Culture Is a Four-Letter Word

Culture Is a Four-Letter Word

Welcome to a guest post from Steven Blue in which he discusses some of the issues facing companies in the gig economy like Uber.

By Steven L. Blue

When I started to write this article I originally titled it “Culture Is Not a Four Letter Word.” It was intended to address the CEO’s who think culture is a squishy, beer for lunch, feel good concept that doesn’t deserve a place at the grown-ups table. I wanted to demonstrate how wrong-thinking that can be and make the case for the power of culture and why it should be at the top of every CEO’s list.

I was prepared to make a compelling case to convince CEO’s that culture is every bit as important as strategic planning. I was ready to cite all kinds of studies and dazzling statistics that prove that positive cultures create positive financial performance.

But now I know I don’t have to thanks to a four-letter word: Uber. Uber’s toxic culture is front and center this week in the news.

According to recent reports, Uber has engaged in everything from sexual harassment to stealing driverless technology from Google. Even some of its own investors claim the company fosters a toxic culture.

There is that four-letter word again. You know, the beer for lunch, don’t bother with culture mind-set. Culture can be a four-letter word if it is ignored. Culture can be a four-letter word if is toxic. And toxic cultures kill more businesses than recessions. And it is liable to kill Uber too.

So what went wrong with Uber? How can a company that claims its values are “making communities safer” and “standing up for its driver community” go so horribly wrong? That is because those are only what I call “bumper sticker” values. Values that look good in an annual report but have no real meaning inside the company. Wells Fargo is a perfect example of this. Two of Wells Fargo’s key values are “ethics” and “what’s right for customers”. And yet they defrauded their customers by creating over 2 million ghost accounts.

There is often a difference between bumper sticker slogans and the real values that lie beneath. Value statements are always warm and fuzzy. But a company’s real values are manifested by how they act, not how they claim they act. And at the end of the day, the culture is nothing more than a collection of values. And values dictate how employees will behave. Such was the case with Wells Fargo. Such is the case with Uber.

If you’re a CEO, don’t wait until an Uber-like disaster strikes before you do a values check-up. But don’t have the human resource people ask employees what the company values are. Don’t declare what you think the values are and expect people to behave accordingly. That never works. Here is what you should and shouldn’t do:

  • Do not make this an exercise for the human resource department. If it is to be taken seriously, it has to come right from the top. People need to know that values matter.
  • Have an outside professional survey company conduct an anonymous survey and ask every single employee in complete confidence what they think the company values are. You may be astounded by the results.
  • If the underlying values are not the same as the bumper sticker, find out why. What is driving the difference? Chances are you’ll find operating managers are the root cause. Or you might be the root cause. As an example, many operating managers don’t give a hoot about anything other than results. Of course results matter. No company can prosper without positive results.  But results without appropriate values are often temporary, or in the case of Wells, only illusory.
  • Reality check time. Does your company have the “right” values? By that I mean values that serve your employees, customers, community, and shareholders equally. Values that form what I call a “culture by design, not default”. If not, it’s time to change them
  • Let’s assume you have the “right” values (you may, but I doubt it). Start at the top and go layer by layer. Those that don’t believe in, won’t abide by, or demonstrate the values have to go. This sounds simple, but it is not easy. But it is essential. If your top managers ignore the values everyone else will. This is a multi-year process that you must undertake carefully and delicately, otherwise the business will crash and burn. Take it one step at a time, one manager at a time. Once you start replacing managers for values reasons, the whole organization will begin to behave differently. People will applaud you for doing so.
  • Don’t let anybody in the front door that doesn’t fit in with your values. Interview potential new employees with values in mind. Don’t just state the values and ask if they agree. Of course they will agree, they want the job. Ask them what their values are. Ask them what values they would admire in a company. If their values don’t match with company values, don’t hire them. No matter how good they are. Otherwise, they will be like an infectious disease on the organization.

Bottom line, make values a key part of performance evaluation. Don’t make this a check off the box exercise. Make values the standard for promotions and compensation increases. And make values a key determinate in terminations. By instilling the right set of values, you’ll save your company from becoming a four-letter word too.

