Category

Human Resources

July 2020: Our Brave New World- How to keep employees engaged while planning for uncertainty

By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources

Most businesses have moved beyond the initial shock of the COVID-19 pandemic and are adjusting to a new reality. Now, organizations need to remain flexible and devise strategies to keep their workforce engaged while planning for uncertainty. With the unpredictable nature of the pandemic, businesses are faced with repetitive attempts at forecasting and budgeting. Projections need to anticipate multiple scenarios to pivot quickly. Another challenge is managing employee burn out, morale, and feelings of being disconnected.

Warren Whitney’s team recently facilitated Peer Group Roundtables addressing these critical topics with HR Leaders and CFO/Controllers. These constructive roundtables produced guidance beneficial for all businesses. Below are guiding strategies that set out to:

  • Establish organizational culture that supports employees during times of crisis
  • Bypass employee burnout to reach long-term engagement
  • Assist with budgeting for unpredictable revenue streams and expenses
  • Provide finance and accounting guidance

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HUMAN RESOURCE – STRATEGIES TO KEEP YOUR WORKFORCE ENGAGED

CREATE PHYSICAL CONNECTIONS

Many employees are feeling isolated and burned out. They may miss the personal aspect that the working environment offers. Here are ways to connect and demonstrate your commitment to your workforce. These gestures can make your team feel valued, safe, and part of their work-life community.

Show your appreciation. Employees value time off.  Consider giving them a self-care day that doesn’t deduct from their PTO bank. Also, be flexible with work schedules due to child care limitations. Being understanding of their situation will go a long way. Additional ideas to show you value your employees are:

  • Sending gift baskets for special occasions (or no occasion at all)
  • Giving spot awards to standout employees
  • Providing “superhero bags” that have PPE and other goodies

Connect with your employees. Make concerted efforts to have a one-on-one with team members. During these check-ins, acknowledge the challenges and give them the chance to discuss their problems. Other ways to build comradery are:  1) Have team members share their lessons learned, 2) Organize virtual happy hours, and 3) Offer safe community service volunteering opportunities.      

Host outside meetings. Hold get togethers outside in large open areas; consider informal picnics with boxed lunches. Hold similar meetings for new hires.

ESTABLISH AN OPEN DIALOGUE

Regular and highly connective communication will break feelings of isolation and disconnection. There is no such thing as over-communicating. Below are ways to reach and engage with your team.

Leverage internal communications tools. Use the intranet or internal technology tools to keep teams informed by posting:

  • Your updated safety handbook that includes the company policy on infectious disease and COVID.
  • A message from the CEO or President that covers the FAQs.
  • Facts & supportive data points to keep employees informed.

** Consider tools for departments to easily share ideas (i.e., VOXER, SLACK, or TEAMS).

Use video to deliver messages. Create videos from the CEO & Senior Leadership, delivering an authentic & relatable message. Acknowledge employee concerns about returning to work. The videos can be short, low-tech, and even recorded on an iPhone.

Organize video calls. Show your support by facilitated video calls with the HR team or the CEO with the key supervisors. During these meetings, ask for input and allow time for Q&A.

FINANCING & ACCOUNTING – FORECASTING/BUDGETING IN FLUID TIMES

BUDGETING TIPS FOR UNPREDICTABLE REVENUE STREAM AND EXPENSES

Budgeting is especially challenging now, with the uncertainty of many variables being so high. Flexibility will be a crucial component of your business’s success because long term unknowns are hard to predict. Frequently assess risks and update your forecasts to make sure they reflect changes. Equally important is regularly reviewing the dashboards with your management team. Make sure your dashboards include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) like: Line of Credit usage, Cash on hand, Payroll, Staff headcount, Inventory, and Accounts Receivable.

Revise your budget. Consider zero-based budgeting; build each line item from the ground up. Know that your budget is going to be lean, with little buffer for course corrections. Plan for:

– Lower margins and decrease projected revenue.

– Increased cleaning and technology (for remote work) costs.

