Thought Leadership Blog

The HRS Thought Leadership Blog delivers validated findings, visionary perspectives and op/ed commentaries related to HR, Leadership, Organizational Development and Employment Law. To enjoy the full volume of available articles, please enter topic keywords in the search box to explore our body of work. Articles are regularly presented by the HRS team and guest experts.


The 7+ Disciplines of HR and How to Address Them All at Once

Employment Law, Organizational Development, C-Suite Planning, Talent Management, Engagement, Documentation and Compensation are the 7 minimum HR disciplines requiring dedicated focus in any single unique organization. Larger or more talent-centric employers will require additional disciplines of focus. The keys to success in each of these 7 critical disciplines can be quite distinctive, meaning a high-function team approach will likely produce best HR outcomes. While generalists should either be “big picture” oriented or adept at the most routine of company HR functions, the talent pool has simply not yet produced enough great generalists to go around. If you find one, hold on tightly and deliver resources. Today’s most savvy employers are partnering internal and external professionals to best address holistic organizational opportunities. Smaller employers enjoy cost control via flexible access to full-time caliber steady talent. All employers, including major market size, enjoy the benefits of third-party offerings.


The following drill-down sets forth today’s best practices in addressing the 7 disciplines independently and simultaneously.


Data-Driven Metrics are Critical, Yet Only as Valuable as the Applied Judgment

Collecting data for the sake of data is a widespread faux pas at this time. Data needs to support a reasonable hypothesis and promise end game of benefit surpassing cost of data. HR has earned its seat in the boardroom by producing undeniable results on the Income Statements and Balance Sheets, yet please avoid the assumption that all HR professionals grasp fiscal responsibility and know-how. Dubbed “The Pioneers of HR” in a 2015 Fortune Magazine spread, HRS knows exactly how thin the landscape was in prior decades, and we promise that more are boasting accolade than actually proven. While it’s possible to find a statistic to support any thesis you choose, be certain the statistic is valid and supports a meaningful takeaway for optimum outcome. Statistics can be developed internally or externally at the start, but should be benchmarked internally upon program commencement.


Keep a Professed Legal Expert in the Mix

A dedicated employment law consultant, a juris doctor and/or an attorney need to be on call and in visibility of policies and practice. HR should not be practiced without a keen eye on compliance. An employment law consultant should deliver an unfaltering knowledge of statutory and case law, plus holistic business acumen. An attorney should be your litigation representative and “go to” for filtered legal advice. Great HR firms, such as HRS, will balance the two for your greatest benefit. On the other end of the spectrum, inadequate compliance professionals are emerging everywhere, so vet your legal experts carefully. Non-profit associations and Payroll/HRIS vendors are unlikely to deliver due diligence here, have been caught delivering bad information, and will not typically suffice for court recognition of “reasonable care.” Cost-benefit analysis needs careful proactive thinking. A few items requiring legal savvy include handbook policies, ERISA Section 510, HIPAA, anti-harassment, trade secrets, ACA, FLSA, social media, independent contractors and joint-employer relationships, at a minimum.


Rethink the “Ivory Tower”

With Department of Labor (DOL) proposed overtime changes still embattled until late 2016, a major hike in minimum salary threshold may create unlawful “ivory tower” practices where they previously didn’t exist. Meanwhile, some key execs are already receiving above and beyond benefits creating ERISA, ACA and state law risks. A redefinition of “highly compensated” employees will also critically affect policy. Be mindful of benefits, payroll handling and policy discrepancies between exempt and non-exempt team members. Be proactive.


Engage Without Coddling

Attracting and engaging the right talent cannot be accomplished without employer branding and a precise amount of ethical bribery, in view of work ethic erosion and real economic demotivators. That being said, some novices out there are “over-coddling” and making a pure mess of things. Let’s not forget Maslow’s Hierarchy, ERG motivation theories and that truly happy workers have no reason to work at any stage other than self-indulging self-actualization. Give your employees a reason, reinforcement and the resources to attain corporate goals.


