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Policy and Procedure: Navigating the NLRB

14 Aug

This guest blog post is courtesy of Mary Anne Osborne, SPHR, and principal of the Osborne Group. Mary Anne is a peoplecentric 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 Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series that are approved for 1.00 recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

With the continued importance of technology, employee demands, and the ever-changing nature of the National Labor Relations Board, remaining compliant with government policies can be quite the challenge. It seems each week there are new appointments to the board, and with those appointments come Congressional disputes and a tug of war over the powerful counsel.

As confusing as it may be to navigate these government policies, it’s important that HR professionals keep their companies compliant, as violations may result in troublesome legal issues for an organization. With that in mind, keep reading to find HR solutions and tips on how to comply with government policies:

Keep Up With the Law
Even as power struggles carry on in Washington, D.C., there are some standard regulations that make up the core of the NLRB policies. The agency was formed to protect the legal rights of workers across the country, namely the right to unionize and to protest unfair labor policies in the private sector.

Under the jurisdiction of the agency, individuals can file complaints against employers or unions, and if the NLRB agrees that violations may have taken place, the charges will be processed and the case will head to court before going to the NLRB for a ruling. The NLRB decision can be appealed, but any organization should make certain that it complies with regulations to avoid legal problems that can be costly and damaging to a company’s reputation.

The best way to begin compliance efforts is to understand and keep up with the law. Here is a comprehensive guide to current NLRB rules and regulations. Every company should keep up to date on changes to the law, new appointments, and Congressional debates.

Develop Specific Technology Policies
Experienced HR professionals who are already familiar with the basics of NLRB rulings still need to work on understanding new laws that come into place, especially ones that deal with evolving technology.

Social media, for example, has recently been the subject of debate in agency regulations. Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to have an open dialogue with their employers regarding the terms and conditions of their employment, including social media practices.

Organizations should develop a comprehensive and specific social media policy. In 2012, the NLRB found ambiguous provisions to be unlawful. For example, the board said company policies that prohibit the sharing of “confidential information” are too vague, arguing that this phrasing could prevent employees from reporting poor working conditions.

Instead, companies must be specific in their social media policies. The NLRB said better phrasing could include prohibitions on employees’ sharing “secret, confidential, or attorney-client privileged information” on social media platforms, because it “clearly intended to protect the employer’s legitimate interest in safeguarding confidential, proprietary, and privileged information.”

HR professionals should develop a social media policy that is as specific as possible—this can help protect a company from litigation and make it easy for employees to avoid trouble online.

Train and Communicate With Staff
Upon hiring a new employee or when updating HR policies, it is crucial that staff understand employer rules and regulations. Without proper training, an otherwise responsible worker may post something on a social media outlet that violates company policy or make a transgression without understanding the consequences.

It is especially important that workers understand rules about unionization and their rights to start, join, or stay out of union activities. Many companies have found it useful to develop employee handbooks and procedure manuals that can be handed out to staff in addition to in-person training sessions.

Although compliance with the NLRB may be a hassle, the laws were ultimately designed to protect workers. HR professionals should recognize this fact and make government compliance a priority.

Five Creative Tips for Effective Benefits Management

17 Jul

This guest blog post is courtesy of Mary Anne Osborne, SPHR, and principal of the Osborne Group. Mary Anne is a peoplecentric 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 Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series that are approved for 1.00 recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

Benefits take up a large portion of an HR budget, which is why it’s important for a company to develop a management strategy that will increase employee return on investment, engagement, and staff performance.

Implementing an effective benefits management plan can be difficult, however, as there are many things to take into consideration. Keep reading to find five tips on putting in place a great benefits management plan:

1. Be Innovative, Flexible
When thinking about employee benefits, oftentimes, most minds will go straight to fiscal-related benefits like retirement. Yet one of the easiest and least expensive employee benefits is a flexible work schedule. Flexible work schedules are gaining in popularity across all sectors, and for good reason. A recent Gallup poll found employee engagement was significantly higher at companies where workers enjoy a reasonable amount of flex-time.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace found that flex-time had the strongest correlation to employee well-being, happiness, and engagement. Gallup reported that engaged employees with flexible schedules had 44 percent higher wellbeing than disengaged employees with strict schedules.

