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Establishing Guidelines

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
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Employee talent shows may seem to be nothing but fun and games. But from a business perspective, HR professionals should take them dead seriously.

Human resource leaders should remind employees that talent-show acts remain workplace-appropriate, says Lee J. Colan, consultant and president of Dallas-based The L Group. You never know, for instance, if an inappropriate employee act might wind up on YouTube. In that sense, says Colan, the event should be treated like any other external business event.

"I'd hate to get too legalistic about it, but I would preview all the acts," says Colan. "It might not just be something they say, but it could involve, for example, dancing suggestively or wearing skimpy clothes."

At SRA International's employee talent show, auditions were held for the acts, says Tim Atkin, the company's chief operating officer and current acting head of HR. Moreover, rehearsals offered Fairfax, Va.-based SRA -- whose senior leadership and the legal department signed off on the event -- a chance to screen the acts.

"We made it clear to employees in their auditions that this would be a family-friendly show," says Atkin.

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At Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald's, extensive guidelines are presented to "Voice of McDonald's" singing contestants. McDonald's has the "final discretion as to the choice of song" performed by global semifinalists. Moreover, the company reserves the right to automatically disqualify a semifinalist, for example, for objectionable "attire/appearance/actions."

"I think laying out some guidelines for employees is a good idea," says Susan Stamm, employee engagement facilitator and president of The Team Approach in Lancaster, Pa. "But organizations shouldn't be so controlling that employees don't have some freedom within those guidelines."

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