Keep HR and Accounting Completely Distinctive Functions at Lateral Vision

The keys to success in HR are absolutely neither a subset nor acquired along the accounting career path. These two critical functions each earn a boardroom seat, with critical communication between, and neither gets more leverage. While the HR effort cannot succeed without fiduciary vision and ability to assess proper fiduciary talent, the accounting effort can be tremendously successful with only limited communication from HR. In fact, too much information in the hands of the accounting team yields EEOC and HIPAA penalty risks. CFOs and CHROs are equally important and need independent perspective for 360-degree thinking.


Personality Tests Belong in the 1970’s with Mood Rings

Beaten down as unlawful 40 years ago, personality tests are somehow re-emerging for those who didn’t previously see the lightbulb. Throw in ADA protected mood disorders and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and personality tests tee up some real risk. Hiring without proper assessment poses even greater risk. Behavioral assessment delivers far more lawful, meaningful and reliable findings; keeping it job-related, predictive and risk free. Best options are still Simulation Scenarios and In-Baskets.


Create a Politics-Free Zone

Wherever you sit, divisionary tactics and heated arguments are likely to be found. The workplace is ripe for passionate political arguments that threaten. Other countries already classify politics as protected. Arguing the Bill of Rights from every angle, the U.S. has begun protecting employees against harassment and discrimination due to political affiliation. While the political forum is likely to emerge downright uncivilized for some, an opportunity exists to actually capitalize on the problem by aligning your brand as a safe haven for those who work smart, work hard and respect others. DeBono’s Six Hats of Thinking, after all, requires perspective from all sides.


Train, Train, Train! Talent May be Easier to Develop than Find

As a guest professor serving 6+ top-ranked institutions, I promise that even the best are concerned with proper education for today’s workplace. The employer who delivers appropriate development tools gains the competitive edge and exponential return on investment. Success is contingent upon corporate training in not only operations, but also workplace behaviors, leadership, organizational communications, problem solving and legal compliance. Avoid “canned curriculum” and deploy a topic expert to deliver on-point discussion and applied Q&A. Not only is it nearly impossible to “pick the right employee off a shelf,” but employees meeting life’s basic costs are willing to give up 15% of immediate pay for development opportunity. While cash can still be king and broken promises crush credibility, consider a well-balanced approach as investment into both employee and employer.


Take HIPAA and Anti-Harassment to New Levels

New privacy crackdowns and government fines are being wielded about. Privacy lockdowns are a “bottom-up” approach. Be certain your leaders are trained to refuse all such information except on a “need to know” basis. Knowing the wrong things about your employees can backfire just as much as knowing too little. For lawful compliance, even an HR department may need 5-7 separate files per employee depending upon the structure, and many items should never leave HR’s gatekeeping. Department managers, accountants, IT and company-wide team members need updated HIPAA training and enforced compliance -- pronto. Hand-in-hand with HIPAA, and with interplay between, Anti-Harassment due diligence needs another escalation. With newly protected classes, increased tension and steeper penalties, the courts are busy, and the courts are expensive! 3rd party experts can provide “affirmative defense” certifications not available through internal or video-based training.


Choose Carefully Your Automation Levels and External Partners

A well-implemented HR automation system can exceed 300% ROI through vastly improved efficiencies and turnkey statistical decision tools. While this opportunity cannot be overlooked, some are going too far and reversing the benefit. Before we dehumanize human resources, 1) safeguard ability for audience adaptation and case-by-case judgment, 2) recognize that more keystrokes do not improve efficiency, and 3) lock down intellectual property where law allows. Inasmuch as HRS is recognized by the USPTO for world-deployed HRIS automation invention, we know the boundaries. Don’t let your payroll and HRIS companies sell you the functions at which they fail. And finally, when choosing external partners, look for those who bring track record of success and extraordinary knowledge base, rather than just shiny new things that will become yesterday’s forgotten toys.


Jessica Ollenburg - Thursday, May 12, 2016