My Good News and a Pause for HHHR

AdobeStock_75926072It’s been a month since my last post and I indicated on my podcast that week that I had some exciting news to share. I meant to post and podcast about this news much earlier but was simply unable to find the time because of the news.

Things have been a whirlwind since that week!  I accepted a job with Merrill Gardens and their sister company Pillar Properties in Seattle as their HR Director where I will be in charge of the HR function for both companies.  It’s something I’m very excited about as the HR department services both company’s 2000+ employees in seven states.

Since that week in February, I had a lot of work wrapping things up with several of my clients in Denver that I would no longer be able to continue working with due to my leaving the Denver area. In addition, I had to pack a few things and get up to Seattle to find a place for my wife and I to live until we find a place to buy.  I also got stuck in Casper, WY for a few days due to the winter storm that passed through the western states mid month. Not a big deal because I grew up there and we stayed with my in-laws but it delayed my house-hunting plans by a few days!

I eventually made it to Seattle and was able to find a place and as a bonus, am temporarily staying with my daughter and her family and am spending some wonderful quality time with my granddaughter!

So, I’ve had a lot going on the past month and it will be a while before I start posting and podcasting again because I need to devote my full attention on my new job and getting acclimated to the company and all I need to learn and accomplish.

There won’t be a podcast this week since my podcasting equipment is packed up and in storage.

Once I get to a certain place at my new job, I expect to start posting and podcasting again on a monthly schedule.  I love blogging and podcasting but I need to focus 100% on my new job and company!

 

The HR Expert-Generalist

AdobeStock_91768118In one of my regular recent blog reads, The HR Capitalist Kris Dunn, recently wrote about how Warren Buffet’s most trusted business partner, Charlie Munger, attributes his success managing Berkshire Hatheway’s stock market portfolio by “knowing a little about everything.”  Basically, being a generalist.

Here is the article about Munger from The Hustle.

Dunn, being an HR Blogger, of course related Munger’s successful philosophy to the HR Generalist function compared to the HR Specialist.

Dunn’s definition of an HR Generalist is the following:

HR Generalist – a HR pro at any level who is in charge of a client group of employees -meaning they provide HR services to a location, a business unit, a functional area or geographical area.  As part of this role, they provide counsel, service and insight across the HR Body of Knowledge – comp, benefits, recruiting, employee relations, legal, etc.

An HR Generalist can exist at the individual contributor level or manage people, as well as exist at the HR Rep, HR Manager, Director, VP and CHRO level.

As Dunn noted in his post, many attribute HR Generalists as more of an entry level HR position. It’s not. As he defines it, it exists at the individual contributor, Manager, Director, VP, and CHRO levels.

Back to Munger, his work-ethic theory is known as expert-generalism which is the opposite of the Gladwell’s famous 10,000 hour rule.  What Munger does is to focus “on studying widely and deeply in many fields, including microeconomics, psychology, law, mathematics, biology, and engineering, and applied insights from them to investing.” rather than just focusing all of his time on investment theory.

The originator of the term expert-generalist, Orit Gandish, chairman of Bain & Co defines the term the following way:

Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries, and topics., etc. He or she can then, without necessarily even realizing it, but often by design:

  1. Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas.
  2. Drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking.

In addition,

Research shows EG’s have:

Hmm, sounds like the world could use a few more EG’s.

I enjoyed both Dunn’s and The Hustle’s articles because I’ve had the most success in my career as a Generalist. First as an award-winning General Manager for Macy’s (The Bon Marche’) and as an HR Director and HR Consultant.

As a matter of fact, at Macy’s (The Bon Marche’), I regularly told my Department Managers that I expect them to be the experts/specialists in their area of responsibility because I joked told them that there was no way that I could know as much as they did – I was the General Manager.

