The Consultant's Desk

The Consultant's Desk
Poring over the details on your behalf

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Time for Reflection and Development

Things have been building to a point during these last several months. The basis for the various situations and conditions were a curiosity. They were also not only annoying and inconvenient, they were also vexing. It was disturbing to have Life seem to be closing down and therefore one's existence being shuffled to the Exit.

The situations could no longer endure and a remedy needed to be sought. However, it still felt as though a barrier between me and current situations was being erected. It's important to put these types of premonitions in their place and also to not allow them to overwhelm with their unsubstantiated suggestions. The basis of a situation needs to be identified and understood before the issues can be properly addressed. So I arranged to be taken to the hospital and have things diagnosed. I anticipated a long wait. In order to deal with that, I took with me three of five books I purchased in September that were to form some of the content I would be presenting on domestic violence as it affects the workplace.

Although I was seen immediately, there were many intervals where nothing happened and time needed to be filled. One of the books I brought with me is Blind-Sided: Homicide Where It Is Least Expected by Gregory K. Moffatt (Sep 30, 2000); I began reading it during my wait on December 13. The first chapter explores three different types of homicides, domestic, serial, and confrontational (meaning targeting a large, random group). It also analyses why these types of murderers are called a nice guy by friends and acquaintances as well as what pressures were impacting these types of people that ultimately led to their explosion of emotions.

While the reading was engaging and the theories being proposed were fascinating, I began to weary and Nurse was concerned with the fact that the wait would endure for quite a bit longer. She turned on a television for me. That was when the news about the shootings at Sandy Hook reached me.

In these ensuing times, there are fits, rantings, weeping, mourning. People reach out to others to comfort or be consoled. There are the outraged who demand better gun controls and compare the United States laws on gun control with other countries. They compare the two, essentially saying the other is better and we should adopt their policies. Caution here. One must examine the existing terrain before planting sugar cane lest it be planted in a swamp.

One of the issues that stands out in situations of murder to any degree is a very fundamental need for something very basic. It's so basic that we take it for granted and ignore caring for it in the proper way so that our global community can thrive. That need it communication. Not just talking. Not merely putting together a group of words that create sentences that build into paragraphs and ultimately to speech.

Additionally, communication has many dynamics. Not the least of the dynamics involved in good communication is listening to what is being said. Given the fact that different words have differing meanings to different people in different contexts, we have a responsibility to ask clarifying questions in order to insure that what we think we hear is the actual message and that the words being used are understood for what they intend to convey.

It is only when we have good communication that we have the ability to express ourselves and be heard. Those are the catalysts for action and progress. Those are the catalysts for change. We usually aspire to positive change an better conditions. There were social pressures impacting the Sandy Hill killer, pressures that he had no skill at verbalizing. So he resorted to exacting and relieving his frustrations on those around him. Ruling out insanity (which is the typical cop-out and label in situations like this), the ability to communicate his concerns may have gotten him associated with the person who could provide the tools and resources necessary to ameliorate the stresses and therefore prevent the rampage. We need to work on developing much better communication skills.

Not New

My friend, Patti Yaritz, shared an image on Facebook. It was an image of Martin Luther King, Jr. with an excerpt from his speech "Eulogy for the Martyred Children" delivered on September 18, 1963 in Birmingham, AL. It evoked a lot of thoughts, feelings, and recollections. I vocalized:

I remember the circumstances of this speech. It was during the time of the church bombings in the Deep South. I believe three little girls who were in Sunday School were the victims of a bomb that impacted their Baptist church. You're right, Patti. There isn't a lot of difference between the precious little lives that had faint opportunity to experience, much less violate, Life then and the ones that were violated last week.

And now all we have left is to hang our collective heads in misery, once we've spent some energy being angry and ranting at the world. But as we hang our heads in misery, we shall actively begin to construct new, better ways to encourage an age of reasonableness so that incidents such as these (and that are not a result of some type of formally declared warfare) will either be less likely to occur or will become a nonexistent alternative for anyone.

Let me use this window of opportunity to reassert my contentions from 2002. We in the employment industry need to develop (and be trained to identify) legal methods to determine who abusers and potential abusers are before we bring them into the workplace and thus give them a license to leak their propensities onto others who have nothing to do with the real underlying problem.

Abuse is a malignancy, a sickness, that is spreading its evil into many aspects of our lives. Communication is part of the remedy, to be sure. Respect is another. But abuse of good communication skills to the extent that they are not being used is one of the problems that needs to be solved. There are many other issues impacting us today. However, the demand for the reduction of abuse, increase of better communication skills are reaching a fevered pitch. We are past time to begin the remedies but we're not out of time.

