Is your office ready for a casual dress code?

19 Aug

Many offices now allow staff to wear jeans.

Office attire has become increasingly casual over the years, but many companies are still unsure whether allowing jeans is the right step for them. While casual Fridays have been a norm for decades, many offices extend casual wear to the entire workweek. Of course, many human resources managers wonder, does the casual approach work for my office?

Casual attire continues to be a contentious issue in offices. Just as companies roll out casual dress codes, others go in the opposite direction. Financial services firm Barclays recently made the news when Executive Chairman John McFarlane sent out a memo banning jeans and flip flops at work, The Independent reported. Meanwhile, Adweek noted how the attire landscape at many prestigious digital firms leans toward casual.

Millennials drive the trend
Millennials, who continue to enter the workforce, could be part of the reason behind fewer suits and ties in the office. A 2012 study from MTV found that millennials prefer a casual dress code throughout the day. According to an article in MediaPost written by Nick Shore, former senior vice president of strategic insights and research at MTV, the researchers had baby boomers and millennials draw a picture of their dress codes at work and what they wear during leisure time. For millennials, the pictures were almost identical, while baby boomers showed a significant shift in their after-work attire.

Overall, the study found millennials were interested in a casual workplace. Almost 90 percent wanted their workplaces to be social and fun, while 93 percent desired a job where they can be themselves.

Benefits of casual dress
Since younger workers tend to be drawn to workplaces where they can act like themselves, it might be wise for companies to revisit old fashioned dress codes. To gain the most competitive talent in this group, workplaces may need to consider office culture, which is directly tied to dress.

However, even for older workers, casual attire can be seen as a great benefit. It demonstrates to staff that managers care about their morale, as well as implying an innovative and forward-thinking approach.

It's also important to consider what employees do with their time. If their role primarily involves interacting with internal staff rather than clients, there's little reason to require business attire.

The role of HR
Regardless of the dress code at individual workplaces, it's up to HR practitioners to draft the policy and communicate it to employees. Writing a policy can be tricky. HR needs to make sure the policy doesn't affect certain groups more than others, for instance, by race, gender or religion, according to HR Hero. In addition, when discrimination claims do arise, it is usually because the employer doesn't apply the rules consistently, making certain individuals feel singled out. Whenever HR institutes a new dress code policy, it's important to effectively communicate about what the change will mean. Then, be consistent when asking staff to adhere to it.

In cases like this, employee management software can help HR keep tabs on how staff feel about the new dress code and help HR managers deal with any issues that might arise.

Build a leadership succession plan

19 Aug

Is your company prepared for the future?

Will your company survive into the future? Without proper succession planning, the future of your business may be uncertain. Whether it's a question of who will fill the C-Suite when the current executives retire, or simply who will manage the sales department, it's crucial to have a plan in place for when your current team moves on. The right employee management software tools are essential to identify professional growth opportunities for current staff and keep an eye on your talent pipeline.

According to recent research from the Human Capital Media Advisory Group, the research organization connected with Talent Management magazine, 76 percent of human resources staff indicate their organizations hire externally to fill gaps. More than half of organizations said a major reason for external hiring is that no internal candidates have been prepared for leadership positions. Overall, 61 percent of human resources practitioners said their succession pipelines contain too few candidates to meet the future needs of the organization. Here are some tips for ensuring a talent pipeline for the future: 

Start early
While your staff may seem secure right now, work environments change quickly. You can't assume your top employees will stay with your company until retirement age. The marketing manager that has been with your firm for a decade may suddenly be recruited to a competitor, leaving you with no one to take the reins. To avoid this type of situation, start thinking about succession planning now, Investors in People suggested.

Use the right tools
Without HR manager software, it's hard to keep track of all the employees in your organization. The right software enables you to quickly get access to quarterly reviews and other information that can help you and managers determine which internal candidates may be suited for management positions in the future. Employee management software also helps you stay on top of frequent reviews so that everyone is getting the feedback he or she needs to develop.

Communicate with staff
It's important for HR employees and managers to communicate with employees that have potential for growth. These staff members may not be able to think of themselves as leaders without the influence of someone they respect. Give candidates time to let the idea sink in and help them develop specific areas of expertise, OPEN Forum wrote.

Come up with a plan
Developing a talent pipeline should be part of the organization's overall plan. According to HCM​ Advisory Group's survey, leadership training is the most popular program for growing its succession pipeline, followed by mentoring. Your organization could also consider job rotations or team-based projects to help staff gain new skills. As Ivy Exec pointed out, it's important to integrate your succession plan with your overall talent management strategy, including recruiting. Succession planning starts as early as recruitment. Let potential candidates know about the room for professional growth at your business.

