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Why Targets of Harassment Keep Quiet, and What You Can Do to Avoid a Matt Lauer Situation

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Contributed by Catherine Mattice, HR West 2018 Speaker

In the last few months, a long list of perpetrators of harassment have emerged from politics, Hollywood, and television. Most recently, it was Matt Lauer, a familiar face that has graced the television screen of nearly every home in America. What is going on? And why in the world is all of this only now coming out?

Continue reading on the HR West Blog.


Tags:  effective leadership  harassment  harassment in the workplace  HR Leadership  HR West 2018  HR West Speaker  human resources management  Leadership  management 

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Legalizing Marijuana: What's an Employer to do?

Posted By Editor, Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Contributed by Becky Barton

These days it’s difficult to avoid the election mania covered by the various media outlets. Given the major spotlight on the presidential race, you may not know that the potential decriminalization of marijuana will be on the ballot in several states.

California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will all weigh in on legalized marijuana for recreational use (also known as “adult use” and “non-medical use”) where it is currently approved for medical use only. Another 3 states (Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota) will decide on the future of cannabis for medical use in their states.

Supporters of the ballot measures see this as a boon to the states’ economies via increased taxes and job growth for cannabusiness people. We have seen 25 states and the District of Columbia legalize marijuana in some fashion, making a continued trend of legalization highly likely.

So what does this mean for business owners and employers? Marijuana remains illegal under federal law and the state-by-state variations make this particularly confusing. For example, within the subset of those states approved for recreational use, the amount an individual can personally carry varies.  As an employer, particularly a multi-state employer, these variations can be an administrative and enforcement nightmare.

Or do they? After all, alcohol is a mind and behavior altering substance that’s been legal for over 80 years and we seem to manage that in the workplace, right? Wouldn’t this be treated similarly? Well, it depends. Many laws clearly state that employers don't have to accommodate medical marijuana use during work hours or on company property while other states require reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities (specifically as it relates to drug testing and adverse action).

The key is to know what is required by the states in which you operate, create an employment policy that complies with state law and enforce it consistently amongst employees of similar work groups.

The Bottom Line: Work with an HR consultant or an employment law attorney to navigate these unchartered waters. They should be watching how these new laws are interpreted by the courts and have your back should your policy need updating.


Becky Barton is the founder of People415, a San Francisco-based Human Resource Consultancy Firm helping companies navigate every stage of their growth.

Tags:  behavior  company culture  employee  employee communication  employee health and wellness  employee relations  Employee Training  employee wellness  healthcare expenditures  hr  HR Communication  HR law  HR Legislation  Human resources management. HR Leadership  law  leadership  management  marijuana  Policies  workforce 

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Creating an Impactful Culture - A View of NUMMI From the Inside

Posted By Laurie Pehar Borsh , Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Contributed by Russ Elliot - Conscious Culture Group


Executive overview

During my formative working life I was very fortunate to be able to work at the NUMMI plant for six years. For those not familiar with NUMMI, the joint-venture was born in an old General Motors Fremont, CA, plant. GM wanted to understand the effective Toyota Production System, and Toyota wanted to see how that system could work with U.S. workers. I realized while I was working there that the experience was the equivalent of a second Master’s degree. It was clear to me that there was something unique and amazing going on at NUMMI. So rather than pursue an additional degree, I dug my heels in and decided to learn on the job.


I learned many lessons during my six years there and implemented many of the concepts during my subsequent tenure in Human Resources.


In this article I want to share with you some of those lessons that can be applied to improve a company’s culture and have a meaningful impact in any organization.


Although each of these lessons can be implemented independently, a culture “system” becomes much more effective when all the pieces are heading toward a common goal or vision. Clarity and intention, or consciousness, are the keys to furthering any organization’s culture.


What can be learned from the NUMMI experiment

At NUMMI, prior to the launch of the Tacoma truck line, I was hired to work in the Human Resources department.  I started in the training and development department of HR and then moved to the labor relations department, doing a final stint back where I started in the training and development department. During my tenure, I was privileged to help develop and build the Problem Solving Circles program (a name we used for the quality circle program).


NUMMI was operating in the same plant as before, with the same workers, and the same union, but everything else was different.  The quality was outstanding and consistently recognized.  For example, the Corolla was ranked “Best Compact Car in North America” in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2006. The Tacoma was ranked “Best Compact Pickup in North America” in 2002 and 2007. The plant was an effective machine.


I have been reflecting on the lessons can be used today from what I learned working at NUMMI during its “experiment” of sorts. This article draws some conclusions and presents what I think are the most important points to review and consider as people in business strive for continuous improvement, effective communication and decision making.


