Retooling and improving performance reviews at the end of 1Q

21 Apr

At the close of Q1, it's time for businesses to rethink the way they handle performance reviews.

Performance reviews in some capacity are necessary for business growth and talent development. Traditionally, performance evaluations have been completed annually, though many companies are opting to revamp their tactics and review employees more regularly throughout the year. As the first quarter winds down, businesses should be asking themselves whether evaluations are necessary at this juncture.

Performance tracking is still relevant 
While performance reviews tend to elicit feelings of anxiety in both reviewers and their workers, they are still relevant and important in the workplace. CPS Recruiter stated these discussions improve career-planning decisions for both the business and its employees.

Many corporations have goals that need to be met by the conclusion of each quarter. Some businesses or departments rely more heavily on this schedule than others. Sales teams, for example, must have a successful first quarter to get off to a running start for the rest of the year. Sales Training Connection stated sales managers must take time at the end of each quarter, and the first quarter most importantly, to assess the progress and performance of the team as a whole and individuals involved.

Other teams can take a page from the sales manager's book and administer reviews when the first quarter has finished to ensure employees are not establishing bad habits early on. Every team member likely has a routine that he or she follows when approaching a project. If this system is producing less-than-stellar results, it needs to be addressed before it becomes engrained and habitual.

Revamping the evaluation process
It's becoming more evident each year that the current performance evaluation system isn't working for many employers. An annual, all-encompassing discussion is at once not enough and too much. It causes a great deal of stress on human resources and wastes millions of hours, according to a Deloitte survey. Fifty-eight percent of respondents considered their current approach lackluster when it came to increasing employee engagement or improving performance. A system taking up too many resources while providing ineffective results needs to change. 

One alternative to the annual review is an ongoing, project-based approach to offering feedback. Rather than summing up an employee's entire year, managers can take a moment each quarter or at the conclusion of a major project to identify what the employee has done well and where he or she can improve. The research group came up with four key questions managers should be asking themselves in preparation for the review to best assess performance:

  1. Given what I know about this employee's performance, and if it were my money, would I pay this person the highest salary possible and include a bonus?
  2. Given what I know about this employee's performance, would I always choose him or her to be on my team?
  3. Do I think this person is at risk for low performance?
  4. Do I think this person is ready for promotion today?

These inquiries set up management and human resources professionals for more productive feedback to offer team members. Employee management software can help businesses formulate more meaningful performance review processes and policies, ensuring workers remain engaged, challenged and contributing members of the organization. 

Revamping performance reviews to increase employee engagement

20 Apr

HR professionals need to review their own processes throughout the year to ensure employee engagement.

Employee reviews are critical to career development and business growth. Human resources professionals must examine the review process closely, as many companies tend to use the same methods for performance evaluations year in and year out. Revamping reviews can enhance employee engagement

The power of inclusion
Feedback is certainly a powerful tool in that it clarifies exactly what tactics are working for an employee and which ones need improvement to keep up with performance standards. However, Inc. magazine noted that simply administering feedback to employees isn't always enough to convey their importance in relation to the entire company. In fact, workers who are given an equal combination of autonomy and responsibility to make decisions feel more valued in their roles.

Fast Company reported that when employees are asked to make decisions that directly influence their work and that of their peers, a greater sense of community and well-being begins to build. Happy employees are more productive and contribute stronger work to their organizations because they see the results of their efforts. 

Rather than reviewing an employee from only one side of the table, HR should consider turning the process into a conversation. Offering the employee a chance to evaluate his or her performance before listening to outside input can establish a stronger relationship between worker and employer. This action demonstrates trust and interest in fostering that employee's success. Whether beginning the review by asking employees to discuss their work or sending out planned review questions ahead of time, this approach gives workers a greater sense of control over their positions and their ability to improve.

Once may not be enough
Business Insider encouraged companies to think outside of the box and review employees more frequently so that any negative observations are addressed sooner rather than later. Surprising employees with the news that their performances have been less than acceptable for a long period of time will immediately question their future with the company and how highly they are valued by supervisors.

