Strategies on how to have tough conversations with your employees

15 Apr

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

Here are four strategies for having tough conversations with employees:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The importance of mentorships within the workplace

2 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges facing HR and Payroll Managers in 2014

24 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

18 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Challenge of 2014: Retaining Talent

10 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits Education Pays Off

3 Mar

human resources creating a happy workforceAs healthcare costs rise, employers have continued to shift a growing percentage of the cost of health benefits to employees. And, as workers shoulder more of their medical costs, they will need to better understand the health benefits they are offered at work and how to effectively use them.

Cost-Shifting Increases Employee Costs and the Need for Education

Workers are contributing almost twice as much today toward the amount of their employee health benefits as they were 10 years ago. To manage their own costs, employers continue to increase workers’ premiums, co-pays and deductibles. This, along with the movement toward consumer directed health plans (CDHPs) which include high deductible policies, leave workers with higher out-of-pocket costs at the time they seek medical care.

And, the movement toward CDHPs is growing.

According to a recent survey by the National Business Group on Health, 72% of employers now offer at least one CDHP. Employers offering only these plans have risen from 19% to 22% in the past year.

A different but related trend just gaining traction is likely to not only increase the cost of health benefits for workers, but also the requirement that they take a more active, and therefore, educated role in selecting and navigating those benefits.

A recent Reuters article reporting on the 2013 annual policy forum sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) cites “a shift in workplace health insurance akin to the dramatic shift in recent decades from traditional pensions to 401(k)s. Health insurance will move in the same direction in the next five years,” Mark Miller of Reuters writes.

Instead of providing a defined benefit, many employers are increasingly looking to offer a defined contribution, thereby limiting their exposure to rising costs while shifting that risk onto workers who will not only pay more for their health benefits, but will also bear a greater responsibility in understanding how the products work in order to best select and utilize them. Employees have a poor history of managing 401Ks, however, and health insurance in all its confusing details is likely to follow a similar path.

Education Benefits Everyone

Benefits play a critical role in attracting and retaining good employees. Not only is it important for workers to have a good grasp of their benefits, employers also gain by playing a role where possible, in assisting employees in maintaining productivity, and physical and financial stability. A strong health benefits program that is well utilized by employees is one critical tool in meeting those objectives.

The MetLife 2013 study of Employee Benefits Trends highlights the value of employee access to information about how to select and use their benefits.

According to the study, 51% of engaged employees reported that they “appreciate online decision-support tools that help prioritize needs and make clear how decisions will impact their paycheck.”

In addition, clear communications were found to be critical to employees’ ability to understand, appreciate and effectively use their benefits. More than 4 in 10 (43%) engaged employees said that ongoing education about how to use their benefits would be very helpful.

Numerous other studies have found that benefits education tends to enhance employee satisfaction, and that when benefits are clearly communicated, employees show higher levels of engagement and loyalty.

As employers continue to alter the design of their health benefit offerings to manage their own costs, they will be well served to also consider enhancing their employee education program.

Visit:  www.HealthBenefitsExplained.com to learn more

E-Cigarette and Medicinal Cannabis Use by Employees: Gray Area Matters

20 Jan

Every year brings new challenges for employers, yet few are probably prepared for never-before-seen issues, such as e-cigarettes and medicinal cannabis use at the workplace. Not surprisingly, employers in states that abide by the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988, such as Colorado and Washington, may be especially hesitant when it comes to understanding the law’s full legal implications. It’s understandable that many HR policies in states where these laws are active may be a bit hazy, as the legal rhetoric outlining the rules are less than clear.

Guidance on E-Cigarettes at Work
Twenty-nine states have laws that strictly prohibit ”inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other lighted smoking device for burning tobacco or any other plant” in the workplace. However, electronic cigarettes don’t actually burn anything, but rather contains a heating feature which releases nicotine vapor, according to Ohio lawyer Jon Hyman’s blog on Workforce’s website. This distinction will surely challenge workplace anti-smoking rules, as e-cigareets technically fall outside the lines of what a traditional cigarette consists of and how it is smoked. E-cigarettes are currently allowed in public places that restrict traditional smoking.

