Reducing workplace stress through meditation

19 Nov

Meditating can reduce stress.

Employees are stressed out. Forbes reported the average business person has between 30 and 100 projects to tackle at once. Balancing between these different projects and also attending meetings and dealing with burnout can be challenging. Additionally, 40 percent of adults say they can't sleep because of how stressed out they are.

The best ways for office workers to calm down is to reduce the distractions they deal with – this can include meetings if there are too many of them. Phone calls and instant messages are also distracting. They take away time when people could work. The best plan of action is to do a triage of what is important immediately, what can wait and what doesn't need to be dealt with at all. Some people go so far as to only answer messages during certain periods of the day.

Scheduling is a good idea because it allows people to take breaks when they need them. Breaks can actually reduce stress, and people will get more work done if they pause briefly during the day. One way to exercise during a break is to do meditative breath practices.

"Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project has shown that if we have intense concentration for about 90 minutes, followed by a brief period of recovery, we can clear the buildup of stress and rejuvenate ourselves," said business psychologist Sharon Melnick in an interview with Forbes.

Meditation one of many employee engagement ideas
Believe it or not, meditation really does help reduce stress. The Wall Street Journal cited that Dow Chemical brought mindfulness meditation training to its workers as a way of relieving some of the stress its workers feel. Every week for one hour, about 90 employees enter a Web conference, fill out a workbook and practice exercises. It really seems to be affective.

Additional approaches include ideas as varied as filling the office with potted plants and focusing on special cognitive-behavioral training.

The idea behind the "filter out the positive, focus on the negative" work is that ideally people will really begin to appreciate the sights and sounds around them without tying them to unhappy things. For example, if someone is in a traffic jam, he or she can focus on the blinking lights and the sound of the engines, which don't necessarily need to be associated with feeling unhappy.

Keep in mind there are limitations to stress management.

"These techniques aren't going to make up for having a jerk for a boss," says Patti Johnson, chief executive of PeopleResults, a human-resource consulting company. "When you're under major stress doing three projects at a time, the meadow and meditation aren't going to help with that."

Why employee self-service matters

18 Nov

HR Trend AnalysisWhat is employee self-service? You hear that term a lot, but if you are a relatively small employer and/or new to the HR role, do you really know? I didn’t until someone explained the concept and informed me that there was actually a product that could tie into my core HRMS to do the things I had been doing manually for years, then disseminate the necessary information to my managers and executives for approval or notification. Wow, talk about a surprise! How many personnel action forms have you completed for address changes, emergency contacts, phone number changes, and so on? You know the drill. A PA form is needed for everything! Plus, as HR, we are taught to “document” everything for use at some later point in time. Imagine … Employees key in their changes to personal information from the comfort of their desks (or even their homes), then, these changes follow some type of logical expression or pathway that you’ve preset in the system to automatically route to the appropriate individual(s) for approval or notification. Employees are able to access other pieces of HR information, which includes skills, job history, and performance reviews. Managers have instant access to employee data for both direct and indirect reports. They can review attendance information, employee performance, salary history, time off requested and much more. Really, the possibilities are endless.  Again … .whoaaaaa, cool! For some companies I’ve worked for, I was the person actually introducing and/or creating the PA form. What I mean by creating the PA form is taking a form and actually crafting it into an MS Word or other application (that is similar to being an artist or graphic designer using the computer), then training everyone on the PA form use, or just offering to complete the PA form for the managers to save them time for whatever change it is they needed to make within the HRMS. Can you say time consuming? Have you ever held that role? If you work in a small company, sure you have!

So, what’s the lesson learned or key takeaway here? Employee self-service products really can and do save you time and money. More importantly, though, they yield a healthy Return on Employee Investment by creating the best circumstances for each individual in the organization to perform at his or her best potential. For some employees within the organization empowerment makes all the difference in the world. By giving your employees ownership of their personal information and enabling them to input their own changes directly into the HRMS when it’s convenient for them to do so, you promote workplace satisfaction, thereby increasing your Return on Employee Investment. In addition, by encouraging your employees to use employee self-service to gain access to the relevant information they need when they need it, you can begin to enhance company communication and improve motivation. Plus, increasing employee engagement correlates directly with a positive impact on key metrics within the business, which will ultimately help the organization reach its goals.

