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Learn Something Essential

By Neil Morgan, Managing Partner at MorganHR and Creator of SimplyMerit

Many old-world skills are on the endangered list. When was the last time that you went foraging for mushrooms in the forest? My mother did as a child. Within one generation, the ability to identify edibles has seemingly disappeared… or has it?

We live in an age where you can learn virtually anything sitting on your couch. Yet, with all of this instantly at our fingertips, many of us would rather rely on the trappings of our modern society… drive to the grocery store to pick up mushrooms or throw lighter fluid (and TONS of it) on a stack of firewood to start a bonfire.

Over the past several years, I’ve become increasingly interested in some basic skills that fall under the category of “bushcraft.” With YouTube and other streaming services, I’ve honed my knife sharpening skills, lit my passion for starting bonfires with nothing more than a Ferro rod, and secured my skills around tying a dozen useful knots.

Bonfires are an essential part of our backyard and RV fun. Having the fire building skills to source the materials from nature (bark from birch trees for the tinder source, twigs for the kindling, and larger branches for the fuel), to stage the materials to allow the fire to build gradually, and then to ignite a roaring fire from nothing more than a spark from a Ferro rod is immensely gratifying. But passing these skills onto the kids is by far the most rewarding.

Since getting into bushcraft, I’ve added a small pocket knife as an EDC (Everyday Carry). I keep this knife, a larger fixed blade knife, and a hatchet sharpened and honed using both a whetstone and a strop. Having a super sharp knife is an amazing experience whether you’re cooking in the kitchen or working wood for the bonfire.

Now, you’d be surprised how often you need to tie knots outside of tying your shoes. And while there are probably hundreds of knot variations, there are a handful of knots that will get you through life just fine. By far, my favorite is Corporals Corner improvised trucker’s hitch. It’s a quick way to secure loads or to string up a rope between trees on which to hang gear or tents.

Learning should never stop. There is so much information available literally at our fingertips that I challenge you to find something new and potentially master a skill.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Recruitment and Retention in a Post-Pandemic Environment

By Stacy Fenner, Auxin Group Program Director at MorganHR

52% of North American employees plan to look for a new job this year according to Achievers Workforce Institute. 47% of employees will look for a new job if their employer doesn’t offer hybrid work. Companies face a significant risk of losing talent if they are not looking at ways to engage and shift recruitment and retention strategies.

What strategies will work?  First, put up your own mirror.  When have you been the most motivated to get up and turn on that laptop/drive into work early? It is most likely when you feel your contribution is valued, you have clarity in your goals, you are part of a team, and you have the freedom and flexibility to make an impact. Plus, you most likely enjoy the people you work with and can have a little fun during the workday.

What has changed in the past year and a half? The pandemic put a roadblock in front of employee engagement, but companies quickly adapted to keeping their employees engaged in a remote work environment. From prioritizing employee WELLNESS to virtual talent shows, there are many ways to retain your current team and even recruit new employees.

Unfortunately, the Turnover Tsunami is real, but there are many ways to keep your employees happy and engaged right where they are. Here are some actionable steps to take:

  1. Give Positive Feedback
  2. Encourage creativity and innovation
  3. Respect and Value Employees
  4. Provide Opportunities to Grow (Personally and professionally)
  5. Earn trust
  6. Provide Challenges
  7. Create a Healthy work-life balance
  8. Include employees and provides connection
  9. Ensure salary is competitive
  10. Provide a safe and comfortable environment both in the office and home

These are just a few suggestions, as there are hundreds of more ways to keep your employees happy. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but the common denominator is that employees want to feel that they belong where they are now. If you’re not sure where to start making improvements on your retention/recruitment strategies, don’t worry. MorganHR offers just-in-time coaching to help with the compensation conversations and strategies for managers and HR professionals. Plus, Auxin Group promotes employee balance and development by offering bite-sized WELLNESS® and development opportunities at their fingertips with our app.

To retain and win talent during this unique time, leaders across the organization have to take part in retention and recruitment strategy development, and with MorganHR, we can come up with the best plans together.

