Category Archives: Human Resources

Sometimes Life Has Other Plans…

One of these days I am going to learn to not get too excited about things I think will be fun, and not get too down about things I think are going to royally suck.  I often end up wrong about both.

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Saturday I got my hair done, got a brow wax, got a manicure and a last minute bug up my butt to whiten my teeth, so I got some fancy 2-hour strips…all in preparation to take tons of pics with all my fave HR celebrities and network the hell out of people.  It was not an inexpensive day but frankly the hair and the brows needed to be done anyway and were unavoidable.  I was looking a little Dukakis there.

Saturday night was not what I had planned, but it was awesome.  The few minutes I spent with some HR celebs in the restaurant while shoving food in my face were really fun, and tasty.  Picking up the fellas at the airport was an adventure and they were fabulous.  If I could only spend a little quality time with a few people there, Mike Haberman, Doug Shaw and Bill Boorman were good choices.

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Then came the cut.  What I thought was not that bad before I went to bed (at 5 am) was not that great in the morning (at 9 am).  It eventually required superglue and a couple stitches.  Nothing life-threatening but super inconvenient and painful.  The tetanus shot was not fun either and the pain meds made me super queasy.  Sunday through Tuesday was largely me sleeping like the dead, sitting around with my foot propped up, and occasionally experiencing some very unpleasant things…with the ball of my foot all taped up and me walking awkwardly on the outer side of my foot, as little as possible.  The cut is kind of in a crease, so it shouldn’t even scar (which is good for future blisters, I’m told) and could have been way worse.  I’ve had way worse happen to me (ACL injury, 2 ruptured cervical discs) and I can still see poor Kevin Ware’s injury in my head, so this was NOTHING, really, and I have no right to complain.

Still, less than ideal timing.  I had a chance to hang out with Laurie Ruettimann and totally missed my chance to fangirl on her like I planned, I missed Janine and Doug from my Zombie Apocalypse team, William Tincup (and I remember we talked about it in the car but I don’t remember what the answer was…was he BORN with that last name?) plus British people!  I’ve been watching Doctor Who and I was in love with all things British up until a certain character had to leave and now I’m just pissed.  But I didn’t know that till last night!  I would’ve been FINE over the weekend with the Brits!

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I got excellent coverage of SHRM from all the tweets and blogs coming from there.  I learned a lot and was entertained quite a bit, and wasn’t even there.  If you haven’t done so yet, take a look through all the #lashrm13 tweets and Google it to read some great blogs.

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In celebration of me possibly finally learning this life lesson, rather than aim for any “fun” activities next week, I’m going to try and see the dentist, the gyno and start training for my first 5k as soon as these stitches come out.  If I get really crazy I might try and get a colonoscopy.   I’m anticipating mild to moderate fun.

Keep ya posted!

-HRGF

PS – I believe the foot is doing well.  Walking on it is less painful and it itches like a mofo.  That’s a good sign, yes?  Healing?  Let’s hope so.

My First SHRM Conference – #lashrm13

Hey Gang!

The Louisiana Society for HR Management is having their conference in Baton Rouge this year and it goes from Sunday afternoon to Tuesday evening.  Some early birds are flying in on Saturday even, so there will be pre-conference fun as well.  I am attending the event as “press” because I will be live-tweeting most of my sessions and blogging to wrap up the day’s events.

Look for my Twitter to blow up with amazing info that I’m learning and some juicy behind the scenes scoop on some of my fave HR celebs too.

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I’ll be tweeting from my usual handle, @HRGalFriday.  My boss will be tweeting her sessions from the company account.  She’s attending some of the same things as me, so you’ll get to see two perspectives on the keynote speeches, for example, if you follow that Twitter also.  It is @RepCapital.

In addition to seeing some old HR buddies from around town that I don’t see very often like Robin Schooling and Christine Assaf, I am interested in meeting most of my Twitter buddies for the first time!  The list includes: Bill Boorman, Doug Shaw, Crystal Miller, Laurie Ruettimann, William Tincup, Bryan Wempen, Nisha Raghavan, Teela Jackson, Janine Truett, Lizzie Maldonado, Matt Charney, Dwane Lay, Jennifer McClure, Brad Galin, Broc Edwards, Mike Haberman, Sarah Williams, Michael VanDervort and probably tons more that I’m forgetting.  I am so excited.  If you aren’t following them all on Twitter by now, you should remedy that IMMEDIATELY.  They are all great and they’ll be tweeting about #lashrm13 too, I imagine.  (I am going to go so fangirl on Laurie Ruettimann, you don’t even know.  Check out her YouTube clips of her speeches. She is hilarious!)  And no, I did not link to all those Twitter accounts because I’m very lazy busy.  Just jot them down, the people are easy to find.

So far I am set to see keynotes from Dwane, Jennifer and Bill, a session about PPACA, one about FLSA, one about best practices in hiring veterans, one about social HR leadership from Doug Shaw, one about retirement and something from Brad Galen entitled “Who do YOU want to Hire?  A Monkey, Ninja, or Pirate?”  I’m getting WAY in the front for that one so I can tweet some pics, for sure.

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I know one or two other little details that no one else is privy to just yet because I’m awesome and special.  Look for some fun updates and photos on my Twitter and here too, time permitting.  Also, the blogging…some might be here, some might be at http://repcapitalmedia.com/blog/ also.  Be sure to check both accounts and both blogs for all the scoop.  It’s going to be BIG FUN!

