ADA something to be vigilant about

16 Dec

Reasonable accommodation should be foremost in the minds of employers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act can be tricky to understand. Companies that recognize the way it works can use it when determining whether to give someone reasonable accommodation as part of the company's overall human resource solutions or not. Meanwhile, other businesses that don't understand the policies can run into problems because they fail to comply with the ADA.

The Erie County Department of Social Services is an example of a company that did not implement the rules correctly, according to HR Morning. A worker there, Margaret Pascale, had an amputated leg and needed a dedicated printer so she wouldn't have to leave the desk as often to get the printouts she required to do her job.

She requested the printer under the ADA and received a certification from her doctor saying she was disabled. However, the doctor's letter did not include anything about needing reasonable accommodation. As such, she was not given the printer.

She sued and won. The reason is that the managers should have determined for themselves if a reasonable accommodation was necessary for helping her do her job, and as such, ought to have recognized that she needed her own printer.

Another example of a company that didn't understand ADA
One more company that failed to provide ADA accommodation when it should have known better was the Metropolitan Detroit Center for Independent Living, reported in a separate HR Morning article. The organization denied a deaf employee reasonable accommodation and eventually fired him for being unable to hear. The former employee sued and the company paid a settlement of $38,500.

One would have expected a business that helps disabled people for a living to understand ADA rules, but this was not the case.

Another company failed to accommodate a worker who was undergoing cancer treatments. The Angel Medical Center in North Carolina paid a settlement of $85,000 to its former employee who worked satisfactorily from December 2009 to December 2011 when she had to begin chemotherapy. She requested to return to work with reasonable accommodation, but was fired instead.

As part of the settlement, the hospital must now revise its ADA application process so that people are not denied reasonable accommodation ever again.

What businesses can do
Companies that want to avoid the dangers of failed compliance can talk to a lawyer about whether reasonable accommodation is appropriate or not, but when in doubt if the accommodation is just providing an extra printer, it may be wise to avoid the expense of a lawyer along with possible litigation and just make the accommodation.

Fostering leadership

16 Dec

Great leaders can be nurtured from within a company.

Creating great leaders isn't easy, but there is a major incentive to do so. By nurturing a group of future managers within a company, a business can start to grow its culture naturally and holistically through hiring and promoting from within. This is especially important for startup companies because everything begins with a handful of people and quickly escalates. If companies don't take a careful look at who they are hiring and how they are treating their employees, they could find that management's grip on the company culture is lost, and the business may begin to lose its structural integrity.

As an example of companies that succeeded in nurturing strong leaders, Aon Hewitt recently made a list of the top corporations for leaders. The company found that there were five major categories that businesses excelled at when they created strong managers. First, the top companies were all excellent at making critical evaluations of people on the team in order to see who would be best for a leadership role. They actively looked for the traits that make someone strong and inspires others to follow that person. Additionally, the companies all fostered similar notions of strength, resilience and engagement within their leadership. They did this by leading by example and by educating workers directly in what it takes for a business to grow and prosper.

The importance of creating leaders early in a business's life cycle
Business Insider recently made a list of mistakes that startups can make when they begin to hire people for managerial positions. Many of the issues at hand come from the fact that a small business often is run very differently from a large business, and so what works at the small scale begins to suffer from inefficiencies as a business grows. For example, when someone starts a company, this person may not ultimately be the best positioned manager to lead the entire group of workers. Managers must not only be good at leading others, but they must learn to delegate and organize effectively. Structural matters become important in ways that many people who haven't had experience leading before aren't aware of.

An additional concern is the ability to plan for company growth. Small businesses need to start considering how they will expand into larger companies relatively quickly, and the hiring process should involve looking at whether someone can help to propel a company forward rather than simply fill a niche role. For example, when hiring someone for an HR position, consider whether that person could in the future begin to structure an entire HR department around an employee management system, even if the current job being hired for is only a small one.

Creativity in the HR sector

16 Dec

Creativity can often be one way of finding out new solutions to HR problems.

