Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


E-mail Steve
This form does not yet contain any fields.
    Listen to internet radio with Steve Boese on Blog Talk Radio

    free counters

    Twitter Feed

    Entries in policy (11)


    Signs of the corporate death spiral #4 - Dress Codes AND Report to the Office

    I have hit 'too much attention being paid to dress codes' as well as 'no more working from home' both on the blog in the 'death spiral' series previously, so it should come as no surprise to regular readers that this week's announcement from Charter Communications caught this death spiral watcher's attention.

    Here's the important bits from the Fortune piece titled, 'No More Working From Home for Former Time Warner Cable Employees', then some FREE (and damn insightful) commentary from me.

    Here's what you need to know:

    Charter Communications closed on its acquisition of Time Warner Cable less than two months ago, but it’s already moving to replace a somewhat more relaxed corporate culture at the new unit.

    In a memo to employees at corporate locations, including the New York City office that used to be Time Warner’s headquarters, St. Louis-based Charter restricted a series of common practices at the acquired company. No more jeans in the office, no more working from home without high-level approval, and no more early departures on slow summer Fridays.

    The move echoes a controversy that broke out after Marissa Mayer took over as CEO at Yahoo in 2012 and banned working from home for most employees. A few other companies followed Mayer’s lead, but most workplace research shows that the practice enhances productivity.

    The new Charter memo also banned jeans in the workplace without approval from an executive vice president. “We will provide a harmonized workplace dress policy in the coming months, however unless approved by an EVP for a specific department and location, jeans are not deemed professional attire,” Marchand wrote. “In advance of the policy, if you are in doubt as to whether your attire is appropriate, better to not wear it.”

    Nice shot, Charter - the double whammy in one memo. 

    Quit it with the jeans you Time Warner hippies, and while you are at it, make sure you turn up to your assigned office as scheduled no matter how long you have been successfully working under alternative arrangements in the past. 

    There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Charter, (and he is wearing a snappy blazer and tie AND at his desk gosh darn it at 8:30AM ON THE DOT).

    It is tiresome to still have to read and gripe about this kind of stuff in 2016. 

    You know what Time Warner and Charter need to be worrying about instread of dress codes and work from home policies that made sense in the 1970s?

    How about cord cutting? How about the next generation of consumers who don't want or need Cable TV?

    How about social networks like Facebook and Twitter increasingly moving into live video feeds of sports and entertainment, making the need for Cable TV packages even less necessary?

    How about the next competitive pressure coming down the road that has not even been invented yet?

    No, let's not worry about that, or at least let's take some time to make sure that we are CRYSTAL CLEAR that wearing jeans is no longer acceptable. And while we are at it, let's make sure all of our Chino wearing staff is at the office every day. 

    And let's make sure that everyone working here who has some better options begins to think about doing some 'cord cutting' of their own.

    Talking about dress codes? Issuing blanket 'No working from home' edicts?

    Surely signs of the corporate death spiral.



    The smart leader's approach to dress codes, (or any other policy)

    Happy Spring!

    It's Spring right, at least here in the USA, (and I suppose some other places as well, I was never all that great at geography). But with Spring comes the return (hopefully), of warmer weather and the shift to our 'summer' clothes - both for work and for not work.

    And the first time Gabe from accounting or Marcia in customer service turns up to work wearing some cargo shorts or worse, you or your organization's leaders might be tempted to send one of those beloved 'all employees' emails from HR that run down the ins and outs of the official dress code, as you know, we don't want to really treat folks like adults, at least not at work.

    But before you do send that email listing just what types of concert T-shirts are acceptable and which ones are not, I would encourage you to read this piece from ESPN.com, on how one organizational leader is wrestling with these same workplace policy issues as you are: Joe Maddon, (Chicago Cubs manager), on dress code: 'If you think you look hot, wear it.' 

    Get past the title for a second and read the whole piece. Here is a snippet to prod you along:

    Cubs manager Joe Maddon met with his “lead bulls” on Sunday to go over team rules as 11 players and their boss discussed everything from a dress code to kids in the clubhouse.

    “The biggest topic of discussion was shorts or not on the road,” Maddon said after the meeting.

    Maddon isn’t a stickler for a lot of written rules, instead preferring a common-sense approach. He believes players know the line not to cross. He used last year’s policies -- his first on the team -- as a guideline. They worked out pretty well.

    “You have like a force field, not an actual fence. Guys know if they go past a certain point you might get stung a little bit, but you don’t have to see the fence there,” Maddon explained. “I like that.”