– Cash flow: Review your cash forecast weekly with 2 to 3 scenarios.

Expense Management. Look at the budget line by line to cut costs and minimize discretionary spending. Review contracts and determine which ones can be re-negotiated and which will not happen. Consider refinancing debt to cut interest costs and evaluate office space if teleworking is effective.

Scenario planning. Decrease your risks by anticipating potential strategic pivots. Understand your key drivers, which are different for every industry, and focus on them when running the scenarios.

If you have any questions or seek further clarification on these items, please call us at 804.282.9566. Warren Whitney is available to evaluate your readiness for today’s new operating environment. Our fractional assistance and project work can help you think through decisions and execute strategies. We can put together cash flow projections, manage HR issues, adapt technology and processes, and devise a strategic plan. We Make Potential Happen.

 

 

June 2020: HOW CAN YOUR BUSINESS BENEFIT FROM A FRACTIONAL LEADER?

By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Strategy, Technology and Operations

HOW CAN YOUR BUSINESS BENEFIT FROM A FRACTIONAL LEADER?

And steps to find the right firm. 

For those not familiar with the concept of fractional leadership, it is an efficient and cost-effective model for businesses to outsource functions when they do not have the expertise in-house or are going through a transition. This form of leadership offers an objective perspective and can guide businesses when faced with challenging decisions. Their role is to become a trusted advisor, lead through change, and offer unbiased advice.

This practical solution gives companies access to experienced talent without paying for the committed costs of a full-time employee with benefits. And based on the needs, this can either be a short or long-term engagement. Interim needs vary from filling a vacancy while a candidate search is taking place, to covering for an employee taking medical leave, or preparing your company for a merger.

As a result of our current economic environment,  fractional leadership has become more popular. Businesses that have recently streamlined their operations have hired a fractional leader because they still need access to a high level of expertise and must close the leadership gap. A big challenge is finding a consultant that is the right fit for your company and qualified for the job. Equally important is making sure their values align with yours.

Here are steps to guide you through the process to find the firm that will deliver results and become a valued partner.

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First. Clearly define your needs and challenges. List the goals, expectations, and deliverables for the engagement. What are the expectations upon completion of the project? Be sure to define the scope of work. Prepare and share any relevant materials such as financials, charts, policies, or other reports.

Second. Ask for referrals from a trusted source. Your CPA, banker, or attorney is a great resource. The more people you ask, the better understanding you will have of the marketplace. Pay attention to names that are mentioned repeatedly. If you are new to an area, local business groups or the chamber of commerce may be able to help.

Third. Do your research. Once you have a strong list of key players, look at their websites to see how their values and approach aligns with your needs and company culture. Talk to current and former clients, if possible, to hear first-hand about their working experience with the firm.

Fourth. Schedule meetings with the top firms. Conduct these meetings like you would conduct an interview. Prepare your questions ahead of time and share your goals and expectations.

Fifth. Pay attention to the following characteristics during these meetings:

  1. Unimpeachable character. First and foremost, a competent consultant must be a person of integrity who demonstrates professionalism, confidentiality, and commitment.
  2. Solid experience. A consultant’s work experience is their asset to you. Ask how many years of experience they have as well as training and degrees. The more seasoned they are, the more value-added solutions they are likely to provide. Also, consider the types of companies they have worked with before and knowledge they may have of your industry or relevant fields.
  3. Creative problem-solving skills. Understand what their approach will be to deliver a results-oriented solution. Does their response sound authentic? Are they able to provide specific examples of how they have addressed similar situations?
  4. Excellent interpersonal skills. Try to envision working with this individual and how well they will integrate with your team. Will they proactively address issues and conflict and minimize unneeded drama?
  5. Outstanding communication skills. Pay attention to how they communicate their thought process. Their ability to lay out their approach provides insight into their level of communication.

Once the interviews are over, expect to receive a detailed proposal from each firm. The proposal is an essential element of the decision-making process because it provides additional insight into thought processes and written skills. The proposal should capture:

1) The scope of work, as discussed during the meeting.

