Archive | January, 2011

Teams: How to Guide Them to Success

31 Jan

Team Working Towards SuccessEmpowered teams, self-managed work teams, project teams … the list could go on forever.  Over the years the trend in teamwork theories seems to have changed as often as the seasons.  No matter the gimmick, successful teams have two major characteristics – a common goal and management commitment. Success in teams that have these attributes can easily be measured in their productivity increases.

Team creation presents a challenge for leadership because there are so many ways to segment a group into teams.  While some would say it is useful to focus only on products, job titles, or work shifts, most have found this does very little for increasing productivity.   Consider varying the experience and knowledge levels of the individuals and focusing the team on one common goal. This will produce exciting team dynamics  and allow participants to focus  on the goal,  not on just their specific knowledge base.    When you measure the difference between individual and team success,  teams are always overwhelmingly more productive.  The key is selecting members that complement each other in personality, skill, experience, and others. 

Once teams are formed and productivity is on the rise a structure must be employed to promote this behavior.  A common mistake made by managers and human resource management professionals is to implement a team structure yet continue to use their current individual performance system.  If you want team performance you must reward as a team not as individuals.   It is necessary that a consistent message in structure and rewards be created.  Members of the team should understand that rewards are given to them based on success of the team rather than individuals. The team must be a component to an already existing incentive program and must be integrated with all other metrics and goals.  A common method is  cascading; department goals relate to  organizational goals, team goals relate to department goals, and  individual goals relate to team goals.  With this method the individual  sees how their contributions can impact the organization in both positive and negative ways.

Now that the structure is in place, it is time to sit back and watch the team work.  This is probably the most difficult time for a manager as one lets go and lets the team make the decisions whether right or wrong. Many first time team managers tend to step in and interfere prematurely.  The dynamics of well-organized teams may take time to develop but the confrontations and issues are  learning experiences and part of a growing period.   Not allowing the team to work out their own issues creates an environment where the team will not succeed because the message is clear that the manager is still in control of the decisions.

In a recent process re-engineering project here at Sage Employer Solutions team development was the key to success; management saw increases in overall productivity and improvement in the work relationships between individuals.  Our human resource manager said, “Not only did our overall processes improve, but I began dealing with less employee conflicts.  The number of people in my office with questions or issues has been substantially reduced.  Also, the slight competition amongst the teams and the peer pressure it created has drastically improved individual employee performance.”

Developing a team strategy is challenging, but it will return your investment quickly.  Effective teams not only increase performance but can also make the manager’s job a little easier.  Remember, the key ingredients to successful teams are a common goal and commitment from management.

Do you have an interesting story about how a team succeeded at your organization?  If so, let us know about it by sharing a comment below.

5 Tips to Save Your Company Money

28 Jan

Human resources management decisions can save your company moneyIt is no secret that in today’s economic times, your company probably tries to save money whenever possible. It makes sense. But when it comes to employee and payroll solutions, there can be a point of diminishing returns when cutting costs leads can do more harm than good and leads to your operation suffering.

Here are five tips for perfecting your employee economics, taken from Entrepreneur Magazine.

1.  Staffing agencies, or professional employer organizations, can save you money on employee benefits. These companies essentially lease your employees back to you.

2. Think about hiring temporary employees when business surges rather than having permanent employees sitting idle during slow business cycles.

3. Interns offer free or low-cost labor in exchange for experience. Local college students look forward to learning the ropes for college credit and can be trained on the job for free and make for a seamless transition as a new hire.

4. Independent contractors can save a company money because employers generally don’t have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to them. Just be wary that your contractors fit the definition provided by the IRS.

5. When you hire your own sales reps, there can be substantial costs for overheard, salaries, incentives, training costs and fringe benefits. Contracting independent manufacturers’ sales reps that are solely paid on commission is far less expensive.

Some companies have tried pretty creative ways to save money. As a gift for the holidays in 2010, all 12,400 U.S. employees of IKEA received a bicycle. The company hopes to save money in the long term by helping its employees be healthier, meaning less missed work, more productive days and lower insurance costs. 

Do you have any creative ways that your company is trying to save money and at the same time help with human resources management?

