DHS Ends Temporary Policy for Form I-9 Identity Documents

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ended its temporary Form I-9 policy that allows employers to accept List B documents that expired on or after March 1, 2020.

DHS adopted the temporary policy in response to the difficulty of renewing documents during COVID. Since then, document-issuing authorities have reopened or provided alternatives to in-person renewals. Employers must now return to only accepting unexpired List B documents.

Action Item

If an employee presented an expired List B document between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2022, you need to update their Form I-9 by July 31, 2022, as follows:

  • If the employee is still employed, they must present an unexpired document from either List A or List B. If presenting a List B document, it could be a renewed version of the document previously provided, or a different List B document. You should enter the document title, issuing authority, document number, and expiration date in the “Additional Information” field of Section 2, and initial and date the change. USCIS provides an example of how to do this here
  • If the employee is no longer employed, no action is needed.

If the List B document was auto-extended by the issuing authority so that it was technically unexpired when it was presented, no action is needed.

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The Qualities of Great Managers and How to Develop Them

Think about your favorite manager. Now think about what made them your favorite. Was it the success you earned while working with them? Your employer may have evaluated them based on metrics like team productivity or turnover rates. Great managers are usually good at leading productive, low-turnover teams, but those aren’t the things their employees remember.

So what about them left such an indelible mark on you? Perhaps this manager was easily approachable and worthy of your trust. Perhaps they effectively led your team through a major change and had your back the whole way. Perhaps they were always laser-focused on developing their team—on developing you.

In our view, the success of a manager is defined by the success of the people they lead. We rate a manager’s performance based largely on how their team is doing.

Bad Management Practices Are Rampant, But That Can Change

Unfortunately, the terrible manager remains a popular character in our collective consciousness—and for good reason. There’s no shortage of managers unwisely promoted into the role or given insufficient training to manage people well.

You’ve got the micromanager, the bully, the leader who plays favorites, and the boss who emails subordinates in the middle of the night only to not be available for clarification or responses during the workday. You’ve likely met or heard about the manager who frequently blows off meetings, neglects to give needed details on a project, or takes credit for the work of others. Horror stories abound in review sites, online communities, and conversations across the land.

With bad management practices so rampant, it’s easy for people to forget that there are lots of managers who do their job well. Many do it exceptionally well. That’s why we want to look at the characteristics of the best managers and what businesses can do to hire, promote, and develop these leaders.

Qualities of the Best Managers

The best managers work hard to improve the work lives of their team members. A big part of that is setting and communicating clear expectations. Good managers focus on performance, so their people get better at what they do. This includes empowering employees to identify development areas that matter the most to them. Another big part is facilitating cooperation so that their reports work better together and better with other teams. The best managers also recognize and advocate for their people. They listen carefully to know what their people need to be successful, and they aim to deliver it.

These managers are empathetic, understanding, and supportive. They listen to their people and have a keen understanding of what motivates and inspires them. They’re available to troubleshoot problems, brainstorm ideas, and provide guidance on projects. They communicate effectively and correct mistakes in ways that build people up rather than tear them down. They teach what they know and always seek to learn. They have an eye for equity.

Developing the Best Managers

If your managers—or the people you intend to promote into management—don’t have all of these qualities, don’t worry. These traits and behaviors can be taught and nurtured. Managers also need to be managed. Here are some ways you can build more effective managers and nurture the traits that make managers great.

  1. Train New Managers After You’ve Promoted Them
    When you promote a stellar employee into a managerial role, you also must give them the tools to successfully manage people. They may feel ready to lead a team, but it’s up to the employer to be certain they know the responsibilities involved, and how your organization wants them to execute those responsibilities. Also, consider managers that are building a new team. Do they have the resources to successfully interview candidates? Perform tasks in your applicant tracking software? Communicate with HR or recruiting about the process? Your newer or less experienced leaders may have ideas about the way they want to manage based on their experience as employees—but that’s not enough.

    To build truly successful managers, leadership may need to go back to the basics and provide not only base-level training, but clear avenues for answers, guidance, and support. Should new managers go to their own managers first or to HR with questions or problems? These are things that should be spelled out and communicated, even if you think they might be obvious or rudimentary.

    It also doesn’t hurt to prepare new managers for the role before you hire or promote them into it. Talk with them about what the job will be like, especially if they haven’t managed before. Go over what’s needed and what’s nice to have. Be open about the struggles and the stress the new manager can expect to experience. Make sure they have the desire to manage.
  1. Practice Presence
    Most managers don’t want to or have the time to micromanage. They hope their reports have the skills and knowledge to do the job they were hired to do, so they take a hands-off approach and let their reports get to it. Or they’re too busy with their own projects to do anything more than basic managerial duties. But that’s a sure way to see projects or tasks go off-track, especially if managers don’t make themselves available for troubleshooting, or provide clarity on instructions.