Resources:
Sponsored Link: Blind-Sided: Homicide Where It Is Least Expected

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Selection Quandaries Terminology

Yvonne brought my attention to the fact that as students, professionals, speakers, and/or writers, we have a tendency to use terms that we think everyone understands.  Since we would prefer to read a blog without having to open twenty tabs to understand what is being said, and causing our browsers to catastrophically fail, we thought that defining some of the terminology from the previous post would be helpful.  This also provides me with the opportunity to practice applying these terms before completing course projects and final exams.  Having said this, I have provided links to these definitions for those of you who wish to make your own interpretations.

“Business necessity” can be defined as a discriminatory job requirement or employment practice that is necessary to ensure that an essential task or duty for a specific job can be performed safely and successfully.  For example, a candidate who was recently convicted of child molestation can be legally disqualified for a cashiering position at a toy store since the individual’s essential duty of assisting customers requires her/him to come into contact with children.  On the other hand, if the same candidate applies for a position as an office cleaner for an accounting firm, s/he cannot be legally disqualified as a result of the conviction because her/his essential duties do not require contact with children.

"Essential duties" are duties/tasks that are critical to an individual's success in performing her/his job.  Using the candidate who was recently convicted of child molestation as an example, the candidate will need to serve customers who bring their children to the toy store. Contact with children in this situation is unavoidable because serving customers with children is an essential part of a toy store cashier's job. 

“Bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ)” is an employment qualification that employers may consider when making employment decisions.  The employer must demonstrate that excluded individuals could not perform the job duties required and that those job duties are essential to the employer’s business; however, it is important to note that race and color are excluded from this defense.  For instance, a gym can disqualify male candidates for a female locker room attendant position if the attendant's presence is in the locker room is required at all times.

“Legally problematic” means that a practice is not illegal; however, the practice could lead to illegal practices, or the practice could be perceived as illegal.  For instance, asking questions that could identify an applicant’s gender is legally problematic because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that it is illegal to consider a person’s gender in the employment decision, unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). In this situation, this practice could lead to intentional or unintentional bias in the employment decision, or the organization could be perceived as showing bias in the employment decision.

“Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)” is a U.S. law that prohibits workplace discrimination and harassment based on national origin, race, gender, color, genetic information, and religion.  Title VII also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce the laws in the Act.  The law has been expanded to include discrimination or harassment based upon pregnancy, sexual harassment of employees, and stereotyping based on national origin, race, gender, color, and religion.  However, some employers are exempt from Title VII laws as indicated under the “Definitions” section.

“Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC )” is a regulatory committee charged with enforcing U.S. laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment based on genetic information, national origin, race, gender, color, age, disability, and religion; furthermore, the EEOC provides guidance to federal agencies and ensures that U.S. federal agencies are in compliance with EEO regulations.  The EEOC has been instrumental in interpreting employment law, and its interpretations and decisions have significantly contributed to past and present U.S. Supreme Court rulings pertaining to employment law.  The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination and harassment, assist in resolving the charges, and file lawsuits against employers if the employers refuse to cooperate.  Since many states have their own anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC works with local and state agencies called Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPAs) so that employees who wish to file discrimination charges can do so on a state and/or federal level.

Thank you for reading!  If you have any suggestions or comments regarding how these terms are defined, or if I left something out, please feel free to comment about it.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Selection Quandaries

While I have been writing about employee engagement, I have been taking a college course on the selection process. When I first registered for the course, I assumed that I would be learning how to recruit candidates. In other words, I thought that I would learn how to convince individuals to apply for positions within an organization. I soon discovered that my assumptions were incorrect, and I will never be able to look at a job description or an employment application without recalling what I've learned.

Students attending this course were asked to demonstrate their understanding of the material by creating a "staffing handbook" for a fictitious small/medium-sized organization. The requirements for this handbook included: discussing the organization's job analysis methodology, designing a job analysis form to identify a specific position's duties and the KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities) necessary to perform those duties, sharing the organization's interviewing philosophy, developing interview questions related to the KSAs identified in the job analysis, the organization's view of pre-employment testing, creating a sample interview evaluation form, describing the performance assessment that candidates would participate in to determine if they were qualified for a specific position, and constructing a sample performance assessment evaluation form.

There were two sections of the handbook that needed to be reviewed by my professor before I could proceed; the job analysis section and the interview questions. Since I had discussed job analysis in a previous course, I was confident in my ability to discuss job analysis methodology, identify the necessary KSAs, and create a job analysis form. I submitted this section to my professor for her to review; I received positive feedback from my professor, and earned full credit for the assignment. Since the feedback provided about the job analysis section was positive; I created a list of situational interview questions that focused on the KSAs I had identified.  My professor noted that my questions were "very focused on the KSAs" and gave me full credit for the interview questions assignment.

