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Archive for the ‘human resources’ Category

Most of the time, a supervisor does not look forward to receiving a resignation letter. I did say most of the time. Unfortunately, there are times when that letter is welcomed! However, today’s blog won’t focus on that but maybe a future blog will!  Today, I’m focused on the actual letter itself and what works when you are putting your intent to depart in written form.

A resignation letter should be short and straight-forward. Yes, I’m stating this as an absolute. This is not the place to recite purple prose or wax eloquently on and on. It is particularly not the place to recite all the grievances you’ve bottled up over your tenure with the company. There are times and places for that but it’s not the resignation letter. For your official resignation letter, I recommend a simple three-part approach in the letter itself.

  1. A statement indicating that you are resigning and providing  X (number) weeks notice.
  2. An expression of gratitude for the opportunity of working for the company and with your supervisor. If you mean it, provide a specific compliment to both.
  3. Indicate your plan and willingness to ensure a smooth transition on your way out and give your best wishes for the continued success of the company.

Each of these should be expressed in your own manner but should not stray from the points. For item 1, please do not neglect to provide notice. It’s professional and expected. As an employee, this is an area that may or may not provide you with extra brownie points but failing to do it can hurt you, long-term.  To resign without notice is a very valid reason for a company to indicate you are not eligible for rehire during future employment verification. Your company may actually choose to waive the notice period that you provide. They can do this and, if so, you should be prepared for the date of your resignation submission to also possibly be your last day of work. The point I started out with bears repeating, do not fail to provide notice. Failing to can only hurt you. If your company has routinely waived the notice period, allow them the opportunity to do it in your case.

The true purpose of your letter will have been served in the first couple of sentences.  The remainder is focused on simply establishing “goodwill” but is also important. Burned bridges can not be crossed again. We live in a vast world that has been made smaller through tremendously increased means of communications. Six degrees of separation is probably more like two now! Social media have linked us in a manner that maintaining goodwill is essential. Your current co-workers and bosses may be already connected with your new company and/or any future organization to which your career may lead you. Go out on a positive note. The music may follow you for years to come. Make sure your work is not left dangling but in good form for transition. And, finally, thank your supervisor and wish your company the best.

Of course, you may have other sentiments you may wish to express. Do this in person or in the conversations that will inevitably and necessarily take place once you’ve handed over your official resignation letter. However, in writing, keep to the 3-part approach.  It’s what works at work!

Best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.

Vivian offers Online HR Certification Prep Courses as well as other workplace-specific learning sessions (http://www.morahr.com/hr-education.html). For more information, please contact her directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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This particular trinity – holy or unholy in your minds – is definitely worth befriending. These agencies are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Most of you may be thinking I’m asking you to hug a porcupine! But it is not so. Despite all the fear mongering that seems popular, these three agencies make excellent allies in the battle against unjustified claims and employment issues. In the case of the occasional justified claim, they can also be helpful IF you have taken the precautions and recommendations each of these agencies put forth to keep your organization clear of claims and issues.

My blog today is too brief to cover all three of the agencies referenced so let’s start with the EEOC and progress to the other two in subsequent writings.

What insanity has me asking your organization to befriend an agency that has a reputation (earned or unearned) of being somewhat prickly and overzealous in pursuing claims against employers? And, just how do you accomplish this? On the first question, I’m not necessarily insane. I’ve had the responsibility of working with the EEOC as the employer representative on several claims over the years for different employers. In almost every instance, the experience was pleasant, educational, and affirming. It was pleasant to find that each of the agents assigned was just as interested in resolving the issue or issues as we were. The experiences were educational in that in every instance, the agents were diligent in reviewing the EEOC mediation process with both parties and  in creating a non-adversarial atmosphere from the start. The experiences were affirming in that, having taken the precautions and put into place the recommendations, the EEOC put forth, I felt in each case that the agency was working for us rather than against us as the employer.

So how to you get to this place? The first thing you do is follow the very straight forward guidance the EEOC has provided for every organization on dealing with various issues of discrimination including sexual harassment in the workplace (link included at the end of this blog). Regardless of the nature of the issues, every single piece of policy guidance includes; (1) the employer taking proactive and affirmative steps to prevent or avoid discrimination in the workplace by developing, communicating, and upholding a policy against various forms of discrimination and (2) conducting an effective, prompt, thorough workplace investigation when a complaint is received. 