This post originally left off what I’m almost looking forward to the most.  At the ass crack of dawn on Sunday morning, after having been drinking and partying Saturday night and arriving from their various countries/locales, a few of the guys have decided on a round of golf.  Robin Schooling’s husband Douglas will be taking Dwane and Matt to play 18 holes.  Christine, Doug Shaw and I plan to watch the inevitable tears and recriminations.  I’ll be live tweeting the first 9 holes on Sunday morning with the hashtag #hrgolf before heading back for the official workshop to kick off the conference.  I expect it will be entertaining.

- HRGF

Also, before I forget, I am currently working on a blog post about a very cool internship program I’ve discovered being held by MasterCard.  They are holding contests for these internships in 6 countries around the world and the US deadline is April 7.  My post won’t be finished by then but if you or someone you know is registered full time at an accredited university in the US and looking for a cool internship, check out the MasterCard site for more details.  The webisodes are really funny.  Or, you can check out the #internswanted hashtag on Twitter, or check out @MasterCardNews.

HR Blogs and Articles That I’m Reading

I’ve read a few articles lately that could easily each merit their own blog post but I’m a busy gal, so I’ll just share a couple and give my quick 2 cents.  Perhaps you guys can take up the mantle and discuss in the comments!

Can My Credit History Impact My Job Search?

This article, from the ResumeBear blog, really pissed me off.  So much so that I ended up doing a blog post about my own financial troubles the other day.  ResumeBear didn’t piss me off, but the idea that employers would penalize someone for being behind on their bills during this economy is maddening.  Credit can be destroyed by a divorce, a failed business venture, bad investments, etc.  None of those make you a bad person and in fact may make you a better one with more knowledge.  It doesn’t mean the employee would steal, that they’re a crack whore, that they have a chronic medical condition or that they’re lazy and don’t want to pay their bills.  I wanted to pay my bills and it killed me when I couldn’t.  That doesn’t make me a bad employee.  And the thing is, even with legislation preventing this type of discrimination, it’s so insidious that you could almost never prove it.  So it will continue.  I stayed in the zombie job much longer than I should have because I was afraid of applying to other places and having my credit score ruin my chances.  It’s crippling and it’s awful.  Employers need to stop this discrimination.

March Madness – HR Blogger Style!

I can’t remember…did I tell you guys I was involved in this #hrmadness tournament from Sparcin.com?  I lost in the first round, which I knew would happen, but I was incredibly honored to have been included here with 15 people that I read regularly and consider my HR idols, pretty much.  Plus there was some fun smack talking.  If you don’t have them yet, you should add all these blogs to your RSS feed.  The tourney is over now.  A winner has been crowned.  And that winner is:

The Tim Sackett Project – HR Madness Champion!

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The above link takes you to Sparcin which has several of his posts up there.  There is a whole post about dongles which is my new fave “sex scandal” since pubes on Coke cans.  I’ve included a link for the wee little ones who don’t remember 1991.

But here’s why I love Tim Sackett, in particular:

THIS IS WHY YOU’RE AFRAID TO MAKE HR SIMPLE

This is so true that I may now start The Cult of Sackett.  People who work 60+ hours a week are not to be commended.  They need an assistant or to be replaced with someone more capable.  Now obviously, brand new employees, doctors and maybe lawyers and such are different.  Fine.  I understand not everyone has a job where they can get their work done and then go home, regardless of how long it takes.  If CVS says it’s open 24 hours then someone has to be there 24 hours a day. I get that.  But if you ARE in a position where you can come in, get your job done, and then go home…do it.  Do your work well, do it accurately, do it without screwing around in the middle, and finish it.  If you’re done early, ask others if you can be of help to them.  If they say yes, help.  Congrats, you’ve added value today.  If they say no, believe them — and leave.  Go!  Turn off the lights in your office, turn off the computer, fix the thermostat appropriately if you can — save your company some electricity and get the heck out of there.  Escape your office prison.  Enjoy the outside world.  Run your errands.  See your children, see your parents, see your bookie…whatever.  Come back tomorrow and repeat.

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This is true for people who work remotely as well.  Do your work when you need to do it.  Meet your deadlines, check for accuracy, and — if you have extra time, offer to help others as much as you can.  Then get on with your life.  There will be days that are 12-14 hours long that you didn’t plan for…websites crash, payroll won’t post or other fires need putting out.  If you’re willing to stay late when the universe hands you that crap, you should be willing to go when the universe hands you an hour or two of free time.  Now go away!

Have you guys read anything noteworthy lately?

Are You A Zombie? You May Need To Be Killed.

Zombies, zombies everywhere…and not a bite to eat.

Move over vampires.  Your glittery cheesiness will not cut it anymore (except for Buffy).  Nope, you’ve been replaced as the trendy monster du jour.  Zombies are the new thing.

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They’re everywhere.  Unlike vampires though, zombies are REAL.  No, I’m not kidding and I’m not talking about the crazy bath salt zombie people either, though you should always be on the lookout for them.  Real zombies are easy to spot and, make no mistake about it, they are hunting for brains.  The worst part?  No one is safe.

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All zombies would be easy to spot if they wandered around in a bra and panties. I guess that’s just wishful thinking though.

Unlike in “The Walking Dead,” there is a cure.  They need to be killed.  It’s for their own good.  It will help them get back to normal.  I know because it happened to me.  I was a zombie and I got killed.

