Archive | December, 2010

Trim the Fat: Office Budget Resolutions for 2011

28 Dec

Human Resources Pros Help to Trim the Fat From Office BudgetsAs we approach the new year, we start to hear everyone’s resolutions… I’m going to lose 10 pounds. I’m going to go on a diet. I’m going to work out more.  How many times have we heard those resolutions from our families and friends? How many times have we uttered those promises ourselves?

But this year, perhaps you, as a human resources professional, can apply those same principles to your company. That’s right. It’s time to trim the fat off the office budget!

Here are some handy tricks to save money in 2011:

  • Buy used office equipment.
  • Only buy printers that have refillable ink cartridge capabilities.
  • Save paper when printing by decreasing the margin area in order to fit more copy on one page.
  • Communicate with staff members to make sure duplicate printouts aren’t made unnecessarily.
  • Download free customizable templates online for business transactions instead of purchasing them from office supply stores.
  • Use rewriteable CDs and DVDs because they can be erased and used again.
  • Print on both sides of paper.
  • Use client testimonials on websites for word-of-mouth advertising.
  • Turn off all electrical equipment at the end of the work day.
  • Coordinate office shipments and mailings throughout the company to enjoy bulk rates.

Many of these tips will not only save you money but will also help your company go green.  The benefit to the bottom line is an added boost and you might even be able to use your conservation effort as a valuable marketing and public relations opportunity.

Is your office finding unique and inventive ways to save money in 2011?  If so, we want to hear about it, drop a comment below!

Make Your List, Check It Twice, For HR Policy Errors

23 Dec

Human Resource Update in 2011A new year is a great time to plan for a fresh start. Even those who are quite organized when it comes to human resource management could stand to make improvements or tweak some practices.

Here are three items that, according to James Evans, should be placed at the top of the HR to-do list for 2011.

  1. Update your policy manual. This informational packet is your Constitution of human resources. If the information in it isn’t up-to-date, it could lead to a hazardous situation. With the U.S. government, laws have been added, changed or removed throughout history to better suit the current times. You should treat your policy manual the same way. It can be dangerous to base important and potentially litigious personnel decisions on a manual that hasn’t been updated.

  3. Review compensation practices. Pay programs should be internally equitable, relatively competitive with the current labor market and defensible. That means that pay plans aren’t static and are constantly subject to changing laws and regulations, external pressures, increases in the cost-of-living and minimum wage hikes.  According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

  5. Assess your FLSA exemption. Make sure that workers are classified correctly when it comes to exemptions from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

 By spending time now, preparing for the future, you’ll ensure that you aren’t caught off guard with your human resources and payroll practices in 2011.

Guerilla Interviewing: How to REALLY Hire the Best and the Brightest

20 Dec

In this first Episode of a multi-part series, I’m here to humbly share my own guerilla interviewing tactics with you and share what I know about conducting effective interviews that yield outstanding hiring decisions! And since my editor told me 600 words or less (yeah right!), everything I know will certainly not be covered in this article, but more to come, so be sure to sign up for our RSS feed to follow my posts.   Your new and improved guerilla interviewing tactics are sure to make you look really, really good to your superiors and clients/hiring managers because you’re going to be bringing in A+ talent; not to mention you’ll be making your company look really, really pro to your potential candidates because it will be obvious that you’re only after the best.

Episode One: Great Hiring is in the Planning

In the words of Michael Weston, a burned ex-spy character on my new fave TV show, 90% of any operation’s success is in the planning.   Michael and his team orchestrate big, bad-guy takedowns and their preparation consists of making bombs and booby traps and researching cover identities.  Their strategy rarely goes according to the plan they made, yet they always end up with a successful end result due to their tedious front-end planning.  The concept that success is a result of effective planning holds true for pretty much anything –a holiday party you’re hosting, a European vacation you and the fam are taking next summer, a big presentation you’re delivering to a huge audience next week, the arrival of a baby into your family, you get the picture.  By investing more quality time in planning and preparing for the job interviews that we conduct, pretty much anything can be thrown our way during the process and chances are the result will still be on point and successful, even when things don’t go as planned – just like Michael and his team. Most failed projects are the result of poor planning from the get-go, so prep is a corner we cannot afford to cut.  Most interviewers do though, which is unfortunate because this stage has the most sway on the quality of the final result.

