Archive | August, 2012

The Key to Productivity

31 Aug

HR professionals are expected to carry a certain level of expertise and are held accountable to vital processes including payroll, federal compliance and employee retention strategies, just to name a few. Having a work strategy can prevent these individuals from feeling overwhelmed or doing poorly at assigned tasks.

Delegate and Conquer

Sometimes it can be hard to hand responsibilities to others, but an important skill to foster is managing the fear of failure to succeed. In this case, knowing when to loosen the reins can save vital tasks from going undone or being completed incorrectly. The ability to properly delegate work also denotes a manager confident in his or her leadership skills, proving flexibility and adaptability in difficult situations rather than getting overwhelmed.

In order for delegation to be successful, though, HR professionals need to be good communicators. It also means identifying talent in workers who may be undervalued or don’t yet see themselves as capable of taking on certain tasks. It leaves a lot of responsibility in the hands of HR management but also gives co-workers an opportunity to shine.

Acceptance and Tolerance

It won’t always be possible for a task to be delegated, and sometimes a job may require long hours, tedious or repetitive tasks and devotion to see the whole process through. Remaining confident in yourself as well as those around you will strengthen overall efforts to complete the most arduous assignments and prove to others you can be relied upon even when the road gets rough. A study of employee loyalty recently showed that bosses have a strong impact on how much a worker wants to stay and do his or her job, so a show of competence may earn a reciprocal vote of confidence and may motivate your workforce.


There’s a hackneyed expression that says, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” That doesn’t mean they get out of town; when tasks are difficult, hours are long and morale is low, a strong HR professional gets going on the work rather than shirk or avoid completing a task. Leading by example here is key to promoting productivity in the workplace and a general conception that quitting is never an option.

These steps may be a bit hard to follow at first, but it’s important to keep up optimism in the workplace and never let yourself get overwhelmed. Delegate, communicate and lead effectively to see the best employee engagement possible.

Conducting Effective Performance Reviews

29 Aug

Before an HR professional or manager conducts a performance review, they should research correct and effective evaluation methods, as preparedness will help avoid any miscommunication while improving efficiency.

Focus on the positive

Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to be nice about everything in a review. Nobody ever wants to be mean or overly critical, but addressing problems where they exist before they turn into terminal issues is integral to quality evaluations. Be sure to start with a loose plan, because no matter how tempting it might be to walk in with a formula, there’s no way to effectively apply the same interview metrics to every individual employee.

Management can still keep an optimistic outlook on the process, though. Enumerating plans for growth and improvement, as well as listing employee contributions and benefits to the company will go into a worker’s record and provide building blocks for future reviews.

Stay on target

Coming into the meeting with a clear set of goals and a clean slate dedicated to each subject is one thing, but bringing supporting documentation for both parties to review is critical as well. The points to be discussed should be listed, as well as both positive and negative aspects of the person’s recent work history. This should also provide the employee an opportunity to review managerial perceptions and give feedback, either agreeing or refuting talking points and coming up with solutions for addressed issues.

Open communication is vital during the evaluation to ensure that both parties are clear on the areas discussed and agreement has been reached for needed improvements.

Remember to change

Making sure to set goals at the end of the performance review gives the meeting a positive close, but it’s still important to acknowledge if these meters are being met, both for the employee and manager. It’s essential the HR professionals use a critical eye when looking over evaluation materials and plan more effective strategies for the workers and managers who need them. Guided growth still needs to be enforced.

It’s As Easy As A-C-B

22 Aug

Okay . . . time for a quick acronym quiz:  what’s the difference between BAM software and BPM software?

BAM stands for Business Activity Monitoring and BPM stands for Business Process Management. Why is that important? It’s important because sometimes you need a little bit of both technologies in order to satisfy some very common HR business scenarios.

Consider the hiring process; when you on-board a new employee there are a lot of things that need to get done. You need to get that employee set up in payroll; enrolled in your 401k program, and signed-up for health care benefits. Someone in operations (or building maintenance) needs to assign an office (or cubicle), request furniture, and make sure that a phone line and network cable are dropped into that space.

And we haven’t even begun to discuss how the folks in IT need to grant this employee access to specific software applications and still other staff will need to train the new hire on the applications they’ll be using.

Lots of responsibilities . . . assigned to lots of people . . . who each need to do their part . . .

