Company Vocabulary Could Impact Employee Engagement

24 Apr

High employee engagement results when workers feel valued.

Employee engagement ideas seem to be on the minds of both leaders and HR professionals alike these days. However, a recent article in Forbes by HR tech writer Meghan Biro noted that even though companies are employing employee engagement strategies, workers don't often respond to these programs and can even distrust them. This may be due to how people connect with one another. Workers want to feel valued, which is a critical part of engagement, and language used in the workplace can affect employees' perceptions of their own performance and value to their employers.

According to Biro, language is the crucial element many employee engagement programs and initiatives miss. Managers and HR professionals know they must maintain a professional work environment, and some often look to ensure professional communication is present in every aspect of the workplace. Employers don't have to sacrifice professionalism in employee engagement strategies, but know that when managers forget to say "thank you," "please" and "I understand" they may be inadvertently disengaging their workers. Language is everything when it comes to employee engagement.

Business Management Daily created a list of the 10 best phrases or questions managers and HR professionals can use to show workers their value to the organization. Some of these, such as "I need your help," are phrases managers like to stay away from, as leaders may believe these phrases can end up resulting in a lack of respect for management. However, this phrase, as well as others like it, can show workers their leaders value their input and recognize their contributions to the business. HR professionals should ensure all employee engagement programs and initiatives use and build on this type of language in the workplace to encourage enhanced communication throughout the company.

Financial Literacy Could Increase Workers’ Performance, Reduce Job Strain

23 Apr

Workers may not be productive at work when they are worried about finances.

Even though the recession is over, many employees may still be feeling the impact of the economic downturn. While human resources professionals aren't often privy to workers' financial problems, a new infographic from e-retailer Purchasing Power in honor of Financial Literacy Month highlighted that employees' monetary well-being affects their productivity and performance, not to mention their employers' overall success. According to an article in TLNT, companies may be partly responsible for creating additional financial strain by moving workers' to health plans with high out-of-pocket costs, meaning employees have to pay more for the same type of care.

Many employers provide wellness programs in the workplace and education on workers' available benefits, but HR professionals should think beyond these employee engagement ideas. HR professionals should still ensure workers understand their benefits, only there are numerous benefits to asking employers to provide employees with additional resources, such as financial counseling through a new wellness initiative. 

Workers Can Benefit from Financial Well-Being Programs
The infographic – which is a compilation of research from Harris Poll and MetLife, to name a few – noted that employees are most concerned about changes in their financial health. Nearly half of workers have said they can't buy the items they need, and 44 percent don't have at least $2,000 in emergency savings. Both of these aspects are important to staff members' financial health, and living paycheck to paycheck or having financial troubles can impact their productivity and retention.

Workers often spend time worrying about their finances, with 46 percent taking one to three hours a week thinking about their financial problems. In fact, 44 percent of professionals contemplate their finances while in the office. When this happens, employers can experience costs due to lost productivity. In fact, the infographic highlighted that employers in professional services with more than 10,000 employees tend to lose $197,000 a week because of this issue. In addition, financial concerns is the main reason why 49 percent of workers starting hunting for new jobs.

"Financially fragile employees – those who are living paycheck to paycheck and with little or no savings – not only need to increase their financial literacy, they also need a new way to manage credit and regain their financial footing," Richard Carrano, president and CEO of Purchasing Power, said regarding the infographic's points

HR professionals should also consider investing in more effective payroll management software to ensure workers are being paid correctly.

The Ongoing Gender Pay Gap

22 Apr

Many businesswomen still make less than their male counterparts.

Despite continual payroll management initiatives and increasing awareness, there is still a gender pay gap in the U.S. According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), there has been little movement in women's earnings for a full decade, with women still making 77 cents to the dollar their male counterparts earn. The best city to be a working woman is Washington, D.C., where women are paid 90 percent of what men are paid, and the worst area for women to work is Wyoming, where they only earn 64 percent of what men do. In fact, women make even less as they age, and the pay gap even exists in female-dominated and gender-balanced occupations, according to the AAUW.

