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Federal courts split over sexual orientation discrimination

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Monday, July 10, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

By Diane Buisman, Vigilant

A recent string of federal appeals court cases regarding sexual orientation discrimination has shone a light on an area of open interpretation under federal law. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, individuals are protected from discrimination based on sex, but the law doesn’t explicitly encompass protection based on sexual orientation. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has long interpreted Title VII’s protection to extend to individuals based on their sexual orientation, rationalizing that being discriminated against for failing to conform to traditional gender roles is a form of sex-based discrimination.

Continue reading this article on the new HR West Blog.


Tags:  discrimination  EEOC  employee  employment laws  workplace 

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Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) – Helping Employees Become Better Versions of Themselves

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2017

HR West Blog: Contributed by Mike NormantContributed by Mike Normant - HR West Blog

I wanted to share a few thoughts on a book I’ve recently read called “An Everyone Culture – Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. This book is exciting for organizations that want to create a culture where people can become better versions of themselves while doing great work and driving highly successful business results. Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) place a strong emphasis on raising self-awareness across all employees.

Continue reading this article on the new HR West Blog!




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Top 5 Ways for Organizations to Handle Negative Employee Feedback

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, April 7, 2016

97% believe that negative feedback from employees can be useful.

Waggl, a digital platform that offers companies a simple way to surface and distill real-time actionable feedback, recently designed an ongoing research project called The Voice of the Workplace. Waggl goes beyond the traditional survey by offering an extremely easy way to listen to many voices at once within an organization for the purpose of making it better. Its real-time listening platform creates a transparent, authentic two-way dialogue that gives people a voice, distills insights, and unites organizations through purpose.

This latest Voice of the Workplace survey was sent out through the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA), InsiderHub, and Executive Networks over a two-week period (March 8 to 23, 2016). The three organizations helped comprise an external audience of some 500 business leaders, HR leaders and consultants. The survey participants were first asked whether or not they agreed with the following two key statements: 

1) “Providing an open forum for employees to offer candid feedback is essential for organizational improvement,” and

2) “Negative feedback from employees can be useful to help an organization improve.” 

An overwhelming 96% responded positively to the first statement, and 97% to the second.  The responses were fairly consistent across various sizes of organization, job titles, and geographic regions.

There was a unanimous agreement that negative feedback from employees can be useful. Over the years, Waggl has seen many instances of companies that have either ignored or attempted to eradicate negative feedback, usually with less than optimal results. 

The data from this also poll indicates that attitudes are shifting, with business and HR leaders alike becoming more open to candid feedback, and more receptive about how to work with it to make their organizations stronger.

The Voice of the Workplace also included a second, open-ended, question in this particular survey: “What is the most constructive way for organizations to handle negative feedback from employees?” 

Here are the top five answers that were crowdsourced with over 3,000 votes on Waggl:

1.  “Provide a response to those giving feedback to indicate that it was heard and understood; then describe action to be taken -- this may include no action, but providing feedback indicates that the input was carefully considered. Further information may clarify the situation about which negative feedback occurred. Responses must be respectful, and not defensive.

2.  “Listen, understand the real issue, probe into further information if needed to fully understand, and then address the feedback directly, honestly, and in a timely manner. Then ask if that helps or if there is further negative feedback.

3.  “Acknowledge and address openly and honestly - be transparent whenever possible - communicate, communicate, communicate.”

4.  “Ask employees to elaborate. Individual or small group. Be honest and transparent. Assume your employees are intelligent and honest people. The dialogue may be uncomfortable, but necessary to fill understandings of issues.

5.  “Acknowledge receipt of the feedback and try to understand its root cause. Be transparent about what the feedback was and what if anything can be done to address/ respond to it.

In the open-ended responses, a clear pattern emerged in which the participants advocated acknowledging the feedback in a transparent way---rather than hiding from it. They also sought to clarify and better understand the root cause, as well as take timely action to address the issues. 


Strong organizations “ACT” on feedback (A.C.T. Acknowledge, Clarify, and Take action).  They understand that to be the best possible version of their organization, they need to look to the wisdom in their own system, their own people. In some cases, the action taken might be explaining to employees why the decisions were made, which can be very powerful in building trust and alignment within an organization.


