is a powerful force.


Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, March 27, 2011

 





Social Media Investigations May Be Essential to Hiring and Can Be Conducted Lawfully

Some attorneys will advise employers to avoid using social media as a recruitment and screening tool.  The caution is wise; however, avoidance may be impractical, and the proper use of social media can most definitely pay off.  In many cases, we consider it actually necessary. While risks of unlawful use exist and need be avoided, bona fide occupational qualifications can be investigated through proper methodology.  The following 3 rules are set forth to simplify legal compliance.

1) Timing is everything.  The EEOC is often more concerned about the timing and outcomes of collecting data than the collection of data itself.  That is, we know certain visual characteristics when we interview or videoconference a candidate, yet premature collection and use of this data is considered unlawful “profiling.” The investigation of social media after interview is typically safer than prior to interview.  A company that shows reasonable care and great diversity in demographics and advancement provides substantially stronger affirmative defense than a company with insufficient diversity and/or without reasonable care compliance. Protected characteristics are found not only in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 but also in the legal changes and state regulations emerging ongoing.
 
2) Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs) are still considered a lawful job requirement subject to reasonable investigation. How a candidate presents his/herself to the general public and company stakeholders is a legitimate public relations and credibility concern.   While off duty behavior may or may not be appropriate to monitor and discover as a BFOQ, how a candidate chooses to be known on the Internet as searchable by customers, co-workers, competitors, associates, vendors, investors and other stakeholders, is certainly a BFOQ.  Such a presence affects on duty performance, especially when easily detected by search engine or links to professional or company presence.  A great job description and strong company policies will validate social media investigations.
 
3) Outsource investigation and/or control consistency and chain of information.  HRS policy establishment, training and candidate investigation services are currently booming.  While we are biased that no competitor meets our standards, please know resources abound for outsourcing implementation or procedural design as risk management. If choosing to insource the effort, control documentation and custody of information. Appropriate policies and disclosures should be considered.  One size does not fit all here.  Social media usage and monitoring policies should match the company’s unique practices.  And, although the candidate may choose the “world wide web” to air private and personal information, the employer must remember to not further the information distribution except on a “need to know” basis. Use of search engines to collect data is recommended.  The method of collecting data should align with reasonable access to information by company stakeholders.

The appropriate use of social media in hiring provides cost-effective recruitment, often with cost savings or targeted candidate access impractical to ignore.  However, the very nature of recruitment via social media could grant us access to candidate social media profiles too soon. To use only social media for recruitment, in certain cases, may in itself be considered discriminatory.  Audience demographics should be considered to both control costs and to also ensure abidance with Affirmative Action Plans where they exist.

It is difficult to investigate certain social media sites, especially those of a personal rather than professional focus, without receiving information regarding age, race, nationality, military, family status, sexual orientation, religion, or some combination of the many, many lawfully protected characteristics.  Pictures, comments, links, interests and profile page data cannot be reasonably avoided. To better manage risks, we suggest directing the candidate to the company’s own application system rather than linking the recruitment response with the candidate’s social media profile.  Such a step allows the company to broadcast the recruitment via social media but to collect responses through traditional methods discouraging profiling. 

Upon reaching the correct stage and method of data collection, be certain to avoid risk of error and falsehood. Identities can be confused, and inaccurate information may be collected.  Be certain you have the correct individual, and be certain the information is true. Background check permission forms should collect necessary data to validate identity. HRS recommends and designs a sequential plan of using social media investigations lawfully, consistently, with proper timing and privacy controls toward the appropriate evaluation of BFOQs.  As an added safeguard, it is popularly recommended to involve an outside firm or an individual not participating in the employment decisions. That individual or firm should then be in position to report only on job requirements and BFOQs, thereby inherently controlling the distribution and use of data.

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, February 24, 2011

 





Great Consultants are Never "In Between Jobs" and HR is Never Part-time: When & How to Deploy Insource & Outsource Toolsets

With a wealth of auxiliary talent options available to company business plans, employers too often miss the mark in deploying the optimal schemata.  In any organization, flexible utilization of experts can create cost savings while simultaneously adding new problem solving opportunities.  Statistically, the most common related employer mistakes are either stagnation or selecting the wrong remedy.  The four primary categories for flexible talent utilization are each unique.  These are consultants, outsource firms, part-time managers and non-profit memberships, and in their uniqueness, these are not to be deployed interchangeably.  The following analysis is a blueprint to determining where to plug and play each option.  Let us start with definitions.

 

Consultant:  “an expert who charges a fee for providing advice or services in a particular field.”  Expertise relies upon extraordinary knowledge relating to a magnitude of employers and third party objectivity.  A consultant advocates specifically for and tailors programs on behalf of the retaining employer.

