Top workplace trends for 2015: Part 2

3 Mar

Work-life balance is a big issue for employers in 2015.

Now that we've covered the employee-related changes, we'll take a look at those affecting technology and the workplace.

1. Social media becomes an even stronger tool for attracting talented employees
Most companies have already embraced social media as a great way to communicate with customers and show off their brand personality. In fact, according to Adweek, about 88 percent of brands utilized social media as part of their marketing strategies in 2014. To date, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn are some of the most effective forums. However, in 2015, more businesses will begin to use social media to attract and connect with top talent. Large companies like Nestle have already begun to incorporate this strategy, adding dedicated Careers profiles to their arsenal of social media pages.

2. The separation between work life and home life will shrink
Technology companies are increasingly focusing on wearable technology and mobile devices, making it easier for everyone to stay connected. Unfortunately, in 2015 this may also lead to a more "blended" work-life balance, according to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. If workers do not need to be physically present in the office to complete their assignments, it is likely that it will become more difficult to fully step away from work in off hours. 

3. Offices steer away from the "cubicle farm" design
Many companies are now reconsidering how sitting in a cubicle impacts employees, so 2015 will likely see a shift away from the "cubicle farm" office plan. Having all coworkers sit in rows of cubicles has led to less personal interaction in the workplace, as many admit that it now seems easier to just email a neighboring coworker a question rather than standing up and having a face-to-face conversation. To combat this problem and refoster a sense of teamwork, large companies are designing open floor plans with comfortable seating and artwork, giving the office a more welcoming environment. Some will also include designated areas for large meetings, group lunches or one-on-one check-ins to encourage employees to move around more during the workday.

4. A new emphasis will be placed on social responsibility
The Internet has made sharing information easier than ever, and one of the most positive effects has been the impact on raising money for different initiatives. Corporations as a whole have a reputation for being malevolent and greedy, but joining in on fundraising and charitable campaign initiatives and sharing their participation on social media can now help revamp their images. In 2015, this corporate social responsibility will become the norm. Companies will be expected to create videos for viral campaigns, start online crowdsourcing fundraising initiatives and live-blog from charitable conferences. Additionally, there could be an uptick in the number of companies sponsoring teams for events like 5K races or half marathons benefiting various health causes.

5. Employers will offer better wellness incentives
The idea that healthy employees can be happier and more productive is not a new one, but the way employers approach the subject is likely to change in 2015. One of the largest health-related trends has already begun, and it involves offering employees alternatives to traditional desks and chairs. Working at treadmill desks or standing desks and using exercise balls instead of chairs are all great alternatives that are steadily becoming more popular. Additionally, more companies may adopt offering healthy incentives to employees. This may include reducing monthly health insurance costs for nonsmokers, or supplementing the cost of wearable activity or step trackers during office-wide weight loss competitions.

Top workplace trends for 2015: Part 1

3 Mar

Gender equality in the workplace will continue to be a major workplace trend in 2015.

With the ever-changing landscape of the American workplace, it's no surprise that certain trends come and go. 2015 has already been a significant year for American workers, as new federal regulations and increased technological flexibility influence company executives to make large-scale employee management changes within their organizations. Whether this includes seeking more remote and nontraditional employees, redesigning office spaces to enhance productivity, or focusing on a diverse workforce, American workers can expect many exciting changes in the year to come.

In this two-part series, we'll analyze what experts are saying will be some of the most significant trends hitting offices in 2015, starting with those regarding employees:

1. Women continue to climb the corporate ladder
Gender equality in the workplace is not a new idea, but it will continue to be at the forefront of the conversation in 2015. As more women earn college degrees and decide to delay having children, they are rising to leadership and executive positions within their companies and enjoying an ever-shrinking wage gap. A 2012 Pew Research study found that for every dollar earned by a male worker between the ages 25 and 34, a female worker in the same age group earns 93 cents. At a 7 percent gap, this difference has become much less significant than the 33 percent gap recorded back in 1980. Millennial women are known to be extremely motivated and will continue fighting through 2015 until there is complete gender equality in the workplace.

2.  Freelancing will become a legitimate career choice
An Elance-oDesk study found that due to technological advancements and the wide reach of the Internet, some 53 million Americans now choose to be freelance workers. That accounts for about 34 percent of working Americans. These individuals can now earn a substantial income completing freelance, contract and temporary assignments, leading many to forego a standard 9-to-5 corporate job to enjoy more variety and flexibility.

