HR Intel: The Great HR “Reset”

The control alt delete buttons from a keyboardYou may have noticed things are a bit… different around the office in HR these days, but it’s hard to put your finger on it, right? So let me give it a shot.

I’ve had some time off myself with the arrival of a beautiful baby girl into my life and generous paternity leave, so getting back into the swing of things has only heightened my awareness of this phenomenon. The tone in the HR community is all at once a mixture of bewilderment, panic, anticipation and hope. The energy on Twitter is frenetic, mostly in response to what feels like almost a daily disruption of what we previously considered to be “normal.”

It’s both unnerving and exciting. And while it happens, a long winter is finally ending, meaning our colleagues are starting to come out of their seasonal affective disorder hibernation.

Or maybe it was just me?

Simultaneous panic at the sea change in the regulatory environment and hope that loosening restrictions means booming business is the ultimate cognitive dissonance, but that’s where true leaders shine. It means having a healthy understanding of the risks up ahead, but also knowing how best to position yourself, your people and your company to succeed regardless.

All of this makes it the perfect time to reinvent or revolutionize something – your HR position, your HR department, or even something “small” like your handbook. Hey if we’re going to use “disrupt” as a positive thing, then we can also disrupt or reset HR in small ways to make it more efficient, responsive and adaptable to this new normal. Take the time to think about what would be the best way to give your company an “HR reset” and what you would need to accomplish it. Then, make the business case and you’re off to the races.

The key is evolution, which is something HR has always achieved. But ask any mother how painful evolution is and she’ll tell you. Ask any martial arts trainer how much it hurts to learn and they’ll tell you as well. “No pain no gain,” remember? Ask any teacher how difficult it is to get the students to engage and they’ll tell you too.

So don’t be discouraged if you get negative feedback when you try new things. Most people won’t go willingly into a disruption, even if it’s in their own best interests. Just make sure you incorporate useful feedback into your future endeavors.

Bottom line, if you’re in HR, you have a huge part of controlling what that “new normal” feels like for your company, either in the form of performance evaluations, changes in organizational structure or philosophy, training needs analysis and policy development. Make use of those opportunities to the best of your ability, and success is bound to follow.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

According to the US Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), the cap for 2018 H1-B visas has been met. This is hyper-relevant today, of course, amidst tightening immigration enforcement and rising standards for entry into the US.

Tech companies in particular rely on the H1-B visa program to staff vital positions within their companies, and immigrants are a huge source of knowledge, expertise and entrepreneurial spirit. On the other hand, some industry analysts have accused tech companies of violating the spirit of the H1-B visa program by hiring foreign nationals for jobs they could have filled with American applicants, or by paying H1-B visa recipients in excess of the prevailing wage. Google and Apple in particular have been accused of exceeding the prevailing wage by 10-20%, which is viewed as rubbing salt in the wounds of American applicants passed over for those roles.

The retail brick and mortar bloodbath continues with Payless, because America is “over-stored” with shoes (quickly checks closet). Yes, I can confirm, I own way too many shoes, and I don’t wear at least 80% of them. Given our collective abundant supply of footwear, Payless is closing 400 stores in the US and Puerto Rico after revenue fell 4% from October 2015 to October 2016.

Culture Club

Don’t feel too bad for Uber. Yes, the company did lose $3 billion in 2016 despite rising revenue. Yes, it is losing members of the C-suite almost on a weekly basis. Yes, it seems there is quite a bit of negative sentiment around Uber right now. But let’s not forget – Uber absolutely dominates a market where there is a growing demand for a service. It can provide the service cheaper than its rivals (for the most part) and it has (so far) shielded itself from the myriad legal and public relations issues with what can only be a force field worthy of the Death Star.

If it can survive this tumultuous time, the sky is quite literally the limit for where it can go. So it’s a very interesting HR experiment to watch unfold. How do you fix both a poisonous culture and immense compliance challenges simultaneously? Having a billion dollar product and unlimited (for now) investor cash probably doesn’t hurt.

Speaking of disruptions, have you ever considered that the Internet of Things (IoT) would include you? That’s right, the founder of Biohax says the next evolution of the IoT is bringing humans into the mix by implanting them with sub-dermal computer chips. These chips would then interact with Near Field Communication (NFC) devices to open doors, facilitate payments, log in to devices and wait… what? Sub-dermal!?!?

To be fair, we’ve been microchipping animals for decades so maybe it’s our turn.

The author of a book called “The Complacent Class” argues that Americans have become so lazy to the point that their sloth (the sin, not the animal) is now harming the economy. Tyler Cowen, an economist and author of the book says, “Innovation is painful,” so we’re in agreement there. However, he takes it a step further by arguing that the pain prevents people from even trying and that technology coddles us too much. He’s probably right about the technology part, but to go so far as to declare everyone “lazy” strikes me as a marketing tactic more so than an argument to be taken seriously. I guess I have to read the book now? Eh, not sure if I’ll get around to it…

Only YOU Can Prevent Workplace Accidents

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced the launch of its annual “Stand-Down” campaign to reduce the number of slips and falls in the construction industry. Slips and falls are the leading cause of death for the industry and impose a tremendous burden on both employers and the workers’ compensation insurance systems around the country. The timing of the program is deliberately set to coincide with the beginning of new construction projects, which are common around the country as the thawing snow reveals areas for improvement.

The Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (OSHRC) is the appeals court, essentially, for OSHA penalties and violations. Normally, the commission would have three sitting members, but currently it only has two – Cynthia Attwood and Heather MacDougall.

Trouble is, MacDougall’s appointment expires at the end of April and the commission needs at least two members to hear appeals. Thus, the commission could stop hearing appeals soon, though Attwood could continue to grant review of cases, which would put the penalty and remediation process on hold and create an immense backlog of unheard appeals. And while this would enable employers to indefinitely avoid fixing hazards, doing so would obviously be bad for safety.

How is this song related to HR?

In the last edition of HR Intel (that I wrote) back in February, we asked you how “First Straw” by 311 is relevant to HR. And I bet you’ve been on the edge of your seat this entire time while I was gone to find out the answer. This song is really about de-escalation. It argues that you should move your focus away from having a “last straw” with people as that is the impetus for conflict, but instead focus on your “first straw” (which I loosely interpret to mean first impression) to build or strengthen healthy relationships. If there have been missteps in the past, then remember not to get to your “last straw” with that person. Instead, perhaps invite them to “reset” the relationship and work collaboratively toward fixing it.

We leave you with “Pyro” by Kings of Leon.

Tell us how you think this song is related to HR in the comments section below.


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