In the past, anti-smoking laws in the workplace were implemented to help reduce employees’ exposure to second-hand smoke and lower health-related risks of nicotine addiction among employees who smoke, wrote HR Hero. However, most employers still allowed workers to take intermittent breaks throughout the day to smoke in designated areas. Yet today,’s proponents of e-cigarettes in the workplace say allowing indoor use on the job boosts productivity because the need for outdoor breaks is eliminated. These advocates also say there is no evidence that proves people’s exposure to electronic smoking increases their health risks”, Hyman explained.

To cope with the changing landscape of workplace smoking laws, employers and HR departments must make sure to specifically prohibit e-cigarettes while on the job, as current laws technically allow their use.

Smoke on the Water Cooler: Clarity Needed on Medicinal Cannabis Users
Although employers must be sure to pay attention to their smoking policies in the workplace, there is even more work to be done to negotiate proper guidance on employees who legally use medicinal cannabis outside of work or after hours. Not only are the stratification of laws across America unequal in their level of legality (as in decriminalization, medicinal use, recreational use and total prohibition), the laws regarding their application for employees and employers alike are muddled.

“It’s throwing employers for a loop because many have policies in place where testing positive for THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol (the active ingredient in pot) requires the employee to be terminated or to participate in some sort of treatment program even if it’s not necessary,” Alison Holcomb, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNBC when asked how employers with anti-drug policies should enforce rules against legal users of medicinal cannabis.

The only clear guidance issued so far comes to HR departments of businesses that receive federal grants and contracts as these businesses must adhere to the Drug-Free Workplace law, which would require the termination of employees who test positive for THC regardless of any medical uses. Similarly, the Department of Transportation also prohibits any use of illegal substances by its drivers.

Some states, such as Montana, New Jersey, Michigan, Hawaii, Colorado, Vermont and New Mexico all have specific employee protection clauses built into their legislation which only allow termination for on-the-job use or impairment.

Yet, not all states have issued statues that explicitly state what is allowable or legal for workers or HR departments, so it’s vital employers advise legal counsel before implementing any specific policies or enforcing workplace drug rules. Employers must also bear in mind that medicinal cannabis users have been approved by a doctor, usually for compassionate use due to terminal diseases or serious illnesses, and should compare medicinal use to workers taking a Vicodin for pain management once off work premises and after hours.

Now is the time for HR Departments to consult with their legal counsel, review and update the employee handbooks and stay in front of the changes in the legislation.

Stop Talking and Listen For a Change

13 Jan

Positive and Constructive CriticismWhat do you look for in a good candidate?  That’s the magic question.  There is an easy answer.  It’s the candidate who is the best qualified candidate to do the job, right?  Well, yes in that respect but, there are other factors to consider.  Aside from the legal-type considerations, and believe me there are plenty, there is something called behavioral interviewing that you should really consider.

So, what is behavioral interviewing?  Long story short, it’s getting the candidate to talk about their previous (work related) experiences and describe past projects, success stories, failures, reflections and how they may have handled their failures differently with a more favorable outcome.  What does all this mean to the interviewer?  It means you need to SHUSHHHHHHH…listen to the candidate talk.  One of the most interesting things that occur during interviews is that the interviewers talk more than the candidates do.

Stop for a minute and think back to every job you’ve ever interviewed for.  How many times has that happened to you?  My guess is that it’s happened a lot of time throughout your career.  Why does this phenomenon occur?  Well, the easy answer is that most people don’t like long gaps of silence. It falls outside of their conversational comfort zone.  They like to “fill up” the dead air space.  Additionally, listening is not the same as hearing.  You can hear a lot of things but, are you really listening?  Have you really honed the skill of being able to filter out all external stimuli thus being able to focus on only one thing solely?  Most people would probably not admit to being able to do that though.  Let’s face it, we are told continuously by our teachers, peers, mentors and supervisors that being able to multi-task adds great value to our job and works well for meeting overall objectives.  In the interview though, not only could your multi-tasking be mis-interpreted by the candidate as being rude (for example looking at your email, sending a quick text or answering a call), you are also missing out on actually listening to the candidate talk about their experiences.

