Category Archives: Human Resources

The A Team

Charles Dudley Warner, a co-author with Mark Twain, once wrote “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” In my experience working in industry and as a talent management consultant, this phrase accurately applies to employee performance. Many business leaders, managers, and supervisors complain about issues related to performance or behavior, but do little to improve the situation.

During my tenure as Vice President of Human Resources at a regional healthcare provider, we began a process of identifying those employees who were not meeting expectations. We called it our “C” player list. Now before I am accused on being heartless or not being compassionate, please know that my definition of a manager is one who provides all the tools, resources, support, and encouragement for all employees to be successful and reach their full potential. We had an expressed goal to help every identified C player to become an A player. All actions were positive performance improvement measurements where the manager had just as much responsibility in affecting a positive outcome as the employee.

The first big question that surfaced from leadership was how an A or C player is identified. This is very important because many managers will identify the top employee based on the personal relationship he or she has with that person. Who gets along better is sometimes the measurement of our good employees. A more objective way was necessary, so we spent a great deal of time developing those characteristics to identify where certain employees fell in the list. The following are a few characteristics of an A player.

An A player has a very positive outlook on their position, the responsibilities, and the company. Even with obstacles and difficulties, an A player has a “glass is half full” frame of mind.

An A player sees his or her roles and responsibilities as fluid and are very versatile in changes or revisions that may occur to compliment the needs of the business. An A player can easily adapt to changing circumstances and add or revise tasks to overcome obstacles.

An A player is always dependable. No matter what task needs to get done, an A player will be the first to raise their hand. They are unquestionably reliable in accomplishing or at least giving their best shot to any activity, whenever needed.

An A player is selfless and does not think “what is the best thing for me” when doing the job. An A player looks at the whole to evaluate and pursue what is best. In the end, this pursuit creates a win-win situation.

An A player has an inclusive approach that involves the ideas and opinions of others. An A player realizes that everyone is connected and that a collective knowledge, wisdom, and thought will provide better results.

An A player realizes the need for constant learning and takes every opportunity available to increase knowledge and skill. Even if there is not a structured continuing education program, an A player looks for ways to learn new things independently. An A player also looks for ways to make those around better by bringing new found knowledge to others.

As easy as it may seem to recognize an A player, C players can also be easily identified….if you pay attention.

A C player gets defensive very quickly when asked to explain why something was or was not done.

A C player frequently blames other people for any shortcoming in their performance. It is never their fault.

A C player will be very protective of their own turf and will not share crucial information to solidify their perceived importance.

A C player constantly makes excuses for not meeting expectations and generally perform just enough to do what is necessary. A C player will rarely take extra measures with any assignment or task.

A C player is very good at always coming up with reasons why something will not work. In a project setting, a C player will be the constant naysayer.

A C player has little motivation to develop personal or professional skills. A C player will look at learning and growth opportunities as just another burden on top of other responsibilities.

A C player also believes that they know what is best and truly feel they bring value. They have rationalized an unrealistic sense of importance to the organization.

The other groups of employees are those who exhibit the characteristics of an A player, but lack consistency in performance and meeting expectations; and those who exhibit some of the characteristics of a C player, but may seem to try and meet performance standards and expectations.

The primary goal is to develop everyone up. The steps are: Clearly communicating expectations; providing constant feedback on performance; holding all accountable for meeting the expectations; and administering consistent consequences for performance and/or behavior issues that do not meet the expectations.

The success of the process of moving employees up is very much dependent on the attitude of the manager. A good manager recognizes that all employees have the potential to be A players and has a passion to help all succeed. A good manager sees worth and value in everyone and works hard to develop everyone up. A manager who does not look at this way may be, I don’t know, A C player? It is worth the effort to create the A Team.

To your success!


The Key to a Happy Employee

The Princess Bride is an entertaining fairy tale for young and old that was directed by Rob Reiner and released in 1987 by Twentieth Century Fox. If you have not seen it, you are missing a very fun and funny movie. The production featured a giant, a fire swamp, lightning sand, rodents of unusual size (R.O.U.S.’s), and The Cliffs of Insanity. Throw in a six finger man and a priest with a lisp and you have the makings of a classic.