Now, I would recommend applying the EEOC’s detailed enforcement guidance for “Vicarious Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors” to developing all such policies. 

To summarize the guidelines, employers are encouraged to develop anti-harassment policies, along with complaint procedures for those who believe they have been harassed.  The policy should clearly explain unacceptable conduct and reassure employees who complain that they will be protected against retaliation. The complaint process should describe multiple avenues for reporting harassment and provide assurances of confidentiality to the extent it is possible. Investigations of allegations should be prompt and impartial, and if the investigation finds that harassment did indeed occur, the policy should provide for immediate corrective action. (Broadus, 2009)

After doing this, the next step to befriending the EEOC is that if  and when you receive a formal EEOC complaint, choose mediation, every time! Don’t blow it off or take it for granted. It will take some of your time but is worth the investment. Come prepared with proof of all the steps you have taken to avoid getting to this point and come with an open mind and congenial attitude towards the complainant. Don’t play coy if you know there were issues, but, be clear if the complainant did not afford you, the employer, an appropriate opportunity to address the issues.  This could be your chance to do so or to make concrete plans to do so, and exit the mediation with your organization’s wallet intact and a potentially salvaged employee-employer relationship.

All of the above steps will help to establish your organization as one that takes complaints seriously and one that actively works to maintain an environment where employees can work free of discrimination and harassment. That will make you a friend and ally to the EEOC.

Good luck and best regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics.  She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers Harassment Prevention and Professional Interaction training sessions (http://morahr.com/HarassmentPrevention.aspx) including sessions geared towards the unique issues faced by harassment prevention in hospitality, sports, and entertainment industries which draws on her background successfully leading the human resources function in professional sports and entertainment.  For more information, please contact call (877) 310-6553, ext. 702 or email her at vivian@morahr.com. Referenced link to EEOC Policy Guidance: http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/index.cfm.

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Can these letters make a difference?

Why do we certify? Is it because the letters look good after our names? Maybe it’s to impress others? Well, the letters may look good after our names but I’m in the impress others camp.  Although we, generally, do not certify to impress others in a smug sort of way but to show that we possess a certain amount of knowledge without waving it in the air or shouting it out loud. 

A profession is defined as a vocation founded upon specialised educational training.  Historically, as a vocation moved towards becoming a profession, a specific set of skills and/or a body of knowledge developed. Certification exams became a means of assessing whether any one member engaged in the vocation possessed the requisite skills and body of knowledge.  Hence, certifications were developed for many professions. 

Certification can set you apart from the crowd. It can lend a certain level of credibility that you just might know what you are doing. Employers quite often include preferences for certifications in job postings. In the HR community, it is quite common to find a preference or a requirement for PHR or SPHR certified candidates. Considering the overwhelming number of applicants an employer may receive for a single position posting, filtering by this means can make the task much less daunting.

The Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI), the recognized leader in HR certification, announces that it has over 108,000 certified HR professionals in more than 70 countries and territories. Considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that approximately 1 million human resource professionals currently work for US businesses, even if all the certified professionals were in the US, we are only talking about 10%!  With those numbers, I’m guessing that those letters after your name can set you apart. 

In addressing the second half of my question, can not certifying harm you? Maybe, maybe not, but why not help yourself wherever you can?

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX. 

Vivian offers an online HR certification prep course twice a year once in the Fall and again in the Spring (www.moraHR.com/hreducation.aspx). For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Leaf in Executive Pocket

Making the weeds tolerable!

How often do we in HR lament the desire to get out of the tactical weeds and into more strategic work? You know, work that actually adds measurable long-term value to the business versus the activities that are more routine or functional and focused on short-term outcomes. It’s one of those things when you wish you had a dollar for each time the lament surfaces. But before we wade into the fracas between tactical and strategic, I want to actually remove the notion that you can totally eliminate the weeds. I’m doing this because wishing for the impossible will only make your work day more and more intolerable. So let’s marinate for a second in the knowledge that we will live with weeds. Okay, that’s good enough. I don’t want you to fret too much because I’m also going to tell you how to make those tactical weeds not just tolerable, but welcome, in your quest to play a more strategic role.

