Holocracy- Implementation Challenges

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Last week we talked about Holocracy, what it is and what its advocates say the potential benefits are.  But in reality, does Holocracy work ?  Can a type of self-management that gives decision making power to fluid teams, or “circles,” and roles rather than individuals yield results and better decisions than a traditional structure?  How well do people deal with the uncertainty that a holocratic approach creates

Sourcing and Hiring

Holocracy models complicate sourcing and hiring decisions.  How do you advertise for a job that is comprised of ever changing micro roles and how do you assess whether the person sitting in front of you actually is competent at those micro roles and any other talents they might have?  People are used to looking for traditional job titles, but in holocracy, there are no traditional job titles.  Do management level employees worry that deviating from their career path might stall out their careers.  What if they are at a Director level now and you are trying to recruit for a team member with a skill set normally held by an Accounting Dir.  How many would take a “team or circle member” title?

Micro Roles

Another issue that holocracy creates is the formation of micro roles.  No longer is one individual responsible for a specific set of set roles, but a swirling set of micro roles that are ever changing.  It can complicate the work actually getting done as employees may be responsible for up to 25 different responsibilities and struggle with prioritizing them and deciding where to focus first.  They may be members of a number of different circles and have weighty responsibilities to each, but not be able to satisfy all of them or be forced to prioritize in conflict with others. 

Compensation

Compensation becomes difficult as well.  Not only are there struggles with determining internal equity as this now requires each of 100’s of micro roles to be assessed and the value of these roles change as new circles are created and as the organization matures and different skills become more or less valuable, but external equity is an issue.  How do you go to the market to assess the worth of a position when there is no longer a match for the position?  There is nothing to compare the person’s position to.

Unlearning old behavior

For holocrcay to be successful it necessitates that both bosses and subordinates unlearn old behavior.  If everyone is truly to be tapped for their full potential then there cannot be those who are hesitant to express opposing views in front of what used to be superiors.  This is a hard habit to break for both bosses and subordinates.  It is hard for leaders to learn to step back and not lead all the time.

Holocary has yet to be proven as a model that offers significant benefits over a traditional structure. The best of both worlds may be to incorporate some of the circle mentality into the traditional structure allowing everyone a voice to be heard and encouraging growth horizontally as well as vertically.

Let leaders lead

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Most who enter the Human Resources disciplines due so out of a desire to help others and to help the organization to align their employee workforce with the goals of the company to further productivity.  Often times, however, we forget to let our leaders lead.  Especially as an organization grows, HR functions need to adopt a “train the trainer” approach more than a train everyone approach.  Although enlightened organizations put their full support and resources into HR functions, the team still has a responsibility to be able to scale the organization without adding significant numbers of HR team members.  Efficiency is key.

Train- the- trainer

A train-the-trainer model allows experienced trainers to show a less-experienced individuals how to deliver courses, workshops and seminars. http://work.chron.com/train-trainer-model-5463.html Usually, a new instructor first observes a training event led by the course designer. A train-the-trainer approach can build a pool of competent instructors who can then teach the material to other people. Instead of having just one instructor who teaches a course for a long time, you have multiple instructors teaching the same course at the same time. This ensures that employees get timely training to complete tasks according to company policies and procedures.

Identify SME’s

SME’s or subject matter experts exist in all corners of the organizations and at all levels.  It is a fairly good bet that your excel gurus are not sitting in the corner office.  Tap those resources!  Find out how has a skill set that the rest of the organization could benefit from and engage the SME to deliver the training. This serves two purposes.  One, it enhances your pool of trainers and two, it gives well deserved recognition to a group of people who might be overlooked otherwise, further engaging them in the business.  

Step out of the way

The inclination is to teach every class to every audience, but the real goal is to get the training out to a broad audience in a timely manner.  Like a proud parent, you need to teach your junior trainers your techniques, ensure that they know their material, do a few dry runs with them and then let them launch.  Will it be perfect, no. Will it improve with time, yes and will you gain far more by engaging your workforce then trying to do it all yourself, a big YES!

