values

A Fair Chance: Hiring People with Criminal Records

Does this mere title scare you? Have you ever thought about why you might hire someone with a criminal record or do you just expect other firms to do that? One of the big problems in our society is that we in the US jail far more people per capita than other countries. And if they cannot find jobs when they have paid the price for their crimes, how do you expect them to live? So yes, there is a moral case to be made.

There is also a business case – related to performance and retention. Plus in the tight labor markets in MetroDC it is still a labor market many have not tapped.

Some background:

Over half of all convicted prisoners are in for non-violent crimes
Minorities carry the highest burden and there is good evidence of discrimination in the entire legal process.
The majority of prisoners are in state prisons (59%) and local jails (28%)
One-third of working age Americans have a criminal record.
In Alexandria, their unemployment rate is 65%, which is a little lower than the national average.

The federal government has several programs to help returning citizens (one of the many terms used besides ex-convicts – and my personal favorite) with job skills and employment. There are also programs to help employers hire them – from bonding to tax incentives.

Many national employers and local construction firms have extensive experience in successfully hiring and retaining people with criminal records. Small and mid-size businesses will find excellent local support for their efforts to do so.

I recently attended the Fair Chance Business Summit, a program of the Alexandria Reentry Council on hiring returning citizens. There were a number of local employers talking about their […]

By |October 11th, 2016|hiring, values|Comments Off on A Fair Chance: Hiring People with Criminal Records

Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

Martin Luther King Jr had been assassinated, cities were convulsed and some burned, ‘Chicago ‘68′ became a cliche for demonstrations and strong-arm police tactics. One sunny day I was deep in the beautiful wilds of Minnesota trying to find the farm of a woman whose husband had been shot down and was missing. By 2am, long before the days of social media, she was calling me terrified by the horrible calls and threats she was already getting.

Today we also face turbulent times, compounded by social media and cable news coverage. The ‘fog of war’ hurts us all. Many people are fearful for their personal future and their ‘tribe.’

What does this have to do with your business?

The conditions of our culture are reflected in our work. People spend a large portion of their lives at work. You have the power to create a better place and one that allows all your employees to be their best selves. We know that this actually increases financial success and growth. It will help your employees.  It might just help our country turn this current climate more positive too.

First, have you created a climate of respect?

Respect is more than superficial equality and basic manners – although those might be a good start in some workplaces. Respect includes valuing everyone without implicit bias or overt discrimination based on how different they might be from you. It involves creating a climate that values fairness and good faith and trust. It includes everyone in the organization treating each other well and positively. It includes neither hiring nor retaining ‘jerks’ who damage interpersonal relations and destroy trust. If your own behavior or emotions get in the way, it means learning how to control yourself […]

By |July 14th, 2016|culture, values|Comments Off on Orlando to Dallas: “We Are Not as Divided as We Seem”

Lessons from Biltmore

Recently, on vacation, I visited the Biltmore Estate and saw a staff which was what any organization would want. Each person I came in contact with was positive, helpful, and focused on what they could do to make my visit enjoyable. It made the day a real pleasure.  I spent money I might not have and got experiences I really enjoyed.  I even tweeted about Biltmore and its great staff.

If you want this for your organization, you need to focus on setting the conditions for people to succeed in their work. No matter how small you are now, these aspects are critical:

Hiring the right people
Training each person in their current role and developing them for the future
Providing an environment that supports everyone there
Managing effectively and consistently

Too often these seem like climbing Mt. Everest – more effort and cost than you can sustain. But, in fact, investing in your people leads to higher financial returns and lower long-term costs. For years the management gurus have pointed to the difference in how Walmart and Costco pay and treat their employees. Costco spends more on pay, benefits, and training but has higher profits. Now Walmart has begun to raise pay and benefits to attract and retain better employees to enhance the company’s future growth and profitability.

Take a look at your organization and assess your current practices. What could you do to improve these and help grow your future success? Each small step forward can make a real difference.

Help is available in other articles on this website, the SBA has an extensive online training program, and your local SBDC can assist you. The real issue for most of us is to take the first […]

By |June 7th, 2016|culture, Policies and Practices, values|Comments Off on Lessons from Biltmore

LABOR DAY

So what do you really think about when you hear “Labor Day”? Big sales? School starting? Last beach holiday? Last summer BBQ?