2) The approach to resolving the problem with milestones and a timeline.

3) A clearly defined cost and payment structure for the project.

4) The individual’s credentials and experience.

5) The firm’s strength, longevity, and reputation.

Consideration of value: While cost is always a factor, examine the entire package of expertise you are receiving for the investment you are making. Often a good consultant can provide a return many times the cost (ROI) through efficiencies, savings, and/or increased revenue.

Benefit of working with an entire firm vs. a single individual: When hiring a consulting firm, your businesses is more likely to be supported by a team of of professionals who know your business, have a wealth of experience, and a strong support system. The firm can bring together different skill sets from multiple disciplines to assist with a variety of challenges. The benefit of the team is having the backup, just in case.

After deciding which firm to engage, remember you can always ask for references. It is a step that can be revealing to help make you feel more comfortable with the choice.

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Warren Whitney provides fractional leadership in the areas of HR, Finance & Accounting, and IT to include the roles of HR Leader, CFO, CTO, CIO, COO, and Controller. While we typically work in our clients’ offices, we can also work remotely. Based in Richmond, Virginia, we also serve clients throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond. We are passionate about the work we do and welcome the opportunity to speak about the services we provide. To learn more, please contact Stephanie Ford at SFord@warrenwhitney.com or 804.282.9566.

 

 

May 2020: RETURN TO WORK STRATEGIES

By | Business Consulting, Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Strategy, Technology and Operations

RETURN TO WORK STRATEGIES – How to navigate and protect your business for a smooth transition.

 As Virginia starts a phased reopening by easing “stay at home restrictions,” businesses need a well-thought-out transition plan.  Your plan should take into consideration not only your employees’ and customers’ health and safety, but also fiscal stability, strategic direction, and technology. This multi-layered plan must address regulations, the environment, and internal communications as well as the emotional well-being of your employees. Flexibility is critical, and your business will need to be positioned to respond to a changing landscape as the situation evolves.

When devising your plan, consider these pieces of advice from our team in the 4 areas we serve our clients.

 HUMAN RESOURCES

      PREPARE THE PHYSICAL WORKPLACE

  • Give your office a post-pandemic makeover! Normalize the “6 feet rule” in the office and consider providing the baseline of PPE such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
  • Regularly clean the worksite and follow the CDC guidelines. Consider hiring an industrial cleaning company or aks your existing professional cleaner about their standards.
  • When planning the return to the office, consider:
    1. Flexible schedules to include part-time in the office and teleworking
    2. Create odd/even workdays in the office
    3. Stagger start and end times
    4. Designate days for specific work to be completed

It is important to note that doing everything possible to make the workplace clean demonstrates your commitment to maintaining a safe environment. This will build confidence and reduce the tension employees may have about returning to the workplace while COVID-19 concerns continue.

      FOCUS ON INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

  • Communicate your organization’s policy explaining the protocol. Transparency is key; include the thought process of how and why you devised the policy.
  • Make sure the policy is easily and readily accessible both online and in the workplace.
  • Survey your employees regularly to understand their main concerns and that their voice is valued (i.e. survey monkey, calls, focus groups).
  • Build a desire for workers to return to work and explain why especially if employees are successful at teleworking.
  • Keep employees engaged and mentally healthy. An example could be collaborating with a local gym for virtual yoga classes.

Over communicate the safety protocols as the workforce re-enters the physical workplace. Employees will feel secure knowing management has considered federal guidance and is establishing procedures to develop a culture of safety.

Refer to the state guidelines. External guidelines can help bridge the gap between varying employee opinions. https://www.governor.virginia.gov/media/governorvirginiagov/governor-of-virginia/pdf/Virginia-Forward-Phase-One-Business-Sector-Guidelines.pdf.

