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.

Be a Leader and Develop Leaders Within Your Company

In today’s employment environment in North Dakota, why are we not developing “Leaders” in our organizations?  I don’t mean to generalize, because some of you could very well be breaking the mold and creating leaders.  If you aren’t developing leaders what’s the next step?

I started managing stores when I was twenty years old.  Sometimes we learn how not to train employees.  (Oops, we train dogs and we educate people!)  I had to learn to lead and motivate staff instead of being the “boss.”  What a great epiphany!?  This turned out to be one of the best management tools I ever stumbled upon in my thirty years in the retail sector.  My staffs (in all four locations that I was a part of) were intrigued, motivated, and had fun with not only each other but the clients as well.  This occurred whether I was in the store or not!  I don’t think you will find this enthusiasm as readily as in the past.  That certainly doesn’t mean businesses can’t find that magic anymore.

Leaders accomplish much more and much faster than bosses do.  Employee turnover rates drop, employee satisfaction increases, and the clients become the benefactors of this management style not to mention profit margins!  By helping employees identify opportunities to improve techniques and providing them with knowledge to pass on to clients many of these employees were promoted to management positions in other company locations.

We, as a society, need to resurrect leadership as a courtesy to our clients.  If you are interested in revitalizing your team give PEP a call at (701)751-1500.  You and your clients will see the difference!


Consumers Can & Should Raise the Bar

I know I point out more faults in retail companies than I do other companies.  It isn’t that just retail companies don’t know how to train staff, but most of us make it in to retail establishments more often than other company offices.

I stopped to buy two five gallon bottles of waters for my office cooler.  It was early in the morning and I didn’t see any other customers in the front part of the store.  An employee that appeared to be doing nothing productive wished me good morning.  I returned the comment and proceeded to the checkout with my water.  At no time, did the employee volunteer to carry out the two 40 pound water jugs nor did the cashier offer to get someone to help.  This isn’t the first time this has happened when I purchase my water but how many times do older clients need help with these water jugs and don’t get any better treatment than I did.

How can this chain store possibly train their staff on more difficult issues like, product knowledge, keeping trip and slip hazards out of aisles for clients’ and employees’ safety, watching for shoplifters, and everything else that they need to know.

This certainly isn’t the only retailers in town that don’t provide stellar service in Bismarck but why in the world do we tolerate incompetent employers and their employees?  If I quit shopping every time I received shoddy service, I wouldn’t have many places left to shop.  Let consumers raise the bar on customer service by refusing to shop providers that don’t hold clients’ best interest at heart.  As business people, we must provide these standards to our clients!  Start this new habit today and continue in the future to delight our clients.

Training Employees Properly Does Truly Matter

I wish, when I see bizarre articles printed in the publications that I read, I would find out the author’s name and ask how much they paid for the research behind some these “perplexing” issues.

The article that set me off last week stated, “Lack of new employee training effects profits.”  Really?  Is this something that just developed in the last year?  Have we, as consumers, become so accustomed to virtually no service that we buy merchandise without needing assistance at all?  I doubt it!  Have we, as employers, forgot how to create an operationally sound team that keeps clients coming back for their future needs?  These clients will then hopefully refer friends and neighbors to your first rate establishment.

As employers, we must understand the need to replicate ourselves within each member of the staff.  You need to create loyalty in all employees if you want to have an experienced team that will watch out for you as well as your clients.  Is your crew the best it can be?

If you are interested in creating your best possible team then join us for our hiring seminar to finely hone your hiring techniques.  These seminars are free and limited to the first ten businesses that enroll.  The next “Hiring Techniques” seminar will be Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm.  Call and reserve your spot today, (701) 751-1500.

Cross Training Can Not Be Skipped!

If  you have followed our blog in the last 13 months, today’s blog is basically a repeat.  Besides a great interviewing process, where you ask pertinent questions to allow you to know as much about your candidates, what is a great addition to your hiring process?  I truly don’t think we can ever skip this vital step in our organization.  The answer is cross training our employees with a documented process.

If we aren’t cross training our employees then we are asking for staffing shortages in our organizations.  We all know, at times, the labor force is so under populated that we have a difficult time finding competent  for some positions.  Don’t wait until we need that position filled and then panic and hire the first warm body that applies.  Then, we try to convince ourselves that this person should work out fine.  It rarely does!  I feel this is one of the most crucial staff development systems that we can do for our clients as well as keeping our sanity and apprehension in check.

Cross training team members gives you more expertise when staff member(s) are out on vacation or extended leave.  A cross training program properly laid out, will make sure your clients are getting the same expertise and care as they would if the original team member wasn’t out.

If you are interested in a hiring seminar to finely hone your skills on hiring techniques from the past and the present, call Professional Employment Practices.  These seminars are free and limited to the first ten businesses that enroll.  The next Hiring Techniques seminar will be held on Thursday, July 24, 2014, at 3:30 pm.  Give me a call today to ensure your spot, (701) 751-1500.

Training, Service & Knowledge…The Missing Pieces

Have you noticed all the large box retailers that currently do not have a CEO in place?  Ironically, in my opinion these are also some of the retailers that are having problems generating sales increases and have little or no customer service.  It makes you wonder where all the experience has gone.  Far too many stores don’t fit the retail store mold of the past nor are they positioning themselves for the future.

