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Doing change work there always comes a point early on, when structural changes have been announced and are almost complete, that someone will say, “Okay, the change is done. Now let’s get back to business.” After quietly chuckling to myself, I remind the person that this is the moment when the hard work begins in earnest. When it comes to leading change, there are yard markers and milestones; but there is no end zone.
It is now almost cliché to say that change is constant. That doesn’t make it any less true true. We need to adopt a change mindset that acknowledges this reality. When the change takes the form of a particular initiative (a reorganization, a merger, or acquisition), changing the structure or systems and processes is the easy part. The fact that some think that this is what change entails is indicative of what needs as much, if not more, of our attention if we are to lead change successfully.
Adopting a change mindset moves us to see change as normative and ongoing. A change mindset enables us to see that change efforts must address cultural issues and leadership and workforce development as well as structure and systems and processes. In fact, cultural issues and leadership and individual development will make or break any change in any organization. When it comes to leading change, culture IS strategy. A change mindset keeps this in mind and has built into it a flexibility and willingness to make adjustments when implementing change as a result. It also has built into it an intentional and continuous curiosity about how people are engaging and performing in relationship to change.
Knowing that change is normative and ongoing also moves us to develop a skill set that supports our continuous work as change leaders. Effective change leadership requires that we have a capacity to think carefully, feel fully, and communicate effectively. The competencies that flow from this foundational skill set include:
Managing Complexity – We want to be able to find meaning in confusion, think strategically, and solve problems quickly.
Innovating – We want to be able to promote creativity and positive disruption.
Communicating – We want to be able to design, convene, and host necessary and important conversations.
Executing – We want to be able to set goals and objectives and direct operations to achieve them.
Transforming – We want to be able to generate awareness and promote growth in ourselves and others.
A change mindset and a solid change leadership skill and competency set will support us in leading change over the long haul. It’s vital that we are working toward this goal; because, change is never done. Getting back to business means getting ready for the next change. And the next. And the next. There is no end zone.
HR West 2017 Speaker, Dr. Greg Giuliano gets leaders and teams to go beyond usual and ordinary. Greg coaches senior executives and leadership teams all over the world to accelerate their development and grow their capacity to engage others and lead. Well-known for his ability to synthesize complex information quickly and for his fast-paced, impactful communications, Greg designs personal- and team-development strategies that create alignment and build the leadership muscle required to coordinate action and lead real change.
Greg heads up Giuliano Associates, a consulting firm specializing in executive coaching, team and organization development, and leadership development. Greg’s personal motto, “Go to the edge. Push farther. Repeat.” provides the foundation for his work: to grow “ultra leadership,” which is the will to go beyond usual and ordinary and push the limits, combined with the skill to get people to willingly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly engage and contribute to important work. He is the creator of the Ultra Leadership 360 and author of the bestselling, Ultra Leadership: Go Beyond Usual and Ordinary to Engage Others and Lead Real Change.
Marshal Goldsmith, author of the New York Times bestseller, Triggers says, “Anyone facing stagnant processes, corporate infighting, and the usual roadblocks at work will deeply appreciate the great lessons in Ultra Leadership! Adopt a breakthrough leadership strategy that will fundamentally change your work place, and your personal leadership style, for the better!"
If you (1) regularly staple a copy of a new hire’s identification documents but don’t actually fill out the Form I-9, (2) don’t always complete the Form I-9 within three business days, (3) don’t keep I-9 forms for former employees more than a year, or (4) have no idea what a Form I-9 is, you may want to take note of the penalties against an employer that were recently upheld in federal court. In 2013, the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency or “ICE” (now U.S. Customs and Immigration Services or “USCIS”) fined the employer almost $800 per violation for some fairly common I-9 mistakes found during an agency audit.
The penalized mistakes included:
Failing to complete I-9 forms within three business days of hire for 54 employees;
Failing to actually fill out Section 2 of the Form I-9 for those 54 employees, where the I-9 forms were stapled to a copy of the employees’ identification and work authorization documents instead; and
Failing to retain the I-9 forms for 84 former employees for at least 3 years after hire or 1 year after termination, whichever time period is longer.
The employer appealed the fines to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and lost. The court ruled that all of the violations above are “substantive” violations subject to higher fines than if they were merely “technical” or “procedural” violations. (Buffalo Transportation, Inc. v. U.S.A., 2nd Cir, Dec. 2016.)