Steven L. Blue is the President & CEO of Miller Ingenuity, an innovative company revolutionizing traditional safety solutions for railway workers, and author of the new book, American Manufacturing 2.0: What Went Wrong and How to Make It Right. For more information, please visit www.SteveBlueCEO.com,www.milleringenuity.com and connect with Blue on Twitter, @SteveBlueCEO.

You’ll Know About it When I Think You Need to Know About It

But how will you know?

No one is that smart.  No one is smart enough to ask all the questions, and no leader is smart enough to know when to give the information you might need to run your business effectively.   I’m on a slightly tangential rant with this post today.

The blog is old slow. I am creaky and cranky. Let’s shake off some rust, shall we?

My god, this blog site is old and slow and make me cringe as I wait for it to get limbered up to post something for the first time in a while.

I read this article from Chris Dessi on Inc. this morning entitled  “7 Things You Say That Make You Sound Old at Work”  and it included a list of things that might help you relate better with the young people in your organization if you didn’t say them.

Here’s is the list from Dessi.  You can go read the full article for the back story on each one, most of which make sense.

1. Please put your phone away.

2. No, you can’t work from home.

3. You’ve got mail!

4. Don’t forget the four P‘s!

5. There’s nothing like an in-person meeting.

6. You’ll get your information on a need-to-know basis.

7. She’s a social media guru.

This list got me thinking about things I had said when I was younger, and how I have actually grown past some of those naive statements.  You’ll recognize them.  They sound like this:

  1. Cell Phones?  That thing is gigantic. Why would you ever want to carry something like that around on your belt?  People could get in touch with any time.  I’d never do that!  (MVD circa 1996)
  1.  This one gets credited anonymously to one of my former supervisors circa 2003, and covers working at home and the need for face to face meetings.

Her: “I don’t care if you have worked from home successfully from home for the past five years.  “We”  (read I, your new boss) believe your customers deserve personal access to you.

Me   only 6% of the clients I serve in my region work at that building.

Her:  “We”  (read I, your new boss) still believe your customers deserve personal access to you.  Oh and by the way, you are going to have to cut back on travel also.

Me:  You mean cut back on personal visits to the other 94% of my customer base?  Don’t they deserve to me in person like the customers in Indianapolis?

Her:  Michael, stop being difficult.

  1. Again with the old boss,

Her: “You’ll get the information you need to know when you need to know it.”

Me  “How will I know if I need to know it if you won’t tell me about it?”

Her: “I’ll know it when the time comes.”

Me:  “but how does that work, like the supreme court decision on porn?”

Her:  “Michael, stop being difficult.”

And so it goes…

ICYMI>>>New Learning Resource for Employee Relations Professionals

New Learning Resource for Employee Relations Prosty-dallas-banner-with-title

CUE just finished up a fantastic conference in Dallas.   We truly appreciate everyone who helped make it a big success.

While I was there, I got to take a look at a brand new and innovative product offering from one of our CUE Consultant Advisory Committee partners.  It’s called the UnionProof Certification Course from Walter Orechwa and his team at Projections.

It’s an on-line learning course that provides a great way to offer training for someone newly assigned to a labor labor and employees position, or to continue to build on the learning for your staff members who have attended the CUE Certification course, which has been attended by more than 150 managers in the past two years.

It’s a comprehensive offering covering all aspects of labor and employee relations  for anyone who needs to get a solid foundation or bone up on new developments. Attendees get 24 hours of SHRM or HRCI credit.   It will have live office hours for attendees every week. In fact, I’m covering several of the courses as part of the support from CUE.

You can get more information here, but today is the last day for the first course.  The next course won’t be offered until spring of 2017.

Keeping Up with the Compliances

CUE Labor and Employee Relations Daily

It’s a lot easier than keeping up with your pesky spendthrift neighbors!CUE daily image

The business community continues to be concerned about many of the NLRB decisions that are being handed down.  It seems like the National Labor Relations Board has been working on a continuous erosion of management rights for the past several years.

If you need to keep with these kind of changes in labor and employee relations, leadership or HR compliance information,  I’ve started a new free daily publication called the CUE Labor and Employee Relations Daily.  It’s a daily newsletter offering content from a variety of news resources and subject matter experts  that I curate and publish at around 11:00 AM daily via a paper.li newsletter.  If you want to sign up, you can click here and drop your email address into the subscription box.

Persuader Rule: The Window is Closing on an Important Date for HR #SHRM16

New blog up over on the CUE blog that contains some very important information about the Department of Labor persuader rule and employer compliance.

