Christina Morillo

2021 HR Landscape: Save Time, Be Safe and Remain Compliant

2020 has changed the workplace – possibly forever. Which makes it even more important to look at the 2021 HR landscape now.

Over the last year, HR professionals have been challenged with the responsibilities of managing a remote workforce. Soon, if they aren’t already, they’ll be tasked with creating “back to work” policies, while keeping safety top-of-mind. With this new normal, it may have been tempting to put your compliance responsibilities on the back burner.

Our advice? Don’t.

So you’re ready for whatever comes your way in 2021, here are just a few compliance topics that require your attention now.

Have You Updated Your Employee Handbook?

The Employee Handbook: That all-important compilation of company policies.

It may not be the first thing on your mind these days. But chances are you have not updated that handbook since before COVID. So, give it another look. For instance, does your handbook cover updated telework and remote work policies? If your employees are back in the office, do you address updated policies regarding sick leave, temperature checks and social distancing?

Through a new lens, conduct a thorough review of your handbook – and avoid confusion and potential lawsuits.

Make Sure You Have the Most Up-to-Date Labor Laws Posted

Do you have a spare $35,000 on hand? Probably not.

Did you know failing to post just one state or federal labor law update prominently in your workplace can mean fines of $35,000? So far in 2020, we have seen 55 labor law changes, and we are aware of at least 20 more changes that will go into effect on January 1, 2021. Don’t risk an expensive penalty; make sure your labor law postings are up to date.

Better yet: Take advantage of services that put this responsibility on autopilot.

Stay Informed: The FMLA is Facing New Challenges

The FMLA has always been difficult to navigate. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it another set of challenges.

Several new state and local leave requirements have emerged as a result of the pandemic. So, it is more important than ever for HR professionals to monitor and manage their employees’ FMLA leave accurately and efficiently. There are a myriad of comprehensive policies, procedures and forms to organize.

Failing to comply with these regulations could easily result in costly fines.

Have Employees Completed 2020 Harassment Training?

With employees working remotely—or not at all—harassment training may have fallen to the bottom of the priority this this year.

Perhaps you were waiting to get back in your office routine to complete the mandated requirements. Truth is, harassment can happen at any time, and at any place. In addition, some states—like Illinois and California—still require harassment training be completed before the New Year. It’s best not to wait.

To stay compliant, consider looking into digital and streaming options. That way, regardless of where they get the work done, employees can complete required training before the end of the year.

Are Your Job Descriptions Accurate?

We bet you weren’t expecting job descriptions to be mentioned in a compliance article. But hear us out.

Did you know a poorly written job description can cause all kinds of issues? From low employee morale to legal troubles? Particularly now that so many positions are remote, it is so important to make sure your job descriptions are accurate. After all, employees must have a clear – and current – understanding of their role and responsibilities. Further, even if you aren’t hiring, job descriptions can play a big role in cross-training and employee development.

While employees are expected to do more from farther away, current job descriptions can help HR develop training and development plans. Quality job descriptions also help ensure employees are operating to their strengths.

Employees Returning? Make Sure Your Workplace is REALLY Safe

For those of you who have returned to the workplace, welcome back!

You are likely to be wearing masks and distancing employee workspaces already. But you still must ensure you’re also following all the updated hazard assessment protocols. Check that your workers and workplace are complying with any necessary temperature checks, hygiene protocols and training requirements related to COVID-19. Additionally, if your workplace implemented additional policies around telework, sick leave and anti-retaliation guidelines, make sure to communicate that information with the rest of your staff.

You really can’t over communicate in times like this. So, keep your people in the know with posted signs and checklists. Also, provide physical supports like masks and hand sanitizer stations to make the return to work feel just that much safer for all.

The 2021 HR Landscape Need Not Be Overwhelming

You have limited time as an HR professional. Resources seem constantly strained. Feeling overwhelmed? Let us help.

We have joined forces with industry leading partners to take the brunt of compliance-based work off your plate and keep you up-to-date on all state and federal policies. Whatever stumbling block gets between you and your 2021 HR goals, we at SHRM can help.

Want to learn more? To discover solutions designed for you, sign up! We’ll immediately start sending regular updates about compliance requirements and solutions.