External hiring will always be necessary sometimes, but having a thriving internal leadership pipeline can make the transition between new managers more seamless and keep staff engaged over the long haul.

Is it time to reduce office hours?

14 Aug

Long hours harm productivity.

Employees work more hours than ever, and it's starting to have an impact on their well-being. It's up to human resources managers to work with companies to curb this trend, especially given impending changes to overtime pay laws. Consider using a survey or reviewing data in your employee management software to gauge how your staff feel about their current hours and workload.

Working more hours
A new survey from CareerBuilder found the 9-to-5 workday is becoming a thing of the past. With 24-7 access to email and work communications, working hours rarely conform to the traditional office hours.

More than 60 percent of all employees in information technology, financial services, sales, and professional and business services think working nine to five is an outdated concept, the survey found.

What are staff doing outside of typical office hours? Half answer emails, while almost 40 percent continue to focus on their typical day-to-day tasks.

While the majority of workers (62 percent) feel operating outside of normal working hours is a choice rather than a requirement, HR teams may want to consider whether they want to encourage this behavior to continue.

Worker morale
Because staff are chained to their desks, either mentally or physically, they lose out on time to pursue personal interests and spend time with their families. The survey found many employees think about work before going to bed or right when they wake up. Others have trouble keeping their mind off of work during leisure activities.

On top of making employees unhappy, working excessive hours makes staff less productive overall. Once employees begin to work more than 50 hours, for instance, output begins to fall, according to research from John Pencavel of Stanford University. There is a limit to how productive workers can be with their time. After the 50 hour mark, adding more hours to the work day does not result in more productivity.

There's good evidence to demonstrate reducing working hours increases happiness without productivity decreasing. However, with President Obama's proposed change to overtime law, employers may have another reason to limit working hours.

Legal issues on the horizon
President Obama announced a potential extension of overtime pay to those making $47,892 or less annually, according to a statement from the Department of Labor. This would mean roughly 5 million workers would soon be eligible for overtime pay. If employers want to avoid the high costs of overtime pay, they will need to either reconfigure job descriptions or put preventative measures in place to keep staff from exceeding 40 hours per workweek.

With these impending changes to labor laws, HR managers should consider the potential benefits of reducing staff hours before it becomes a necessity.

While cloud-based software and digital devices cause employees to work longer hours, these tools also have the benefit of enabling flexible schedules. Allowing some employees to create their own schedules could make it easier to keep them within a specific timeframe and prevent feeling exhausted and overworked.

Commute time affects employee performance

14 Aug

Long commutes have an impact on employees.

Human resources departments face a lot of questions in the hiring and onboarding process. Strategic human resources management requires that you pay attention to any factors that may have a negative impact on productivity. For instance, one element many companies don't consider is the effects of a long commute on employee retention. Should businesses take commute time into account during hiring decisions?

Drawbacks of long commutes
Many companies have noted a long commute leads to increased turnover. There are a number of potential reasons for this. For instance, travel to and from work considerably cuts into an employee's free time. Gas and other transit costs also diminish an employee's income. According to Safe Workers, there are other ways a long commute can damage an employee's well-being. Workers may become stressed about balancing their time between the office and their families. This anxiety may take its toll on their health and performance levels.

Naturally, employers experience drawbacks when employees face long commutes. According to ERE Media, extensive travel time may lead to more frequent absences and lateness, poor performance and increased turnover.

Identifying turnover problems
Analytics can help companies identify where turnover issues are coming from. Undercover Recruiter highlighted the story of Gate Gourmet, a catering company operating out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The company experienced extremely high turnover and wondered whether commute times had to do with it. After looking over data in its employee management system and other information, it determined that retention was directly tied to employees' distance from the airport and how easy it was to reach public transit from their residences. The business was able to adjust its recruiting and hiring strategies accordingly and reduced turnover to just 27 percent, down from the initial 50 percent. Other companies can take similar measures to determine whether commutes are having an impact on retention. If so, there are a number of approaches businesses can take to approach this problem.

Dealing with the commute issue
HR managers may choose to simply limit hires to those who live relatively close by. However, before immediately ceasing to hire anyone who doesn't live within a certain radius of the business, do some more background work. ERE Media found that the impact of a commute may differ based on specific positions.