FINANCE & ACCOUNTING

      MANAGE INTERNAL CONTROLS

  • Make sure internal controls continue to be practiced especially in the remote working environment.
  • Investigate new ways to accomplish signature and approval responsibilities.
  • Evaluate how receipts have been handled in light of “working-at-home.” Who is proofing cash receipts? How are deposits made and who makes them?
  • Continue to communicate the controls and review of policy requirements.
  • Review by-laws for borrowing/banking transactions requiring board involvement.
  • Ensure all bank reconciliations have been prepared and company credit card receipts have been documented.
  • Make sure all mail has been reviewed and time-sensitive items have been handled.
  • Determine a rotating schedule on personnel to ensure there is at least one person in the accounting department who can be physically present the majority of the week.
  • Take your ledger to the cloud (i.e. QuickBooks Online or remote access).

        ESTABLISH FISCAL STABILITY

  • Continue to forecast cash flow and report out with your team weekly.
  • Run various forecasting scenarios to reflect potential best and worst-case scenarios.
  • Rebuild your operating cash reserve. If you recently took shortcuts, document where you mitigated risk. It is easier to remember now than when you are being audited.
  • Monitor PPP forgiveness and everchanging rules for new SBA loans.
  • Develop a strategy to: improve liquidity, build working capital reserves, and access credit facilities. There is no guarantee there will be an additional aggressive stimulus package.

 STRATEGY

       DOCUMENT LESSONS LEARNED

  • Do your post mortems. What did you learn that would have been helpful had you put it in place beforehand? Can you do it now and be more prepared if/when we are forced back into lockdown?
  • Record your organization’s strengths and build action steps around weaknesses, threats and opportunities.

        POSITION FOR SUCCESS

  • Evaluate business partnership and merger opportunities to ensure the relevancy and strength of your organization.
  • Consider potential alternative revenue streams. Work with your team and board to identify innovative and creative strategies that are mission-aligned to retain your organization’s relevancy and success.
  • Bring new thought leaders to the table to help reposition your organization in innovative ways.
  • Consider a mini-board retreat to reevalute and modifiy your strategic plan.

TECHNOLOGY & OPERATIONS

       UNDERSTAND YOUR TECHNOLOGY

  • Survey management and staff to identify issues with technology and processes; record these issues (small or large – either may cause bigger problems).
  • Evaluate your relationships with your vendor partners. Ask yourself:
    • Can they support technology changes?
    • How will we be impacted if they go out of business?
    • Will my business have the rights to continue using software provided by the vendor?
  • Regularly review your information security and technical risks. With malicious activity on the rise, risks need to be addressed by a combination of policies, technology, manual controls, training, and knowledgeable support staff.

      PLAN FOR CHANGE

  • Be prepared to address new customer and partner expectations.
  • Re-consider new technology that has been put off that may help stabilize operations. Evalute the short and long-term benefits of the technology changes. If choosing to upgrade, be patient when training employees and remember this is a huge change for all involved.
  • Think outside the box when resolving issues or ways to increase efficiencies. Even if you are not ready to make changes now, do the research so you are prepared to react when needed.

If you have any questions or seek further clarification on these items, please call us at 804.282.9566. Warren Whitney is available to evaluate your new operating environment. Our fractional assistance and project work can help you think through decisions. We can put together cash flow projections, manage HR issues, adapt technology and processes, and devise a strategic plan. We Make Potential Happen.

 

 

October 2019: The New Overtime Rule

By | Business Consulting, Human Resources, News

Contributor: Kevin Grey, Warren Whitney’s Human Resource Director

WHAT BUSINESS OWNERS NEED TO KNOW

On September 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule increasing the earning threshold to exempt executive, administrative, and professional workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The new rule, effective January 1, 2020, raises the federal overtime exemption threshold from $23,660 per year ($455 per week) to $35,568 per year ($684 per week). This law was last updated 15 years ago.

To better understand the new overtime law, Warren Whitney’s Human Resource Director, Kevin Grey, explains:

  • The meaning of the new federal overtime rule
  • Ways to be cost-effective
  • How to communicate the change to affected employees
  • Penalties for non-compliance

 1) The meaning of the new federal overtime rule

This law impacts employees currently classified as salary exempt that are making over $23,660 a year and under $35,568 a year. For these employees, you will be required to:

  • Reclassify the employee as non-exempt (if appropriate).
  • Compensate the employee at time-and-a-half as overtime pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week.