This post is sponsored by SHRM.




Job Descriptions: How to Eliminate the Hidden Bias Within

In an era where more people than ever are fighting for social justice, why do job descriptions still contain hidden bias? And what is the impact of bias – intentional or not.

In a typical job description, there are enough typos and grammar mistakes to make you wonder if proof-reading ever happened. There are often too many formatting issues to count. And then there are those baffling internal acronyms. (If you knew those, you’d already work there!) In the end, it’s next to impossible to determine what a person in that role does and why they do it – let alone ascertain if you’re qualified for the position. Frustrating!

And yet there is an even bigger problem with far too many job descriptions: Hidden bias.

The Effort to Decrease Bias and Increase Diversity

We all have our personal preferences. You might like crunchy peanut butter, while your best friend might prefer creamy. However, when it comes to hiring practices, there’s no place for personal preferences. The official hiring policies of any company must be impartial, as stated in anti-discrimination legislation outlined by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Still, even in well-regarded organizations, unconscious bias exists. Many take steps to combat these all-too-human impulses. They work hard to make their hiring practices more egalitarian. Despite the best of intentions, however, these efforts are often less than successful. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, most workplace diversity programs aren’t actually increasing diversity. Consider that among all US companies with 100 or more employees:

  • From 1985 to 2014, the proportion of black men in management increased just slightly from 3% to 3.3%
  • From 1985 to 2000, white women in management roles rose from 22% to 29% but haven’t budged past that 29% figure since the turn of the century

Why haven’t we made more progress? As Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev stated in HBR: “Despite a few new bells and whistles, courtesy of big data, companies are basically doubling down on the same approaches they’ve used since the 1960s—which often make things worse, not better.”

Gender Bias: An Obvious Culprit

Research has shown that one of the biggest areas of failure in job description bias is gender-based. In fact, one research paper published by social scientists from the University of Waterloo and Duke University stated gendered language in job descriptions remains prevalent.

The study found that job descriptions for positions traditionally associated with men use language that may unconsciously deter women from applying for these positions. Researchers also discovered that job descriptions biased towards men often include language more associated with being proactive and taking charge of the situation. With traditional societal roles associating men with action and empowerment more than women, female applicants opt out of applying. “Often these women take more submissive – or at least more historically female roles, like nurses, kindergarten teachers and administrative assistants.

The conclusion: In job descriptions, the use of male-associated pronouns like “his” – rather than the female-associated “her” or the more gender-neutral “the person” – significantly impacts who applies for each position. Even worse, those gender-specific pronouns have a profound effect on who gets hired.

Bias Hiding in Plain Sight

At this point, it may be clear the language used in job descriptions is very much influenced by the bias of the person writing the job descriptions. Sometimes these biases are unconscious, such as in the case of culturally-reinforced gender roles. However, sometimes bias in job descriptions is more conscious. This happens most often when a hiring manager is actively looking to subtly discourage certain classes of applicants even while adhering to corporate diversity policies and EEOC regulations. For example:

“For this role, we’re looking for a strong, ‘All-American boy’ type. Must be well-mannered, well-groomed, well-spoken and respectful to the customers.”

Do you hear the bias? This hiring manager is most likely looking for a young, able-bodied, white, heterosexual, well-educated male that most likely comes from an affluent family. And yet the hiring manager deftly avoided including any of those demographics in the job description.

This hiring manager may be sneaky-good at getting around policies and laws. But his bias is hiding in plain sight.

Fixing the Problem

In the above example, the job description followed the letter of the law. Technically, the hiring manager did nothing wrong. And yet, the wrong isn’t only present – it is blatant. This raises the question of whether or not fixing the problem of biased language in job descriptions is practical, perhaps even possible. And yet the problem is being attacked on many fronts.

The Harvard Business Review published an article by cognitive scientist Frida Polli to address both conscious and unconscious hiring bias. In the article, Ms. Polli claimed using artificial intelligence might be one way to solve the problem of bias. The reality is, though, this solution is dependent on so many factors – including AI’s ability to learn bias through practical experience – that it can’t be considered the best possible answer at the moment.