The negative effects of comparing and contrasting
It's hard not to measure oneself against peers; bosses and HR professionals must be sensitive to the fact that team members may already be in silent competition with one another. It doesn't help to compare any employee to another, particularly during a performance review. Instead, it's a good idea to narrow the focus to the employee under review and his or her strengths. What does this person bring to the table that no one else does? How are contributions made in meetings conducive to growing the business? 

In the same vein, if it seems a team member is not fitting in with others, avoid discussing the situation in a negative light. Explore how this person's unique perspective can contribute to the team's assignments. 

A robust human resources management software platform provides HR professionals with the tools they need to develop the most productive method of conducting performance reviews possible.

Monitoring employee stress and physical activity

20 Apr

Taking phone calls standing up is a great way to decrease the amount of time spent sitting every day.

When people think about stress, they often picture a frantic emotional or physical state that increases heart rates, causes perspiration and makes focusing on a single task difficult. However, in today's workplaces, physical stress looks very different than it used to. Multiple studies have emerged in recent years indicating that sitting at a desk all day is almost as bad – if not worse – for the body as smoking. The stress placed on the body by being sedentary all day can dramatically decrease employee health and productivity.

How much time is spent sitting?
The Annals of Internal Medicine published findings from a study on the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on health completed earlier this year. Sedentary is an adjective used to describe an inactive person or way of life. As many office workers know all too well, a large portion of the day is spent sitting at a desk. Unfortunately, the study, "Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis," found that despite efforts to exercise before or after the workday, sporadic activity does little to undo the damage that sitting for 8 to 12 hours every day does to the human body.

Pain Management and Injury Relief noted that on average, adult workers spend 9.3 hours per day sitting down. This number has steadily increased over the past 150 years; in the past, our ancestors spent 90 percent of their daylight hours moving or walking. Today that number is as low as 40 percent. In fact, 50-70 percent of people spend at least six hours sitting down every day, whether at a desk, in front of the TV or participating in other leisure activities.

The impact of sitting still 
The sedentary time study noted this passive stress increases the likelihood people will develop a variety of diseases in their lifetimes. High cholesterol, slowed blood circulation, cardiovascular disease, obesity and colon cancer are more likely to emerge in people who sit for 8 to 12 hours every day. In fact, one's risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases by an alarming 90 percent with that type of sedentary lifestyle.

Fixing stress with active company culture 
Since the workplace often enables sedentary lifestyles, it's important that businesses provide employee engagement ideas pertaining to health and wellness programs to decrease physical stress. A corporation that weaves physical activity into its culture elicits greater achievement from individuals and develops more productive teams. Businesses should consider offering discounts on local gym memberships or paying a portion of an employee's enrollment in a marathon or charity run. Establishing a company sports league or playing recreational sports each season is another way to not only boost activity but camaraderie as well.

Companies that may not have the funding or resources to provide extensive training or health programs to employees can still encourage a more active lifestyle. Standing desks are becoming more popular among offices around the world, as it provides a convenient and healthy alternative to sitting down all day. Workers who have invested in a standing desk actually found they were less stressed, according to Pain Management and Injury Relief. Aside from burning more calories, standing up at work made 87 percent of workers more energized and 71 percent more focused.

Employees can also find moments throughout the day where standing could take the place of sitting. Phone calls can be taken standing up and meetings with a few colleagues could take place on a walk as opposed to a conference room.

Any method used by a business to get employees up and active is worth the effort. Those workers are the future of the company and managers should be investing in their health every day. 

Nurturing future leaders through succession development

20 Apr

A succession development plan gives businesses more control over their futures.

Businesses today must have formidable succession plans for leadership roles. Without cohesive strategies in place, a corporation could lose its industry stature or reputation when current leaders resign or move on.

According to a 2014 study completed by the Institute of Executive Development in conjunction with Stanford University, corporate leaders see succession plans as a vital aspect of their businesses​' futures, yet 46 percent stated they had no specific candidate in mind to succeed the current CEO. Should a CEO leave tomorrow, it would take those companies a median of 90 days to fill the position. 

Fast Company stated that most corporations either have no plans for succession or a strategy with too many complicated rules, stages and candidates. This simply isn't conducive to a healthy business.

Why build a succession plan?
A succession plan helps businesses maintain continuity in leadership and operations. It also helps human resources professionals identify potential candidates early on and work with these employees' strengths for a long period of time rather than tossing new CEOs into the hot seat at a crucial moment and expecting a faultless performance.