Training is not a one and done.  It is a process over an unending period of time that, done correctly, not only teaches a new skill, but also engages and inspires a workforce to do greater things both in their work and personal lives.

Health Insurance 2018

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PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) annually projects the growth of health insurance and more specifically, medical costs, in the employer insurance market for the coming year.  They also identify the major factors expected to impact the trend.  Moving into 2018, the healthcare industry seems to be settling into a “new trend” which is marked by more moderate fluctuations and single-digit medical cost trends

HRI projects 2018’s medical cost trend to be 6.5%—the first uptick in growth in three years.

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What does this mean for employers still seeking to get the most for their insurance dollars and provide the best benefits for their employee population?  In a labor market that is heating up and becoming more competitive, employers are looking for new cost containment strategies beyond shifting more costs to their employees.

Target Health and Wellness

Many employers are creating wellness programs and enlisting the employees in a partnership arrangement regrading practicing better health habits.  Although hard numbers are difficult to come by, many employers believe they are creating a focus on wellness that will pay off at the bottom line.  Employers are offering smoking cessation programs, health fairs populated by as many as 100 different vendors, offering everything from multi vitamins to massage, and healthy snacks, like fruit and nuts instead of candy, cupcakes and empty snacks.

Investigate provider arrangements

More employers are taking a harder look the health services they are providing and how those health services are being offered.  Some are considering more restrictive arrangements like EPO’s (Exclusive Provider Organizations)  where they can get better discounts by decreasing the size of the provider network.  Other options include offering 2 tier plans where the employer pays a sizable percentage of the lower plan, but gives the employees an opportunity to “buy up” if they want to choose the more expensive plan.

Evaluate the value of drug spending

Employers are banding together to put pressure on drug companies to moderate price increases. Similar pressures were enacted in the early 1990s and significant decreases in the drug price growth rate.

We are already seeing some pharmaceutical companies take action, limiting price increases, offering cheaper generic alternatives and proactively addressing questions of value in the marketplace.

Even though health insurance price increases have slowed over the past three years, they still outpace inflation and employers need to continue to pursue alternatives that will lead to a healthier workforce and, ultimately, to lower health insurance costs for everyone.

 

International HR – Germany

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There are significant differences when it comes to the Human Resources organizations in the US versus companies in Germany, and many other countries in the EU.

 

Managerial Discretion

Anyone who has worked in the US understands that managers and HR have a lot of discretion over who to hire and who and when to terminate.  Sometimes these kinds of decisions can be made in a few days or weeks.  In Germany, specifically, these types of decisions are months if not years long, with serious infractions needing to have taken place.  Germany has a co-determination practice.  Co-determination is a practice whereby the employees have a role in the management of a company. The word is a literal translation from the German word Mitbestimmung.. In some countries, like the USA, the workers have virtually no role in corporate management; and in others, like Germany, their role is more important.

 

Wage differences

In the US, many studies show that white collar workers can make as much as 20 times that of blue collar workers in the same company.  This is drastically different than in Germany. Germany  is known for its balanced remuneration system.  The average white-collar worker’s wage is only 20% over the average blue collar worker`s wage. In addition, companies are not allowed to hire skilled workers from other companies by offering higher salaries.

 

Company Loyalty

Here too, the perception differs.  In the US, workers are generally always in search of something new or better, and there is very little company loyalty.  In Germany, employees feel a much greater sense of loyalty to their companies and, general, will not leave.  They will look for opportunities within their current company or subsidiaries and the company will work hard to provide those. 

 

Management decisions

While the US is typically a very individualistic society, making quick decisions and reversing them if necessary, Germany, in stark contrast, tends to work like a democracy in their companies. It is important the whole team has a say and the whole team is bought into the decision.  While this can seem appealing, the trade off is time.  Decision making will take much longer with a group of employees when everyone needs to be in agreement. 

Both cultures have their pros and cons and neither is necessarily best.  The US, acting as an impulsive, decisive,  all knowing teenager and Germany as the wise parent, moving slowly with certain purpose.