We’ve all had the feeling of “buyer’s remorse” at some point in our lives, right?  The last time I felt it was four Christmases ago after spending a full day in a Toyota dealership.  I arrived in the morning with both family vehicles in tow, and I left around midnight having traded both of them in for two new cars.  As I drove home in one of the new cars, I was enjoying the smooth feel of the tires on the road and the super-tight steering; I was soaking in the clean, new car smell, basking in the lovely ambience created by the soft, romantic, orange glow of the candlelight-esque dash lights while the sounds of holiday music pumped through the JBL car stereo upgrade.  It wasn’t until about 4 AM that I sprung awake with hundreds of regretful thoughts swimming around my head.  I still shudder as I think about it.  Have you ever felt buyer’s remorse after making a hiring decision?  I’m going out on a limb and guessing that you have – in fact, I’m visualizing you right now as you sarcastically chuckle under your breath, exhale a knowing, reminiscent sigh, and shake your head from side to side.  Maybe not chuckle so much if the person still works for you, but you get my drift. By investing more time planning and preparing for our selection process we will not only eliminate buyer’s remorse, but we’ll boost the entire bench of talent in our organization.  Bottom line, the burden is on us – the buyers – to inform ourselves, ferret out the very best product and make the wisest purchase. “How do I do this,” you ask?  First, you commit to doing a better job preparing.

Four Steps to Better Interview Prep:

  1. Schedule time with the hiring manager. Even if you think you already know everything about this job and what the HM wants, you’ll be surprised at what comes forward in this meeting.  Get on the hiring manager’s calendar for an hour, let them do most of the talking and ask them tons of questions.  You’ll thank me, I promise.  Here are just a few (of the many, many) questions I ask before I even post a position opening:
    • What does success look like in this role?  Who are other successful people in this role and what makes them successful?  Who has not been successful in this role and why?
    • In 6 or 12 months, what will this person have specifically accomplished in order for them to be considered an outstanding player?
    • What is the “sell” of this position?, i.e. Why would this candidate leave their perfectly fine job elsewhere to join our company in this role?
    • Talk turkey.  Test the upper limits/max budget for the compensation package so you know what you’re really dealing with.  This will save you time talking to folks who will never take the job and will be useful to know when you find an expensive candidate who might take the job, but you must know the upper limits.  (Don’t discuss upper limits with the candidate.)
    • Do a lot of validation and pushing back during this meeting to ensure you have the right information; you’ll be prepared with the right knowledge, and it’ll keep the process tight and much more objective.
  2. Know the top three (in rank order) “things” the new hire MUST have.   This will be the foundation of your interview with the candidates and your candidate presentation meetings with your hiring manager.  You may be saying, “I know this already – they’re called KSA’s and they are already on the JD.”  Not.  JD’s are usually politically correct and generic and most times one of the top “things” is not on a JD – it may be a soft skill such as the ability to politically navigate through complex, bureaucratic red tape.  Or it may be an “it” factor, such as charisma.  Seriously.  Find out what they are so you can find out if your candidate has “it.”
  3. Develop a core list of about 10 interview questions.  You must specifically design these to uncover in the candidates what you know you’re looking for from steps 2 & 3 above.   Move off the list as needed to probe, validate, etc. but plan to ask each candidate the same 5 questions at a minimum so you can objectively evaluate the candidates against one another.
  4. Schedule time with yourself to prepare before each interview.  If you don’t schedule it, you won’t do it.  This won’t take more than 10 minutes if you’ve done steps 1-3.  Read the candidate’s resume in detail, and note the red flags and missing information, i.e. job stability, gaps in employment, why are they applying for something at a lower level or lateral move from their current post, why have they been unemployed for 8 months, etc. to finalize your list from step 3.  Clean up your desk a little, close the windows on your PC, take some deep breaths and commit yourself to giving your full attention to this interview.  If it’s an in-person interview, make sure you look sharp.  Indeed, the best candidates are just as discerning as you will be!