From an employee's perspective, working for a company with a succession strategy makes committing to professional development a more meaningful endeavor. From management's point of view, the process allows current leaders an opportunity to demonstrate power, which in turn actively earns employee trust. Being able to delegate duties and motivate top talent is at once a strong display of power and care. Plus, implementing a succession program will motivate senior leadership to remain accountable and on top of their businesses' performance until the day they leave.

One common motivator for establishing a succession plan among the executives in the survey was risk reduction. While this is certainly important, it doesn't focus on the professional development necessary to properly groom someone for as significant a role as CEO. Harvard Business Review encouraged companies to focus on succession development rather than succession planning as they develop their unique programs. This is because while a plan helps an organization understand the process, when it comes time for a successor to fill a leadership role, he or she will need to have had significant experience with those responsibilities already to make the transition smoothly.

How can a company initiate succession development?
The two words human resources professionals need to remember when designing a succession development plan are honesty and practice.

  1. Honesty: It's irresponsible to promise a position to someone or begin nurturing candidates who will never be considered for a CEO position. Any professional or succession development program must be straightforward with participants - and applicants, if applicable - about their chances of obtaining that top spot and what is expected of them along the way.
  2. Practice: Without actively practicing making tough decisions, performing routine tasks or interacting with clients, no prospective successor is going to be ready to take over a CEO's position. It's necessary that HR departments and senior leaders alike facilitate opportunities for those top candidates to try their hand at the work. 

Human resource information systems can improve the design and execution of a promising succession development strategy - something every business needs to secure its future. 

BYOD: How can employers and employees protect themselves?

20 Apr

Using one device for both work and personal communication is becoming more common.

Bring Your Own Device has been one of the biggest trends in the workplace for years. As more employees rely on smartphones and tablets to review data on the go, stay in touch and work remotely, the concept of using a personal device for work purposes is certainly here to stay. In 2013, Gartner predicted that half of employers would require employees to use their personal devices for work by 2017. A recent report from Tech Pro Research revealed 74 percent of respondents are already utilizing BYOD or plan to do so in the future. Only 62 percent said the same when identical research was conducted two years ago, indicating BYOD continues to gain ground. 

As BYOD becomes a more critical part of business operations and keeps contributing to employee engagement, it's essential both employers and staff members know what rights each party has and how to protect themselves.

What can an employer really see on an employee's device?
There's often confusion about what the management team can do with a worker's smartphone or tablet – the staff member does own the device, after all. Plenty of controversy surrounds this issue, as employees may have photos, records or other data of a personal nature on their devices that they don't want their employer rifling through.

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, it is possible, but not necessarily likely, for an employer to access the following depending on an individual company's BYOD policy:

  • Phone records and contact information
  • Internet browsing history
  • Location information
  • Social media accounts
  • Messaging histories

In an interview with CIO magazine, MobileIron's president of strategy, Ojas Rege, largely corroborated this information. Rege said that a company can't see personal videos, photos, email or texts that aren't sent over a company messaging app. However, employers do have access to information about an employee's location, data storage use, battery level, corporate email and corporate data.

In the unlikely event of business litigation, an individual's device could be subject to search and review as evidence. 

One of the things employees are most concerned about is their device being wiped if they leave the company or lose their smartphone. Seventy-one percent of respondents to a Zix Corp poll said they wouldn't use a personal gadget for work if they knew their employer could wipe it remotely. 

How can employers protect themselves?
Your employees may have extremely sensitive business data on their devices, meaning the last thing your company wants is to lose track of that information. Unfortunately, smartphones and tablets do get misplaced, and when they do, your organization needs to know it's protected from data loss. Human resource solutions that help mitigate data theft with employee concerns are critical.

Any company considering allowing employees to bring their own devices needs to first create an airtight BYOD policy that workers who want to use their personal devices must sign off on. The American Bar Association's "BYOD Policies: A Litigation Perspective" report notes that a strong BYOD policy must consider the following elements to effectively mitigate risk:

  • Training and employee buy-in
  • Ownership and cost of the device
  • Striking a balance between employee privacy and employer data security
  • Maintaining confidentiality of trade secrets or other confidential information
  • Policy synergy

One of the more important elements will include gaining consent to wipe a device that is lost or stolen. As this is a major concern for employees who bring their own smartphones or tablets to work, it needs to be addressed clearly and both parties need to understand exactly what will happen if the device goes missing – and in what timeframe. If policy calls for devices to be wiped immediately when reported lost or stolen, regularly encourage employees to back up any contacts, photos or other personal data they wouldn't want to lose and could not recover.