International HR – UK

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Differences between the UK and US

Much like there are slight difference between states in the US, like the timing of final pay for an involuntary or voluntary termination, ranging from day of termination in California to next scheduled pay period in Georgia, there are greater difference amongst countries around the world. Many of these differences relate to working hours and leave.

 

Overtime

In the UK, for instance, employees cannot be required to work more than 48 hours in a work week, while in the US, there are companies that require, legally, far in excess of this amount, especially during peak seasonal times.

 

Vacation Pay

While most workers in the US get 10 paid vacation days per year, their lucky UK counterparts are enjoying more than twice that at 28 days. And, if you are in the UK, you are going on “holiday”, not on “vacation.”

 

Maternity Leave

In the UK you can take a year off for maternity leave without losing your employee rights. No matter how long you’ve worked for a company. Just let the company know 15 weeks before the due date. The official UK maternity leave policy – known as Statutory Maternity Leave (SMP) – means that employees will still earn money for up to 39 weeks. During the first 6 weeks they receive 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax.

Then for the next 33 weeks either £136.78 pounds sterling (about $225 US  per week) or 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax depending which is lower. Their employee rights, including holiday entitlements and pay raises, are safeguarded during the time they take off. Compare that to the 6-8 weeks that most US employees take and only receive 66% of their normal wages IF they have SDI.

 

 

Time management

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There have been copious articles written about time management and everyone no doubt has their favorite strategies. The below are a few that I have found to be helpful in the workplace and in life in general.

 

Know yourself

Part of being a good time manager is knowing what behaviors prevent you from managing your time effectively. The link below gives you a quick summary spreadsheet for determining what your behavior is to day and what your behavior should be in the future to maximize your time. It is helpful to know when your energy is at its peak- is that early morning, late night or somewhere in between. This will help you to plan critical activities for when your energy level is the highest.

 

Multi-task

I know this is contrary to many time management theories out there, but wherever possible, multi-task, especially when something does not require your full attention. When you give up the idea of doing only one thing at a time and look for ways to do two, you can get a whole lot more done. Some quick examples: If you’re on the West coast, schedule East Coast calls on your drive into work. Owe the Far East a call back, pop in your earbuds and make the call while you’re making dinner. 6:00pm pst is around 8:00am there.

 

Touch each e-mail or piece of paper once

This one is big. We all have a tendency to want to “think about” it for a bit and then answer which is likely the answer you would have given in the first place. Force yourself, unless there is truly research that is needed, to answer right away.

 

Start the night before

A big time saver is to lay out your next day the night before. This allows you to hit the ground running in the morning and not have to stop and get organized. Know what you need to accomplish that day, in terms of key deliverables and follow up items.

Get your follow up items out early so that it allows people time to work on them during the day.

 

Take a break

While this may sound counterintuitive, often times taking a quick 10 minute break will help you to re- focus and complete a task in a shorter amount of time than if you had stayed with it past your ability to really focus.

 

Determine what is urgent and what isn’t

Not every e-mail that comes in must be answered right away. Some of the best time managers only answer their e-mails 1-2 times/day. You would be amazed at how many strings of conversation there are where you are only peripherally involved and if you just let them play out, you can catch the last e-mail and be completely up to speed.

 

Everyone has strategies that work better for them than others. Don’t be afraid to try 20 or 3- and then pick the top 5 that really do save you time and increase efficiency.

Employee Testing

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Almost all organizations engage in employee testing of one type or another.  What many organizations don’t understand is almost all of them open you up to some type of potential liability should you be challenged.  Selected and administered well they can be valuable tools in your candidate assessment process, but handled poorly they can cause you a whole host of problems.

Pre-Employment Physicals

Few can argue that Pre-employment physicals or drug screens are a bad idea.  Even with many states, including California, legalizing marijuana, you may still preclude its use while at work, the same way you can insist that your employees not come to work drunk or impaired by the use of prescription drugs.  Just because a substance is legal, does not mean it is OK be under the influence while at work.  Give prospective candidates notice that you will require them to take a pre-employment physical.  Many will simply choose not to apply.