Human resources is a complex field that encompasses many areas of expertise, including legal issues, human interactions and organization. One part of the job that many people don't acknowledge is the sheer necessity for creative solutions to difficult problems. Some of the places where creative thinking can help HR professionals include planning ahead for future trends in technology and management techniques, along with thinking of new ways to divide work fairly among different divisions. The ultimate goal of HR staff is to improve the workflow of the company. By coming up with creative solutions, businesses can work more intelligently, with elegant solutions that don't waste energy.

The way things look in human resources will be very different 10 years from today, Blogging 4 Jobs, reported. Not only will technology grow and develop, which will require new methods for adapting to the way people will work, but the employees themselves will be different. There will be far more representatives of Gen Y and Gen Z taking on management roles, and preparing will take a certain amount of creative thinking. Many people in a company won't be around 10 years from today, and much of the staff that joins a business will have been unexpected, with different talents and areas for improvement. Planning for these contingencies takes creativity.

Another place where creative thinking can help an HR manager is in the realm of organization, according to Psychology Today. For example, companies are always trying to find new ways to get work done faster, and sometimes streamlining things is as simple as giving the right assignments to the right people. Having the ability to guess which teams would work best together takes creativity. It requires a kind of lateral thinking to create flowcharts to accurately model new ways of finishing assignments such that redundancies are eliminated and everyone has something productive to do.

Planning a project in general, whether for a new wellness program, implementing new hr manager software, or preparing for an office move, takes creativity as well. If one defines creativity as the ability to create an idea of how something new would work, and to take this idea and look for any gaps or possible oversights, and then to implement the idea as a plan, then HR is a very creative job. People in human resources are always thinking of new ways to do work faster and more efficiently, and they are also on the move planning ahead and thinking of possible dangers that a business could run into.

In the end, actually taking the time to work on one's creative talents may help someone's management skills. A good way to practice creativity in the workplace is to reward it. When employers see that people in human resources are coming up with novel solutions to problems as they arise, then it would be a good idea to reward those employees with additional work that is equally engaging. In essence, by advocating for creative solutions, one is training employees to think differently and preparing them for the next stage of their careers.

Conflict resolution and human resources

12 Dec

HR is often at the center of disputes.

The HR team at many businesses has much more responsibility than might appear on a description. For one thing, it may have to act as a mediator when solving disputes. This is potentially a grey area. Sometimes the arguments can be between coworkers, and other times it can be between an employee and the company itself. In both cases, the HR leaders must understand when making decisions about disagreements or other, more complex issues like favoritism, discrimination or harassment, there are legal problems to keep in mind. Often the HR team is the point of contact when an employee makes a charge against the business or another employee, and this is where HR can either do a good job at resolving the issue or drop the ball and open the door for lawsuits.

How to handle simple complaints
According to the Houston Chronicle, complaints about unfair treatment or poor working conditions are relatively easy to handle in terms of human resources solutions, so long as the proper due diligence is performed. It must be remembered that keeping good records of what was discussed is imperative in the event that the employees are not satisfied with the company's response and choose to sue. The best thing to do in the case of something more serious, such as someone complaining that doing data entry is giving him or her repetitive stress injuries, is just to ask a lawyer for advice.

More complex issues
When it comes to discrimination or harassment, then a lawyer must absolutely be involved because the situation now involves interpreting laws and working through evidence. Everything that applied to the more simple cases also applies to more complicated and involved matters. It is especially important to take detailed notes and to thoroughly investigate every claim to ensure that the company can't be sued for ignoring a problem.

What can go wrong
For an example of a company that made an error of HR judgment recently, CVS built a small note into one of its training modules that asked employees to click the yes button and agree to preemptively give up their rights to sue. They must also commit "not just to go to arbitration instead of court, but to go to arbitration as a single individual party (where the focus will be on your claim) and not as part of a class or collective or representative action," according to Before Its News.

In order to opt out of this, employees were told to send a letter to a P.O. Box address in Rhode Island.

CVS was widely chastised for this decision, which puts its own rights ahead of workers' rights. Companies should always treat their employees as human beings, and never try to remove the freedom to sue if the worker really wants to do it.

