Monday, August 30, 2010

This Week's Local Events

If you live in Central Pennsylvania, there are a few events going on this week that may be of interest to you:

On August 31, WITF's Radio Smart Talk will be having a panel discussion at 9:05am on the pros and cons of PA's Sick Leave Bill.  Guests will include Representative Marc J. Gergely, 35th Legislative District Allegheny County and Gene Barr, President of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

Also on August 31 is PA CareerLink Cumberland County's job fair from 8am-12pm in Carlisle.

WITF is also hosting a job fair on September 2 from 11am-1pm and 4pm-6pm for Multi-Media Account Executives.  Location and directions are available here.

Sometimes, It's Ok to Say No

A friend of mine called the other night, very upset.  She had received a call for an interview in her chosen field, and was very excited - until she learned that the salary was just abysmal (trust me, it was.  We're talking below poverty level.)  And though this was a full-time position, there would also be no health insurance offered.

She asked me whether she should take the interview anyway.  After all, some income was better than no income - wasn't it?  And being employed at all was better than continued unemployment - wasn't it?

My friend ended up (graciously) canceling the interview and is still looking for work.  But it was her agonizing over this decision that got me thinking.  With so many pressures upon us as job seekers, are we forgetting our overall worth as professionals?  Have we, in our desperation for a job - any job - lost sight of our real "value" to an employer?  Should we settle for, what was certainly in this case, far, far less than we are worth?  

I told my friend that regardless of the decision she made, the bottom line was that she is a professional with years of experience, an ironclad work ethic, and deserved to be compensated accordingly.  Well, perhaps a little less, due to the economy, but within a reasonable range of compensation.  Anything less than that is just not acceptable.

What do you think?
Poor Toby.  The Office's ineffectual HR rep makes a half-hearted attempt to review the company's sexual harassment policy with staff - with (naturally) no support from Michael Scott:

Friday, August 27, 2010

Challenging Ourselves as HR Professionals

Tony Schwartz of the Harvard Business Review wrote a great article about "being excellent at anything," be it a sport, a hobby, or professional expertise.  It's especially relevant to HR administrators in its urging of readers to "push past their comfort zones" and "practice [what you love] intensely."  Check it out!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hopelessly Devoted to...FMLA?

Thanks to Jonathan Krass for referring me to FMLA Insights, a blog dedicated exclusively to FMLA administration.  Included: webinars, podcasts, FAQ's and archives on a host of topics such as certification, leave abuse and reinstatement.  It even answers specific questions from readers regarding various situations involving FMLA (some of these will surprise you!)  It's the holy grail for the frazzled leave administrator. Definitely worth checking out!

Healthy Families and Paid Sick Leave

An editorial in the Philadelphia Inquirer makes its case for small businesses (and larger businesses who don't currently offer it) to offer paid sick leave.  

An outline of the Healthy Family Act's provisions is available here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You Can Be A Professional And Still Have A Facebook Page

Another employee has, as CBS News terms it, "failed Facebook 101."

A Massachusetts teacher was recently asked to resign after postings on her Facebook page, in which she called students "germ bags" and lamented the town she worked in as being "arrogant and snobby" - became known to administrators.

This, of course, isn't the first time a teacher has lost his or her job because of Facebook postings.  In 2009, a Georgia school teacher was asked to resign after her postings, one of which included the teacher with a drink in her hand, were brought to her employer's attention by a parent.  In 2008, a teacher in North Carolina came under fire regarding her comments made on Facebook regarding her employer, "the most ghetto school in Charlotte."  And a Wisconsin middle school teacher was placed on administrative leave after a photograph on her Facebook page, featuring the teacher aiming a gun at the camera, was discovered.

I prefer to keep my personal Facebook page as "bare bones" as possible.  However, I firmly believe that you can be a professional anything - teacher, attorney, police officer - and still have a Facebook page filled with personal musings and photos.  To do this, though, it is vital that you follow certain rules:

Check your privacy settings.  Often.  There is no excuse for "not knowing" the particulars of Facebook's privacy settings.  Get to know them.  And then check them often, because Facebook's privacy policies do change frequently.

Be picky about your "friends."  You should only "friend" relatives and people who actually are your friends - not merely acquaintances.  Do not "friend" your coworkers, students, parents of students, clients or vendors.  And do not "friend" your supervisor.  It seems like a no-brainer, but it happens often.  If this rule results in your playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon every time you receive a friend request, so be it.  It's the price you pay for having a personal Facebook page in the first place.

Never be too specific.  Don't list your employer, and never refer to your coworkers, students, or supervisor by name.

Just say "no" to tagging.  If a friend "tags" you in a photo of the two of you, un-tag yourself from the photo.  Even if your settings are private, your friend's setting might not be, and it could still be possible for others to view that picture of you holding a margarita while on vacation.

For the ultimate peace of mind, it's better to simply not post anything personal on your page.  If that isn't feasible, then following these rules could mean the difference between amusing posts and public embarrassment.  And you could lose your job.  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thanks To My Fellow HR Bloggers

A big shout-out to Lori Dorn of HRLori, Michael J. Long of The Red Recruiter and Jay Shepherd of Shepherd Law Group and Gruntled Employees for adding me to their blogrolls (or is it blogsroll?  Who knows.)  I always look forward to your posts and appreciate the support!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wearing The Wrong Hat Can Get You Fired...