Governing BYOD within the company
For nearly as long as employees have been using personal devices on the job, there's been a dispute over which department is in charge of the BYOD policy – HR or IT? 

This uncertainty continues today, and this is a significant business risk. A policy that's ineffectively governed can create confusion or lead employees to take unnecessary risks with corporate information stored on their devices. What elements does each department need to consider to create a cohesive strategy that both sides have a role in creating, implementing and carrying out?

First and foremost, the IT department needs to have security in mind. IT professionals need to detail exactly what antivirus protection devices must have and which applications are risky and should be banned. Similarly, they need to have any other relevant elements of data protection considered. For example, requiring passwords, explaining what happens in the event a device is lost or ensuring all employees are up to date on which devices are permitted all fall within the IT spectrum.

HR will have other considerations in mind. One major task is balancing an employee's privacy concerns and legal issues with the company's needs and ensuring everyone knows what's in the BYOD policy. Similarly, it may be HR's responsibility to make sure everyone knows who pays for new devices or upgrades when they're necessary. 

BYOD litigation
The risks of BYOD are numerous – and they're not all security related. Lawsuits are another drawback of BYOD, though not a very large one.

However, as of early March 2015, California employers are gearing up for class action lawsuits over BYOD expense reimbursement policies. This was expected, as last year a state court decided that companies had to reimburse employees for calls they took on their mobile phones that were work related. This will present new challenges for the BYOD realm and could change how many employers allow workers to use their personal phones for work.

If this class action suit does move forward, it will doubtless change the world of BYOD and policies companies put together for their employees. This will require both HR and IT departments to stay up to date on the latest developments in BYOD and ensure their policies are not only sound from a security standpoint, but also not in violation of any local legislation. 

What drives good employees to leave

17 Apr

Why do good employees quit and more importantly, how can you stop them?

No matter what company they work for, HR managers and supervisors will always have to deal with good employees leaving the business. People move on, whether it's for a career change, a higher salary, a promotion or personal reasons. 

Finding a proper replacement can be challenging, and no company wants to lose a valuable team player. Are there actions that hint someone is about to turn in his or her notice? And what can managers offer resigning employees to convince them to stay?

Certain behaviors signal a resignation is coming
There are certain actions that clearly indicate someone has either lost interest in his or her work or they're about to quit. Coming in late and leaving early, disappearing for lengthy periods in the middle of the day and barely getting any work done are obvious signs you'll soon need to replace someone, but what about less obvious signs?

Research from Utah State University indicated that certain behaviors, when performed consistently, reveal a worker is probably about to leave in one or two months. These activities all had one common thread – they helped an employee start disengaging him or herself from the workplace. Tim Gardner, an associate professor at the university, said that if an employee is engaging in at least six of the following behaviors, the model he created predicted with 80 percent accuracy that the individual was about to resign. These tendencies included:

  • Becoming more quiet
  • Avoiding social gatherings at which upper management would attend
  • Becoming less interested in promotion opportunities
  • Reluctance to commit to long-term projects
  • Speaking up less frequently in meetings
  • Not going above and beyond
  • Minimal interest in developing new skills and participating in training initiatives
  • Reduced productivity
  • Failing to offer up new ideas for improvement

HR managers can train supervisors within their companies to keep an eye out for such behaviors. While they aren't necessarily always associated with an impending resignation, they are certainly a warning sign.

"It appears that a person's attitude can create behaviors that are hard to disguise," said Gardner. "As the grass starts to look greener on the other side of the fence to you, chances are that others will soon notice that you've lost your focus."

What will convince them to stay?
Employee turnover is costly, with regard to dollars, recruiting costs and employee morale overall. Therefore, after receiving a letter of resignation a manager's first line of defense should be to save the job and convince the employee to stay.

