Archive | January, 2012

TGIM: Organization and Technology is More Subjective Than You Think

30 Jan

Organization Is Key to Company Success

Today we’re back with our TGIM series, or Thank Goodness It’s Monday.  Each Monday our posts will focus on employee engagement and we hope to hear your thoughts on Twitter using the #TGIM hashtag or with a reply to us @SageHRMS.

Organization is a frequently overlooked component of running a business. Some people are naturally messy or clumsy and the idea of structuring their environment seems unnatural. But however ill-disposed, it’s paramount that employees grasp the value of organization to a company. For managers, this may mean encouraging employees to regulate their habits, or it may be a more personal imperative.

Whatever it is, consider the basics. Yes, “organization” is an ambiguous term that can apply to a variety of business functions and personal concerns – from the administrative to the emotional. Rather than focusing on a vertical perspective of organizations, though, think about on more horizontal terms. Said another way, think about what it means to be “organized.”

A recent IBM study illuminates this point. Researchers observed that individuals who “searched” their email accounts, instead of setting up files and folders for their correspondence, typically found what they were looking for faster and with fewer errors. The time and overhead associated with creating and managing email folders were seen as wastes of time.

The Harvard Business Review points out that technology makes an economic virtue of digital disorganization. The productivity issue workers need to consider is whether habits of efficiency that once improved performance have withered away into mindless ruts that undermine intended outcomes.

Of course, this study is reserved to organization as it relates to email, but the main point rings clear: While technology can help eliminate procedural humdrum, it can also convince us of its objectivity. The fact is technology is more subjective than most assume – the ways we use social media, mobile devices and software reflect our individual productive and organizational tendencies. As new technology emerges, it’s important for users to consider how it will or will not influence their personal habits.

Inc. Magazine states that it’s a manager’s job to get the right technologies that respond to employees’ personal productivity needs. They believe that “it’s not that we’re becoming overly dependent on technology to keep us organized, it’s that we haven’t become dependent enough.”

What are some ways managers can promote greater organizational savvy in the workplace?

Let us know what you think on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #TGIM, or reply to us @SageHRMS.

 

Where Did I Put That?

27 Jan

Disorganization Can Cost Your CompanyDisorganization may seem a mere business nuisance on the surface, but there are plenty of ways it can indirectly affect a company’s bottom line. For one, it becomes easier to lose critical data – perhaps an invoice, staffing list or purchase receipt.

Among employees, disorganization can impact productivity levels and even fray relations with the less cluttered staff members.

Tackling disorganization first and foremost requires a conscious willingness to rethink a number of policies and to upend your normal routine. For example, you may need to begin establishing due dates for certain projects, goals or other operational tasks. This may cause some chaos at first, especially if rigid schedules were not previously in place, but the ultimate result can be beneficial to your company’s bottom line.

Improving organization also requires a renewed focus on efficiency and simplification. Entrepreneur magazine contributor Carol Tice points out that if you have too many procedures or steps to accomplish a task, they can become easier to ignore. Think of ways both you and your employees can streamline tasks to benefit the overall goal of your business.

 

Are You a Know-It-All?

25 Jan

Leadership is a vital component of any business manager or executive. However, the natural individualism of leadership can sometimes inflate one’s ego and instill a sense of righteousness. Leaders who are able to recognize that they do not hold the answers to everything are better equipped at building relationships with co-workers and promoting innovative thought.

Leaders who insist on making every decision often end up suffering from a disengaged workforce. If you find that employees are not taking the initiative or offering their own ideas, it may be a consequence of your leadership style.

If you find yourself in this situation, take a step back and rethink your approach to employee management. Acknowledge your shortcomings – publicly, perhaps. This will inject a degree of humility in your character and attract respect from employees. From there, work toward building a more collaborate environment, wherein workers are free to suggest their own ways of doing things.

Furthermore, admit how much you rely on your staff and acknowledge their hard work. When timed properly, this can have a tremendous effect on employee engagement and morale.

Do you think you have all the answers?

 

TGIM: A Reminder About Employee Contribution

23 Jan

Employee Contribution to GrowthToday we’re back with our TGIM series, or Thank Goodness It’s Monday.  Each Monday our posts will focus on employee engagement and we hope to hear your thoughts on Twitter using the #TGIM hashtag or with a reply to us @SageHRMS.

Most business owners understand the value of their personnel. Small companies are particularly disposed to acknowledging their employees and ensuring their engagement and satisfaction. But what happens when a small firm begins to undergo rapid expansion?

It’s not uncommon for small business owners to overlook or even take for granted their human capital when experiencing sudden growth. It’s even understandable – fast growth is, after all, a very time-consuming and distracting experience.

