Corporate training has come a long way. Our attitudes toward training should also move forward.

To train or not to train employees

When employees resign after a company invests in employee training, it is not just a gut punch, it’s a kick in the ding- ding when the manager is down. With the average length of career tenures getting shorter, there are numerous leaders who are fearful of investing budgeted straining dollars into their employees.

A generation or two ago, the average tenure for employees was 10 – 15 years with a single company and employee investments were easy to justify. With today’s tight labor market and a different generation of workers, it isn’t unusual for employees to shift every two years because of the desire to work on new products or technology. Today’s workers wants to expand their skill set. Todays workforce wants to learn and does not want to remain stagnant.

The employer mindsets have become insecure because of this. They are afraid that if the company invests in the employee, the employee becomes more valuable. Training makes the employee more attractive to higher-paying competition. The fear is that the investment of training and certifications, all paid for by the current employers profits can walk out the door.

I call this shortsighted leadership, and the term leadership is used pretty loosely here. To the managers who don’t want to invest in training because of a few bad apples, consider this to be the same attitude as the HR folks we are all resentful of. These same HR folks put red tape and rules into place for the entire workforce when a few bad players weren’t managed correctly. Because one or two employee came to work with dilated eyes (who wants to get high by themselves?), in typical HR fashion the thing to do would be to administer regular drug tests for everyone. One bad apple shouldn’t spoil it for the rest of the bushel.   

Training not only makes employees valuable TO THE COMPANY, training can increase individual productivity and loyalty to the company. If a manager is worried about making an employe more valuable to the competition, the manager should be reminded that a trained employee is more valuable to the current employer as well. According to a trends report from a recent FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For article, the best companies are:

  • Offering 66.5 hours of training annually for salaried employees
  • Offering 53 hours of training for hourly employees
  • Fill on average 31% of open positions with internal candidates

Not all training requests are cray-cray boondoggles.

Maybe you are thinking about expensive classes where employees are away from the office on some Vegas boondoggle. Yes, we have all seen the cray-cray expense reports, but again, we shouldn’t let a bad expense report ruin it for everyone else. This my friend is called “prejudice”.  If your company doesn’t have the resources to send an employee to off-site training, wants to keep employees on campus, or isn’t able to have employees out of the office for the extra travel days, online resources are a good alternative.

Earlier generations viewed classroom learning with textbooks and a classroom as the ONLY way to train. Today, online training has become the new black. Many people are receiving accredited degrees online and using YouTube to learn how to do everything from cooking to changing the oil on their specific model car to advance skills in EXCEL. Online training can be particularly appealing to employees because they can study at their own pace and retake a class or replay a video they don’t understand. For me, YouTube is the very first place I go when I want to learn more about ANYTHING.

Leadership should take notice that a vast majority of the workforce is hungry to grow and will stick around when presented the opportunity to develop new skill sets. Seeing anything less is a miss. If we train a department of 20 employees, it is usually just one or two folks out of the 20 who leave. These folks were probably going to leave regardless of whether or not they received the training and we shouldn’t make the correlation between training and leaving. These employees didn’t leave because of the training. These employees were going to leave. Try not to think about how much you spent on the ungrateful few that left. Think about how much benefit was reaped across the department and the long-term gain. 

Many employees leave because they are not challenged and did not feel they were growing professionally. If employees are stuck on the same product, service or technology year after year, of course they are going to get bored. If we can give them training, we can expand their skill set and keep careers interesting. 

As an HR professional, I don’t create policy in fear of a few bad apples or experiences. I need to trust that our employees are going to do the right thing a majority of the time. We shouldn’t EXPECT 100% of the workforce to stick around for the rest of their careers. This attitude is arrogant and in most cases not reasonable. There is no single company decision that is going to make everyone happy. If there is one thing I learned in HR is that no matter what decision you make, there will be employees that find fault or complain. Provide a free breakfast and someone will wonder about why there isn’t a free lunch. Provide a MacBook and someone will say there isn’t enough memory.

Most of the population will be grateful. We need to focus and invest in this group. If we create policy for the bottom 10%, we will certainly drive away the top performers and this is the last thing we want to do.