Labor Day is designed to recognize the contribution of labor to our society and economy. It has been around since President Cleveland recommended it in 1887!

All of us who work – at whatever job – are ‘labor.’ Yet recent research indicates over 55% of workers say they did not receive any recognition from their bosses in the past year. And nearly 3/4th say they did not receive any feedback. Which may be why 65% feel underpaid and nearly 70% are interested in changing jobs.

Labor Day may just be another three-day weekend to you.

But what if you harnessed the concept of recognizing the contributions it represents within your own organization? Which ways can you think of to do so which will reinforce the culture you want to have? What might actually matter to your employees?

Enjoy the Labor Day holiday. Take a bit of time off from all your electronics to do so.

Then, starting next week, put an hour aside weekly for two-three weeks and look at what you can do effectively to recognize the value of ‘labor’ to your success and future. Consider asking a few informal leaders for ideas – but only if you plan to actually do something. Or chose a small team – say a leader, a good employee, a rebel – to define some options.

One client CEO keeps a running record of employee achievements – things he notices, those managers report, client comments, and employee thanks to other employees. He includes one in each week’s memo to all staff. A continuous record exists too. They are highlighted in client communications, […]

Problems: Are You a Victim or Moving Forward?

My own work history is replete with examples of times that being a woman was a negative and made my life more difficult, but I moved on. Small business owners often complain that the business world and government rules are stacked against them, yet many succeed. Military in transition regularly fear that employers discriminate against them, yet most become quite successful in the private sector.

Each of us chooses whether to use these perceived and real problems as stopping us, hindering us, or just life. In 2007 Robert L. Johnson, founder of BET, gave a commencement address I have kept as a reminder – or a kick in the tuckus, as needed.

Need a bit of inspiration? Read on.

“My message to you is that you have to work harder for yourself. Unfortunately, and this sometimes affects us as African Americans, we say: ‘The deck is stacked against us. There’s racism. There’s Jim Crowism. There’s sexism. There are glass ceilings. There are all these things that cause us to say we can’t achieve because the deck is stacked against us, and we can’t break through.’ That to me is a basic surrender to some other force controlling your destiny. (…)

I’m telling you: Welcome to life. Welcome to the business world. Welcome to where you are not going to get breaks. (…)

In my opinion, racism is like rain. It’ll always be out there. You know what you do? You put on your raincoat, grab an umbrella and go out there.”

If you own a business, your success and that of your business is directly tied to your ability to solve problems and to create a culture that does also.

Most days I love my work. I have great clients. I […]

STRENGTHENING YOUR BUSINESS MUSCLES

Whether your business is old or new, clarity about your vision and goals is critical. Make a bit of time to think about these soon! Don’t just go back to some old statements but look to the future. Your goals, your organization, your industry, and external factors change. What do you want to keep and what will you update?

The three week plan
Think about each question over a full week. Make notes. Then spend an hour alone defining your answers as clearly and concisely as possible. In a partnership? Do this process separately and then get together to discuss afterwards.

Week 1. What is my vision?

Week 2. What is my definition of success?

Week 3. What makes our company unique?

 

Inspiration and ideas: quotes from successful local business women on growing and strengthening your business ideas.

“Be sure you really love what you’ve chosen to do. Your passion will help you cope with the reality that pretty much every task and project you undertake along your journey will take at least twice as long to complete as you anticipate.”  Linda Rivero,  Global Action Women

“Get comfortable with ambiguity. Don’t let not knowing stop you.”  Julie@ileadstrategies.com

“Ask for help.” Diane Cohen, Coaching2Connect

“Know what you don’t know! So many of us feel we have to be wonder-women that we don’t honestly assess our own weaknesses and plan accordingly.” Joan Porte, CTC,  www.joanstravelpartners.com

“Pay careful attention to cash flow. My annual earnings have been great since year one, but it is only now (year 3) that my cash flow isn’t causing me palpitations.” Carlisle J. Levine, Ph.D., BLE Solutions

“Have a solid support network built upon experience and trust. Don’t discount the information given from others but use all information to draw your own conclusion.” Jennifer […]

By |July 11th, 2014|values|0 Comments

Improve your Surroundings

There is interesting research about the impact of negativity in the workplace. Regularly negative people significantly reduce productivity and creativity of those who work with them.

Which leads to the question: Who is the most negative person you deal with regularly?