…at the right time.

Not too early; not too late. If there are five steps in on-boarding a new employee, step #3 should come after step #2 but before step #4. And the alerts and workflow that facilitate this process need to follow that  same order.

After all, what good is a reminder to a trainer that they need to help a new employee get up to speed on a certain application if no one in IT has yet authorized that new employee for access to that application?

In situations like this, the order in which alerts and workflow are executed is as important as the task  itself. As so we have need for a technology that blends the capabilities of BAM – monitoring, alerts, and workflow – with the capabilities of BPM – multi-step job process support.

Visually, a multi-step HR process would look something like the following in an alerts & workflow system:

Now the above illustration is of a fairly simplistic employee on-boarding process; it consists of just 6 steps. But the value is already apparent. By having a graphic illustration of the steps that make up a critical HR activity, you drastically reduce the chance of steps being missed while expediting the process of moving from one step to the next. You gain the flexibility of adding to or re-arranging the execution of those steps.

And you gain the security of knowing that each step in the process will not start until the preceding steps have been completed.

Perhaps most importantly, each step has its own set of rules that specify when that step is triggered and what “actions” the step will take – even if that action is nothing more than reminding the responsible parties of the tasks they need to complete.

Almost all HR organizations have multi-step business processes, whether it’s for on-boarding a new employee, terminating an employee, performing employee reviews. But few HR organizations have the technology in place to “see” what individual steps each process consists of. And that’s where a technology that blends the best of Business Activity Monitoring and Business Process Management comes in handy. 

Because no one likes to see a new employee sitting at their desk playing solitaire just because they haven’t been set up with an email account or with access to certain applications. And in today’s economy, no business can afford it.

Can You Tell Engagement By Looking at Posture?

20 Aug

There’s a lot you can tell about a person just by looking at them; whether they’re feeling open or closed to interaction, if they’re happy or sad and whether or not they’re sick at the moment. According to some experts, you can also tell how productive somebody is feeling, and certain body language can increase that employee engagement.

Smile and nod

If you feel like an employee isn’t listening during a meeting or even casual water cooler talk, you know what the tell-tale signs of disengagement are. Slumped shoulders, dull eyes and crossed arms all lend themselves to shutting down conversation and raising ire between co-workers. Sometimes other employees aren’t aware of the signals their body language emits, but if you present yourself as an HR professional who always seems pleasant and attentive, you may be able to cajole the same response out of your audience.

Otherwise, you run the risk of employees thinking you find them boring or somehow offensive.

Get more done

Sitting at a desk all day can be toxic to productivity, encouraging slouching and relaxed posture that lends itself to napping. People tend to get more tired while the workday wears on, so that mornings may see a higher percentage of output in employee management software while afternoons have sluggish showings.

Entrepreneur magazine recommends stretching out even if you don’t get up from your desk. Putting your feet up on a box or otherwise elevating them helps, as does putting your hands behind your head to encourage a straighter spine or leaning back in your chair to extend your legs, activate circulation and get your brain back in the game.

Stay positive

Even if you aren’t having the greatest day, going into a meeting or even having a very negative chat with a friendly co-worker can stir up your ire and put a cloud over the other people involved or listening. Inversely, if someone presents you with a sour statement, as an HR professional you can re-direct the conversation and potentially the rest of that employee’s day by finding a positive perspective on the topic.

Seeing as other employees will look to you as a leader, knowing how to maintain positive interactions and having an active interest in office affairs will come naturally.

Changing the Face of Human Resources Management

17 Aug

The aspects of business HR systems professionals are expected to deal with are constantly evolving. Regulations and innovations affect the ways in which they carry out regular operations, while the expectations they’re required to live up to are subsequently on the rise. In order to keep up, motivation needs to become part of the HR culture.

Fostering the Shift

At most organizations there is not enough constructive thinking going on in the workplace, despite attempts to diversify recruitment and incorporate new ideas. Much of the time, constant change coupled with poor communication and bad leadership make it difficult for transformation to gain traction and organizations lost the motivation to keep pursuing these initiatives. Failing to match legislation to changes in technology could result in a payroll compliance problem, higher employee turnover and difficulty meeting client demands.