At the end of the day, we need to make decisions for the sane and rational 90% of the company, not the 10% that doesn’t appreciate it. I count myself lucky when the ingrates leave the company on their own volition. If that means we lose 10% and they take their negative attitudes with them, I consider that a long-term win. The damage this 10% will do over the long run can’t be measured. If they want to take the training and run, I will be perfectly content watching this demographic go to the competition because they probably weren’t the right fit for us and can be the cancer at the competition with their bad attitude. We still have the 90% of the population that matters. If someone doesn’t want training, that is a sign. But if someone does want training, we should be so lucky.
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Gender equality and pay

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Company Culture, Manage your Manager, What HR Really Thinks

gender equality

Who can help gender equality?

Gender Equality and Pay

As an HR guy, I hear a lot about gender equality / inequality and pay. Fair warning: This post isn’t going to be politically correct. If you are not able to handle season 4 of the TV series Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad, better move along cuz’ it may get ugly.

Gender equality

Read further at your own risk

I do understand diversity issues. There are demographics of employees out there that are not getting paid their worth. I completely agree with this. There are demographics of employees who are over paid and it isn’t always fair. There are mainstream employees who are under paid and believe it or not, there are individuals belonging to culturally diverse groups that are overpaid. 

When I hear someone talk about a specific demographic being treated differently on topics of pay, opportunity, promotions, or a specific demographic in leadership, I tend to get a little bitchy. Today is one of dem’ days people.

It’s not always the company’s fault. I think the employees can do better. I belong to two specific demographics and depending on my mood and sense of fashion on any given day, am placed in a third and am flattered for it. I am a minority and over 40 years of age. I work for a company that requires a minority be interviewed for any position of leadership and I work in HR. I don’t think I would have made it to where I am if I didn’t have some awareness on this topic. 

Let me be the first to say, I do not want a job, raise or an opportunity because I belong to a specific demographic / minority group. I do not want my salary to be increased because I am a minority. I want to land a salary adjustment, title, opportunity or promotion because of my skills and thought leadership, not because of favoritism. The last thing I want is to have the mainstream whispering amongst themselves and thinking that I slept my way to the top off my model good looks.

HR is conditioned to be sensitive to this topic. I think the sensitivity can hurt careers and I want to make sure that the diverse groups and genders are not making the same mistake. If HR folks are reinforcing the notion that different groups are being underpaid or missing opportunities, I believe we are pushing the wrong message.

It is easy for HR to say:

  • We don’t have enough minorities in leadership positions.
  • Women are not receiving similar pay for similar work as compared to their male colleagues.
  • We don’t hire enough veterans.

Yes, if the company wants to retain specific groups of employees, it won’t hurt to make adjustments to the process. If there are not enough minorities in leadership positions, recruiting at minority career fairs is a good start. 

That being said, as a minority I CANNOT rely on or blame the company for not giving me the opportunity. I need to figure out a way to get that opportunity and in a lot of instances it is our approach or lack thereof. I need to break the “approach” code. 

If ANYONE wants access to training, salary, opportunities or promotions, first and foremost, they need to let the manager know what they want. There are employees from all backgrounds that do not ask for what they want and are waiting for a tap on the shoulder that will probably never come. 

I can not assume that my hard work and good results will be enough to get me noticed.

I can not complain when someone who isn’t performing at my level, asks for (aka:shows interest) and receives the opportunity.

I come from an ethnic group that has a reputation for being the “Quiet American”. Stereotypically, this group is reserved, stoic, will not ask for anything, and avoids conflict. I blogged about the best advice I ever received in my entire career here: Best Career Advice. The advice I was given was to take the initiative to speak up and went against every cultural value with which I was raised. I was underpaid and not receiving opportunity, but I wasn’t asking for it either. It wasn’t all the company’s fault. I wasn’t fluent in the corporate speak and in their eyes, I wasn’t showing any interest. Now I speak the corporate language and my career is moving. 

I don’t think HR should go to our CEO and say:

  • “The company is not paying our women enough, we need to revisit their pay.”
  • “The company doesn’t have enough minorities in leadership, we need to start promoting minorities.”