Employers should analyze their salary exempt workforce in consideration of the new threshold and communicate any changes to the affected employees before it takes effect on January 1st, 2020. This is a good time to update your position descriptions as you conduct your review.

There are additional provisions under the final rule to consider:

  • The duties requirements for these employees remains the same.
  • Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) may be used to satisfy up to 10% of the new salary level requirement.
  • The annual salary level for classified highly compensated employees is being raised from the current level of $100,000 per year to $107,432 per year.
  • The final rule does not include automatic increases to the threshold.

2) Ways to Be Cost-Effective and minimize the impact on your balance sheet

 i. Pay Overtime as Necessary

If your employees typically work 40 hours a week and occasionally or seasonally work overtime, it might be advantageous to reclassify them as non-exempt. In this scenario, you would budget for overtime instead of raising their yearly salaries above the threshold. Limit workers’ hours to 40 hours a week. If possible, redistribute workloads to ensure that non-exempt employees remain within a 40-hour workweek.

ii. Hire Temporary Workers

To limit your non-exempt employees to a 40-hour workweek, you may find the need for the occasional temporary worker to meet business demands. Hiring temporary workers can be more cost-effective than either raising salaries to be above the threshold or paying overtime.

iii. Raise Salaries above the Threshold

If you have employees consistently working more than 40 hours a week and these employees are already being compensated at or near the salary threshold, it might be worth considering raising salaries above the $35,568 threshold. However, keep in mind that the employees’ duties must pass the Duties Test required by the FLSA. In the event of a DOL audit, the job description must support the exemption. If it is not within your budget to increase salaries, you will have to reclassify the salary exempt positions to non-exempt.

3) Be sensitive when communicating the change

There are employees who tie professional esteem to being salary exempt. If you determine that paying on an hourly non-exempt basis is more cost-effective for your business, be sensitive to the affected employees when communicating the changes.  Even if there is no change to their income or duties, they may perceive their now non-exempt position to have less professional status.

In Virginia’s particularly tight labor market, effectively disseminating information to your workforce is important to ensure your employees don’t feel slighted as your business moves to ensure compliance with new regulations.

 4) DOL Penalties for non-compliance under the FLSA

Penalties and sanctions for non-compliance with the FLSA are severe and aren’t a risk worth taking. In addition to the back payment of lost wages to all affected employees, willful violators may be prosecuted criminally and fined up to $10,000. A second conviction of violating the FLSA can result in imprisonment. Employers with repeated violations may be subject to fines of $1,000 per incident.

All businesses must comply with FLSA rules to not only avoid penalties and/or sanctions but to also protect their most important investment; their employees. Warren Whitney’s Human Resource professionals have hands-on experience helping organizations with HR compliance. If you have questions about the new overtime rule or other compliance-related issues, please contact Kevin Grey at 804.282.9566 or kgrey@warrenwhitney.com.

Learn more about Kevin Grey www.warrenwhitney.com/kevin-grey/

NAVIGATING THE COMPLEX TERRAIN OF HR REGULATIONS

By | Human Resources, News

Contributor: Beth Williams, Warren Whitney, Director Human Resource Practice Group

Today in business, there are more acronyms, legal agencies, and regulatory requirements than ever before. If you employ people in your business, you must understand and comply with these requirements, which can be daunting. The number of people on your payroll determine the magnitude of your time involved and, ultimately, the work expended to comply with the requirements. The full life cycle of an employee from recruiting strategies through terminations and all actions in between present opportunities for legal issues. The key is creating best practice processes, policies, and a workplace culture that protects your company and manages risk.

Where are we now? Every February the President’s administration releases its proposed fiscal year budget for the upcoming year outlining the White House’s priorities for the year ahead. Many of the items for FY 2019 contain a number of workplace-related proposals, specifically changes to labor, healthcare, and immigration. Below are the main topics to consider when assessing strategic decisions for your business and HR policy. While some of these areas are still in the proposal stage, they will be items to keep an eye on going forward.