I literally said the same thing as Munger,  “I have to know a little bit about everything” in the store. This meant knowing a little (but enough) about each department’s assortment, staffing, employee capabilities, and merchandising; customer service performance; current and upcoming sales events; sales and profit performance; local and national economy; store operations; capital improvements; customer, community, regional & corporate relationships; etc.

The philosophy worked (*self promotion alert!*) because my store earned the Store of the Year award twice during my 13 year stint as a General Manager.

Dang! I just remembered how hard (but rewarding) it was to be a General Manager!

I’ve also always proudly worn the moniker “HR Generalist” when I transitioned from running a Department Store to doing HR. But I often felt a little uncertainty reading articles and blogs touting how the future of HR is specialization.

After researching and writing this post, I now officially call myself an HR Expert-Generalist. I like it.

Dunn closed his post with the following wise and comforting words:

If you’re an HR generalist at any level, be proud.  You’re a trusted adviser that understands that the world is gray, and you also know how important you are in helping those in your client group navigate all the complexity and chaos that comes with managing a workforce.

Simply put, HR Generalists are the most important cog in the HR world.  Be proud, because you are irreplaceable.  

As always, it’s nice having a little confirmation bias every once and a while!

Oh, and just I added “HR Expert-Generalist” to my LinkedIn profile headline.

Steps to Help Your Employees Understand the Details of Their Benefits

Tell them real-life stories

This week I’m going to cover a small but very important tactical element of HR. Although it’s a small thing, it leads to a much larger strategic element of building a high-performing workplace culture

I’m a strong believer in delivering an amazing onboarding experience for employees. I built one at one employer from the ground up and I had the pleasure of  inheriting an outstanding one at another employer.

Today’s post is going to deal with one portion of the onboarding process – the Benefits discussion.  This is often the most confusing and boring part because HR typically comes in and goes through the insurance benefits using HR and insurance industry jargon. As a result, most employees don’t understand most of what is being said and just tune out and start looking at their phones. This is unfortunate because an organization’s benefits are an important and  critical piece of the total rewards program and employees need to fully be comfortable with understanding them.

I think employees really need to understand all of their benefits and there should be the appropriate amount of time put into the onboarding schedule to make sure employees really do fully understand them. We owe our employees the extra effort to help them understand their benefits rather than just handing them a packet of papers or just helping them logon to the onboarding site and leaving them with an hour to review and enroll.  

So here’s how I do it.

In my schedule, the benefits discussion occurs immediately after all the required hiring paperwork is completed. This way, they are still pretty fresh and enthusiastic.  I always go into the HR portion which includes the insurance and benefit portion of onboarding telling the new hires that this portion is going to be the most exciting and interesting part of the entire  process. I’m obviously being silly and I purposely exaggerate this because they and everybody else has experienced the opposite so it grabs their attention.

I then like to tell real-life stories about how the different benefits work. These are my stories based on my experiences and I’m certain you have your own story bank you can go to when communicating benefit details to your employee team.

For instance as I’m talking about the medical benefits, most people understand what the deductible means and how the co-pay plays into that but many don’t really understand what the Annual Max Out of Pocket means.

So I tell a real-life story about an employee (this was at a previous employer and whose identity I keep confidential) who had a heart attack while out camping with his family. He was life flighted to the hospital and had open heart surgery.  Well, when everything was said and done and the employee added up all the bills that came, the total was over $1,000,000. Fortunately for him and his family, the company health insurance plan had a maximum out of pocket of $3500.  What does this mean? Simple. The employee only had to pay $3500 total for the episode.. And this all happened in the summer so he had to continue treatment, cardiac rehab, and many other doctor appointments and because he reached his MOP, he paid nothing for the rest of the year. Every time I tell this story, I see clear understanding in the new hires’ eyes because this story always makes it obvious what the max out of pocket is.

Another story I like to tell is when describing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). This benefit is very often forgotten and rarely used. I believe strongly in it as I’ve used it myself and tell the story of a couple employees I helped through substance abuse problems (again at a previous employer keeping names confidential).  