This may be easier said than done. A whitepaper from the Society of Human Resource Management showed that in initial exit interviews, 38 percent of employees said they were leaving because of salary, while only 4 percent cited poor supervisors. When these same employees were surveyed again year-and-a-half later these numbers changed drastically – 12 percent said salary was their reason for departing while 24 percent said it was poor management. If fewer than 15 percent of people are really quitting because of salary, HR managers shouldn't necessarily offer a raise to retain someone. Seeing if they're interested in moving to another department or working with another team could be more beneficial, though if the worker's problem is with management as a whole, this strategy may not prove effective. 

Work-related stress was a significant reason why employees quit, according to Towers Watson data, but this same study showed that concern didn't resonate with managers, who didn't think it belonged in the top seven reasons why workers will leave. Supervisors need to rectify this, and soon, especially as constant access to technology may make some workers feel they're on call 24/7. Trying to determine the underlying cause of staff stress and offering to work with someone who's quitting on this factor may convince them the job is worth staying in after all.

What do HR managers need to know about the EEOC’s initiative to eliminate workplace harassment?

16 Apr

Putting a stop to workplace harassment is a priority for the EEOC, and should be for employers as well.

HR manager software can help a human resource professional better manage payroll, training and time off. As anyone in the field knows, these systems are critical given the number of other tasks on HR's plate. From new workplace rules to government initiatives, there's a lot for human resource professionals to stay up to date on.

One of these government initiatives includes ending workplace harassment. So what exactly do internal teams need to know about it, and how will it impact them, if at all?

What constitutes as harassment and what role does the EEOC play?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has long aimed to ensure all workers, regardless of sex, race, disability or other defining characteristics, have the same opportunities in the workplace. The government body has also made a move to eliminate harassment many people face on the job. Harassment of this nature is illegal, but some employers may be unclear on the specifics. 

According to the EEOC, conduct becomes unlawful when it creates an environment that is hostile, offensive or intimidating to a reasonable person. This can include physical assaults, threats, offensive jokes or insults, intimidation, ridicule or a range of other activities. Minor isolated incidents and irritations do not fall under this umbrella and would thus not be considered illegal, unwelcome as they may be. 

Harassment doesn't have to come from a higher-up. While an offender may sometimes be a worker's manager, it's just as likely the harasser could be a coworker, contractor or even a non-employee. 

It's critical HR acts on harassment complaints, or better yet, tries to nip this problem in the bud. Employers are responsible for harassment from a manager that leads to an employee's termination, failure to get a promotion or pay cut, and are also liable for harassment from other individuals if they knew or should have known about the activity and didn't put a stop to it.

EEOC finds harassment still a significant issue
While employers are certainly aware of the detrimental impacts harassment brings to the workplace and most employees sign some sort of policy stating they understand their company's harassment policy, this is still a surprisingly large issue.

A January EECO meeting found that of all the complaints filed with the organization, about 30 percent allege workplace harassment. This indicates employers aren't doing enough to keep harassment out of the workplace, or employees find the any training sessions they currently undergo ineffective. 

Due to the high rate of alleged harassment, EEOC Chair Jenny Yang announced she would establish a task force aimed at determining what strategies would best help eliminate this common workplace problem.

"The EEOC is working to leverage our resources to have a greater impact on the persistent problem of workplace harassment," said Yang. "By identifying underlying problems in workplaces and industries where we see recurring patterns of harassment, we are developing strategies that focus on targeted outreach and education as well as systemic enforcement to promote broader voluntary compliance."

Data from the EEOC shows that the fiscal year ranging from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 20, 2014 saw nearly 31,100 individuals claim they'd been harassed because of their race, while more than 26,000 said their sex was the reason behind the harassment. More than 25,300 and 20,000 said the same about their disability and age, respectively.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the rate of individuals alleging retaliation for reporting harassment hit a new high of nearly 43 percent during this period. 

How employers can stop harassment
Harassment is costly, with regard to time spent trying to settle the case, low employee morale, damages that may need to be paid and a damaged brand reputation. Rather than dealing with these problems as they arise, HR departments need to determine what they can do to stop this serious issue before it even starts. 

One of these things will include revisiting current harassment training programs, namely: Do any exist? If employees are simply signing off on a sheet saying they understand and will comply with company harassment policies, they may not understand the seriousness of the issue and that something they consider a joke could actually have significant repercussions in the long run. 

