Creating an Operationally Sound Human Resource Department

I saw a headline on some email magazine that employees in the Human Resource occupation are leaving the industry in fairly high numbers.  Due to lack of time, I didn’t read any of the articles, but from my years in management I think I may know a few of the reasons that the Human Resource industry is suffering.

I am not picking on the Human Resource industry or any employees in that industry with my comments.  I am only pointing out the observations from my own experiences.

I can’t say that many human resource specialists are operationally sound, which if it is true, in most cases, it is not their fault but rather the employer’s oversight.  If Human Resource (HR) members have never been introduced to their employer’s industry then how is the HR person going to add value to employees and the company and be able to point out the good, the bad and the ugly.

In my store management days, I trained future managers.  Sixteen out of the 18 managers were promoted at least twice after the training program, which usually lasted 4 months for each trainee, before they were competent to run a profitable, successful location.  If we aren’t putting HR staff through a training program to show them goals, ways to improve procedures, productivity, learning the functions of each position, safety factors, and much more.  How is that HR person going to perform effectively and add value, production and improve the general operation and staff?

Most businesses have district managers, sales managers and other positions that really only teach people how to move product and services.  They may also enforce business standards so the business in question is clean, organized, helpful, etc.  Seldom are sales managers great leaders or teachers from my experience.  Start HR staff in a training program so they can add true value to an operation and I can almost guarantee improvements in your business.  They will limit employee accidents, reduce sick leave, improve employee attitude and provide a solid base of employees that will work for you.  A good HR employee isn’t as worried about products as they are of producing good quality employees that will treat your company as if it was their own.  Be sure you bring in HR staff and get input from them at sales meetings as well.  Upper management needs to pick HR’s brains to solve what may have been ongoing staff problems.

Do not procrastinate; fix these employee problems quicker with an operationally sound HR department.  Start today and be  more profitable tomorrow!

Stop Sexual Harassment From Starting in the Workplace

Personally, I think the largest financial losses that business owners potentially face are Sexual Harassment claims.  I have investigated harassment cases, interviewed victims and witnesses.  I have also conducted prevention meetings after having a state office file charges against a management team member (to the tune of $35,000 in 2001).

Some employees seem to think that off-colored jokes can be told around the entire staff and in reality shouldn’t be shared in the workplace at all.  Imagine an employee telling a joke and another employee laughs just to be part of the crowd.  This employee can still sue for harassment.

From my perspective the situation may be far worse than it was in 2001.   Cell phones with cameras seem to be on the rise and this is just one way that you’ll be challenged in making sure that people are not harassed.  Are we all comfortable educating the staff about Sexual Harassment Prevention and willing to stop employees as they attempt to further joke about matters that aren’t suitable for the workplace.  Management needs to stop it immediately and not tolerate employees making light of the situation.  I suggest you stomp on the issue and have a zero tolerance in this matter.

Sexual harassment is comprised of the following circumstances:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Request for sexual favors
  • Verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
  • It seems mostly someone in authority at the business implies submission to requests to keep their job.  This may not be an issue between two consenting employees, but never assume that situation.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the message on how diligent management must be to stop harassment and stop it immediately.  I would have all employees and all new hires going forward sign a Sexual Harassment Acknowledgement form indicating that they have been warned.

Take every claim very seriously and conduct investigations.  Don’t wait for the claims to blow over and get back to normal.  Investigate now and get to the bottom of the harassment claim and take care of it immediately, without exceptions.

Call Professional Employment Practices if you aren’t comfortable training staff on this topic.  Call us and we can conduct the meetings for you and provide a reminder for your employees’ breakroom.  Call us at (701) 751-1500.  This a less expensive option than a claim that goes to court.

Maintaining A Dress Code For All Employees

As I try to give employers the most information as succinctly as possible, I also want the content to be useful.  That may be in the vein of information that you haven’t thought about or haven’t heard anyone even mention. Today, I am going to address a simple yet growing issue with today’s workforce.  How many of you have had an applicant for a position that had visible tattoos, earrings, nose rings and studs for male and female applicants.  In some industries, I am sure there are not an issue and probably haven’t been for years.  But what do you do if you have an investment company, a bank, or a health care professional with clients that are 55 years older and up?  Will they be comfortable dealing with employees with tattoos and different jewely?  What about hairstyles?  I may be more sensitive to this issue than others.  After 30 years in retail management, I was always very concerned about client’s perceptions of the various locations that I managed.  I counted on my staff offering great service, knowledge, and a clean appearance to entice clients to return in the future for our goods and services!