The first step you need to take, though, is actually seeing an employee self-service product in action and then talking to a few people who are similarly situated to you with respect to the size of your organization and your specific role within it. It’s really that simple. I admit I was reluctant to the process at first because I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of things on my own; however, once I realized (and saw for myself) that I could streamline this process entirely, while empowering my employees in the process, then I could begin to retool the next big labor intensive HR process.

Take the first step and start here … Visit our website: http://www.sagehrms.com/ or call Sage at 866-271-6050 and learn more about how this product will help you.

 

How to keep employees with good on-boarding

18 Nov

Training employees is worth the effort.

Employees have been switching jobs more quickly now than ever before. Forbes cited a statistic by the Department of Labor that said the average tenure of an employee in the U.S. is only 1.5 years. The story noted that many of the reasons employees quit are lack of intrinsic motivation. Employees should connect with each other and with the work they're doing. They should have an idea that they are benefiting the world with what they do. Forbes referenced Walt Disney, who came up with Disneyworld and sold his employees on the vision of how it would change the face of amusement parks.

Employees want to feel a personal satisfaction in what they do. For example, workers for theater companies often don't get paid, but they love the work. The job such people do for money tends to be low paying and not intrinsically rewarding. In theater, someone can be happy they did a good job, but for waiting tables, the only thing that matters is the tips. Try to find ways to get your employees interested in their performance. Make them feel like what they're doing is important.

Successful on-boarding can lead to longevity
Sometimes employees quit because they haven't been educated enough about the work they'll be doing, according to HR Morning. Of the five major reasons for why people quit, the biggest ones involve the work being different from what was expected, the work being boring or the wrong fit and a lack of training.

Those charged with human resource planning should pay attention to on-boarding. Successfully explaining the job so employees have a reasonable idea of the work they'll be doing is a great way to keep out people who wouldn't be interested in the job and to encourage interested people to continue the application process. Lying about what a job entails will only make workers feel confused about assignments and dissatisfied with work they hadn't planned on doing.

HR Morning recommended that on the job training and being assigned a mentor are two things that employees really want in order to feel acclimated to a new job. Additionally, for the training, they would prefer a manager to help them with work, while others wanted someone from the HR department.

Proper training can ensure that people who want to work at a job will know exactly what that job is, and they will also learn from someone about the right way of doing it. As such, the quality of the on-boarding process is crucial to employee longevity.

Making changes to your 401(k) can boost returns

18 Nov

Plan your retirement early.

It may be a good idea to check your 401(k) occasionally. They best employee payroll software makes this easy. Someone's 401(k) benefits usually work by passively investing in different asset classes without your direct input. A portion of your money goes into each of the investments, and you don't have to think about it. The problem with this is there are points when your investing strategy might change, but if you don't update your 401(k) then your investments will never become anything different, which may cause you to gain less money than if you made periodic alterations to boost your returns, NASDAQ reported.

The best times to change your retirement fund are whenever something important happens, such as getting married or receiving a promotion. NASDAQ also recommended that you update at least once a year.

Consider an IRA
The Motley Fool also brings up the topic of the IRA. In terms of tax incentives, having both means that if your income is above $70,000 then you lose the deduction benefits of an IRA. Otherwise, anyone under the age of 70 1/2 can invest in an IRA. IRAs have a basic contribution limit of $5,500, while 401(k)s allow you to invest $17,500 of your money into them.

Employers generally match 401(k)s with money of their own, while IRAs only take money from investors and put it away. IRAs are cheaper in invest in, since there is generally little to nothing in the way of annual fees, although the return may not be as good. Additionally, IRAs give you many more investment options than a 401(k), which has a few investment plans you must choose from.