Remember Everyone’s Invisible Backpack

I have one. You have one. Your family members and friends have one. The cashiers at the grocery store have their own. Your children’s teachers, your co-workers, your doctor… literally everyone is walking around with an invisible backpack loaded with stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

These emotions are hitting all of us because we are living with so much uncertainty. Is my job secure? What’s going to happen with my kids’ camp this summer? What about the fall? This is unchartered territory. There are no rituals or rules or lanes to guide us. When we are adrift and overwhelmed with endless worries, the filters disappear, and our words don’t always come out quite right. We unintentionally ignite a fire with another human being. In these intense moments, when someone else’s comments hit you hard, be forgiving. Remember the backpack, theirs and yours. Their backpack affects what they say, and your backpack affects what you hear.

Instead, I urge you to acknowledge the backpack. Talk about the worries. It’s ok to ask others about them… and go beyond the surface.  Check out this article that suggests 20 questions to ask instead of “How are you doing?” It will lead to a more open and honest conversation, a deeper connection, and you both may come out of it with a little less in your backpack.

What is Self-Development? Is it an oxymoron?

By Laura Morgan, Managing Partner at MorganHR 

Managers are eager to discuss development plans with their employees. The list of ideas is generated to help the employee select the growth-oriented exposure to a key project or the certification courses that would augment their understanding. The employee is also encouraged to read, be mentored, and participate in leadership development programs with special experiences and coaching. Is that enough? I think development happens when someone’s mind is exposed to new ideas AND when they have a way to discuss, gain opinions, and receive feedback on their interpretation of it all. 

What is the definition of development? 

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, development is defined as the process of growing or changing into a more advanced, larger, or stronger form. It’s a relative process: people experience their own development in different ways, which is a function of their personalities, background, learning style, and preferences. What you might think of as good training, for example, might not be relevant for an employee who comes from a different background. The disconnect might be due to a lack of experience, lack of financial resources, or a multitude of other reasons. So while development can mean a variety of things to different people, it can be easily described, for our sake, as bringing the employee up to speed in terms of their applicable knowledge and skills.  

What is missing with self-development? 

In many organizations, employees think of self-development as a career enhancer or a simple learning opportunity. Let’s just go back to that oxymoron “self-development”. How can you truly grow into a more “advanced form” by yourself? What is missing when you read development articles or attend lectures? Discussions & debates are key in digging deeper into your own development. The best way to strengthen a muscle is to add resistance, so why don’t we automatically do the same with our professional development?  

The best ways to improve development 

Often, managers are invested to create these exposures and identify development opportunities to help their employees. That is true for those managers with budgets and open access to these amazing tools and systems. When you don’t have the budget or team of trainers available, where do you turn? At MorganHR, we foster conversations, debates, and feedback-oriented discussions that stretch and shape each other’s development. We all have experience with speed bumps and roadblocks in our paths, and when we can learn from others’ expertise, we begin to foster our own growth and development.  

When working on your own development, you become focused on improving. You may even get stuck in a tunnel vision mindset that prevents you from seeing the forest from the trees. If you really want to strengthen and develop your skills, take your new ideas and learnings and share them with others. Get into discussions and challenge each other’s interpretations. You need to be exposed to more than your own thoughts and to be able to shift, shape, and strain (in some cases). Otherwise, it is to self-vacuum, not develop. 

Two Truths, or a Lie?

By Laura Morgan, a Managing Partner at MorganHR  

Have you ever heard anyone truly use the “my dog ate my homework” excuse?  I don’t think so as I’m sure many would agree that people have a great ability to dodge a negative more creatively.  No? As a mom of four spanning 14 years among them, I’ve been lucky to have been regularly entertained by my kids’ responses made by my children when I challenge them to explain their naughty behavior.  “Honey, didn’t we tell you not to bring food upstairs?” and the response, “well, I had it in my hand when you asked me to go get [that thing] and I forgot it after laying it on the dresser.” “Sweetheart, how is it that your grades are slipping?  Are you getting your homework in on time?” and the response, “well, you wanted me in all of those sports and do those chores.”  “Honey, why is your tub so filthy?  What did you use that is pink?” and the response, “I don’t know.  It just is pink.  I have no idea” to later see in the garbage a wrapper of a bath bomb. 

The saying goes that two truths create a lie. This statement is rooted in the idea that telling only part of the truth, or making a false statement, can be more damaging than outright lying. And it turns out, science agrees with this idea. 

In his TED Talk on “The Power and Peril of Storytelling,” psychologist Dr. Rosen explains how “We’re all natural storytellers.” Everything we do is affected by our personal stories–even when those stories may not be accurate. In other words, when we tell partial truths or omit information in order to portray ourselves in an approved light, we actually risk coming across as less trustworthy and less credible than someone who tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth. 