In the movie, Princess Buttercup is amazed that her sweet Westley is still alive after being captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts on the open seas; “And the Dread Pirate Roberts never takes prisoners”. Westley later explains that he is now the Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) and that the previous DPR was not the original one either. As a way of keeping the name DPR alive, each DPR would choose an understudy, replace the entire crew, and begin a new voyage as the first mate of the new DPR. If that is not clear, watch the movie.

Since I am a talent management consultant, I guess I need to tie The Princess Bride into some kind of management lesson. Well, in working with many business owners, leaders, and managers, I have heard the expression often “Gosh, it would be so much easier if I could just replace everyone and start all over”. It might work for the DPR, but it certainly would not work for most business operations.

Recently, I was at a swim meet for my youngest son and had the opportunity to speak with a couple of fathers who happen to be business owners. We were taking a break from the action in the pool and catching each other up on what was happening in our individual business worlds. One of the dads was expressing gratitude for being busy, but began talking about some employee issues. Specifically, he mentioned a former business owner who was on his team. He talked about how this individual was alienating other employees and was a negative element in the business environment. After detailing some of the employee’s performance and behavior issues, he said “I just don’t think he is going to make it”. I could not let it go and asked “have you sat down with the gentleman, reviewed the specific performance and behavior issues, and developed a plan to help him improve?” The response was what I hear often. “No, I have not”. I then asked if he was aware of any personal issues in this gentleman’s life that could be impacting his performance or behavior. The response was “No, I do not”.

My friend’s responses are the equivalent of just replacing the whole crew. I am confident that this business owner wants to help this individual, but the business is booming and he is busy taking care of the tactical steps to success. It is not that he does not care. He has other employees that also need his time and attention. Taking the time to develop a performance management plan for someone who seems not to care does not seem like the top priority in the midst of just getting the job done and satisfying clients. But shouldn’t it be THE top priority?

Imagine for a moment a work force comprised of employees who come to work every day fully engaged, enthusiastic, excited, and motivated to do the best job they can and to reach their full potential….their full PIPability-Peak Individual Performance™. I am passionate about helping companies bring out the best in their employees and I do not think it is a Utopia that is out of reach. I mean, if the employees in an organization are the most important asset, then why is this asset not treated with the care and attention to maximize the potential?

It takes a willingness to discover the root cause of a specific behavior or performance issue and then develop a plan to help the employee improve. It requires us to show patience, have compassion, display empathy, and gain understanding. It requires a human approach to managing others, not a tactical approach.

Does it always work? No, we have all experienced employees who just don’t want to meet expectations. But if you have ever experienced working with an employee who is not meeting expectations and then helped them transform in to a top performer, the incredible feeling will never leave you. Human potential is amazing and it is just waiting to be unleashed. Once you tap the potential, great things happen and a business can soar. Wouldn’t that be fun….and you don’t have to worry about pirates!

To your success,

Richard Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Twitter: @PIPability

Wage and Hour Changes-2016

Wage and Hour Changes

Over the past few weeks I have had many clients asking what the changes to the overtime regulations mean to their business. For some companies the changes will have a huge impact and for others not so much.

Let’s first look at what started this whole process. In 2014, President Obama began speaking publicly about the outdated overtime rules and how many employees were working many hours for which they were not being compensated. I recall one such speech in which he mentioned those managing clothing stores who were considered exempt employees, working 50+ hours a week, and not being compensated for those hours. Early in 2014, the president directed the Department of Labor (DOL) to update and modernize the regulations governing the exemption of executive, administrative, and professional (EAP) employees from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The DOL published a notice of the proposed rule making on July 6, 2015 and received over 270,000 comments for individuals, organizations, and corporations. On May 18, 2016 the Final Rule was published updating the regulations.