I had employees come to me asking for help with their substance abuse. They feared they would lose their job but my company believes in helping employees who ask for help. So I gave them all the EAP info and explained to them how the EAP works and strongly encouraged them to call and get the counseling help they need. I also explained that in addition to the free counseling sessions, our medical insurance has programs to help them clean up. They took advantage of these programs, cleaned themselves up, and remained good productive employees.

I love telling this story.

The last story I’m going to share this week is about the Flexible Savings Account (FSA). I tell them I love this benefit because it’s like an interest free, tax free loan to pay for medical related expenses like co-pays and deductibles. I tell them I usually max out the benefit and contribute the full $2600 and at the end of the year, if I have some left over, I treat myself to some very nice eye glasses and/or prescription sunglasses.  I also go back to the story above about the maximum out of pocket and tell them the heart attack employee had about $1600 left in his FSA and applied that to the MOP amount of $3500 he owed. So he only had to come up with $1900 for the entire cost of the episode.

There are, of course, other stories I tell to help our new employees understand the more complicated details of their benefits but I may share those at another time.. I always get positive comments from the new hires who appreciate me taking the time to sit down with them and going through the benefits we offer and explaining, through real-life stories, how they work.

Not only does this help them personally in understanding their benefits package, it sends the strong message that the organization sincerely cares about them and their well-being.  It’s an important element in the strategy of building that all important high-performing culture that we all strive for.  

Building an HR Foundation

Establish your credibility, competence, and trustworthiness

HHHR Photo

The most important thing an HR professional who’s moving into a new job or department can do is to build and establish a rock-solid foundation of credibility, competence, and trustworthiness. Today, I’m going to discuss how to do this.

There are two things an HR pro typically does when starting a new job at an organization or transferring to a new department.

  1. They come in with “guns a blazing” and immediately start changing the way everything is done and immediately start introducing HR initiatives. They focus on quickly making a big splash introducing HR initiatives and impressing senior leadership.
  2. They come in and take the time to get and know the employee’s, their team, processes, and culture. They focus on providing outstanding customer service to their client base and getting a good lay of the land and culture before making significant changes and introducing big HR initiatives.

Yes of course, sometimes you have to come in with “guns a blazing” and get things fixed quickly. The situation, and leadership, demands it because they need things to be fixed, and fixed yesterday. While it seems to make sense at first, it’s not. It will mostly cause significant chaos and business disruption. It certainly does not establish the credibility, competence, and trustworthiness for the new HR pro!

The best and most effective way for the HR pro to establish their credibility, competence, and trustworthiness in the eyes of their new company/department is to take the time to get to know and understand the team, processes, and culture before making any drastic changes. Build that important and critical foundation.

Remember, Human Resource pro, you are dealing with humans and, as such, you need to build a foundation of relationships first before you will be able to accomplish anything with any credibility and trust. Everybody in your organization is watching what you are doing and how you are doing it.

Start building a solid foundation so that you will be seen as a credible HR expert. Make sure there are minimal mistakes made with the basics like payroll, benefits, answers about polices, etc.

Here are the steps I recommend to build a strong and stable foundation that will establish your credibility and ability to effectively manage the HR function in your new organization. I think we all know this but often forget as it is the blocking and takleing.

  1. Most importantly – get to know the team. Get out of your office every single day and CIRCULATE around the office(s), store, plant, etc. and chat with your fellow employees. Learn your employee’s names and what’s important to them both personally and professionally. This helps them see HR as a part of their team, not the Grim Reaper that only makes an appearance when something bad is about to happen.
  2. Study and know the employee handbook (I know, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) and other policies and procedures. You’ll need to be able to answer policy and procedure questions from employees as you circulate and as they come by your office/desk.
  3. Dig into the HRIS and make sure all the data in there is complete and accurate. It often isn’t. Make sure it is so that everything that feeds from the HRIS (payroll, benefit integration, etc) will also be accurate.
  4. Become the expert in the health and retirement benefits your organization offers. Make sure enrollments are completed with 100% accuracy. Build great relationships with your brokers and ask lots of questions.
  5. Respond quickly, accurately, and politely to all manager and employee requests and questions. Remember, you are a service organization supporting the other functional areas of the organization. Don’t ever be condescending because you think they should know the answer. You are the HR expert, not them and they are coming to you for your expertise – the reason you have the job!