Now that I was free to tackle the remainder of the handbook, I found that the application section was the most troublesome for me. To begin, I had to distinguish what questions were legal, "legally problematic," and illegal. To make matters even more complex, I learned that some questions could be asked if rephrased properly. For example: asking an applicant's age could violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but asking if the person is 18 years of age or older is acceptable.

While my textbook addressed some of these issues, some of the advice it provided was outdated. For instance, the textbook stated that asking for arrest information is illegal. I found that it is illegal in some states; however, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that asking for arrest information is not a Title VII violation if the organization can prove business necessity. My textbook recommended inquiring if an individual has been convicted of crimes on the application; however, the EEOC recommended that questions regarding convictions should be omitted until the candidate is being interviewed. I also discovered that inquiries about an individual's discharge from military service and or an individual's need for reasonable accommodation fall into the "legally problematic" category. In order to ask these questions on a job application, the organization would need to prove business necessity. The legal disclaimer was also difficult to create from scratch; however, since my handbook was relatively free of borrowed material up to this point, I decided to allocate a portion of the 10% borrowed material allowance to assist in writing the disclaimer.

With the EEOC's recommendations regarding arrest and conviction records still fresh in my mind, I was able to address the pre-employment testing section with more confidence. The organization's philosophy will be simple and cost-effective; a background check will not be required until candidates receive a conditional offer of employment.  Since my fictitious organization has 8 locations and employs a total of approximately 500 employees, the performance assessment method used will be situational, and candidates will be asked to spend an "hour in an employee's shoes".  Several store employees will act as customers, and candidates' reactions to predetermined scenarios will be observed and recorded. The evaluation forms for both the interview and performance assessments utilize a simple rating system that will allow managers to compare candidates' responses or reactions to the desired behaviors identified in the job analysis.  Candidates with higher "scores" will demonstrate desired behaviors more frequently than candidates with lower "scores."

On that note, I would like to invite our readers to share what part(s) of the selection process they find problematic and why.

Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your comments and responses. 

Equal Employment Commission. Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Holiday Best Practices and Experiences

For most people it’s the holiday season, and the HR forums are filled with posts asking, “What should we do for our employees this holiday season?” or, “How does your organization celebrate the holiday season?”  The replies to these posts are diverse.  A few organizations avoid holiday celebrations in order to avoid disparate impact claims from employees.  Many organizations create teams of employees to plan and implement holiday activities, sponsor food drives for local homeless shelters, or allow each department to organize potlucks and gift exchanges
 
My favorite employer-sponsored event was the “adopt a school” event in which the company adopted a nearby elementary or high school, erected a Christmas tree in the location's main lobby, and asked children to create “wish list” ornaments.  The ornaments indicated the child’s gender, age, and what the child wanted for Christmas.  Employees were encouraged to voluntarily pick an ornament, buy one or two items on the child’s wish list, wrap the gift(s), and place the gift(s) under the Christmas tree.  I was surprised to find that many of my Islamic, Wiccan, atheist, Buddhist, and Jewish co-workers participated in the event and found it as touching as I did.  It was hard not to be moved by the children’s wish list items because they were surprisingly practical Most of the wish lists included school supplies, clothes, coats, and one or two specific toys/games. 

For example, the last time I participated in an “adopt a school” event, I chose an ornament designed by a seven-year old girl who asked for size 2 shoes, crayons, pencils, and a Fairy Princess Barbie.  Not only did she get the shoes, crayons, pencils, and a Fairy Princess Barbie; she also got the Fairy Princess's unicorn, several Barbie outfits, and a child-size Fairy Princess Barbie outfit because it seemed unfair to me when I was a child her age that Barbie got all of the “nice” outfits. 

On that note, I’d like to ask you to share some of your best practices and experiences with regard to observing the holidays in your organization.  What works for your organization, and why do you think it works?

Thank you for sharing, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Terms of Employee Engagement



The face of human resources is changing. Gone are the days when lower-level employees would mentally hum the “Darth Vader theme" when a HR associate entered the room, or imagined HR as a group of axe-wielding ogres who were drooling over the thought of terminating employees. Today we work as liaisons between employees and management; delicately balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of its employees. As a profession, we have our own buzzwords to keep up with the times; we “select” candidates instead of hire, our duties are “transitional” rather than transactional, we must now “brand” our recruitment activities to gain a “competitive advantage,” and we firmly believe that “employee engagement” is the key to a successful organization. As a student, I find myself frequently using Google to discover the true definition of these terms, and I have observed many of my classmates using the term “employee engagement” synonymously with employee happiness and satisfaction; which lead me to ask, “What exactly is employee engagement?” and “How does an organization achieve this?”