Creating stronger and more informative preventative training sessions is one area in which the EEOC's Yang thinks employers could focus on. 

"Preventing harassment from occurring in the first place is far preferable to remedying its consequences," she said in a press release. 

To do this, HR managers will need to determine what needs to be discussed at the sessions, potentially including:

  • What actions constitute harassment
  • Examples of harassment and why these are considered such
  • Which groups are protected from workplace harassment by law
  • Who can be accused of harassment
  • The legal repercussions if someone goes to the EEOC with a harassment complaint
  • What will happen to an individual accused of harassment

By getting ahead of this troubling trend, employers can protect themselves and their employees from harassment and the potential litigation that may fo​llow.

The modern performance evaluation

16 Apr

How does your company conduct performance reviews?

Performance evaluations aren't usually the most comfortable meetings for employees or their management teams. Any situation that requires one individual to judge another is going to be stressful, and that can reduce the overall effectiveness of what could otherwise be a productive and beneficial meeting.

Thankfully, the outdated concept of the traditional performance review is starting to change, and they're being replaced by more effective, engaging conversations and human resource solutions that have a more lasting impact. 

Consistent conversations over annual rubrics
One of the major problems with the now-outdated annual performance review was its infrequency. Getting feedback once a year wasn't allowing workers to change their strategies as soon as management thought something wasn't working well. This allowed them to build up bad habits or go into their reviews thinking everything was fine, when in reality management had a very different opinion. In addition, the person conducting the review could be harping on an event or project the employee being reviewed doesn't even remember well, making it a pointless exercise. 

Traditional rubrics don't leave much room to consider each worker's unique skills and limitations. Consider those old rubrics as a guide, or something to spark ideas and conversation, rather than something that needs to be strictly followed at all times. Because ultimately, that's what the modern review should be – a conversation. Both parties should have a chance to speak and discuss each point on the agenda, ask questions and raise concerns. A successful evaluation should never consist of an HR manager rattling off a list of problems. 

Ohio State University's Office of Human Resources released a document detailing some of the most common problems with traditional reviews. They can sometimes result in a "halo effect" or rating an employee highly in every category because of exceptional performance in one area, or the contrasting "horn error" which leads managers to lower all factors in a review based on poor performance in one area. If an employee has struggled in the past, the "spillover error" could leave HR managers downgrading performance numbers even if the worker has improved.

It's critical managers have two-way chats with their teams instead of one-sided conversations while their staff members sit by. Asking employees how they can improve their performance in a specific area or what they think they've improved on can give those conducting the review an idea of how the employee sees him or herself. Requesting more detail on why or how an individual made a certain decision, where they want to develop their skills more and what's prevented them from achieving those goals may give more insight into what the worker's day consists of and if they're bogged down with time-consuming tasks.

What do employees think of these evaluations?
In a perfect world, reviews would inspire employees to improve and tackle tasks with renewed vigor. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case. "Performance appraisal satisfaction: The role of feedback and goal orientation," a study completed by researchers at Kansas State University, Eastern Kentucky University and Texas A&M showed that top performers who want to improve are quite bothered by getting negative feedback.

With this in mind, those organizations that think it necessary to keep evaluations need to ensure the best employees aren't getting reviews that will discourage them or motivate them to leave the company.

What makes a review effective?
Ultimately, both managers and employees should walk away with several key pieces of information and should never be surprised during the review. The hallmarks of a good review are shared responsibility from both employee and supervisor, the chance to set goals and an opportunity to recognize achievement or improvement. 

If neither party feels these objectives have been achieved, it's hard to consider the review a successful or productive one. 

How do bonuses factor in?
Most managers love rewarding great performance with a bonus. However, they need to go about it a certain way. Michael Beer, chairman of management consulting firm TruePoint and professor emeritus of business administration at Harvard Business School, told Inc. magazine that under no circumstances should a manager say they plan to discuss bonuses with employees in performance reviews

"You can't get someone to really be listening and trying to learn about what they can do to change or problem solve when they know the meeting is about what their bonus is," he said. "They're going to be very defensive and closed."

Rather, the bonus talk should be saved for after the review, when the employee already knows how they're doing, where they can improve and will be fully focused on the topic at hand. 