Before describing the changes to the regulation, I want to clarify two terms. An employee is either exempt or non-exempt. An exempt employee is one who is exempt from the overtime provisions of the wage and hour regulations. A non-exempt employee is one who falls under the provisions of the regulations and must be paid overtime for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week. Some states have stricter overtime regulations, but I won’t go into that.

Minimum Threshold

Currently, the minimum compensation for an employee to qualify for exempt status is $455 per week or $23,660 annually. The new minimum compensation, which takes effect December 1, 2016, is $913 per week or $47,476 annually. The Final Rule sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest wage Census Region, currently the South.

Highly Compensated Employees

Another change in the Final Rule is the exemption related to highly compensated employees (HCE). Under the current regulations, an employee who is compensated a minimum of $100,000 annually is exempted from overtime provisions regardless of job classifications. Under the Final Rule, the compensation requirement increases to $134,004 annually.

Automatic Updating

As mentioned above, the standard level was established using the 40th percentile. The Final Rule includes a mechanism to automatically update the minimum standard salary level requirement every three years beginning January 1, 2020 using the percentile test.

Nondiscretionary Bonuses and Incentive Payments

For the first time, employers will be able to include nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level.

The Final Rule requires that HCEs must receive at least the full standard salary amount each pay period on a salary or fee basis without regard to the payment of nondiscretionary bonuses or incentive payments. Again, the minimum compensation for HCEs is $134,004 annually.

Duties Test

The Final Rule is not changing or modifying the existing job duties requirements to qualify for exempt status. From the DOL’s perspective, as a result of the change to the salary level, the number of workers for whom employers must apply the job duties test to determine exempt status is reduced, thus simplifying the exemption. Both the standard duties test and the HCE duties test remain unchanged.

What Should You Do?

1. Review all your current job classifications to determine the number of employees who meet the job duties test for exempt status, but fall under the new minimum compensation guidelines.

2. Decide whether it makes sense to increase the compensation of these employees to the minimum compensation or develop a process to manage overtime.

3. Review and revise your policies on cell phone use and email use during non-working hours. Any time a non-exempt employee is making business calls or checking and responding to emails outside of the normal work schedule, is considered compensable time. Many managers and supervisors stay connected to the company after work. The Final Rule could have an impact on anyone in this group who will be considered non-exempt once the Rule goes into effect in December.

4. Develop an effective communication strategy to all those employees who will be impacted once the Final Rule takes effect. Be proactive and not reactive to issues that might arise once the change is implemented.

Although the Final Rule does not go into effect until December of this year, don’t wait. Take action now and be prepared. If you need assistance in developing an effective strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out to a subject matter expert who can walk you through the process. As always, I am happy to help. Good luck!

To your success,
Richard Davis, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Twitter: #PIPability

Proposed Wage and Hour changes

In President Obama’s State of the Union address in January 2014, he talked about four years of positive economic growth, increased corporate profits, and higher stock prices. He then went on to say that even with the increased prosperity, average wages had barely budged.

Later in the month, President Obama began discussing the overtime regulations and how “managers” are being taken advantage of by employers and work many hours for which they do not get paid. He used the example of a clothing store manager who works 55-60 hours per week and does not get paid for those extra hours (hours over 40). That was the beginning of the public review by the Department of Labor (DOL) of the minimum threshold and non-exempt versus exempt job classification. To clarify, non-exempt means the employee is NOT exempt from overtime laws and must be paid for all hours worked, including time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a week (some States have more stringent overtime regulations). Exempt means the employee “qualifies” to be exempted from overtime laws and is paid a set wage, or salary, regardless of the number of hours worked in a week. The pay is the same whether they work 30 or 60 hours.

Currently, the minimum salary threshold to qualify for exemption from overtime is $455 per week, which is $23,660 per year. The proposed rule from the DOL is $970 per week, which is $50,440 per year. If the rule goes into effect in 2016, it means that any employee under that minimum threshold, regardless of job duties, would have to be classified as non-exempt and be eligible for overtime pay. These salary requirements do not apply to outside sales employees, teachers, and employees practicing law or medicine.