Do you think it is possible that every human has told one lie at least in their lifetime?  What about every year?  What about every week?  Or every day?  Do you wonder?  Now, I’m a mom and, to give me some credit, I have been in HR for more than 30 years.  While not a psychologist, I have been told that I am a pretty good lie detector.  It is just incredible to look back on my career and remember how often people just lie flat out, to your face.  One trick I learned from the lying experts, was the ‘two truths tactic’ – put two truths together and they can deceive the people in the room.  For example, one leader told me that she got the approval for a salary change that was pretty extreme.  I asked her did her leader really approve it.  She said, “Laura, I spoke with them.  He was okay with the recommendation.”  What I realized was that she did speak with them, but didn’t get approval for this specific recommendation but for another one.  Two truths.  Very creative. 

There are many memories of lies being shared.  Heck, there are games to encourage good lying.  Now back to my skills as a mom.  I have learned that when all else fails, tell your children that they better cover their mouths when they lie because their lies have colorful words that you can see.  Good luck. 

Impact Considerations on Colorado’s new EPEWA and EPEWA part 2

By Alex Morgan, Operations Manager at MorganHR 

Effective January 1, 2021, employers with employees in Colorado have new disclosure requirements for their job postings. This new Act is currently the most significant of its kind in the United States. Colorado requires that all employers with jobs in Colorado post positions with specific compensation and benefits information specified in their postings. The employer must include the pay range they genuinely believe it would be willing to pay for the job; a general description of any bonuses, commissions, or other compensation; and a general description of all benefits (health care, retirement, PTO, and any other tax-reportable benefits) the employer is offering for the position. With the significant shift to remote work following the lockdowns and social distancing restrictions brought forth to slow the spread of COVID-19, these requirements impact companies that even have only one employee who lives in Colorado. 

If a company has at least one employee in Colorado and is posting a job opening on the internet for a position that could be filled by someone who lives in Colorado, they must disclose the abovementioned pay and benefits information. The disclosure requirement has profound implications related to pay practice privacy and can easily damage small businesses that cannot afford the same level of pay as mega-corporations. Additionally, it reveals information that has historically been kept close to the chest to prevent competitors from using the information nefariously. Most compensation salary surveys require that at least five companies submit pay data for a particular job for the ranges to be included in the survey results. Colorado is overreaching here and should lead companies to take measures to protect themselves and their pay practices. 

Johnson & Johnson, DigitalOcean, and Drizly are a few of the companies posting remote positions and excluding Colorado residents from the possible hiring pool. Interestingly, state and local governments feel the need to create laws for something already illegal based on the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Disclosing pay practices can lead to employee dissatisfaction because many workers do not understand the differences in pay caused by seniority, merit, productivity, geographic differential, background, etc. This act is already having a negative impact on the hiring process for Colorado employees. We encourage you to stay informed and protect your policies and practices. Sharing the details of comp without all the facts can cause confusion and misinterpretation surrounding how you value your employees.  

The Colorado Pay Equity Law is Yet Another Jab to Small Businesses

By Laura Morgan, a Managing Partner at MorganHR 

While transparency is the goal, the Colorado Pay Equity Law of January 1 this year places an extreme undue hardship on small businesses.  This law requires companies with one or more employees to post the complete compensation range and benefits for any posted position.  This is not only salary but bonus targets, insurance, etc.   As a compensation consultant for more than 15 years, it is very uncommon for smaller businesses (under 300 employees) to purchase and have the available, expensive salary surveys to determine salary ranges.  As a common approach, these companies identify the salary range when they make an offer typically based on the candidate’s salary requirements.  If they can afford the salary of someone that feels would be a great addition to their team, they then work up an offer and work up what they can pay.  This law now forces small business employers to actually screen out higher-skilled, potential candidates by sharing a range that may not truly be the range. 

Then there is the most obvious issue.  Many employers can’t afford the deep-dive experts to help them shape these ranges.  Developing a salary range is more involved than just sharing what you are wanting to pay.  The affordability, market data, financial goals, local/state taxes, and business growth projections all factor into building compensation and benefits strategies.   The challenge now placed on these small business employers is hurtful.   

It is also known that the larger companies, i.e., Google, are reacting to this law by ensuring remote working employees living in Colorado are not eligible.  These transparency rules have an impact that extends beyond Colorado.  Recent remote worker job postings are actually excluding Colorado residents from being eligible to apply.  