 

Outsource:  “to buy labor or parts from a source outside a company or business rather than using the company's staff or plant.”

 

Part-Time:  “working less weekly hours than the company’s typical hourly requirement for full-time.”

 

Non-Profit Association:  “tax exempt organization serving the membership as a whole without individualized attention… prohibited from advocating on behalf of or representing private interests” or, in other words, an intended “greater good” concern which is the exact opposite of consulting.  Non-profits are expected to substitute general population betterment in consideration for taxes not paid.  Non-profits by nature make great networking and collaborative organizations but cannot legally participate in the act of private interest consulting.  

 

Clearly, these definitions describe uniquely distinctive situations, at times mutually exclusive, yet many still erroneously use these ideas interchangeably.  The following is a breakdown of where to deploy each option and discussion of expected value provided.  The examples herein focus upon the field of HR Management and Organizational Development.

 

Non-Profit Associations can be a great source of access for publicly available information, to consolidate and discuss without concern for private interest and individualized attention.  Customization is limited but open door networking is high.  With the exclusion of private interest, members must take on their own responsibility to screen and select only applicable offerings and talent provided by such greater good organizations.  Especially in HR/OD, what is appropriate to one employer can be entirely irrelevant and inappropriate to the next employer.  Classroom learning, written publications and networking access are expected to be among top offerings, and these can be offered at great prices given the tax exemptions and other fiscal advantages awarded to these entities.  Individualized workshops, private employer advocacy, targeted strategic planning and custom programs are largely if not entirely prohibited.  Liability is more difficult to subrogate to a non-profit; therefore, reliance upon non-profits as "experts" can be challenging. Where customization and private interest is desired, the following 3 options are better suited.

 

Part-time Managers can be an outstanding remedy to those disciplines which are not required full-time by an employer.  Depending upon organizational structure, examples may include Training, Compensation/Benefits and Talent Acquisition.  Smaller employers without the headcount to support 40 hours weekly work in these disciplines can divert these activities reasonably to a smaller time increment per week.  Certain activities are more spontaneous in emergence and can be scheduled with less ease, making part-time management less appropriate.  These include legal compliance, performance management, employee relations and safety.  While a certain percentage of these disciplines can be compartmentalized to a part-time schedule, the organization needs at least a backup “go to” during all operational times.  Where part-time managers are utilized, there is typically opportunity to choose consultancy or outsource instead.  A challenge with finding a part-time manager is finding someone willing and able to consistently work only part-time and during the employer’s required hours.  Turnover can be high, jeopardizing the learning curve and cost efficiencies.  Semi-retirees can be a great option, provided they are still ambitious to learn proactively and do not demand to be paid for what they did well for a prior employer.

 

Outsource can be a great option where better efficiencies and/or outcomes are gained by using another dedicated entity’s site and resources.  Depending upon the company’s existing resources, possible examples include Employee Assessment, Training, Benefits Administration, Payroll and Talent Acquisition.   The most common outsource mistake is where labor intensive organizations rely inappropriately upon PEOs (professional employer organizations), temporary help services or RPOs (recruitment process outsource) for talent acquisition.  Used well, quality outsource companies in these fields can control costs and streamline efficiencies.  Used poorly, these methods can create barrier to attracting, selecting, engaging and retaining the right talent. Appropriate outsource of candidate assessment not only streamlines efficiency and allows expert input, but also very importantly allows third party unbiased objectivity, which is especially essential when incumbent talent is being evaluated.

 

Consultants and non-profits cannot be used interchangeably and by nature are mutually exclusive.  Consultants are entirely devoted to private interest concerns.  Top consultants understand that each employer is unique – in culture, brand, labor intensity, business plan and comprehensive operations.  “One size fits all” solutions do not exist in consulting.  A great consultant knows the difference and how to apply the other 3 options and will work collaboratively on that team, also offering his/her own resource team.  A great consultant works with and works for the employer, drawing upon multi-employer case studies without betraying any company’s intellectual property.  When selecting a consultant, it is critical to understand that consultancy is NOT the natural evolution of the seasoned professional who created success during internal corporate life… or was formerly entrusted by a successful corporate entity.  Successful consultancy requires the proven ability to simultaneously serve multiple unique organizations through never-ending research, analysis, adaptation and deep knowledge of multi-employer case studies.  As what works for one company need not work well for another, success for one or a few corporate entities is not necessarily transferrable predictive success for your organization.  Great consultants are never “in between jobs.” They are constantly in demand, loyally retained, adaptable, and they stay busy in any economy.  They do not rest on laurels and they hone their salesmanship… needing to constantly promote change and inertia.

 

 

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, September 14, 2010