I’ll back up a sec and explain.  I became a zombie at my last job, the one I parted with most recently.  In my professional career, this job was the best thing that ever happened to me…both getting it and losing it.  When I first went to work for this company, they’d had a fire a while before and were in the process of designing and constructing what would turn out to be our fabulous new office building.  In the meantime, for the first 16 months that I worked there, it was out of a FEMA-style trailer set up to be an office. There were 3 ladies in the middle room, the office manager on one end in her own room, the HR manager on the other, and then they crammed me into her office.  It was NOT built for 2 people.

In this scenario, I'd be the big fella.

In this scenario, I’d be the big fella.

This could have been an absolute recipe for disaster, but a couple of things happened to make sure it wasn’t.  For the first seven weeks of this job, I was filling in for an employee out on medical leave in another department and was doing accounting type stuff.  I saw the HR manager daily, but for short bursts of time, so I didn’t immediately jump into being squished in this office with her every minute of every day right from the start.

Also, she was cool.  I was very lucky to be in an office with someone who, I flatter myself to think, was very similar to me.  She was funny, she was liberal (as am I if you haven’t noticed yet), and she was very straightforward.  When you are sitting so close to someone that you could high-five (or slap) them without getting out of your chair, it helps if you get along.

Ok, she wasn't THIS cool, but she was pretty close.

Ok, she wasn’t THIS cool, but she was pretty close.

Those close quarters were also miserable in some ways.  The bathroom was tinier than an airplane bathroom and bending down to pull up your pants could (and did) sometimes result in hitting your head on the sink.  We griped about the tight quarters a lot, but I didn’t realize until later how much it helped me learn about the company.  HR is often so insulated that it doesn’t matter if you work at a shoe factory, the zoo, or CNN.  Sexual harassment policies are the same, FMLA is the same, etc.  What the company “does” is largely irrelevant to HR unless it carries some special government or OSHA regulations.  Being in that trailer, though, was so enlightening.  You couldn’t help but hear everyone’s conversations with each other and on the phone.  I learned a lot about patience from the customer service lady who had to calmly explain to a woman that 50 lbs of our product did weigh the same as a 50 lb bag of potatoes (while we were all falling out around her laughing).  I saw all the duties of the office manager even though she was clear across the trailer, and I saw and heard EVERYTHING my boss did which was great because I admired her and wanted to model her skills, etc.  If any of us needed a REALLY private chat, we’d get our cell phones and go out to the parking lot.  There was no privacy but I absorbed so much new info.  It was exciting.

Then we moved into the new office.  For a while there, before the shine wore off, it was AMAZING.  So much space!  A full size computer monitor, not a teeny laptop!  I can play MUSIC IN MY OFFICE!  Woo Hoo!  Then the office politics started.  The upstairs people vs. the downstairs people.  The HR wing vs. customer service.  Little things got blown up into big, stupid, mean things…as is the way of every office in the whole wide world consisting of more than 2 people.  As we had more space and became more physically distant, we became more emotionally distant as well.  I hung out in my office, doing my work, getting really good/fast at it, and playing on the internet.

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Without everyone to socialize and laugh with, I got my work done a lot quicker.  I know that sounds like a good thing, right?  But I stopped learning.  We did the occasional cross-training but I was in my own office (something I’d always thought I wanted) and could no longer observe my boss as closely.  I was a hallway and a huge lobby away from the receptionist, customer service, and the office manager.  I had no idea what was going on with them.  I had my tasks, I got very good and efficient with them, and really no new projects came up…none that couldn’t have been done by a moderately-trained Labradoodle, that is.  I became a zombie, doing the same routine all the time…or new tasks that were not intellectually stimulating or challenging at all.

By the time I took that 4 weeks off for that neck/spinal surgery I’ve mentioned before, it was like nothing changed.  For starters, I trained people on what to do before I took off, but even the stuff they left for when I got back, though large and menacing stacks of work to them, took me maybe 3 partial days to complete.  I got a few obligatory “Wow, I had no idea how much Dominique was responsible for!” remarks when I returned, but after those 3 days I thought…”No, you don’t know how much Dominique is capable of.”  I was dead inside and I was on the hunt for brains…MY BRAINS.  That’s when I knew I had become a zombie.

the working dead

Here’s how you can tell if you’re an office zombie:

1. You finish your work almost every day by 2 p.m. and have to sit there counting the minutes till 5.  Even the internet gets boring sometimes.  You may develop calluses on your elbows from leaning on them.

2. You have time to wander the building talking to people, refilling the copier paper, watering the office plants, etc. because dear god you’ll do anything to get up from your freaking desk.

3. You have reorganized your office, obsessively labeled everything, and even cleaned up behind the janitor because DEAR GOD YOU’LL DO ANYTHING TO GET UP FROM YOUR FREAKING DESK!

4. You get excited when asked to participate in anything REMOTELY different…even if you know ahead of time that you will hate it.  A meeting?  Love to!  A presentation?  Can’t wait.  Lunch?  Are you f*#king kidding me?  LUNCH?!  Hell yes, I’ll do lunch!!  You want to run over my foot with a forklift?  Is it Christmas already?!  Go for it!  If there’s a lunch meeting with a presentation about forklifts, you just might climax.

Eventually I completely succumbed to the apathy I felt at work and they no doubt realized that.  When my boss left the company for a new opportunity, it was decided that HR should be outsourced and they didn’t need me anymore.  I can’t say I disagree one bit considering I could leave for weeks at a time without even a ripple.  It made good business sense for them, and I needed to be killed…my position, that is.

