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.


CEO Must-Knows About Employing People in 2016


For those who create jobs, a new year creates new opportunities and new threats. While we at HRS highly recommend each CEO to empower a fully functional HR initiative, we simultaneously advocate these 10 areas for highest executive support and visibility before giving up the reins. CEO to CEO… here is the drill-down!



Invest Only into Programs Supported by Data-Driven Metrics
While HR earned its seat in the boardroom by producing undeniable results on the Income Statements and Balance Sheets, avoid the assumption that all HR professionals grasp fiscal responsibility and know-how. Dubbed “The Pioneers of HR” in a 2015 Fortune Magazine spread, HRS knows exactly how thin the landscape was in prior decades, and we promise that more are boasting accolade than actually proven.  While it’s possible to find a statistic to support any thesis you choose, be certain the statistic is valid and supports a meaningful takeaway for optimum outcome. Statistics can be developed internally or externally at the start, but should be benchmarked internally upon program commencement. 


Ensure a C-Level Eye on Key Employment Law Changes
CEO’s must have a high level knowledge of these laws before properly delegating implementation and due diligence in 2016. Especially if a Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) is not in place, the items which cannot disappear from C-level are: handbook policies, ERISA Section 510, HIPAA, anti-harassment, trade secrets, ACA, FLSA, social media, independent contractors and joint-employer relationships, at a minimum. Top tier execs must ask the right questions and provide adequate support and empowerment to the right leaders of these critical initiatives. 


Bring Salary and Hourly Practices into Alignment
With Department of Labor (DOL) proposed overtime changes still embattled until late 2016, a major hike in minimum salary threshold may create unlawful “ivory tower” practices where they previously didn’t exist. Become more mindful of benefits, payroll handling and policy discrepancies between exempt and non-exempt team members. Be proactive.


Engage Without Coddling
Attracting and engaging the right talent cannot be accomplished without employer branding and a precise amount of ethical bribery, in view of forecasted 2016 shifts. That being said, some novices out there are “over-coddling” and making a pure mess of things. Let’s not forget Maslow’s Hierarchy, ERG motivation theories and that truly happy workers have no reason to work at any stage other than self-indulging self-actualization. Give your employees a reason and the resources to attain corporate goals. 


Keep HR and Accounting Completely Distinctive Functions at Lateral Vision
The keys to success in HR are absolutely neither a subset nor acquired along the accounting career path. These two critical functions each earn a boardroom seat, with critical communication between, and neither gets more leverage. While the HR effort cannot succeed without fiduciary vision and ability to assess proper fiduciary talent, the accounting effort can be tremendously successful with only limited communication from HR.  In fact, too much information in the hands of the accounting team yields EEOC and HIPAA penalty risks.


Personality Tests Belong in the 1970’s, with Mood Rings
Beaten down as unlawful 40 years ago, personality tests are somehow re-emerging for those who didn’t previously see the lightbulb. Throw in ADA protected mood disorders and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and personality tests tee up some real risk. Hiring without proper assessment poses even greater risk. Behavioral assessment delivers far more lawful, meaningful and reliable findings; keeping it job-related, predictive and risk free. Best options are still Simulation Scenarios and In-Baskets. 


Create a Politics-Free Zone
Wherever you sit, divisionary tactics and heated arguments are likely to be found. The workplace is ripe for passionate political arguments that threaten. Other countries already classify politics as protected. Arguing the Bill of Rights from every angle, the U.S. has begun protecting employees against harassment and discrimination due to political affiliation. While the political forum is likely to emerge downright uncivilized for some, an opportunity exists to actually capitalize on the problem by aligning your brand as a safe haven for those who work smart, work hard and respect others. DeBono’s Six Hats of Thinking, after all, requires perspective from all sides. 


Train, Train, Train! Talent May be Easier to Develop than Find
As a guest professor serving 6+ top-ranked institutions, I promise that even the best are concerned with proper education for today’s workplace. The employer who delivers appropriate development tools gains the competitive edge and exponential return on investment. Success is contingent upon corporate training in not only operations, but also workplace behaviors, leadership, organizational communications, problem solving and legal compliance. Avoid “canned curriculum” and deploy a topic expert to deliver on-point discussion and applied Q&A. Not only is it nearly impossible to “pick the right employee off a shelf,” but employees meeting life’s basic costs are willing to give up 15% of immediate pay for development opportunity. While cash can still be king and broken promises crush credibility, consider a well-balanced approach as investment into both employee and employer.