MorganHR has created a solution to help smaller businesses have access to compensation expertise and data on-demand and in smaller, bite-sized options.  Our compensation community has posted their availability on our app to help anyone with compensation questions – modeled into 15, 30, and 60-minute intervals.  If you come equipped with your questions and schedule time on our Auxin App, you’ll have on-demand expertise ready to work through your challenge.  If the challenge does require additional time, our experts will guide you on how to move forward when and if you are ready.  

Does Your Dog Want You Working from Home?

Does Your Dog Want You Working From Home?

By Laura Morgan, Managing Partner at MorganHR 

If you are working from home and have a dog, you are slowly being programmed and probably don’t realize it.  Think about it.  Before working remotely, you had your schedule.  You left the house to get to work on a consistent and predictable schedule.  You came home on a very predictable schedule, too.  You arranged to have either a caretaker or standard schedule where they conformed to your schedule.  You would arrange for extended care when you wanted to.  Remember how your dog was so excited to see you with a wildly wagging tail when you came home?  You may not have been in a good mood but when you got home, your dog worked to make you happy.   

The remote work schedule, or lack thereof, has clearly shifted the roles of the dog owner.  The more time your dog sees you in the home, the more the dog maneuvers your schedule to conform to theirs.  Now that you are working remotely, your dog has not only created your schedule, but now has the ability to tell you when you are happy.  When you were at the office, your happiness was evaluated by you, your friends and coworkers, and your boss.  You had control to remove yourself from the environment when you needed more happiness.  You’d head to the gym or out for a beer.  Now, your dog has the control on your happiness.  How convenient it is for the dog to see that you are finally starting to relax and get some work done.  Feeling confident and control.  Then your dog barks, disturbs the peace, insists it is time to go outside in the rain or he’ll make a large issue for you to address.  Your dog is in control.  He likes you to work from home in this new remote world and he has you convinced that you like it too. 

Now let’s evaluate your happiness.  Are you the one in control and your dog works to make you happy or vice versa?  Think about it.  Watch for the signs and stay in control.  Do you have a schedule or does your dog create it?  Do you get to relax when you want or can you find calm only when the dog is asleep?  Does your dog seem to be more mischief-oriented now that you’re home? 

I challenge you to reflect on the last 10 zoom calls.  At least one of 10 had someone ‘apologize’ for their dog.  I was on a conference call and my client shouted, “no way!  What are you doing???!!!”  He dropped the phone to tell me that his dog decided to poop right there in front of him.  No warning.  No bark.  My client had to disconnect to deal with the dog.  Stressed and overwhelmed.  

I have an employee that has a dog and the schedule is controlled by his dog.  He has to walk the dog or face domestic challenges by his dog.  Another employee on our team had to jump off the call because her dog decided it was time to go for a walk and headed into speeding traffic.  He wanted her to conform and go for a walk on his schedule.  Is this the new reality of working from home?  Are invisible collars being placed on us?  I do think the dogs are figuring out that our consistent presence gives them the control.  When Orwell wrote Animal Farm, he didn’t envision computers and the ability to work from home other than being on a true farm.  Imagine if he was here to write about the animal takeover today. 

Psychological Safety: What it is not

“According to a 2017 Gallup Survey, 3 out of 10 employees strongly agreed that their opinions don’t count at work.”

I recently sat in on a webinar/discussion section regarding “what psychological safety is not.” Before discussing what I learned during the session, let’s cover what psychological safety is.

From what I understand, psychological safety is a belief that all questions, suggestions, and opinions are viewed and supported as valid within the workplace. To put it simply, a psychologically safe work environment supports ideas that come from all employees, regardless of their status within the organizational hierarchy. This kind of environment rewards vulnerability through inclusion, which opens the door for more innovation. The more diverse thoughts a company has, the better chance they have to foster creativity and explore different avenues to improve their product or service.