Google led me to an issue of Forbes on the subject where I discovered that employee happiness and satisfaction are not synonymous with employee engagement; in fact, Forbes  defined it as, “... the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and goals.” Reading the article led me to another interesting conclusion; employee happiness and satisfaction can lead to employee engagement, and employee engagement can lead to employee happiness and satisfaction... I know that when I felt pride in the work I did and the organization I was employed by, I was happy and satisfied; also, when I felt happy and satisfied about the work I performed, I felt pride in my work and the organization I worked for. Why did I feel this way? I understood my place in the organization, I was confident in leadership’s decisions, I liked my co-workers, I was recognized and rewarded for my efforts, and I had the tools I needed to succeed. 

A report published by PeopleMetrics confirmed my experiences by listing the eight drivers of employee engagement as purpose, trust, growth, fun, customer focus, recognition, resources, and rewards.

With an understanding of what employee engagement is and what drives it, the question of, “How do we achieve it?” remains. Assuming that an organization’s culture supports the aforementioned drivers and is selecting candidates who are willing to be engaged, I turned for suggestions to my findings from a human resources information systems course I recently attended and my colleagues on a HR forum I frequent.  

When this question was posed in the HRIS class, my first instinct was to look to the social media technology that makes many organizations and HR personnel cringe because of the ethical, security, and time theft issues surrounding this technology.  Why? Because we have a new generation of individuals entering the boardroom and the workforce that uses this technology to interact with the world around them, and they have wants and needs that must be met. 

To overcome objections regarding ethics, security, and time theft, I turned once again to Google and found several HRIS vendors that offer "social HRIS." The software has the same features as traditional HR systems, but also helps track employee goal achievement, recognizes employees, encourages and tracks career development, enables employees to communicate and collaborate, and provides the resources that employees need all in one place. Along this train of thought, one of my colleagues suggested free online collaboration tools which enable employees to communicate in real-time and post status updates.

A second method several colleagues suggested was holding a talent show. A talent show allows employees to meet and interact, it recognizes that employees have abilities that may not normally be used in the workplace, it recognizes that employees have lives outside of work, and it gives all employees a chance to participate; whether they are on the committee that organizes the event, a performer, or a member of the audience.

A third method is to use the organization’s performance appraisal process. One of my favorite call center employers used their weekly quality monitoring meetings to encourage employees to discuss their career objectives, set goals to achieve those objectives, receive feedback from supervisors, be recognized for goal achievement, give supervisors feedback about what they could do to help employees achieve goals, and supervisors would often call upon employees’ co-workers with expertise in certain areas to provide support to employees who were struggling with certain concepts. Sometimes a high-five from a supervisor or co-worker is more meaningful than a material reward.

The bottom line is this: While social networking on the company’s intranet, online collaboration tools, talent shows, or performance appraisal processes all contribute to employee engagement, these things alone do not support employee engagement. If an organization selects candidates who are unwilling to be engaged or if the organizational culture restricts any of these drivers, all of the talent shows and technology in the world will not help to improve employee engagement.  



Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Expanding the View

It's that time. The time to stop trying to be all things to all people and consultants. And as with the question posed to Nancy Pelosi today, it's time to start grooming burgeoning talent.

So it's with great joy that I'd like to introduce you to a new voice on The Consultant's Desk. Charity Rowell is a DeVry undergrad earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. Her focus is on Human Resource Administration and her talents are many. Her perceptions are strong. She does excellent research and is well spoken. In addition to all of that, she goes the extra mile when formulating a response by collecting the information that is needed for a reliable and accurate response.

I've asked her to share with us the knowledge she gains from her studies so that we may move forward with new perspectives of what is currently being taught in terms of progressive principles, theories, and practices in Human Resources and consulting.

If a concept is not clear, please come here and ask Charity to explain it. Definitely enjoy the voice of future trends in professionalism, Human Resources, and consulting. Join her as she takes a seat at the Board conference table.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

All in the Course of a Day

The editor of SmartProse put out a call to her readers two weeks before the anniversary of September 11, 2001. SmartPros asked its readers to share their thoughts on how they will spend the one year anniversary of 9/11, and we received some wonderful letters.

In a note that preceded the publication of the messages that arrived in response to the call, the editor said, "Sept. 11, 2002 -- Perhaps you will be as surprised as we were by the varied responses: an emotional tribute to a firefighter, a political commentary, a letter from a man who will be on active duty on this 9/11 anniversary, flashbacks to one year ago, and a dose of 'business as usual.'"