However, it’s critical that managers and business owners keep their workers in mind and respect the immense effort they apply toward sustaining your company’s growth. With that in mind, it may help to take some time to consider your various departments and their respective contributions not only to your business, but to your management style as well.

Ask yourself: How does each executive or department leader contributes to the overall success of your company – more importantly, how do these departments sustain company growth? For the sake of deliberation, let’s go over the various departments:

Human resources

Your people are the flesh and blood of your company. In the sense that they represent your company, the degree to which your employees are engaged and productive influences every other aspect of running a business. In many ways, your human capital is an investment. Measure your Return on Employee Investment to gauge its overall impact on your business.

Sales

What could be more important? Whether you’re in retail and business services, the ability to make a transaction directly influences the survival of your company.

Marketing

Sales is critical, but you can’t make a sale if nobody has heard of your company and its services. The sales team relies on marketing to provide it with leads and a pre-existing reputation.

IT/Operations

What keeps your office running? What allows you to communicate with shareholders, partners, employees and clients? Technology. Whether it’s a phone system, your network or other logistical considerations, equipment and operations are behind the scenes making sure everything works.

Finance

Accountants, bookkeepers, financial chiefs – these individuals make the numbers work. Business is, after all, about numbers. Your profits – more importantly, the margin of your profits – depend on the ability of your finance people to monitor and regulate costs.

What are some ways managers can show appreciation for their employees?

 Let us know what you think on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #TGIM, or reply to us @SageHRMS.

How to Stay on Schedule

20 Jan

Stay on ScheduleSchedules and adherence to them are a key component of many work environments. While complying with their own demands, managers need to make sure that project schedules are on target and within reach of their employees.

Experts claim that the most common problem in project management is falling behind schedule. While it is difficult to avoid delays, managers can improve their situation and still complete projects in a timely manner.

One strategy may be to look at projects over the long term. Instead of focusing on minute details with a short-term consequence, focus on the end objective, then go over the process in retrospect and jettison inefficient processes.

This may also mean narrowing the scope of your project. Eliminate nonessential elements to reduce costs and save time.

Finally, renegotiate with stakeholders or clients to explore alternative methods of meeting a goal. Perhaps increasing the budget or extending deadlines altogether will keep the project on track.

Of course, proper delegation of resources and human capital is perhaps the best strategy for ensuring timely completion of a project. Accordingly, managers should understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of their employees to maximize their effectiveness.

How does your organization stay on schedule?

Help HR Help Themselves

18 Jan

Help HR Help ThemselvesIn my previous post, I discussed “the other HR data repository” (the need to monitor incoming email messages sent to an HR department). In that post, I mentioned how an HR organization could utilize email as a way to allow staff to request and receive a desired HR report.

That concept caught readers’ attention – and quite a few of you followed-up with me asking for more details on how this could be done. And so, here’s more info on using email to run HR reports – and how by implementing such a system you can help your HR staff – and indeed, all your employees – to “help themselves”.

But first, a little background . . .

In these challenging economic times, every HR organization is tasking themselves with streamlining business processes and identifying procedural bottlenecks. Very often, these bottlenecks are not caused by inefficiencies within an HR department, but rather show themselves whenever HR staff are dependent on another department (or another person) for information that HR needs.

Case in point:  running HR reports.

Who is responsible for running these reports in your organization? Can your HR staff run any report they want themselves, or does your staff have to contact someone down in IT in order to get a report generated?

And how about your employees? Can they run their own reports, such as a report that shows them their benefits, 401k contributions, and so on? Or do they have to contact your HR staff (who then has to contact your IT department) to get the report run?

There’s no question that a lot of HR data is “sensitive”; only certain people should be able to run certain HR reports. But just because “not all HR reports can be run by just anyone” doesn’t mean that your HR staff to has to play “tag; you’re it!” when it comes to running these reports.

Consider implementing a “Reports on Demand” business model within your HR organization.

Reports on Demand puts the ability to run reports in the hands of the people who need them. And the best thing about reports-on-demand is that it doesn’t require teaching your staff a whole new technology to do so. As long as an employee knows how to send an email message, they have all the expertise they need to request and received their desired reports.

So how does it work? Here’s how – using the example of an employee who wishes to receive an “Accrued Vacation” report for themselves:

  •  The employee sends an email to a specified account, such as reports@yourcompany.com
  • In this email (in the subject and/or body), the sender specifies the name (or “ID”) of the report they wish to run.
  • The requester sends the message.
  • The message is received by an “email response system” (ERS)
  • ERS checks to see who sent in the report request and whether they are authorized to run that report.
  • If the requestor of the report is authorized, the ERS runs the report and auto-emails the report output back to the requestor.