    “Exercise common sense with all this stuff,” he said. “There are so much archaic stuff that baseball stands for. I’m here to manage the team, not make rules. I learned my lesson with that to not go nuts about it.

    Just about everything you need to know about dress codes or most other workplace rules right there. Treat folks like adults, let them know what is really important for the organization to be focusing on, (it isn't the dress code), and involve a larger group of leaders and influencers on the staff as you talk about expectations and whatever policies you have. Not only will they help you define the rules, they will likely help you self-enforce them as well.

    It is actually really simple. Simple enough for even the Cubs to figure out.

    Have a great week! 


    It's going to keep getting harder for traditional workplaces and policies

    Last week I wrote about the six-hour workday, and experiment that some companies and public sector organizations have been running in Sweden (and some other places), that is designed to reduce employee stress, improve work/life balance, and improve employee engagement and retention. And the six-hour workday comes with the side benefit of helping employees stay more focused on their work while reducing unnecessary distractions.

    So far, in limited experiments, the six-hour workday is proving to be pretty effective at moving the needle in a positive direction on some of HR and talent pros most intractable challenges - engagement, retention, and employer brand. Despite all this, will the six-hour workday catch in here in the USA in any noticeable way?

    Maybe not. 

    Or perhaps the answer is maybe not yet.

    'Radical' new ideas are only radical until they hit a tipping point when they have reached just enough adoption, and from a few influential organizations, and suddenly candidates are asking your recruiters about whether or not you have six-hour days or have eliminated annual performance reviews or have implemented an unlimited vacation policy.

    I just caught this piece about LinkedIn, and their recent decision to adopt an unlimited vacation policy for their employees. While LinkedIn is certainly not the first organization to trash the traditional PTO process in favor of one where employees and managers figure it out for themselves, they might be one of the largest, with about 9,000 employees worldwide. LinkedIn has likely many motivations that drove the decision to scrap the 'three weeks vacation after 5 years of service' nonsense that probably 97% of organizations use to award and track time off for their employees, but my guess would be the primary ones would be for recruiting and retention.

    Likely there are dozens of Silicon Valley startups that have not bothered to worry about setting up traditional PTO plans at all that are competing with LinkedIn for talent. Just think about the difference in these two sentences in the point of view of a talented tech candidate:

    1 You will accrue 4.25 hours of paid vacation every bi-weekly pay period, maxing at 80 hours until you reach 5 years of service, when the accrual maximum increases to 120 hours'

    2. 'You take as much vacation as you want. Work it out with your manager and team.'

    Don't bother telling me in the comments that people don't actually take as much vacation when it is 'unlimited' as they do when their is a set PTO policy and schedule. That doesn't matter one bit to the candidate, or anyone else really.

    What matters is that when you can't match (and sometimes you do have great reasons why you can't), more innovative, modern, and employee-friendly policies and perks you are going to be always at a competitive disadvantage.

    Once these innovations and perks make that important shift to become 'expectations' you had better have a decent rebuttal to candidates and employees who won't understand why they suddenly have to start worrying about having enough accrued hours of PTO in order to take that long weekend they deserve after pulling 70 hour weeks for two months to meet the last big ship date. 

    It is only a matter of time, if it has not happened yet, when one of your hiring managers comes back to you in HR and asks 'Why can't we have unlimited PTO?, the talent we need expects it.'

    Have a great week!


    Committing a felony is against team policy, and other things we shouldn't have to say

    Is is quite possible that after the National Basketball Association, my next favorite league/sport to watch and follow is soccer's English Premier League. It is a fantastic sport to watch, and the top level of English teams like Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea are some of the most valuable and popular sports teams in the entire world.

    The Premier League club I support is Liverpool, (for reasons too boring to re-tell), and while I am not a super hardcore supporter, I do try and keep up with the off-season player transfers and signings by the club and other elements of club-related news.

    But this bit of Liverpool team news that was reported earlier in the week, Liverpool issue list of 'unacceptable' words to fight discrimination made me pause for a moment, as it is once again, in classic 8 Man Rotation style, the worlds of sports and HR colliding.Click to enlarge

    Rather than try to summarize the entire piece, I will just lift quote from the Guardian piece referenced above: 

    Liverpool have issued members of staff with a list of "unacceptable" words and phrases in their efforts to combat all forms of discrimination at Anfield. (a pic of the leaked list of 'words you better not say is at right)

    The guide, part of a wider education programme run by the club, details terms that employees should deem offensive under the headings of race/religion, sexual orientation, gender and disability. Most are self-explanatory and the guide advises that it is "important to understand the context of what's being said", as in the use, under gender for example, of "princess" or "don't be a woman" on the Anfield terraces next season.