3. Companies will start hiring millennials
The first wave of millennials will graduate from college in 2015, and businesses across the country are investing significant time and effort into understanding and recruiting this new generation of workers. According to Bloomberg, companies based in Silicon Valley have even begun recruiting talented high school students – as young as 16 – for summer internships. Corporate executives understand that younger hires really understand technology and social media, which can help give their companies an edge in the highly competitive digital space.

4. "Job-hopping" will rise
With all of the mobile apps and job-posting websites available today, it's hard to resist the temptation to look at what else is out there. Job boards make it easy to see what positions are open in different fields and different cities, so people can now place more emphasis on landing their dream jobs rather than staying where they are comfortable. This newfound ability leads many Americans to forego working at the same company for their entire careers and instead put in short-lived stints at different organizations until they find something that sticks.

5. More employers will allow telecommuting
Technological advancements have strongly decreased the need for all company employees to work in the same offices, so in 2015, the number of people who primarily work from home will continue to grow. This idea is mutually beneficial for workers and employers alike. Companies can decrease the amount of office space required to run the business, and geographical constraints will no longer apply when looking for the most qualified candidates. For employees, working from home means no long commute, more time at home with the family and a break from distracting office environment.

Managing employee and employer relations

23 Feb

Keeping workers happy is a major part of managing employee relations.

Employee relations is a major part of human resources. If workers don't get along with their managers and each other, then tasks can't be completed effectively. Creating a good workplace means beginning with helping the people who work together feel safe and welcome to come to the office every day. Perhaps more importantly, the HR staff should listen to everything happening at a business and provide the tools managers need to help keep their staff feeling healthy, secure and able to do a great job every day.

Maintain a high-quality workplace
Keeping the workplace happy, comfortable and safe is a critical piece of employee relations, according to the Houston Chronicle. Depending on the company, different human resources teams might have unique abilities to impact how people feel about their jobs. This could mean listening to employees and reporting on this info to those in charge of making appropriate changes. For example, if workers have to deal with a noisy machine, then HR might be able to communicate with the relevant department about noise levels and tips on how to control sound in the office.

Listening to the complaints of workers is also a major issue. This has to do both with keeping the workplace safe as well as acting as a disinterested third-party during conflict resolution. For workers who act inappropriately, the applicable disciplinary actions must be enforced. This can be anything from termination to correcting poor performance after a quarterly review. HR Managers must be sure to follow all appropriate rules and regulations and see to it that employees do the same.

Expanding the employee relations role to include other stakeholders
Employee relations may also involve the relationships that a company has with unions and governmental agencies, according to Wiley, an Australian educational website. Major issues that remain outstanding and continue to be relevant in HR are the matter of minimum wages and workers' rights – including the rights of interns. Proper human resources management requires negotiating with unions about the proper compensation appropriate to certain roles. For example, if a company plans to incorporate an extra line of products that will require additional work or hiring more people, then it must communicate this information to any applicable unions to make sure the company remains in good standing. Doing so will help companies remain on good terms with every stakeholder both inside and outside the office.

How to be a coach

23 Feb

Coaching means helping workers do their best every time.

The workplace of the future won't be shaped only by millennials. In fact, what millennials want from work is similar to what every age group is looking for, according to Forbes. People want coaching from their bosses, and they would prefer to have a flexible workplace. Businesses that need to recruit top talent shouldn't only look to millennials for hiring opportunities, so it's a good idea to start thinking of ways to incorporate some of the new trends.

One thing that everyone wants from their job is a coach who can help them grow and become a better worker. This trend correlates fairly closely with coaches in the sports world. The role of a boss is changing from someone who assigns tasks to a person who mentors and helps others grow. One example of a great coach that Business Insider brought up is Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks.

The way Carroll coaches can work well in a business context. While he wants his players loose and having fun, he also wants them focused. For the leader of a workplace team, this could mean allowing people to dress more casually. It also suggests a manager should expect a lot out of people and not take anything less than the best from what someone can offer.