LABOR

Paid Parental Leave establishes a federal and/or state paid parental leave program. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed and allows for unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks if your organization meets the qualifications. A new regulatory proposal suggest that paid parental leave might be found and funded within the unemployment insurance program. These provisions, if passed, would begin in 2021. Another option is a voluntary Social Security (SS) benefit program that would provide pay during parental leave as an offset to future SS benefits for employees who wish to take six weeks (2019 proposal) of paid leave for mothers, fathers and adoptive parents to stay home to recover from childbirth or bond with their children. This federal legislation did not pass for this year but many states and companies have implemented a similar policy as a way to address retention.

Employees who work for the State of Virginia are now eligible for paid parental leave per the Governor’s Executive Order signed in 2018. The new benefits, which took effect last summer, provide eight weeks of leave at full pay to mothers and fathers alike. Workers who become parents through adoption or foster placement are also eligible.

DOL and Overtime
Held over from 2016, and still ongoing, are revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and overtime regulations. These regulations affect almost every employer and are paramount in the minds of employees in non-exempt status roles who are eligible for overtime compensation. In May 2019, the DOL has proposed revisions to allow employer specific policies and practices that will drive employee engagement, retain the current duties test, and adjust the nationwide salary level (using the same methodology used in previous rulemaking). The Department of Labor has proposed an increase in the salary-level threshold for white-collar exemptions by $11,648 (from $23,660 to $35,308 per year). If finalized, the new overtime rule would result in the reclassification by employers of more than a million currently exempt workers as nonexempt and an increase in pay for others above the new threshold. The proposal does not call for automatic annual adjustments to the salary threshold.

As an organization, consider the reclassification exercise as a way to review job duties, schedules, staffing levels, and salaries. This could have a profound impact on payroll and budgets by making more employees in the workforce eligible for overtime pay when converted from exempt to non-exempt. Above all, ensure that your approach is consistent across the organization.

The Second Chance Act (in the original budget proposal) supports individuals exiting prison to transition to community life and long-term employment through mentoring, job training, and other initiatives. Part of this effort includes apprentice programs at the state level to enable successful outreach strategies, partnerships, economic development strategies, and fuller integration into society. The First Step Act (legislation passed by Congress in December 2018) gives judges more discretion in sentencing offenders for nonviolent crimes and gives inmates credits for in-prison job training and education so they can earn early release.

HEALTH CARE
Affordable Care Act (ACA) proposals have contained funding for a two-year cost sharing reduction in subsidies. This will impact the individual market and may shift significant costs to employers and other private sector payers as well as the federal government.

Prescription Drug Costs
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published a proposed rule to lower the cost of prescription drug prices by encouraging drug manufacturers to pass their rebates directly to consumers (by-passing the pharmacy benefit managers). This proposal targets Medicare plans and other government health plans but, over time, will impact employer sponsored group health plans. If approved, the effective date is January 2020. In October 2018, President Trump signed into law the Patient Right To Know Drug Prices Act which allows pharmacists to discuss drug pricing with patients. Pharmacists may now educate consumers regarding their medication, pricing, and alternative cost-efficient options.

Association Health Plans and “repeal-replace” were debated throughout this past year, a lot still remains to be discussed and debated in the health insurance arena.

IMMIGRATION
I-9 Audits
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have significantly increased the number of I-9 audits this past year due to new federal initiatives. It is expected that I-9 audits will continue to be a significant hot button for ICE in 2020. Small to mid-sized employers are especially vulnerable and are easy targets for fines. It is important to know: 1) How to complete the employer portion of the I-9 form, 2) What documents are acceptable, and 3) How to interpret those including expired documents. Ensure all I-9 files are kept separately from other employee files; they require ongoing maintenance and compliance.