Can employers control the appearance of their employees without a law suit?  The simple answer is yes.  However, you need to be careful and make all rules apply to all employees and you may not make many, if any exceptions.  I banned earrings (on males) in the ’90s in the retail farm stores.  I would ask employee prospects if they understood why I didn’t allow earrings on males.  I explained that we dealt with conservative farmers and ranchers and most of them would not feel comfortable dealing with an employee with earrings or visible tattoos.

The one exception that I did allow was a Native American employee who had a ponytail below his shirt collar.  He understood our rules of no hair below the shirt collar for male employees.  He explained he was his tribe’s medicine man and had documentation.  The ponytail was allowed because I considered it to be a religious freedom.

So, if any of these examples bother you, be careful that you hold all employees to the same standards and beware of exceptions that could get an employer into trouble.  You do have more control over employees’ appearance and dress codes than you may realize.  This may not apply to unions, however.  This is not given as specific advice, rather, only ideas to keep your staff appearance to a reasonable standard.

Creating & Maintaining Your Company’s Culture

A hearty hello!  As our temperatures drop, I hope our businesses soar!

As I sit down to write this blog, I suddenly realize it has been 368 days since we posted our very first blog after our website first went live.  Time flies by, especially when our lives are productive with work, family and community!

I have posted 65 blogs since launching our website.  I know we have covered many issues with employees, creating leaders, hiring practices and much more.  I don’t think we have discussed company culture much, if at all.

Have you even thought about your company culture?  Do we know what our initial plans were for our company culture when we launched our businesses?  Have we been so engrossed in finding new clients, keeping existing clients and giving them all the service that they deserve that we haven’t taken time to see if our culture is still what we wanted it to be?  I know I am on track for most of my culture place.  I’m not saying everything is where I want it to be, but we are heading in the right direction.

I have had this grandiose plan to take a monthly sabbatical for about five hours on the last weekend of each month to just stop and see where I am at in my business.  I know that I am lucky if I have done this effectively maybe twice in eight years since launching one of my businesses.  My theory behind a “sabbatical” is not the time spent analyzing your company in great detail but it is the time to write down things we do that doesn’t always contribute to the business’s success or profitability.  We need to keep an “idea pad” handy and write down parts of our operations that we question.  It may be the viability of staff, procedures, product, service standards or whatever you think needs to be tweaked or eliminated to help you and your company have the culture (or company environment) set where you want to be most effective.

In my retail management days, I would go into our stores and ask the manager why a procedure was done a certain way.  The response was, “We’ve always done it that way!”  If you don’t remember why you do something, sell something, use a type software or whatever.  You need a sabbatical to tweak your business to get it up to your standards or new standards as well as surpassing the competition.

I urge you to do this monthly.  In some instances, you may want to involve family members and employees to gain a different perspective on your company’s culture.

I think our clients want fresh and innovative with the comfort of doing business the old fashioned way.  This would include a knowledgeable staff, great service, acknowledging clients or prospects as they enter your facility.  Give that “great to have you back” attitude and you will have set a part of your culture that will carry you and your company a long way.  Think of all the chain stores that are not meeting sales projections in the news.  Now think of what the customer service was like last time you were in that facility.  They didn’t help you did they?  They didn’t even acknowledge you and they wonder why their sales are down and stores are closing.

Enjoy the sabbatical and make it fruitful!  If you need an outside opinion or input call PEP and we can help!

Creating a Consistent Company Culture

If you have followed our blog for any length of time, you have heard us talk about company culture.  Can you describe your company culture?  Is that culture something that just happened or did you create your present culture with thought, communication with staff, and living the culture while working with your clients and employees?

I hear and read jingles about companies and I wonder if the owners really put their culture in the ad.  Or was that ad created because it’s what companies thought needed to be in an ad or spot for that particular day?

I think my mission statement for one of my companies sets the tone for the culture and how we want to approach and serve every client  with the same base level of service.  Some clients will need more help, have larger needs and more expense account dollars and these “A” clients will obviously get more than the base level of service.  BUT, we still give the attention needed to “B” clients.  We still cover all the basics needed for each client to decide what product and carrier will suit their needs best based on what the client knows today.