The shock of those events still haunted my psyche and influenced the words that I chose to submit in response to the call. Today I not only share those thoughts with you but also solicit your input about what you were doing on September 11, 2001 and how you will be remembering that day.

All in the Course of a Day

September 11, 2001 awakened as any other day for a solo practitioner/consultant. The crush of work and administrative issues that were left undone impatiently waited for attention, with their new siblings - the To Do list for the new day.

One dawning news story was different from the rest. Although the newscaster reported that a plane had just crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers, there was something just not right about the report. It was surprising that the newscaster didn’t catch it. The site of the accident is extremely visible. The likelihood of not seeing the tower was like not seeing an elephant on a plain in Kansas.

In the time it took to register that thought the next one demanded an answer. Was that a passenger plane or a private one? If a passenger plane, this was as horrible an event as The Challenger.

Within the next 90 minutes, the toll of crashes and lost lives mounted as both towers crumbled and came crashing down on all humanity beneath and within them and as the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania added to the destruction toll. All those souls who went about doing their usual routine on a Tuesday morning. The carping about wages, hours, the difficult co-worker or supervisor. Attending to the mindless opening rituals of the day and fully expecting the workplace to be a safe environment, these people experienced an earthquake jolt in their sense of what and where is safe. Little did any of us anywhere appreciate the far-reaching ripple effects of the attacks on the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and the aborted attack on the White House.

But as a solo practitioner, there were appointments and projects that had real deadlines and penalties for missing them. So life was still business as usual - press on to meet the commitments and deliver.

As the day wore on, little resembled normal. Public transportation is my sole means of commuting. On September 11, transports seemed to take even longer than usual. At the first juncture, I finally gave up waiting for the bus and walked the uphill mile to deliver one document. The intention was to then speed my way to the downtown library to use the resources necessary for the project – the only place where those resources were available. I was stopped. The manager at the site informed me that bus service to downtown was terminated for the next several days and all of downtown was closed.

I was forced to slow down that day and take an even closer look at the humanity that passed around and about me, to listen more carefully to the stories these people told. Some were completely oblivious to the events and continued in their microbial worlds. Others sublimated. A hush hung over the city as people numbly waited, waited for some piece of reality that said none of these horrors had actually occurred.

For me, life and business could not stop and ponder any longer than taking lunch and walking back to my SOHO. Clients and businesses were still depending on my performance. Bills still needed to be paid, deadlines still needed to be met through alternative means.

As the ensuing weeks wore on, many considered whether there would be other attacks and projected the locations of the next likely sites. I stood on bus stops and waited in lobbies and wondered if I and my fellow waiting companions would become the next attack statistics. Victims merely because we happened to be standing where the shrapnel or debris fell to snuff out our lives as well.

Racial tensions took four ratchets up on the scale of intensity. A new class of people became targets. Hate and incendiary speech proliferated discussion boards and meetings, born of the shock that needed mitigation. My determination to create acceptance of diversity and others as individuals intensified.

In the end, everything has become part of the new reality. The United States tasted the bitter gunpowder of warfare in her own bosom and gained a new understanding of why some countries hate. Some ponder how there can be acceptance of living in a state of wondering from minute to minute, hour to hour, whether their home or workplace, school or shopping center will be the site of a missile that turns it into a shambled heap of debris and death. In the long run, we learned that it is impossible to live in that type of fear. United States citizens took a step into appreciating what that type of life is like. We were given an opportunity to identify with the issues of other countries gripped in the vice of warfare not only on their homeland but in their everyday lives. The reality is not comfortable. A means of surviving and overcoming the fear needs to be in place. Life has to keep going.

So, on September 11, 2002, there will be no planned observation of the day, no recollection. I’m still a solo practitioner and consultant. I still have deadlines and commitments that grow like bacilli in a Petri dish. September 11, 2002 will be a matter of getting as much done as possible in a day. It will be all things that are now normal in the course of a day.

- Yvonne La Rose

Sponsored link: Leadership in Dangerous Situations: A Handbook for the Armed Forces, Emergency Services and First Responders

Monday, August 13, 2012

Diversity Inroads at the 2012 Olympics

It seems the USA Dream Team has super powers beyond the basketball court. As I listened to Bryant, Durant, and James being interviewed after helping the Team win a Gold Medal for their country, I heard them verbalizing what I was thinking, what I was saying to myself, what I have advocated for so long. They spoke of having respect for their competitors. They proclaimed the importance of focus on doing well in the sport and putting forth their best effort to win - for their country. They expressed the supremacy of being a professional in your field. And they demonstrated the veracity of their expressions with the gestures of appreciation extended to their competitors and their coaches.