Bottom line, ask your question.  Hopefully, its open ended and behavioral based.  Then, listen to the candidate’s response.  Process their response, and then ask another probing question to their response.  Do this until you are satisfied that you have a good feel for the fit in matching the candidate’s professional experiences to your company’s mission and where you want that candidate to add the most value for you.

After all, you want to feel extremely comfortable that you know this person will grow to be your star top performer!

How Far Do You Reach in Your Outreach Programs?

6 Jan

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s all cannon-150x150about the journey, not the destination”?  Sure you have.

If you’ve never heard the term “outreach program”, it’s all about seeking to hire qualified women, minorities and veterans into your open positions.  Mostly, government contractors and others doing business with the Federal Government are required to create Affirmative Action Plans as part of their ongoing recruitment efforts.  As part of those plans, there are some components that deal with outreach.  As part of their compliance efforts, that’s how some companies try to fill positions with qualified candidates from specific sectors within the labor market.  So, how does that saying fit into a company’s outreach program?  It’s all about setting out to do what you say you are going to do with respect to informing segmented groups about your company and “reaching out” to them with your job opportunities.  It’s as simple as that.  If you create and follow a comprehensive plan or program that branches out to these specific sectors and you aren’t successful (through no fault of your own) on attaining your goals it may go a long way in assisting you during an audit by demonstrating to the auditor that you put forth your best effort in trying or at the very least, demonstrate how far you were willing to “reach out” to the various groups in your program.  But, how far do you reach?  That’s what’s up for debate currently in the legislation.

If you earnestly go about creating a solid outreach plan, attend diversity job fairs, volunteer to speak at various diversity group meetings and/or training sessions, partner with your local department of labor office and take the time to meet the reps at your local veteran’s office, you should be on track to a great plan.

For more information on how you can track your progress in support of your goals, check out www.sagehrms.com and see how the Sage HRMS system can generate the reports you need to get the job done!