This is both a complex and simple story. The complexity is related to all of the different pieces that create the perception and feel of simplicity. The autoworkers had so much clarity on the job that it felt simple for them to perform effectively. It took great thought by management to be able to communicate what their jobs were and what the proper training and tools were needed for them to be successful.


The following components led to the company’s well-thought-out system.


Clearly understood and expressed values

At the center of the culture were clearly expressed values of mutual trust and respect, teamwork, equity, and involvement. There are many tangible and visual symbols that reinforced these values every day at work.


The four values or cornerstones as they were named at NUMMI are listed here.  They are not meant to be independent of each other, but rather are completely dependent on each other. It is easy to see the links between teamwork, involvement, equity and mutual trust and respect. It is one of the examples of brilliant simplification. The challenge of all organizations is to determine values that truly describe who they are, which then encourages behavior that will make the organization uniquely successful.


Mutual trust and respect – This was probably the most important value at NUMMI. It showed up at work in many different ways. One of the more visible examples was the “andon” cord, a cord that could be pulled at every workstation.  If an employee pulled the cord, the line stopped.  To understand the impact pulling on this cord had, nearly every employee was forced to be idle until the line started up again. About 2,000 employees were placed in waiting mode.  The “andon” cord symbolized that each employee had a critical role in ensuring that every car passing by his or her workstation met with the level of quality expected.  The employees had both the power and obligation to contribute toward that goal.


Teamwork – The plant was set up in teams and groups. A team consisted of about five employees with one team leader. A group consisted of three or four teams with a group leader. Team members, as they were called, were expected to learn all the jobs in the team. To reduce boredom and injury, team members rotated every 2 ½ hours. This required not only cross training, but it also resulted in a balanced workload. Rotation added to the feeling of being a member of the team and the importance of teamwork.


Equity – One vivid example of equity was the open office. Every employee had the same size desk in one of several large rooms. The only exception was the president who had his own office. To fully understand the significance of this, the vice president of manufacturing who had thousands of employees under him was seated several feet away from his direct reports.  And he faced all of their direct reports in the same open area. When I attended a meeting in his area, I passed his desk only a few feet away from the walkway.  This strongly symbolized the equity concept.


Involvement – One of many examples of involvement was the suggestion program. More than 70 percent of the employees provided at least one suggestion, while many provided more then one suggestion. With more than 4,000 employees, there were literally thousands of suggestions that were submitted and reviewed each year. Many of them were implemented. This encouraged employees to use their minds to create continuous improvement in the auto plant.


Make company mindset a critical component

In addition to having clear values, it is critical to have processes, systems and policies that support the intended culture. This is a key part of a conscious culture.


The examples presented in this section are just some of the ideas worth noting regarding how a mindset can be created to further an organization in defining its culture.  These ideas and actions truly brought NUMMI forward in a defined and intentional way. Combining these mindset ideas with organizational values brings clarity, focus and simplicity to organizational effectiveness.


Kaizen – This is the Japanese term that means, in essence, continuous improvement. It was NUMMI’s belief that survival in a competitive industry required continuous improvement. This philosophy showed up in many ways, including the suggestion system, improving efficiency in the workplace and in the Problem Solving Circles (or quality circles). Kaizen accurately reflects the mindset or way of being at NUMMI.


Muda – This is another Japanese term that helped employees understand waste. One of the keys to being a successful auto plant is to reduce different kinds of waste. Employees understood the five different kinds of muda and would work towards reducing all aspects of waste. For example, if there was a way for each worker to spend five seconds less on a process, it reduced the waste of time.  Employees were rewarded when their ideas improved efficiency or effectiveness.


Nemawashi – This is a third Japanese term that speaks to the mindset of effective communication and decision making. There are different levels of nemawashi, and I am sharing a high-level example. The top executives met on a regular basis to make significant decisions on the plant. The meeting often lasted only 15 to 30 minutes. The reason the meetings lasted for such a short time was that all of the conversation and changes to proposals occurred outside the meeting. This allowed for meaningful dialogue instead of a debate of egos in the room. Presenters of proposals spent one-on-one time with all leaders to understand any concerns they had. Leaders were given ample time to reflect on any proposal. Changes were regularly made to any proposal before it went to the nemawshi meeting. Although this took more time, it led to strong buy in by all and long-term success. This mindset of nemawashi occurred at other levels in the plant.


A3 – This is the concept of ensuring that all proposals and ideas shared needed to be clear, concise and well thought through.  A3 refers to the size of the paper in the paper tray (11” x 14”). All proposals, no matter how complex or expensive, were required to be submitted in a specified format on the front (and possibly back) of an A3.  This level of discipline ensured new proposals or programs had great consideration before making it in front of the decision-making body. It was required that all problem-solving efforts be completed using the A3 format.