I appreciate the intent of the above statements but I don’t think we are doing anyone in these groups any favors. The above actions may be address the gender equality problem but we are not fixing the root cause.

I would prefer HR provide insight and coaching directly to all employees as to what it will take to be tapped for additional opportunities. Instead of reinforcing the notion that “This company doesn’t pay group X equally”, I believe we should coach employees and provide them the tools so they can stand up on their own. If the company changes behavior and adapts to the employee, then the employee won’t learn or become better. I believe HR could:

  1. Train employees on when and how to show initiative and speak up for new opportunities.
    1. Do great work and ask for more on the heels of the completed project. Don’t ask, don’t get. 
  2. Coach the fact that it is not only OK to share great results, it helps the company. There is a difference between being a braggart and sharing results for the benefit of the company. Market your brand. Don’t share, don’t get.
  3. Work with employees to be specific about what they say when it comes to pay, opportunities, etc. You would be shocked how many times an employee THINKS they are asking for something and the manager did not get the message, for example: 
    • Manager: How much are you looking for?
    • Employee: I am looking for something between $50K and $60K.
    • The employee thinks he said $60K, the manager heard $50K.  DOH!
  4. Gotta ask more than once. Managers need reminders too.

Let’s say I recruited 14 employees last quarter, and this was an all time high for our recruiting team. Some culturally diverse groups may be uncomfortable sharing this information because they think it will come across as being a braggadocio. I know that 20 years ago, I would have been happy with my accomplishment and probably would not even shared this celebratory moment with Mrs. Nasty. If someone were to ask me about my best month hiring 20 years ago, I would have replied, “I got lucky and hired a few folks” and left it at that. This statement is NOT going to move my career anywhere and for the record, there are a lot of 6 foot 2 males weighing 170 pounds wearing a size 40R jacket that remain quiet and unnoticed. Not saying you need to be an ass about it, I’m just sayin’. 

If I were to enter a room and yell, “Hey bitches, I just put 14 butts in seats last quarter, WTF did you do?” Add a dope slap to one recruiter on the back of the head and flick another with my forefinger and thumb like they were a discarded booger, and we just checked the Asshole box. But when the project comes up that needs a recruiting animal, guess who will get tapped on the shoulder. That’s right bitches, me the booger flicker.    

Below is a marketing message with annotations on how I could talk about 14 hires and setting a personal best. The tone and cadence would sound like me sharing my accomplishment with a good friend over a beer and not a chest thumping douche. If we were to say:

(1) I am proud of my results from last quarter. I hit a personal best with 14 hires and we were able to accelerate the timeline put in place by the Program Managers by 1 month with the additional resources. (2) I tried a couple of different passive recruiting tactics and (3) happy to share them with the recruiters in the Western Region. I can give them a contact at LinkedIn so they can have access to the same algorithms we are using. (4) It really was a team effort and the Dev team totally stepped-up to the plate. We ran a lot more candidates through interview loops and I know they had packed delivery schedules so I really appreciate their effort. (5) We wouldn’t have gotten the hires without them.

  1. Explains our accomplishment with pride and without arrogance. We are also tying a business need to our accomplishment.
  2. Markets ourselves as someone who is willing to try something different.
  3. Markets ourselves as a team player.
  4. Markets ourselves as a team player.
  5. Demonstrates we know how to spread the wealth, cuz’ that’s how we roll.

I could have said the above with only 5 hires notched on my belt and would have made a great impression. I would have marketed myself more effectively and at the same time sounded like a team player.

If you belong to the demographic that you feel is not being treated fairly, don’t just look to the company to do the right thing. It is our career and ultimately our own responsibility. We need to figure out how to work within the system. The system may or may not be a fair one, but remember this: 

Managers are not mind readers

Look for these opportunities by making a conscious effort to market your brand, your skills and speaking up for what you want in a corporate friendly way. I coach folks from all backgrounds and demographics. I can honestly say that when employees put in the work and speak up, “they get”. Life isn’t always fair and when it isn’t we can’t just give up and blame the system. 
See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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