    Remind your managers to treat silence from their reports as an opportunity to check-in, offer an ear, problem solve, or simply cheerlead. Check-ins don’t have to be formal, overwhelming, or take more time than necessary. Software programs that allow employees to note what they’re working on or bring up obstacles and share these with their manager can be a great tool and don’t have to take anyone more than a few minutes at a time. Less formal but still as productive, a scheduled check-in call (at an agreed-upon frequency) gives managers insight into projects and helps employees feel heard and celebrated.
  1. Guide the Guiders
    Good managers don’t necessarily have all the answers—but they know where to get them. Company leadership should aim to provide managers at all levels with the resources and training they need to do their best for their reports. Do your people leaders have access to mentors either inside the company or with partners or resource groups and do you encourage these relationships? Mentorship programs, “day-in-the-life-of” presentations, or even informal programs that connect managers from different departments can provide managers with inspiration and support.

    Newer managers might not know immediately how to handle a situation where an employee has a health crisis or family issue that suddenly takes them away from work. Do your managers know where to turn? Is there an online repository for information and guidance for situations managers may be presented with (and do all managers know about it)? Or would you rather they immediately bring the issue to HR?

    Programs can be robust, such as mandatory manager training scheduled throughout the year, or as simple as setting up an internal messaging process (e.g., Slack, Skype, text messaging) or smaller interdepartmental groups of managers that can provide informal support to one another. Whether your company has the budget for a formal training program or not, connections can and should be made to support managers.
    If you’re not sure where your managers could use guidance or development, ask them. They’re more likely to be engaged in their development if they have a say in what they’re learning.
  1. Promote Teamwork Among Managers
    Are your managers operating as a team? Each of your managers has a distinct personality and approach to management that affects their leadership style. One may be highly self-driven while another needs deadlines to motivate action. One may focus on building their team’s strengths, another on correcting their team’s weaknesses. One may communicate a lot, another only a little.

    These differences can work, but they can also cause confusion and inequality, whether real or imagined. For instance, employees who report to or work with more than one manager may not know what is expected of them. Or they may find themselves overworked if managers don’t coordinate workloads. Cross-team efforts may be delayed or even ruined due to misunderstandings or failures to communicate. The company may be guided by several conflicting personalities instead of a single, unified company culture. In extreme cases, inconsistent management practices may lead to discrimination claims.

    To bring managers together, you need something to unite them around. This is your company culture—the personality of the organization, its mission and values, working environment, policies, and practices. Ensure your managers are following consistent management practices, making decisions aligned with the values of the company, and regularly communicating with one another about their needs, obstacles, and workforce changes.

Neither good managers nor bad managers exist in a vacuum. They either have the support or the inattention of company leadership—the latter to dangerous consequences. A culture of poor management can lead to employee dissatisfaction, burnout, and increased turnover, all of which can be costly. An investment in selecting with intention and training your managers is not just an investment in them, but an investment in the company.

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7 Ways to Reengage Your Workforce and Inspire Loyalty

You’ve probably been hearing about the Great Resignation (or however you want to describe it) for months now. Even if you’re not dealing directly with increased turnover, your employees know they have options. Their friends, family, and people they know peripherally or on social media have made the leap and are gleefully announcing it on LinkedIn.

Some job-hoppers may be emboldened by the movement to quit good jobs in the hope of something better—better pay, more flexibility, or more opportunities for advancement. Some have simply been pushed to the brink by dead-end jobs, lousy company culture, or ineffective managers. Others have given up trying to “have it all” and left the workforce completely.

But what if employers could capitalize on this current “I quit” mood? What if you could keep your employees engaged, inspire loyalty, and make it easier to attract and hire those that are looking for that next best thing?

We’ve got some ideas for both prioritizing current employees and making it easier to attract new ones.