There are other ways to approach the problem as well. For instance, you can provide incentives for staff to live nearby. Some companies give out yearly bonuses for employees who live within a set number of miles from the office. Another incentive that is easy to implement is giving staff the opportunity to work remotely. This solves many of the issues associated with a long commute. Another option, as Safe Workers pointed out, is to offer flexible scheduling. For instance, if the employees are allowed to make their own schedules, they may be able to adjust their time to avoid rush hour traffic, which may add time onto an already lengthy commute.

HR managers can suggest strategies to deal with worker commutes and help increase worker morale and efficiency.

Why you should consider promoting internally instead of hiring

14 Aug

Do you promote from within?

When a new position opens up, does your company promote from within or bring in a new person from the outside? As it turns out, there are numerous benefits to investing in your people rather than onboarding a new hire. Here's a hint: It may impact payroll management

First of all, hiring from the outside takes time and money. Hiring anyone is a time consuming process, but the more experience you're looking for, the longer it takes. As CareerBuilder pointed out, even after you find the perfect fit, there's always a chance the candidate will find a better option, and you will need to start the search over again. After you do fill the role, it will take longer to bring the new person up to speed than it would if you hired internally, and the work of the whole team is likely to suffer for a while.

According to research from The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business, external hires are generally paid 18-20 percent more than internal hires and perform worse on performance evaluations than their peers for the first two years on the job. During this time, they are also far more likely to move on to a different company.

It seems clear that promoting from within is often a better approach than heading to the job board and bringing in someone new. However, taking this approach requires investment early on. Staff need to be aware of potential for promotion down the line. When hiring managers see leadership potential in employees, it's important to let them know. To prepare a leadership pipeline, organizations may need to invest in better training and professional development programs. The bonus is that this approach is likely to increase retention overall.

Hiring internally isn't always an option, but it should always be a consideration. In the end, businesses that invest in their people are more successful.

Unique benefits ideas

14 Aug

Benefits packages make for happy employees.

Workplace benefits are often some of the top reasons workers choose to stay at a company. Health insurance, paid time off and sick days rank high on that list, but there are a number of other relatively cost-effective benefits employers could offer. In fact, according to the Society of Human Resources Management, 35 percent of HR staff said their employers had increased benefits offered between 2014 and 2015.These advantages could also operate as employee engagement ideas.

Health and fitness benefits
Many workplaces provide benefits that encourage employees to stay fit. As an added plus for your company, it may be able to reduce health care benefit costs, SHRM noted. One common way to approach fitness is to reimburse staff for a portion of their gym memberships. You can also opt to have a small fitness center onsite for staff to use. Some companies take this one step further and include coaching and training in the package as well.

Education and professional development
The opportunity to gain new skills and build up their resumes is invaluable to many employees. Employers may offer flexible scheduling for employees who might be pursuing a degree. For Starbucks' College Achievement Plan, the coffee chain partnered with Arizona State University to provide eligible staff free college tuition toward their Bachelor's degree. It's also important to invest in professional development for staff, for instance, by paying for certifications and training.

Commuter packages
Traveling long distances to work, whether by car, rail or public transportation, adds up considerably. Why not reimburse workers for fees associated with travel? This perk also widens the talent pool by providing an incentive for more people to apply even if they live relatively far away. In addition, according to Entrepreneur, payroll taxes don't apply because commuter benefits are "tax-free transportation fringe benefits."

Paid sabbaticals
Vacation time is a ubiquitous office benefit, but some businesses offer even more. After a set amount of time working with the company, offer the opportunity to take an extended vacation of one month or more. One week at the beach certainly provides some rest and relaxation, but a longer leave of absence gives staff the opportunity to truly travel or pursue their hobbies. Entrepreneur noted how social networking platform MeetUp allows three entire months of sabbatical for employees who have been with the company more than seven years. 

Bring your pet to work
This one may not be suitable for every business environment, but if you can swing it, allowing well-behaved pets in the office is a huge plus for many employees. Forbes wrote about how Trupanion, a pet insurance company, allows pets in the office every day and also extends pet insurance to staff. In an interview with the publication, CEO Darryl Rawlings said there are more than 80 dogs and cats in the office each day.

Concierge services
Dealing with day-to-day chores like changing car oil or dropping off dry cleaning take time and energy. Entrepreneur pointed out how some companies offer to run these errands on behalf of staff. The goal is to help employees obtain a better balance between work and home life. You might want to consider other helpful services for those trying to balance a family and a full- or part-time job, such as providing on-site daycare.