That being said, according to the session I attended, there are seven common ways that a company might think they are fostering psychological safety when in reality they are creating a problematic work environment one way or another. Psychological safety is not:

  1. A shield from accountability -the organizational hierarchy is still intact, and any mistakes that are made still need to be resolved and responded to appropriately. A perfect example of a recent accountability situation is the HBO Max Test Email.
    • An integration test email was sent out to HBO’s subscribers, and naturally, people turned to the internet. @HBOMaxHelp ended up Tweeting a response saying “… We apologize for the inconvenience, and as the jokes pile in, yes, it was the intern. No, really. And we’re helping them through it.❤️”  
    • Now, it’s good that HBO is holding the intern accountable here. They could have just apologized and consequently taken the “blame,” but by holding the intern accountable, they are able to help the intern learn from the mistake and grow from it. My only quip is the way that HBO handled announcing that it was the intern. Yes, there is accountability, but Twitter seems like a public way to enforce that accountability. I’m going to assume the best of intentions and say that they are in fact helping the intern learn from the mistake, and grow past it.
  1. Extreme niceness -far too often, people take psychological safety to be a demand that everything is sunshine and rainbows, when in reality, it is a guarantee of respect to all, regardless of their status, within an organization. If a new hire comes in with a question, suggestion, or idea, everyone should be respectful as if it were the CEO. NOW. That does NOT mean that they have to take the suggestion and run with it, but it does mean that all voices should be heard. Artificial niceness gets in the way of progress and creates a false harmony within the organization, which ends up blurring the lines of reality.
  1. Coddling -tying in with the niceness above, a psychologically safe environment is not one that coddles people. If you roll your employees in bubble wrap, you are just adding to their fragility instead of their resilience. A psychologically safe environment is one that encourages vulnerability but maintains accountability, as mentioned above.
  1. Consensus decision making -just because you are opening the space up to hear everyone’s thoughts, ideas, suggestions, and opinions, does not mean you are implementing them in your business’s practice. The organizational hierarchy is meant to remain intact, otherwise everyone will become invested in veto power and all productivity will shut down. In a way, psychological safety encourages a consultative role without authority.
  1. Unearned authority – going along what I just mentioned, psychological safety does not mean that you, as a direct report, can start calling the shots. The higher-ups are expected to hear you and to listen to you, but remember that autonomy is earned by virtue of competence and qualifications, not by simply speaking up.
  1. Political correctness – psychological safety does not subscribe to any political agendas. It’s as simple as that.
  1.  Rhetorical reassurance -like Michael Scott cannot declare bankruptcy by yelling it into the office, you cannot declare psychological safety into existence. By standing up and saying “This is a safe environment where all opinions are heard,” you accomplish nothing below the surface. Psychological safety happens through actions and repetition, it’s a “show me, don’t tell me” kind of practice.

The History of ESG and DEI in the Workplace: When Did ESG and DEI become a prominent topic?

Looking at a company’s proxy statement, you’d quickly locate a message from their CEO, information for/ about their board of directors, details about their executive compensation, and a compilation of shareholder proposals. Today, what you’d also see, is a section dedicated to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) along with an area for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters. When did these sections become so prominent? Where did we start?

To begin, we have to jump back to affirmative action. Affirmative action started back in 1963, as President Lyndon B. Johnson set in place a plan to make an effort to improve the employment or education opportunities for members of minority groups and women. Unfortunately, good intentions don’t always lead to good outcomes. The racial quotas and minority “set-asides” of the 70s led to court challenges, as affirmative action turned into a form of “reverse discrimination,” since white applicants were denied opportunities held for minorities. The 1996 California Civil Rights Initiative, Proposition 209, prohibited all public institutions/agencies from giving preferential treatment to individuals based on their race or sex, and other similar cases followed suit.

A switch away from race quotas and affirmative action led to diversity education and training in the 90s. What started as gender diversity education expanded to include ability, ethnicity, religion, and other worldviews. With this diversity training came an emphasis on inclusion as well, where those that might be excluded are brought into processes and activities that provide equal access to opportunities. The goal of diversity and inclusion is to encourage people to consider and welcome their colleagues, regardless of the diverse ways of identifying as cultural beings. Equity acknowledges the different (dis)advantages of individuals and promotes the allocation of resources and opportunities such that each individual has the same possible outcome.

Along with DEI, companies have been addressing their ESG matters as well. For example, the Environmental, Social, and Governance factors are used by investors to measure the non-financial performance details of a company, which helps them decide where to invest their money. Some environmental factors include waste, resource depletion, and emissions; some social factors are employee relations, diversity, and working conditions; and a few governance factors are tax strategy, board diversity/structure, and executive remuneration. These are just a few of the criteria that investors will use to analyze the company’s performance and the likelihood of your success as a shareholder.

A new focus has been placed on the non-financial side of a company’s performance. Shareholders are looking for more information than profits and losses, and companies keep up with the demand by publishing statements on their DEI & ESG goals.