Take HIPAA and Anti-Harassment to New Levels 
2015’s Q4 reveals new privacy crackdowns, and government fines are being wielded about. Privacy lockdowns are a “bottom-up” approach. Meaning, if you’re a CEO… be sure to know very little about employee personal and medical lives, and be certain your leaders are trained to refuse all such information except on a “need to know” basis. Knowing the wrong things about your employees can backfire just as much as knowing too little. For lawful compliance, even an HR department may need 5-7 separate files per employee depending upon the structure, and many items should never leave HR’s gatekeeping. Department managers, accountants, IT and company-wide team members need updated HIPAA training and enforced compliance -- pronto.  Hand-in-hand with HIPAA, and with interplay between, Anti-Harassment due diligence needs another escalation. With newly protected classes, increased tension and steeper penalties, the courts are busy, and the courts are expensive! 3rd party experts can provide “affirmative defense” certifications not available through internal or video-based training. 


Choose Carefully Your Automation Levels and External Partners
A well-implemented HR automation system can exceed 300% ROI through vastly improved efficiencies and turnkey statistical decision tools. While this opportunity cannot be overlooked, some are going too far and reversing the benefit. Before we dehumanize human resources, 1) safeguard ability for audience adaptation and case-by-case judgment, 2) recognize that more keystrokes do not improve efficiency, and 3) lock down intellectual property where law allows. Inasmuch as HRS is recognized by the USPTO for world-deployed HRIS automation invention, even we know the boundaries. Don’t let your payroll and HRIS companies sell you the functions at which they fail. And finally, when choosing external partners, look for those who bring track record of success and extraordinary knowledge base, rather than just shiny new things that will become yesterday’s forgotten toys. 




As experts in Organizational Development, Employment Law and HR since 1983, HRS empowers business owners and C-suite leaders with fiscally savvy performance management solutions, custom to each unique employer. HRS is available to deliver extraordinary assistance with each action item recommended herein. Representing a wealth of industries, HRS clients range 25-100,000+ employees, start-up and emerging to Fortune-ranked. Headquartered in Brookfield WI, HRS offers locations in Washington DC and Scottsdale AZ plus national satellites. For more information, contact us

This article was produced for the IBAW magazine, January 2015 edition. Link to magazine


Jessica Ollenburg - Monday, January 04, 2016

 





HR Advice from Nonprofit Associations Can Be Lethal! Non-legit Nonprofits Lurk Among Those that Deserve Our Support.

Make no mistake. HRS has been a substantial supporter of worthy nonprofits since our inception, and our Angel Wings and HRS Gives Back programs are fabulous examples. In the face of that, certain nonprofit associations, not specifically tied to greater good, are abusing tax-exempt status, betraying taxpayers and delivering dangerous advice. We warn to be wary. 

A disreputable few nonprofits are beginning to cross the line and betray their status. In the world of HR, employer membership associations done well can be great places to swap case studies, find research, attain broad-based information and acquire non-custom tools. Those that promise to give advice, however, are in direct conflict with IRS tax code and their rights to the tax breaks they demand. Specifically, IRS tax exempt status prohibits a nonprofit from serving, addressing or advocating specific interests of individuals or individual members. This IRS covenant stands to prove that any nonprofit addressing the unique interest or custom need of an individual member is likely practicing tax fraud and is specifically ill-equipped to provide meaningful adaptive solutions of quality caliber. Some are delivering dangerously poor advice, resulting in six or seven-figure disaster for constituents. One such criminal was recently found distributing an employment application template unlawfully bearing a social security number field. 

HRS continues to support, contribute to and partner with a wealth of professional associations relevant to our fields of study. You will find our logos and sponsorships proudly displayed. The best of them provide complimentary benefit to tax paying consulting firms and internal employer expertise. Similarly, IRS code also requests nonprofits to refrain from providing service available in the private sector market from tax paying employers. Any nonprofit that dramatically changes its service line in recent decades does not find itself exempt from responsibility to tax exemption covenants. Criminal behavior remains the outcome.

We at HRS embrace additional opinions on any topic of consequence. Our own boardroom approach to client problem solving demonstrates our ideology. Our multi-rater approach to assessment scoring further validates. With HRS, you already find holistic approach and several experts represented in any single proposed solution. As far as competition, we welcome competition. Today, seven critical disciplines fall under the HR umbrella, and the generalist needs specialist partners to get it done right. Having opened our doors before widespread HR demand at executive level, we welcome those who help us promote the critically expanded role of HR and those who keep us on our toes.