Action Needed
To combat this ongoing problem, President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order preventing federal contractors from retaliating against employees who communicate with one another about their pay. Fox News reported the president's action seeks to open transparency in pay within certain parts of the federal government. President Obama also urged the U.S. Department of Labor to consider opening up compensation data of its federal contractors. 

Retaliation because workers discuss pay continues to be a common issue, according to Forbes. Many women feel they can't talk about compensation with their co-workers for fear of getting fired, Forbes reported. This problem is at the center of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which seeks to right the issue of retaliation and has 207 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and 55 in the Senate. Forbes reported the part of the Paycheck Fairness Act currently in effect only covers 22 percent of the workforce.

There has been some criticism about the president's move, as people have said a pay gap remains in the White House as well. Of the 16 federal department heads, 10 are women, and Fox News reported a White House aid has said men and women working in equivalent positions in the White House earn the exact same salaries.

However, the federal government does have an issue with a pay gap. According to a report recently issued by the Office of Personnel Management, there was a gender pay gap of 12.7 percent in 2012 among white-collar occupations, including the federal government. While there is some discrepancy in the data – such as uneven distribution of men and women across industries – it showcases how effective payroll management remains a key focus for the government and employers in the future.

Study: Most Workers Aren’t Able to Use All Their Paid Time Off

22 Apr

Not all workers are able to get away from the office and use their vacation time.

Many employees in the U.S. are given paid time off, yet not everyone uses these benefits. According to a new study by staffing firm Adecco, the majority of workers encounter challenges to using all of their vacation time, and some even end up working when they should be relaxing. When it comes to effective employee management, HR professionals need to ensure workers understand their paid time off is there to help them de-stress so they are more productive in their jobs. Not taking time off can end up harming employees' health and performance as well as their employers' success, according to Fast Company.

Adecco surveyed 507 workers, and found one-quarter don't take all of their available days off. Of those who were able to take vacations or time off, 37 percent remained connected to their work in some way or other, such as through email or work-related calls. Giving up paid time off also impacts relationships between colleagues in an office. Thirty-seven percent of those who ended up working during their vacations think less of their co-workers when their colleagues come to the office late or leave early from work. 

HR Needs to Provide Training on Cyberbullying

21 Apr

Cyberbullying is all too common in the workplace.

Bullying doesn't just happen on the playground. According to Bullying Statistics, it can take numerous forms, and is just as prevalent in the workplace as it is in school yards. From singling one person out of a team to sending intimidating messages online, many employees experience types of bullying behaviors on a regular basis. A late 2012 study from psychologists at the University of Sheffield and the University of Nottingham uncovered 8 in 10 of the 320 people surveyed had been the subject of at least one type of cyberbullying behavior.

When it comes to bullying, human resource departments need to step in and utilize their employee management strategies. However, an article in Business and Legal Resources suggested employers adopt even stricter antibullying policies than they may even have in place.

Stop Bullying in the Workplace
According to BLR, HR professionals need to go beyond the traditional types of employee management strategies, such as identifying the bully and providing an appropriate punishment, and consider how cyberbullying creates a hostile work environment that requires specific strategies. 

Rob Wilson, president of Employco USA, told BLR employers may want to establish zero-tolerance policies regarding online harassment of co-workers, as well as adopt comprehensive social media guidelines that address negative behavior on online networking sites.

"It is important that employers address this issue in their policies so that employees feel they are a part of a safe work environment," Wilson said. "A positive and productive workplace should be of top priority, and employers can enforce this by instituting cyberbullying policies and penalizing infractions."

In fact, cyberbullying may even have a greater impact in workers' well-being than in-person types of bullying. The 2012 study out of the U.K. found those employees who had experienced cyberbullying ended up having lower job satisfaction and higher mental strain than their counterparts who weren't bullied, and these side effects were greater than those who experienced conventional bullying.