That was what the Olympics was about in Great Britain. It was the exemplification of the standards we need to use to guide us in the execution of our daily lives as we work - and live. Using the focus that the Dream Team members exhort will deliver the best that can be achieved. It will also deliver the best price to be had.

However, it became clear on a daily basis that these Olympic games were groundbreaking for more than the World records that were broken and reset. This was an Olympics that was also a celebration of diversity. Starting with age and while not the oldest in the history of Olympic games, Japan's Hoketsu at age 71 was the oldest Olympic competitor (equestrian) this year. Likewise, the 39 year old Iovtchev of Bulgaria was the oldest male gymnast this year. He noted that had he not entered the competition, a great many in his country would have wound up unemployed. His presence helped to continue the Bulgarian gymnastics federation.

It was rumored that there was a woman over 50 who competed in gymnastics but I can find no record of such an entrant. Perhaps the rumor was about 86-year-old Johanna Quus but she was not an Olympics entrant. She performed at the Cottbus, Germany World competition. However, the women's beach volleyball team included three women, Jen Kessy, Misty May-Treanor, and Kerri Walsh Jennings, who are aged 35, 35, and 34, respectively.

Speaking of women, are you aware that women were not allowed to compete in the original Games? They sort of wrangled their way in. It took a few centuries for them to actually gain access to the field and legitimately vie in the competitions. They made it by the Nineteenth Century. These 2012 Games were the first in which women were represented in all national Olympic committee entries. This was the first time for Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia to have women in the games. Muslim women also made inroads. They pushed the barriers out of their way and succeeded in making striking accomplishments on the fields of competition and behind the scenes in planning and deveopment. This year the religious holiday of Ramadan fell directly in the midst of competition. Woroud Sawalha faced challenges of attire in addition to those of their sport and restrictions on where they could train. They made astounding victories in their own rights.

Then there were those who entered the Games and did not look like any of their competitors. Oscar Pistorius was the first athlete who is a double amputee to compete in and win the Men's qualifying 400M. Although a teammate took a fall during the Men's 4x400 qualifying heat that appeared to disqualify South Africa for that event, South Africa (his team) lodged a protest and was allowed to compete for a medal in that race. The men's team took no medals in either of his events.

Pistorius probably faced challenges as grueling as those endured by fellow countrywoman Semenya. The sweetness of victory was not kept from her. Semenya came from last in the Women's 800M to cross the finish line as a Silver Medalist.

Lest I be accused of overlooking youth, women's USA gymnast Gabby Douglas at age 16 was the first Black woman to win Gold in the the Women's Gymnastics and also helped her team to win the All Around Gold.

There's so much to say about these 2012 Olympic Games. However, it's time to take a breather. But many of the situations that arose is these Games brought back memories of bygone Games and competitors. Those will come in a little while.

Sponsored Link: The Complete Book of the Olympics: 2012 Edition

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Management Consultants According to the Book

Although we've looked at the duties of a Consultant and considered when to use one, there was nothing that pointed our attention to the official Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) in order to get the official word on what a consultant does. So let's resolve the mystery. Let's turn to the OOH and get more information.

It helps to know where to find it. It's a publication of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Once you've reached the OOH page, you'll discover there are a lot of ways to explore occupational titles and classifications. You career coaches probably already know about the Handbook and use it to discuss career options with your clients. And during these horrid economic times (complete with lack of jobs in particular titles) you recruiters undoubtedly use it to help your clients discover alternatives to what used to be the right fit for their personnel.

Technology is changing many things. Demand for certain types of work as well as certain types of skills are just two examples.

But we have something specific in mind, a Consultant, so let's examine how to find that classification. We can go to the alphabetical index and select "C" in order to search for our term. Unfortunately, it only lists "Consultants, financial" and tells us to see "Personal Financial Advisors." That's not quite what we had in mind. We want information about a Management Consultant. Sometimes the best thing to do when the answer is too difficult to find is to use that trusty site search box. The Government's works very well; it provides us with quite a few titles that fit our query. The four that are closest are

Each of these titles is slightly different from the others and can sometimes simultaneously serve two or three of the roles defined by the OOH. Fortunately, there's also the last classification, Administrative Services Managers, that can be considered an outside specialist who performs more executive management services on a contract basis an could in many instances be a long-term relationship rather than provide ad hoc support.

The Human Resources Manager principally focuses their efforts on the matters connected with personnel issues. The Management Analyst could also be called the solutions person as they look at more of the internal issues that impact the company's overall financial status. Many times these issues derive from the same source. So it's important to carefully consider what needs to be addressed so that you can identify and retain the right type of specialist and carve out the terms of engagement that most accurately fit your needs.

There's more useful information in the OOH that will help guide you to more satisfying engagements. It's a good idea to explore it even in a limited way so that you have a good starting point for remedying your needs or counseling your clients.

