Copyright 2014-2015 EXCELOR HR SERVICES, INC.

Vetting the HR Expert: 
Techniques for Evaluating the Expert

Charles A. Conine, SPHR

One important consideration for counsel once it is determined that an HR expert should be retained is whether the potential experts being interviewed possess experience that’s relevant to the issues in the trial. 

Can the proposed expert speak to the full range of these issues?  The HR generalist who is trained in a variety of human resources disciplines has the benefit of perspective, understanding not only the interrelation among a variety of HR disciplines but as importantly, the connections between the policies generated in each and how these policies may be interpreted in actual practice.  

Consider the case of a plaintiff alleging wrongful discharge during a probationary period.  Defendants have answered, stating that plaintiff falsified his employment application and was released when reference checks revealed the falsification. Plaintiff countered, stating that he would have explained the discrepancies had he been afforded the right of appeal, which he alleges Defendants unreasonably denied. 

While a “single subject” expert may be perfectly suited to testify concerning steps employers take to verify applicant statements before a candidate is hired, that same expert may be unable to opine concerning what mitigating factors employers may consider before discharging employees during a probationary period – or whether and why honesty by job applicants is a bona fide reason for discharging them in the first place, or rejecting a request for an appeal of a discharge on that basis. 

Chuck Conine:  Old Workplace is Out

HR expert tells Cornell industry event transformational HR practices are “invigorating” Millennials while traditional programs send the wrong message.

Organizational development expert and author Chuck Conine told 250 hospitality industry executives gathered recently at Cornell University that companies investing in transparent, pro-employee programs are leading the way forward to more highly satisfied customers using a not so secret weapon:  dynamic, lasting loyalty with employees. 

Conine said that hotel companies such as Marriott, Four Seasons and Joie de Vivre have used a combination of savvy employee-driven programs and dynamic senior executives to engage and retain top talent, all due to what he defined as a “generational shift in attitudes” among employees, particularly younger hires.

Conine said that delivering human resources services and benefits in a way that energizes today’s multi-cultural, younger, educated workforce is key in companies hoping to move past outdated policies.  He added that policies such as “promotion from within” can be “traps for young people”, requiring a person to remain in one job for a set length of time before they can be considered for advancement. 

“The old ‘arm’s length’, inflexible policy is a profound disconnect for employees who are seeking meaningful work and the opportunity to learn multiple skills quickly.”

Above right:  Cornell University professor Alex Susskind, PhD  listens as organizational development expert Chuck Conine discusses the appeal of  “transparent, invigorating” employee programs.


Right:  Brad Nelson, Vice President of Culinary for Marriott International, left, and organization expert Chuck Conine, recent Cornell University panelists at the School of Hotel Administration.



Photo copyright by Jon Reis, 2014

Conine told Cornell’s professor Alex Susskind, panel moderator, that traditional employee handbooks and “top down” communication are also “absolutely counterintuitive” to today’s Millennial generation employees.  

“What we saw as a general restlessness on the part of Generation Y employees has evolved into something more profound:  a generation of young people who can’t breathe when restricted by too many corporate policies.  It’s more than restlessness now, however; it’s an impatience with employers who aren’t visionary, who can’t or won’t see the future.”  Conine said this attitude leads to a tendency among Millennials toward job-hopping.

Conine cited one large employer as an example of a company recognizing that its talent is the key to its future success.  “Why do you think Starbucks has done so well?  With their predominantly younger workforce and their openness to change Starbucks has leap-frogged ahead of many companies, particularly in the ways they’ve chosen to engage with their team.   “That attitude shows up at the cash register, I promise you.”

“What gets today’s younger employees fired up is meaningful work at a company that cares about more than making profit.  Fewer rules and flexible benefit programs are an easy sell to a Millennial.”

Conine suggested that many  in the audience had already been looking at how to redesign their benefit programs in light of Federal health care law but shouldn’t miss a true opportunity.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Conine said, many have had to rethink their entire employee benefit program.  “Really progressive companies have totally redrawn their benefits, however, taking down all that old structure and replacing it with a list of benefits from which employees can choose — or design themselves.”   

New, more flexible benefits along with more “face time” with senior executives may have been brought about by a sea change of attitudinal shifts among all employees, Conine said, one that has a large payoff.  “I’ve seen what happens when employees and management realize they are finally on the same page.”