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    Entries in policy (9)


    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?'


    Shopping: The Nation's Newest Contact Sport

    If you braved the jungles of America's malls and big box stores over the just concluded Thanksgiving holiday weekend you probably don't need to hear any more tales of camp outs outside Best Buy stores to snag discounted TVs, turkey and stuffing fueled midnight mad dashes through the aisles of Walmart, and assorted reports of shopping-related mischief and mayhem.What's 'Cyber Monday?'

    After reading some of the most recent stories of 'competitive' shoppers pepper spraying their rivals to score an X-box game, a frenzied fight over $2 waffle makers, or Walmart store security also playing the pepper spray card to get some unruly bargain hunters under control, you'd be completely thinking rationally and probably wisely if you decided not to venture out into the retail jungles this weekend. Aside - what the heck is it with pepper spray lately? We've gone from pepper spray being something no one's ever heard of just a few weeks back, to it being the 'go-to' item of choice for crowd control and the most trendy subdue your adversaries substance.

    In fact, with today being designated as 'Cyber Monday', the most active and profitable online shopping day of the year, with many online and traditional retailers offering steep merchandise discounts and free or low cost product shipping, eschewing in person and 'real life' shopping in favor of the online approach is becoming more and more popular. I'll bet lots of folks figured they'd hit up a few of these Cyber Monday deals from the office today. In between status meetings, planning sessions, and catching up on email that may have come in from the rest of the world that unlike the USA was not on holiday for a few days, scoring an online deal here or there at work doesn't seem like to much of an issue for most workers and organizations.

    Except of course when employees doing a little Cyber Monday bargain hunting is looked at like the potential time waster that is worker access to social networking sites from the office. According to a recent survey conducted Robert Half Technology, and reported on by the Los Angeles Times, "60% of more than 1,400 chief information officers interviewed said their companies block access to online shopping sites -- up from 48% last year.  And an additional 23% of CIOs said that although their companies do allow access to shopping sites, they monitor employees for excessive use."

    That is a drag for folks at those companies that figured they'd be able to save a little bit of time, (and possibly a shot pf pepper spray in the grill), by scoring a few items online while at the office. I won't argue that companies are not within their rights to block online shopping sites from being accessed via their locations and networks. After all, it really is not part of anyone's job description to be shopping online when they are supposed to be working. 

    But what online shopping does do for people is give them back a little bit of their time. Time saved driving all over town, fighting off crazed 'competitive' shoppers, going to one place only finding they have to try another in search of what they're looking for. For whatever cost and risk avoidance benefits online shopping provides, this time savings is perhaps the most valuable one of all.

    Organizations, at least the ones that are actively blocking this online shopping activity, would do well to at least consider this value and benefits to their staffs. Sure, the work has to be done, and excessive goofing off or abuse of the system has to be kept in check, but loosening the reins, even if it was only a temporary measure, might go a long way into improving morale around the shop this holiday season.

    The last few years have been tough on organizations and employees alike, a small and simple gesture that gives people one the most scarce and precious gifts - time, is likely to be one that is not forgotten, and one that pays off in the long run. And no one has to get pepper sprayed.


    If you must have a dress code policy...

    I know, workplace dress code policies have (mostly), gone the way of the IBM Selectric and the Inter-office mail envelope as relics of a bygone age. In our more modern, progressive, and enlightened workplaces, most organizations have come to understand that with all the many thousands of things to worry about, that articulating specific dress code standards and policies is a colossal waste of time.Love the 70s

    The vast majority or workplace dress code discussions have been distilled into short phrases - 'business casual ', seemingly the dominant one these days. What exactly does business casual entail? Who knows for sure, just walk around the office for a day or two and generally you can sort it out. Mostly, dress code standards are arrived at organically and are largely self-policing. Wear something inappropriate to the office some time and chances are someone will tell you about it, if not to your face, in a snarky comment on Facebook.  

    Dress code policies are boring, and writing about dress code policies as I am right now, possibly represents the nadir of my adventure in blogging. But I had to come up with a hook to feature some fantastic workplace dress code policy imagery I came across recently. Fantastic workplace dress code imagery? That does not even make sense.

    Well, take a look at the image on the right that accompanies this post, as well as the rest of the collection of dress code policy images from the British Postal Museum Archive described on the How to be a Retronaut blog

    These dress code policy posters are, quite frankly, awesome. And not only do they look cool, but they also serve the purpose of transforming what would be a typical, boring written policy (that no one ever reads, except as a preface in an employee disciplinary hearing), into a vibrant and effective tool for educating the target workers as to the desired workplace behavior.

    Additionally, the dress code posters attempt to connect the policy to real-world examples, demonstrate the potential negative ramifications of violations of the policy, and even have a little fun at the same time. Are these vintage posters really that groundbreaking and meaningful in the overall canon of workplace thought and theory? 

    Not really. 

    But they do remind us that even the most mundane and tedious parts of the job of Human Resources, the parts that still sometimes include writing and enforcing workplace dress code policies, can still be creative, can still be personal, and can (for shame), still be even a little fun.

    No one reads your policies. Maybe it's time to get a little more imaginative in their presentation and communication.

    Have a fantastic week!