Workplace benefits contribute to employee engagement and shouldn't be overlooked, and unique offerings go a long way to attract awesome talent. HR can help keep benefits packages effective by being sure to communicate to staff what benefits they have access to, SHRM suggested. Also be sure to obtain feedback about your current benefits programs. Do staff members use them? Could they be improved?

Hiring processes need to be mobile-friendly

31 Jul

Are your recruiting practices mobile-friendly?

As people continue to spend more time on mobile devices, a growing number of candidates will begin to apply to positions using their tablets and smartphones. If your company is behind the times on mobile recruiting and application processes, you could lose out the most tech-friendly talent – often the most desirable candidates these days. It may be time to review your human resource information systems and see if your processes are mobile-friendly. 

Mobile applicants
Currently, applying on a mobile phone is still relatively rare. According to CareerBuilder, only 9 percent of candidates have applied for a position on their mobile devices. However, it's worthwhile to ask why this is the case. Given that people in the U.S. do just about everything else on their phones, it could be that the applications themselves are the problem. CareerBuilder found more than half wanted a full keyboard to complete an application, while 47 percent thought mobile screens were too small to complete the application process. In the future, companies should consider allowing mobile applicants to populate their application information using social profiles, like LinkedIn.

Optimize your career site
Even if candidates don't choose to apply to a position using a mobile device, smartphones and tablets are likely to be a part of the candidate's research process. Is it easy for candidates to access your career site using a small screen? If the site doesn't function on a mobile device, brand image could suffer. CareerBuilder found 18 percent of users had a more negative perception of companies without optimized websites.

To get started, check your site metrics to see how many people look at the career site via a mobile device. Are there a lot of people? Is the bounce rate high? If so, that indicates the usability isn't great on a smaller screen. In addition, find out where candidates are viewing your job postings and what devices they are using.

Use social media
A huge percentage of Internet time spent on mobile devices occurs on social platforms. According to LinkedIn, 36 percent of smartphone users say they look for new job openings during their commute, while more than half do so on a lunch or coffee break. When candidates are on the go, they are likely to check their social apps first. This means social channels are another smart way to communicate with mobile applicants. Make sure you have a robust social recruiting strategy in place or at least a few active social channels.

When it comes to mobilizing the recruiting process, don't forget emails and other messages. Potential candidates could be checking emails on their smartphones. If a message doesn't display correctly on their devices, they will probably close it and may or may not return to it later on a desktop. Optimize your messages for mobile devices or use short, simple sentence structure to be sure candidates can read the text no matter what device they're using.

Mobile could be the future of recruiting. To stay ahead of the game, it's smart to start optimizing now, before you lose the best talent to your competitors.

Create an awesome culture even as you grow

27 Jul

Company culture helps employee engagement.

Company culture is an important part of recruiting and retention at many companies. However, many startups begin with an awesome culture and fail to maintain it as they scale. Is there a way for human resources to help companies keep their culture even in a time of growth?

It's easy to maintain a strong culture when there are just 10 people in a small office. Once you gain new offices in more locations with workers across the country, it can be difficult.

Establish your culture
If you want to maintain your unique business culture, you will first need to define it, ERE Media pointed out. HR managers should collaborate with executives to determine what the company's core values are. After these have been established, figure out what each value actually looks like on the job. Think about specific times employees' behaviors reflected the brand's values.

Communicate with employees
Small companies have no problem staying in touch with their people because there are so few staff members. To maintain the same transparency and openness, companies need to work to establish communication systems that will keep staff in the loop. Internal social networks, weekly emails and face-to-face meetings help ensure everyone stays connected to the business and its core values.

Get the help of staff
Involve employees in creating the company's culture. Let staff participate in planning events and other activities that cultivate work culture. Allow different departments to establish their own daily or weekly rituals, Inc. magazine suggested. It could be a morning huddle or weekly fitness competitions. Whatever your staff decides they want to do, give them the power to do it.

Create engagement opportunities
HR can work with management to establish opportunities for employees to connect. You can also tailor these employee engagement ideas to your unique business identity. In an interview with Business Plans, Beck Bamberger of BAM Communications suggested sending team members on "dates." Assign different employees to go on outings together. According to Bamberger​, this encourages new personal bonds and prevents cliques from forming. 

Keep looking for fit
According to Inc. magazine, one of the best ways to maintain your culture through periods of growth is to continue to hire good cultural fits. Prioritize culture in the hiring process. Once you've established your corporate values, be sure to bring them up in the hiring process.