Unfortunately, none of these violations are all that uncommon. Other common mistakes that can result in penalties include: allowing the employee to submit a form without fully completing Section 1; no company representative signature and/or date in Section 2 of the form; failing to complete Section 3 when an employee’s work authorization expires
and must be re-verified; or using an expired version of the I-9 form itself.
The latest version of the Form I-9 became mandatory as of January 22, 2017. All other versions of the Form I-9 are no longer valid.
The new I-9 is available as a fillable PDF that can be completed electronically, and provides helpful drop-down menus, instructions, and form checking and completion features
that will alert the company representative if the form is not completed accurately or if required information is missing. The new form can also be printed and completed on
paper, the same way previous versions were completed, but then you lose the benefit of the enhanced features which were designed to eliminate costly technical mistakes.
As the employer found out in the case described above, these penalties can really add up. In fact, the penalties for Form I-9 violations were increased in 2016, and are now significantly higher than the fines assessed in that case.
For the types of paperwork mistakes described above, the penalty range rose from $110 - $1,100 per form up to $216 - $2,156 per form.
(The penalty range for unlawful hires increased from $16,000 as the maximum for each unauthorized worker to $21,563 each.)[i]
The good news is there are some simple steps you can take to avoid these costly mistakes:
Train appropriate staff on how to properly complete the Form I-9, and require all new employees to complete the form with a trained staff member on the first day of work.
Use the new fillable PDF Form I-9, and have both the new employee and the company representative fill it out on the computer.
This method provides helpful directions for filling out the form in real time, flags inconsistent or missing information on the spot, and prevents many technical violations.
Purge old I-9 forms regularly. While it’s important to keep former-employee I-9 forms for the required amount of time, don’t keep them too long.
At a rate of $2,156 per form for each one with an error, it’s worth the time to pull and shred old forms on a monthly or quarterly basis.
Bonus tip: Total up the $2,156 per form in potential penalties you saved the company for each form properly destroyed, and add it to your quarterly HR performance metrics accomplishments!
A few years ago, the famous dictionary producer Merriam-Webster named culture as the “Word of the Year.” I am sure most experts on Employee Engagement were not surprised by Merriam-Webster’s choice. Indeed, legendary management expert Peter Drucker was one of the first to get it right years ago when he coined the phrase, “Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast.” While Drucker first said this decades ago, the words still ring very true in today’s business environment and workplace landscape. His seminal point in making this statement was that all of a company’s efforts on strategy will fall flat if the company culture is not sound and in alignment with its purpose and people. Likewise, if job candidates aren’t as careful about assessing the culture of their potential new employer, they will mistakenly choose the wrong new employer and quickly find themselves in job search “transition” mode again.
I learned a difficult lesson on culture when I was just a child. At age 10 and living with my mother and three sisters, I was illegally kidnapped by my father and brought from a lily-white Chicago suburb to an American Indian reservation in Northern Wisconsin. Neither my Father nor any of my new family members were American Indian; they simply lived on the reservation’s land. Since state laws differ about how to handle child custody cases and additional laws exist to protect Indian reservations and their inhabitants, the pending criminal charges against my Dad were soon dropped and my sisters and I found ourselves stuck in a cultural environment that felt like another planet. I was sent to a nearly-all Chippewa Indian grade school, where I quickly learned that my skin color had become my own cultural “baggage.”
As one of the only Caucasian students enrolled in the elementary tribal school, I was regularly beaten up solely because of my skin color. Recess was guaranteed torture.
I used to spend this playtime hiding under a truck in a tucked-away garage at the end of my elementary school’s property. I started intentionally failing my math class so I was “forced” to stay inside with a tutor instead of playing outside with the other kids.
So I made a conscious effort to assimilate to my new culture, learning and adapting as best I could. I found ways to diffuse the bullies, effective only some of the time.
I learned some of the Chippewa language. I danced in the Pow Wow for the white tourists who would come to “see the Indians,” with many of them believing I was a little Indian boy. Most of all, I persevered.
I share this story because, sadly, it’s similar to what many employees experience when they start a new job.
Culture can either make people feel included or feel like the odd one out.
A major difference with my story and the search for a new job is that candidates have a choice in their new culture, whereas I did not. Most organizations strive to uphold a positive, welcoming culture (or at least a culture that isn’t abusive), but not all are successful. That’s why it’s smart to get a great understanding of an organization’s culture before accepting a new job.