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Yes, I was worried about bills, etc. but searching for a job made me use my brain.  Instead of being routine, things were very uncertain.  I was forced to call upon friends, acquaintances and come up with creative ideas.  I started this blog and took to Twitter.  I took a couple of writing gigs.  I signed up to be poked and prodded at the Biomedical Research Dept of LSU to get some money (and ultimately didn’t qualify because of a Rx I’m taking), but still…thinking, thinking, thinking.  I spent some time with my family and eventually stumbled into something pretty amazing.  More details on that in next week’s Fun Friday.  I felt myself come back to life.  The uncertainty brought me back to life.  The zombie fog had lifted.

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Having survived my own Zombie Apocalypse in 2012, I am now on a mission to help others and spread the word.

As for the rest of you, be on the lookout for zombies.  If you are one, you might need to leave.  You might need to ask for more work.  You might need to do some online crosswords instead of reading about the Kardashian/Kanye baby.  You absolutely need a gel mat for your desk so you don’t get the elbow calluses.  Those hurt.  Do whatever you have to do to USE your brain instead of walking around like a reanimated corpse.  If you see a coworker in this state, give them more work.  Give them some crosswords or Sudoku.  Run over their foot with a forklift.  Whatever it takes.  Friends don’t let friends turn into zombies.  I would kill any of you if I had to.  I’m a giver.

Have a great weekend everybody!

-HRGF

Teaching Tuesdays: A Lesson in FMLA with Hilary Bancroft

Hello All -

Welcome to my first Teaching Tuesday!  Today I’ll be getting a lesson in FMLA from Hilary Bancroft.  I’m very excited Hilary volunteered to be my first guest teacher.  She really knows her stuff.  On to the lesson!

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This is what I know (or what I think I know) so far –  Hilary’s changes/additions will be in BLUE so you all can see where I was weak and need more study.  I’m not ashamed.  That’s the whole purpose of this blog – learning together!

Employers are only required to provide FMLA if they have 50 or more employees working within a 75 mile radius of their office.  Very small companies do not have to comply because it would cause a hardship.

Employees are considered eligible for FMLA once they have been with their employer for one full year, provided they have worked at least 1250 hours during that year.

An eligible employee can receive FMLA due to: a serious illness or injury of their own, a serious illness or injury to a spouse, parent or child that requires them to be a caregiver, to receive proper pre-natal care if something like bed rest is required, after the birth of a child, or after the employee takes a child into their home through foster care or adoption.

care for the elderly

Most conditions have to be signed off by a doctor to determine if they are serious enough to warrant taking leave.  Other than pregnancy or adoption, an employee cannot “choose” how much time they want off.  They can only have as much as the doctor recommends.  For example, after my neck surgery a while back, the doctor recommended 4 weeks off.  I could not have decided to take more in order to have a long vacation and call it FMLA, right?  

Often companies have a specialized medical certification they have the doctor complete and the doctor has to specify clearly how much time is needed, the reason for the time, and the expected duration of the condition. Often within my organization we will only do a 6 month approval maximum even if it is a permanent condition as the condition can often change and this allows us to get updated medical information on a regular basis from the doctor. The law does not specify how frequently information can be requested from the doctor on the condition, but I’ve usually heard the minimum approval should be for a month unless the doctor specifies it is a two week condition.

Once an employee is determined to be eligible for FMLA, they can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and still be entitled to all their benefits during this time.  At the end of their FMLA, they are guaranteed their old job back or a similar one with the same pay and benefits.  Their benefits are not free while they are out; the employer can recoup the cost of various premiums when the employee returns to work or they can pay separately while they are out.

Sibling-Pair

Leave is extended up to 26 weeks if caring for a military service member who was injured on active duty, I think.  I have never encountered this situation AT ALL so I’m REALLY unfamiliar here.

Military leave has a lot of different requirements and can even be extended to include things like military services, time to spend with the member in the military while they are on a leave for a week or two, etc.

For most FMLA purposes, caring for a son or daughter means a minor child under the age of 18.  FMLA is given to adult children if they are disabled and unable to provide self-care. Because of technicalities in this arena, I think most people would want to consult an employment attorney to be sure they are complying legally.

With my company in particular, we did extend FML to apply to a household member so employees whose child still lives with them at home are also covered under FML. This is at the discretion of the company.

A few questions I have:

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Does the law specify about paternity leave?  Can a man use FMLA after his wife has a baby or if they adopt – or does the law specify that it’s only available to a woman after she gives birth?

The law does make it clear that both fathers and mothers have the same rights under FML to take unpaid leave to bond with the baby. The leave must be taken within 1 year of the birth of the baby (so hypothetically a mother could take the first 12 weeks off and then the father could take the next 12 weeks off or they could take it together). It is also offered in the circumstances of adoption to both adopted parents. It must be taken within 1 year of the adoption date of the child.  This type of leave can be taken on a continuous or reduced leave basis, if the reduced leave is approved by the employer. For example, an employee could take the 12 weeks by taking Mondays and Fridays off for 30 weeks or taking Tuesdays and Thursdays off for 30 weeks. This is subject to approval by the employer. The only guaranteed approved leave is if it is taken continuously. Leave for bonding with a child cannot be taken intermittently, it must be a set schedule.

FMLA_Demonstrative

Is it the responsibility of the employer to OFFER FMLA or is it the responsibility of the employee to ask?  I know most people are presented with this info upon their orientation as a new hire and beyond that, HR can’t read minds.  HR can’t know if an employee’s parent has developed Alzheimer’s unless the employee brings that to their attention, yes?