...If you're a Florida Gators fan, that is.

Radio personality Renee Gork was allegedly fired after wearing a Florida Gators cap to an Arkansas Razorbacks press conference.  Gork, a Florida alumnus, announced her termination via Twitter.  Her former employer, Hogs Sports Radio, confirmed Gork's termination but declined to comment further - except to state that the radio station is "very biased" in supporting the Razorbacks "100 percent."

Do Your Background Checks Stand Up to Scrutiny?

Hiring managers, take note: as part of the overall scrutiny of hiring practices, credit and criminal background checks are being closely examined - and in some states, laws are changing to protect against the discrimination of job applicants based upon poor credit history or a criminal record.

Illinois just passed the Employee Credit Privacy Act, which (with exceptions) will prevent employers from using an applicant's credit history or credit reports in its employment decisions.  And on August 6, Massachusetts passed Senate Bill 2583, an anti-crime bill that includes (with exceptions) the prohibition of employers from  requesting criminal record information on initial application forms.

Monday, August 16, 2010

From One Blogger to Another

A big thank-you to Lisa Rosendahl for adding me to her list of "Great Reads."  As a newbie to the HR blogging community, it's exciting to be a member of the group!

Check out Lisa's awesome blog here.

Casting Your Applicant Net a Little Wider

I've read several job advertisements lately that seem to be limiting their usefulness in attracting a variety of applicants - and in some cases, could contain potentially discriminatory guidelines.  A few "stipulations" that should be reconsidered:

Requiring applicants to respond only by email/postal mail.  Unless there is a legitimate business need for requiring respondents to use one or the other - why not utilize both?  The argument can be made that requiring applicants to submit resumes "online only" tends to screen out minorities.  Instead, make more than one form of contact available to job seekers.

Requiring applicants to submit references with a resume.  I can understand the desire to speed up the recruiting process, but requesting references before an interview just doesn't make sense.  Performing reference checks can be time-consuming, but it's necessary.  Most applicants aren't accompanied by "ready-made" written references, anyway!

Requiring applicants to own a car.  I noticed this job "requirement" in three separate advertisements.  Unless this is a bona fide occupational qualification, avoid this phrase like the plague.  As long as a candidate can work the desired schedule, don't ask how he/she will get to work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Edible HR Has a New Logo!

I'm very excited to debut the blog's new logo, thanks to Rocky Woodling!  It looks fantastic.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The "Beautiful" People: Kicking Job Seekers When They're Down

Newsweek Magazine has released the results of a survey in which 202 hiring managers and 964 members of the public were questioned about the role beauty plays in the workplace, including hiring practices, promotions and perceived job performance.  Not surprisingly, the results were clear: looks matter.

I'm not going to dispute the validity of the survey's findings.  I am, however, going to chastise the magazine for publishing its results in the midst of the worst recession our country has seen.  Unemployment is at 9.5 percent.  The job market is flooded with applicants.  In what way, exactly, are these survey results helpful to job seekers?  What message should be gleaned from this information?  That whatever available funds applicants have should be spent on better clothes?  More expensive haircuts?  Makeovers at their local Sephora?

As if realizing how callous and superficial these findings might appear to readers, the article ends with the condescending platitude that - although attractiveness is very important - don't despair!  Experience is still kinda important.  Keep your average-looking head up, and you, too, might find a job!

Shame on you, Newsweek, for telling us something most of us already knew, at a time when we least needed to hear it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Creative Ways to Resign: Part I

JetBlue Airways flight attendant Steven Slater is being hailed as a "working class hero" for his creative exit from a plane on Tuesday, following a verbal altercation with a passenger.  A poll on revealed that 78% of respondents agree with Slater's actions; a Facebook page in his honor has garnered over 13,000 followers.  Slater also earned special mention on the late-night talk show circuit:

But Then I Can't Use "Doctor's Appointment" As An Excuse to Miss Work

A recent article in Time Magazine suggests that when it comes to managing your healthcare, email may be the way to go.  The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is funding pilot projects in which patients and their primary-care providers communicate via email to discuss various ailments, symptoms and methods of treatment.

In theory, this sounds like a great idea, if a patient has relatively minor health issue, or a quick question about an existing condition.  I don't think this model can beat a good old-fashioned in-person visit, however.  Some maladies just need to be examined - in person -  in order to be properly diagnosed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

When an Employee is Investigated for One Reason, Fired for Another

It's particularly embarrassing when that employee is your company's CEO.

I'm not sure which aspect of this story is most troubling: that Mark Hurd, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., was accused of sexual harassment; that he was accused of sexual harassment of an HP marketing contractor; or that he was accused of sexual harassment of an HP marketing contractor who was also, incidentally, paid for business services she supposedly never provided.

In this case, Hurd was investigated for a claim of sexual harassment (by the former HP contractor), but forced to resign for violating the corporation's code of business conduct by allegedly falsifying expense and financial reports to the tune of about $20,000.

