As we enter the holiday weekend, Independence Day a.k.a. 4th of July, I asked myself what the word really meant? It is defined as a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory. I am grateful to live in the United States.Regardless of your beliefs, we are fortunate to live in a land where we are free to choose who to love, what to learn and to build our life as we desire. Our opportunities are endless!

So, how does this apply to business and to you and your employees?

Wikipedia also defines independence as “not having to depend on anyone or anything else. It also means being strong and able to survive alone”. Is this really true in business and do we want it to be? I believe the answer is NO! We depend on our customers, our partners, our employees and team, and our ability to add value by solving problems and innovating.

Your employees gain independence through consistency. When they perform the “same way” each day you have a pattern of behavior that you can rely upon. The consistent pattern can be positive or negative and it is our responsibility as leaders and managers to guide, coach and correct behaviors to ensure our employees stay on track.

A recent study by Robert Half International stated that managers spend close to one day a week managing poor performers. According to the survey which was conducted with 1400 chief financial officers at companies across the United States, supervisors spend about 17% of their time (or one day a week) overseeing employees who perform poorly. The survey also found that managers are not the only ones who suffer from this focus on poor performers More than 35% of people surveyed stated morale is greatly affected, which distracts managers from business-critical initiatives and causes other team members to pick up the slack.

The groundbreaking book “First Break All the Rules” written in 1999 by Marcus Buckingham challenged this concept by doing the opposite of what generations of managers had been taught. The coauthors weren’t acting on intuition; rather, they had derived their conclusions from 25 years of Gallup studies of 80,000 managers across 400 companies. The authors write that when a manager spends time with an employee, “they are not fixing or correcting or instructing. Instead they are racking their brains, trying to figure out better and better ways to unleash that employee’s distinct talents.”

Top performers are the ones who drive progress and innovation in your company and that is why they need the most attention. We often look at the independent employees and leave them alone. Instead, managers must meet regularly and do whatever it takes to help these top performers meet their professional and personal goals.

When you spend 17% of your week micromanaging your poor performers your top performers may feel underappreciated and their performance may be impacted over time. Guided by your apparent indifference, your stars may start to do less of what made them stars in the first place and more of other kinds of behaviors that might net them some kind of reaction from you, good or bad.

Independence = consistency. Consistency refers to the behaviors of the employee and the follow-up and communication required of the leader and manager.

We all want to get to the point where we can function independently, master our job, and know what we are supposed to do. In addition, we want the manager to recognize this level of independence and performance and congratulate us on a job well done.

Happy Independence Day!
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A number of clients have recently asked whether they can “check out” candidates social media prior to the interview?

According to recent surveys, about 50% of employers/managers “check out” applicants and candidates social media during the hiring process. Employers report rejecting job applicants when they find references to inappropriate behavior, drug use, heavy drinking, sexually offensive materials, political rants, etc. Some employers have even started to ask applicants for passwords and log-in information as a part of the process. A number of states have passed legislation prohibiting this and Facebook has weighed in that soliciting passwords violates their code of conduct. The federal government is currently investigating whether practices like these violate federal discrimination and privacy laws.

You might ask, “If a profile is public what is the big deal?”

Great question! You may not be aware of the legal risks that could impact your organization.

An employer who looks at an applicant’s Facebook page or other social media posts may learn information that is not allowed, i.e. ethnicity, origin, pregnancy, age, religious views, etc. This type of information is off limits in the hiring process. If an employer uses this as the basis for a hiring decision it could lead to potential discrimination claims.

The saying a “picture is worth a thousand words” is also true in the realm of social media. You may see a picture and jump to the wrong conclusion without the proper context or back story. A full glass of what appears to be wine could be grape juice; a picture in a questionable room could have been taken in someone else’ home or on a vacation!

Internet search is a double-edged sword as you could learn very positive information by viewing social media. Perhaps the applicant participates in service organizations, discusses their education, etc.

What can an employer do to balance the risk?

• Employers can minimize the legal risks and maximize the business benefits of social media if the screening is part of the reference or background check that is made before extending an offer or after extending a conditional offer. Checking social media after an interview may not reveal much more than already identified.
• HR or Administration should conduct the social media search as they are familiar with the legal landscape and know the information to/not to consider. Casual searches conducted by hiring managers may have an impact on the candidacy or outcome of the interview and should be minimized.
• Train managers regarding the recruiting and interview process in the organization. Clearly communicate and detail who should conduct the social media search and when this will be conducted.

The bottom line… Identify, detail, communicate and manage a recruiting and interviewing process that aligns with the culture of your organization. This process makes an impression on potential candidates, speaks to the ethics of the company and helps protect against potential discrimination and privacy claims.