HR is instrumental in cultivating and maintaining office culture. Growth is positive for most companies, but it's important not to lose track of the other things that make the business great.

How HR can impact employee engagement

27 Jul

Employee engagement leads to success.

Everyone knows how important employee engagement is. However, human resources professionals often feel cut off from the day-to-day operations of their companies, making it hard for them to have an impact on engagement. Here are a few ways HR departments can have a positive impact on employee engagement:

Feedback mechanisms
Despite the fact that managers have more direct contact with employees, HR likely has more insight into engagement levels. It's generally the duty of HR to conduct surveys and ask for feedback from staff. This often means the HR department is the first to see potential problems among staff. HR staff should pass on any important information to direct managers and use their overall perspective to increase morale across the company.

Train managers
According to HRZone, most employees agree that their managers have significant influence over their engagement levels. Employees struggling with bad managers may lose some of their commitment to the business. To avoid this kind of situation, HR should work with managers to teach them some skills that will increase engagement. For instance, make sure they check in with their employees frequently so they know how staff are actually doing and make sure their concerns are heard.  

Know employee history 
Out of all departments, HR has access to the most robust information about each employee. Using employee management software, HR can quickly pull up a staff member's history and find out if his or her recent performance adequately reflects what that employee is capable of doing. If workers' performance isn't great, HR might be able to see what has changed in the meantime that may have affected their state of mind. Having a database of employee data is key in identifying potential issues.

Provide incentives
It's hard to keep up the good work when there's no reward for a job well done. HR should work with executives to establish a reward program for employees. According to Human Resources IQ, the incentives could be monetary, such as a raise. Administrators could also offer gift certificates or even paid time off. On the other hand, an incentive could be as simple as demonstrating to individuals exactly how they contribute to the overall team.

Employee engagement is an important driver of success at many companies. Engaged workers simply perform better. It's up to HR to use its unique perspective and insight to help companies support their staff and lead to happier, more productive employees.

6 mistakes that can lead to a bad hire

27 Jul

Hire right the first time.

Hiring mistakes cost companies serious money. Replacing a hire is always expensive, especially when you have to do it more than once within just a few months. It's not always possible to prevent bad hiring decisions, but by performing due diligence, you significantly reduce the likelihood of them. Avoid these mistakes in the hiring process:

1. Focusing too much on culture
Company culture is often a key consideration in hiring. However, as Business Insider pointed out, looking too hard for a cultural match may cause you to overlook someone with the right skills. In addition, hiring for culture may lead to homogenous work environments where employees all share very similar backgrounds. Greater diversity among workers gives you the benefit of more points of view.

2. Having a vague job description
Too many companies fail to put together an adequate description of what they're looking for in a position. Often these descriptions are too vague or too narrow; few are just right. You need to make sure the person has experience similar to what they would do on the job, but you can't always expect one candidate to meet 100 percent of your specifications. Instead, consider making your requirements less rigid and training the right person to meet your standards if necessary. 

3. Not checking references
Every human resources manager knows the importance of checking references, but somehow, it doesn't happen. Too many employers skip this vital step and miss out on red flags that would have prevented a bad hire. Another related mistake is calling references but not digging for the answers you need. Be ready to ask follow up questions to ensure references are being entirely truthful, otherwise you can still overlook important information.

4. Failing to check credentials
So your new hire's resume claimed she increased Web traffic 40 percent over her time as marketing manager in a previous role. That sounds great, but unfortunately, you can't assume it's the truth. According to HR Morning, it's important to fact check candidate resumes in the final stages of the hiring process. Applicants sometimes lie. Also verify the degrees listed. Even the most high profile employees have lied about their education. Remember when it came out that Former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson fibbed about his college degree? These things happen.

5. Lacking a formal process
According to Business Insider, organizations that lack a formal hiring process are more likely to make mistakes. If you rush through recruiting and hiring you are likely to pick someone who is an imperfect match. Gather stakeholders, sit down and establish hiring guidelines and you will prevent great talent from slipping through the cracks. 

6. Using the wrong recruiting and onboarding tools
Without the most up-to-date recruiting and personnel management software, you are unlikely to get in touch with candidates before competitors snatch them up. According to Society for Human Resources Management, the best applicant tracking systems provide a seamless workflow and easy customization for unique recruiting needs. Onboarding is equally as important to ensure the new hire sticks around.

Make the above mistakes and you set yourself up for trouble. Avoiding a bad hire is simply good business.

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