Sponsored Link: The Rules of Management, Expanded Edition: A Definitive Code for Managerial Success (Richard Templar's Rules)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Facing the Facts

It's been more than 20 years since the revelatory incident happened. It drastically changed my opinion about me and the way I perceive things.

As I approached a store entrance, an attractive young man who appeared to be in his early to mid 20s pulled into a handicapped parking space. He was driving a new sports model car. By virtue of the fact that he killed the engine and readied himself to exit the vehicle, it was apparent he planned to remain in the spot and was not using it to gain access to another space.

I stopped as I passed him to share some information. "Excuse me. This is a handicapped parking space. You may want to park somewhere else," I advised.

"But I am handicapped," he replied.

It was an indelible experience. In that instant, it was obvious to both of us that I had a major prejudice that needed to be overcome; it was an attitude about those with handicaps that needed to be altered in a major way.

Other Views

Since then, I've encountered others who have not yet had that type of revelatory life experience and speak of the handicapped or disabled in condescending terms and judgmentally dismiss them as not capable of filling some type of vacancy because of their "handicap."

It was interesting to listen to the executive recruiter who met a manager who is a Thalydamide survivor. "He only has one hand," the recruiter exclaimed, "But he can do all the things I can with his one arm. He can drive a car. He can type faster than I do ..." and he went on to describe the "adaptations" the manager has developed in order to do all of the tasks that others do with two limbs.

Considering this recruiter's amazement with the novelty that one with a "disability" can actually be hired for a management position and successfully function on the same level with their peers, the next question was who had recruited and hired this manager. After all, the manager was working for the recruiter's client. This recruiter, it appeared, would have passed on the manager; he would have considered the man as not qualified. However, the manager has all of the qualities one could want in an essential member of your corporate executive team.

The Right Question

Having assistive devices is not a red-flag situation that your candidate is not qualified for the position. It's only an observable signal that the person has a different way of doing the things that many other candidates manage. The interviewing question that should be put to all candidates is not, "Does your handicap require any special accommodations?" Nor should the first thought be the additional costs of having the person on your team because of major modifications to the workplace in order to have them there. Instead, the appropriate question for all candidates who are under serious consideration is, "Do you need any accommodations in order to fulfill the requirements of the position?"

What Isn't Seen

What's interesting is there are many invisible "disabilities" that are never addressed nor accommodated. The only reason a person with a prosthetic eye, for example, is never "accommodated" is because it isn't immediately obvious. If it never comes up in the interview and if the candidate has reached a means of dealing with doing the same work as their peers with a minor, unobtrusive adjustment, no one is the wiser unless the medical records search discloses the matter.

Other conditions that are not obvious yet may be legally termed a disability are emphysema, pregnancy, anemia or heart murmur. They are "invisible" conditions (in the case of pregnancy, short-term invisible) but are not carte blanche total disqualifications of an otherwise qualified candidate. These conditions may require some accommodation provided by the company or, in greater likelihood, an adjustment of some sort by the person with the condition so that they are able to do the same work in the same amount of time (or less time with better results) as their peers.

Changed Perceptions

That was more than 20 years ago. My perception of what having a disability means and how people who are classified as such appear has drastically changed. My idea of entitlement for a person with a disability has also drastically changed.

The pivotal lesson here is to take stock of what you believe a person with a disability means and to what they are entitled. If you believe they are just as entitled to a marketable wage, advancement, and access, if you believe they are just as capable of producing cost-saving and quantifiable positive results for your company, you deserve the opportunity to have them on your team or present them to your client.

Yvonne LaRose was recently selected to serve on the Los Angeles Metro Accessibility Advisory Committee. She was a Disabilities Accommodation Provider in the Bay Area of California from 1993 to 1997. From 1993 to 1996, she was a news reader for Broadcast Services for the Blind (BSB). The service is a private band radio station based in the Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind that reaches 13,000 listeners in 13 counties). From the BSB studio, she produced and hosted her very popular bi-weekly radio newscast, "Legally Speaking" that aired from 1994 to 1996.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thoughts on Enterprise Social Media Protocols, Pt. 2

Star status is important to some and not to others. Knowledge that they've been part of the end product sometimes carries its own limelight. To cut the negative side of competitiveness, it's important to acknowledge the more significant contributions of certain members of the team. However, the leader also needs to recognize how the rest of the team contributed to reaching that plateau.

Secretiveness among members needs to be discouraged. If there's an offsite meeting or finding, the results need to be shared with those who could not be present. It's such bad form to have suspicion coloring what's done. It leads to mistrust and eventual exits that create delays in the project while the replacements are hired. And the project will then have to absorb at least some of the replacement costs of search, intake, training, and returning to the point where the team was before the loss of manpower.