Guerilla Interviewing: How to REALLY Hire the Best and Brightest

26 Jan

Interview Best Practice - Assessing MotivationEpisode Two: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff – Assessing Motivation

Last episode, we discussed planning for great hiring.  In this episode, we’ll begin to sink our teeth into the meat of conducting interviews aimed at separating the wheat from the chaff.  First, I have good news and bad news.   Good News: “The Job Interview” as a selection tool is low drama – it’s cheap, doesn’t use a ton of time, doesn’t require a lot of resources and is low on the headache scale (relative to other assessment tools).  Also, assuming you’ve got a solid strategy in place before you begin it’s fairly quick to get from posting a job opening to hire.  Bad News: Empirically, “The Job Interview” is the least valid predictor of a candidate’s future job performance and has been proven to be the least effective tool for selection.  But keep your chin up – most of us still use the interview as our only selection tool so you’re in good company.  We can beat these odds by planning better , conducting carefully crafted interviews, and making smarter decisions – keep an eye out for a future post about decision making.

As I began to write this article, I was planning to cover all of the pieces of how to screen a candidate– guerilla style of course.  But as I wrote (and wrote, and wrote and wrote), I realized that each bit of a guerilla interview is insanely important and deserves its own limelight.  So I will cover all the parts of a guerilla interview one by one over the course of the next several weeks, be sure to sign up for our RSS feed to follow my posts. 

Before I begin, I wish I could take credit for all of these ideas, but I can’t.  There are tooonnnnsssss and tons of resources available on the subject of interviewing and hiring.  My “bibles” are two books in the Topgrading series; Topgrading and Topgrading for Sales.  Topgrading was introduced to me by a really cool guy who really knows Recruiting – my current boss at Sage, Chad Godhard plug, plug.  This book should be required reading by everyone who works in business and hires people.  Also, Lou Adler of The Adler Group is an amazing resource.  Lou’s approach is very strategic and smart – I am a huge fan and follower.  I also highly recommend joining; they don’t bombard you with daily emails, and when they do send info, it’s worth reading. 

Suggestion #1 for Conducting Guerilla Interviews:  Assess Motivation

Assessing a candidate’s motivation can be a major weed-out item, and in my opinion it’s the most effective way to reveal who a candidate really is.  It’s important to obtain this information right off the bat so you can drive the remainder of the interview process to your advantage, so start here.

It’s important to get the real answer here, so ease into this a little.  Ensure you make the candidate feel as comfy as possible with you; the more relaxed a candidate is with you the more likely it is that they will be their natural self and you will be hearing their sincere answers vs. the ones they spent hours rehearsing.

Motivations that I hear often include things like wanting to make more money, a better title, a different corporate culture, a different style boss, more challenging work, more responsibility, and even landing a job period because they’re currently unemployed, etc.

Find out:

  • Why they are looking,
  • Why they are looking now,
  • How long they’ve been looking and why it’s been that long (if it’s only been a week, what happened a week ago? If it’s been 8 months, why is it taking so long?),
  • What their ideal job looks like,
  • What their career plans and aspirations are,
  • What they love and hate about their current and recent jobs,
  • What actions they’ve taken in their current post to solve for the reasons they’re looking,
  • Whether they really want this job (vs. any job),
  • If this job is better (in their mind) than what they have now, and
  • What (in their mind) will be better than what they have now.

Allowing a candidate to talk through these topics is very telling about their character. It tells me about their desire, ambition, drive, passion, energy, attitude, aptitude, communication style, whether they are strategic vs. tactical, how organized (or not) they are (or aren’t), their personal style, etc.  Most of what I need to know about all the “soft stuff” is covered during this initial assessment of their motivations.  Getting someone to sincerely talk about what drives them, what they want to do, how they plan to do it, and what they’ve loved and hated about their jobs produces some of the most revealing information and allows us to assess who a candidate truly is as a professional (or in some cases, as a non-professional).

Verify their motivations are in line with this job before investing serious time with the candidate.  For instance, if they want more money it may make sense to move the comp discussion toward the front of the interview.  If you’re not offering what they will take, there’s no sense wasting much more time. If they are looking for more challenging work, find out exactly what that means, verify that we can fill that void and find out if they took any action toward ironing out that wrinkle in their current situation.  If their ideal job is working from home 3 days a week and this is an in-the-trenches office position, say that and get to the wrap-up.  If they want structure and you don’t have a single written SOP in your company, it’s probably not going to be a fit.  If motivations are not in line, say so and get to the wrap-up (we’ll talk about a positive, professional wrap-up in a future post). 