The human approach, at least so far, hasn’t fared much better. Lobbying efforts designed to create systemic change in corporate policies that would eliminate biased language in job descriptions has become a Sisyphean effort. Again, despite the best of intentions, there is no social proof that “diversity training” – mandated or not – is especially effective.

So is there a solution? Must we continue to tolerate job descriptions beset with biases that read one way but mean something completely different?

Worth Doing Right

No, we don’t. We Human Resources professionals can fix this.

Why us? First, let’s understand there is no group of job seekers powerful enough to change this dynamic. That means the responsibility falls on us. And as the old saying goes: “If anything’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”

So what does “doing it right” mean? In three steps:

  1. We must learn how to discover, decipher and translate biased job descriptions; sharing our knowledge enables us to stop even unintentional bias from appearing on our websites, our chosen job boards, or anywhere else.
  2. We must leverage our collective knowledge of the corporate doublespeak which hiring managers use to discourage certain types of applicants; together, we must become not just the job description police, we must become the judge and jury.
  3. Before we can begin to eliminate bias within our own companies, we must secure unwavering top-down support from the C-suite; we simply can’t accept all the responsibility without having any authority.

But we’re not done yet. To create and sustain a company culture free of bias – intentional or not – we must drag the offending job descriptions into the conscience of our company. We must deliberately yet respectfully draw attention to these unethical practices and the damage and hurt caused by biased language. If we don’t, we’ll always be fixing what’s wrong instead of doing what we know is right.

The Last Word

Poorly written job descriptions are more than just a frustrating nuisance to job seekers; they often serve as home to hidden bias. They are social proof of an unhealthy company culture. Even worse, they are indicative of systemic injustice that impacts the lives and careers of women, the disabled, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and specific religions or nationalities.

We in HR know better. Together, we can do better.


There’s a Smarter Way to Do Job Descriptions

Whether you’ve been in the HR or people management space for 2 years or 20 years, you’ve probably seen a lot of changes in terms of technology and processes.

You post jobs online, track and analyze candidates with AI, measure the pulse of your organization, provide real-time feedback to employees — all in a bid to be more productive, strategic and stay ahead of the huge demands on your shoulders.

But whether your role is more strategic or tactical, there’s one key item that you’re probably contributing to regularly which hasn’t changed with the times: job descriptions.

What’s the Matter with Traditional Job Descriptions?

First, let’s be clear what we’re talking about with “job descriptions.” A lot of people use job description and job post interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different.

After all, if you hear “job post”, you probably think of a one-off document you post to a job board that doesn’t have much connection to the interview process … let alone the rest of an employee’s lifespan at the company.

A properly built and well-utilized job description, on the other hand, can be a dynamic, central record that enables other HR programs: your hiring process, assessment and development programs, and employee engagement and retention programs.

Job Descriptions + Competencies = Smart Job Descriptions

So how do you turn your job descriptions into tools that integrate throughout the employee lifecycle?

It comes down to mapping the demonstrable, measurable skills and behaviors needed for success to the job description.

These skills and behaviors actually have a name, and you’ve probably heard of them before: competencies.

Competencies unify all HR processes across the entire employee lifecycle according to one common, measurable framework.

They’re built through extensive job analysis, research and a structured development process. They consist of leveled indicators to differentiate between basic, intermediate and advanced performance.

By mapping the competencies to jobs, your job descriptions are transformed into talent management tools that can be used throughout the employee lifecycle.

Your Job Descriptions as Talent Management Tools

Let’s unpack that a bit. Here’s how job descriptions with mapped competencies can be used across the employee lifecycle.

  • Hiring & Selection: This comes down to being able to carry out structured, behavioral interviews, with questions based directly on the required skills and behaviors. That way, interviews are carried out in a structured, consistent manner … and your company’s hiring decisions are made based on consistent criteria.
  • Assessment & Development: Again, the competencies on the “smart” job descriptions allow the actual job description to play a central role in your assessment programs. This may take the form of self-assessment, supervisor assessment, or the ever-popular 360 assessment, often used in leadership roles. If gaps are identified, the organization can provide employees with learning resources pre-mapped to competencies to develop and strengthen those gaps.
  • Engagement & Retention: One of the most powerful motivators to keep top employees engaged is opportunities for growth. With your competencies mapped to every job, there’s total transparency on exactly what skills and behaviors, at what levels, your people need to demonstrate in order to take their next step (or even reach their dream job).