By optimizing performance reviews, employees will be more engaged in and satisfied with the process, and management teams can see more consistent, stronger performance throughout the year. 

Mental health issues in the workplace

15 Apr

Mental illness has become a significant issue in the workplace.

Dealing with mental health is an enormous problem facing our society. Individuals across the nation suffer from a range of disorders that the public, physicians and employers are just beginning to fully grasp. As awareness and understanding of these disorders grows, it will be more important for workplaces to ensure they're adequately protecting their workers and making accommodations for those who may already struggle with mental health problems. Strategic human resource management will be more important to guarantee this problem doesn't get out of control.

Mental health issues on the rise
An enormous number of people suffer from mental illnesses, and some may not even know it. According to the World Health Organization, it's thought that 350 million people across the globe suffer from depression, the most common mental health issue, and many more face other psychological challenges on a daily basis.

This estimate could be low. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that while sometimes mental health disorders present obvious symptoms, in some cases they don't impair an individual's ability to function at all. This could lead those affected to believe nothing serious is wrong with them. Overall, the NIH estimates 18.6 percent of U.S. adults have some sort of mental illness.

A study conducted by San Diego University's Professor Jean Twenge, the rate of depression has increased substantially since the 1980s. Her study of nearly 7 million people found that college students are 50 percent more likely now to say they feel overwhelmed and adults are more likely to say they sleep badly, feel like everything requires an effort and have a poor appetite today than they were years ago. These are all telltale symptoms of depression, and indicate mental health has worsened over the decades.

"Despite all of these symptoms, people are not any more likely to say they are depressed when asked directly, again suggesting that the rise is not based on people being more willing to admit depression," said Twenge.

There are still some misconceptions regarding mental health, so some people may think they're just having a bad week or that they need to "snap out of it" rather than considering depression or anxiety are serious, long-term health issues that can't be fixed without some sort of medical assistance.

While a stigma surrounding mental health may have been one of the issues that kept people from seeking treatment in the past, this doesn't appear to be a major barrier these days. Numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control show that nearly 63 percent of adults strongly agree with the statement "Treatment can help people with mental illness lead normal lives," while almost 26 percent slightly agreed with that assessment

Why the spike in occurrences?
There could be several reasons for the steady increase in mental health issues over the past few decades. In his piece for Psychology Today, Gregg Henriques notes that one of the factors behind increased stress, anxiety and depression is the advent of technology. With constant access to social media and the Internet, people are more apt to become worried, stressed or unrealistically compare themselves to others. All of these things can contribute to serious mental health issues over time. The constant access to sad or frightening news stories, given the relatively new 24-hour news cycle, could also be playing a role in this.

One of the other factors he addresses is the fundamental difference between how people live now and how they evolved to function. Our diets, lack of exercise and less in-person communication could all contribute to issues like depression. Similarly, the freedom people have to make their own choices and moral decisions could be leaving them unsure of their place and what's actually right.

Obviously another factor that contributes to mental health struggles, especially in recent years, is the economy. Unemployment skyrocketed in recent years, and people all over the country experienced layoffs and significant financial pressures. Some families were left short of food, adequate health care or even lost their homes. Younger adults have, in many instances, been unable to find gainful employment after graduating college, forcing them to remain in low-wage jobs and delay what's considered "real" adulthood. These are all serious problems that undoubtedly have contributed to rising stress, anxiety and depression rates.

Those who have been able to keep their jobs throughout the economic crisis haven't necessarily enjoyed better mental health, though. According to Towers Watson's 2011/2012 "Staying @ Work Survey" report, nearly 90 percent of respondents said long hours were the main source of worker stress. This was a jump of nearly nine percentage points over the same survey conducted in 2009.

Are employers addressing mental health?
As rates of depression, anxiety and other disorders have shot up, employers have been left with no choice but to do something about it if they want to keep their top performing staff members. According to the Towers Watson report, 50 percent of employers had taken some sort of action to reduce stress due to long hours in 2011 compared to only 21 percent in 2009. Because many employees are also stressed over how smartphones and email make them feel on-call 24/7, 46 percent of companies said they had tried to address the issue of technologies expanding someone's availability after the workday had ended.