    Liverpool's list of what is "usually offensive and the club considers unacceptable" has been given to all full-time and casual members of staff who have contact with the public on matchdays or on a daily basis. The club were widely criticised for their support of Luis Suárez when the striker was found guilty in December 2011 of having used racially abusive language towards Patrice Evra but view their education programme as one of several proactive measures taken to combat discrimination.

    That is fantastic, (sarcasm on). A list, organized by type of slur, of the things that you probably ought not to say at work, heck, you probably ought not to say anywhere.

    I can only imagine the day the HR or Operations folks (or whomever crafted this list) sat around the conference table saying things like, 'There has to be more ways to offend gay people. C'mon - let's think darn it!'.

    I get why Liverpool specifically, and football/soccer more generally take the issue of discrimination seriously enough to want to be extremely precise and particular about the standards of behavior and discourse that are expected, and what, again specifically, is unacceptable. There continues to be ugly incident after ugly incident of incredibly offensive and even violent actions that are in one way or another tied back to the sport. They can't pretend that is not the reality and recent history in their industry.

    But then again, creating and distributing a printed list of these (mostly), obviously offensive words seems a little strange too. Did they really think their employees don't realize the N-word is offensive and it should not be used in the workplace?

    A bunch of years back when he was the head football coach at Oklahoma University, Barry Switzer was asked during a press conference to try and explain the reasons for a recent spate of player run-ins with the law, including a couple of pretty serious charges like car theft and assault. After trying to talk about the team expectations and support structures in place to try and prevent such incidents an exasperated Switzer finally said, 'I didn't think I had to put a sign on the locker room wall saying that 'Commiting a felony is against team policy.'

    That story is what I recalled when reading about the Liverpool 'list of things we shouldn't have to tell you not to say, but we can't figure out why enough people don't realize that so we had to make this list to be sure'.

    People can be really disappointing sometimes I guess.


    A Critical Look at Telework

    If you are at all interested in the role of telework for your organization, for your team, or even for yourself, I recommend taking a little bit of time to read over a recent research piece titled, 'The hard truth about telecommuting', published in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Monthly Labor Review June 2012 issue.

    In the piece, authors Mary C. Noonan and Jennifer L. Glass review the results of their recently completed research that examined the prevalence of telecommuting in the US workforce, the trends in adoption of telecommuting over time, and most interesting to me at least, how telecommuting arrangements tend over time to increase the total amount of hours worked, rather than simply substitute 'home' hours for 'office' hours. Mr. Brady - Working from home

    If you are someone that currently or in the past has done at least some remote work for your organization, the study's most damning conclusion about telework probably will not be very surprising - that between half and two thirds of telework arrangements simply serve to add working hours to the work week, and doe not simply trade hours worked at home for hours that are normally spent working in the office.  Details from the BLS piece:

    Fully 67 percent of telecommuting hours in the NLSY (data) and almost 50 percent in the CPS (data) push respondents’ work hours above 40 per week and essentially occur as overtime work. This dynamic suggests that telecommuting in practice expands to meet workers’ needs for additional worktime beyond the standard workweek.

    As a strategy of resistance to longer work hours at the office, telecommuting appears to be somewhat successful in relocating those hours but not eliminating them. A less sanguine interpretation is that the ability of employees to work at home may actually allow employers to raise expectations for work availability during evenings and weekends and foster longer workdays and workweek.

    These findings, while not terribly surprising, particularly when considering how the rapid advances in mobile technology have made 'working from anywhere' a possibility and reality for so many of us, also raise some important issues for organizations or leaders that are supporting or offering telework to their teams. Namely, any telework program that promises or at least suggests the promise of how telework will be a simple 'shift' of work from one location to another is an outcome that is unlikely at best and misleading at worst.

    A more honest and realistic approach and pitch to telework is one that more of less frames it as 'This job carries high demands and expectations AND we know you have a busy life outside of work too,' Here's how telework fits - that 'extra' 5 or 10 or 20 hours we need from you? Take them as and when you need them - the office, your house, at Starbucks -whatever.'

    And the thing of it is - when framed in that manner, telework stops sounding much like telework and more like just plain old 'work.'

    Here's the last observation I have about telework, and this is largely from my personal experience - the irony of telework is people at work think you are more or less free to 'work' all the time or at any time, while your family and friends at home see you working from home and think you are 'free' all the time.

    What do you think - has telework simply become 'work more from home in your previously free time?'