Problem Solving Circles – I had the privilege of being the lead on this critical program. PSCs started with five pilot circles. Eventually, there were more than 400 circles meeting each week to work on problems for their teams.


One of the key concepts I want to share with you is that the primary purpose of this program was not solving problems, but in fact, team building and leadership development. Each time there was a meeting, the discussion led to solving a problem within the scope of the team’s control.


After team leaders received training in facilitating and leading meetings, and team members along with team leaders received training in problem solving, each circle met once per week for an hour to follow the problem-solving process.


We then had an annual plant-wide competition to select the best example. It was set up as a big event for everyone to see the other examples. I was honored to bring the winner of the NUMMI competition to Japan to compete with the best of each Toyota plant.


A side note of truth is that there were two competitions in Japan: one for the auto plants in Japan and one for the plants outside of Japan. This was only fair because the skill sets and problem-solving levels of the Japanese plants were significantly greater than non-Japanese plants. It would not have been a fair competition if all plants were judged in one contest.


Job titles – All of the manufacturing jobs, about 4,000, fell under one of three job titles: team member, team leader or group leader. This idea is consistent with the values of equity and teamwork. Most U.S. companies would struggle to limit the number of job titles to three for thousands of employees. Each role was clear and the path to move toward team leader or group leader was well-defined.


Job security – There was specific language in the labor agreement that spoke to job security.  The essence of it was that employees would not be laid off unless there were severe economic conditions that threatened the long term viability of NUMMI. Before laying off any single employee, other actions, like reducing managers’ salaries, would take place first. This clearly sent a message that everyone was in the same ship rowing in the same direction. This was extraordinarily meaningful to employees.


On a personal note

I hope some of these ideas have you thinking about the systems, processes and values you have in place or you can put in place to support your company’s desired culture.


You can look at your organizational values, examine processes that can support the mindset, provide training and promotion methods that teach cultural behavior, or modify the hiring process to reduce hiring the incorrect fit.  Take a deep look at what will do to help shape your culture and create the high-performance company that you desire.


There are many other lessons learned that were not included here.  For the full article that includes reflections of training, promotion and employer brand, visit my blog at


About the Author

Russ Elliot, SPHR, is the Founder and Principal Consultant of the Conscious Culture Group, a consulting and coaching company focused on working with organizational leaders to understand and build effective cultures using proven methods and tools that get results. For more than 30 years, Russ Elliot has developed strong expertise in human resources, organizational development and coaching having worked in organizations including Toyota, NUMMI, Texas Instruments and Bridge Bank. 


Contact Russ at

Tags:  company culture  Conscious C  corporate culture  GM  HR  HR West  Human Resources  Leadership  Management  NCHRA  Nummi  People  Russ Elliot  SHRM  Tesla  Toyota  ulture  work 

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5 Simple Ways You Can Recognize Employees Starting Today

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Monday, November 23, 2015
Updated: Friday, November 20, 2015

Contributed by Emil Shour - Marketing Coordinator, SnackNation



If your company doesn’t have some type of employee recognition program or a way of making employees feel appreciated, your business is in trouble.


Why do I make that bold claim?


If you haven’t heard by now, being unappreciated is the number one reason why Americans leave their jobs.


Not benefits, not pay, not even having a terrible boss – simply the lack of recognition by our peers.


So, how can your company do a better job of recognizing employees?


Here are 5 simple employee appreciation ideas to help get you started:


1. Go the Extra Mile


The Staten Island University Hospital Radiology Lab Transportation Staff has the difficult job of wheeling patients around for testing. When they were falling short of their goal for number of moves per hour, the experts at Michael C. Fina came up with an idea to appreciate employees that got the hospital results: the Go the Extra Mile (or GEM program for short).

When an employee witnessed another going above and beyond, they would nominate them for the GEM award. The program was simple, but gave the staffers recognition they could actually hold in their hands, which went far towards making them feel really appreciated. 

2. Recognize employees through your social media channels


The St. Louis Children’s hospital leveraged social media to take employee recognition to the next level during their employee recognition gala. Employees nominated for awards of honor were profiled on Facebook and they even made the effort to Skype employees into the gala for special recognition if they couldn’t make it.


Dedicated employees working late shifts were still justly recognized. 


Supplement your appreciation and recognition awards with social media.

3. Recognize people by their passions

LA based Ad Agency Omelet exemplifies this idea perfectly.

Their employee recognition idea involves recognizing something at the core of every employee: passions. Omelet has a program they call 60/60, which awards employees two hours each and every week to work on a project they’re passionate about – and it doesn’t even have to relate to their work!