The effects of online harassment between co-workers can be far-reaching. While cyberbullying can create a negative workplace in the short term, it can also cause workers to take leave of absences, have health problems and even leave the company entirely, according to USA Today. HR professionals need to ensure workers are being protected online and offline through creating and enforcing antibullying employee management policies in the workplace. Otherwise, the entire company can suffer due to the actions of a few individuals.

Strategies on how to have tough conversations with your employees

15 Apr

InterviewWhen it comes to strategic human resource management, at some point, every manager or HR professional has to sit down a worker to have a hard conversation. Many leaders hold off speaking with employees about difficult issues because they are unsure of how to handle these types of situations. Should they apologize to show empathy? Is it acceptable to just email the worker? Whether it is a termination or a performance review, HR professionals and company management must walk a fine line. Supervisors who know how to handle tough conversations and employ effective employee management are able to ensure positive outcomes to difficult meetings.

Here are four strategies for having tough conversations with employees:

Hold Conversations in Private to Keep Confidentiality
Every time managers need to have a meeting with workers about sensitive topics, they need to do so in private. This keeps the situation between the supervisor and the employee. Co-workers shouldn’t know if an employee is not doing well unless the manager feels it is in the person’s best interest to let others know, and even then there may be legal consequences for not maintaining confidentiality. Having conversations where other people can listen into the meeting can cause the employee to feel as if he or she is not being respected. Being compassionate and empathetic can go a long way to the worker understanding the points his or her boss or HR professional is making during their meeting.

Stay Brief and to the Point
Managers don’t want to beat around the bush when they enter a difficult meeting. According to a review of an HR management book in Forbes, being truthful right from the get-go can prevent any miscommunication and let the worker know exactly what the issue is. The article suggests leaders follow a simple, three-step process: facts, feelings and identity. Stating the facts right from the beginning gets everyone on the same page.

However, managers need to be careful how they plunge ahead with the conversation. Being overly critical can cause only further issues. According to Forbes, HR consultants advise supervisors should always try to achieve “clean, clear, lucid truth.”

According to an article in Inc. magazine, compassion is a key trait of effective leaders. Professionals who show they are empathetic to their workers’ needs and feelings are more likely to receive loyalty from those employees and enhanced productivity. In an article for Harvard Business Review, leadership consultant Peter Bregman wrote managers need to approach difficult situations from the employees’ point of view.

For example, the Forbes article explained how one manager would use the phrase “I’m not loving that” to get right to the point of an issue without being too harsh.

Seek Guidance of Legal Counsel Where Necessary
Leaders shouldn’t hesitate to receive advice from legal counsel when appropriate. Some types of difficult conversations, like terminating an employee, can have legal consequences if supervisors don’t handle the situation correctly. Speaking to lawyers or legal experts can prevent professionals from inadvertently sticking their feet in their mouths.

Keep HR in the Loop
Perhaps most importantly, managers should take advantage of HR professionals’ knowledge and experience with speaking to workers. HR should role play the conversation so the appropriate adjustments to leaders’ delivery can be made. According to Forbes, everything from body language to tone of voice is important during sensitive meetings. HR professionals can ensure managers understand what they can and cannot say, as well as how to correctly get to the point without sacrificing empathy.

Managers shouldn’t hesitate to speak to workers about issues that need to be addressed, but they need to do so carefully and make sure they are not creating further problems.

The importance of mentorships within the workplace

2 Apr

Man w clipboardMost workplaces provide internships to college or high school students, or they utilize training management software and match young employees with their more experienced colleagues for mentorships. Both types of learning opportunities can benefit workers and their employers, and human resources departments should not discount the advantages of establishing internships or mentorships in the workplace. With the right employee management system, your organization can develop or optimize its internships and mentorships, benefiting the entire company.

Developing workers through these solutions allows them to learn from subject matter experts and provides HR departments with a stronger pool of internal talent. Here are the three biggest advantages your organization can experience by instituting internships and mentorships:

Have the Best Teach the Business
Every company has subject matter experts whose knowledge can greatly benefit the whole workforce. Developing entry-level or mid-level workers’ skill sets through mentorships and providing students with opportunities to experience the professional workplace firsthand gives them access to industry experts at your organization, which can lead to networking opportunities.

