Here’s 10 Great HR Ideas You Can Use Today

I love creativity. Disruption. Differentiation. In fact, I’m going to be the MC for the next DisruptHR meeting in San Diego.

HR has a great opportunity to break past the status quo and to test new theories, strategies and tools. Here’s 10 ideas I came up with. What would you add to the list? Do tell!

1. Request every job application to submit a joke with their resume. I am serious about this. If they don’t do so they can’t follow instructions and you don’t hire them.  Then there are those who will provide jokes that put them on the do not hire pile immediately. For most everyone else, you at least have a laugh while going through that stack of resumes and you will learn a little bit more about the candidate.

2. Create an employee referral system that works. Most employee referral systems don’t work for two good reasons: there’s not enough “juice” in them and it comes with little support. You have to make it easy for employees to refer candidates with a one page document they can hand them or a link they can drive them to. Then put some financial “juice” in the system that gets them past the fear of referring someone. I would consider as much as 10% of that employers first year salary, which is far less than you would pay a recruiter or temp firm. Parcel the payments out quarterly over the year if the employee remains on board.

3. Do group interviews with final candidates. I like seeing how people work in a team dynamic.  Have three potential coworkers interview the final three candidates… all at once. Each employee will ask each candidate three questions. You are not just focusing on the answers but how the candidates treat each other while going through that process. Will they through somebody under the bus? Will they raise their voice and disagree? The best thing you can do is have fun sitting back and watching it unfold. It will tell you how they will treat future co-workers. As with any of these ideas just test it once. See how it works. Then improve it from there.

4. Ask my favorite interview question – what felt unfair to you at your last job? And then drill into the answers. How they respond will indicate how they will deal with something that feels unfair working for you. Which is guaranteed to happen. I will go through a candidate’s entire history with that question. Doing so has eliminated many a candidate. And… don’t forget to ask what they were most excited about in previous jobs.

5. Create a social media committee. Millennial’s will be great in this role. Provide them with some simple rules to follow and then let them do their thing. They can help your employer brand on Glassdoor, Indeed, your hiring page, Facebook page and more!

6. Ask your managers to take on a very simple challenge: for the next 20 workdays, beginning on a Monday, they are required to show at least one employee they manage that they care about them. You can discuss their family, upcoming vacation, or job concerns. Provide the manager a simple form where they can write down each day who they spoke to and what they did to show they care. Then he asked them to turn it in after 20 days and have a discussion with them about what they learned in the process. What great ideas can be shared with other managers? Make sure you commit to the exercise as well. Perhaps have fun prizes along the way.

7. Create an art wall. You can decorate it with pictures and paintings from local artists, your employees, and their kids. It will breathe creativity into the environment. Besides, you can’t be funked out very long looking at kids art.

8. Have a Red Nose Day. While the official date is May 25, the better one is any day you choose. Red noses are cheap on Amazon and it will generate many laughs. Give the employees a few to take home too. I find it’s very difficult to take yourself or anyone else seriously while wearing a red nose. Make sure to gets lots of selfies to post!

9. Create a quiet hour. Preferably early in the morning when people are at the sharpest so they can focus on the most important tasks. Prohibit “stopping by”, emailing or otherwise interrupting the quiet unless it is an urgent and important matter.

10. Make fun T-shirts for your employees. Let them get involved in the design. Have a contest. Employees will design a shirt they want to wear outside of the workplace. This is a low-cost way of engaging and branding your workforce.

Those are just 10 of my Great HR ideas. What are a few of yours? What have you done that is cool, disruptive or different?

Please share and I will accumulate the responses. Once I have received 100 combined I will send that document to all contributors. You want to be on that list.

PS this list is derived from the Great HR program. Plenty of more where they came from…and now we will generate even more.

When Suicide Hits Close to Home

I sense there is a lot of fear and depression going on. And…it can’t be ignored.

While I have never entertained the thought of suicide, that’s not been the case for so many others. And… it’s been hitting close to home the last few years.

A 13-year old boy, who was the younger brother of my son’s friend, committed suicide last month because he got himself in trouble and feared the judgement that would come with it. This was a sweet boy who had many a sleep over at our house.

Four years ago, my dear cousin committed suicide leaving his wife and two lovely daughters behind. Last year, two of my oldest son’s best friends committed suicide, one of whom also left two children behind.

Where I live in Coronado we have a bridge that is famous for its suicides. It is second in the country behind the Golden State Bridge for suicide attempts. You can’t be in Coronado and not be aware of the problem. 18 people have jumped since January. A few days ago my wife told me the mother of a 16-year-old award winning student we know jumped off the bridge.