Small Employer Tip – Create Structure for Compensation and Performance Programs

5 Dec

The Never Ending To Do ListOne of the things usually missing from the small employer repertoire of offerings is the feedback mechanism it provides to its employees. Often you’ll hear a small employer say “we’re too small for that here” or “our employees already know how we feel about them”. That’s not always the case. There is definitely a distinctive difference between what the employer thinks and how the employee feels when it comes to their job performance and/or standing within the organization. Bottom line, performance feedback to your employees (either good or bad) is necessary and wanted by the employees.
If performance appraisal/salary/bonus formalization is something you are undertaking for the first time at your company, the best thing to do is start by obtaining as many salary surveys you can that outline each of the job positions you have within the organization. It’s a good idea to try to have some type of job description for your positions. Small employers sometimes don’t have the time to do this. At the very least, try to obtain at least a couple of paragraphs from managers outlining what each of their employee’s job function is. You may not know firsthand, but they will (and should). You can formalize the job descriptions later (to include more detail and statements about essential job functions) but in order to make the comparison between salary survey results vs. job functions; you’ll need to have some type of a baseline of job functions to work with. This task can be time consuming so be sure to plan ahead as much as you can and offer as much help to your managers as they need from you. Explain how this will ultimately provide a benefit to them and their employees (and the company overall) and again, offer as much help as they need with the task.
Salary surveys aren’t as easy to obtain as many people think they are. Obtaining meaningful salary surveys will take much leg work on the part of the person handling the HR function within the company. Formalized salary surveys obtained from large reputable organizations can be costly; sometimes too costly for the small company to justify the expense. If that is the case for your company, begin your search for some lower cost alternatives. Start your inquiry with Human Resource professional organizations, try to source through your networks, and then work your way through to speaking with your state and local Departments of Labor. At the very least, they will be able to point you in the right direction. Most state Departments of Labor have placed their statistical data online and even drilled down that geographical salary data to the county level where you can make relative comparisons. You can also perform the obligatory internet search yourself; see where that takes you. Once you start on this path, dedicate at least a few days to the cause. It just takes perseverance and the absolute faith that the time you will be spending on this arduous task will lead you to the ultimate path of getting some really good salary surveys to work with. Try to be patient and keep in mind that each step you take will lead you in the right direction and will eventually yield some very good sources for you at some future point in time.
So, now you have your salary surveys in hand. What’s next? Start to draft the feedback form (sometimes referred to as the Performance Appraisal Form) that you think will work for the type of industry you operate within. Be prepared to get a lot of pushback from others on this within your organization. It’s only natural. It’s new; it requires commitment from the Executive team and ultimately effects the entire organization. It may be like hitting a nerve at first. Continue on your path. Prepare your draft and tweak it based on the comments you receive however, if what they are proposing doesn’t make sense or doesn’t sound right to you, it probably isn’t. Remember, your job in HR is to be that voice of reason and to make sure you guide and counsel in the appropriate manner. Explain to those who are pushing back, your reasons for why you believe that it may not work (in the appropriate manner). If pushback persists, you may have to create a formalized flow chart process to explain how you envision that process from start to finish so they can visually see this process through to the end and where the rough spots may be at points somewhere in the middle.
So, now that you have your salary surveys (and hopefully that perfect employee feedback document that’s ultimately finally been approved), you’ll need to know how much money you will be allocating to the performance appraisal and/or bonus pools. Again, this may be a tough one to nail down. Timing is absolutely “key” on this. Know when to approach the Executive with your request. Take a gauge on how this works for your company. It works differently for every company (small or large) so the point here is “it’s all in the timing”. You’ll have to really give this some thought. If it’s poor timing, just know you’ll learn for next year. If it’s good timing, you’ll know how and when to obtain your funds next year. This is a moving target; no one size fits all here. Again, you are an HR person, you’ve learned at this point in your career how and when to time your initiatives. If you’re new to HR, this is another step on that path of learning how and when to time your initiatives.
Next, you will need to create the mechanism of how you’ll structure your salary surveys, performance appraisal program, and bonus pool against some type of salary grading system. This is an extremely important step for the small employer because it begins to set the baseline for your future payroll expense. I know that sounds huge. It is huge!!! Think about this, if you don’t have any salary grading structure in place now, what do you think will happen year after year with those salaries over time? What happens if you can’t afford to give generous increases you had been giving to your employees if you experience sudden growth and need to use funds that were previously allocated to employee increases to that growth? What happens if your business sees a temporary decline with sales? What happens if business conditions suddenly change outside of your control? These issues will almost certainly escalate to a point where you (and your company) will be dealing with it as a negative Associate Relation issue later if you have to put the brakes on providing increases to the employees that had been above average for your industry. Are you getting it now? This point can’t be emphasized enough. It’s a very real story for a lot of small employers. Start to formalize your processes now before you experience your company’s growth and begin to feel those growing pains. This will be one of those processes that you will be glad you started to formalize while you are still a relatively small company.
Another forgotten area; report generation. How do you do that now? What could it look like once you have all of your formalized processes in place? What tools could you use to help you? There are many parts to consider but one of the most important items is to generate reports against some structured input values. Automated reporting is something you will eventually not be able to do without; especially once you have defined the process. Historical reporting will also help you and your Executives make better business decisions. How can you help them perform “what if” scenarios and be able to drill down to the management direct reporting levels? How can you show them how they handled the performance and/or salary/bonus processes the previous year? How can you collectively show the progression of your program once performance ratings have been included? How can you show the financial impact of management decisions that may need to be refined? There are tools available where you’ll be able to do all of this without searching through spreadsheets or Personnel files. You’ll no longer deal with “sorting accidents”, pivot tables, missing papers and or the possibility of providing inaccurate (or too much) information to your management team. You’ll also find that once your process has been systemically integrated, you’ll feel much more confident about report and documentation requests you need to generate for audits that may arise throughout the year (whether internal or external).
Putting a formalized process in place isn’t as hard as your imaging it is. Sage HRMS products can accommodate this need very easily for you. Even if you don’t have your plans in place, their processes and system setup can help to identify and address the needs within your program. There are many other additional internal resources and learning tools available to assist you with whatever process you need within your company (www.sagehrms.com). Check it out!

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