If their motivations are in line, GREAT news –we have a winner at this point, so let’s keep rolling!  Having motivations that are in line with your job opening and your corporate culture along with some good old-fashioned energy and sincere desire (not just for any job, but this job) are the first signs that this candidate could be a great fit for the position.  Proceed with the interview – hopefully you listened very carefully to what motivates your candidate because you’ll be using that information to navigate through the rest of your interview (and your professional relationship) with them.  Knowing what truly motivates someone is a very powerful thing – use it for good. 

Next time I’ll babble about Impressions.

Be sure to check back often to read my future recruiting posts and in February we’re offering a FREE webcast, Creating the Recruiter’s Little Black Book, that will also provide tactical approaches to recruitment.  By attending, you will be awarded One General Credit-Hour from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). 

Your Company Lets You Do That?!

24 Jan

Creative Perk - Working From HomeMany experts claim that 2011 marks the dawning of a new era – an end to the recession and a return to the prosperity we knew before 2008. But the nation’s employers are not quite ready to spend like they did before the economy began its downward spiral, and most are not able to invest financially in their employees like they once had, no matter how much they want to.

For human resources management, 2011 will be filled with creative innovations when it comes to retaining employees and providing perks.

During the recession, many employees did not want to stray from their current job situation because they were just thankful to have a job at all. But as the picture becomes slightly sunnier, workers are getting restless and their employers must make an effort to retain them, even if they don’t have the financial means to do so.

“The recession produced fundamental shifts in how companies and workers view the market,” says Brent Rasmussen, president of CareerBuilder North America. “Businesses are becoming more agile and changing direction. They’re operating leaner and recruiting for opportunities in emerging areas. Workers are transitioning to new fields, are more open to relocation and are more apt to consider opportunities outside of their current employers.”

CareerBuilder writes that companies in 2011 will try many innovative maneuvers to maintain their current workforces and perhaps gain new employees in the process. Here are some of their top employment trends for the coming year:

1. Creating New Functions. Employers will try adding new functions within their companies to stay up-to-date with popular movements. Green energy, social media and healthcare reform jobs are all gaining importance in organizations of all sizes. The title “cyber warrior” may also emerge in 2011, says CareerBuilder, as companies look to protect their websites from security breaches and fraud.

2. Covering Relocation Costs. According to the study, 33 percent of employers said they would be willing to pick up the moving tab for new employees. In addition, 23 percent of previously unemployed workers relocated to a new city or state for a new job. An employee who is willing to move for a company is likely to be a dedicated team member, so the relocation costs put up by the organization may be worth the investment.

3. Promoting Without Pay. Although employees would ideally love a pay raise, companies have found that the boost in morale from a promotion, even when additional pay is not offered, can still improve work performance. CareerBuilder says that the majority of employers plan to increase salaries for their existing staff in 2011, 39 percent will still not be providing raises. Thirteen percent will offer higher titles without pay increases.

4. Going Casual. No, this doesn’t mean companies are requiring Hawaii shirt Fridays every week or allowing employees to show up in their skivvies. Employers are, however, becoming more relaxed about set schedules and dress codes for their workers in the hopes of enhancing the overall work experience. According to the study, flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and alternate schedules will be offered by 33 percent of employers in 2011. Fifteen percent of employers said they will provide a more casual dress code in the coming year.

Although many companies still plan to be cautious with their spending in 2011, Bloomberg reports that the U.S. economy will grow 3.3 percent in the coming year. In addition, new jobs will double. The nation is predicted to add 2.1 million private jobs in 2011, up from 1 million in 2010, meaning that both businesses and consumers are feeling more confident about the economy.

Is your company providing perks to attract and retain top talent, if so let us know about them below!

How To Perfect The Job Offer

21 Jan

HR Creating a System to Perfect the Job OfferSometimes, especially in the current competitive job market, deciding which candidate is the best fit for an open position may be the biggest challenge. In other cases, perfecting a job description and posting is the hardest task.  For some businesses there is difficulty in finding the time to interview each applicant.

But once a company has narrowed down the field to a few potential hires, another challenge begins. A final decision must be made and a job offer must be given out.  If this process isn’t standardized, routine, and repeatable, human resource departments can significantly elevate a key human resources metric, the cost per hire.

The first action item after a selection has been made is to conduct a pre-hiring reference check to ensure a candidate is recommended by previous employers and references.  If nothing alarming is found in the reference check the next step is to send an offer letter to the candidate.