Do retail establishments even have training programs anymore?  If so, is it actually benefiting the clients and the profitability of the organization?  As I shop for my necessities and supplies, I don’t see many retail establishments that give you the WOW experience.  I am rarely impressed by service or knowledge of employees.  We can’t keep settling for poor service and it’s a trend that I would like to change soon.

I think now is the time that the independent business owners could fill the missing gaps in service and knowledge.  I say, if we all hire effectively, train the new hires and give them expectations then we could all have a profitable run while big box retailers try to fight their way out of their slump.  In the meantime, let’s capitalize on our strengths and their weaknesses.

If you are interested in a hiring seminar to finely hone your skills on hiring techniques from the past and the present then call Professional Employment Practices.  The first ten businesses that enroll will receive a free seminar.  Call us today, (701) 751-1500.

Taking Charge of Building Your Team

We all know how difficult it is to find enough good quality employees in our environment in North Dakota.  But rather than devise a training program to make sure that all new employees are given a lot of direction, a company culture overview, and a job description that is precise yet not too long.  Most of all, Team Member expectations must be given before the prospect is hired.

We must stop settling for what employees we can find rather than what employees we can develop.  Why would we do this to ourselves and more importantly, our clients?  I was trying to pick up a part from a retailer at 12:10 pm and there were five people  waiting for one person to serve all their needs.  After waiting twenty minutes, I left.  I later called the manager about the shoddy service and she said there were two people that should have been at the desk.  Should have been!?

We as business owners, cannot play the big shot and sit back in our office and assume the client is being taken care of.  If you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.  I know from personal experience that we can rarely sit back on our laurels and assume that the staff no longer needs direction.  Once expectations are being met, clients are happy with the service and knowledge of the staff.  In turn, your staff is staying productive and they like their roles within the company.  Congratulations.

However, please be aware that you need to have some sort of staff development system to keep the organization and staff moving in the same consistent direction.  Complacency breeds carelessness, bad attitudes and unrest.  Keep the pride going and keep your clients coming back again and again!

An Example of How Procedures Make Our Companies Successful

We went to our granddaughter’s 2nd birthday last weekend which was 430 miles away and we checked into a brand name hotel.  We had stayed at this hotel a couple times before.  I was happy to get a day and a half vacation in, see the kids and grandkids and have a little time to relax.

The second morning we looked for the complimentary coffee and cups but they hadn’t been replenished from the day before.  We called and housekeeping brought up the missing items.  They included ceramic cups but these unfortunately were too small for the Keurig coffee that was dispensed.  This created a mess that we now had to clean up.  On our last day of the stay, housekeeping failed to replenish towels, soap or washcloths.  Another call was then needed.  I also found that slipping the invoice under the door was somewhat discourteous considering the amount of patronage we have given this hotel over the years.

One would think the hotel would easily track the phone calls to housekeeping and see that extra training would be needed to eliminate the annoyances for their guests.  I truly believe these problems to be lack of training.  A simple check off sheet for each housekeeping employee for each room would make all these annoyances disappear.  Management has to want to solve the problem(s) and keep guests coming back.  Why are they ignoring these problems?

District managers should lend simple solutions to their managers and staffs.  If not, management needs to become more observant and push for perfection.  Until this happens, these problems will not disappear.

I think back to my last hotel stay in Vegas.  Everything was set up for the guests’ convenience and when I called to see when checkout was, the operator answered the phone, “Good morning Mr. Siverson.  What can I do for you?”  No hotel has ever answered the phone like that for me!  I used to be in hotels 4 nights a week, 45 weeks for three years and NOBODY ever answered the phone like this.

Let us think about these bad and good examples and ask ourselves what we need to do.  Let us teach every new hire what our pet peeves are and never fail procedures that made us successful in the first place.  Call with your questions.  Have a great week!

Documenting Praises and Reprimands for Employees

Do you have a hard time firing employees that are no longer performing as they used to?  Do you avoid this person so you don’t have to confront the issues?  Do you think this is fair to other employees that are indeed still giving you 100%?

In my 30 years of retail I only paid one week of unemployment.  That was my lesson, never to terminate someone when one is angry.  It also taught me to document all incidents good or bad for all team members.  By this I mean, if an employee does something questionable and you have had a face to face meeting with this employee about the incident then the meeting should be documented.  This document should be signed and dated by the employee to be kept in their file.  (I would recommend creating a form to use with all employees.)  Conversely, if an employee does an exemplary job, closes a big sale or anything that made you happy, this person is working for you so give them public praise and document it as well.

Employers need to publicly praise and privately reprimand.  Also, do not share any other employee’s behavior or performance with other team members.

When I would I reprimand an employee I would reinforce any good habits or traits that they possess.  I would also emphasize why I hired them and express confidence in their ability to fix their current behaviors.  I would document the form and get the team member’s signature as well.  If I addressed the issue again, they were written up again and given thirty days to improve or they would be fired.  I wouldn’t be accused of unfairness and the ball was in their court if they wanted to continue to work at their current employer.

With this method, I was rarely accused of showing favoritism.  I would not allow issues to go on unaddressed or unresolved for very long.  If fellow employees came to me with a complaint, I would investigate, make sure the problem was solved and the issue was put behind us immediately.

For your own piece of mind, I suggest all employers do the same.  I guarantee your employee turnover rate drops and your team members’ client interaction skills improve over time.  I always considered this to be a win for me and a win for concerned employees that really wanted to be a success.  Give me a call and I can walk you through the processes, that if followed, would give you much more success in employee relations.


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.