  1. Understand and be responsive to employee needs, motivations, and priorities. A paycheck may be the reason everyone has a job in the first place, but it’s not the only reason people choose to work or decide to work for one employer over another. Your employees stick with you because there’s something in it for them besides the money. The job is useful to them. Knowing why it’s useful enables you to keep employees satisfied and, better yet, make their jobs even more appealing.
  2. Prioritize employee development. A work environment in which people gain knowledge, learn new skills, and advance in their careers speaks more clearly and loudly than any marketing message can. People like working where they can grow and develop. According to a LinkedIn report, companies “that excel at internal mobility are able to retain employees nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it.” And a better trained workforce is also a more productive and profitable workforce! 
  3. Invite employees to be co-creators of the organization. Empower them to make decisions about how things are done and where the organization is going. People feel more a part of something when they see themselves in it. They’re more engaged when their decisions bring about real change.
  4. Reward success. In fact, reward anything you want to see more of. Whether large or small, the rewards have to be meaningful. Ideally, figure out what type of reward speaks to each employee. For some, acknowledgment in a company meeting will make their heart sing. For others, receiving a token of your appreciation, such as a coffee gift card, will be more meaningful.
  5. Allow for a healthy work-life balance. Flexibility is a big selling point for employees looking for better balance between work and life. Your employees have other commitments they need to attend to. Some are caring for young children or other family members while navigating daycare and school closures or multiple appointments. Give employees the time to see to those commitments and have a life outside of work, and you’ll get more from them when they’re on the job. Options may include remote or hybrid work, paid time off, flex hours, four-day workweeks, alternative schedules, and reducing workload. Remember, however, that policies are only as good as the practices around them. Ensure that employees don’t need to jump through hoops to request time off. Remind managers to be responsive to requests for time off and on the look out for signs that employees are feeling overwhelmed. 
  6. Conduct “stay interviews.” Don’t wait until people are leaving to investigate what could have inclined them to stay. Talk to employees now about what’s going well, what pain points they’re experiencing, and what could be done to take the relationship to the next level. Stay interviews enable you to address problems and unfulfilled wishes before they drive people out the door.
  7. Let people go who want to go. You have only so much time in the day. Don’t spend it trying to entice people to stay if they really want to leave the organization. That time is better spent ensuring smooth transitions and engaging employees who don’t have one foot out the door.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

Avoiding Burnout When You Work in HR

If you work in HR, you know that employee burnout remains pervasive. You also know that the task of supporting overly stressed employees often falls on your shoulders. But you’re exhausted too. Burnout isn’t just a problem you have to help others solve; you also have to solve it for yourself. Here are seven ways to do that.

Set Boundaries

First and foremost, set boundaries. You cannot possibly be all things to all your people, available at all times no matter the cost. That’s not your job. More to the point, your job is not the supreme ruler of your time. Having a job means that you’ve committed to using some of your time to complete a certain amount of work, but you should still think of that time as yours. After all, it’s your life, your energy, your health. Don’t feel bad about giving time to your needs just because you’re working. The mindset that you can never prioritize your needs while on “company time” is an unhealthy one.

Place boundaries around both the time during which you work and what you spend your time doing while working. If you say that you’re done with work at 6 p.m., don’t do any work after 6 p.m. Emails and Slack messages can wait until the next workday. If people at work need to be able to reach you in an emergency, establish a specific way for that to happen (e.g., a call or text to your cell) and make sure the people who may contact you know what qualifies as an emergency and what doesn’t.

You can set boundaries during the workday by delegating tasks that don’t need to be done by you. HR is a big job for one person or even one department. Not every personnel issue even should be handled by you. Managers and department heads should be able to handle a lot of those issues themselves and only come to you for help if it’s actually needed. If they are bringing you so many small problems that you don’t have time to resolve the big ones, you may need to set different expectations or train managers to resolve certain issues themselves. If you’re having to manage employees for them, they’re not doing their jobs (and may need to be developed or replaced).

Know What You Can and Cannot Control

In HR, we often feel responsible for everything related to employees. If there’s an issue, it’s on us to address it. A problem? We own the solution. Something not improving? We’re at fault. This belief that we are responsible for all the things causes stress to mount and leads to burnout. It also isn’t true.

We can’t be responsible for what we can’t control, and so much that happens in the workplace is simply out of our control. It’s vital—both for our work and our mental health—for us to know what is and isn’t in our power to change. If employees are quitting as a result of ineffective workplace policies, and you have purview over those policies, you can probably do something about this attrition. But if they’re quitting because there are better opportunities for them that your organization can’t match, there may be nothing you can do. Spending time trying to solve unsolvable problems isn’t going to have a good return. Or, as the old saying goes, if there is no solution, there is no problem.

Implement Clear and Simple Policies and Practices

The more ambiguous or complex your workplace policies and practices are, the more questions people will have about what they mean or require. If you find that your people often come to you asking what they’re supposed to do in a given situation, look at what you can do to answer their questions proactively. Do you have an employee handbook? Standardized practices for managers? Granted, some employees aren’t going to read any policy documents you give them, but in general, you can save yourself (and others) a lot of time by defining policies and practices so that they are clear, accessible, and easy to follow. Accordingly, you should ensure that leaders are aware of where the handbooks, policies, and guidelines reside so that employees may self-serve whenever possible.

Train Your Colleagues

Being the only one who can do a certain essential task may be good for your job security, but it isn’t good for your health. If no one else can do what you do, you can’t truly get away or be guaranteed to focus on one task to the exclusion of all others. People can only cover for you if they have the knowledge and skills to complete the tasks you need covered.

Realistically, you can’t plan for every contingency, but teaching colleagues the skills and knowledge they’d most likely need when covering for you increases the likelihood that they’ll be able to handle whatever arises while you’re away or focused on an urgent project.

Take Time Off

Speaking of getting away, take time off. You need a break from work as much as anyone—maybe more so—and you don’t need to justify it. You don’t have to feel sick or especially overwhelmed or have something special planned. Breaks from work are good for you, period. If you feel the need to justify a break from work, take time off to set a good example to everyone else that they should be taking time off too.