 Pretty nifty, eh?

What’s especially nice about an ERS system is that it can parse through the contents of an incoming email message and use those contents to run the requested report with any “parameters” (selection criteria) the requestor specifies.

And if someone requests a report that they should not be asking for, the ERS system can detect that as well – and alert HR or management about someone’s attempt to access sensitive data.

The bottom-line is that more than ever before, an HR organization has to look for “dependent processes” – tasks whose completion are dependent on the availability of other people. Because the more that you can remove these dependencies, the faster the tasks get completed, and the more you empower your HR staff to “help themselves”.

TGIM: How To Help Employees Cope With Extreme Stress

16 Jan

Employee reacting to stressToday we’re back with our TGIM series, or Thank Goodness It’s Monday.  Each Monday our posts will focus on employee engagement and we hope to hear your thoughts on Twitter using the #TGIM hashtag or with a reply to us @SageHRMS.

Some employees arrive on the job and are immediately overwhelmed. This is not uncommon and should not be viewed as an indication of a bad hire. Instead, managers should tap into their sense of empathy and work to acclimate the new employee. But that’s not the only source of fear or despondency in the workplace. Personal troubles are inevitable, and managers need to help their workers cope with their troubles while also staying at a comfortable distance.

Organizations should implement strategies for managing each tier of talent, says the Harvard Business Review. This includes making sure that average employees are put in roles that take full advantage of their strengths.

Organized and effective performance reviews are one of the most common ways to gauge employee satisfaction and the relative progress of a new hire. However, such meetings are less effective in determining whether an employee is the right fit for a specific project or position.

If their performance is mediocre, don’t let them trudge along in roles that are not right for them, especially if they involve management of coordination. Poor attitudes or disengagement can be contagious, particularly when it comes from a leadership position.

To preempt such a situation, managers should perform frequent “fit tests” to compare both strengths and interests with current job responsibilities, the HBR adds. Ask yourself: Is someone in product development, for example, but better suited for a research position? Trust your instinct and be honest, as recognizing and dealing with a mismatch may help an otherwise average employee become a star.

As for workers dealing with a distracting personal situation, it’s important to show concern for their dilemma. Listen and sympathize with their situation and offer time to deal with it.

Inc. magazine suggests that people have to be able to hear each other and genuinely listen to their stories. Of course, it can be a challenge encouraging colleagues to share their feelings and personal lives in a work environment – it’s even a cliche, of sorts.

Inc. points out that persistent sleeplessness, loss of appetite, anger, crying, distraction and an inability to deal with pressure are all signs that an employee made need some time off to deal with their personal lives. Keeping them in the office will only drain resources and contaminate workplace morale.

What are some other ways managers can help employees cope?

Let us know what you think on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #TGIM, or reply to us @SageHRMS.

Take The Negativity Out of Criticism

13 Jan

Positive and Constructive CriticismPerformance reviews are no fun for personnel managers and are rarely an enjoyable experience for workers. How could they be, when the primary purpose is to scrutinize and critique a person’s work?

Unfortunately, sometimes it is necessary to focus on poor performance. With the right delivery however, even negative feedback can be spun in a way that highlights the way a worker can improve, rather than just listing the things that he or she is doing wrong.

Create a culture where constructive feedback is regularly doled out – this will increase employees’ expectations that their output will be analyzed and may make them more receptive to supervisors’ coaching and comments. Encourage managers to tell workers when they’re doing a great job, as well as the times when they need to shape up.

Even for lower level workers, the company has likely made some training and education efforts, and you’ll want to see a return on employee investment. Avoid the temptation to write off under performing workers as “disposable” or “not worth the effort,” and go through their records in your human resource management system to spotlight the areas where they can improve.

Do you have any tips for making employee criticism more palatable? What’s the best way to tell a worker to shape up without offending or driving him or her out the door?

Social Media and Human Resources: Policies, Blunders, and Avoiding Libel

11 Jan

Social Media and Human ResourcesThe anonymity of the internet, social media in particular, allows people to say nasty things about others, whether an organization or an individual. Before the web was around, when unfounded accusations or reputation-damaging criticisms of others were published it was known as libel. But these cases are rare when based on content published on the web.

David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School says that libel suits related to social media are rare because users can often fire off instant replies to nasty comments. The safety of web-based anonymity drives people to say or do things they otherwise might not.

Increasingly, this is a top concern among human resource professionals and workplace managers. Blog posts and social media comments are lasting and, even if summarily deleted, they can have a permanent ripple effect throughout the internet.