If an employee specifies to their employer that they have a serious health condition that they need to take time for, it is the employer’s responsibility to advise them of the FML benefit. If the employee does not mention a medical condition, the need to care for someone with a serious health condition, or express the need to take time off for these things, the employer cannot know that they should offer FML to them. We also offer information regarding Family Medical Leave and how to apply in our Employee Handbook to ensure that all employees have access to the information if they seek it out as well. We also typically recommend that if the employee mentions anything medically related, that the manager encourage them to have a conversation with HR and advise the employee they do not have to provide any information to management regarding their condition.

At least in the state of Louisiana, FMLA differs from pregnancy leave.  Pregnancy leave is available immediately upon hire and can last for up to 16 weeks/4 months.  Is this the law everywhere?

This is not the law everywhere; there are many different FML laws in various states. For example, California has paid disability leave as well as CA specific family medical leave. Oregon has similar laws. You should always check with your state government website to see if your state does have state-specific requirements that are more strict than the federal policy.

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Anything else important that I should know?

I can’t think of anything, but with FML there’s more that I learn every day and new litigation taking place that changes the requirements! When in doubt, if you’re denying an FML condition, I would recommend consulting with your company’s lawyer just to be safe.  

Thank you so much, Hilary, for all this wonderful information and for taking the time to chat with me!  I really appreciate it!  My first guest teacher, everyone!

Hilary

Hilary Bancroft graduated from Providence College.  She majored in Marketing and minored in Finance. She started in an HR Development Program at a Fortune 100 company in 2010 as a way to get her foot in the door and ended up loving it. She spent her first year learning most of the HR basics such as Worker’s Compensation, termination, new hire orientations, and her “best friend”, Family Medical Leave. She lives and works in Boston and is always looking for new connections in the HR world to hear about best/different HR practices.  She can be reached on Twitter at @HRHilary or her LinkedIn Profile at http://ow.ly/hD5PZ.  She prefers cake to pie and is not at all adventurous when it comes to pizza toppings.  Hilary is currently buried beneath two and a half feet of snow but assures me she’s fine and drinking lots of cocoa. 

Ok gang – did we miss anything?  Get anything wrong?  Let us know in the comments!

“Duck Dynasty” or The Pros and Cons of HR in a Family Business with Guest Blogger Terri Kaye Beregi

Hi everyone!  I’m chatting today with my friend, and first guest blogger, Terri Kaye Beregi.  She and I used to work together at a family business and we both have a lot of experience in that unique realm.  Terri’s words are in BLUE.

First off…do you watch “Duck Dynasty” at all?  I’ve seen it a few times with my Dad and that’s what got me thinking about this post.  I know they do a lot specifically for the camera, but the safety violations ALONE on that show make me cringe.  They rode a canoe or something on an assembly line?  I can’t really remember but all I could think was, “It’s a good thing this is fake because if someone really did that and lost a hand or whatever, the paperwork would end that business.”

We LOVE “Duck Dynasty!”  Phil for President!  LOL

phil

Secondly, you and I have both worked at multiple family businesses over the years.  All of these companies are relatively small, right?  Both of mine were between 200 – 300 employees…and I’m not counting the skating rink when I was 15 because I was just the birthday party hostess, not HR.  Is that the same for you?

I’ve been all over the spectrum in size, attitude and degrees of respectability with regards to HR in the family business.  Of course there is our mutual experience and currently the company I work for holds 230 employees and 5 multi state locations. 

My PROS:

Everything is more personal.  You get to really know a lot of the employees and are able to help them in ways that you definitely couldn’t in a large corporate setting.  I’ve advised people on domestic violence intervention, low-cost prescription drug assistance, getting a passport…you name it.  By advised, I mean I Googled a few things, made some calls, and put the employee in touch with someone else, but I’m able to take 5 minutes out of my day to do that for people because I actually interact with them.  To some people I’m still the mean HR lady because that will never change, but to some of them…I’m their hero.

Agreed.  Statistically speaking we all know the benefits of making an employee feel invested in their company. This is one of the great examples where HR can be directly involved in that.  This is what I call the ‘touchy feely’ part, and it is way easier to get involved in this side of HR in a family setting as opposed to a corporate structure.  It allows HR to be really hands on in areas of assistance that may or may not deal with true HR items such as benefits and compensation.  Our family member bosses appreciate the effort to help the after school worker that lives 2 doors down from them complete financial aid paperwork and maybe, just maybe, that kid will go to school for something relevant to the company and remain a productive member of your business’s work force.  Win win!

Flexibility is always good.

Flexibility is always good.

More flexibility.  The owners are largely around more and you get to know them better and they understand a little more that you need to get to soccer practice on time, etc.

This is a huge benefit, especially to the family oriented, the college student or the caretaker of a sick parent.  As a mom of 3 this is extremely key to my life personally and I’ve seen it work for so many others in a family owned business where it would never be a possibility in the corporate world.  Again, invested employees are better employees and by working with someone’s situation both the business and the employee benefit.  If Jill isn’t stressed out all the time about getting little Johnny off the bus because the babysitter quit again, she’s going to be way more productive even if she has to leave at 2 instead of 5. Personally, I was once in a position that I had long since outgrown professionally but turned down more impressive job offers because the flexibility wasn’t there.  Yeah, it’s THAT big of a deal.   

Faster decision-making.  Things don’t have to go up an endless corporate ladder to be implemented.  You have an idea, you track down an owner, schedule a meeting and make a decision.  You don’t need 17 signatures and a committee to make it happen.