When employees see leaders in their organization taking ample time away from work, they feel more confident taking time off themselves. That helps save those employees from burnout, which in turn saves their leaders’ time.

Connect with Other HR Professionals

Working in HR can be a lonely profession, especially if you’re a department of one. When you’re in HR, friendships at work range from tricky to ill-advised. You may not have anyone at work you can really open up to or who appreciates the challenges of your job. Fortunately, there’s an active community of HR professionals online who are more than happy to share ideas, answer questions, or just listen. You can find them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and elsewhere by searching #hrcommunity or #hr. They’re a friendly and chatty bunch, eager to converse about the latest trends, specific pain points, and the generally daunting challenges of working in HR.

Consider following a few HR practitioners, participating in a conversation, or just watching from the sidelines until you feel more comfortable. It’s not quite the same as having a close friend at work, but what it lacks in close proximity, it makes up for in shared experience.

Treat Yourself

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” Special Agent Dale Cooper says to Sherriff Harry S. Truman in the television series Twin Peaks. “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.”

The present doesn’t have to be extravagant. Cooper’s examples include a catnap in one’s office chair and taking a few minutes to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee. Yours might be a 20-minute walk to get some fresh air and Vitamin D. The point is to be not just reasonable, but generous with yourself every day. The work we do in HR is stressful, emotionally taxing, and tiring. We spend our days supporting others in difficult situations. Our job is to give time, comfort, and care to others. It’s important to give those things to ourselves too.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

Why You Should Care About Your Employer Brand

Lots of HR leaders today are talking about the importance of using marketing techniques to build an effective employer brand. What is an employer brand? To answer that question, it may be helpful to go over what a brand is in general. A brand is a name, image, or some other feature that distinguishes your products and services from those offered by others.

Branding may sound simple, but as any marketing team can tell you, a lot of thought and work goes into it, and the difference between success and failure couldn’t be starker. If you call to mind successful companies, some names will pop in your head—not simply because they’re profitable, but because you know their brand. If they didn’t have an effective brand, you wouldn’t have even thought of them.

A company’s employer brand is its public image or reputation as an employer. It’s the feel of the company that comes through in job postings, social media, reviews, news stories, awards, and word of mouth. It’s the value (or lack thereof) that prospective employees expect to find in the employment relationship.

Every employer has a brand, whether they’ve deliberately worked to define one or not. Your company does, too. And that brand is either helping or hurting your recruitment and retention efforts. That’s the biggest reason HR leaders are talking about it. You have no say in whether you have an employer brand, but you do have a say in what that brand is. Here’s how you can take charge of it.

Identify Your Current Brand

When building your employer brand, you won’t be working from scratch, but rather altering what already exists. Your first step, then, will be to get an accurate picture of your existing brand. Examine all the ways your organization appears to the public. Look at your job ads, your corporate social media accounts, and your website. Search your organization’s name online to find news stories and reviews by customers and employees, past and present.

What impression is your workplace giving? How would an outsider view it based on what they can find online? What’s distinctive about working for your organization? What images do you see? What words and phrases appear most often? These are the first questions you should ask.

Next, ask yourself what sort of employees appear to work at your organization. If, for example, your social media accounts feature photo after photo of employees playing games and partying on the job, but show little or nothing of their actual work, you might be giving the impression that working for you is mostly fun, relaxing, and carefree—and that your current employees are the sort that value playing hard over working hard. If online employee reviews mention a former manager who was terminated for harassment, but the reviews make no mention of any other leader in the company, you may still have a reputation for tolerating harassment even though the offending manager is long gone.

Identifying your existing brand may be more challenging than you expect. Not only do you have a lot to consider, you also have your own working impression of your company that may color what you see. It may be prudent, therefore, to enlist the aid of a third party, someone who can describe your existing brand as it is and not as you wish it to be.

Once you’ve got a complete picture of your existing employer brand, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Evaluate Your Current Brand

There are two questions you should ask in this step. First, is the brand you’ve identified an accurate representation of reality? And second, is it the type of brand that you want?

A brand may be inaccurate for a number of reasons. A former employee in a vindictive mood might have taken to a review site to tell the world how much they hated their boss, when their boss was in reality patient, caring, and supportive. Or your social media might describe your culture as no-holds-barred competitive when the truth is your culture is distinctively collaborative and uplifting.

Accuracy is crucial. You don’t want a flood of applicants who don’t have the traits and behaviors necessary for success in your company. If your brand doesn’t match reality, you’ll need to correct that in the next step.

Before we move on, though, there’s another question you should ask. Is your current brand headed in the direction you want? Does it align with your specific employee-related needs? These answers will determine whether the next step involves minor tweaks or a major overhaul.