For a one-on-one meeting with someone, a personal best can be different for each individual, and it may help to work with the people who need help getting up to speed. Part of this could mean hiring for enthusiasm and attitude and training someone up to a high level of expertise in a certain field.  Carroll demands a lot of control over his team, so he can choose his players and create the kind of football environment where his personal coaching style can thrive.

What workers want
Integral, an Australian company that teaches HR skills, suggested that workplace coaching involves giving people tools they need to succeed. This implies that what people really want from a coach is the ability to train in the skills necessary for a promotion opportunity or expand one's talents in various directions. The coach would help someone achieve these goals through mentorship and training.

Workers in the future will likely expect their bosses to be coaches, so teaching this leadership style will become essential for human resources management.

Setting up peer recognition programs

23 Feb

Peer recognition can help people feel successful.

A recent Towers Watson study found that 60 percent of workers feel detached or otherwise unsupported by their employers. Additionally, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey discovered job satisfaction to exist among only 64 percent of workers.

With numbers like these, many HR managers are probably wondering if there is a way to help employees feel more connected with people at work and with their jobs. In fact, peer-recognition programs may be the answer. Entrepreneur magazine stated that friendships at the office can make people feel happier and less apt to quit. By having recognition programs in place, employees can foster stronger friendships.

Setting up an awards program
Some of this must come from the culture of the workplace, but peer awards programs can help. The trick is to have employees be part of the election process for who wins something. Consider holding an event at a yearly holiday party or similar venue. People can vote in advance in a number of different categories. Some of the categories could be trivial, but others should be a bit more serious like the person who is earliest in the office and the one who is last to leave at the end of the day.

You Earned It, a peer recognition company, suggested a few more tips. For example, whenever a peer praises someone, he or she would be entered into a weekly or monthly raffle. Another tip is to have everyone write cards to their favorite workers, and then display them in a prominent place.

Don't let it be a popularity contest
It's important to remember that the people who win the awards shouldn't just be popular around the office. The goal is to foster a spirit of hard work and loyalty to the company. As such, try to avoid recognizing people in the office unless they did something truly praiseworthy. For example, if someone finished a project before a deadline, then that could be brought up at the next company-wide meeting, and the employee could win an award specifically tailored to the accomplishment, such as a free day off.

In the end, the success of such a program depends on the people who work for the company and the culture of the business. Ideally, workplace culture happens naturally as a result of hiring the right kind of employee and letting everyone mingle together during the day as they work. Don't try to use peer recognition programs as a fix for bad culture. At the same time, it is likely that awards can help to keep a culture going strong.

The future of big data in the banking sector

23 Feb

Big data has the power to dramatically shape HR.

Big data has changed the way the financial services industry operates. Additionally, the tool has the potential to alter things even more. The sector is experiencing a period of what John Guevara of financial services company Actian called a significant transformation in an interview with B Eye Network, a business news site. What will happen in the future is hard to predict, as big data technology is still something that hasn't been carefully analyzed in terms of the possibilities it contains aside from how it has been used currently.

The Financial Times chose to predict the future of banking by suggesting that institutions send out a financial newsletter to their customers with predictions about their behavior for the following month. In theory, it could also track the number of times someone visits particular stores and offer incentives for shopping at different places. As it stands, all of these things could be done right now, but they would take a lot of time. With more sophisticated computers on the way, much of this work would happen automatically in the future.

Personalized banking
Banking may become more personalized even as the basis of this lies with pooling together thousands of statistics and analyzing them dispassionately with a machine. It must be understood, however, that the tools are still being finessed and perfected.

"Big data is a big opportunity, but we've got to sort a lot of things out along the way," said Greg Baxter, global head of digital strategy at Citigroup, to the Financial Times. "But there are still a lot of 'small data' opportunities that can make a big difference – we're trying to make managing financial health a more integrated part of our client's life, so we're experimenting with providing clients with early warnings of potential cash flow problems in their accounts, for example."

Figuring out the best methods for leveraging big data
Like other industries, it's hard to figure out what to do about the recent technological innovations that allow powerful computers to process thousands of transactions in a matter of seconds. It is likely that human resources management in the banking sector may need to consider hiring people who are experts in big data. B Eye Network cited concerns about  privacy, and there is the possibility that this will be a major topic as more companies begin to track their customers' data on large scale. Hiring the right people for this job will soon become considerably important.