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor created a very brief “grandfather” period for persuader agreements entered into BEFORE July 1, 2016.   

If you are interested in joining CUE while this very limited  this window period is open, it’s simple. Just go to the CUE website and fill out our contact formlimited window

For more information on this rule,  you can go to the LRI websitehere or the DOL website here.

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently changed what it considers reportable “persuader” activity under the Labor-Management Relations Act. Any agreements entered on or after July 1, 2016 with attorneys or consultants to provide a number of common services (supervisor training, drafting of employee communications and certain policy materials, providing union avoidance-related planning help, to name just a few) must be reported to DOL, will trigger other, broader labor relations reporting for the attorneys or consultants, and will be publicly disclosed. Although CUE is exempt from many of these reporting requirements as a trade association, we believe it is prudent for CUE and for you to have this document on file.

In June 2016, the DOL clarified how it will handle agreements entered into before July 1, 2016. Andrew Auerbach, the Deputy Director in charge of reporting, stated the DOL’s position that:

“Services and payments made pursuant to a multi-year agreement, even if they occur after July 1, are not required to be reported on the new Form LM-20, so long as the agreement was signed prior to July 1.”

 

I know this reporting requirement may be confusing, especially if you haven’t been following it closely. Please don’t hesitate to contact Michael VanDervort at 1-210-545-3499 if you have any questions or concerns. Whether you join CUE right now or not, I strongly encourage you to contact your own labor counsel for guidance on this matter if you have not already discussed it with them.

 

Day 1.5 at #SHRM16 Randomness and Regulations

 

I’m blogging again this year for SHRM at the National show aka #SHRM16. Once again, I’ve spent the entire event networking, which means I’ve only attended one session so far – a labor law overview by Chad Richter from Jackson Lewis.

Chad had lots of questions from the audience about the new overtime rules, and the new Persuader rules.  I’m not going to rehash all that, but if you would like to know about Persuader rule go over to the CUE blog where I have a bunch of  resources that you might find useful.

I also did a technically challenged live podcast on Drive Thru HR with the some of the SHRM people who run the certification program.  I haven’t listened to it, but it should be hilarious, if not very informative.  We’re going to try to do another show today at 3 PM ET on social security and retirement.

Sabrina Baker and I did a little pop-up session on Social Media Strategies for a Shop of One” which was well attended. It was fun, but I found it disconcerting that so many people are still asking “how can I put social media to work?” in my organization.

Here are a couple of tips we gave during the pop-up:

  •  Sabrina suggested picking one platform and mastering it before you try others.
  • Sabrina suggested making use of the tool mandatory for something, because it forces adoption of the tool.
  • I suggested you need to know what your goal is before you start figuring out what too you should.  Social media programs are neither “one size fits all” or ” if you build it, they will come.”  Recruiting on Twitter or Facebook is one tactic in your strategy.
  • My other big tip was to use aggregation to bring useful information to you.

More on this coming in another post.

I Am Part of the Problem

I Am Part of the Problem: Misogyny in the Workplace

This was shared with me recently. Given …life recently, I thought it was worth sharing with others in the HR community, especially as we head into the week of #SHRM16. – Michael

Several events in the past couple of weeks have led me to turn inward. I’m debating job change with the sub-debate of whether I want to return to HR and Employee Relations. There are things I am very good at within that sphere. I enjoy being a part of creating solutions to damaged work environments and relationships. Two things this week have led me to second-guess my role in the passive advancement of misogyny in the workplace.

A little over a week ago, the victim of a terrifying rape released her victim’s statement to the predator who raped her unconscious body but got a scarily lenient sentence. Shortly thereafter, a terrorist attacked The Pulse, a gay club in Orlando, killing dozens of innocent men and women. While the two are not at all similar, the combination of events made me question the role I have played in investigation and analysis of harassment and unwelcome behavior of any kind in the workplace.