Develop the Brand You Want

Since it’s vital to success that your employer brand accurately mirror the reality of the workplace, changing your brand may require changing your culture. Creating a really attractive employer brand that hides hard truths about your workplace will only hurt you in the long run. Employees will join your organization only to realize that they’ve been sold a false reality. Frustrated and resentful, they’ll soon leave physically or mentally, neither of which is good for your bottom line.

Just because an applicant has the skills you need doesn’t mean they’d be happy working for you. If you’re a small business with a simple hierarchy and don’t expect to grow, you don’t want to spend your time vetting candidates who are hoping to get promoted in the near future. If you will be able to offer promotion opportunities and will need creative people to lead teams, you probably don’t want to hire lots of individuals who are simply content to do what they’re told.

In short, an effective employer brand can’t be developed in isolation. Whoever is working on the brand should collaborate with the company leadership team and, if possible, the marketing department so that the developed employer brand aligns with both the overall culture and the corporate brand vision. Ultimately, these should all be one and the same.

Tell a Story

If you’re at all familiar with the marketing world, you’re probably aware that a lot of marketing professionals see themselves as storytellers. Stories can be a powerful and effective way to change behavior, which is what marketing is all about. In your case, you want prospective employees to stop what they’re doing and come work for you. You have to convince them to make this change, and a well-told story can be very persuasive.

Think of your employer brand as your workplace culture as seen from the outside. The images and messaging you use should show prospective employees the real you. That way, you’ll attract the kinds of employees you want and deter the kinds you don’t.

But here’s the thing: prospective job candidates don’t care about your story. Even if they’re aware that you exist, they’re not emotionally invested in your success or failure. So, the story you should tell is not about you. It’s about them. They’re the leading character, not you. Your workplace is the setting of their story. At best, you’re in a supporting role.

An effective employer story is a story about employees—what they’ve experienced. Achievements they’ve unlocked. Skills they’ve learned. Friendships they’ve formed. Obstacles they’ve overcome.

You’ll be able to tell some of these stories, but the most heartfelt and effective tales will be told directly by your employees. Don’t tell them what to say. Avoid talking points and scripts. Prospective candidates will know if your employees are just repeating the company line. Instead, create a remarkable work experience that employees are happy to share with the world.

If you’re doing this right, you won’t need to ask employees to share job ads with their networks or be “brand ambassadors.” They’ll promote their work experiences without any prompting from you simply because those experiences have been a good thing for them, and people enjoy sharing the good things in their lives.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

Creating a Safe and Fulfilling Workplace for Another Challenging Year

As we enter the new year, the risks of COVID-19 may recede, but the trauma, pain, and disruptions of these past two years will still be with us, affecting our lives and our work. We’ve all struggled, sometimes in ways we can’t pinpoint

In her book Bearing the Unbearable, Joanne Cacciatore describes grief as “a process of expansion and contraction.” Cacciatore explains that in a moment of contraction, we may feel unsteady and unsafe, and we “feel the call to self-protect.” In a moment of expansion, we “become more willing to venture out and explore” and “take risks.” This process isn’t exclusive to grief, of course. Whatever the cause, many of us right now are experiencing one or the other, or both. 

A recent guest on the HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast, Julie Turney, founder and CEO of HR@Heart Consulting, observed that people today recognize that they deserve better, and they are demanding better. They are less willing to settle, less comfortable with the way things are. People are fleeing jobs that are physically or psychologically unsafe. Others are chasing their dreams with a newfound passion. 

For the foreseeable future, people will seek environments that are both flexible and strong enough to support a process of contraction and expansion. They will desire work that gives them a safe place to be and a fulfilling place to go. They will crave a future they can own and a course they can chart, and their jobs will either help or hinder them. Jobs that help them will be in high demand.

Fortunately, such sought-after work environments can be achieved with some basic practices. Let’s look at some.

Talk About the Future

Ask your managers to talk regularly with their direct reports about how they’re feeling today and what they’d like to be doing in the future. Due to the circumstances, you can expect the answers they hear to vary and to change. On a given day, an employee may feel optimistic and ambitious, eager to take on a new project or a new role. But a week later, that same employee may feel hesitant or anxious about taking on any new responsibilities.

Don’t assume an employee expressing conflicting feelings isn’t up for the task at hand. In normal times, it’s natural to second guess big decisions, and these are not normal times. Some employees may need a little extra encouragement. Others may truly be happier continuing to do what they’ve been doing.

Through these conversations, managers can help their people make informed decisions about their future that make sense for them and for the company.

Don’t Be Afraid to Set Deadlines

Giving employees time to decide what future makes the most sense for them can go a long way to building trust and gratitude. There will come a time, however, when a decision needs to be made. A manager who has been talking with a member of their team about a new career opportunity in another part of the company, for example, will need a definitive answer eventually, probably sooner rather than later.

When a manager has a conversation with a team member about opportunities for growth that require significant change, they should, as soon as possible, make it clear to the employee when a final decision needs to be made. That way the employee has a set timeframe to work through their feelings, and a deadline isn’t unexpectedly thrust upon them.

