New employees and new risks

According to this article, most homebuyers are not warned about the new flood or wildfire risk caused by climate change. They know a lot about their new home: quality of schools, access to public transportation, and presence of lead paint. But they don’t know about the rising risks associated with climate change, mostly because the law doesn’t require disclosure.

Which got me thinking: are companies adapting their new employee training and onboarding process to account for the new risks associated with the pandemic and social justice?

Is yours?

Room for real voices

It turns out that cows react more positively to a live human voice than they do to a recording of that same voice. It might be a stretch to assume that humans react the same way but I’m willing to bet $1 that we do.

Personally, I derive a great sense of satisfaction when my wife an I host friends at our house for dinner around the fireplace. That sense is greatly diminished when those friends are on FaceTime (because of COVID). Same people, same conversation, same fireplace in the background. But what we hear and see is effectively a digital recording of the real thing, and we simply don’t react the same way.

If your company is planning its office space for the post-COVID era, consider that, 6 months from now, employees might have a stronger desire for in-person conversations than they have now. Make sure there is room for them.

Equality and equity

I have three kids.

I love them equally.

But I don’t treat them the same because they are not the same. Each has a different personality, different aspirations, different struggles. In some respect, it would be unfair to treat them equally.

In the workplace, this translates to equity. Equity asks us to see each employee as an individual human being. In doing so, it aims for fairness over sameness.

Because no one is the same, except in that we all want to be treated fairly.

Transparency or corruption

I have written before about the corruption risks related to major sporting events like The Olympic Games and The World Cup. Whenever billions of dollars converge on a single event, corruption risks are high.

There is an unusual event these days that is also attracting billions of dollars: the pandemic. Governments all over the world are spending billions every month trying to contain the virus and finding a vaccine. One way to mitigate related corruption risks is to clearly see how these billions are spent.

To that end, the US Congress passed a law earlier this year creating a database that was intended to track all COVID-related monies spent by the US government and to protect taxpayers. However, the current administration found a loophole and awarded $6B of vaccine contracts to a single company without taxpayer protections.

The US government is indicting more companies than ever under the “books and records” provisions of the FCPA (and for good reasons). So why is the same government not following its own advice and being transparent about how it is spending public funds?

On food insecurity

Food insecurity now exceeds 20% in the United States.

Here is what we can do as individuals:

  • Search the internet for our local food bank;
  • Find their wish list on the site, usually right on the landing page. Here’s what my local food bank needs this week:
  • Add a few items to our personal grocery list; and
  • Deliver those items to our food bank. Mine has a drop off lobby that’s open 24/7.

Here is what companies can do:

  • Talk about food insecurity at work and encourage employees to ask for help if they need it.
  • Organize a food drive (best for companies whose employees do not work from home).
  • Make a monthly cash donation to their local food bank (based on a few dollars per employee).

Companies often forget that the communities where they operate are key stakeholders. Hidden in these communities are those who go hungry and the food banks that support them. As ethical leaders, we must see the unseen and do what we can.

The stakeholder that takes care of the others

An article about how a soccer player is trying to save the job of his team’s mascot reminded me of the many job-related acts of generosity I’ve observed during this pandemic.

Many of my friends and colleagues continued to pay their hairdresser and housecleaner for weeks even though they could not get their hair cut or their house cleaned. Others bought gifts cards from their favorite restaurants with no intention of using them later. A friend of mine, whose business is effectively shut down, has continued to pay all of his employees and will continue to do so for another 6 months – when he’ll run out of money.

Companies have many stakeholders, each with their own needs. In good times, satisfying every stakeholder is a delicate balancing act. Providing customers with a generous warranty takes away from shareholders. Paying good dividends to shareholders takes away from charitable donations. No one is ever completely happy. And that’s in good times.

In bad times, the top priority for any company is to be around tomorrow. The next priority is to preserve as many jobs as possible.

Why the focus on employees?

Because employees are the only stakeholders that take care of all the others.

The second rule of the game

In today’s post, Seth Godin reminds us that the first rule of any game should be “All players must agree to not cheat.”

It’s a metaphor for workers, companies, governments and regulators. When only one of them cheats, the others can often contain the damage. When all of them cheat (think 737 MAX), you get a human catastrophe.

Thus, the second rule of the game should be “If a player cheats, no other player will tolerate it.”

A greater honor

A golfer loses the U.S. Open after assessing himself a one-stroke penalty.

A runner loses a cross-country race on purpose after noticing that the leader had mistakenly stopped before the finish line.

A lacrosse team withdraws from a tournament to make room for a more deserving team.

In countless examples, not just in sports but in life, people forgo an honor to preserve a greater one.

Multiply the effect of your work

If your boss asks you for something, is she the only one that could benefit from it?

Probably not.

So, if appropriate, share your work with your team, with your department, with the company, with the industry, or post it on the internet.

Afraid to be criticized? That’s normal. Leaders aren’t immune to that fear but their desire to improve the world is stronger.

Crime, charity, and voting

When I first learned of debtors’ prisons as a teenager, I intuitively knew it was a stupid idea. How can someone earn money to pay off their debt if they’re in jail?

Fortunately, the legal system back then wasn’t stupid enough to also prevent someone else from paying a prisoner’s debt. Today, however, a version of this is going on in Florida.

Like in most jurisdictions, Floridian felons are disenfranchised. Unlike most jurisdictions, they do not immediately regain their right to vote after serving their sentence. First, they have to pay all fines and court fees associated with their conviction.

There are currently 775,000 felons in Florida, with a collective $1,000,000,000 (yes, $1B) in unpaid court fees. Many of them cannot pay their debt without the help of family, friends or charitable organizations, such as the Florida Rights Restauration Coalition (FRRC). As we approach a presidential election in the US, organizations like the FRRC are working tirelessly to pay these outstanding court fees and restore citizens’ right to vote.

To me, this sounds like a good cause. But to Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican Congressman, it looks like an attempt by Democrat donors to get Joe Biden elected. So Gaetz has asked the Florida Attorney General to launch a bribery investigation against the donors. You see, Florida has yet another law on the books that makes it a felony for someone to either directly or indirectly provide something of value to impact whether or not someone votes. So if you donate money to a charitable organization that helps people pay their debt, which must be paid for them to vote, you might be engaging in criminal activity.

Mr. Gaetz, yours is not the type of leadership I would vote for.