Interview preparation is just one piece of the whole selection pie, and it’s a huge piece.  Get this right and you’ll be well on your way to upgrading your talent, not to mention your internal processes and your own reputation as a guerilla interviewer.    I’ll cover the interview in a future article.  For now, work on your preparation, and please let me know how it goes!

  • What best practices do you use for interview preparation?
  • Anyone dare to share a time when the lack of interview prep cost dearly?

3 Ways to Keep the Flu Away From Your Workforce

17 Dec


Beginning every fall, a personnel management challenge rears its ugly head – influenza threatens to debilitate a company by sickening many members of its workforce.

To defend against the virus, employers need to take a proactive approach to preventing its spread.

Here are 3 ways a human resources department can defend a company from the flu:

1.    Education

The first step is to educate employees about symptoms of the flu and how the disease is transmitted.  No one likes being sick and the more employees know about influenza the more they can avoid activities or practices that may lead to it.

2.    Isolation

Companies should encourage employees to stay home if they’re sick and offer flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting to prevent the spread of the flu.  We’ve all experienced that awkward hand shake with sick employees and wondered if it would affect our immune system.  Help prevent the spread by avoiding these encounters and remember to keep plenty of hand around.

3.    Vaccination

HR managers should promote vaccination, as it is an important step to preventing the seasonal flu. If possible, arrange to have flu shots provided to your employees in the workplace. In addition, most large chain pharmacies provide flu shots without an appointment and people can also visit their primary care physician to receive a shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that flu activity commonly peaks in the United States in January or February and can occur as late as May. It is not known exactly what this year’s flu season has in store, but the CDC says that it is likely that the 2009 H1N1 virus, or swine flu, will continue to spread in 2010 and 2011 along with other seasonal viruses throughout the season.

Does your company offer free vaccination against the seasonal flu?  If not, it might be an inexpensive and thoughtful perk to provide to employees that could lead to increased productivity in the fall.

Give Like a Billionaire

15 Dec

Do it. Come on. Everyone is.

Inspired by a call to action from Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates, many of the nation’s billionaires are giving away at least half of their net worth to charity.

Buffet says he’ll donate 99 percent of his wealth, while $14.5 billion of the Gates fortune has been given to fund vaccines. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has joined the cause. Oprah Winfrey is on board, as are New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and moviemaker George Lucas, reports CNN.

It’s unlikely that you have any billionaires on your business payroll. But even if you don’t, your employees can still be charitable on their salaries by taking some lessons from the uber-rich.

Lesson # 1: Give more money to fewer charities. Billionaires have found that they can make a bigger impact with a large donations to a single cause. Average Americans can follow suit by writing bigger checks to fewer charities.

Lesson #2: Be businesslike about giving. Encourage employees to plan out their giving for the year. At the beginning of each year, they should settle how much charitable giving they want to do and work it into their financial situation.

Lesson #3: Tap your friends for donations. The wealthy elites can talk their equally wealthy pals into donations. But everyday folk can still pool resources with friends and family to make a large charitable gift and impact a community.

Lesson #4: Get your company involved: Billionaires have the weight of their companies behind their charitable giving. But some businesses will help their employees make an impact through matching gift programs. According to the American Red Cross, many companies may even double or triple a donation’s value with their matching gifts.

Does your company have a matching gift program, or does it encourage philanthropy?

Time to Celebrate!

13 Dec

Holiday PartyForget working for Scrooge this holiday season, more perks and parties are in store at companies across the country.

According to a recent Career Builder survey, fifty-two percent of employers are planning a holiday party this year, up from 49 percent in 2009. Three in 10 employers plan to give holiday gifts in 2010, up from 26 percent in 2009, and a third of companies plan to give their staffers a holiday bonus, up from 29 percent a year ago, a sign that business payroll may be looking up in the new year.

However, the Associated Press reports that smaller firms are still sticking to a frugal theme this holiday season.   Instead of a big, fancy party or dinner for employees, many companies are getting their celebration on at the company office. It costs nothing to use your own business space, and if it is catered, the food will likely be cheaper than it would be at a restaurant.  To cut costs even more, consider making it a potluck affair.