Developmental opportunities with industry experts are so coveted that tech giants Google and Apple and multimedia powerhouse The Walt Disney Company grabbed the top spots of ideal employers for business students in the 2014 Universum Student Survey. When asked which companies the 46,000 surveyed undergraduate students would want to work for, most picked companies that had professional training and development opportunities as well as were leaders in their respective fields.

Providing internships to talented students and investing in mentoring within the workplace can help experts pass on their knowledge and encourage innovation within their respective industries. Internal workers who are mentees of company leaders or experienced workers may even be fast tracked for promotion, furthering their companies’ success.

Develop Internal Talent
According to an article in recruitment resource ERE.net, many companies approach internships and mentorships as opportunities to scope out potential talent. Giving students real-world experience in their chosen industry lets companies get ahead in acquiring the best new talent. Hiring workers who have been mentored by the best also means you don’t have to go through a long and tedious recruitment process. As these employees already know how the workplace operates and fit into the company culture, they are great candidates for positions.

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, competition for workers with strong potential has heated up over the years. However, without effective mentoring programs, companies can see themselves with low worker retention and employee engagement, the article noted. For example, the HBR story’s author explained one consulting firm saw itself losing talented young professionals because it didn’t have a mentorship program.

Workforce suggested matching mentors with mentees using employee management software to help HR departments develop key performers.

Promote Positive Associate Relations
Positive associate relations is often not a benefit many HR departments consider when looking at the advantages of mentorships and internships. However, these developmental opportunities encourage positive relations between associates. Mentors and mentees, as well as interns and their supervisors, can develop working relationships that strengthen the entire workplace environment. According to new research published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, mentors and internship supervisors’ perceived organizational support (POS) increases when they coach talented workers.

“There is empirical evidence that suggests that employees’ POS helps increase their sense of obligation and desire to reciprocate to the organization, fulfill their socioemotional needs and incorporate organizational membership and role status into their social identity,” the researchers wrote.

Developing talent through either mentorships or internships is crucial for employers. Taking time to train and support workers with leadership potential can strengthen the entire company from the inside out. When mentees and interns do well and are either promoted or hired, they feel loyal to the organization and mentors and supervisors feel accomplished.

Challenges facing HR and Payroll Managers in 2014

24 Mar

Woman Working Using Flex HoursHuman Resources is an ever-changing industry, and HR professionals know they need to remaining constantly alert for new regulations and issues to arise. This year has already shaped up to be a challenging one for many HR departments across the U.S. From keeping key workers at the company to implementing effective payroll management, HR professionals and payroll managers are facing numerous challenges during 2014.

Here are the top three issues HR departments are coming up against this year:

Compliance with the ACA and Its Results
Much has been said about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within the past few years-especially within the last couple months. This is because the ACA is not only going to impact how companies provide healthcare to employees, but there will be legal compliance standards that will occur as a result. These include employee litigation and audits from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the ADP Research Institute, the ACA presents one of the most complex HR compliance challenges of all time. The lack of preparations on the part of employers has escalated the impact the ACA is having on the business community as a whole. For example, ADP wrote one-fifth to one-third of companies did not even have a clue how much of an effect the ACA’s health insurance exchanges would have on their businesses this past January. In addition, more ACA regulations are coming, and employers are just as unprepared for potential penalties and the Excise Tax Assessment as they have been for other aspects of the healthcare reform law. Even though the healthcare landscape continues to shift and evolve, HR and payroll professionals need to get on steady ground when it comes to understanding their compliance requirements and mitigating their own legal risks.

Retaining Top Talent
The recession remains in many people’s minds, but employees are beginning to feel more confident about their employment options. As the labor market shows signs of improvement, many employees who have waited on the sidelines for better career opportunities may decide to jump ship before the year is out. While this is a good sign for the job market, HR professionals are looking to lose some of their best performers this year if they don’t implement new employee engagement ideas.