Sharing is Caring

Investing in human capital is essential for actual change in an organization, and sticking to it may be difficult without good leadership and transparency. If members of the workforce are struggling to change and don’t feel anything is being accomplished, the program could fail. If HR professionals instead promote employee self service portals outlining goals, pushing a culture of change and fostering conversation between different levels of the company, it’s more likely to achieve success.

Opening lines of communication like this can boost employee loyalty while encouraging traction within even a flurry of change. This can start with the online social media movement, these free and easily accessed structures help foster workplace culture and transparency.

HR professionals need to step up as leaders, and other managers have to maintain a positive culture in the workplace. Businesses need to encourage these key members of the management team to pursue learning opportunities which provide an understanding of innovations in the workplace that could benefit their employer, coworkers and clients they serve.

See Why Paperless is More

15 Aug

This guest blog post is courtesy of Mary Anne Osborne, SPHR, and principal of the Osborne Group. Mary Anne is a people-centric HR professional and consultant with over 25 years of HR experience in telecom, finance, manufacturing, healthcare and higher education.  Mary Anne presents monthly on our complimentary Sage HR R&R: Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series.

Managing the many facets of human resources can be difficult if your personnel aren’t using a computerized system. HRMS software provides ease of use, collaboration and a reduction of costly errors, as well as better mastery of internal affairs. Saving money and increasing overall productivity with paperless human resources systems should be an intuitive choice for businesses.

HRMS efficiency

Using an HRMS tool in your workplace reduces costs and increases output. That’s because reducing paperwork and streamlining the process makes it simpler for HR personnel to monitor employee performance, access trouble spots and maintain a certain standard of operations throughout the organization. These tools also facilitate employee self-service at all levels of the company, giving everyone an idea of how well they’re doing compared to what’s expected of them.

Cutting costs is also quite easy with HRMS. Employing such a system cuts down on physical paperwork and storage necessities, reducing wasted office space, supply costs and efficiency. An electronic system lends itself more easily to review and makes mistakes harder to miss during initial entry or later in the process. Errors can be much more costly than file maintenance and can have further-reaching repercussions.

Following trends

Technology in the workplace is always evolving, and adoption of modern software like HRMS is vital to stay competitive, attract the best candidates, retain top talent and streamline operation.

By placing all important forms and documents into the electronic system, HR personnel and payroll staff see their job difficulty reduced greatly. There is no longer a mountain of paper to deal with for each worker, sorting out personal papers and tax forms, but the individual can key everything themselves on a computer, automating future processes.

These tools create a digital interface for employee and applicant tracking, monitoring progress and work statistics for workers throughout the company. HRMS tools help them connect with their bosses and select their benefits as well, allowing them to review pay statements and setup direct deposit, as well as enroll in health and other benefits programs. All activity conducted in the human resources management system gives employers a way to review staff preferences and performance, granting greater insight into the minds of workers.

Instituting a human resources management system reduces costs, increases productivity and keeps an organization at the top of the technology game. Instituting such a program is easy, and benefits everyone in the company.

Drive Success and Motivation Through Management

13 Aug

Considering the cost of replacing an individual should deter most HR professionals from jumping to fire even a problem employee given the state of the current economic and job markets. Identifying the reasons why workers don’t succeed and driving strategic HR management solutions can help maintain staff.

Identifying Risk Factors

A listless person isn’t always bored due to a lack of interest in the task he or she has been set. Sometimes the individual hasn’t been properly assigned work or may not have a full understanding of how to accomplish the project they’ve been assigned.

Especially with a new worker or someone just starting a task they may be unfamiliar with, managing criteria for goals along the path to completion can drive progress. If a manager simply hands an employee a project and walks away, autonomy may not kick in immediately causing a waste of time and assets, or worse the employee may perform job duties in an unsatisfactory way simply out of a lack of information.

Killing the Fear

Managing to motivate your workforce through set goals and landmarks is a good start, but another stumbling block for the uninitiated can be undue concern. If an employee is afraid of making a mistake be sure to give enough support and guidance, within reason, to ensure that the work is going smoothly and according to standards.

Stagnancy and setbacks aren’t failure, but ignoring them can lead to the whole project or team collapsing. Extinguishing that concern and managing the fear of failure to succeed is key if work is to be done in the most satisfactory way possible.