By doing these five basic steps, you build the foundation of a successful HR function in your new organization. These are the basics that will establish you as a credible and trustworthy HR professional in your employee’s eyes.

Yes, I know every senior HR professional, and leadership team, wants to do the exciting strategic stuff but without that important foundation, the strategic HR initiatives will fall flat because you will not have the credibility and trust from the very people who need to buy in to those initiatives.

You absolutely must have a solid and effective foundation in order to effectively build the strategic framework that your leadership, managers, and employees will embrace. This will ensure your success in your organization and allow you to more easily have your strategic HR initiatives be successfully adopted.

The Mommy Track Bias

In a recent article over at SHRM, they discussed the bias against women and men (but mostly women) trying to re-enter the workforce after taking time off from their careers to stay home and raise their kids.  Most hiring managers and HR tend to think these women have lost their edge in their industry and are, therefore, not strong candidates. They are passed over during the hiring process for candidates who have not taken the time off to raise their kids.  I think this bias is wrong and have first hand experience that supports my belief.

I’m pleased that the article is supportive of these women and discuses the positive attributes and skills that stay-at-home parents acquire during their time raising their kids.

…some HR experts argue that stay-at-home parenting actually imparts skills that prove valuable in the workplace, such as patience, persistence, creativity and reliability.

“Careers for men and women, parents or not, are no longer linear, and an accomplished woman who took a career detour to devote herself to motherhood can still be an incredibly valuable hire,” said Marisa Thalberg, founder of executivemoms.com, a networking site for working mothers.

Matt Brosseau, chief technology officer and head recruiter at Instant Alliance, an HR staffing and consulting firm, noted that “there’s a level of patience and creative problem-solving you can gain only from dealing with a toddler.”

“When parenting, you are often forced to negotiate with someone who may not be reasonable, and that’s a good skill when dealing with unreasonable clients and others,” he said.

In my time as a store manager at Macys, I hired many women who had taken several years off to raise their kids.  The article does claim the retail industry is easier to assimilate than industries such as law, medicine, and IT.  I can easily say almost all of the return-to-work moms turned out to be fantastic hires and very valuable employees.  Many of them ended up being managers for me who have since gone on to very successful careers.  One in particular, is a regional director for a large specialty retail chain store who has thanked me many times for giving her a chance when she was re-entering the workforce.  Several others are now business owners or are in mid to high level management positions within their organizations.

I completely agree with the experts quoted above who emphasize the positive attributes gained by those who raise their kids. In addition to what they say,  stay-at-home parents learn how to juggle multiple priorities while being constantly distracted.  They have strong interpersonal skills in being able to negotiate and deal with difficult people.  They have learned how to manage difficult situations while instilling a sense of fair play.  They have learned how to motivate people to be their best.  And having and raising kids matures and humbles people.

These are all attributes and skills that are valuable in any workplace!

I want to include my wife who recently re-entered the workforce, in retail, after many years of staying home and raising our kids.  Its interesting to note that there were significant changes in technology that she had to deal with and learn but the core basics of retail are still the same.  It took her a little time to catch on the the technology changes but she did.  Along with her outstanding leadership ability, her selling skills, great customer service, and credit production, she is now a very valuable and highly desirable employee.  Her boss has tried to promote her several times but she isn’t quite ready to take that step yet but I know she eventually will and will be very successful.