January 2015
Early next year, the maximum that someone can invest in a 401(k) will increase to $18,000, according to a separate Motley Fool story. Those who can afford to invest the whole amount will see a benefit to their returns assuming their employers do matching. This is the major reason why it would be a good idea to look at your 401(k). Another reason might be to switch from riskier investments early in a career to low risk investments later down the road when someone has more money to lose if things go south. An additional issue is how your company matches someone's money. If it gives that person stock, then it may be a good idea to put some of that money somewhere else if the company's longevity is in question.

The bottom line is that while a 401(k) is always a great way to make money, it will make you even more money if you pay attention to it at least once a year.

How to keep millennials on the team

14 Nov

Millennials often stay at jobs for a year or less.

Job hopping has been a trend among millennials recently, according to Human Resources Executive Online. The website reported that most young workers stay at their first jobs for less than a year before moving on to another position. Fueling this trend is the tendency for many workers in the recession and post-recession years to take jobs for which they were over-qualified. Additionally, employees are less committed to employers, said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, a staffing group that performed a survey on this subject. The study indicated 77 percent of employers believe that people who have just graduated college are very likely to quit within a year.

"It's true that the 'grass isn't always greener,'" Funk said, "but this generation seems plenty willing to go check out the grass on the other side. Employers, take note."

Retaining millennials
One human resource planning strategy of keeping employees around includes giving them more work, according to Val Grubb, president of Val Grubb and Associates, an operations consulting firm. She believes millennials are ready to work hard and have high expectations of rising through the ranks of workers.

"If they say they want to be CEO, ask them, 'What does the company look like that you want to be CEO of?'" Grubb suggested. "Remember, they have so little work experience, so little customer-service experience. They don't connect the dots to understand how meticulously managing invoices [something they might find tedious or boring], for instance, will set them on their way to managing budgets, which—oh by the way—will affect the financial health of the company a CEO cares about."

Job hopping hurts retirement benefits
Something millennials may not have considered is the reality that many people who leave a job early are missing out on their employer's vesting policy, CNN Money reported, citing a study by Fidelity. Those who quit their jobs before they earned the right to retain the money their employer put into their 401(k) have the potential of losing thousands of dollars.

Over a third of millennials fall into this category, according to the story.

"Chronic job hopping could really sink your retirement savings," said Meghan Murphy, a director at Fidelity who conducted the analysis.

Companies that want to keep people would do well to teach their employees about the value of saving money away for retirement, and it would also help to explain the rules about vesting.

The struggle between hiring managers and recruiters

14 Nov

The hiring process shouldn't be unnecessarily complex.

Hiring managers don't always get along with those charged with human resource planning.  For example, according to research cited by CBS News, most recruiters believe they have a high understanding of the jobs they recruit for, while hiring managers believe recruiters for the most part have a low understanding. With that mindset, it's natural that problems will arise. Recruiters are the ones who search for the potential employees and bring them into the company, while the managers are the ones who have to determine which of these people should be hired.

The main problem seems to lie with a miscommunication between hiring managers and recruiters. If recruiters are made to better understand the job, then there may be better candidates to review during the interview process. Additionally, recruiters should spend more time screening the potential hires to make sure they are really good fits for the role, and they shouldn't misrepresent what the job entails to get more people on board. This will only slow things down.

If hiring managers and recruiters learn to work together, understanding each other's personalities and job preferences, then the work might go more easily.

Working with hiring managers
Hiring managers need to ensure that employees fit into the company. If someone in charge of placing someone in a position makes an error of judgment and hires someone who doesn't fit, then the entire office can suffer. As a result, hiring managers are strict with how they hire people. According to the Harvard Business Review, hiring has changed in recent years. The old way of hiring consisted of looking at resumes on paper and then doing a 30 minute interview with the best potential employees. Following that, a hiring decision was made. However, now things are much different. Companies take time to pour through not only resumes but also detailed interviews that often last several rounds. Additionally, candidates must submit a great deal of their own work to the employer in order to prove their abilities.

The HBR blames this on cost cutting that went on during the '90s, which meant that every employee had to do many jobs at once, and not just the ones that he or she was assigned on paper during the application process for getting the job.