If there is one key person in charge, sure this could be the case.  However, more often I’ve seen this be a road block because there is only one person in charge or two people in charge who you can never get in the same room.  What I would like to interject here is maybe the ‘ask forgiveness not permission’ benefit.  I pretty much live by this in my current position because I can never get the top dogs to sit down for 5 minutes together to OK or veto something I need to do.  So, I go with my best option.  They will either love it or hate it but chances are I won’t lose my job over it.  In a corporate world, you’re more likely to be punished for making decisions on your own because the board meeting is 2 months away. 

open door

Open-door policies.  Most family companies are very good to their employees because they see the day-to-day work they’re doing and how their sweat is building a future for this family business.  They try to keep employees happy, so if you have a question or concern about something and your manager doesn’t adequately resolve it, you are free to go above their head.

Where this is most definitely a benefit to the employee, it could create HR nightmares.  When Manager Marty was enforcing a die-hard no cell phone policy when he disciplined Emily Employee she took it straight to President Paul.  President Paul buys Emily’s excuse/reason and assures her she shouldn’t worry about it and all is forgiven.  What she did not tell him is that she was driving the forklift unloading a pallet of bricks while talking on the cell phone and speeding!  What we’ve created now is a misinformed President, an undermined manager, and a smug employee who feels she got away with something and WILL do it again.  And who has to clean it up?  You, the HR Hero!

This is very true, especially with poor communication between Marty and Paul.  Ideally Paul would confer with Marty before telling Emily anything.  USUALLY the transparency and closeness of owners makes an open-door policy a good thing.  Not always.

My CONS:

T_GamblingAddiction

EVERYTHING is more personal.  The gossip increases tenfold, and so does the office politics. In a corporate environment when you hear Ted in accounting is getting a divorce because of his gambling addiction, you don’t care to listen to that or repeat it because you have no idea who Ted is and gambling addiction and divorce are sad.  At a smaller, family run company, everyone knows everyone and often, everything.  If you’re having a bad day and get a little terse with Sheila in the next office, you can apologize immediately but you can bet your life she’s already told 3 people, it will get to your supervisor, and she’ll hold that grudge for 2 weeks.

Most definitely true!  Even in a 230 person establishment, news…good or bad spreads like wildfire.  Once, it beat me across the parking lot! :)

Different HR ideas.  At a family business, the family has the final say and that’s that, whether you agree with it or not.  For example, I think that when an employee is caught stealing, they should be fired.  This is a clear violation of policies, it ruins morale because people will know he was caught and NOT FIRED if that’s the case, and stealing is illegal.  If the owner decides to be charitable and keep _____ around and just “keep a closer eye on him” then you just have to suck it up and deal with it.

In my earlier HR years I struggled with this immensely.  I mean, your employer hired you as a resident ‘expert’ in the field of HR.  Not that you are the ‘end all be all’ of course, but in this organization among this group of people you are expected to be the most knowledgeable in this field.  They realized they were to a point where HR was important enough to hire someone to handle it so they should be on board with this method of thinking, right? Wrong! And sometimes that’s hard to swallow.  I’ve learned to come to the meetings prepared and give them the most informed opinion why something should or should not be done.  Then, most importantly, I’ve learned that they may or may not take my advice and I’m ok with that (for the most part).  At the end of the day, their name is on the sign and the paychecks.  I had to come to a hard realization that even though I knew what I was talking about and had HR law to back me up, ultimately they had the deciding vote because it’s their money and their potential lawsuit to risk.

I will also say that this gets better with age and practical experience.  Even though I was the highest HR authority in an organization at 23 years old – to the 73-year-old President – I was still a baby, wet behind the ears even with a 4 year degree and a few years of practical work experience under my belt.  I could hold my own in a meeting but the moment someone mentioned how young I was even in casual water cooler conversation, I think I lost some credibility.  Like with anything else, you become more respected and trusted the longer you’ve worked in a particular field.  Now, still the youngest of Department Heads in my organization, I have many more years of practical experiences to back my opinion and I typically meet less resistance.

no

It’s a word you’ll hear a lot.

Resistance to change.  Their payroll, inventory, or accounting software is way out of date.  You know of a much better one that would help speed things up so much.  They won’t do it.  The reasons run the gamut from “too expensive”, “too risky”, “what we have is working”, etc…but the bottom line is, they won’t do it.

Policies, equipment, procedures need to evolve.  But it’s a hard thing to get accomplished for the reasons you list above.  What I’ve found is that they will eventually come around if they see examples of the benefits of doing such…or if they get pissed off enough about something!  Employees clocking each other in?  Get a biometric time-keeping system (finger/hand scanner). Too expensive?  Show them the 10 hours of overtime on Jim’s timesheet when we know for a fact he left early at least 3 days last week.  One department’s color printer is out and they are walking clear across the parking lot all day long to use another one.   Can we get them a new $$$ printer? No.  Note the amount of time it takes Denise and Michelle to do this and show the owners just how much time is wasted in productivity.  They could recoup that $$$ printer cost in no time.  It just takes a little bit more effort and probably a lot more time to prove your point here in a personal, family setting than in an impersonal, $ driven corporate setting.  But the benefits of making a move are hard to deny in black and white.  Oh, and you have to pick your battles.  Note: You WILL NOT win them all! 

Little to no room for advancement.  You aren’t family and you never will be.  You won’t be made partner, ever.  If you’re the highest person in your department right now, congrats.  You’ve summited Everest.  It’s all downhill from here.