In Minneapolis, we took our granddaughters to a children’s bookstore that had all sorts of real animals roaming around the crowded shop.  The hour we spent there, I don’t think, the store ever had less than twelve clients there at a time.  Every child was mesmerized and I am sure that we will make multiple trips to that store in the future.  That is what culture is.  The client knows what you stand for and expects the same culture every trip.

If you haven’t defined your company’s culture, do it today!  You will become more consistent in service.  As your staff is working with clients I would hope you have the pride in your company, staff, culture and client base.  Call if you need help starting this important step!  Have fun in the process too!

The Importance of a Thank You

I try to be as diversified as I can on this blog.  I see I started blogging way back in November of 2012.  After nine months of trying to help all of us keep our eyes on the business ball, I wonder if any of us have changed our business models to make us more effective.  I, for one, have been so busy with service work and helping people with their finances in my Financial Services business that I haven’t done a lot of the planning and goal setting that I usually do.

I don’t want anyone to think that I tackled issues in order of importance.  My topics usually are focused on something that an employee did or didn’t do in my transactions at different suppliers during the week that I felt needed to be addressed.    That being said, I know that through the years of management I wasn’t very consistent on giving praise and thanking employees for a job well done.  I did understand my weakness and would always remind new hires and veteran employees alike that just because I didn’t acknowledge everything that employees did to contribute their share to the success of the organizations didn’t mean I hadn’t noticed.

I explained to the many of the managers in training that they should alert when we need to thank an employee or an entire staff for a job well done.  I think for most of us, we are so focused on putting out fires here and there we don’t always recognize when employees are giving their full attention to their position, clients and details that they in fact stop some of the fires we are so busy trying to eliminate.

Make sure we show appreciation to our staff and acknowledge jobs well done.  We probably do the same thing in our personal relationships as we do with our staff.  We are so busy looking for all the right answers we simply don’t stay aware of our lack of appreciation for the many people in our lives.

If there are any issues you would like to bring up in a forum style with feedback from other readers feel free to send me a letter explaining your situation and what you have attempted to do to fix the situation.  Or simply call, (701) 751-1500, and I am more than happy to discuss potential outcomes.  Have a great week and don’t forget to compliment a staff member.

How To Get Excellent Customer Service, ALWAYS

What causes vast differences in customer service at different businesses?

I blame it on the following

  • Unrefined or undefined company culture
  • Not giving employees expectations, not holding employees responsible, and not enforcing expectations
  • Not training and educating new hires on the importance of great customer service and reminding all employees of this as needed

How many of us have a procedures manual?

How many of us have a policies manual?

How many of us have consistent company meetings?

All three of these can be used to train new employees effectively.  I actually think that all three tolls need to be used in unison to give new hires a more in depth view of their new job within their new employer’s company.  If owners have to rely on themselves to give great customer service, then you may as well not have a staff.  Of course, for most of us that wouldn’t work at all.  So, why not have the entire staff on the same “the customer is king” mantra.  Owners and Managers, you need to find the quickest, easiest, and most effective way to get your staff at the top of their game where customer service is concerned.  Obviously, other factors need to be priorities as well, effective job duties, clients given correct answers 100% of the time and a clean, safe environment for clients and staff.

Best of all, it seems the more employees know about their positions and company the more productive and happy they are.  Especially if this knowledge is coupled with treating all fairly and keeping them informed.

What can you do to see lasting changes in your staff?  Devise a plan, work out the details and set deadlines.  I guarantee if this is done properly, you will love the change in your staff and so will your clients.

Leaders Create Your Business’s Culture

I think a lot of people talk about leadership and there are dozens of philosophies on how to develop effective leadership within an organization.  I’m not saying that there is only way to develop leadership in your company.  However, I am of the opinion, you need a few components to make it a lasting company leadership.

I have known and worked with many managers and business owners that are under the impression that they will oversee the operation but play no major role in any type of job position.  These management types claim they have a good staff and the “place runs itself.”  They might have some fine employees working in their organization but with this mentality, I can guarantee you won’t have a happy team ALL working for the satisfaction of the clients.

If you want to develop a great leader, you need to have a great culture in place first.  I have no opinion on what a “great culture” may look like to you.  I think many different approaches may work well.  But if you don’t know the answer to most of your clients’ needs then who is going to educate the staff on what clients need everyday.  A leader needs to be an educator, motivator, and a visionary.  When that new leader gets the staff heading in the right direction then you will have developed the culture you needed for your company and industry.  However, you need this leader to continue to hire future employees that embrace the culture and learn to maintain and adapt the culture as needed.

