Segal, a partner with Duane Morris law firm in Philadelphia, offered his tips for dealing with the C-suite at SHRM’s Employment Law and Legislative Conference, held recently in Washington, DC.
shared his tips for working with the C-Suite.
Asking only reinforces the perception of your subordinate role, Segal says. Instead, demonstrate why you should be at the table. Give feedback before the meeting: Here’s what the issues are, here’s what you should consider. Maybe the CEO will say, “We need you in the room.”
Overuse of terms like these won’t help your cause, Segal says.
Maybe if we synergistically create value added in a proactive way, we’ll be thinking outside the box, Segal quips.
If you are not aware of the basic elements of your business, you won’t be perceived as serious. Find out about:
In a similar vein, learn about business terms and concepts.
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One client proudly showed Segal the company’s new HR Dashboard—it had great information but it wasn’t linked to the corporate goals. That’s what makes the CEO view HR as an expense, Segal says. Be sure you’re focused where the C-Suite is:
No matter how bad the economy, top talent can always move, Segal says. And when a key person leaves, HR often is blamed (and blindsided). You have to be proactive to retain key people. What can you do?
Many HR managers spend about 85% of time on the “favorite” 15%--the troublemakers. You can’t totally reverse that, but you can move along the continuum to focus more time on the good employees you want to retain.
You need to learn how to say nicely: get out of my office. HR cannot be friend to the friendless—it is not in job description, says Segal.
You are a member of management, says Segal, but you often play a mediator’s role. The key is to explain concerns about treatment of employees in terms of impact on the organization. For example, this will affect retention, encourage unionization.
This reduces your role to reader (not a high paying job), Segal says. Begin with the policy, but don’t end with it. Be especially careful of policies that lock in management (e.g., we will post all vacant jobs, we always offer progressive discipline, we always complete an investigation in 10 days).
Executives often want to act outside of policy or in an inconsistent way. Sometimes that’s OK. You can consider (and document) legitimate, non-discriminatory factors for actions, for example, length of service or mitigating circumstances. That means you don’t have to treat a 6-month employee the same way you treat a 20-year employee. And you might excuse an employee guilty of a normally terminable offense if she just found out about her son’s cancer hours before.
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The boss’s goal is to make the problem to away. Figure out what your boss needs to know and what he or she does not want or need to know. Too much information is as bad as no information.
You need to protect the organization, but you also want to protect yourself. Be wary of warning the C-suite about risk in such a way as to open the organization up to a claim. Segal suggests focusing on the “jury’s window” when explaining risk. (“The jury may interpret this as …”)
In tomorrow’s Advisor, more of Segal’s tips for dealing with the C-suite, plus an introduction to the all-HR-in-one website, HR.BLR.com.
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