Waggl is typically used within organizations to collect and distill anonymous, real-time feedback from employees.  The platform provides a variety of templates for users to cultivate feedback, in only a few clicks.  Results are available immediately to administrators and participants in the form of easily digestible infographics.  Unlike traditional survey and polling platforms, Waggl creates a virtual dialogue with participants by asking open-ended questions where favorite responses can be ‘voted up.’  It’s fast and easy to share through multiple channels, and adds a fun, gamified aspect to the process of collecting feedback as shown below.

Tags:  employee  employee engagement  employee relations  employee wellness  HR  human resources  human resources management  NCHRA  stress management  Waggl  workplace 

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4 Ways to Teach Personal Accountability to Your Employees

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, February 4, 2016

By Cy Wakeman, President, CY Wakeman, Inc.

HR West 2016 Presenter: Session 505: 10 Principles of Reality-Based Leadership 


Traditional management practices have led many entrepreneurs to believe that employee engagement and happiness come from a working environment that is free of stress or problems. They falsely believe that if they can perfect an employee’s circumstances, contentment and motivation will automatically follow.

And while it’s true that good talent is hard to find, and we want to keep our teams happy, this assumption can be misleading. Unfortunately, many have already fallen prey to this form of emotional blackmail, investing great amounts of capital in employee requests for perks and benefits based on nothing more than the promise that they will deliver extraordinary results in return.

You see, while fulfilling employee requests may initially seem like a logical approach to motivation, the reality is much different. According to New York Times bestselling author 
Shawn Achor, 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world.

Therefore, trying to perfect employees’ circumstances is an insane practice. It’s a shortsighted strategy that won’t provide a long-term solution and is simply a waste of time and resources -- a high price to pay for busy entrepreneurs who are already short on both.

To cultivate sustainable engagement that produces results for your business, focus instead on making your employees bulletproof by teaching them to be personally accountable. Once someone begins to view the world through a lens of accountability, they start to understand that they can affect their circumstances and situations. 

Before long, they’ll realize that they are not victims of external factors but rather architects of their own lives. This mindset equips them to handle anything that comes their way, regardless of how challenging it is. Only then will they begin to attain authentic, sustainable happiness and engagement in their lives, both personally and professionally.

So, how can you help your team achieve a greater sense of accountability at work? First, you must understand that personal accountability is a product of both nature and nurture. Some individuals possess a higher natural inclination towards accountability, but it can also be learned. 

To create a workforce that is engaged in a way that creates remarkable results, it’s imperative to stop trying to take the pain away and start equipping your employees with the abilities they need to deal with the random challenges that are involved in working in today’s modern economy. 

To help this skill set evolve and develop further, encourage the following among your team.

1. Embracing challenges
Experiencing projects, assignments and tasks that have a significant risk of failure and call employees out of their comfort zones will enhance the learning and development of new and less developed competencies. This process forces the individual to quickly find what worked and what didn’t. From there, they can adapt and move forward.

2. Experienced accountability
Being held accountable on a consistent basis by people and processes molds the mindset of internal accountability. Over time, the concept that one’s results are a product of their own actions is reinforced and solidified as a belief. 

3. Consistent and regular feedback
Regular developmental and performance feedback from a credible source helps employees understand and internalize how their specific behaviors and choices are contributing to their results. However, the feedback must be rigorous, consistent and ongoing to be effective. 

4. Self-reflection
Engaging in regular self-reflection and introspection about one’s progress is critical. The focus of self-reflection is to account for one’s role in the results of their life and extract the lessons that will empower a different response in the future. Methods of self-reflection include meditation and journaling. |

Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to adopt a different, more sustainable approach to employee engagement. It all begins with cultivating and celebrating personal accountability among employees at every level within your organization.

Once this is achieved, you will have created a workforce that’s resilient, committed to results, accepting of the consequences of their actions (good and bad) and is continuously learning. Not only will they raise the bar for everyone around them, they will make great things happen for your business as well.

*Find some secrets to success in 2016 in Cy's blog or watch her latest livestream for tips on ditching the drama in 2016.