Background Screening

Background screening is another “test” that few will argue with other than those who feel they have some antiquated right to privacy.  Background checks will check driving records, misdemeanor and felony convictions.  How you use this information gets a little trickier.  While you can turn down a candidate who will be driving a company vehicle if they have DUI convictions because you can show a direct correlation between the offense and the job requirement, what about the person who is a 2 time convicted child offender and you have offered him/her a position within an development department?  Can you show a relationship between the offense and the job requirement?

Skills testing

Skills testing can fall into multiple categories.  There are on the job skills tests that are easy to validate.  If the job requires someone to install HVAC systems and you ask them to install an HVAC system, the relationship and applicability are clear.  This type of testing can also include basic grammar and math skills.  The reasoning is that those that can construct a basic sentence with proper grammar and understand basic math are going to be better at their jobs whether they are being hired as an AP Specialist or a Customer Service rep.  These relationships to job proficiency are fairly easy to understand, but be prepared to defend your decision, even with validated tests.

Aptitude Tests

Aptitude tests are a gray area and only a handful of companies are using them.  Their theory is that if they hire only those that score exceptionally well on the aptitude tests that they will be able to train them faster, they will catch on more quickly, they will be more creative in terms of finding efficiencies within their jobs.  If you use Aptitude testing, be sure it is only one aspect of your hiring decisions.  It would be easy to come under fire for adverse impact if you established a cut off whereby you would not accept applicants.

Personality Tests

Quite a few companies use personality tests and there are many different versions, Myers-Briggs, DISC, Predictive Index. Personality tests can be helpful especially when you choose one like Predictive Index where you can create the profile for the job and then compare the profiles of the candidates to the job profile.  These can be especially helpful when you have a team of people to hire.   You want variety on your team, but complimentary personalities.  There is no right or waring, pass of fail with a personality test.  Each personality has its own pros and cons.

Define your testing strategy up front and ensure that you understand what you are hoping to accomplish with each one and how you will use the results.

Compensation systems

The last component of an effective HRIS is a Compensation system.  A sophisticated compensation system will save you hours of number crunching using excel spreadsheets.  Many of these systems are sold as a component of Performance Management systems, but there are a few stand alone ones as well.  It is always best to integrate where possible because you save yourself the time and effort involved in paying someone to write the integration software for you and the headaches that come with integrating two systems that were not designed to work together.

The capabilities you want to look for in your Compensation Systems are:

Integration

Ensure that your performance management system and your compensation system are fully integrated so that all the performance scores from the manager’s appraisal,  employees’ self-appraisals and any 360 reviews you have, flow over to your compensation system.  This will make is significantly easier for your managers to be able to rank employees and doll out the appropriate performance based merit increases.

Pro-ration

You want to ensure that your system has the ability to handle pro-rations, preferably down to the day, so that employees who start on September 1st are not eligible to receive the same increase as employees who started January 1st.  If you have implemented an annual bonus program, ensure that the pro-ration will apply here as well.  Also ask if it will handle lump sum increases if someone is at the range max.

Edit Capability

One of the most frustrating aspects of a poorly designed compensation system is when it does not allow for edit capability all the way up the line.  If the spreadsheet gets to your VP’s and they have to send it all the way back to the supervisors to make changes, you will lengthen your process considerably.  You should be able to pick and choose who you want to give edit capability to for each spreadsheet.

Co-planners

Invariably someone will pick an inconvenient time to terminate and you will be left with a situation where you need to assign another person to actually complete the merit increases for their group.  Your system should allow you to select a co-planner or, even better, to switch managers once the process has already launched. 

Custom Reporting

Your system should come equipped with an easy to use and easy to understand reporting functionality.  Nothing is as frustrating as having a new system and then having to dump everything in excel in order to actually manipulate the data.  Spend some time up front fully understand the reporting capability and figuring out whether it will truly provide you with the info you need to report on.