Eliminate Roadblocks

Mental and physical barricades can keep an assignment from ever getting off the ground. It’s the responsibility of management to see that necessary tools are available for corresponding tasks, including physical resources like technology and archives as well as experienced individuals to assist with practical questions. An employee who believes he or she cannot succeed will not be able to overcome that hurdle, but providing support can assist with getting over it.

Never look at fear as a weakness. Instead, HR professionals should see opportunities to educate and assist other employees in order to form a cohesive, motivated workforce that will be better equipped to accomplish the business’ mission.

Healthcare and Tax and Payroll, Oh My!

10 Aug

The federal government has been very busy coming up with new regulations for business finances over the last few months. With new rules on everything from deduction volumes and annual contributions to what really qualifies as a generic, it may seem the task of understanding all the new intricate details and effectively facilitating new plans with existing employees is almost impossible. The first step in the battle is finding out what you need to learn, and then finding the tools to get the needed knowledge.

Healthcare and Tax Reform

So what’s the federal government doing to raise its own bottom line? Asking for more money, primarily, but in the form of legislation meant to help protect workers and businesses in the process. That may appear contradictory and impossible by nature, and it seems to be a little of both when reviewing new policies.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is well-known (or should be) among HR professionals who have been (or should be) working to get their internal benefits systems ready for pre-set deadlines. Failing to meet these landmarks will result in excessive fines for employers, so understanding the statutes well enough to properly implement them is vital. The feds will certainly be looking for mistakes, after all part of the new plan’s implementation funding will come from money it expects to earn from every business in the nation as the rollover occurs. If organizations don’t live up to federal expectations, they could be hit with a bill for up to $500,000.

Meanwhile, tax revisions for payroll are currently getting batted around. There may soon be increases coming for more than one area of every employee’s bottom line. Medicare and basic income could each be facing at least a 1 percent regular boost in deduction for income higher than $50,000, resulting in a significant difference in withholding for some workers. These changes are not currently in effect, but more substantial cuts could take place if higher taxes are levied against personal or business incomes.

Be Prepared

Fortunately for most well-prepared organizations, human resources management systems should be able to handle the changes without incident, so long as HR and payroll remain vigilant during implementation. That’s to be expected of employees always, but with such high stakes, it’s more important than ever.

When it comes to tax breaks, for instance, monitoring incomes over $50,000 is one thing, but making sure that amount is monitored will help payroll staff take off that relief if an employee should cap the $250,000 level, as per federal guidelines.

Job growth is another factor for companies to be wary of in light of changes to payroll deductions. Offering a higher salary may make a position more appealing, and with the Department of Labor showing the unemployment rate staying steadily below 9 percent for more than a year, that pool isn’t getting much filtration besides dredging up the same quality of candidates repeatedly. On the other hand, hiring an employee that adds more to the corporate tax burden could be an unnecessary addition, and could wind up putting that new person in a bad position with his or her own tax filings.

For healthcare reform, it’s best for businesses to try and adopt an employee self-service system to streamline the process. This can help get everyone in the organization on the same page regarding available benefits, while fewer divergent plans simplifies the paperwork for payroll and HR staff. In fact, a digitized system can give HR a leg up on any process, so integrating it into an existing human resources software solution could be the best option available.

Understanding and Recruiting Advanced Technology Specialists

9 Aug

Understanding how new technology is essential to individuals and the ways it affects the office are key to hiring positions that didn’t even exist at the turn of the millenium.

A new era

Among the most remarkable changes in tech positions are those focused on how employees and clients interact with the business. Where this used to be a standard part of human resources management, companies are now identifying the need for a specialist to handle the social media aspect of workplace communication.

A growing number of businesses have their own Facebook pages, while the often vast majority of their workers have been on the site for years. Both AT&T and The Small Business Social Media Survey found last year that at least 40 percent of all organizations were on Facebook already, and for smaller businesses that figure was over two-thirds. Companies in telecommunications and travel were more likely than other sectors to invest in social media advertising and presence, with over half of both industries already driving online marketing as a main growth tactic.

Hiring to suit

In order to understand and analyze trends within the internet sphere, the emergence of Social Media Managers within the human resources title has necessitated the creation of a new department for some businesses. This job incorporates how companies work and communicate with their own people, how the public perceives them, how to improve that image and the task of boosting overall community voice. Assisting this capacity in some companies is a Chief Listening Officer, who monitors Twitter and Facebook for trends and helps drive corporate conversations in that direction.