The tactical and the strategic are partners, period. They are not always equal partners. The share that one holds versus the other can vary greatly, so they are very dynamic partners, always in motion.  For most HR leaders, the goal is to shift the balance to the share held by the strategic. However, it is a fact of corporate life is that if the tactical is not taken care of appropriately, it will hold court indefinitely.  The tactical or operational aspects of human resources must function in a manner that makes them more or less background music or you will be stuck primarily in this mode. It’s extremely difficult for the C-Suite to hear your voice on strategic matters when tactical or operational matters under your managment are creating chaos.  Managing the tactical aspects of your human resources function effectively and efficiently so that they run smoothly and do not surface as distracting issues is the key to becoming viewed as someone who can command attention on more strategic matters.

At this point, I am going to toss in what may appear as a conundrum but truly is not. As you are addressing and putting in order the tactical aspects of HR (the processes, the systems, etc.) so that you can shift into a focus on strategy, you must already have your overall long-term strategic objectives for HR in place. If not, you will be caught in a loop of re-addressing those same areas you’re trying to move beyond if they don’t support the strategic objectives. It may sound like this is a “chicken and egg” debate but it is clear that the strategic must come first. How can it come first when you are neck-deep in the weeds? It’s simple. Most of the work has been done for you, if not along with you. Your strategic objectives should already exist within your organization’s corporate objectives. Your first order of business in the quest to be a strategic partner is to ferret out, that is, derive your HR strategic objectives from the existing corporate objectives. This single step will ensure that you have full alignment between the HR objectives and the corporate objectives of your organization.  That’s when you are working with a purpose and the tactical doesn’t seem so much like an intruder standing between you and your dream of being a true strategic partner. Every facet of what you accomplish will tie right into the strategic. You will see it and so will the C-Suite.  And guess what? If they don’t see it, you will have no problem showing the linkage!

Let’s stop fighting in this unwinnable battle between tactical HR and strategic HR. It should all be strategic! If you don’t or can’t see the strategic value in something that you are doing, why are doing it?

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution and holds a master’s degree in sociology and economics. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, a retained executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.  Mora&Associates assists organizations with structuring people strategies to fulfill organizational strategy. For more information, please contact me directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Good intentions are, uh, good, right?  If that is so, then the best intentions have to better, correct? Not at all. It’s unusual for me to start a blog with such a downer but I think I need to be very clear on this one. This is the one a majority of participants miss on my pre-training quiz  in workplace harassment prevention for supervisors. 

This is the question: At the opening of her presentations, Theresa likes to share something humorous to lighten the mood and make the audience more receptive.  As she was entering the building that morning, she observed a woman across the street attempting multiple times to parallel park. In opening her presentation that day, she shared a joke with her work team regarding the incident and women drivers that put almost everyone into stitches. This can not be considered harassment in the workplace because it was not intended to harm anyone present.

The answer, of course, is “false”. Her intention was to put everyone at ease but many people believe that jokes of this type depict women as less competent and can be detrimental to attaining equality in the workplace. Here Theresa’s humor may have had a negative impact on many members of the audience.

In employment situations, your intentions matter for nought. It is your impact that means everything in the world. The clear fact is that no one can see or feel your intention. They may guess at it but you hold those in your head and in your heart. The impact of actions and words can be more clearly observed so they get to carry the day every time. 

Humor is not uncommon in the workplace. Anywhere you find interaction among people, humor and jocularity is likely to be present. Whether you intend to entertain or to lighten the mood, a joke or comment that takes aim at another group of people will rarely be overlooked just because in your heart you know your intentions were good. Actions and words must be put through a mental filter to assess their potential impact, particularly in the workplace.  As an HR professional reviewing situations similar to this, you must consider the impact that the actions or words had irregardless of the intention behind them in order to provide an effective response. 

To avoid allowing intentions to overshadow impact in determinations, it has served me well in my career to keep in mind the old aphorism, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.  I don’t know about you but that’s not a road I want to travel!

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You’re working hard. Your team is working hard. Stresses have been present but they now seem to be building at a rate that could mean trouble for you, your team, and the organization. At this point, a year or two ago, you might suggest a day off-site for some serious de-stressing and teambuilding. Today, you fear that a day off climbing ropes and exploring things described as touchy-feely just won’t fly. However, you do know that you must do something. To just keep going when you are seeing signs of dysfunction that will limit your team’s effectiveness is not only irresponsible but could be seen as negligent. So what can you do?