Instead of using legal tricks, it is better to make a safe work environment where everyone feels satisfied with their jobs. Making HR the first choice to turn when people feel troubled is the safest, more legally and ethically sound choice a company can make if it wants to avoid a lawsuit.

Flexible schedules benefit retention, bottom line

12 Dec

Telecommuting can help companies retain employees.

Workers generally want to have flexible hours. This means choosing when and where to work as well. When businesses let their employees choose their own schedules, employees are happier and actually want to work harder, according to a Forrester report cited by the Harvard Business Review. This is one of many employee engagement ideas that can lead to greater productivity.

The trend is also shifting toward more people working from home. Cloud technology and communication tools have become so advanced that telecommuting is easy. By 2016, about 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will be working from home. Additionally, most millennials, a total of 92 percent, want to choose where and when to work.

Companies that allow employees to telecommute have a greater likelihood of experiencing revenue growth compared to other businesses. But working from home isn't the only way businesses have created ways for workers to choose their schedules and projects. Employees at Gerson Lehrman's global headquarters in New York get to choose where they work among a number of "neighborhoods," which are essentially loose teams of people that employees can join whenever they choose. Engineers for Lehrman have the freedom to choose exactly what they want to work on, independent of managerial oversight.

Such an office would be a bit chaotic for certain businesses because not every company focuses on the same kind of hard engineering jobs. It would be difficult to imagine an HR company allowing its workers to choose what to do. In such a context, the real benefit would be cloud-based computing, which lets employees work from home and choose their hours. If someone doesn't have to attend a meeting, then it wouldn't be inappropriate to let that person work at night or in the early morning if he or she preferred.

A negative example of flexible schedules
Sometimes flexible schedules lead to problems. This happens when the flexibility lies in the hands of the company. Employees often prefer to have control over their own schedules, according to Vox. Many workers who receive relatively low wages compared with other people in their industry have the added challenge of not knowing what their week will look like in advance. This can lead to poor worker retention. Starbucks had this problem before it changed its scheduling computer to be more accommodating.

Recognizing employees

10 Dec

Recognizing employees helps keep them engaged.

A recent study by Hay Group Vietnam cited by Bloomberg BNA indicated that employees want to feel engaged by their work and recognized by management. People who get these two things from their jobs will actually work harder, and such businesses can see growth of as much as 30 percent.

Motivation is not entirely the domain of salaries. In fact, different age groups find unique rewards from their work. According to the Wanchalerm Siriphand, one of the consultants of the study, people in their 20s generally go to jobs to gain experience. They want to do work that can be put onto their resumes. As such, it can be difficult to keep them working at the job unless they are given tasks that would let them improve their chances at being hired by another company.

The best way to keep employees is to give them a feeling like they are directly involved with the company. Having a competitive salary will certainly keep people motivated, but it won't be as encouraging as giving people a direct say in how the business is being run. Telling workers they are responsible for the growth of the company is one way to get them on board with the business, no matter what their payroll situation is.

Ways of recognizing and encouraging workers
The University of North Texas recently created a list of different ways that employees could be recognized. A lot of these employee engagement ideas have to do with building teamwork and creating a sense of involvement with a company. One such idea is having a surprise picnic. This would be a good plan because it wouldn't cost a lot of money and it would foster a spirit of better communication among different team members.

Essentially, the role that office culture plays becomes important. People want to work for a company that inspires them to try their hardest. Another suggestion is to create a wall of fame or to have a special incentive for being an "employee of the month." This is certainly one way of recognizing people. It's important to remember that the more specific the recognition the better, Telling someone he or she did a good job because of a specific assignment would be more appropriate than rewarding someone different each month just because there is an award for that purpose. Another good way to recognize a worker is to give that person assignments that would bolster his or her resume in areas where it is lacking. This allows the individual to gain experience and create a better chance at getting a better job in the future.

Different positions require different assessment approaches

9 Dec

Personality testing can help root out the best candidates.