I work in an environment that is primarily male, primarily Christian, and primarily conservative. I have turned away or kept my thoughts to myself when jokes about the LGBT community are voiced, I have held my tongue when their rights are questioned. I have committed the crime of inaction and not speaking when I felt it would be damaging for my esteem or when I was unsure of if my speaking out would be supported. I’ve heard our CEO talk about the micro-aggressions women and minorities in the workplace hear day in and day out – and believe me, I have kept micro- and macro- aggressions based on my gender to myself more than I’d like to admit – but I don’t think he really knows what that feels like or what falls outside his filter. The crime here is passive, one of ignorance and carelessness. We continue to ostracize the LGBT community and all of its members by not being openly welcoming; by not broadcasting an open and protected environment, by not addressing their safety and protection when in the public, and by not recruiting within the community. Of course, our workplace probably isn’t the most open or protective, — and because our state is not protective, there is no financial incentive for us to change. But my voice does not have be silent.

I have also misapplied my voice in another area, and this is one that I see common across HR and legal departments. I cannot tell you the defensive, adrenaline-based glee an HR or legal department will take when a woman files a complaint (either within the “system” or within company-reporting mechanisms) of sex harassment. I cannot tell you the number of mindless emails I have read between said complainant and everyone else in the world to find a reason her complaint would not be valid. Of course, protecting the company is paramount, but what if we’re protecting the wrong thing? What if all of those stacks of performance reviews that show less than rock star performance or the flirtatious emails with another coworker mean absolutely nothing? What if by investigating that way, we create an environment when victims don’t come forward because they don’t want their lives examined piece by piece? Are we really victim blaming when an employee complains? I like to think of several investigations I have done where this was not the case, — where I looked at the situation in isolation and showed the appropriate compassion for the complainant. But, I know I have also fallen prey to the Eureka! moment when I find something unsavory to use against a plaintiff prior to the Company’s response or a deposition.

It hit me like a ton of bricks when I thought of it that way. Men that know this is the approach a company takes feel free to treat women as sexual objects in the workplace, they feel freer to make sexist comments, they feel okay to show the power they have over women. They know the burden of proof is on the complainant, and that everyone knows she doesn’t have a squeaky clean slate (because who does, right?). And so many women will not share what it is really like day to day. I have tried to capture for myself what it is really like to be a woman in the workplace, — but can’t believe the words I’ve written myself. Why is the bright-line test creating doubt about the employee’s record or behavior instead of finding irrefutable proof from the accused? This is a watered-down version of what defense attorneys do with rape survivors, re-victimizing them in public and on-record. I wholeheartedly believe the accused are innocent until proven guilty, — but defendants in public trial have to at least show their whereabouts and records along with the record and whereabouts of the plaintiffs. Why don’t we look at it the same way? Is it because our competitive nature kicks in when a claim is filed, getting our adrenaline running to play defense? Is it because we never liked her anyway? Is it because we’ve put up with a lot worse and never complained? Is it because we second-guess our own worth in the workplace?

I don’t have answers. I do have resolve – to give a voice to those not at the table (or those at the table but afraid), to give compassion to complaints because I know how hard it is to report, and to resist the urge to get amped up for the hunt if one falls onto my desk. Today, I am sad. For the families and community with hurt rippling from a popular club in Orlando. For a hurting rape victim working to rebuild her life with the knowledge that her strong stance has helped so many others. For women worried about reporting inappropriate sexualization of the workplace because they really just need their job. For any part I may have had in allowing these broken parts of our society to find a home in our workplace.

Q&A with #SHRM16 Speaker Chad Richter

Q&A with #SHRM16 Speaker Chad Richter chad richter

The annual SHRM conference starts in just 6 days. I’m blogging for SHRM again this year.  One of the things they asked us to do is to feature one of the speakers from the conference. Here’s my Q&A profile with speaker Chad Richter, who will covering labor and employee relations developments in his presentation.

Q1. Chad, What’s your background and legal specialty? 

I have always represented management with regard to labor and employment law matters.   I have been practicing in the area of management side labor and employment law since May of 2000, almost 16 years . (i.e. 16 years).  My practice is divided into three main areas: (1) preventive counseling and training; (2) traditional labor law; and (3) workplace litigation.

Q2. What topic are you covering at #SHRM16?

The name of the presentation is “Surveying the New Labor Law Landscape:  A Rocky Road Ahead”   The session will provide an overview of the NLRB’s recent activity and how it affects all companies whether union or non-union.   This session will help attendees: (1) gain an overview of labor law trends and how they affect their organization; (2) Understand how the NLRB’s focus on expanding employee Section 7 rights makes many current business practices risky; and (3) learn practical recommendations to bring back to their organization.