Originally published on Linkedin
See the full article at

Meet Cy Wakeman
HR West 2016 - March 7-9, 2016 at the Oakland Convention Center. Registration is still open

Wakeman will present her session (#505): 10 Principles of Reality-Based Leadership on March 8th at 1:30p.m. 

Cy Wakeman is a leadership coach, workplace consultant, 
New York Times bestselling author, and international keynote speaker. 

For more on Cy, check out  
Follow @CyWakeman.

Tags:  consulting  Cy Wakeman  EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT  HR  HR Management  HR West 2016  Human Resources  Leadership  NCHRA  workplace 

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Drug use tipster may be blowing smoke

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, December 3, 2015

With the legalization of marijuana in Oregon and Washington, many employers are seeing an uptick in positive drug tests. There is still some uncertainty among employers and employees alike about what may be acceptable and appropriate “use” and what constitutes a violation of a workplace policy. It is clear that employers still have the right to maintain a zero tolerance policy, but once you have the policy how do you enforce it? One situation that has become more frequent is a tip from a coworker or an anonymous source that an employee “smokes marijuana regularly” or even that employees are using marijuana in the workplace. The appropriate response to those tips is going to depend on your company policy. Do you have a policy that prohibits drug use either on or off the job? Does your policy say you have the right to test employees? What are the specific times (pre-employment, post-incident, random, reasonable suspicion, etc.) that you can test? Is an anonymous tip or a tip from a coworker enough to send your employee in for a reasonable suspicion drug test?

An anonymous tip or an isolated report from a coworker is not enough, on its own, to require a drug test even under a zero tolerance policy. Generally speaking, in order to require that an employee submit to a drug test you must have a policy that says you can, and the individual circumstances have to fit the reasons for drug testing that are enumerated in your policy. Most drug and alcohol policies allow an employer to test when they have “reasonable suspicion” that an employee is violating the policy. Reasonable suspicion doesn’t mean you have to be certain. But you do have to have objective, credible facts that form the basis for a suspicion prior to requiring an employee to submit to a test.

A report of drug use should prompt an investigation such as a check-in with the employee and an evaluation of whether there are other factors beyond the tip that might add up to “reasonable suspicion.” When you talk to the employee, does her performance, appearance, odor, or behavior indicate that she may be using marijuana in violation of your policy? Consider the credibility of the source of the tip; does the person making the report potentially have a grudge against the employee he or she is accusing? (For example, it’s not unusual for an employee going through a difficult divorce to be the subject of a report by a disgruntled spouse.) If you see signs that lead you to believe you may have reasonable suspicion, such as bloodshot eyes and an odor coupled with a glazed demeanor or inappropriate laughter, you should document those observations. Then ask another member of your management team if they notice anything out of the ordinary or troubling about the appearance, behavior, or performance of the employee and have them document their observations as well.

If you and another member of your management team think you have reasonable suspicion, then you should send the employee in for a drug test. Explain the factors that you have observed to the employee and give her an opportunity to explain. Beware, however, of letting the employee talk you out of the test. If her excuse is that she couldn’t sleep the night before and she is just tired, you can reply “if that’s all it is, then your test will be clean. But based on what we have seen today, we have to make sure. It’s our obligation to keep the workplace safe.”

Once you have decided to drug test an employee, it is important that you actually take the employee in to be tested or have the testing or sample collection done on-site. If it’s a reasonable suspicion test, the employee should be taken off the job until you receive the test results. In the event that the employee is clean, then the employee should be paid for the time that she missed while waiting for the results. If the employee tests positive, you should either terminate or offer a last chance agreement according to your company policies and practices.

Of course situations and workplaces all have their unique culture and challenges. If you do receive a tip of drug use, be sure to consult with your employment attorney to ensure that your response is appropriate.

About the Author


Lorraine Hoffman is an employment and labor attorney at Vigilant, a company headquartered in Oregon, dedicated to helping companies in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho and California solve their most complex employment issues.




Tags:  drug testing  employee  hr  human resources  Lorraine Hoffman  marijuana  NCHRA  V  Vigilant  workplace 

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