According to a late 2013 poll by Right Management, 83 percent of 871 surveyed U.S. and Canadian employees said they will look for a new job this year. In 2009, only 6 in 10 employees said they intended to “actively seek a new position” in the coming year, but that number jumped to 84 percent the following year and has stayed about the same ever since. More top workers used to network to feel out their employment opportunities, but now the majority are becoming active job seekers instead. Twenty-one percent of employees said they were networking to keep their options open in 2009, but that number remained at 8 or 9 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Being able to provide competitive compensation is going to be an essential employee engagement strategy for not only 2014 but into the long term, as Right Management’s numbers suggests retaining top talent is going to be a struggle for a while. Human resource planning will be a go-to solution for many in the industry because of this, and more HR professionals will need to seek out additional employee engagement techniques if they want to acquire and keep key performers.

According to Human Resource Executive (HRE) Online, employee engagement may be its own challenge throughout 2014. Offering employees growth opportunities through effective talent management, tracking worker satisfaction, and maintaining collaboration in the workplace are all going to be important strategies to keep employees engaged this year, HRE Online suggested. According to Forbes, it is going to take recognizing where dissatisfaction comes from for HR professionals to entice workers to remain at the company.

Complying with the OFCCP Mandate
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) mandate pertaining to the hiring and employment of individuals with disabilities will be another key challenge this year, specifically Section 503. According to Business and Legal Resource, hiring managers must now reference Section 503 rules that require contractors to invite job seekers to voluntarily self-identify as disabled at the preoffer and postoffer phases of the hiring process.

BLR states “OFCCP’s final regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503), require that employers invite job applicants and employees to self-identify as being an individual with a disability. On Jan. 22, 2014, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the final Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability form for use by covered federal contractors, beginning with contractors’ new plan year following the effective date of the final Section 503 regulation on March 24, 2014.”

The OFCCP does have training materials available on its website to help recruiters and HR professionals comply with the mandate.

 

Predicted costs, decisions, implications, and information for health benefits in 2014 (and beyond)

18 Mar

Clock and MoneyThe U.S.’s healthcare system has been rapidly changing, and human resource professionals are tasked with complying with new regulations on health benefits and preparing for upcoming trends. Certain health plans are becoming more popular-such as high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts-and staying informed about the growth of these tax-favored health benefits is to HR professionals’ advantage.

Yet, HR departments also have to provide workers with training on certain health offerings and how to be proactive when it comes to receiving cost savings. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a complex law to understand, and while HR departments cannot give insight into every aspect of the legislation, informing employees about these benefits should be part of every employee management system.

HR professionals need to know where the health benefits space is in the present, what trends are ahead, and how to successfully prepare for the future of health benefits.

The Shift in Health Benefits
No longer is the employer-sponsored benefits model the standard. There has been movement away from this model to consumer-directed healthcare benefit plans (CDHPs) for some time. According to the Business Group on Health, CDHPs put healthcare decisions into the hands of beneficiaries that is workers-instead of employers, even though businesses still pay for part of care. CDHPs are a way to control healthcare costs more effectively because they are a defined benefit.

According to Healthcare Finance News, CDHPs have been steadily growing in popularity for the past few years. In 2012, 58 percent of companies offered a type of CDHP, with 34 percent providing health savings accounts (HSAs) and 18 percent offering health reimbursement accounts (HRAs).

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are other types of CDHPs that are growing in popularity and will continue to be go-to health benefits into the near future.

Because HSAs are tax exempt, it is expected that many employers will turn to these accounts, especially to save money under the ACA, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. HDHPs in particular have already seen increased use within the past few years, and enrollment in these plans have skyrocketed since aspects of the ACA came into effect. According to Business Insurance, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found 30.3 percent of group healthcare plan participants were enrolled in HDHPs during first quarter 2013, a significant jump from 2008′s 17.1 percent. ACA Watch suggests this number is only going to keep increasing. Use of FSAs is also rising with the NCHS finding 22.8 percent of health plan participants having one in 2013 compared to only 18.7 percent in 2008.