Provide Grief Support

A lot of people are grieving, and grief takes work. People grieving need the time, space, and freedom to do that work. The option to take bereavement leave after a loss can be invaluable to them, but so too is the liberty to take days off down the road when they’re needed. The grieving process isn’t linear, and the unbearable pain of grief can resurface unexpectedly, months and years later. The life of grief is long. Whatever you can do to enable employees to safely take the time they need to process a loss and heal, do it. 

Take Care of Yourself and Your HR Leaders

Lars Schmidt, founder of Amplify, points out that, while the “market for HR roles has never been hotter,” the work of HR has taken a “sustained toll” on those doing that work. They’re “carrying the emotional burdens of their employees (and their own).” Burnout is common.

Be sure to give yourself and anyone else caring for your people time to rest, recharge, grieve, or whatever else each of you needs to do to stay healthy. “Resilience is not an infinite resource,” executive coach Sarah Noll Wilson reminds us. Take time off. You need it, too.  

Don’t Take Departures Personally or Draw the Wrong Conclusions

When an employee leaves an organization, it’s always a good idea to understand why and consider what changes you could have made to keep them. What you learn may not persuade that employee to reconsider their departure, but it may assist you in keeping others. That said, sometimes employees quit and there’s nothing you could have done to convince them to stay. The best possible workplace in the world will still see people go elsewhere simply because those people want a change or because of circumstances beyond their control.

When your employees tell you they’re leaving, do your due diligence to find out why, but don’t overthink their departures or take them personally. If everything was good and they still left, that just means everything was good and they still left. It doesn’t mean that you didn’t do enough or should have done something differently. Believe in the work you’re doing. Be kind to yourself. As Lars Schmidt says in his book Redefining HR, “we’re on the front lines of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows of all our employees.”    

Inspire Hope

Whether we feel the strong urge to self-protect or we’re jumping out of our seat to pursue a risky venture, we could all use a little hope. The philosopher David Utsler writes, “Hope offers no guarantees. Hope does not promise that life or the world will get better. Hope only insists on the possibility.”

You can inspire hope by expanding the scope of what is possible for your employees. Talk with them about their dreams and ambitions so they can imagine what possibilities lie before them. Talk about where your company is going and what you’ll need from your employees. Help them envision a place where they can explore, take risks, and be supported.

Then work together to get there. 

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

Question: Should we cancel our annual holiday party again this year?

Answer from Kyle, PHR:

Ultimately, that’s your decision. Some companies are forgoing an in-person holiday party again this year, while others feel like it’s safe enough to celebrate in person. Unfortunately, COVID cases and hospitalizations due to the virus are rising again in many places across the country. Also, the CDC continues to recommend that anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated, as well as fully vaccinated people in areas with substantial to high transmission, wear masks in public indoor spaces.

If you decide to host a party this year, here are some measures you may want to consider:

  1. Look for outdoor spaces or well-ventilated indoor venues with enough room for people to spread out.
  2. Require employees to be vaccinated or tested before attending the party. Pay for testing if you require it.
  3. Require anyone who is under the weather (for any reason) to stay home. If there are raffles or gifts at the party, ensure those who stay home for their own safety or the safety of others are included.
  4. Make sure employees know that the holiday party is completely voluntary. No work or company business should be conducted during this time. Employees who are uncomfortable attending should not be pressured in any way to attend.
  5. Host a virtual party instead or as an alternative for those who can’t or don’t want to attend in person. You could provide gift cards to local eateries or food delivery services, organize a home decorating or ugly sweater contest, and facilitate interactive games.

You can read the CDC’s guidance on holiday celebrations here.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

How to Design a Powerhouse Team

Many Americans get their first job working at a fast-food chain. You may have been one of them. If so, you probably remember your first day. Maybe you started at a register. Or perhaps you began in the kitchen. Either way, you had a lot to learn in a short amount of time. Everyone was counting on you to help keep the lines moving. Patience isn’t a virtue in this business, after all.

Fast-food restaurants make for good first jobs because the tasks are fairly easy to learn and don’t require any specialized knowledge going in. But they’re also good first jobs for another reason. When you get a job in fast food, chances are you’re joining a well-designed and effective team that works smoothly under pressure. Fast food lines might not always be as fast as we’d like, but they’re reliably quick, and it’s the team design that makes it so.

It’s extra impressive what fast-food teams regularly accomplish given that the team can only move as fast as the slowest person on it, turnover tends to be high, and a lot of the crew has little other job experience. And yet these teams move with a purpose. You may have read that when a COVID-19 vaccination clinic needed to get its backed-up drive-thru moving, it brought in a Chick-fil-A manager. 

If you’re creating a new team or restructuring one you already have, you could do worse than look at fast-food teams for inspiration. You probably won’t be mimicking the particular functions, roles, or processes of those teams, but there’s nevertheless a lot to learn from how these teams are designed and how they operate.

