ILCA Women’s Networking Group

Putting the HR in “Her” by sgramsilca
May 13, 2009, 2:31 pm
Filed under: 1

I attended the ILCA Human Resources & Compliance workshop yesterday at ILCA Headquarters. There were over 20 attendees and 90% of them were women. Prior to the class, we went around the room and said where each person worked and what they did. “I manage everything” was the most common response. Everything included payroll, HR, administrative support, answering phones, prevailing wage, compliance, accounting, etc. etc. etc. It is amazing that these men and women absorb so much responsibility for our member companies.

It was also clear that many of these men and women had little formal training. They have become experts by being thrown into these positions. HR compliance is risky business. Our instructor, Heidi Trybus, has over 18 years of HR experience and detailed time after time where record keeping either saved or doomed a company. Many small businesses feel they are too small to be subject to scrutiny. That is not the case. It only takes one slip-up or disgruntled employee to jeopardize what it took years to build.

At the end of the workshop, many came up to me and thanked me for finally offering a program on HR. Many of these women don’t have a great resource or network to turn to. I was pleased to see strangers extending the dialog with one another long after the workshop concluded. It must be scary to have no formal training and yet have so much responsibility hanging over one’s head. One mistake with paperwork and an entire company can be at risk. Sometimes we think that it’s the people with the power equipment who take on the all the risk. Really, we all have some elements of risk and responsibility in our jobs. It made me realize that landscaping companies start in the back offices and manifests themselves at client sites. Smart companies realize this and invest in all levels of their employees.

Another topic was sexual harassment. We can all probably recount one office joke that went a little too far. Some of the examples Heidi used were black and white but many were in that grey zone. The key to remember about harassment is that it’s not majority rules. Even if only one person feels what occurred was harassment, the claim must be treated with respect, diligence, and care. Procedures must be followed. It must be kept discreet. It is beneficial to have both genders represented in all interviews. Lastly, it is vital to keep detailed notes and records but the details can never “slip out” regardless of how juicy or inflammatory.

Many times, what is considered a hostile work environment to one person would not be considered such to 99 others. That doesn’t matter. The goal of the sexual harassment process is to protect the company. It is not to try and change the cultural or moral beliefs of those involved. It is a waste of time trying to convince someone they were not harassed. Set procedures and follow them without cutting corners.

As women become more prevalent in all aspects of the green industry we need to remember that female HR pros have been here for years. These women protect ILCA member companies and their employees every hour of every day. These HR professionals are demanding, fastidious, and uncompromising because they have to be. Remember that next time they knock on your door asking for stacks of documentation or your time sheet. When the stuff hits the fan, their knowledge and organization may be the only chance you got.


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