Digital continues to be important for hospitality in 2015

23 Feb

Remember that people currently don't expect to pay for the same lavish treatment as they might have in other years.

The future of the hospitality industry largely depends on the level of disposable income people have. In past years, focusing on different wealth tiers has been one way to capture every interested party with at least one level of service they can afford and enjoy. This will still be the case in the new year as the income gap continues to widen in the U.S., Hospitalitynet reported. However, one aspect of the business that may change or be emphasized, will be digital marketing. The number of people who comparison shop for the best hotels has grown, according to 4 Hoteliers. As such, this key market segment should be catered to with options that will improve the likelihood of taking a high potential client and bringing that person to the hotel.

Instant chat
There are different digital pathways for the online hotel shopper, with multiple marketing solutions geared toward each decision. The most obvious choice is to offer a live chat session. These services don't require one person for each chat, and can help to turn clients with an instant sense of the hospitality of the hotel and the friendliness of the staff. It also helps because information can be presented to someone without that person needing to go through a website. Patrons can ask questions and have them answered directly without any trouble. This is the recommended option by 4 Hotelier,

Phone calls
Another choice is the phone call. Some people do still call by phone, but it's trickier to consistently deliver a truly excellent phone call without having a sufficient number of dedicated agents who know a great deal about the hotel. If the number of people answering phones isn't high enough, then individuals will be put on hold, which will be distracting and irritating to the customer.

HR management departments will have to decide for themselves about how many people to hire for marketing and where to place them.

Once the guest is in the hotel
Making the sale and getting someone to a hotel is one thing, but keeping that person or family happy will be a greater challenge in 2015. For one thing, Tony Simons, associate professor of management and organizational behavior at Cornell, called attention to the growing awareness and actuality of wealth disparity in the U.S. in an interview with 4 Hoteliers. People are becoming sensitive to the different options available for levels of service. The key is that people are generally less well off in 2015 versus other years, so the demand for top service has shifted toward more toward the medium levels of hospitality. It sounds strange to say that there are levels of hospitality because obviously everyone expects a high degree of service, but in terms of expenses, people are less willing to shell out a lot of money for lavish treatment, and instead would prefer to save money by having a nice hotel with good services and amenities for an affordable price. Offering this is one way to meet the changing demands of consumers.

At the same time, there will always be a small number of people who want a penthouse treatment for a couple of days, so don't completely neglect the more expensive options for hotel pampering.

How to make a great team-building activity

12 Feb

When teams come together, everyone benefits.

Team building is a very important part of creating a successful workforce and community. When people have fun together doing something constructive and challenging, they tend to bond more strongly. By keeping workers functioning happily together as a unit, HR managers will be able to trust that teams will work together and operate smoothly.

There are some points to remember about team building. The first is that many people who are otherwise team players may not want to engage in team building, Entrepreneur reported. This is because they don't see a point in the activities. When a team is working well together, then it often will collect as a group and do activities together like a trivia night or having a couple of drinks after work. In a situation like that, it can be hard to know why people should engage in doing a team activity. Actually, the additional structure of team building can sometimes help those who are a bit shier than other members to open up more.

What makes for a good activity
At any rate, managers should make sure that the team building activity actually allows people to communicate and gain something from the experience. No one likes to take time when they could be working and spend it on something that won't actually help with bonding. One way to motivate people is to provide them with something productive that they can consider helpful to a community, such as painting a house or working for a habitat for humanity site. By working together, people can learn to trust each other, and even if employees were comfortable with having drinks, actually working on something physically demanding like painting the side of a building will foster a different kind of connection. It would also help if the activity happened somewhere outside the office to emphasize that this is a very different and special day that can't be associated with a regular business schedule.

An example of an easy icebreaker team building event
For people who can't incorporate team building outside the office, there are simple icebreakers people can do to start talking. These events tend to be a bit more structured, so people feel more comfortable opening up in the context of the activity. Successful Meetings, a company specializing in improving meeting performance, recommended doing a Mason jar salad activity, and use it to demonstrate their personality. Just have different food stations, like protein, nuts, and salad ingredients, and let people put the salad into a quart-sized Mason jar. Consider having a contest for the most attractive and well-designed jar.

Hiring for the manufacturing sector

11 Feb

Manufacturing is largely based on the work of machines.