If you are like most small business or non-profit leaders, you do have someone in your organization or on your Board who is consistently negative. S/he might be someone with a classic negative reaction to all change or a personality that sees their world through dark lenses. We are not talking about those who sometimes offer negative opinions or are realistically reacting to tough situations. We are talking about consistently ‘negative nellies.’

Some negativity is useful. Such people can provide a realistic voice in many discussions. They serve as a check on those of us who have a ton of new ideas but no filters. They may be a part of your unspoken ‘risk management’ process even.

Still a consistently negative person, no matter how good they otherwise are at their role, takes a toll on those around them. And they infect others with negative responses. You must assess whether their value outweighs those aspects. And think quite clearly about how they influence or impact your own leadership.

Could you reduce or eliminate dealing with this person? Is it worth a frank discussion or is this behavior so consistent that perhaps replacing this person to save the rest of your organization is really needed?

REALITY BITES: POLICIES, PRACTICES, AND YOU

My friend’s Mother died 17 days ago after a long illness. And without warning, her Dad died two weeks later. I cared for several aunts in their last years, including handling their final hospitalizations, hospice, funerals, and estates. This is pretty common for many employees who are care-givers.

Yet here I am again talking with an organization which wants to define quite carefully the three days for bereavement leave and who it applies to. Can you even get to the funeral and back in three days, much less help your family cope?

Sure, I have known of an employee who had four grandmothers die within 18 months and was gaming the 3 day bereavement system at his company. But one of those in four decades leaves me wondering why we feel such a need for a tight policy. And when a manager’s son was killed in a skiing accident, do you think the company actually enforced its ‘3 day’ rule? Of course not.

One of the bigger risks you can take is to have a policy – on any topic – and ignore it. Too often that may be done for reasons you think are valid. But a good lawyer can find that you did it in a discriminatory manner against their client.

Did you really get anything positive out of your policy in the first place? For every potential issue it may have been meant to protect you against, did it?  Or did it also send a message that you did not trust your employees or did not think they were adults.

This be the right time to look at your policies and see whether you really need them all. Think of it as spring cleaning. Which ones […]

The Leader’s Role

Whatever your size and growth pattern, here is a quick summary of some of the most critical functions of an executive or founder.

From a McKinsey interview with Richard Bracken, CEO of HCA:
“I’m not fond of trying to sum up something as nuanced as leadership skills, but if I had to say what are some of the fundamental attributes of leadership that matter to me, the following would be high on my list.

First, the attitude of the organization toward change is established by the tone set at the top. For me, that means a continued statement, restatement, communication, and validation of the company’s mission and values, which includes reinforcing its culture. This is the CEO’s first and most important job and a clear requirement of leadership. As leaders, we must not only determine the appropriate strategic course but also define how we, as individuals and as an organization, will conduct ourselves.

Second, and most obvious, leaders must ensure the development and execution of a clear, well-communicated, and appropriately measured operating plan.

Third, effective leaders ensure that the right team, with the right values, is in place to execute the plan and can pivot appropriately when factors change.

Fourth, effective leaders show an intellectual flexibility that recognizes there are different ways to achieve goals and objectives within different environments. To me, it is important that environmental and market changes do not modify the company’s, or the executive’s, basic values.

And finally, I think a good leader is a problem solver. How an organization deals with problems, failures, and missed opportunities clearly defines an important aspect of its culture.”

Read the entire interview at http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/Health_systems_and_services/Leading_in_the_21st_century_An_interview_with_HCA_CEO_Richard_Bracken

Values at Work – Why Bother?

I recently facilitated an exploration of potential values for an organization rebuilding after extensive changes. The staff collaborated not only on defining the most important values but on how they would be demonstrated at work. This effort had a team-building impact. The group had specific ideas, interesting insights, and expanded each other’s concepts. They found it hard work, but revealing and fun. Most importantly, it helped define the norms for behavior, for success, for work as they move forward under difficult circumstances.

Why might this matter to you?

Because the values you actually have in an organization are critical to its success.  Too often they are undermined by actual practices, spoken about but not lived, and create failure.

What values do you espouse? Are they right for your organization NOW? Do you use these values to guide action? To manage? To measure performance?

The winter season is often a time of thinking and reflection along with budgeting and performance reviews. Might it be time for you to review your organization’s values so that they enhance your future?