Through the program, employees have been able to work on anything from sports sites to food blogs. When you value an employee’s passions, they know you value them as a unique individual.

4. Give praise in person

At SnackNation, The “Crush-It” Call is a time-honored tradition. Each Friday afternoon, the entire SnackNation team huddles together and goes around the room stating 2 things:

  1. “Crush” someone on the team whose work they want to recognize and why
  2. Something you are grateful for

It’s a great chance for people to not only recognize each other, but also bring that person’s hard work to the attention of the entire team. As our team has grown, this gives everyone a chance to see the awesome achievements of everyone else in the company.

5. Support a good cause

Ad agency Drake Cooper recognizes employees through philanthropic side projects. They have a program called Dream Big where they allow staff to select a nonprofit for the agency to work with for free. Letting staff have the time to work on a passion project and do good is a great way to offer recognition (and earn some good karma).


SnackNation is a one-of-a-kind monthly healthy snack delivery service that helps employees be happier, healthier, and highly productiveIt’s also a way to give your employees convenient “grab and go” access to healthy foods so they can stay on site, stay properly fueled, and save themselves time and energy. Visit:

Tags:  EMPLOYEE  HR  human resources  management  NCHRA  programs  recognition  SnackNation 

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What’s Causing Private Exchange Enrollments to Double?

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Friday, November 20, 2015
Updated: Thursday, November 19, 2015


If you work in your company’s HR department, you’ve likely been hearing a lot about private health insurance exchanges as alternatives to traditional group health insurance plans. With their increasing popularity, you can expect to hear even more: According to Accenture, private exchange enrollments have annually grown more than 100 percent since 2013. In 2015, nearly 6 million people received their health insurance benefits through a private exchange; Accenture forecasts that number will grow to 12 million enrollees in 2016, skyrocketing to 40 million enrollees by 2018. Leading the private exchange trend are mid-sized companies employing between 100 and 2,500 people.


Yet what are the main factors driving the popularity of the private exchange health insurance model? Let’s take a closer look.

More Choice For Less Money

Simply put, private exchanges offer employers and their employees a greater number of plans from which to choose, at a cost lower than many group health insurance offerings. In a group health insurance situation, employers may be able to offer one or two distinct plans; private exchanges are often able to offer many more than that, with a variety of add-on insurance options available, as well. Employees are able to choose a plan that best meets their needs and their budget, and employers aren’t stuck paying for one-size-fits-some plans, including benefits that will go unused.

Fewer Administrative Headaches

There are numerous compliance-related regulations associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that require companies to file detailed reports. In a traditional group health insurance model, much of the reporting falls on the shoulders of the human resources department. Private exchanges reduce the paperwork burden for HR teams by handling most, if not all, of the compliance-related reporting. This means HR staff can focus on other pressing issues rather than get stuck in increasingly complicated benefits administration and compliance-focused tasks.

Avoiding Cadillac Tax Concerns

Starting in 2018, employers who provide employees with high-cost health coverage — annually, over $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families — will be subject to a 40 percent excise tax on any amount that exceeds the maximums. As the time for the Cadillac tax to take effect gets closer, many employers are looking for strategies to help them avoid running into tax issues. Private exchanges allow employers to reduce costs and sidestep Cadillac tax issues, while still offering their employees a robust benefits package.

Fulfilling the Employer Mandate

Also known as the Employer Shared Responsibility Provision, the ACA’s employer mandate states that companies employing 50 or more full-time employees must provide health insurance to at least 95 percent of their employees and employees’ dependents, or face a fine. With this provision going into effect in 2016, many employers are looking for a fast, cost-effective way to ensure they’re in compliance. Private health insurance exchanges allow employers to quickly deploy comprehensive health insurance solutions for their employees that meet those federal guidelines.

Private Exchange Popularity Continues to Grow

The popularity of private exchanges is growing, and experts predict the trend will continue. Because they offer a greater variety of plans at a lower cost, they’re attractive to both employers and employees. Additionally, they reduce the administrative burden on HR teams while fulfilling the ACA’s employer mandate and helping businesses avoid getting hit with the Cadillac tax. 


About the Author:

Lauren Mandel is the Content Marketing Manager of GoHealth Insurance.  GoHealth powers one of the nation’s leading private health insurance exchanges for individuals and families.

Tags:  affordable care act  culture  EMPL  employee  enrollment  final four  GoHealth Insurance  H WEST  HEALTH  healthcare expenditures  HR  human resources  INSURANCE  Lauren Mandel  management  NCHRA  PRIVATE  workplace 

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