Make certain systems work. If there's a malfunction, the basis for it needs to be discovered and disclosed so that it won't happen again and so that successors don't have to deal with it. The basis for the malfunction, once discovered, needs to be revealed so it can be avoided and personnel can feel as though their efforts are subject to being thwarted (i.e., a major waste of time).

If someone on the team is promised feedback, more information, asked to attend a meeting, they need to receive what they've committed to. Make it on time, or as close to on time as possible. They may be sitting on something that requires that bit of information; delay causes their part to either not be delivered or delivered late. Coming back to the team member for a meeting that's before the appointed time is the same as telling them their schedule has no value and that you feel they're simply sitting around with nothing to do and waiting for your precious presence. Don't come off as smug and self important.

Additionally, the team member may have quite a bit on their plate. Putting the meeting (whether in person, by phone or Skype, or some other mode) on their calendar and clearing out a point when they can give you their undivided attention allows them to keep their workflow moving and timely. A spontaneous change because one has jumped the gun or suddenly has an open slot in the day is quite simply selfish. Other priorities then get shifted to a different situation. Progress is thrown off to the point of having to be rescheduled to another day or may even be lost because there simply is no longer any time for the exercise. Keep appointments. If it can't be done and you realize it, reschedule for another time that is mutually convenient.

Now that we're in the 21st Century, people seem to forget some of the Web 1.0 netiquette we used to practice. There used to be these cute little abbreviations and initials that gave us clues, initials such as "afk" which stood for "away from keyboard" (a tactful way of saying I need to get something, put out the fire, go to the bathroom, etc.) and "brb" which stood for "be right back." Both of those let us know that the person on the other end was no longer available for a short duration.

Unfortunately, we've lost touch with those practices. Now people will walk away from the computer and have a meal, go visit with someone in another building, have a conversation with someone else in person for 30 - 60 minutes. Respect your team mates and their time. Let them know when you're stepping away. Let them know when the absence will be protracted. You're more apt to get their future cooperation when they're shown that they and their time are valued.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Thoughts on Enterprise Social Media Protocols, Pt. 1


Enterprise Social Media relates to shared information from one department manager to the rest of their personnel as well as from one department to another (or several), and then from the CxO office to the rest of the enterprise. That means reaching out to all of the teams, whether in the 2-3 person business as well as the global enterprise with thousands of employees.

Because the reach is so vast, and the message can be distributed so quickly, great care needs to be taken that people who are hired appreciate and respect the sensitivity of information that is shared. Team members need to keep project details and findings within their team until they are told it is ready for distribution. Even then, their leader needs to define the breadth of the distribution.

Corporate culture with regard to feedback and results of work can be playful on occasion just to keep things fresh and not oppressive (or boring and tedious). However, the jocular moments need to be defined as such because a text message or email doesn't contain voice inflections (unless they're composed on a voice synthesizer) and not everyone from the same country, let alone the same region, understands some things that are humor. But I digress.

Team members need to respect one another in every way. Likewise they need to be imbued with the power to build the results of what they do by being able to offer a different perspective or even object to something that's been put on the table. But they also need to take responsibility for those positions by offering the basis for the position. When points of differences are defined, it's easier to understand where the idea won't work in a particular situation but may be one of the potential solutions in another setting. And understanding the reasoning behind the support or rejection helps to shed light on the project side of it and not allow it to be construed as a matter of personality.

There's no room for gossip (unfounded information about others or things); there's no room for needless distractions that tend to cause panic or discomfort. Constructive criticism should be encouraged for the sake of growth and learning. Learning should be encouraged. Good communication skills through open, tactful speech should be encouraged. Tact is paramount followed by exchanges between parties for the sake of transmission of information as well as building alliances. And exchanges of information mean confirming that the correct message was heard by the correct party(ies). Confusion about terms and terminology should be cleared up quickly so everyone is on the same page.

Nor should there be any space in any way for threats of punishment, suggestions of coercion, destruction of input to work or research or work, withholding of privileges for lack of consent. Abusive and retaliatory consequences simply do not belong in your corporate culture much less on any of your teams. Isolation, being ostracized, personality differences, failure to recognize the advantages of diversity of culture, ethnicity, abilities, and even age make being in your enterprise not a healthy place to be. Get rid of all of it and don't let it slide under the door.

Star status is important to some and not to others. Knowledge that they've been part of the end product sometimes carries its own limelight. To cut the negative side of competitiveness, it's important to acknowledge the more significant contributions of certain members of the team. However, the leader also needs to recognize how the rest of the team contributed to reaching that plateau.