Bottom line, hiring people who took time off to raise their kids is not as risky as most people think.  Any parent who has raised or is raising their kids should know how difficult the job is and the skills that are developed while doing so.  Sure, there will be a learning curve at first but there is with all new hires.

The bias against people who are trying to re-enter the workforce after raising their kids should end.  Employers are missing out on very skilled, motivated, and dedicated employees by passing them over.

Workplace Harassment and Bullying at My Old High School

 

NCHS Staff meeting “Welcome Back” skit

You would think high school teachers and administrators, of all people, would know better!  You would also think a relatively large school district would do much better with the anti harassment and anti bullying training for their staff.

In my hometown of Casper, WY, at my high school alma mater, Natrona County High School,  there has been an ongoing controversy over a recent skit that was performed welcoming back school staff and introducing new staff at the beginning of the 2014 school year.

I have provided the recording of the skit here on this post and invite you to watch it.  I remind you, this was performed by high school administrators and teachers for other teachers, administrators, and staff on the school premises and during work hours.

What is so shocking to me about what I saw in the video is the sexual content and bullying.  They joke about masturbation, they “jokingly” called teachers serial killers and sexual offenders, suggested one was drunk, made fun of a new art teacher for being dumb,  mock another teacher’s poor teeth, offer a female teacher a set of testicles, do the “ugly” cheer for one teacher, and finally, physically grope a male administrator.

Publically humiliating new employees in front of their peers is not a good onboarding practice.

It’s shocking to me that these teachers/administrators thought it was OK to perform this skit.  It was something a bunch of high school kids would put together.  These are the ADULTS at the school.

They had obviously put a lot of time into writing and practicing the skit.  While they were writing and practicing, it didn’t occur to them that they were being grossly inappropriate?  What in the world made them think it was acceptable to behave the way they did in the workplace on school property?

It wasn’t a simple accidental comment or a momentary lapse in judgment – heck we’ve all been guilty of that.  Instead, it was a deliberately scripted and practiced performance.  It was deliberate and  mean and people shouldn’t have to put up with these behaviors , especially in the workplace.

These are people we entrust to educate and counsel our high school kids.  They are supposed to be role models.

The two “cheerleaders” in the skit are obviously leaders at the school.  With them being leaders, it shows that the culture in the school is one that is tolerant of bullying and harassment.  According to an earlier article this type of initiation has been going on for some time.  Regardless, it is unacceptable workplace behavior now and should have been in the past.

I commend the school district for immediately addressing the situation and bringing in an outside investigator.  The investigator concluded that “Natrona County High School administrators created an offensive educational environment and used language and actions that amounted to sexual harassment during a skit.”

The principle resigned shortly after the skit was made public.  Although he had nothing to do with the planning and wasn’t present during the skit, he accepted full responsibility.  I find it difficult to believe he didn’t know the content of these welcome back skits as they have been going on for years.  I think he did the right thing by resigning.  He knew he should have put a stop to it long ago. He is also responsible for the culture in the school which was clearly tolerant of coworker bullying and harassment.  No employees were fired over the skit but they were disciplined.

So bottom line, immediate action was taken and discipline was administered to the appropriate people.  Now the district leadership and HR department need to make sure they create a climate that no longer allows this type of behavior.  They also need to re-visit their anti-harassment and anti-bullying training to determine if it is adequate and make it so if it is not.

Their actions, so far, are a good start.

Change Champions and the HR Certification Battle

HR leaders, as Change Champions, must practice what we preach and embrace the significant change that is happening before us in the HR certification space.  As HR leaders, we are expected to be the Change Champions in our organizations.

In fact, the top HR thought leaders, Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank spend a significant amount of time discussing the importance of change and HR as Change Champions in their two most recent books, HR From the Outside-In, Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources and Global HR Competencies, Mastering Competitive Value from the Outside In.

HR as a Change Champion is one of the six competencies they discuss.  Their context is that of HR being a Change Champion in their organization but it can just as easily be applied to the HR certification space.