What’s their secret? These teams succeed because they’re clear about the value they provide and because their functions, roles, and processes are all designed to provide that value. Let’s look more closely at their design and what it can teach us.

Clarifying Value

Like all restaurants, fast-food chains serve food, but the food isn’t the value they provide. The value is the speed with which you get your food. It’s the convenience of a quick meal. It’s also the uniformity of the experience. Whether you purchase a Whopper and fries at a Burger King in Eugene, Oregon or in Ankeny, Iowa, you expect the meal to look and taste the same, and you expect to get it fast. In most instances, you do.

Businesses like this are set up to deliver a fast and uniform customer experience. Get in line, get your food, and go about your day. No delays. No surprises. This is what you expect when buying fast food, and every decision made at a fast-food joint is designed to satisfy this expectation. The measure of success for every function, process, and performance is whether this value is delivered.

Before you determine or reconsider team functions, processes, and roles, clarify the value your team is meant to deliver. That value, remember, isn’t a product or a service or an internal “deliverable.” It’s the need or want satisfied by whatever your team provides. It’s the why behind what your team does.

If you’re not sure what value your team is meant to have, ask yourself what success looks like. What are the one or two or three big signs that your team is or would be doing a good job? What makes relevant parties happy when your team has done its job well? Those should clue you in to your team’s specific value.

Considering Functions

The functions of a team are those things that need to happen for the value to be delivered. When a customer orders a hamburger at McDonald’s, they expect to get it quickly and for it to taste like every other McDonald’s hamburger they’ve eaten. A series of tasks makes that happen. The order is taken and communicated to the kitchen. A bun is prepared. Condiments are added to it. A beef patty is cooked and placed on the bun. The finished burger is wrapped, handed off, and bagged. Money is taken. Food is delivered.

When you’re considering what functions your team performs or will perform, don’t think about roles just yet. Think first about what value your team is expected to deliver and what functions make that happen. Write down all of the work that gets done or needs to get done. Account for every task.

Next, ask yourself how each function contributes to the value that your team provides. Consider also whether that work actually needs to happen. Fast-food restaurants, for example, found that indoor lines move faster when customers fill and refill their own drinks. The task of filling drinks, when done by employees, slows things down. Removing this task from the team sped things up, i.e., increased the value they provided.

Assigning Roles

Don’t confuse functions and roles. If you pop into a McDonald’s during a lunch rush, you’ll likely see five or so people in the kitchen each assigned to a separate task . But arrive during an afternoon lull, and you may just see one or two people doing all this work. In places like McDonald’s, managers typically determine roles with each shift. Today an employee may be scooping French fries into containers. The next day, they may be taking drive-thru orders. This flexibility enables employees to learn all of the team functions over time, builds speed and familiarity with each one, and it keeps the work from quickly becoming monotonous. Because everyone can do everything, sudden reassignments, say when an employee calls in sick last minute, are easier to accommodate. Speed doesn’t suffer (too much).

Day-to-day role assignments may not work for your businesses, but it’s still a good idea to keep functions and roles separate in your mind and in your future team planning. Conflating the two risks locking people into roles that don’t develop (or enable them to develop). Aligning roles with functions too rigidly can also isolate your people, limiting the number of people with whom they interact and the places where they can add value. But dividing up functions more liberally can bring more variety to each role and expand the areas where people in those roles are able to collaborate with others on their team.

Implementing Processes

The process of getting a burger made and in the hands of a customer is fairly simple and straightforward, but the demand for speed and the volume of orders both make it easy for mistakes to happen. During a rush, the kitchen crew has a continual stream of orders on the table, each with a different destination.

To manage the flow of ordered items and keep multiple lines of people moving, fast-food teams must communicate quickly and clearly. When an assembled and wrapped burger moves from the kitchen to the frontline crew, there can’t be any question about which bag or tray it should go to. Any uncertainty wastes time and decreases value.

Clear communication is valuable everywhere, of course, but speed may not be the value your processes should be designed around. People tend to like it, for example, when their doctor takes extra time to listen to them and understand their needs. Medical offices that get patients in and out as fast as possible aren’t delivering the value those patients typically want. They soon get a bad reputation. That reputation fairs even worse if doctors take ample time with patients, but the staff scheduling appointments have been told to schedule as many appointments as possible.

When you’re figuring out how your team should communicate and collaborate, let the value your team provides be your guide, and make sure every member of your team is guided by the same value.

Deciding Who Decides

Fast-food chain managers decide who to hire and fire, what to pay, and whom to schedule, but they have no say in the decisions about the products they make and sell. They don’t decide what temperatures to cook the meat or how much mustard or ketchup to use or how large the fry containers should be. Those decisions are made outside the restaurant. This makes perfect sense. Customers expect uniformity, so you don’t want the kitchen staff experimenting with the secret sauce or patty sizes or seasonings that go in a taco. Not even a franchise owner has the liberty to make those decisions.