Employment Verification
Over recent years, there has been a push for a nationwide mandatory process using E-Verify, the government’s electronic employment eligibility verification system for all employers. The same proposed funding includes staffing for more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and additional worksite investigators. Much of the funding for these initiatives are a result of employer I-9 audits and associated fines.

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Warren Whitney’s Human Resource professionals can assist you in providing a better understanding of the legislation and their potential impact on your business. Now is the time to assess your best practices, current policies and to obtain advice for strategic initiatives for your organization that will help minimize risk.

Beth Williams, Director of the HR Practice Group at Warren Whitney
Contact Beth at BWilliams@warrenwhitney.com or at (M) 804.301.8009 or (O) 804.282.9566.

March 2019 Newsletter: How to Handle Crucial Conversations at Work

By | Human Resources

Whether it is with your boss, co-worker, or client, difficult conversations are challenging to manage, and the fear of failure can sometimes be paralyzing. The key to ensuring the best outcome for everyone involved is knowing how to manage the exchange.

Kevin Grey, one of Warren Whitney’s Human Resource professionals, has provided us with the crucial steps to ensure a smooth, successful, and productive discussion.

The Steps to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation

Step 1. Get yourself in the right mindset by asking yourself these questions.

  1. What is your purpose for having the conversation? What do you hope to accomplish and what is an ideal outcome?
  2. What assumptions are you making about this person’s intent? Be cautious about making any presumptions.
  3. Which “buttons” of yours are being pushed? Are you more emotional than the situation warrants? Be aware of your heightened emotional state.
  4. How does this person perceive the situation? Are they aware there is a problem? What solution do you think they would suggest?
  5. What are your needs and fears? What are theirs? How have either of you contributed to the problem?

Step 2. Understand your emotional state and don’t forget to breathe.

No matter how well the conversation begins, you’ll need to stay in charge of yourself, your purpose, and your emotional energy. Your attitude toward the conversation will influence your perception of it. Being positive will impact its effectiveness. Be mindful of your body language.

Step 3. Cultivate an attitude of discovery and curiosity.

Pretend you don’t know anything and try to learn as much as possible about the other person’s point of view.  What do they really want? What are they not saying? Do you know all the facts?

Let them talk until they are finished; don’t interrupt them other than to show your understanding of what they are saying. Most importantly, do not take it personally. Your goal is to learn as much as you can.

Step 4. Acknowledge the other person’s position.

Acknowledgment shows you are listening. Explain what you think is really going on from their perspective; anticipate their hopes and honor their position. People rarely change their position unless they see you understanding. Also, take ownership of your role, this will help move the conversation forward. Lastly, know that acknowledging and agreeing are not the same. Saying, “this sounds really important to you,” doesn’t mean you are going along with their decision.

Step 5. Clarify your perspective without minimizing theirs.

When you sense that the other has fully expressed his or her side, then it’s your turn. Clarify what you think they may have missed and explain yourself without minimizing their point of view. For example: “From what you’ve told me, I can see how you came to the conclusion that I’m not a team player. But I think I am. When I introduce problems with a project, I’m thinking about its long-term success. I don’t mean to be a critic, though perhaps I sound like one. Maybe we can talk about how to address these issues so that my intention is clear.” 

Step 6. You’re ready to problem solve.

Now you can start building solutions. Brainstorming and asking questions are essential. Ask what they think might work and then find something you like and build on it. If the conversation becomes adversarial, go back to asking questions. The result will be sustainable solutions.

Additional tips and suggestions are:

Practice, practice, practice.

  • Acknowledge everyone’s emotional energy and direct it toward a useful purpose.
  • Know and return to your purpose at difficult moments.
  • Don’t take verbal attacks personally.
  • Don’t assume this person will see things from your point of view.
  • Practice the conversation with a mentor before holding the real one.
  • Mentally practice the conversation. See various possibilities and visualize yourself handling them with ease. Envision the outcome you are hoping for.

Use one of these conversation openers.