HR is usually the last department an organization thinks they need.  Let’s face it…HR is largely viewed as a necessary evil.  All this department does is put out money on things like benefits, payroll, safety equipment and the Christmas party for goodness sakes!   At first, it’s a handful of people, they either are all family or friends of the family.  No major HR problems and payroll is a breeze.  10 years down the road they have 100+ employees, unsafe work practices all over the place, and the employees want benefits and a 401k!  They need help and hire you.  For a long time you will probably be the only person in the HR department.  You’ll be both the VP of HR and the grunt.  (I love this line!  So true! – HRGF)  Maybe eventually you’ll get to hire some help.  Yay!  But Dominique’s right, there is nowhere else for you to go.  If one is lucky enough to get on board with owners who see that the position evolves and see that you’ve done a lot with the department, monetarily you will surely benefit the longer you are with the company.  But your position is what it is and you will not ever be the deciding vote in an owners meeting.  The family will.     

Slower decision-making.  Yes, it’s great that we don’t need 17 people to sign off and form a committee before we implement this policy but if the owner is the only one who can OK this and he’s out of town for 2 weeks, it sits for 2 weeks.  If she doesn’t prioritize HR and puts you last on her to-do-list every day, then finding her and getting her signature can take a while.  If she just wants to mull it over for a while and takes forever to make a decision, then forever we wait.

Insert ‘ask forgiveness not permission’ statement here!  In a family business you will wait for answers on items that you deem to be extremely important, mainly because the family members probably won’t view them as important.  Also, because HR is not the ‘production’ side of things so it usually takes a back seat to how many widgets they can produce in one day.  Shocker….we are not always viewed as the most important piece of the puzzle!  (I will not go off into a rant of how without HR there would be no people to make the widgets, thus no widgets to sell, therefore no money to earn and no business to speak of!) 

At one point in time, when I was in a particular unsatisfying position with a family company, I had thought family business was not for me.  It was too ‘willy-nilly’ in regards to policies and how they were interpreted for different people and circumstances.  I needed a black-and-white-no-grey-area corporation so that I could successfully function in an HR capacity.  I was wrong.  That particular family, although wonderful people, had made it hard for me to do my job effectively because of how they viewed HR and its role in a corporation.  When I spoke with the family company that I’m with now, I finally realized what was key: how an employer viewed HR’s role as a whole within the company structure.

Do I make less money in a family business than I would in a corporate setting? Definitely.  Do I run into all the cons listed above? Sure.  But I also reap all the benefits listed as well. The family owned company that I work with today allows me flexibility as an employee, values my opinion as an HR director and I’m allowed the authority to do what needs to be done in any given situation.  I know that working with a family organization is definitely not for everyone.  Many people could not deal with the idiosyncrasies involved.  However at least in my own situation, at the end of the day, it’s a good place to be.   

Thank you so much for chatting with me and being my first guest blogger, TKB!  I loved everything you added.  Working at a family business can be frustrating but it is also incredibly rewarding!

-HRGF

terri kaye

Terri Kaye Beregi graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University with a degree in Business Management with a Concentration in HR.  She has been an HR Manager in the Baton Rouge area for over ten years and is currently HR Director of a multi-million dollar family business.  She is also a semi-professional photographer.  Her terrific work can be seen at http://www.photosbytk.com/.  She has a wonderful husband and three gorgeous children: Elizabeth, 9, Jackson, 6, and Tate, 4 months.  She’s a dog person and does not enjoy ANY flavors of Pop Tarts.  (I’m sorry, you guys.  I have to get a better screening process.  I didn’t find out that Pop Tart thing till this was finished, I swear.)

“Duck Dynasty” and associated images are owned by A&E.

8 Lessons I Learned about Life & HR from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” – (Part One)

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The summer of 2011 was uncomfortable.  I ruptured 2 discs in my neck, had a double spinal fusion, and spent 4 weeks out of town, at home with my family, recovering.  Louisiana from mid-July to mid-August is NEVER pleasant, but the summer of 2011 was particularly bad.  The temp gauge on the car routinely said 115 degrees and I was wearing a neck brace 24/7.  To get an accurate picture of this, imagine that someone has just cracked a dozen baseball bats over the back of your shoulders.  Then put on your tightest, warmest, itchiest scarf and crawl into a sauna.  Stay there for 4 weeks.  It was unpleasant.  Thank heavens for Netflix and Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

Imagine this, with less cool pajamas, plus a neck brace...for a month.

Imagine this, with less cool pajamas, plus a neck brace…for a month.

During the 4 weeks I was home and largely stoned on Lortab and Valium, I watched all 7 seasons of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” on Netflix and I’ve been hooked ever since.  On Buffy, not the Lortab or Valium.  It was in this Buffy-drug haze that I decided to go back to school and finally finish my degree.  I had long been thinking that payroll and HR was something to do…until.  Until what?  I did not know, but I definitely wasn’t going to do this forever.  I was meant for much more important and interesting things.

Then Buffy showed me that HR could be every bit as badass and entertaining as any other profession.  I didn’t choose HR…I fell into it, and now I’m kind of glad.  I had to tweak my perception and my attitude a little, but once I did, the decision to stay in HR has felt totally right.

buffy axe

The Badass Herself

Here’s what I learned:

1. In life and HR, you absolutely never know what is going to walk through the door.

It was called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but she fought way more than just vampires.  There were lots of other types of demons, gods, robots, evil humans and she even went to war against the concept of evil itself.  The show got pretty deep sometimes.  Hell, for the first four seasons, Buffy was an only child.  Then at the beginning of season 5, up popped a 14-year-old little sis that everyone knew and who’d been around the whole time. (There is an explanation but I won’t spoil it.)  Buffy got pretty good at expecting the unexpected.

chaos demon

A Chaos Demon. They actually aren’t that mean, but they WILL steal your demon girlfriend.