I live in a military town and know many soldiers, including many SEALS. Their rate of suicide is well known but seldom publicized. Many of them are struggling with PTSD problems. My friend Dr. Bart Billings has been working with many of these young men and women, trying to get them off of killer medications.

Recently one company I know, under significant financial pressures,  had two employees commit suicide within a few months. You can’t ignore that.

I recently spoke to a group Chief Financial Officers for construction firms and they have a program going on to address the suicide problem in the construction industry.

My son told me the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why which has caused a great deal of buzz on campus. It’s about a girl who commits suicide and gets back at other people by telling them how they contributed to her death. Based on the book

Recently the media focused on a 20 year old woman convicted for bullying her boyfriend to kill himself. The messages she sent him were chilling.

What do we do with all of this? How do we make sense of it? I know I can’t ignore it when it strikes so close to home. I have to talk to my wife and son about how they are going this experience. HR and other executives may want to recognize its impact at work.

I did some digging. Starting with the data about suicide and then looking for resources for families and companies to help to deal with it.
According to

  • Nearly 30,000 Americans commit suicide every year.
  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-olds and 2nd for 24 to 35-year-olds.
  • On average, 1 person commits suicide every 16.2 minutes.
  • Each suicide intimately affects at least 6 other people.
  • About 2/3 of people who complete suicide are depressed at the time of their deaths. Depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number 1 cause of suicide.
  • There is 1 suicide for every 25 attempted suicides.
  • Males make up 79% of all suicides, while women are more prone to having suicidal thoughts.
  • Over 50% of all suicides are completed with a firearm.

Hundreds of people decide to commit suicide at work every year. An example from OSHA:

  • Employee Is Killed After Jumping From Roof
  • Worker Drives Off Bridge And Drowns
  • Commits Suicide Soon After Arriving At Work.
  • Employees Are Killed In A Murder Suicide
  • Dies From A Self-Inflicted Gun Shot.
  • Employee Commits Suicide In Hospital Restroom
  • Worker Commits Suicide Using Sodium Azide
  • Water Treatment Worker Commits Suicide
  • Employee Commits Suicide By Jumping Off Parking Structure
  • Employee Shoots And Kills Self In Shed
  • Jumps From Elevated Platform And Is Killed
  • Employee Commits Suicide At Work By Hanging

What I’ve learned is that while there are commonalities, the stories behind suicide are as unique as life itself. Sometimes it is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain caused naturally or due to prescription medications or drug abuse. It could be due to a fatal diagnosis or intolerable pain. Other times it is a traumatic event and other times it’s fear, hopelessness and failed expectations.

In all circumstances… they saw no way out. They saw no path to peace other than to end their lives.

There are a ton of emotions triggered by a suicide including shock, anger, grief, despair, confusion, rejection, the need to understand “why”, physical collapse or even the thought of suicide itself.

Acknowledge these feelings, don’t pretend they don’t exist. It is OK to question them, examine them and discuss them. And it is OK to ask for help. You are not alone.

Here are some excellent resources:

Managing the Good Performer Gone Bad

Employees are wonderful… until they are not. Often, employees become derailed because of personal challenges or changes in their work environment or roles. When looking at poor performance check your head by asking these questions.

  1. Is it the fault of the system? – As Deming said, “the system is the problem!”. Is this person mismatched? Round peg in a square whole? Has their job “moved past them”? Are they getting the support they used to get or need?
  2. Is there a skills gap that can be cured by training?
  3. Are they being managed any differently? Perhaps a new boss, or new team members are involved?
  4. What would a third party like me say looking at the situation? That third party might be HR or another manager in a different department. Or me :)
  5. Is the employee aware of their poor performance? Have they been getting regular feedback? Has that feedback been documented? Have you considered putting them on a 30 day performance improvement plan?
  6. Have they somehow been “demotivated” and become disengaged? For example, did they try to push forward a project only to have it squashed and now they’ve lost their mojo?
  7. Do they have a mental disability? It could be depression or drug addiction or alcoholism. While you don’t have to ask them if there is such a problem you can remind them of the resources available, like an EAP program should they have any limitations on the ability to do their work.
  8. If it’s not the system and the issue lies with the employee then have them own it. Ask me for a copy of the Employee Correction Form I designed. This allows poor performance to “own” their performance and what happens to them when they do not pick their game up.
  9. What does your gut tell you about this person? Fact is, most poor performers don’t turn around and improve their performance. Things only tend to get worse over time. If this is the track you’re on then do yourself and them a favor and let them go so you can quit torturing each other. If they are a good person, and they did not engage in any outrageous conduct, then do what you can to help them get a job where they can fit in.
  10. Remember this- you can unconditionally care about a person but that does not mean you have to have an unconditional employment relationship with them. Don’t confuse the two.