Perhaps one of the biggest shifts is toward mobile devices and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs, necessitating a focus on app development for business use, as well as increased data security. According to, there are currently more than 15,000 open positions in the mobile device field for both management and development of new access methods.

How to do it

So what should a business do to keep up with the trends, apart from hiring new personnel specialized in these areas?

A measure of understanding should be first fostered within the work culture. Rather than turning away from new technology, HR professionals should encourage adoption of Facebook and other social media by employees in order to create a unified culture. There should also be a focus on education, so that other departments understand what new positions are designed to do, and so they can understand data created by these offices and use it to create business metrics.

How to Deliver a Dysfunction Free Performance Review

7 Aug

Today’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.

More often than not, workplace dysfunction is a sneaky and unpredictable thing. Your boss flips out without warning simply because your report is an hour late. Your co-worker smiles at you in the break room only to be secretly plotting to get you fired the first chance they get. However, there is one time of year that dysfunction can be anticipated – performance review time. This season is particularly ripe with dysfunction, headaches, heartbreaks and generally heightened levels of anxiety and stress. Think of it as that season later in life when we are all more likely to get diagnosed with a major illness. We all know it’s coming and we know there are things we can do to prevent it. But do we? I can speak for myself and say that that season may be sooner than later if I don’t get my act together.

Diagnosing Causes of Performance Review Dysfunction

There are some common causes of dysfunctional performance reviews. Here are some of the most dangerous dark clouds that hover over the performance review process, guaranteeing unhealthy outcomes:

  • When politics are at play – Sometimes the performance review process is a useless and de-motivating experience that could and should be avoided as a result of unhealthy politics being at play.
  • When the review is chock full of surprises – Surprises may be a good thing when it comes to birthday parties and vacations (at least according to my wife), but they have no place in a performance review.
  • When the review becomes a personal attack – Performance reviews are about… get ready… performance. I know that’s a shocker. When the review process become an attack on one’s character, or when they don’t strike the right balance of personal investment and objectivity, the outcome can go horribly wrong.

Disease Prevention

Avoiding the dysfunctions associated with performance reviews are the equivalent of brushing / flossing daily and going to the dentist every 6 months for regular check-ups. You need to stay on top of it. Let’s take a step back. Imagine if you didn’t brush or floss (at all… not even one time) and didn’t go to the dentist for a whole year. When you finally did show up at the dentist’s office after 12 months of no contact and negligence, I doubt that would be a pleasant and predictable experience (not to mention the bad breath).

Here are some ways we can ensure a healthy performance review conversation. Thanks to my good friend Stacie Hagan, Chief People Officer at Earthlink for the following list on how to conduct performance reviews (the concepts work for both managers and employees):

  • Do Them All the Time – Yes, that’s right. Reviewing performance is good and should happen every day. Don’t have the calendar dictate when to give feedback. Do it when it’s needed. Periodic reviews required by the company should never offer anything new, but merely recap what was already said.
  • Listen as Much as You Talk – Both manager and employee have unique and valid views on the work. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what they are? Share your thoughts. See where they match and where they differ. Build a plan that makes you both feel good about the future.
  • Assume Responsibility for Each Other’s Success – A performance review is NOT about establishing one person’s dominance over the other. We’re all adults – working for the same company – trying to achieve the same goals. Talk about how you can help the company be successful by helping each other succeed.
  • Make Notes – You got it ‐‐ fill out the form (if there is one). Why? Because we all know that if the company didn’t require performance reviews, none of us would ever have these conversations, despite our best intentions. (Ok, some small percentage would. The same percentage who exercise regularly; eat a balanced, low fat, high‐fiber diet; see the dentist every six months; and make their bed daily.)

Brush and Floss Daily

So, if you want to have an uneventful, productive and healthy performance review, whether you are the boss or the employee, treat it just like going to the dentist. Brush and floss daily (provide regular feedback) and have frequent “check-ups” (at least twice a year but shoot for quarterly if possible) and you’ll be cavity free. Avoid brushing / flossing and wait until the end of the year for the conversation, and pain is practically guaranteed. Not to mention, the breath… Yuck.