Aug 03

Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season! Is Your Workplace Prepared?

 Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season! Is Your Workplace Prepared?

It’s that time of year again – hurricane season!  As Floridians, we love the summer, sand, seashores, and the sea.  But, sometimes out beautiful home can get intense and we have to take action.  I have always said hurricanes are the best of all the natural disasters because we get advanced notice – usually a week or maybe two.  Tornados, floods, tsunamis, pandemic outbreaks, or terrorist attacks are not as kind, but we can and must do some planning before disaster strikes.  As employers and HR professionals, you are on notice – disasters do happen and your employees, your community, and your governments expect you to prepare.

Here are just a few tips to consider.  For more detail, I will be presenting this topic during my breakout session at HR Florida this month.  Come join me for the discussion.

  1. Risk Assessment – What Are Your Major Threats?

A disaster plan must consider both man-made and natural disasters; however, each employer needs to evaluate threats to which its workplace is particularly vulnerable.  Risk assessment can range from retaining an engineering study to a simple self-assessment.  The specific industry, size, and scope of your business will determine your risk assessment needs.  Additionally, you need to find out what disasters are most common to the areas in which your business operates.

FEMA’s website provides information regarding the identification of potential risks to your business and the specific type of harm that may result from various forms of terrorist attacks, including: explosions, biological threats, chemical threats, nuclear blasts, and radiological dispersion devices. FEMA’s website also contains information regarding how to handle a bomb threat, how to identify a suspicious package or letter, and how to treat suspicious packages and letters once they are identified.

  1. Major Legal Issues – Safety and Pay

Even in the wake of a disaster, you generally must still comply with applicable employment laws and the failure to do so may subject you to liability.

a.   The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

 OSHA standards cannot be ignored in the face of disaster, and OSHA continues to require employers to protect their employees against “recognized hazards” to safety or health which may cause serious injury or death. OSHA’s website ( has established a page where employers can access more than 20 audio and printed guidelines to specific work practices dangers likely associated with clean-up and recovery, including flooding, electrical, fall protection, personal protective equipment, chain saws, mold, blood borne pathogens and bacterial issues, tree trimming, trenching, and heat exposure.

Employers also need to be aware that “employees do have the right to refuse to do a job if they believe in good faith that they are exposed to imminent danger, and good faith means that even if an imminent danger is not found to exist, the worker had reasonable grounds to believe that it did exist.” Imminent danger is defined as a “threat of death or serious physical harm,” or “a reasonable expectation that toxic substances or other health hazards are present, and exposure to them will shorten life or cause substantial reduction in physical or mental efficiency.” Employees must first approach their employer when they believe that working conditions are unsafe or unhealthy and the employee must generally satisfy four conditions before walking off the job. The four conditions include: 1) asking the employer to eliminate the danger and the employer then refusing to do so; 2) the employee genuinely believing that an imminent danger existed and the employee did not refuse to work for other reasons; 3) a situation where a reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and 4) there is not enough time due to the urgency of the hazard to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.

b. Wage Payments

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and similar state laws require that employees continue to be paid for all hours worked, even in a time of a disaster. If time records are lost as a result of a disaster, the employer can pay the employee based on the number of hours normally worked or have the employees estimate as best as possible the number of hours worked. Additionally, the employer should also obtain written authorization from the employee allowing them to make corrections if more accurate time records become available. The best way to avoid this type of situation is to store all payroll records off-site.

In the event that your employees are not working after a disaster, you do not have to pay them unless you have a policy providing pay under these types of circumstances. For exempt employees, an employer must pay those employees their entire salary if they work any part of the workweek. No compensation is due, however, if the exempt employee does not work at all during the workweek.

  1. Training and Testing Your Disaster Plan 

The best way to ensure that your disaster plan is going to be effective is through repeated training and testing with your employees. There must be regular communication with employees before, during, and after an incident through the use of newsletters, intranets, staff meetings, and other internal communication tools to communicate emergency plans and procedures. Additionally, drills and exercises should be preceded by training seminars or workshops where participants are trained in their emergency responsibilities. After each training session, the disaster plan should be re-evaluated and procedures should be refined based on lessons learned.