This is the sister.  She's a brat.

This is the sister. She’s a brat.

I once had a guy come into my office after being terminated and ask to speak to my boss.  He’d called a few times and I assumed he’d apologize and beg for his job back and she’d turn him down and we’d move on.  Nope.  When the boss came out to talk to him, he said “I know you have an opening because my cousin _______ was just determinated from here.  Can I have his job?”  He looked us straight in the face and pretended to be his own cousin.  Are you kidding me with this?

At another job a long time ago where I was working as a cashier, I handed a lady back her change and she went completely white.  (She was black to begin with, by the way.)  She got goosebumps all up and down her arms and refused to let go of my hand.  She leaned in very close and told me she’d had a dream about me the night before and that God wanted me to follow the white rope.  She’d been sent to put me on my path.  She was absolutely serious and I was absolutely stunned.  What on earth can you say to that except “Go away, you’re making me uncomfortable.”?!  I didn’t say that but I absolutely thought it.

2a. Everyone makes mistakes.  Admit it.  Correct it.  Learn from it. 

Shame on You

Shame on You

2b. THEN MOVE ON AND DON’T LOOK BACK.

In the Buffy pilot, Buffy is new to her school and befriends a group of three students: Willow, Xander and Jesse (played by Eric Balfour).  Presumably these 3 have been friends a good long while.  Jesse is turned into a vampire and Willow and Xander are very upset about it.  Then his vampire self is killed, they immediately get over it and HE IS NEVER MENTIONED ON THE SHOW AGAIN.  It’s become kind of a joke among Buffy fans that one of their best friends dies and they barely give a damn.  But, clearly someone decided that Eric Balfour was right up there with Keanu Reeves in terms of annoyance and they fixed that mistake but quick.  And they did not look back even once.

jesse

Bye Bye, Eric! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. Sorry, not sorry.

I’ve been accused of throwing myself under the bus sometimes.  Not wanting to blame others and appear petty, I take the blame myself.  Or if something goes wrong I just assume it was my fault because I was doing something new, etc.  Or I keep thinking about mistakes I’ve made long after everyone else is over it.  I’m going to stop doing that.  That’s self-centered and gives no one any grief but me.  I don’t flip out and stay angry when others make mistakes at work; why would I assume they’d do so about me?

3. No one knows everything.  Be prepared to research.  Though Buffy had a Watcher named Giles (sort of a mentor) who had been trained his entire life to be a Watcher, they came up against a surprising amount of demons they couldn’t identify.  They positively LIVED in the library, then the magic shop, with their heads buried in books to find info on the latest meanie who’d burst into town.  Research is good.

This is Giles, Buffy's mentor.  He's British, he's brilliant, he's sexy in kind of an adorable dorky way and he can totally kick your ass.

This is Giles, Buffy’s mentor. He’s British, he’s brilliant, he’s sexy in kind of an adorable dorky way and he can totally kick your ass.

buffy library

The gang in the library.

I used to think that I wasn’t qualified enough to do HR because I’m not an expert on FMLA, ERISA, COBRA, PPOs, HRAs, FLSA, ADA, EEOC, blah blah, acronym acronym.  You know what?  No one else is either.  Everyone has their fave topics of study and areas of knowledge, of course.  But things come up that are outside the purview of everyone’s expertise from time to time.  Laws change constantly.  Research is required all the time.  Even the experts consult experts.

IT IS NEVER AS IMPORTANT TO HAVE ALL THE KNOWLEDGE AS IT IS TO KNOW WHERE TO GET THE KNOWLEDGE, WHEN YOU NEED IT.

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4. You can never have enough weapons in your arsenal.

One of the best things about Buffy, in my opinion, was that she didn’t rely on guns.  She relied on her own physical strength, fighting skills, and hand-to-hand weaponry like stakes, axes, swords and a baseball bat with a hook on the back of it that I never really understood.  Bet it would stink getting beaten with it though, so yeah…good weapon.  She also had friends who were witches, used “good” vampires to help her fight, and sometimes hung out at the local demon bar for info.  She relied on these old standards usually, but when the situation called for it…my girl whipped out a rocket-launcher or a homemade volcano.  Also one time a magic necklace, but…yeah, a rocket-launcher!

BuffyRocketLauncher

I’ve learned in life AND HR to use all the tools available to me when I need them.  Research, friends, family members, mentors, etc…all make great resources for different situations.  For example, I needed to de-clutter my apartment and though I can absolutely help others with such tasks (and do, pretty frequently), when it came to my own apartment, I’d get overwhelmed and need a nap just from thinking about it.  I created a Facebook event and invited my most OCD buddies over and we de-cluttered the hell out of this place.  For the cost of some vodka and a few snacks, I got hours of free labor from people who LOVED getting rid of my junk!

Just yesterday, a graphic artist from Starkville, MS followed me on Twitter.  I asked for some help tweaking my logo cause the one I designed online myself using a cheesy website was a little static and unpolished.  You know what?  He wrote me back and fixed my logo!  (He even changed it to LSU colors even though he lives in Starkville!  SEC Rivals!)  I had a need.  A new weapon became available to me and I used it…with fabulous results!

Get ready for new logo later this weekend & stay tuned for Part 2 on Saturday, containing lessons 5, 6, 7 and 8!  In the meantime, go watch some Buffy on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon.  The Jesse thing isn’t a big spoiler, I promise!

to be continued

All image credits to Joss Whedon and Warner Brothers Studios.