It takes leadership to educate a staff on why we need to do what we do and why each and every position is important.  I would hope a strong leader would continually upgrade staff through education and annual reviews.  This leader needs to do a great job explaining to a team member what needs to be done to stay in touch with the culture.  If it happens that your leader fails to paint the picture to an employee successfully then you may have to weed them out of your system before they undercut all your efforts to form and keep the culture.

I feel employees fail for three reasons:

  1. New hires weren’t educated well enough to let them be successful
  2. The employee has a personal or professional problem that needs to be solved
  3. The employee doesn’t care or hates what their job duties entail.

One has to fire people immediately if they fall under reason three.  They will probably never be a happy, productive member of your culture and will destroy everything the leader worked for to make the company truly client-focused.  You need to stay employee focused as well to keep them on track by giving expectations and praise for a job well done.

I have only painted the beginning of a creating a leader.  If we can create the consistent culture first, we can focus on improving more and replicating this daily process.  Who know, we may need to replicate this daily process for multiple locations as our businesses grow!

Maintaining a Dress Code

Attention employers, don’t lower your standards or dress code to hire employees.  Today, I had lunch out with a business acquaintance and saw a young gentleman, about 23-25 years of age, with tattoos across his entire upper torso.  I wondered what he was thinking when he inked up in a less than ordinary way.

If he works freight docks and loading trucks then it may never be an issue having so many tattoos in plain sight.  However, if he is a travel agent booking a trip for a couple in their 60s, they may be quite uncomfortable.  I know, normally, these tattoos, earrings, nose rings, off-color hair, aren’t perceived negatively but how about in the business world?

I didn’t allow males to have any piercings when I managed stores with a farm store chain.  I explained to applicants that if they were hired they would have to keep piercings off while on duty.

Most people say you can’t do that and that you are going to get sued.  As long as you have a dress code in place, you certainly may dictate that people dress according to the dress code.  However, if you let one or two people break the rules and you only enforce that rule with someone else you will be in violation of the law.

I never dictated dress attire and appearance to be demanding.  I enforced it because clients deserve to deal with knowledgeable, professional employees.  Why should businesses take a chance offending a client in a time when sales aren’t always consistent?  We need to be ready to staff our team with other knowledgeable, personable employees that can relate to each businesses’ clientele.

Let’s raise the standards of our employees and make them fit with our clientele more.  I wish you luck!  As always, you know how to reach us with questions.

Have a great week!


Maintaining an Intergenerational Staff

I would like to continue where we left off on 6/11.  You may have a gifted staff of employees that range in age from the twenties to their eighties but if you can’t match up your employees’ strengths to the correct position, you aren’t going to be happy and neither is your staff.  Not to mention your sales and staff morale will suffer immensely.

If you weren’t able to determine where prospective employees talents lay during the interview or within the first thirty days on the job then put someone else in charge of hiring and training.  You should take some time to learn more about the different styles of generations and their education to gather the insight that we now need to combine the past experience from our older employees and technology from our younger employees.  There is no telling where you can go with a line up of these various personalities.

Please follow a process in hiring any age employee.  Use a questionnaire and ask every applicant the exact same questions.  If you know your industry very well, you should be able to ask questions to flush out the less experienced and find the most experience.  Don’t let applicant arrogance fool you into thinking they have confidence.  Those two traits rarely go together from my experience in management.  Take you time and ALWAYS call for references.  It does pay off!

To maintain a cohesive team, conduct team building exercises, company picnics and occasional company events.  Intergenerational staffs can have the best of all worlds and are able to deal with clients from a variety of age groups.

Do not think for a moment this is only a passing fad.  The intergenerational staff will be with us for a long time.  The question is, will you be ready to hire tomorrow’s worker.  We don’t know much about the generation that will be entering the workforce in the next three to five years.  It is a safe bet they will take more training than just the education they may have received in college.

Don’t catch yourself saying, “I can’t hire good help anymore.”  To find the help you need and want, you need to educate your staff to your industry, hold them accountable, and grow your business.  Enjoy the ride!  Developing staff is the challenging part but the success it creates is the fun part.

In today’s fast environment we don’t always have time to improve our staff.  Call us and we can help!