In their book, HR From the Outside In, Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources, they discuss how organizations go through dramatic change.  To emphasize their point, they cite the startling statistic that only 70 organizations from the 1955 Fortune 500 list are still in existence independently today.  In other words, 430 big and powerful organizations no longer independently exist.

In the book, they emphasize HR’s role in the change process and state the following:

HR professionals should help their companies face, accept, and be open to the pressures of change rather than hide from them.

 

They also state this:

If an organization cannot change as fast as the pace of change in its environment, the organization will fall behind, decline, and disappear.  Change in an organization should at least match the pace of change in the environment.

HR professionals conceptualize and design organizational agility, flexibility, and responsiveness to external changes.

Our profession is rapidly changing and evolving.  If our certifications don’t keep up with this change, they will become obsolete.   I commend SHRM for recognizing this and introducing a significant change to the HR certification space in response.  They are shaking up the status quo and taking a huge leap forward.

Prior to SHRM’s announced entry into the HR certification space, I never saw HRCI doing anything significant in response to the changes happening in our profession.  I expect they will now.

As I stated here in a previous blog post, our profession will end up better when one certification ends up winning the battle.  The competition will ultimately be good for the profession.

Again, I am not taking sides.  I am very proud of my SPHR and will also go through the steps to earn my SHRM-SCP as soon as it’s available in 2015.  I simply want the best for the HR profession and if this battle that takes us to the next level makes us uncomfortable, so be it.

The Fight to Survive – Competition is Good in the HR Certification Space

It seems that almost every certified HR leader has an opinion about SHRM’s abandoning their support of HRCI’s certifications and rolling out their own.  The vast majority of what I’ve read or heard is critical of SHRM and supportive of HRCI.

Frankly, I think SHRM’s entry into the space is a good thing.  A very good thing.  I am a believer in free market competition and I think having two HR certification competitors battle it out will only make it better for the profession in the end.

Case in point, HRCI has already responded by increasing their marketing.  I see them advertising everywhere in all the prominent HR magazines and websites.  Maybe they advertised this heavily before, but I doubt it.  Monopolies don’t need to advertise and market.

I received a letter from HRCI on August 1 reminding me of the value of their certificates and promised that I will be hearing back from them soon about how they are “shaping the future of HR certification and providing me with new opportunities to connect with other HR professionals within our community.”  I was impressed.  The letter sends the signal that they are clearly working hard to maintain their status as the Certificate of Choice!

I even received a tweet from Rebecca Hastings, the HRCI HR Content Manager, asking me if I had read this article at the HRCI website.  She was responding to my post here where I said I was OK with two certifications.

This is all very good.  They are being very smart by getting out there when they are still the only game in town to aggressively promote and market their products.

Let’s be honest about the value of our certification.  Its really only important to those of us in HR.   The executives in our companies don’t really know anything about HRCI and their certifications.  For example, my boss was very supportive when I told him I earned my SPHR but he didn’t really know or understand what it meant.  I had to give him a print out from their website describing the SPHR certification to help explain it to him and “prove” that it was a significant accomplishment.

The other executives in my organization also don’t really know and understand what it is.  In fact, I get the impression they think it’s “cute” that HR has a certification.  But, in their minds, it doesn’t rise to the level of a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), PE (Professional Engineer), or a PG (Professional Geologist).

With the two organizations fighting for prominence, I’m hoping there is a lot of press outside of the HR media platforms.  If so, our company executives will see this and take notice and realize that there are important professional certifications in the HR profession.  Rather than think the competition is hurting our profession, I think most of our executives will understand and appreciate it.

Here are the four reasons I think it’s a good thing to have competing certifications.