Manufacturing is growing slowly but steadily in the U.S. The jobs that employee management hires for have changed from what they have been in the past. Formerly, jobs were largely based on labor and working with manual equipment, but the industry has become much more based on machines and robotics, so that the new face of manufacturing is tech-savvy and experienced with computers.

According to the Dayton Daily News, becoming a factory employee is a rewarding and stable job that often pays well. The requirements tend to be higher than they were formerly. For example, one company is looking for someone who can work confidently with automated machines.

"We're looking for CNC machinists with three to five years' experience. Programming is a plus, but we do our programming offline, so it's not a must," said Terry Kilbarger, manufacturing manager for RB Tool & Manufacturing Co. of Mount Healthy, Ohio. 

He added that finding adequate workers can be difficult in today's environment because the demand for labor is high, but not many people are experts at programming. Some businesses will hire workers with less experience if they have the right mindset. The company will then train those workers to work with machines and become adept at everything they need to know.

A recent Associated Press story described a slowdown in manufacturing. While this may be true in the short run, the long-term outlook of U.S. manufacturing is strong. Gas prices are low, and this means employees have money to spend on material goods. Although the dollar is strong versus foreign currency, which makes products more expensive overseas, people in the U.S. market have been buying more items.

The future of manufacturing HR
Human resources professionals in manufacturing firms will continue to hunt for the best job candidates and train people who are just out of school but have the right mindset. There is a shortage of quality, experienced workers, and hiring new people and training them to a high standard is likely a good solution. An additional thing affecting HR is big data. According to Forbes, manufacturing companies have been using big data to study email traffic and learn about how a high-performing manager does his or her job effectively. This may grow in importance as people begin to apply big data to the factory itself, so that humans become even more focused on maintaining and operating machines.

How to onboard new hires

9 Feb

Onboarding is crucial for future employee happiness.

Onboarding employees is important for keeping up company standards. A recent study by the Society for Human Resource Managers indicated that while over 25 percent of U.S. workers transition in their careers every year, half of hourly workers leave their jobs in the first four months, and half of senior hires leave within 18 months. The best way for human resources management to combat this is with an onboarding program that is honest and strongly focusing on teaching culture and presenting expectations.

Begin before the official start date
The first step to a good onboarding begins before the first day, according to HR Bartender. Workers should get an email explaining the logistics of their beginning day at work. It should include information about parking, the dress code and other details about the onboarding itself. There should be no surprises or confusions regarding what is expected on day one.

Inc. Magazine suggested mailing some of the paperwork that must be signed ahead of time. This way, employees won't be bogged down in minutiae during company presentations.

Don't be afraid to dwell on details
During the onboarding process itself, there will be a lot of information about the company's history. This is necessary as a way of explaining the culture of a business, but don't forget to teach people the practical requirements such as using the phone. Even something as simple as this can help prevent any hiccups that are associated with new hires.

Arrange a brief welcome
During the orientation, it wouldn't hurt to have the new hire receive his or her own workstation, freshly cleaned and with everything he or she will need for the job. Send out an email to inform workers a new employee is starting. This will encourage people to drop by just to say hello and find out about what the new person is like.

You should also have his or her email address ready so work can start as soon as onboarding is finished.

Doing the tour and giving the company presentation
Make sure your tour is useful. This means showing where the bathrooms and the kitchen are. Don't forget to talk about lunch and the expected protocol. Show them offices of important staff members like the head of HR and the new hire's immediate superior.

For the company presentation, remember not to turn it into a history class, but at the same time, show real pride in the founders of the company, and demonstrate how the culture fits into that history. Be sure to explain issues like 401(k) and other matters of importance. This way the people being onboarded understand a little more of what they are signing up for. If the worker is left alone to fill out paperwork, then make sure he or she has plenty of time to read and ask questions. It might help to use Google Chat to open a line of communication with the onboard expert, so questions and answers can happen even during a downtime when someone is just reading.

Informal onboarding
After the formal onboarding, it wouldn't hurt to have the new hire's team take the person out for lunch or dinner. This gives everyone a chance to get to know each other, and more informal aspects of company culture can be discussed. People can talk about the kind of worker who does well in the company, and they can talk about the successes and challenges of the team itself. This way, the new hire has an early chance to demonstrate his or her character, and so do the members of the team.

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