But if uniformity isn’t what interested parties expect from your team, you probably don’t need as many decisions dictated from on high. The members of a team tasked with coding a video game with never-before-seen features would probably do well having the freedom to experiment, take risks, fail, and try again.

Deciding who makes decisions and in what circumstances can be daunting for managers. A lot can go wrong. Some people enjoy having autonomy and authority over their work, and they’d choose other employment if they had no say over their work and how it gets done. Others don’t want the stress of making decisions that could help or harm the company. More people making decisions invites more bad decisions and workplace drama, but fewer decision-makers can restrict a team’s ability to be creative and innovative.

Whatever you decide about your team’s decision-making authority, make sure it aligns with and supports the value your team delivers, especially long term. Next, explain to your team how decision-making on the team works. No one should be uncertain about who makes decisions and when. Finally, hold people accountable to their decisions. Reward decisions that add value, and address issues with decisions that detract from it. That also means holding yourself accountable for how decision-making is done in your organization.

Developing the Team

You may have noticed that we haven’t covered the essential step of hiring and retaining the right people for the roles you need. That was deliberate. The steps above—clarifying value, considering functions, assigning roles, implementing processes, and deciding who decides—form the design of your team. Think of this design as the team architecture that your team members operate in, whoever they may be.

That said, don’t be afraid to allow your particular employees to help shape the overarching team design. For a team to be effective, it must be a source of value to the people on it. People don’t stay engaged with a team or remain on it when that team doesn’t meet their own wants and needs. Team input can make a good team design even better.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Declared in 1988 by the United States Congress (though its roots go back to 1945 when Congress urged employment for WWII service members with disabilities), NDEAM is a good occasion for us to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities to workplaces and the economy. We also recommend taking this time to better understand employer obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and consider how to be more inclusive and accommodating than what the law strictly requires. 

The DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy is commemorating NDEAM this year with the theme “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme “reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We’re glad to see this.

People with disabilities (1 in 4 adults in the United States) are at greater risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, workers with disabilities lost their jobs at a higher rate than the general population. As the pandemic continued, those with intellectual disabilities were six times more likely to die from the virus than other members of the population. Helping people with disabilities stay safe and succeed as the pandemic continues will be essential to a full recovery, and employers can play a huge role in that. 

Supporting employees with disabilities may also be vital to the success of individual employers—now and after the recovery. According to a CNBC poll, nearly 80% of workers say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. With roughly half of small businesses struggling to fill roles, competition for talent is fierce. Employers who don’t appear to believe that it’s important to include and support employees with disabilities put themselves at a huge disadvantage. 

What can you do to help?

First, make doubly sure you understand your compliance obligations related to applicants and employees with disabilities. We have lots of resources for you on the HR Support Center. If you search disability in the search bar, you’ll find articles, forms, guides, law summaries, letters, policies, Q&As, videos, and more.

Second, as the pandemic continues, do what you can to accommodate employees with disabilities who may be at greater risk of severe illness or death. Accommodations to consider may include remote work for those who can do their jobs from home and extra PPE (e.g., N95 masks, face shields, gloves) for those who need or want to work onsite. Other possible accommodations are different shifts, job changes to reduce physical proximity or public interaction, extra breaks (for handwashing or mental health), permission to keep a minifridge or other personal storage device at one’s workstation, and extra cleaning supplies. All in all, when an employee requests an accommodation, do what you can to try to make it work. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

Third, stress to everyone that respect and empathy are nonnegotiable values. Employees who need extra support so they can do their jobs well aren’t going to ask for it if they believe their concerns will be dismissed or that they’ll be ridiculed or looked down on by coworkers. If they don’t feel like they can ask for an accommodation, they’re more likely to look for a job elsewhere. And if they stay, it’s unlikely that they will be as productive or successful if they feel unsafe and stressed out. That’s a lose-lose. But it’s a win-win when employees feel safe asking for accommodations and those accommodations enable them to succeed.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center

What are Protected Classes?

Protected classes — also sometimes called protected characteristics — come from anti-discrimination law. We talk about them with respect to employment laws, but they also come into play in housing and education.

The classes and characteristics protected by federal law include race, color, age (over 40), sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, religion, disability, national origin, ethnic background, genetic information (including that of family members), military service, and citizenship or immigration status.

While you have a lot of leeway to make employment decisions as you see fit, you are prohibited from making decisions based on a person’s inclusion in any of these protected classes. Refusing to hire or promote someone because they are over 40, gay, or from Mexico, for example, would be considered unlawful discrimination under federal law. Many states also have their own anti-discrimination laws that protect additional classes.

The best way to avoid discrimination is to base employment decisions only on factors that are job-related. We recommend including the full list of protected classes in your employee handbook so that everyone is aware of them.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center