The Smarter Way to Build Job Descriptions

This approach to job descriptions has significant benefits to your company’s employees. An employee within this system has a sense of purpose and alignment. They know exactly what they need to do to reach that next level in their role (and increasingly-popular career pathing programs can provide a huge incentive for the best talent to stick around). There’s a system that they can wrap their head around, and once again, it all revolves around that initial job description they were hired to do.

For you, the busy HR professional, using the right job description software can make implementing these systems easy and greatly improve the job description creation, editing and revision process.

You’re already using technology for almost everything you do. You want to spend your time strategically, so you have the freedom to work on projects that make a lasting impact. You’re looking to build better processes for your company and get the recognition that you deserve for doing so.

The world of work has changed so much. Isn’t it time that your job descriptions did, too?

This post is sponsored by HRSG.

About HRSG

HRSG’s CompetencyCore is the only software platform making use of Smart Job Description technology. Our software allows you to easily create smart job descriptions by mapping competencies, utilizing exclusive AI technology, with the click of a mouse. Get a demo or join our upcoming webinar on May 8, 2019 to learn more about building Smart Job Descriptions.

Is The Job Description An Endangered Species?

Several leading business journals have recently declared the job itself, as a vehicle for packaging work, to be on the endangered species list[i]. Commenting on the same phenomenon, Savage describes “the rigor mortis of the industrial era” where the division of work and managerial supervision represented “structured distrust.” As the industrial era is replaced by the knowledge era, he predicts, both jobs and managers will be gone[ii]. Thus, making the need for the position description redundant.

While, this is, admittedly, a fairly radical stance, the Academy of Management Executive concurs:’ The practice of organizing work into fixed sets of tasks that are assigned to specific people or groups of people on a more or less permanent basis, that is jobs, is now being transformed and replaced by the practice of organizing work into clusters of functions or general fields without specific, defined tasks or fixed duties’[iii].

In light of these fast moving changes, the mantra of current career management and Organization Development specialists is ‘think agile’[iv].

Employees need to expand their thinking to define their concept of the employee position description in a manner that goes beyond limiting categories of transferable skills abilities and knowledge, and even expands beyond the narrow notion of particular roles they have filled.  Just as marketing gurus recommend business to define their mission in the most abstract terms possible in order to adapt more nimbly to changing technologies and markets, so too it is with our careers[v].

In order to survive this career evolution, employees must learn to let go of narrow self-limiting concepts in which they define themselves by a particular job role, a fixed notch along a stable overarching corporate ladder.

Those who still think of getting ahead in terms of moving up, and those who feel commitment to a particular function or type of work, must get in tune with the times and learn to adapt and to let go[vi]“. (add name/s here in brackets)

Dr Debra France, L & D specialist at Gore-Tex – a famously leader-less organization, describes how in their business people think in terms of skills and contributions and move between project groups with specific tasks that are boundary-less and where the currency is your competencies, your expertise, your relationship and influencing skills (HCI Summit, April 2014)

In this new way of working, employees need to stop clinging to narrowly defined job-roles and expand their concepts of work-related self-identity. Likewise, employers must stop thinking about their workforce as static and shift their focus towards building a broadly skilled and agile workforce capable of rising to unforeseen challenges. New approaches such as the ‘work shaping’ strategies , which we advocate here at Fuel50, view the job description as a ‘blank sheet’, a starting point that will be subject to ongoing tweaks in response to the changing needs of both parties and that fully leverages the talents each person brings on offer to the organization.

Dave Neirkirk of Amazon describes the agility required of their people where everyone in the corporate support office has to spend time in the fulfilment centre and where hundreds of people line up each week, are handed their laptops, phones, are given a rallying pep talk and then are expected to quickly find their way to contribute to the organizations effectiveness regardless of the role they have been hired into. Dave says if people are not “signing up” every day then they have the option of taking the money and running with their counter-intuitive “Pay to Quit” scheme.  They want people who are committed every day to making a difference and who align with the business vision of everyone having an opportunity to do “meaningful work” (HRMI Conference, Newport Beach July 2014).