  • I have something I’d like to discuss with you that I think will help us work together more effectively.
  • I’d like to talk about ______ with you, and first I’d like to get your point of view.
  • I need your help with what just happened. Do you have a few minutes to talk?
  • I need your help with something. Can we talk about it (soon)? If the person says, “Sure, let me get back to you,” follow up with him.
  • I think we have different perceptions about ____________. I’d like to hear your thinking on this.
  • I’d like to talk about ________. I think we may have different ideas about how to __________.
  • I’d like to see if we might reach a better understanding about ___________. I really want to hear your feelings about this and share my perspective as well.

Kevin Grey recommends reading Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler. Kevin serves as Fractional HR Director for clients requiring senior level human resource leadership and organizational development expertise across Virginia. If you want to speak with him directly about any HR questions, do not hesitate to reach out to him; kgrey@warrenwhitney.com or 804.282.6566.

 

August 2018 Newsletter: Essential HR Practices for your Business

By | Family Businesses, Human Resources, Privately Held

Protecting your most Important Investment: Essential HR Practices for your Business

As a small business owner, you are keenly aware that even if you worked 24/7 there still would not be enough time to get everything done. Being an effective manager requires knowing the critical elements to lead your team. We, at Warren Whitney, strive to inform you of the essentials to run your business. To help get you started with your HR program, Beth Williams, Director of Human Resources at Warren Whitney, has provided guidelines for a sensible and practical HR program. Included in these guidelines are three basic requirements:

  • Creation and maintenance of three specific employee files
  • Publication of an employee guidebook with specific policies
  • Posting of required state and federal notices

EMPLOYEE GUIDELINES

Beth Williams advises that every employee have 3 separate files; Employee Payroll File, Employee HR File, Employee Medical/Benefit File.

  1. Employee Payroll File. This file should include: Direct Deposit Form, W-4, VA-4 and other withholding forms, and the offer letter. The file may be shared with the payroll or finance department (Note: The file may be kept with the finance department).
  2. Employee HR File. This confidential file will have general employment information on the employee and include his/her: Resume, Employment Application, Offer Letter, Contract or Agreement, Performance Evaluation, Awards, Disciplinary Documents and finally termination or exit interview information.
  3. Employee Medical/Benefit File. A separate, confidential medical/benefit file for health and medical issues on each of your employees should include: Applications for insurance, notes from a doctor excusing a person from work, medical examination results, information related to a disability, beneficiary forms, open enrollment forms and any other benefit related documents.

EMPLOYEE GUIDEBOOK

Next on the list is the Employee Guidebook. “A good employee Guidebook should contain several key sections and information on your company culture, policies, and procedures” Beth explains. Listed below are must-haves for the guidebook:

  1. An introductory statement to explain the purpose of the handbook and at will employment.
  2. The guidebook should list the following company policies:

·        Equal Opportunity Statement

·        Onboarding Information ·        Harassment and Discrimination
·        Open Door Statement ·        Confidentiality ·        Employment at Will
·        Social Media ·        Computer Use ·        Alcohol and Drug
·        Personal Appearance ·        Solicitation ·        Immigration Law
·        Disclaimer Statement ·        Business / Work Hours ·        Company Property
·        Ethics Policy

·        Standards of Conduct

3. Below are some remaining key topics that may be included based on your business and industry:

Timekeeping and Payroll: Timekeeping Procedures, Paydays, Pay deductions, Time Off

Work Conditions: Violence in the Workplace, Workplace Safety, Drug Free Workplace Policy, Employee Standard of Conduct and Disciplinary Policy, Office and Facility Information

Benefits: Sick Leave, Personal Leave, Vacation, Holidays, Bereavement Leave, Jury Duty Leave, Military Leave, Maternity/Paternity Leave, Group Insurance, Worker’s Compensation Insurance, Healthcare Continuation, 401K, Business Expense Reimbursement

POSTING OF REQUIRED NOTICES

To make your life easier, Beth suggests buying a combined state and federal poster that keeps you in compliance with posting regulations. If you have more than one office, you will need to post this in each location. While there are many sources, this recommended version costs less than $20.00:

http://www.allinoneposters.com/Virginia-Federal-Combo.html