As for the "marketing contractor," Jodie Fisher, the HP Board of Directors has questioned exactly how Fisher had been compensated for her services, as well as what constituted her "contractor" status.  Was she, in fact, an employee?  A per diem worker?  What was her rate of pay?

As details of the investigation are revealed, it becomes apparent that HP made a very wise decision in letting Hurd go.

A Little Light Reading....

Two great articles worth checking out: "How to Get a Job After a Year (or More) Out of Work," by Liz Wolgemuth; and "5 Ways Employers Could Improve The Hiring Process," by Alison Green (who also writes the fantastic blog Ask A Manager.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Let's Leave That Part Out

It never fails to irk me when I read typos in employment ads.  But last week I read a job posting that really turned me off: after a brief listing of the position's responsibilities and qualifications, the ad emphatically stated "DO NOT apply to this job if you don't meet the qualifications!"

I can sympathize with having to wade through resumes that highlight work experience that in no way pertains to the job you're recruiting for.  But feelings of frustration, however legitimate they may be, shouldn't be included in an employment ad.  It's not professional, and besides - it won't dissuade job seekers from sending in their resumes, anyway - regardless or whether or not they possess the skills you seek.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Prepping For A Performance Evaluation

Should you prepare for a performance evaluation?  Absolutely.  Should you follow Dwight's lead?  That's up to you....

It's Not Up For Debate: Send That Cover Letter

With the jobless rate at 9.5 percent, it's no surprise that application practices are being looked at more closely.  There is no shortage of books and articles about how to ace interviews or how to spruce up your resume.  In the midst of this recession, I find myself second-guessing my actions at times (should I mail or email that thank-you letter?)   But some practices aren't open for debate - and mailing a cover letter with your resume is one of them.

Besides serving as a useful tool when applying for jobs for which you might be under- or over-qualified, cover letters present a more "polished" look to an applicant's overall candidacy.  Cover letters signal effort.  They imply interest.  Even if you're on a desperate search for a job - any job - and subsequently must fake effort and interest - send that cover letter anyway!

Post-Interview Thank-You Notes: Email or Snail Mail?

I emailed a thank-you letter to an interviewer the other day.  It's only the second time in my career that I've done this.  Generally, I think that thank-you letters look more professional on paper.  It's too easy to click "send," and maybe that's my point - that subsequently, not as much effort is put into the letter itself.  Or maybe it's the potential for appearing as though not as much effort is put into an emailed thank-you.  It's like sending evite invitations to a wedding - a little too casual for the occasion.

I will concede that emailed thank-yous reach an interviewer much faster.  So if you decide to go this route, be sure that your email is formatted to look like a formal letter: include the date, title of the interviewer, and the company's name and address.  It's a seemingly small detail, but it looks more professional.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Could This Have Been Avoided?

You are diligent about performing background investigations and reference checks.  Your company has a zero-tolerance anti-harassment policy.  You treat terminated employees with professionalism and dignity.  Is that enough to prevent workplace violence?

I feel terrible about the incident that occurred on August 3rd in Manchester, Connecticut.  An employee asked to resign after a meeting with company officials and union representatives (in which the employee was shown to be stealing company property via video surveillance) pulled out a gun and started shooting - killing eight employees (including the two union reps) before turning the gun on himself.

I remember an incident years ago, in a company where I worked.  After advising an applicant that she was not being considered for an open position, a colleague was walking to her car when she was confronted by the applicant and her irate spouse, who had been parked in the company's parking lot.  Thankfully, she was able to calm the couple down and report the incident to the company's security division (who should have reported the incident to the police!)  No violence occurred.  But it raises an important question: how safe are HR professionals in the workplace, really?

The shooter, having been presented with the option of resignation or termination, opted to resign.  It was while he was being escorted out of the building that he reached into his lunch bag, pulled out a gun and started shooting.  Should officials have secured his person before the start of the meeting?  Does anyone ever think to do that, anyway?  I never have.

As a side note: according to the shooter's girlfriend, the employee had complained of being racially harassed at work, and supposedly even took photos of the evidence: a racial epithet and a noose drawn on a bathroom wall. However, he failed to file a complaint with the union.  Did any other employees see this?  And if they did - was it reported to HR?  Would this have had any impact on later events?

No criminal record; no prior disciplinary issues.  With even the best practices in place, it might not possible to be completely safe from this type of incident.

Thanks for the Props!

A big thank-you and shout out to Laurie Reuttimann of Punk Rock HR for adding me to her blogroll.  Recognition is always nice.  :-)

However, I'm sad to report that as of August 26th, she will no longer be managing her highly informative and generally awesome blog.  Best of luck to Laurie as she starts her new business and (hopefully soon) relaunches her personal blog!  

Performance Evaluations Gone Bad

Having participated in similar performance evaluations between supervisors and staff, I can say that sadly, a few of them have gone this way:

Monday, August 2, 2010

What Is Your Resignation Policy?

LegalWorkplace published a great article about handling the complications that accompany some employees' resignations - definitely worth a glance!