A final note. I find I tend to torture myself…and others… when people don’t match my expectations of who they “ought to be”. True at work and at home. I also realize I am far more effective when I deal with people “as they are”. It is what it is. There is no benefit to gain by adding the emotional override of “shoulding” on the situation.

Take a deep breath, follow these recommendations and you’ll do just fine!

Managing the Emotions of Change

Months ago I had the opportunity to present at DisruptHR on managing the emotions of change. You get 20 slides and 5 minutes to do it! Remember the magic words- coax, encourage and inspire!

Everything you need to know about Managing Employees on an Index Card

I must admit – I got the idea for this index card after listening to a podcast with Howard Pollack, a professor from University of Chicago, who said that everything you needed to know about building your financial wealth can be written on an index card. The card went viral and he followed up with a book to explain it.

So, I challenged myself to figure out what I would put on an index card for managing employees after 30 years being in the field. Here’s my index card.

If you can’t read the index card it says:

10 Rules for Managing Employees

  1. Spend the effort required to hire winners.
  2. Have a great onboarding process.
  3. Have clarity about performance results.
  4. Make sure your systems support performance.
  5. Let go of poor performers.
  6. Give people permission to think.
  7. Train more than the competition.
  8. Create an engaging work environment.
  9. Reward great work!
  10. Get your compliance act together.

Now let me try to briefly explain each one. I dig in further on the video here.

  1. Spend the effort required to hire winners- Unfortunately most managers few hiring as something to get over with. Make sure your managers understand hiring great employees is the most important thing they will ever do.
  2. Have a great onboarding process- I’m amazed by how poorly some employees begin their work experience. Great employers have a well-oiled onboarding process which gets newbies producing asap. Their first day, week and month should be carefully planned. Don’t wing it when it comes to onboarding.
  3. Have clarity about performance results- Perhaps the greatest problem with performance management is the lack of clarity about what it means to perform. There’s a simple question you can ask an employee: how would you know if you’re doing your job well without having to ask me, or without me having to tell you? If their answer is not spot on you’ve done a poor job of managing their performance.
  4. Make sure your systems support performance- It’s not just about performance clarity, it’s also about supporting performance. Dr. W. Edwards Deming opined that 9 out of 10 employees want to do a good job every day. It’s the system that allows them to do so. This system starts in the hiring process by making sure you don’t hire misfits. Often the “system” is that person’s immediate manager. Half of all managers manage better than the other half. What training are your managers getting?
  5. Let go of poor performers… and managers- Here’s a question for you – do you have anybody working for you that if they quit you would be more relieved than upset? If so, why are they still there? Is it the bosses kid? Do they have photos? What is it? Keeping poor performers sends a message to everyone else that mediocrity… or even worse… is acceptable. Managers are often the source of employee performance problems. Sometimes it’s time to let them go too.
  6. Give people permission to think- None of us is as smart as all of us. The whole idea of controlling a business from the top down is out of step with today’s reality. When you give people permission to think you allow them to focus on work they know best, provide suggestions, and look for new business opportunities. I encourage employers to have mandatory suggestion meetings to drive past the fear involved of people actually thinking!
  7. Train more than the competition- George Gilder reminds us we are in a knowledge economy. In a knowledge economy, it is education that offers the greatest leverage for both employee and company. Not surprisingly, the most successful companies out train their competition. Given all of today’s online offerings, the out of pocket cost of training is minimal compared to the employee’s time involved in it. If you want to obtain a return on investment with training examine how it has actually improved performance.
  8. Create an engaging work environment- Your work environment is always communicating. It is never not communicating. What story does your environment communicate? Ask yourself whether the work environment is engaging or not? I encourage employers to fill their walls with vision statements, success stories, employee inspired artwork, powerful quotes and more. Allow your employees permission to decorate their work areas as the result fits within reasonable guidelines.
  9. Reward great work- As stated in Barber’s Book of 1000 Proverbs, “The greatest benefit is the one last remembered.” In my experience when we run 75 mph we focus on those aspects of an employee’s performance that drive us nuts and ignore their great work …because that’s what we expect from them. This is a big mistake and one of the main reasons employees leave companies. While I’m not a big fan of rewarding people simply for showing up, I am big fan of rewarding great work as soon as possible!
  10. Get your compliance act together- Last, employee lawsuits are ridiculously expensive but most employers don’t appreciate the risk until they have suffered it. Do yourself a big favor and if don’t already have access to ThinkHR from your broker or payroll company then get it from me! I’ll offer you a deal that simply too good to refuse.

There are my 10 rules. What would add or take away from your 10 Rules for Managing Employees index card list?

Note I also did a video about this list you can watch here. If you like it please share with a friend or provide a comment. Thanks!