ASIS International (ASIS) is an international organization that promotes the educational development of security professionals, and its website ( has a Disaster Preparation Guide that includes an outline for training general employees and management in disaster response. General employee training should assure that all employees automatically react to warnings and know any duties they are expected to perform during an emergency. Since management will play a leadership role during an emergency, it is important they receive detailed training, which should include how the business will coordinate with the government and other resources.



Phillip B. Russell
Ogletree Deakins








Jul 15

What’s Your Formula for Succession Planning?

What’s Your Formula for Succession Planning?

Succession planning is more of a process than an event.  Invest in the process and the event becomes a time to celebrate the return on your investment.

Succession planning can be forced upon a company unexpectedly.  Then leaders scramble…looking internally and externally for the best candidate available…as soon as possible! Rarely is it a good choice for the long term.  The leadership challenge is to strategically plan for the succession of a key employee and the position s/he fills.  Time is the critical word in order to anticipate this continuing need with intentionality rather than urgency.

A Seven Step Sequence

  1. Time to Revisit – Start by revisiting each of the steps in effective planning.  Review strategybefore considering structureand finally end with decisions about staffing.  This sequence is often done in reverse which is rarely effective.  Strategy answers the questions:  “where are we today…where do we want to go…and how will we get there?”  Structure allows a review of the most effective configuration to align all resources in order to achieve the strategy.
    Staffing is the final piece of the puzzle identifying “who” is needed in light of the updated strategy and structure.

Strategy + Structure + Staffing = Effective Succession Planning

  1. Identify Candidates – TheNine Box Grid allows teams to review internal candidates as part of a succession planning process. Leaders identify a small pool of candidates internally and/or come to the conclusion that they may also need to look outside the company.  An internal and accelerated leadership development process provides a pipeline of candidates among current employees in light of anticipated succession planning needs.

Performance + Potential + Personal Drive = High Potentials

  1. Assess Competencies – 360 Assessment tools provide an opportunity to frame an objective picture of each candidate in terms of strengths, interpersonal skills, capacity for critical thinking, and specific work competencies needed for the position being filled.

Candidates + Assessment = Objectivity in Evaluation

  1. Leadership Development Plans – Planning well in advance for a future succession allows the time to work with a pool of potential internal candidates.  Assessing competency gaps and designingLeadership Development Plans to address each of those gaps provides  internal candidates an opportunity to maximize their leadership and work capacity in light of what will be needed in a potential new role.

Time + Learning Plan = Transformational Development

  1. Personal Coaching – Coaching each internal candidate provides the accountability to monitor, measure, and manage their progress toward developmental benchmarks.  Narrowing the pool will ultimately come down to a consideration of the following selection issues:  character, competence, and chemistry.  Be certain the final candidates own the vision, mission, values, and strategy.  Also, be sure they fully support the current leadership providing a preliminary indication of positive chemistry among the team.  It can be expedient to ignore the chemistry of interpersonal relationships.  Chemistry issues can quickly derail consistent focus on vision, mission, and strategy as well as the organization’s values which ultimately affect the culture and daily workplace climate for every employee. In other words, lack of chemistry is costly.

Plan + Coach + Accountability = Candidate Readiness

  1. Selection and Onboarding – Once the final decision is made…go the extra mile to be certain the new hire has the full endorsement and support of your team as well as the resources needed for success.  Clarity regarding his/her responsibilities as well as the extent of his/her authority related to those responsibilities is crucial to sustainable success. Give the time needed to fully understand the broader context of the culture they are now part of.

Right Candidate + Resources = Succession Success

  1. Lifelong Learning – When the final candidate is selected s/he is just beginning the journey of  learning to function at a higher level of leadership complexity.  Provide ongoing professional growth opportunities and regular times to step away to work ontheir new role…not just in their role.  Periodic seasons of personal coaching will accelerate the effective application of new learning in specific leadership competency growth areas.

Reflection + Application + Growth = Sustained Effectiveness

 Leadership Debrief

Seven steps that require time, intentionality, and planning. Have you discussed the key transitions that you already know are coming? What about the unexpected transitions that will blindside you without talent pools and leadership pipelines?