However, some of us may need a little help to adapt to this new way of working.  One principle advantage of the so-called ‘job description’ is that it offers some semblance of security and order amidst what might otherwise dissolve into career chaos.  Things can get scary in the face of uncertainty: So, I’m more than a job role – but what am I then?

Next time you are at a dinner party  or networking drinks and somebody asks you what you do, give an elusive answer and watch the barely perceptible unease that inevitably crosses their face.  People like set categories to organize a world in which chaos is king.

It is possible to make sense of career pandemonium, but this requires a little homework in terms of self-reflection. Employees need to start thinking about their career identity at a deeper level, basing their ideas about who they are and what they do in the solid bedrock of talents, skills, abilities, character and values. Using career software can really help to do this, because it guides reflective processes to arrive at a deeper understanding.

Think of defining yourself because of the difference you make in your work and the contributions you are making. This allows employees to define their unique personal brand in a way that transcends current job descriptions and to chart a path that will take them towards exciting new frontiers of career actualization and value-added contributions to their organizations.

From the business perspective, the Position Description is redundant but needs to be replaced by the Talent Bank of the collective workforce, with contributors who trade their skills, expertise and competencies for meaningful, interesting and challenging work (project?)  assignments.  Work becomes more purpose and goal oriented, agile and responsive with skills and capabilities being called upon and contributed with an immediacy that responds to changing business demands.   The work experience is transformed to the benefit of all parties.

[i] Brousseau, K. R., Driver, M. J., Eneroth, K., & Larson, R. (1996). Career pandemonium: Realigning organizations and individuals. The Academy of Management Executive10(4), 52-66.

[ii] C.M. Savage, “The Dawn of the Knowledge Era,” OR/MS Today, 1994, December, 18-23.

[iii] Brousseau, K. R., Driver, M. J., Eneroth, K., & Larson, R. (1996). Career pandemonium: Realigning organizations and individuals. The Academy of Management Executive10(4), 52-66.

[iv] Bopp, M. A., Bing, D., & Forte-Trammell, S. (2009). Agile Career Development: Lessons and Approaches from IBM. Pearson Education.

[v] Hooley, G. J., Cox, A. J., & Adams, A. (1992). Our five year mission—to boldly go where no man has been before…. Journal of Marketing Management8(1), 35-48.

[vi] Idem.


Photo credit:

3 Things To Know About Hiring And Recruiting

Candidate Experience Matters

“Candidate experience” is a term that we’re seeing a lot of in the recruitment, hiring, and HR spaces right now, and we’re hearing it for a reason. There is a lot of competition for the top talent out there in every field, and one big way that employers can gain that competitive edge is through how they treat candidates leading up to a hiring decision.

The candidate experience can begin with how a job post is written, where it’s advertised, and how the application process works. The key to creating a great candidate experience is to really put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re trying to attract.

Don’t let the job description turn into a pie-in-the-sky wish list of skill sets and qualifications. Keep it simple and easy to read, and include some reasons why your ideal candidate would want to work for you in the first place. Choose where and how you advertise your openings carefully. Think like a marketer, about whom you want your message to reach, where they are most likely to see it, and whether or not your posting venue fits with your image as a company.

And finally, don’t put the applicant through a long, tedious and frustrating 20-page form to fill out, followed by 20 more pages of screening questions. Would you enjoy that process? How would going through that affect what you think of your prospective employer? There’s also the chance you run the risk of alienating or even screening out the right candidate when you put them through an onerous process like that, which can reflect badly on your employer brand.

Recruiting Isn’t a Science

At least, it isn’t just a science; there is an art to it as well. There are things you can screen for, and there are things you can’t categorize as easily. You can use technology to match specific skills to specific job requirements, but soft skills and personality traits are harder to quantify.

You may find the perfect candidate on paper, with all the right qualifications, and then discover he or she is a complete mismatch when it comes to fitting in with the workplace culture. Recruitment can also be about building and maintaining relationships over time, not to mention corporate branding and providing that good candidate experience.