Many companies use assessment tools to determine whether someone fits into a certain culture or not. The focus is generally on the candidate being looked upon by the employer, rather than a candidate's self assessment. One example of this very common way of assessing people is the double-round of tests employed by Keller Williams. The real estate company focuses very strongly on making the right cultural matches, Inman reported. The recruiting tests are actually so complex that business leaders with the power to hire and fire must first take a two day course to learn how to implement the testing procedures, which can be very complex. Those who are given the ability to choose future employees are already screened to ensure that they are also suitable for the role.

"We really wanted to help our people make really smart decisions. The cost of errors in a … hire is amazing when you put pen to paper," said John Davis, vice president of growth for Keller Williams.

The first personality test measures behavioral style . One hiring manager, Sue Adler, said that those who score high on Influencer would never be chosen for an administrative position because they would be "too chatty." Each job has an ideal personality type that goes with it, and the company rarely deviates from this path.

"Every role on the team requires a different skill set. If you put the wrong people in the wrong seat on the bus, they're going to burn out pretty quickly," Adler said.

Self reporting instead of using tests
Another way of making personality assessments is simply to have the candidate make a self assessment, according to Talent Circles. In this approach, the focus is less upon the person making the hiring decision and more on the person making the choice to take on the job. Talent Circles discussed the idea that a talent assessment done by someone with the ambition of getting a certain job can be inaccurate, whereas a self-assessment might be more fair. This is a kind of reverse assessment, in which the candidate decides if he or she is the right fit.

The requirements of a strong talent self-assessment include a good job description, along with a detailed list of the requirements that will be expected from the employee. The worker will have to know if he or she will need to speak with many different people or sit behind a desk all day. Information about the company's culture will also be important in making a self assessment.

In the end, the interview process itself is a kind of two-way assessment. The employer presents the job, and the candidate has to decide if it's the right fit or not. Encouraging a "two-way street" approach may help people decide on positions faster, both for employees and employers. A proper employee management system likely takes such testing into account.

Promotion requests are increasing

5 Dec

Not everyone can get a promotion at once.

Requests for promotions are on the rise, according to a study by Accountemps cited by the Society for Human Resource Management. Forty-three percent of chief financial officers who responded said that promotion requests have been increasing. Many people in the current economic climate might have difficulty making this request, but there are other ways of keeping employees happy. For one thing, most employees appreciate having extra vacation time or at least the ability to telecommute. A manager could also recommend an employee do professional development and then pay for the associated costs. This could be of benefit to someone who doesn't quite merit a full promotion but could still be a good contributor – in essence, giving someone the opportunity to be groomed for a future promotion.

If that doesn't work, then consider offering larger bonuses. Many people would appreciate the extra cash during the holiday season because it helps to pay for gifts and other seasonal expenses.

How to deny a promotion
Denying someone the promotion they want can be a challenging part of human resource management, but sometimes it is a necessary part of the job. This is especially hard when many people are vying for an internal position with a lot of interviews back and forth. Usually when someone is being denied a job, the HR manager won't see that person again, but when people work together every day, they will have to make some kind of acknowledgement of what has happened and then move on.

The best way to tell someone he or she didn't get a promotion, according to the Houston Chronicle, is during a private meeting. Remember that timing is important, but by the same token, it's necessary to get to the matter at hand and tell someone he or she didn't get the job as soon as possible. When people are left waiting to find something out, it can be more awkward when they eventually learn they didn't get a position they had wanted.

Remember as well that you should explain your reasoning thoroughly. You don't want to criticize your employees, but you also have to remember that they will want some reason for why they didn't get the job.

After moving through the hard part, consider talking to them about other career opportunities, such as a different position that might be available or something else they could consider doing. If that person assumes another role in the company, then it won't feel quite as much like they were denied advancement.

Does anyone really care about performance evaluations?