Formulas for Succession Planning was written by Dr. Dick Daniels, VP of Client Services with Right Management Florida and Caribbean. Dr. Daniels offers 19 years of leadership development consulting and executive coaching.  Right Management is a Diamond Plus sponsor of the HR Florida Conference and Expo where Dr. Daniels will be speaking more on this topic during a concurrent session.



Jun 13

Community Impact

The essence of social responsibility is that an organization or individual has an obligation to act for the benefit of society at large. Reaching out and making an impact on the communities in which we live and work is an area of interest that is very near and dear to the HR Florida State Council.

HR Florida and the local chapters that it serves have a common goal to provide professional development for the over 14, 000 human resources professionals in the state of Florida.  Additionally, they take interest in wider social issues that impact the workforce.

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy.  You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” -Author Unknown

Each chapter has amazing stores of volunteerism and service to their local community. In 2017 the 28 local chapters provided over 71 thousand dollars in goods and cash to local charities.  The altruism continues in 2018 with over 120 volunteer hours, 15 thousand dollars of donated goods and nearly $6,000 in cash provided to organizations.

The idea behind community impact is to play a role in removing barriers that may prevent qualified workers from obtaining or maintaining employment due to a wide spectrum of personal and social challenges. It is a comprehensive approach to supporting individuals, families and communities.

One such barrier could be food insecurity. On Thursday night, prior to the April business meeting, members of the state council participated in a fun and unique group activity to address this growing social condition by volunteering in the warehouse of the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Tom Toppings, District Director, stated, “It was a great experience to give back to communities that really need it.  I probably don’t do this enough.  It is a good reminder, of how much people really are struggling.   It’s also a pretty exciting experience as well to be a part of a community that is so involved in giving back. “

Nearly 60 individuals transferred wholesome nutritious vegetables that came to the food bank in bulk pallets into family sized packages that would be distributed the next day.  Music, laughter and teamwork made the project easy.  The takeaways from the experience were significant. Victoria Stalls, District Director, summed up the experience by saying, “It’s so nice to be  stuffing the bags of food that  families will receive, and knowing that they will now be able to provide their families good fresh food.   Food that they may not have been able to have without organizations like Second Harvest,  and volunteers who donate their time to make sure that the food is packaged to reach those in need.”  Amanda Simpson, Director of State Governmental Affairs commented, “Tonight was a great reminder of the amazing teamwork we have within HR Florida while we assisted with a wonderful cause for Central Florida. Fabulous people with the best hearts.”


May 15

Mental Health Awareness Month


There is a virus that infects many Americans all around the country. This is a virus that “causes people to feel ashamed for something that is out of their control, prevents them from seeking help, and even takes lives.” Anyone can be exposed to it, but the cure is simple – compassion and understanding. Stigma is a “social virus” and this May – National Mental Health Awareness Month – the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) wants you to know there is a cure for Stigma. #CureStigma

Stigma is defined as a sign or sense of disgrace that sets someone apart from others. For the 60 million people in the United States that face the day-to-day reality of living with a mental illness, revealing their illness to others can be frightening, not knowing how their disclosure will be received. This fear can be especially present in the workplace where employees are afraid of discrimination and potentially losing their jobs.

Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability in the United States. Less than one-third of workers with mental illness seek treatment, with the most often cited reason as “shame and stigma.” When employees do not receive proper treatment, their illness continues and impacts their productivity, absenteeism, and even safety on the job. Human Resource professionals, as leaders in their organizations, can have a great impact helping to curb the stigma that employees may fear.

HR Florida is continuing its partnership with NAMI Florida to promote the Stigma Free Florida campaign. Stigma Free Florida is a campaign aimed at business leaders and seeks to create stigma free workplaces through awareness and education. The Stigma Free Florida toolkit has information for business leaders, managers, and employees on mental health issues in the workplace and how to assist an employee who might be dealing with mental illness.