Before interviewing for a new job, people should think about what company culture means to them. What’s most important? There are a range of things to consider: values, ethics, ambitions, workplace environment or “feel,” diversity and inclusion, encouragement of fun and levity, dress code, workplace flexibility stances, trust, and much more.
All of these cultural elements put together become an amalgam that I call theInvisible Corporate DNAof an organization. You cannot easily see it, but it is there.
London School of Economics Professor Sumantra Ghosal, coined it “The Smell of the Place” in his brilliant speech at the World Economic Forum.
He describes “The Smell of the Place” as the context (culture) with which leaders choose to surround their employees that will drive the behaviors and success of the organization. Ghosal uses the wonderful metaphor of choosing either the smell of Calcutta India in July where he grew up (not so good), versus the wonderful aroma of the Forest of Fontainebleau where he lived later in life. Its message especially resonated with me because of the moldy and dank smell of our tribal school, which I’ll never forget.
Smart interview candidates can also take additional steps to make an organization’s invisible culture visible.
You can start by finding former employees on LinkedIn and asking them to describe the culture of their old employer. Furthermore, you should make it a point toask very pointed questions of the interviewers about the culture of the company, such as:
Please give me three words that best define the culture here.
Does the company have stated values and a code of ethics?
Tell me more about them with specific examples of how they helped guide and guard the organization and its employees.
What is the company’s attitude toward workplace flexibility, more specifically, flexible work hours, dress code, etc?
What Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts does your organization have in place? Specifically, how does it “give back” to the communities in which it operates?
What efforts are in place to encourage fun and levity in your work place?
What programs do you have that support the importance of diversity and inclusion here?
Please share with me specifically how and when employees are recognized for doing great work.
How often are managers expected to meet with their direct reports to discuss their career development and next career steps?
How does your organization handle conflicts? Is there a specific problem-solving procedure in place and if so, does it encourage or discourage going above “the chain of command” or to the Human Resources department?
Also, make sure you look for signs during the interview process that clearly show that the company’s stated culture is not a reality (e.g., the company says it cares about environmental greenness, yet its facilities are littered with plastic water bottles, which take up landfill space for an eternity.) In short, be a keen observer.
After the interviews, ask yourself questions like:
Were there any phrases or words used that would give a true peek into the organization’s real culture?
Was there an implicit unspoken “tone” to the questions asked?
How did the workplace environment feel?
Was I treated and welcomed like a possible new team member or as a foreigner under suspicion?
Was “The Golden Rule” exhibited by my interviewers (i.e., Did they treat me the way they would want to be treated, showing mutual respect and professional courtesy?
What my siblings and I went through on that Indian reservation was certainly tough. But it was also immensely invaluable. When faced with the choice of “woe is me” and victim-hood, I chose to embrace the positive and the learning opportunities. I chose to recognize that, as a white male, I was blessed with having the unique experience of knowing what it is like to be a minority. (I also realized that what bullying and persecution we had gone through paled in comparison to what the Native American Nation experienced at the hands of the Europeans who invaded and took over their land and country.)
I chose to share my unique experience in my application to Harvard Business School (HBS).
Of the roughly 12,000 applications sent to HBS that year, mine was one of the less than 1% accepted. I’ve always expected this result was tied to my unusual upbringing.
In the end, for many reasons, being kidnapped and working through an entirely different culture on the reservation, was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I cherish the loving relationship I now have with both my 81-year-old mother and father. Despite an occasional and normal familial challenge, our families have cherished a culture of love, understanding, and accomplishment.
As a new employee, becoming immersed in a dysfunctional company culture can certainly build character, but that’s not what people are usually seeking in a new job.
If you want to feel happy, comfortable, secure, valued, and avoid unnecessary stress, taking a hard look at culture is your smartest option.
If you currently find yourself in a culture that’s not up to your standards, don’t despair.
One of my favorite sayings of all time comes from the movieThe Exotic Marigold Hotel: “In India, we have a saying: 'Everything will be alright in the end.' So if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.”
Kevin Sheridan has spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant. He has helped some of the world’s largest corporations break down detrimental processes and rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors in the process. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, is consistently recognized as a long overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement, and his most recent book, “Building a Magnetic Culture,” made the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today best-seller lists. @kevinsheridan12 LinkedIn
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