Multiple types of Compensation

Your system should handle base salary increases, short term incentives and long term incentives like Equity awards or RSU’s.  A system that cannot adequately handle long term equity incentives will give you a lopsided view of your employees’ compensation and how that compares to market

As with the other components of the HRIS that we have talked about, putting twice as much time in up front as you expected will yield the best results in the end. 

Delivering an Effective Performance Appraisal

Sherrie Suski performance appraisalsSo, what you may have thought was the hard part of a Performance Appraisal and Merit Increase process is behind you.  You have written the appraisal for each of your employees and thoroughly thought about and distributed the merit increase amounts and any warranted market adjustments and promotions.  As much as you may want to just ignore this next step or to send your subordinate an appraisal by e-mail, resist that urge.  This is actually the MOST important part of the process. Below are some guidelines to help you deliver the most effective performance appraisals:

  • DO include examples and specific information under each assessment category
    • This will make it easier to stay on track and discuss all the pertinent points
  • DON’T use the canned verbiage- even if it is easy
    • It won’t effectively deliver your points and your subordinates will know that you did not take the time necessary to really think about them and their accomplishments
  • DO take the time necessary to do a thoughtful job on each appraisal
  • DO review each subordinates’ accomplishments
    • not just those that have occurred in the last quarter, but throughout the year.
  • Don’t rate everyone a 5 or even a 3 ( on a 1-5 rating scale).
    • It’s always easier to deliver good news than bad, but take your responsibility as a manager seriously and rate your employees realistically.
    • If you do need to rate someone a 1 or a 2- have specific examples ready to point to as the reason why you feel they are not performing adequately.
  • DO provide a copy to your subordinate and let them review it prior to meeting to discuss
    • This allows them time to digest and process your comments
  • DO leave time for questions and open discussion.
  • DO schedule uninterrupted time, usually an hour, for the discussion with your subordinate.
  • DO provide a summary at the end of the review that pulls all of the components together
  • Do talk about growth opportunities for next year and what you would like your subordinate to achieve, as well as goals they may have for themselves.

Done correctly, the performance appraisal discussion can open the door for better year round communication between you and your team!

 

Staying Productive While Working From Home

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Work-from-home days can be something to look forward to without all the distractions in the office. However, for some people, maintaining the same level of productivity that you would have in the office can prove to be a challenge.

The reality is that our brains are generally hardwired to think of our homes as places of rest and relaxation, so it can be hard to focus and be truly productive. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make your days working from home fully productive, fantastic work days. There a few tricks that you can use to make sure that you’re working at your fullest capacity at home:

Make a “Work” Space

This is especially true if you’re working a remote position. One of the most important parts of getting into work mode, is to make it feel like a place of work. If you have the space to do so, set up a desk or table to operate as your at- home office. Creating a separate space for work will help you to remove yourself from the “relaxation” feel of your home. Whatever you do, try not to work from your bed. Not only will you be tempted to sleep, but you will also be bringing work stresses into your resting space. No good will come from that.

Get into a “Work” Routine

Just because you’re home, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat your day like any other workday. Wake up early (instead of rolling over and turning on your computer at 9am). Take a shower, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and most importantly get out of your pajamas. Staying in your lounge clothes will keep you in the sleepy, restful headspace all day long.

Consider Leaving the House

This may feel counterintuitive to the entire concept of “working from home”, but finding a different space to work could be hugely beneficial, especially if you don’t have the space to create a work station in your home.  Consider setting up shop in a cafe or coffee shop that has wifi. Surrounding yourself with other people who are working will push you to keep yourself on task, and it was found that

“A moderate level of noise not only enhances creative problem-solving but also leads to a greater adoption of innovative products in certain settings.” (source)

Communicate!

Staying in contact with your coworkers when you are out of the office is important. Make sure that you make the effort to touch base with the people that you work with a few times during the day. Every company has a different preferred mode of communication (Slack. Gchat, Skype, email, etc), and you should try to use multiple communication styles throughout the day. Not only will it keep you engaged with your coworkers, and keep you updated on the events of the day, it will also reassure everyone that you are readily available, even when you’re not in the office.

 

For more tips, check out these great resources on working from home: LifeHack.org, Forbes,  Inc.com