A job offer letter should include should include a welcome statement, the position title, a start date, annual compensation and potential bonus eligibility.  Also, any agreed upon deviations should be included, such as a pre-arranged vacation.  Many parts of a job offer letter can be standardized and working off a template is a generally accepted best practice. 

To help streamline the onboarding process and help a human resources department gather necessary information each job offer letter should be accompanied by an employee information sheet, I-9 form, W-4 form, consent to physical exam form (if needed), and an employee confidentiality agreement.

Also, included in the job offer letter should be a timeframe for acceptance of the position.  A company needs to ensure that a date is given to the potential hire in which they need to respond by to accept.  This way a company will know whether to move on to another candidate in a reasonable time period.

Be sure that the top choice has accepted the job offer before sending rejection letters to other finalists. For extra precaution it may also be a good idea to wait before the person clears all checks and testing before notifying finalists that they did not get the job. That way, there is a pool of replacements available in the case that a top choice doesn’t work out.

Has your human resources department perfected the job offer?  What is your cost per hire?

Five Steps to Top-Notch Performance Reviews

18 Jan

Employee performance reviews are a must at every company. But there is a big difference between simply executing the task and making the interaction worthwhile for all involved.

Human resources should educate managers and other leadership within a company to ensure that proper performance reviews are taking place.  Employees will quickly learn that performance reviews are not valued by the company if they aren’t taken serious by management. 

Entrepreneur magazine, shares five tips for employee performance reviews:

  1. Don’t use a performance review to air everything that an employee is doing wrong. Use the time to concentrate on improvements that can be made and how they can achieve them in the future.
  2. Create performance criteria and apply them to all employees across the board. This will help promote fairness and consistency.
  3. Allow employees to voice their opinions and evaluate themselves. If an employee’s view of him or herself and a company’s view of the individual’s performance don’t match up, it should be a warning sign.
  4. Document all observations in writing, including notes on poor performance. Be honest with those critiques, but not brutal.
  5. Smaller firms may not need performance reviews for employees if constant communication and feedback are taking place. However, if these reviews are avoided, companies should still send the message that performance is critical.

What best practices does your company follow when holding performance reviews?

Avoid the Top 5 FLSA Mistakes

14 Jan

When it comes to human resources management, dealing with legal matters is a fact of life. But matters regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act are a particular hot-button topic as employers and employees deal with pay.

Workforce Management has identified five of the most common mistakes that companies make in dealing with the FLSA. Luckily, these errors are easy to fix once they’ve been identified.

1. Thinking salaried employees may not be exempt from overtime. Just because an employee is salaried, no matter how large, it does not mean that he or she is exempt from overtime. There are, however, exemptions that each employee must qualify for.

2. Wrongly classifying assistant managers. Many businesses pay assistant-manager-level employees without overtime and without considering whether they truly qualify for an executive exemption. If a manager and assistant manager are on duty, the assistant manager may or may not qualify for the exemption. 

3. Automatic deductions for meal breaks. Although not illegal, the practice can be burdensome on HR offices if employees later claim that they worked through lunch. Even if the action violates company policy, the employee is legally entitled to pay for that time.

4. Not paying for overtime that has not been approved ahead of time. If an employee works overtime, even if it is non-approved, the FLSA requires that the employee gets paid.

5. Allowing employees to waive their right to overtime pay. Under the FLSA, any type of deal with a staff member that includes nonpayment of overtime is void.

Human resources management personnel need to educate managers on the FLSA to avoid mistakes.

If you’d like more detailed information about compliance and want to gain one general credit hour from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), register to attend our upcoming webcast, Navigating the Mine Field of Federal and State Leave Laws on January 25 at 11:00 a.m. PT or January 26 at 10:00 a.m. PT.

You’ll learn more about compliance and record keeping best practices as well what qualifies an employee for leave under FMLA, USERRA, and/or ADA (ADAA).

How do you avoid mistakes and stay up-to-date with changing compliance mandates?

How to Create a Happy Engaged Workforce

12 Jan

Contrary to popular demand, higher pay is not a driver for retaining top talent. The rewards that top performers look for is a more intrinsic value to the company that they work for, sometimes they are small and some are even intangible.