The best solution to hiring good workers is to find an excellent recruiter and tell that person exactly what is wanted from a job. After that, go through the resumes that make it through the screening process and see what fits. Don't be so extreme about hiring the best candidate. Instead, focus on the one or two core requirements of the job in question.

Challenges of retaining employees after a merger

14 Nov

Mergers sometimes mean companies will lose employees.

Keeping employees engaged during a period when two companies are merging can be difficult, Human Resources Executive reported. The problem lies with the changes in culture that happens when companies come together. A recent study by Towers Watson shows that of 248 respondents, 68 percent of companies were able to keep their most of their employees by using a retention agreement. Such an agreement means that companies will provide incentives or else penalize those who choose to leave the business before a certain period of time.

These agreements work, but using a carrot or a stick to enable certain behaviors is not the same as providing an internal motivation, such as improvements in expediency at the job or other perks that come when two companies join forces. Having said that, Towers Watson does recommend having key employees, which it defines as those who make a major difference in how a business runs, sign a retention agreement.

"An [acquiring company] does not want revenues, client relationships, proprietary technology and know-how, or unique processes to walk out the door," said Jay Meschke, president of CBIZ Human Capital Services.

Keeping employees without using a retention agreement
Aaron Sanandres, principal in PwC's human resources services practice in New York, told HRE Online that the key to a retention agreement is that it is essentially promising that although times will be difficult in the short term, they will improve in the long term. As such companies wishing to keep top talent from leaving a year after a merger should consider offering other incentives for retention.

Some ways of having people stay involve providing an environment that people enjoy working in. For an extreme example, The Fiscal Times recently said that Twitter bought log cabins that employees can use as a cafeteria at lunch – or they can work there during their hours when they don't need to be in meetings.

Another company has a machine that dispenses beer whenever someone fills out his or her timesheet completely, indicating that all the day's work is done.

These are somewhat gimmicky tricks, since a company in an urban area can just let its workers eat wherever they prefer, and companies can always keep beer stocked in the fridge for workers who are off duty and want to have a drink before they go home for the day. At its core, though, the two ideas focus on a culture of caring for the worker through employee self service, and when people sense that they are being placed foremost in the company, they will stay longer.

EEOC sues company over wellness program for third time

14 Nov

Programs are only legal if they don't penalize non-participants.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed another lawsuit against wellness penalties, according to HR Morning. The basic issue is that the company Honeywell recently made a wellness program part of its company policy. Anyone who didn't participate faced a $500 surcharge to their health care premiums. There would be additional charges against people who refused to take part in wellness screenings, including spouses of employees.

This is an extreme example of a trend for having programs that unintentionally discriminate against people who cannot meet certain criteria for a wellness or insurance plan. For example, weight goals for wellness programs can cause issues. Those tasked with human resource planning must be sure to avoid discriminatory actions having to do with goals that incentive a behavior. The best way to circumvent a potential suit is to offer an alternative goal that can be done instead of the main goal. For example, instead of quitting smoking to receive a benefit, someone can join a smoking-cessation program to receive the same benefit.

What makes this suit different
The unique factor in this lawsuit is that the EEOC has now said that the policy violates the Genetic Information Nondiscrimation Act because it not only asks for employee test results, but for spouse test results as well. Furthermore, like other EEOC cases against wellness programs, the program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because of the severe penalties.

These fees are what allegedly make the wellness program unlawful, according to Insurance Journal.

"We are not seeking to stop testing and not seeking to stop the assessment of the smoking surcharge," Laurie Vasicheck, an EEOC attorney, told the judge. "What they can't do is penalize employees who do not want to go through it."

The size of the fine ultimately makes the testing feel involuntary.

How the case is unfolding
According to Insurance Journal, Honeywell is continuing to practice its policy as is because the judge in the case, Ann Montgomery, wasn't prepared to make a preliminary determination. She argued that it would be easier to fine employees later if she decided the rules were legal, compared to taking back penalties if the program was found to be illegal. Honeywell defended its case, saying that it wasn't breaking the law.