Accordingly, it’s a good idea to implement some sort of social media or web-based publishing policy for all employees. While they may choose to disregard such policies outside of the workplace, it’s important to convey the sincerity of libel on the social web and the impact such actions can have on professional and public relations.

Despite the urgency of these concerns, many companies still do not have a social media policy in place. Here are some tips for implementing and upholding a workplace social media policy.

1.) Outline acceptable content

Trumpeting sensitive corporate information, such as client data and insider information, would not be acceptable in a public setting, so it shouldn’t be online either. This may seem obvious, but the impression of privacy that social networks afford can easily muddle employees’ judgement. Of course, employees must be free to post content about anything in their personal lives. Recent regulatory judgments have already decreed such liberties.

Last year, the National Labor Relations Board released a report detailing the rulings on 14 cases involving the use of social media in the workplace. Labor and employment attorneys have further explained that, in general, employers cannot discipline workers who discuss workplace responsibilities and performance online, even if they swear, use sarcasm or hurl insults.

2.) Establish uniform privacy settings

Many people, especially those new to social networking, aren’t aware that they can manage public visibility of content. By simply educating employees on this publication control can alleviate some serious anxiety.

3.) Make clear there are repercussions for libelous content

Employees cannot be prohibited from using social media, but they should be aware, from the outset, that there will be repercussions for inappropriate content.

4.) Be respectful

Nobody wants to be treated like a child. Most employees fully understand the sincerity of content published on the web. They don’t want to sit through a dull, time-consuming meeting about social media etiquette and be told what to do.

Also, understand that just because you don’t like something, it doesn’t mean you can take action against it. For the most part, helping your employees understand your social media policy and responding to disparaging remarks in a professional manner is the best prevention and cure. This is not only a human resource imperative, but a marketing one as well, as customers will be more appreciative of brands that respond to criticism in a respectful way.

Would you like more tips about how to handle social media in the workplace? Download our detailed white paper Social Media & HR – Friend of Foes for more information now.

TGIM: Your Retention Strategies May Need an Overhaul

9 Jan

It’s Monday, you know what that means! Here is another installment of our TGIM series, or Thank Goodness It’s Monday.  Each Monday our posts will focus on employee engagement and we hope to hear your thoughts on Twitter using the #TGIM hashtag or with a reply to us @SageHRMS.

As the global economy comes to rely on knowledge and information, as opposed to raw labor and manufacturing, the need for developed markets to adapt becomes paramount. In the United States, the recession and the resulting plague of unemployment has shown this to be true. Although some manufacturing jobs have returned, the skills that are most in-demand are in the fields of business services, healthcare, and education – all of which require considerable training.

Consider a few facts: More than 13 million Americans are currently unemployed, but there are more than 3.3 million open positions. What’s more, a number of economists, including those representing the Federal Reserve, agree that unemployment will hover around its current level of 8.6 percent through 2012.

Meanwhile, student debt is rising as jobless Americans return to school to beef up resumes and improve their job prospects. A recent report by the New York Federal Reserve even found the total volume of student debt is now greater than that of credit card debt.

Analysts generally agree that the job market will not be able to recover until there is a considerable shift in the dynamics of the U.S. workforce – that is, a trend toward greater knowledge and skills. However, an added challenge will arise in the form of employers’ ability to hold on to talent.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, roughly one-third of employed Americans plan to look for a new job once the economy recovers. Businesses need to adopt retention strategies if they intend to hold on to their top performers. Here are a few considerations to make toward that end.

1.) Training programs improve morale and job satisfaction

People like to feel like they belong to an organization and that their contributions make a significant impact on its well-being. Broadening an employee’s range of skills and responsibilities will help enhance their sense of belonging and hopefully further commit them to the organization. Consider offering night courses or on-the-job training programs to boost skills and establish a stronger relationship.

However, new responsibilities need to be met with higher compensation, as workers will only lift so much additional weight before they ask for a raise.

2.) Employee recognition goes a long way

Compensation is, of course, important. But most people also want to be recognized for their work. They want to know that they’re doing a good job – not to the point of superficiality, just enough to feel good about their accomplishments and ensure continued effort. Consider offering top performers a greater role in the decision-making process or set them up with a mentor.

 3.) Transparency can build trust and devotion

Whether its finances, marketing or HR solutions, opening strategy to deliberation among top performers will highlight the owner’s commitment to his or her employees and help establish trust between parties. If staff retention is your company’s long-term goal, you’ll need to earn their trust before any other strategy can be considered. As the economy continues to improve, albeit tepidly, the need for retention tactics will become dire.

What are some other ways HR managers can boost employee retention?

Let us know what you think on Twitter by tweeting with the hashtag #TGIM, or reply to us @SageHRMS.

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