Despite being a consultant who gets paid for ocassionally facilitating ropes activities (but avoiding the touchy-feely as much as possible) I’m going to suggest a much more cost-effective means of achieving the results of such a day off-site.  This is an activity that could be supported 100% by your organization and it does not involve games or ropes. It may involve a hammer and a nail or paint and a brush though. I am suggesting that you volunteer your team for a day with a community organization that is in need of help! Your company may already financially support one or more organizations with its checkbook. For many companies, the checks have been necessarily smaller in the past couple of years. Volunteering time can supplement the support that your organization provides to these groups in a manner that is far more impactful and could even be of greater value than handing over a check once or twice a year.

I’ve had the privilege of working for organizations that highly valued their ties to the community and offered both financial and hands-on physical support to the organizations they chose to become involved with.  A day on-site painting, landscaping, or doing repairs at a community center, a YMCA, a job-placement center can save these organizations thousands of dollars. This day can provide your team with a sense of accomplishment, comraderie, and unity that can only come from giving!

The act of giving in this manner brings about several major benefits with positive implications for teams:

  • Builds ties and deepens relationships;
  • Creates shared memories and becomes a part of your team or group’s history; and
  • Eliminates or reduces stresses by allowing each participant to focus on something beyond themselves!

Give this a try! Check in with the function in your organization that oversees community giving and/or social responsibility to identify a community organization that is currently supported. Determine what is within your team’s capability to contribute.  Finally, sign your team up for a teambuilding activity that engages the heart and leaves the bottom line intact!

With regards,

Vivian L. Mora, MSS, SPHR

Vivian L. Mora is certified as a senior professional in human resources (SPHR) by the Human Resources Certification Institution. She is the founder and managing partner of Mora & Associates, an executive search and human capital consulting firm based in Katy, TX.  Mora&Associates offers community-impact facilitated teambuilding in the following markets: Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio, TX; and Overland Park, KS. For other regions, please contact us directly at (877) 310-6553, ext. 702.

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Well, don’t be! Pun intended. I am openly admitting that this will be somewhat of a rant. I’m still smarting from co-hosting a very, very poorly attended wellness presentation. Maybe the topic wasn’t sexy enough to compel the 100+ human resources leaders invited to make the drive over to the conveniently central location of the meeting. Each of these HR leaders were freely offered the tools and information needed to make the case for and incorporate wellness into their benefits offerings right along side their cost-overrun prescription plan. Most decided to pass. Did I mention that it included a free and healthy breakfast?

Now that I’ve gotten that out, let’s talk about wellness and healthcare costs. Who wants to keep paying through the nose and other orifices for healthcare? You? Really? I didn’t think so. Then, are you willing to sit on your hands and wait for Congress to work through all its contortions so that the US government can rollout a plan that we can almost guarantee will be under revision as soon as it launches and so many more times after that? Oh, I’m sorry, that sounds almost like I don’t have confidence that the healthcare reform proposals will cure-all our healthcare woes.  I’m a glass-half full thinker and even I can’t look at all this maneuvering with a sense of hope. There is something that does give me a sense of hope. It is wellness. Being the “can-do” person that I am, I don’t believe in sitting on my hands in any circumstances. I think wellness is our salvation. I wholeheartedly believe that it is the most effective weapon we have in this war against out of control healthcare costs.

Companies do not have to invest in wellness because they care about what we are eating or what we are doing to our bodies physically. But they should invest in wellness because those things that we are eating and doing are costing the companies an arm and two legs in benefit dollars.  The healthcare utilization habits of a company’s employee population determines just how much it will cost to insure that population. If we all keep eating donuts and soda for breakfast while avoiding exercise like the H1N1, we all continue to pay for it in real dollars and in health deterioration. If we all chose a breakfast similar to the one served at the aforementioned wellness presentation along with even moderate exercise, we all have a new leg or two to stand on against the rate increases and can see our costs stabilize while our overall health improve. Is that not a win-win situation you would want?

The line of thought above is not a fantasy. It’s real and actionable. I’ve put it to work in organizations I have worked with and reaped the savings. Yes, support our lawmakers in their efforts to make a difference but you don’t have to sit on your hands while they work. Creating a healthier workforce will help create a healthier nation. This is a solution, we can take action on today that will provide measurable and positive long-term outcomes for our organizations and our people. Keep feeding on wellness. I can’t seem to get enough of it.

Note:  If you are interested in finding out how to make wellness work for your organization, feel free to contact me. I’m on a crusade and I look forward working with others who believe in self-help and taking matters into their own hands vs. buying into waiting that costs even more. Find me online at Mora&Associates (http://moraHR.com). Just complete a contact us form.

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