However, in a world where worthy nonprofits that save lives, advocate human rights and protect our kids are starving for government support and are suffering government cutbacks, we demand the non-legit nonprofits back away from the table. When nonprofits compete with tax paying firms, by definition and tax code, the nonprofit is not a legitimate nonprofit… in the wrong and abusing greater good. Tax breaks, grants and donations are sadly misguided when nonprofits dishonor their status. Buyers and taxpayers are called to use their voice and their buying power to encourage reform for greater good. 


 


Jessica Ollenburg - Tuesday, April 07, 2015

 





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

 





Team Motivation Principles: Debunk the Crazy Propaganda that All CEOs are Greedy!

With a small percentage of “hired gun” CEOs being called out for ridiculous greed… and flaunting it, our legislative and media communities are creating a dangerous misperception which threatens not only the immediate workplace but also the US’s global position.  Simply stated, so many CEOs are not greedy, and these are the people who can really impact the economy. So, why do we rake them over the coals?  Having devoted my career to advocating sharing wealth among team members… proportionate to results contribution… I see how wrongful mistrust of the right CEOs negatively impacts workplace results.

 

This ivory tower perception of “me against you” in the employee-employer relationship tears down employee confidence and teamwork necessary for corporate bottom-line success.  While we all know, “if it bleeds, it leads” in the press, this concept sells publications only because people buy in to this concept.  Blame the media all you want (and I can be heard griping often), the media sells only what the public buys.   

 

Successful corporations are those that have endured hardship, challenge and downturn.  Discussing the resilience of corporate leadership can lead to positive outcomes.  Without discussing concepts the employee isn’t qualified to process, keep it audience adaptive.   Frame these discussions to build confidence, and don’t present them in a manner which presents weakness or creates fear.   We know overcoming adversity depicts strength while dwelling upon and empowering the obstacles depicts weakness.   The target is not to whine.

 

The problem is that most people are not the risk takers of entrepreneurism, so if we divulge hardship to those while we’re in it, they may become fearful to buy in and contribute when needed to do so.  There’s nothing wrong with being more conservative here, so we don’t wish to lose the engagement of this audience.  Risk takers “suck it up” and keep their sacrifices private.  When they don’t take a paycheck, when they mortgage their home to pay employees, and when they make lifestyle choices which sacrificed personal or social time, it’s typically not visible.  Later on, the Mercedes-Benz is visible and some people complain of greed.   Those who complain are those who didn’t make the same sacrifices and don’t get it. 

 

Many CEOs are not "silver spooners."  The plain truth is that most Americans have opportunity to be CEOs themselves and they choose not to.   They choose against the start-up risk, they choose the bar over the office or maybe they have family needs needs which become rightfully prioritized.  To choose not to be a CEO is not wrong.  Personally, I find the “pillow test” the ultimate test of success.  If you’re comfortable with what you did that day when your head hits the pillow, you are successful.   Yet, while emerging CEOs are choosing work over party time, the bars are filled with people complaining about their bosses.   Backstories are emerging right now, illustrating the personal sacrifices made by some of the great US CEOs who have created jobs, shown philanthropy and endured hardship which benefits us all.  Let’s not lump these good people in with the greedy few. 

 

There are some amazingly great employees out there!  It can be just as difficult to take direction as it is to give it, especially from some of the bad bosses out there.  Amazing employees will probably never realize the benefits of the new COBRA subsidy, as they will probably never see “involuntary termination.”  In most reasonable estimations,  over time less than 1% of corporate downsize decisions are not directly attributed to employee poor performance.  Most downsize decisions are selective.  Employees do have a choice. Absent union protection of service length vs. merit or bad management, top performers typically keep their jobs.  In many cases, better employee performance would have saved the company that need to downsize.  That being said, we hold this to be true:  it is the supervisor’s direct responsibility to ensure the right people are doing the right things.  It’s not a blame-shifting game.  Everyone has a role.

 

Right now we’re living in a country that penalizes those who create jobs and rewards those who are terminated for cause.  Many believe we live with an administration that seeks to deny free choice under the disguise of the Employee Free Choice Act.  Surely this is no way to compete.  Keep this discussion on the table without creating destructive conflict.  There are facts to be shared and teamwork to be built.   Clearly, government and media are tearing down this important sense of capitalism.  CEOs and organizational development leaders must counteract with the right amount of information needed to restore faith in organizational alignment.   Chances are, the employees who don’t currently buy in are not reading this, so they need to hear it from you!

 

 


Jessica Ollenburg - Sunday, March 08, 2009