Good recruitment strategies are a balancing act between art and science — using proven strategies as well as taking into account the more intangible aspects of qualifying candidates and getting to know them as people.

Hiring for Attitude, Training for Skill

Hiring someone with all the right skills and hoping that the right personal traits or attitudes will appear can result in disaster. More often than not, if a new hire doesn’t work out, it’s because of attitude rather than lack of skill.

The right personal traits, like flexibility or willingness to collaborate, can be as important if not more so than the perfect skill set. Again, it’s a balancing act between the soft skills and the hard skills that a candidate has to offer.

One method is to look at previous examples you’ve seen of employees who have thrived in your company, figure out what traits or abilities helped them to do so, and then look for those elements in candidates.

The bottom line is that recruiting and hiring are not simple processes by any means, but it can be effective, successful, and even pleasant for all involved when the right strategies are used. So keep these three nuggets of wisdom in mind as you prepare for your next round of hiring:

  1. Treat the candidate well by honestly considering his or her perspective.
  2. Both the “art” and the “science” of recruiting are constantly evolving and need to balanced.
  3. Hiring for attitude and training for skill can have a significant impact on the long-term costs of hiring.

photo credit: .jocelyn. via photopin cc

The New Job Description

The organizations of today and tomorrow must be highly adaptive and flexible. Unfortunately, the model we have inherited and have come to know as the model for structuring an organization, the hierarchy, is not.

So what does this mean for those who define their role or even themselves by the fundamental the building block of an organization – their  job?

In his 1994 book, Job Shift, William Bridges referred to the “job” as “an artifact of the industrial revolution.” Our most common notion of organization structure, the hierarchy, was born out of Newton’s laws of physics. It is a model of cause and effect in which assumes the whole equals the sum of its parts. It is those laws that led to the essential breakthrough of the industrial revolution – the ability to make large numbers of “things” by defining the discreet tasks required to make them and finding increasingly better and faster ways to execute those tasks.  It is also the source of the construct we have today called a job was born.

However, the organizations of today can no longer function purely like machines.   This means we as individuals can no longer afford to relate to ourselves as a cog in the machine if we are to succeed.

Consider that the organization of today functions far more like complex adaptive system than it does like a machine. Cause and effect isn’t so easy to discern and roles and responsibilities can seem to be a moving target. While the traditional organization chart isn’t likely to be replaced anytime soon, if we are to be effective into the future we have to start thinking differently about how we fit into the organizations we serve.

We can no longer define our “job” purely in terms of what we do. We must consider what we do in relation to others and in service of the ultimate goals of our enterprise.

The underlying assumption when it comes to hierarchical organization charts and job descriptions is that if we define what each individual is supposed to do and they actually do it then everything will work perfectly. Given that assumption, when things break down, the obvious solution is to go back to clarifying or redefining roles and responsibilities.  Essentially we try to define our box even clearer.  In the process, silos are reinforced at the expense of creating the kind of solid relationships required to succeed.

Consider there is a missing link that will enable you to shift from relating to jobs as separate from one another to defining jobs in relation to one another.  That missing link is getting clear about the results you promise as well as the promises you must make individually to others to ensure the enterprise succeeds. Your success depends not on a chain of command, but rather a solid network of strong relationships.

Traditional job descriptions focus on the activities – essentially what you do. Today we must consider BOTH what we need to be able to do AND what results we must be able to deliver to fulfill on the needs and aspirations of our organization.  This also means that what you must do includes whatever it takes to deliver, not the list of tasks that define your “box” on the org chart.  There is no room for the “check the box” mentality in the organizations of the future.

This may seem simple and obvious, but from experience I can say it is a huge leap for most people in organizations. Just ask an someone to make a “promise”. That word evokes an incredible amount of resistance. Promising is serious business.  It is the heart of what make entrepreneurs successful and employees extraordinary contributors.

When you embrace the idea that your job is to promise results you will set yourself apart from the average person who simply goes to work to try their best to do a good job. Ask not what you need to do, but rather ask what results you could produce that would make the biggest difference.

So go ahead, be daring! Promise results and do whatever it takes to deliver and you will set yourself apart from the pack.