Many managers today have been promoted from within, often because they are technically competent at their job–but not necessarily because they are “people-management competent” at their job. And, when supervisors get thrust into the job of managing people in the current environment–without the proper training–a lot of risk is invited into the organization. Why? Because simple supervisor mistakes, such as a supervisor letting a team member get by with cracking an inappropriate joke that targets someone’s race or national origin, such as: “Ok, here it is… this isn’t politically correct, but…” actually sets the company up for an EEOC charge of harassment. And, these charges are getting much more expensive for employers to deal with today, on average is now $45,000 to $65,000 to settle what we in HR call “nuisance claims.”
Often, supervisors who get promoted from within have a significant gap in their education regarding the do’s and don’ts of managing others. And, this deficit of knowledge is sort of like telling a new-hire employee, “Oh, it’s okay, Fred, we know you haven’t been trained on how to run the forklift…but just go get to work, you’ll figure it out.” We know in a safety conscious environment we certainly wouldn’t do that! Why? Because we know the risk associated with that lousy decision. Fred could easily hurt himself or other employees, because he just doesn’t know what he’s doing. And, the result could be workers injured by Fred, several workers’ comp claims, several employees out and lost work time, and unnecessary, significant expense to the business. So, why is it we promote people into supervisor and manager jobs–without giving them the right “how-to” training?
In our experience, it is because employers think the cost to implement management training is too expensive. We find this particularly so in smaller organizations, especially if the business has never dealt with a regulatory agency like the EEOC and can honestly say, “Oh, we’ve never been sued.” It’s sort of like a guy who rides a motorcycle without a helmet and says, “Oh, I never wear a helmet. I’ve been riding for 15 years and nothing has happened….” Until, the one day he goes through, what 15 years later is now a far busier intersection, and then BAM! he gets hit while not wearing the helmet and now has major head injuries. If the guy ever rides again, what do you think he’ll do? Wear the darn helmet.
So, in HR consulting, we see this principle played out over and over again in our dealings with smaller employers. They keep riding “without the helmet,” failing to realize how different the work environment in the U.S. is today and the risk associated with managing people. It not unlike how a motorcycle rider has failed to recognize how much more traffic is on the road at that busy intersection and how not wearing a helmet today is riskier than it used to be.
In my consulting practice, I often get the panicked calls from new clients who need help when they get the letter in the mail from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (BAM!) advising them that a current employee has filed a charge of harassment or discrimination. It is at that time these employers are scrambling to figure out what to do to avoid paying out big time for the legal land mines that one of their managers stepped on. It is at that precise moment that smaller employers realize the value of the training we do, which teaches supervisors and managers that their role IS risk management every day in complying with EEO laws. And, that it is their job to give employees proper direction, coaching, feedback, and document behavior and performance issues, to minimize the risk of one of those BAM! letters from the EEOC. The reality is that supervising employees today involves managing people of various races, colors, national origins, genders, women who are pregnant, religious faiths, people with disabilities, and people of different generations. And, when supervisors are faced with an employee who isn’t performing, they often don’t have a clue how to handle it or document it. But, if there is no documentation of the behavior or performance issue and the employer terminates the employee, then what do you think the EEOC is going to think? They will think, “of course it must have been because of the employee’s protected characteristic: race, color, gender, religion, national origin, pregnancy, disability… since the organization didn’t document anything otherwise.
It is these missteps that invite unnecessary risk, in the form of financial loss, into the business. For us at RPC, we would much rather help our smaller clients in implementing a cost-effective management training for their team–to avoid the BAM! expense of regulatory fines, penalties, or expensive lawsuits that wipe away hard-earned profits.
The reality is that not doing training for managers is actually far costlier for a business.
For starters, not having any kind of management program in place for EEO training, such as anti-harassment and discrimination training or teaching managers about the Do’s and Don’ts of timekeeping and payroll is just asking for trouble. If a business ever has to tangle with the EEOC or the Department of Labor, one of the first questions the investigator will ask is, “When did your managers last attend training?” Uh-oh. The employers are pretty much guilty before proven innocent there, as it shows a lack of organizational focus on training the management team on the laws that they are supposed to know and abide by.
The thing I see in HR consulting is that employers will often complain about employee turnover, employee theft or misuse of assets, employees abusing FMLA leave, a culture of employees “calling in” all the time and not being dependable, employees filing fraudulent workers’ comp cases, etc. The thing is, these issues are almost always a direct result of a lack of leadership and supervision skills, which then translates into a pretty toxic organizational culture. And, toxic cultures breed employee relations’ issues, complaints, regulatory inquiries, and expensive litigation.
So, a lot of times we hear senior leaders say, “Oh, doing this HR training is a waste of time and it’s too expensive… We only have a small management team and if it’s going to cost us $10,000 to $15,000, well we don’t have money in the budget for that.” Yet, a few months from now, that very same organization that didn’t want to implement training because it was “too expensive” is now in the hot seat after receiving an EEOC charge of harassment–because of some stupid, inappropriate things that a manager said in front of employees.
The lesson learned is this: implement training for supervisors and managers on basic management skills and the Do’s and Don’ts of managing employees within the labor and employment laws in the U.S. If not, then continue to assume the risk just like putting inexperienced Fred on the forklift…wait for the costly mistakes to happen that could have totally been avoided.
To learn more about implementing Equal Employment Opportunity training for your management or HR team, contact us at Info@rpchr.com or give us a call at (800) 517-7129.
Until next time…
Natalie Ivey, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President and CEO of Results Performance Consulting, Inc.