"The incentives we provide are specifically sanctioned by two separate federal statutes," Honeywell lawyers said in court. "We don't believe it's fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not."

This is the third such case brought by the EEOC against a wellness program.

Avoiding purple squirrel syndrome

14 Nov

Hiring the right people means making compromises.

Sometimes, hiring managers get caught up in trying to find exactly the right candidate who perfectly matches the job description, according to HR Morning. This is called looking for a "purple squirrel" because finding someone who is an exact duplicate of what management wants is about as likely as finding a squirrel with purple fur. The problem often shows up in descriptions of the jobs themselves. People ask for software developers who graduated from Harvard and have 10 years of experience designing exactly the kind of payroll software programs that managers want to have built for the company. By starting with such an unreasonable expectation, recruiters aren't going to be happy with the results. Look as much as they want, the hiring team isn't going to find someone who matches every line of a job description.

HR Morning goes so far as to suggest that part of the so-called skills gap is due to people looking for candidates who simply don't exist. Additionally, employee resumes are often extremely general.

What to do instead
Instead of finding the perfect candidate, why not try to find a candidate who matches several of the major requirements? That was the suggestion of HR Morning. Talent Circles has a few more ideas. Companies need to implement a more active version of recruiting than just putting out job descriptions onto a website and hoping the right people find. them. Ideally, a person should be looking for the right people, and this means moving outside of traditional hiring practices and looking on industry- or hobby-specific communities on the Internet to find someone who fits a certain role.

Additionally, don't be afraid to contact people directly through email with a job you think they could fill. People tend to get angry at big data email blasts. However, when someone in recruiting sends a personal email, the effect is much less irritating. Just be friendly, and think of the hiring process as a conversation.

One way to look for people is to find websites offering professional content, such as HR or technology blogs, and do Google searches of the writers. You may find someone who is just right for the job. Find their information on LinkedIn and get in touch.

The best approach therefore is an active one that emphasizes reaching out to the right people and not being afraid to follow potential workers for a while before approaching them with a job offer.

Four years into the ACA

10 Nov

Insurance is a major topic for human resources executives.

It's been about four years since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, changing the way companies do their insurance. Although the open market enrollment system was buggy at first, the real question is whether the ACA has brought adequate health insurance to the people who have needed it most.

According to the New York Times, the number of people who have been insured has increased, and the insurance has largely been affordable for most Americans. Additionally, the health industry has been helped by the laws, which provide new patients and customers. Health care spending has not diminished appreciably.

The Wall Street Journal argued that costs have increased for U.S. citizens and insurance companies alike. Additionally, many businesses have begun to reduce their hiring of full-time workers – sometimes pulling people back from full-time hours – to ensure that they won't need to pay the extra money for insurance once the law reaches its next phase, in which those with 50-99 full-time employees will have to provide coverage or face penalties.

How the ACA affects companies' bottom lines
The University of South Carolina's Darla Moore School of Business recently did a study on medium and large U.S. companies, and found that 78 percent reported a rise in health care costs, Human Resources Executive Online reported. Thirty-seven percent reported their labor costs increased by about 5.6 percent on average.

Many companies have switched to consumer-directed health plans. Other businesses have saved money by cutting back on the people they offer health insurance to. Wal-Mart will stop providing health insurance to the people who work under 30 hours a week, beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Target and Home Depot will be doing the same thing.

Patrick Wright, who headed the survey, believes companies will cease employer-sponsored health insurance in the same way that companies no longer give their workers defined-benefit pensions.

While health insurance has risen in price as it does every year, the cost increases have been smaller than average, usually 3 percent for families and 2 percent for singles. Having said that, many health insurance companies have adopted large deductibles to keep costs down.

What companies can do
The ultimate fate of a business's health insurance depends on many variables. For some managers making choices about human resources solutions, Some employers are even choosing to pay the penalties for not providing an affordable health care option, versus subsidizing for the health care of every employee.

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