  1. Improved quality.  As the two are competing for prominence, the quality of their products – the certificates – will improve out of necessity.  Maybe HRCI will finally provide a decent website!
  2. Greater visibility.  Both organizations will aggressively advertise and promote their products.  A lot more will be written about both.  This will hopefully leak out into the main stream media and be noticed by the non HR executives in our organizations.
  3. Increased transparency.  Both organizations will need to build or retain the confidence of their stakeholders.  In order to emerge as the prominent certificate provider, both organizations will need to become more transparent in how they conduct their activities to build and retain their brand presence.  SHRM will need to make an extra effort with their transparency in light of how they rolled out their announcement.
  4. Improved credibility.  When this all shakes out in the next several years, one certification will emerge as the winner.  It will have fought the battle, taken on the criticisms, and made the changes and adjustments needed to win.  It will have advanced the certification and profession along far more than it would have had their not been the battle.

I’m going to watch this all with a great deal of interest.  I am not taking sides.  I love my SPHR.  I worked hard for it and am proud to sport those letters whenever I can.  On the other hand, I also love the fact that SHRM is going to shake things up and challenge the status quo.

I will maintain my SPHR and I will go through the process of earning my SHRM–SCP early in 2015.  I will also proudly sport both sets of initials after my name.  I will fully support both because I think both are important and that the upcoming battle between the two organizations will ultimately benefit the HR profession.

Respect for HR

I came across this blog post – Why Do We Seem to Hate All the Things that Make HR Great – on TLNT over the weekend.

I can tell you I don’t hate the things that make HR great.

Having been a General Manager for Macys for approximately 15 years, I found the soft skills and people smarts are what made me and my management style effective and productive.  A critical part of being a “business person” is to have the soft skills.

Peter Drucker has been writing about these skills since the 1930s and those who read and practice his recommendations are usually very successful.  I understand that there are many in management who don’t consider the soft skills important but that is to their determent.

HR needs to embrace these soft skills and have the courage practice and promote them every chance we get with those in the the other parts of the business.  We should never apologize for being HR and should take our roles as strategic contributors seriously.  We need to speak up when we see something that needs to be addressed from an HR standpoint.  We need to be just as assertive and confident as those in Accounting, Finance, IT, and Management.

We need to act like we belong because we do.

DOL Targets Extractive Industry – Where is HR?

Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) has been targeting the extractive industry in its enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The result, large settlements.

Here is a list of some of the latest settlements:

Hutco – paid nearly $2 million in overtime back wages to 2,267 employees for mis-characterizing certain wages as per-diem payments and excluding these wages in their overtime calculations.

HongHua America – paid over $680,000 in overtime back wages to 133 roughnecks and crane operators who were improperly classified as independent contractors instead of employees.  Company paid them straight time for the hours they worked is excess of 40 in a week rather than time and a half they should have been paid.

Justiss Oil Co. – paid $619,830 in back wages to 270 employees for violating FLSA overtime and record keeping provisions by not paying workers for time spent at mandatory staff meetings at the beginning of the day and failing to record the time spent at the meetings.

Morco Geological – paid more than $595,000 in back wages to technicians for improperly classifying nonexempt employees as exempt and paid them a fixed daily rate regardless of how many actual hours they worked.

Savard Marine Services – paid $60,000 in overtime back wages to 107 employees for mis-characterizing certain wages as per-diem payments and excluded these wages in their overtime calculations.

Rigid Oilfield Services – paid $51,839 in overtime back wages to 28 employees who they improperly classified as independent contractors instead of employees.

The DOL’s initiative has resulted in $6.7 million in back wages being paid to 4,004 employees in the last fiscal year – Oct 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013.

When I look through this list and the reasons for the settlements, I shake my head because its all HR 101 and could have easily been avoided.  Where are their HR Departments?  Do they even have one?  If so, where are they? Are they incompetent or are they just being ignored?  Regardless, these settlements should serve as confirmation that these companies should have an executive level HR position.  An HR professional at the executive level would have known that these practices are in violation of the FLSA and would have prevented them from happening.