Value of Providing Workers with Education on Health Benefits and ACA
Because CDHPs put more power in the hands of employees, HR professionals need to ensure all workers understand their benefits. Yet, employers can’t stop there-the ACA is going to remain a defining part of the workplace into the future, and workers need to know how the law influences their health benefits. With this knowledge, employees will be better able to be proactive with their healthcare, saving themselves and their employers money. Without it, Becker’s notes employees may not make the correct care choices and see large payment responsibilities that they are unable to pay, negatively impacting not only themselves but their healthcare provider and the industry as a whole.

Employer resources for educating employees about the complexity of their benefits and ACA mandates will be essential this year and coming years. According to ACA Watch, the majority of employers are specifically concerned about employee benefits education, and a survey from the Midwest Business Group on Health found more than 70 percent of employers are taking action to educate workers about health benefits.

HR professionals need to be able to predict and prepare for changes to health benefits. Utilizing human resources solutions can keep HR professionals organized during these changes.

 

The Challenge of 2014: Retaining Talent

10 Mar

It’s no surprise that positive associate relations are necessary to support a safe, happy, and productive workforce. Many organizations pride themselves on their relationships with employees and work hard to ensure workers have a fruitful work/life balance. Yet, how important are these things, really? What are the consequences should an employer choose not to focus on employee satisfaction and talent management? According to recent studies, some employers may have underestimated the importance of keeping their workers happy.

For example, according to career management firm Right Management’s new survey, as many as 83 percent of the 900 employees surveyed reported they would voluntarily leave their jobs in 2014. As active job seekers and established members of the workforce begin to gain higher rates of confidence in the labor market – and as more jobs are becoming available – they are more likely to take employment risks and look for better opportunities.

In fact, in October 2013 more than 2.4 million Americans left their jobs, accounting for 56 percent of all voluntary and involuntary separations that month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In short, this means employees have the upper hand in making decisions based on their career prospects, and are less dependent on employers. Conditions have vastly changed since 2009 when, according to Right Management’s survey, only 60 percent of employees said they would actively seek new jobs. The upward trend is most likely attributable to economic conditions directly following the 2008 financial crisis, which left many workers dissatisfied and “stuck” in their positions amid financial uncertainty.

Yet now as economic tides turn and workers gain more autonomy, employers must utilize their talent management software to retain top performers and engage their staffs.

Employees Desire More
One of the biggest changes to the labor market is the influx of millennial workers and how their attitudes and preferences have begun to shape the work environment. According to a 2012 Forbes infographic, there are more than 80 million millennial adults in the U.S. and 36 percent of the workforce will consist of these workers this year. This number increases to 46 percent by 2020. Millennial employees differ greatly from their baby boomer and Generation X cohorts in that they are much more technology driven, have reached higher levels of educational attainment, and can make companies appear more attractive to shareholders and prospective workers.

But they also drive the need for employers to offer its employees more than simply a paycheck. According to Forbes, millennials also require purpose and a sense of accomplishment to stay loyal to their employers – a trend that is catching on. A Hay Group study that looked at global job outlook, retention and turnover found that in North America, more than 36.7 million workers will have departed from their jobs between 2014-18, with a spike in 2014. Employees who responded to the Hay Group study also reported a supportive workplace, opportunity for career advancement, and competent leadership as the top reasons to stay with an employer.

“With retention a growing concern for organizations – not just for key high performing employees, but also core employees – understanding the factors that drive commitment and loyalty is essential for managing increasing turnover risks in the months and years ahead,” said Mark Royal, a senior consultant with Hay Group. “Now is the time for organizations to understand where they stand on and tackle these influences, to keep employees from taking flight.”

These trends indicate a growing need for companies to hone in on talent management strategies to ensure the business retains its top performers in 2014. As economic confidence influences employees’ decisions to migrate to better jobs, prioritizing talent management strategies will be essential to the company’s long-term success.

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