As an HR professional, there are a few things you can do to help your organization take steps to become Stigma Free:

  • Begin an open conversation. Start the conversation about mental illness and its prevalence. One in five Americans deals with a mental illness every year; many more are family members and care-givers to someone with a mental illness. Let employees know who to reach out to for more information should they have questions about medical benefits, accommodations, or an Employee Assistance Program. By beginning the conversation, employees might feel more comfortable asking about available resources and necessary accommodations.
  • Check your language. Words can be very stigmatizing to individuals with mental illness. Examples include, “With her mood swings, she must be bipolar.” “His OCD kicked in and he’s reorganizing the supply room.” “She’s just crazy.” These general statements referencing mental illness in a joking and often negative way can prevent someone from coming forward to say that they are dealing with a mental illness for fear that they too will be talked about. Make it known that your culture does not tolerate these types of comments.
  • Market your EAP. Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a wonderful employee benefit. However, most EAP’s are horribly underutilized. Market your EAP to your employees to keep it top of mind for employees. Ensure they know what benefits are available to them and how to access those benefits.
  • Take the Pledge. Pledge to do your part to stop stigma in your organization by signing the #StigmaFreeFlorida. Partner with NAMI Florida to bring educational resources into your organization to learn more about how you can help employees and their families. Educate supervisors on signs and symptoms, as well as steps to take for employees who do disclose a mental illness.

This Mental Health Awareness Month, let’s do our part to #CureStigma and create a #StigmaFreeFlorida.

For more ways on how you can promote a Stigma Free organization and to sign the #StigmaFreeFlorida Pledge, check out:

To learn more about the NAMI Cure Stigma campaign, and find out if you have been infected, visit:

*Statistics regarding mental illness from NAMI


Eve Sweeting is the Diversity Director for HR Florida. With over a decade of HR experience in private, public, and non-profit entities, Eve currently serves as an HR Analyst with a focus in performance management and workforce metrics. She believes that HR’s ability to impact the work environment for the better can benefit both workers and organizations.


May 06

Take Your Seat at The Table

Take Your Seat at The Table

As Human Resources (HR) professionals, we’ve all heard the phrase ‘seat at the table’; this notion that we must manage our careers in such a way to be included in senior-level business decisions in order to be considered successful. Many of us are over it.

Amy Lein, who is the Director of Human Resources at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, and currently serving a two-year term as President of the Greater Orlando Society for Human Resource Management (GOSHRM), is taking a much more meaningful approach to the phrase.

Encouraged by her faith, and her collaborative effort through The Gotham Fellowship, an intensive training program offered by The Collaborative Orlando, Lein is working to blend her personal beliefs with her professional life. “Using the parable of people being invited to a banquet table – a lesson about choosing where to sit, serves as a great analogy for HR’s desire to gain a seat at the table in the business world,” said Lein.

Lein is creating an environment to encourage HR professionals to pursue excellence, power and influence so that others might flourish. Do everything we can to get that seat at the table, not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others. Practically speaking, this might include introducing policies and practices that improve the workplace for all, or promoting a company culture so desirable so that employees don’t want to leave.

“We must care so much about our employees that we not rest until we’ve done everything we could to help both the employees and the business succeed,” said Lein. “Imagine the ripple effect on the communities in which we live.”

Lein said she can relate to the over-pursuit of being recognized for her contributions, but admits that isn’t the problem. It’s when that desire dominates your work and your motives, that you run the risk of losing the very thing you desire.

“My vision is to invite young, aspiring HR professionals to examine their work, their goals, and their opportunities as they progress in a career path,” said Lein. “In a variety of learning environments, we will dive into questions about the professional’s inspiration to pursue HR and how they might approach a leadership role with the passion of a servant’s heart.”

Lastly, Lein added that this approach isn’t just for HR pros, but admits the first audience is up-and-coming HR pros, especially members of GOSHRM where she continues to hear of the desire for a mentorship program to help navigate their careers.

“This is a perfect opportunity to offer a deeper examination of one’s motives and desires in this profession. As we refine the project, it will translate well to other professions,” said Lein.

To learn more, please contact Amy Lein at or

Nate Shannon is Founder/Sr. Human Resource Consultant at On The VERG, and can be reached at (407) 754-5108 or


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