3 Dec

Perhaps it’s what occurs during the annual performance evaluation meeting with the employee? Let’s look at a typical scenario. The manager delivers the annual feedback; the employee is “surprised” because he or she hasn’t heard any of that feedback all year long and now the employee “challenges” their manager on the evaluation claiming his or her evaluation isn’t “fair.” Aha, there’s the dreaded confrontation associated with the review. Here it is. Face-to-face confrontation. Why would the manager fear this confrontation? Perhaps, it’s the fact that manager is suddenly put into a defensive position? Could it be that the manager failed to provide regular feedback to the employee throughout the year and has no choice but to deal with it now? Is that fair? How would that manager feel if this was done to her? Maybe this has happened to the manager before, and now the manager believes it’s perfectly acceptable to do the same thing to her direct reports? Maybe it’s a new manager who believes he knows what he is doing, but really doesn’t have a clue? Did ego come into play at all? There could be a lot of reasons.In any case, employees need guidance. They need regular feedback.

Whether that feedback is positive or negative, employees need and want to hear it. The manager needs to “manage” and learn to deal with it. How do managers expect to receive positive behavior from their employees without any reinforcement from the manager on the feedback of their behavior? How does an employee know what is expected of him or whether or not he needs to improve upon a certain behavior if he has not been given any direction throughout the year? You can clearly see how these disconnects occur.

Aside from the myriad of legal issues that often arise from continued performance feedback “avoidance,” its helpful (and necessary) for managers to educate themselves on how to deliver feedback. A lot of this is common sense. So, why do many managers feel it’s the responsibility of human resources to educate them on why employee performance feedback is so important? Why do managers tell human resource professionals, “I haven’t received any training on it so I didn’t know I should be doing it”? Why do managers feel they do not have accountability for this aspect of their management function? Like any other skill, performance feedback training needs to be cultivated. Since each and every person and situation is different, it’s impossible for the human resource professional to facilitate definitive training needed to cover every situation.

It’s up to human resources to guide and counsel their management teams. What that means is that human resources should be relied upon to guide and counsel management on decisions that affect their people and the overall business. Unless it is a first-time manager, human resources can help to provide the education needed to get the manager up to speed and on the right path. There must be accountability on management’s part to take ownership of their direct reports by providing regular feedback to them, then seek human resource guidance and counsel on issues where the desired outcome of an employee’s performance has not or cannot be achieved through the development plans that the manager has set forth for the employee to follow to get that performance back on track.

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Hiring part-time labor to deal with minimum wage

2 Dec

Part-time workers are becoming common.

The Society for Human Resources Management has called 2014 "The Year of the Minimum Wage."  Not only is the federal government pushing for a higher wage, but many state governments have also passed laws that will increase the minimum amount of money that employers can pay.

How the money is paid depends on the state, with some requiring payments that correspond directly to hours worked, while others allow employers to pay based on commission or tips. Businesses that employ workers who are close to the minimum wage should carefully monitor the hours that people do so that they don't go over the maximum amount of time spent working for the salary they earn.

For states where pay increases have been approved, wages will increase beginning Dec. 31, 2014.

Working with the minimum wage and maintaining overhead
One way that companies can keep their workers without spending too much money on the boosted minimum wage is to begin hiring part-time labor. There is a challenge here, according to Human Resources Executive Online, because businesses have been known to treat part-time workers without the respect due to employees of a company. One example is sending workers home early to avoid paying them extra cash. Companies with employee management software can easily manage the timing for moving workers between shifts, should they choose to do this.

The issue with part-timers tends to be work-life balance. These employees often have multiple jobs, along with a family to support, so it can be hard for them to earn a wage while spending time with the people they are caring for. Other times, part-time workers are putting themselves through school while working on the side to pay for tuition.

"Part-time workers have other things going on in their lives," said Carrie Gleason, director of the Fair Workweek Initiative, in an interview with HRE Online. "They have second jobs. They take care of their kids. They go to school. The kind of variation in hours they are expected to endure is really tough on workers and their families."

As such, employers can help by providing stable hours and an easy-to-understand promotion system. If a worker proves himself or herself to be excellent, then maybe that person deserves to be given full-time opportunities or additional work. The part-time worker has changed recently from typically being a housewife or a student to someone who couldn't find work in another role that was full time, according to HRE Online. This means that it may be difficult to keep someone around once he or she finds something full time. Treating part-time labor with respect is one way to keep them working at their current jobs instead of looking for full-time ones.

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