Q3. What keeps you (and your clients) up at night?  

The significant labor law changes that have occurred, the changes likely to occur in the coming months, and the impact on my client’s overall business.   American businesses today are struggling to compete, attract a talented workforce and trying to stay ahead of daunting regulations.   Given the increase in federal and state regulations, the challenges are compounded almost daily for employers in all areas of the country.

Q4. What do you see coming on the labor law front in the next 6-12 months that employers need to be preparing for?

I anticipate the NLRB will continue to scrutinize employer policy language that arguably has a chilling impact on employees’ Section 7 rights under the NLRA.   I also anticipate the NLRB to broaden the impact of joint employment and the composition of the bargaining unit with regard to temporary workers.  In preparation for these changes, we recommend employers review their external relationships to minimize risk of joint employment status and review policies and procedures from a traditional labor law perspective more frequently given the Board’s scrutiny of employer policies.

Q5. What;s the one thing you are going to do in Washington DC that isn’t related to #SHRM16?

One of my favorite restaurants is located in DC down the street from the White House.  It’s called Old Ebbitt Grill and I plan to eat dinner there one of the evenings while I’m in DC.

See you in Washington D.C.!

 

Get Everything You Need at #SHRM16

Get Everything You Need at #SHRM16  persuader

I was talking with a friend the other night about what a challenge it is for HR professionals to stay up-to-date on all the changing rules and regulations that the Obama administration is throwing at us in their final days.

We still haven’t completely figured out ACA, and now we get to deal with even more hot steaming bowls of ….agency alphabet soup.   DOL and the OT rule….NLRB and PCA…. OLMS and the LMRDA. What?

Fortunately, SHRM has you and about 15,000 other HR pros covered in Washington D.C. starting June 18th.  It’s not to late to register and get the scoop on sessions like these:

And don’t forget the Persuader rule. This rule will impact every employer in the US, whether or not you have a union. I won’t be presenting this year, but here’s some bonus info on the new DOL Persuader Rule.

Latest Persuader Rule News

The information below is an important update on enforcement of the Persuader Rule. The information comes from one of our Labor Lawyer Advisory Committee (LLAC) members via the US Chamber of Commerce.  All of this information is provided for your general information and understanding  and should not be construed as legal advice.

OLMS Update on Persuader Rule

The first resource is a link to a YouTube video in which the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) presents an overview of the Forms LM-10 and LM-20 persuader reporting requirements, pursuant to the persuader final rule published on March 24, 2016. OLMS held the presentation in the Department’s Frances Perkins Building, Cesar Chavez Auditorium, on Thursday, May 26, 2016 from 2-4 p.m. EDT

Chamber of Commerce Update

The final persuader regulation states, “This final rule is effective on April 25, 2016. The rule will be applicableto arrangements and agreements as well as payments (including reimbursed expenses) made on or afterJuly 1, 2016” (emphasis added).  The “effective” versus “applicable” dates are clearly confusing.  As part of the legal challenge to the rule in the Eastern District of Arkansas, DOL filed the attached status report which clearly states that July 1 is the practical effective date:

While the effective date of the Rule is April 25, 2016, the rule is only applicable to arrangements and agreements made on or after July 1, 2016, and to payments made pursuant to arrangements and agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2016. 81 Fed Reg. 15924. The Rule revises the reporting requirements, and related recordkeeping requirements, for certain agreements and arrangements entered into between employers and labor relations consultants or other independent contractors, and payments made pursuant to those agreements and arrangements. The Department will not apply the Rule to arrangements or agreements entered into prior to July 1, 2016, or payments made pursuant to such arrangements or agreements. Consequently, under the Rule no employer, labor relations consultant, or other independent contractor will have to report or keep records on any activities engaged in prior to July 1 that are not presently subject to reporting, or file the new Forms LM-10 or LM-20 (revised pursuant to the Rule) for any purpose prior to July 1.

What’s the takeaway?

Employers may have a window of about 3 weeks to get agreements in place with labor counsel or consultants that then not be reportable under the new OLMS rule, assuming they are pursuant to an open-ended or multi-year agreements that existed before July 1, 2016.  Again, this should not be interpreted as legal advice, and you should check with competent legal counsel before making any final decisions.