Monday July 6, 2015
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 88,778 charges were filed in 2014. 31,863 of those alleged illegal harassment in the Private Sector; 15, 226 were within the Federal Government. Add in other Public Sector employees (state and local governments, school boards, universities…), retaliation claims, and some other charges and you get to the grand total. Scary, isn’t it?
Of course, there are about 150,000,000 employees in the U.S., meaning a whole lot of them never file with the EEOC. Or file a lawsuit.
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. No employer should be cavalier about those risks. There are other risks employers face besides EEOC. You should make people decisions with an awareness of the risk involved. You should also take into consideration factors you use to guide other business decisions - finances, PR, and how the decision fits you. The risk management part – though vital – is no more primary than risk management is in sales, expansion, acquisition, divestiture, financing debt, marketing campaigns, etc.
Focus your efforts on the 99.9% of people who will have your back, who will enhance your relationships, who will delight your customers, and who will help you achieve your mission. But don’t neglect managing the risk for the small percentage that could come back to bite you. Here’s how:
1. Appreciate. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but you do need to be sincere. Be aware of when your team members are demonstrating your values and norms. Recognize that. Be in touch with your customers enough to hear when they are delighted and why. Recognize those that deliver the kind of service that attracts and retains raving fans.
2. Include. Pull people into discussions and decisions on things that impact their job. They see far better in the trenches than you can. Use their expertise. Employ them for their brain and not just their job skills. When you include your team members, listen to them, and fix their “hassles,” quality improves, finances improve, and morale goes up.
3. Mix it up. Make work interesting by allowing people to see a bigger picture than they might be able to from the vantage point of their desk or station. Create cross-functional shadowing so that people can see how what they do interacts with others in a different area. Create opportunities for those who don’t interact with customers to do so.
4. Recruit the aligned. Don’t just hire for skills, talent, or experience. Recruit people who like your way of doing business. If you recruit people who don’t like the way you operate, they will probably try to change the very things that your great team members love. Be definitive about who you are all throughout the recruiting process and go after the ones who resonate with it.
5. No surprises. There will be times you have to part ways because of job performance, company finances, or “fit.” Eliminate the element of surprise by having open, direct conversations before you eliminate the job or the person doing it. Employees who are caught off guard often assume there must be something discriminatory or illegal involved. And you know where that leads.
6. Get EPLI. All employers these days should have Employers’ Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). In some cases, you can get it as a rider on your existing General Liability policy. In the event that you have a claim, you need to know how to handle it within the policy – so make yourself familiar with the protocol. Your policy could assign an attorney, but it will drive the defense.
There is no guarantee when dealing with people. An employer could try to do everything right and still wind up with a disgruntled former employee. But if you treat all employees like they are a lawsuit waiting to happen, you will never build trust, you probably won’t like your workplace, and you won’t really reduce your risk. It will always be there. Don’t let the risk overshadow the rewards of having a great team who gets your mission, sees your vision, and lives your values. With them, you can change the world.
Open Door Solutions uses a people-centric approach to transform your organizational dreams into your team’s passion. Whether you need to hire, fire, cut costs or expand, we think differently, tackling business realities from the inside out. By combining HR expertise, operational know-how, public relations mastery, and quality management, we build long-term success and employee satisfaction to create a team that will impact more than your bottom line—they’ll champion your vision.
Mark Weaver, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, QES