Employees who are highly satisfied in their jobs state that their employer and human resources department provides:

  • Open honest communication: Create transparency across the business. If you are open with employees about the state of the organization, good or bad, they want to know. You never know what kind of ideas your employees have. All you have to do is ask, listen and consider.
  • Trust your staff: let them make decisions. You may find that discovery and solution becomes the focus while placing blame is unimportant.
  • Recognition: celebrate those who are contributing to the success of the organization both big and small. We all feel energized and part of a team when we are valued for our contribution.
  • Accountability (even yourself): Hold people to the goals they set. You expect people to say what they are going to do, so you should follow through with what you say.
  • Additional responsibility: More responsibility gives employees a sense of ownership in the business and how things are done. It may be more clear to the employee how they impact the organization and contribute to the bottom line. This also provides a development opportunity for them to move up in the organization.
  • Exposure to other areas of the business: Cross training of employees creates a team mentality. An employee who spends a day in another area of the business that he/she may work with, can gain a different perspective of the job. Gaining a better understanding of how/why things are done the way they are will provide understanding and foster a team environment.

While pay and benefits are important, studies have shown that these are only short term drivers for creating a happy, engaged workforce.

How can a happy engaged workforce benefit your organization?

  • Happy employees are productive employees. Studies have proven that happy people are more productive, take fewer sick days and get along with others better.
  • Happy employees will stay with you. They won’t be out looking in the job market. The cost associated with hiring an employee can be as high as 2.5 times their annual salary. If you’re losing a staff member every 6 months what is the affect on your bottom line?
  • Happy employees will treat customers well because they are engaged in the business and want to succeed.

How does your human resources and management team keep employees happy?

How to Give New Hires a Warm Organized Welcome

10 Jan

New situations can be scary. To better understand how it feels to be “the new guy” at a company, HR managers should put themselves in the shoes of their newly hired employees and show them the ropes with a carefully planned and thorough orientation.

The University of California at Berkeley offers a checklist for those in charge of human resources management, to guide them through a first-day orientation.

  • Give a warm welcome and try to quell any nervousness.
  • Discuss the first day’s agenda right off the bat.
  • Take the employee on a tour and introduce him or her to other staff members.
  • Have lunch with the new employee so he or she continues to feel welcome.
  • Review the job description with the employee and clarify any parts that may be confusing.
  • Explain working hours.
  • Supply a benefits packet with all the information and forms about the company’s offerings.
  • Explain telephone, fax, e-mail and internet use.
  • Help the new employee complete all the necessary personnel forms.
  • Provide him or her with the required keys, IDs and access cards, if applicable.
  • Introduce new employees to the office resources available to him or her, such as directories, dictionaries, computer program manuals, staff listings, etc.

But orientation is more than just a nice welcoming for the new employee. There are essential company outcomes to achieve.  Orientation helps reduce start-up costs by getting new hires up to speed faster. The sooner they are producing at the same level as the rest of the staff, the less time will be lost.

Employee turnover is reduced when staff feels valued, and an orientation shows that an organization has an interest in seeing new employees succeed.  After a solid orientation and a fruitful follow-up meeting, a new employee will feel a part of the team.

What other activities does your company plan for new hires?

Commutes Can Be Costly For Employees

7 Jan

And we thought $3 per gallon for gas was a rip-off. Now, experts are saying that the national average for regular gasoline, which now stands at above $3.00 per gallon, will keep climbing through the winter and into the spring. Gas could reach as high as $4 in some states.

Those in charge of human resources management should note that the negative outlook for gas prices in the near future could cause employees to spend more of their take-home pay on their daily commute to work.In 2008, 4.2 percent of median household income was soaked up by gasoline purchases. The following year, 6.5 percent of incomes were dedicated to the pump. And in 2010, that number increased again – 7.6 percent of incomes went toward powering our motor vehicles.

Although many companies across the country are still under tight budgetary constraints, there are some ways they can help employees cope with this increasing cost. Companies can offer more telecommuting options until gas prices come down. Allowing employees to work from home just twice a month can cut their gas expenses by up to 10 percent. The benefit could be posed as a reward for top performers, creating an incentive for all employees to increase their performance.

According to the Associated Press, the average price of gas was $2.59 per gallon last year. The spike in recent gas prices is due to the cost of crude oil, which has hovered between $83 and $89 a barrel since Thanksgiving.

Does your company allow employees to work from home?  If so, is it a standard option or only for top performers?