Employers don’t have to sit around and wait until the DOL’s proposed overtime rule is finalized. While the DOL reviews the 290,000+ comments on the proposed rule, employers can get ready for whatever happens.

There are a few simple steps employers can take to help with compliance efforts even before the final rule is released.

Employers should identify all exempt jobs within the company with salaries that fall below the proposed new salary threshold for exempt employees, using $970 per week, or $50,440 per year. Once that list is compiled employers have to determine whether to have a range to determine which employees close to the new threshold will get wage increases to maintain exempt status, or whether the best course of action will be to reclassify as non-exempt all employees whose current salary is below the new minimum.

If employees will be reclassified, employers then need to understand how many hours this group of employees is currently working per week. With this information it will be easier to forecast potential wage expense going forward. Employers should also take the opportunity to determine what approach to take in setting non-exempt pay rates for those former classified exempt employees. For instance, will it be best to determine the hourly rate by simply taking the current weekly salary and divide by 40 hours, or will it best to try and replicate current pay and hours by lowering the hourly rate to account for the possibility of overtime compensation.

Consider whether to reclassify other positions at this time to manage risk and enhance compliance. The questions employers should ask is “What operational changes must be made as a result of any reclassification of positions?” “What changes need to be made to job duties?” “What changes need to be made to schedules or staffing levels?”

Employers should evaluate those positions that often result in overtime and determine if hiring more full-time, part-time, or seasonal employees is best. Should the entire workforce be restructured to offset the possibility of more overtime?

Another important activity to prepare for the possible changes is to review all job descriptions. Are there activities currently being performed by exempt, soon to be non-exempt employees that can be reassigned to other exempt employees? Of course, in light of greater scrutiny that is sure to come from the DOL, employers should also review job descriptions of those who will meet the minimum threshold to ensure the job duties support exempt classification.

Employers should also evaluate the current record keeping process to ensure it will support a greater number of non-exempt employees in the workforce.

Another important action employers should take is to become familiar with the duties test for exempt versus non-exempt and ensure job descriptions reflect accurately the position requirements. Although the duties tests can be complicated, there are 3 basic job duties that generally qualify as exempt status:

  • Does the employee regularly supervise two or more employees?
  • Does the employee manage others as the primary job responsibility? A rule of thumb to keep in mind is these employees should not spend more than 40% of their work engaging in non-exempt job duties.
  • Does the employee have genuine input into the job status of other employees? Merely supervising the work is not enough. The employee must have the responsibility for scheduling and controlling the work; and have hire, fire, and employee discipline authority.

Some articles I have read speculate whether the DOL will move forward to implement the new standards. Personally, I would rather expect the best, but prepare for the worst. Especially since others in the DOL and Obama administration supported increasing the minimum salary threshold anywhere from $60,000 to $70,000 per year. With that said, there still exists the possibility the DOL will back down some from its doubling of the salary threshold for exempt employees. Some experts feel the DOL may eventually settle on a threshold of between $773 per week or $40,196 per year and $852 per week or $44,304 per year. Employers should analyze which employees fall below these thresholds as well, to better prepare themselves for the possibility of a different salary threshold.

Lastly, employers should develop a communications strategy for whatever changes become final. Communication should include information on the changes in overtime exemptions and how it impacts the scheduling and managing of job duties. Will changes be communicated in writing? Should an employer have group or individual meetings?

It is almost guaranteed that employees already have an idea some change may be coming and could start developing anxiety about losing exempt status, benefits and pay, which to them means a demotion. It would be wise to be proactive and develop a FAQ for employees.

The bottom line is employers should not wait to see what happens. They should be preparing now, regardless of what the final minimum threshold salary level may be. Personally, I do not think it is a matter of if, but when. This is not the time to be frugal and put one’s head in the sand. Get the help you need and get done what needs to be done. Planning for this future is too important. Good luck!

To your success,
Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC
Twitter: @pipability