However, it appears that employers that are taking these steps aren't doing enough. The research indicated 45 percent of employees said their business's actions didn't have an impact on their stress related to long hours. Another 51 percent felt the efforts their management teams had made with regard to increased availability thanks to technology hadn't been helpful.

Ultimately, HR managers will need to take additional steps to guarantee they're preventing burnout, reducing stress and keeping the most valued employees from fleeing for greener pastures. By surveying staff members on what the company can do differently to increase their satisfaction and lower stress or depression, businesses will have a more clear idea of how to proceed with this critical task and proceed with the appropriate human resource solutions.

What happens in the event of a cyberattack?

15 Apr

Who is responsible for a company's data security?

Cybersecurity is a top concern for every business. With multiple high-profile data breaches that cost businesses millions of dollars and seriously damaged their reputations in recent years, it's increasingly apparent that one area companies can't afford to neglect is IT security. 

But what happens if a company does indeed experience a breach? Even if all the necessary security measures are in place, every business needs to be ready for the worst. 

Who takes responsibility? 
It's an age-old question: Is HR or IT responsible for cybersecurity? In some cases one department wants control of this task and the other doesn't, making it easy to determine who blame should fall on if anything goes wrong. But all too frequently, it's difficult for leaders within these areas to decide which should take the lead. 

IT seems like an obvious choice to lead data protection initiatives – after all, cybersecurity certainly seems to fall under the information technology umbrella. And while IT professionals may be able to advise and contribute to the discussions about mitigating breaches, they aren't the only ones who have a horse in the race.

Unlikely as it seems, human resource solutions should play a major role in the cybersecurity process. In an interview with the Society for Human Resource Management, Philip L. Gordon, a shareholder in the Denver office of Littler and co-chair of the firm's Privacy and Data Protection Practice Group, claims that lost or stolen devices are one of the most common causes of data breaches. He says that training employees to report a missing device immediately is critical, and this could be one of the onboarding sessions HR completes with new workers. 

Similarly, he recommends HR have a stringent office security policy, and make sure reception workers don't allow any unauthorized individuals to walk through the workspace without supervision. 

If the IT department refuses to take the lead on data protection, the HR department may opt to create a new position like " Chief Security Officer" or something similar. This person would need to have a firm grasp on legal compliance and a strong understanding of the technical aspects that cybersecurity calls for. 

What if IT doesn't step up?
To keep from encountering any confusion over who's responsible for what when it comes to security incidents and protection, it's vital to have a plan in place before anything happens. 

While HR may be responsible for training employees on how to mitigate security risks and working with employees if one does happen, IT will be responsible for certain things given its more technical expertise. The department should be aware that if a hack does happen, it is responsible for taking machines offline, preserving evidence of the breach and working with forensics to determine what data has been compromised and how to delete any malware or hacker tools.

Experian's Data Breach Response Guide details what steps need to be taken within the first day after a breach occurs. Every organization should have a point person to go to for each item on the list, whether it's someone in the IT or HR department. The steps include recording when the breach was discovered and when someone acted on it, alerting the appropriate parties, making sure additional data loss doesn't occur and starting an investigation.

What must a company provide after a breach?
No business plans on getting hacked, but in the event it does, higher-ups need to know what documentation they be required to provide.

The Federal Trade Commission's 2014 Privacy and Data Security Update details when companies in certain industries are required to inform consumers of data breaches. The Experian report also shows how multiple states are considering more thorough notification laws that would require businesses to provide even more information about the data breaches they experienced, including what personal information was accessed, when the breach occurred, what happened and sometimes even if the notification was delayed because of a law enforcement investigation.

After a security incident, documentation at every single stage of the process is key. Professionals responsible for investigating the breach should have notes relating to each person they spoke to about the issue, how long it took them to get the authorities involved, what information was accessed and so on. They should also note not just what they did and when, but why they took those steps.

Businesses have to act now
Even if a business thinks its data is secure, chances are it can be compromised at some point. The Experian report says that in 2012 alone, 267 million records were exposed thanks to cybersecurity incidents. 

With such great repercussions, companies have to be know how to mitigate the risk of an incident and how to proceed if one does happen. By combining the duties for HR and IT, no one department has to bear the entire burden and each department can specialize in its own area.

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