How do you plan on ringing in the holiday season with your company?

Is The Wal-Mart Class-Action Lawsuit Really Class-Action?

9 Dec

The recent class-action lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart by six women alleging that the company discriminates against females in compensation and promotions has opened an interesting debate. Because the suit includes 1.5 million current and former female employees, can a lawsuit of this size and scope be valid?

The U.S. Supreme Court said recently that they will review a federal appeals court decision that allows the single suit to cover all women who worked at the stores since 2001.

It is the largest employment class action lawsuit in U.S. history, and the court’s decision could have an effect on several pending cases with similar allegations of poor employee management.

An important outcome for HR professionals to watch for is whether the court certifies this as a “class-action” suit. A class-action suit would put enormous amounts of pressure on Wal-Mart to settle and the company could end up paying out billions of dollars. A ruling in favor of the employees will also set a new precedent for expansive suits against businesses in the future.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in the spring, do you think Wal-Mart will settle?

How Do Your Employees Use The Internet?

7 Dec

KeyboardHuman resource software can help with a number of HR duties,  but for better or for worse, typically HR software doesn’t monitor internet usage by employees.  Do you know if your employees are using the internet for non-work related searches, shopping and other activities? recently completed a study and reported that thirteen percent of workers said they spend one hour or more using the internet each day for non-work related activities. In addition, 59 percent of workers said they typically send non-work emails each day and 16 percent of respondents send six or more during a usual workday.

But employers aren’t sitting back and doing nothing about the issue. Half of employers interviewed said they block employees from accessing certain websites while at work and 21 percent said they have fired someone for using the internet for non-work related activities. The study surveyed more than 2,400 employers and 3,100 employees throughout the country.

Monitoring email and internet use by employees is legal as long as the employer establishes a policy for such activities and effectively communicates it to its workforce. 

Does your company’s HR or Information Systems department have a policy or a mechanism in place for non-business related internet usage?

Does Your Company Have a Social Media Policy?

6 Dec

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become a large part of our everyday lives. The influx of social networking presents an extra duty for those in charge of personnel management: to make sure employees are using the websites in the safest, most responsible ways and the company’s integrity is preserved.

A company should implement a clear social media policy to best ensure all the tweets, status updates and blogs coming from its employees are appropriate.

First, HR managers must decide where the company stands. How far will the company go in the social media world? Will the company be proactive in engaging in the community? Wherever the lines are drawn, the policy must be clear-cut and companies need to dictate the rules without being a dictator, which is a fine line to walk.

Do you need help crafting your company’s social media policy or would you like to see a few examples?  Take a look here to see policies from several well known companies such as ESPN, Wells Fargo, and the Wall Street Journal: Human Resource Management Social Media Policies

Holidays, Employees, and Stress…

2 Dec

The holiday season can be a stressful time, particularly when there just never seems to be enough money in employees’ bank accounts. But human resources can demonstrate effective employee management as workers have holiday season stress on their minds.

Pay will be on employees’ minds for the next month, especially if your company is going through a wage freeze or had to shrink or even eliminate holiday bonuses.

“If employees feel resentment toward your company’s pay practices as they shop for gifts, it can hurt your company through reduced morale and output,” says

Fortunately, there are ways to help combat the holiday paycheck blues. One possible solution is to educate employees about how to stretch their budgets. Encourage employees to honestly evaluate their current financial situation and figure out how much money they can spend and how much they can put on credit cards before going into too much debt.

Shopping early is another suggestion for employees, because it allows more time to find bargains and spreads buying out over a longer time period.

If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program, encourage employees to utilize that benefit. Many offer resources to help them learn how to manage their budget as well as their stress.

Remember, when money is tight, the holidays can be stressful, and few people plan far enough ahead for the holiday bills to not take a toll on their budget and their mood.  So offering different ways to help your employees plan ahead will go a long way in helping alleviate some of their holiday stress.

Does your company offer an Employee Assistance Program?  If so, leave a comment and tell us about it!