One of the greatest aspects of a flexible schedule is that it is cost effective. If employees are allowed to work from home on a regular basis and still produce quality work, there’s no reason for managers to discourage this practice. Instead, managers can score points with a staff by offering this highly desirable benefit to a workforce.

2. Offer Well-Rounded Health Plans
Effective benefits plans include more than basic compensation and health care plans. If a company can afford it, it’s worth it to invest in a robust health program. This doesn’t have to be hugely expensive, however.

Building a fitness facility onsite is a great idea, but if a company can’t afford such a major investment, a health plan that comes with discounted gym memberships is an effective way to improve employee health and happiness.

Another plus? Regular physical activity cuts down on illness, meaning lower absenteeism and lower insurance costs. In addition to offering sound HMO or PPO health insurance plans, companies can kick off health programs with weight loss or fitness competitions, which will bring some extra life to an office and improve morale.

3. Balance Work and Life
Remember above all else that employees exist outside of the office. This may sound basic, but many members of a company would argue that being overworked by managers makes them feel like they are valued only as workers and not as people.

This is an easy fix. Employers can offer more time off, either through a revised benefits package or through incentive programs like sales competitions. Set up a monthly sales competition, and instead of (or in addition to) monetary rewards, award the winners with an extra day off that they can take whenever they’d like. This will allow for greater balance between work and life, and will improve worker happiness.

4. Focus on Communication
If an HR professional or manager finds himself stuck deciding between benefits management plans, it’s a good idea to consult the staff. After all, they’re the ones who will be subject to any plan.

Asking employees what kind of benefits they’d like to see, or what changes are necessary to improve productivity, will increase communication and the important relationships between a staff and their supervisors. Many companies are choosing to use office management software, which facilitates easy and effective communication.

5. Stay Open to Possibilities
There’s no rule that a benefits management plan has to stay the same for years at a time. In fact, keeping up with industry trends can help companies stay ahead of the competition.

If a company wants to keep star employees around, they would be wise to update a benefits plan, incorporating flexibility with traditional perks. This is a winning combination that will improve employee retention, engagement, and productivity.

Creating a motivational and cost-effective benefits management program can be tough, but with a little creativity and dedication to talent management, a company can improve practices across the board.

Prepare Your Business for Efficiency: Going Paperless

10 Jun

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 Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series that are approved for 1.00 recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

While there are numerous benefits to going paperless, there are a lot of questions to answer before you take the plunge and commit yourself and your business to a paperless software solution.

Businesses are increasingly being forced to address these questions because of a complete shift in how HR operates on a basic level. Using electronic records is efficient and cost-effective and quickly becoming a standard function. According to statistics cited by marketing provider iPost, an eight-employee company, is estimated to achieve annual savings of $10,000 after going paperless. For a 370-employee company, the savings are more significant—a whopping $1 million annually. The U.S. government predicts an approximate savings of $1 billion over the next ten years as a cumulative result of going paperless.

Yet before the larger issues are faced, simple questions about going paperless can be answered. Like: “Does it streamline workflow and cut costs in the long run?” The answer is a resounding yes.

An average four-drawer file cabinet holds about 16,000 sheets of paper, and approximate costs can total $25,000 to fill and $2,000 to maintain every year. It’s estimated that the average office worker uses 10,000 pieces of paper a year. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, organizations spend $20 on average to file a document, $120 to find a misfiled document, and $220 to reproduce a lost document. Of all documents, 7.5 percent get lost; 3 percent of the remainder get misfiled. You get the idea.

The weight, scope, and expense of using paper is staggering; understandably, businesses want to avoid those costs by implementing paperless solutions. Yet before rushing into a decision, there are several factors that merit consideration, and firms need to come in with an idea of what solutions will do for them and what the process will entail.

Know What You Want and What You Need to Do
Whether you are considering changing your existing software or are preparing for your first paperless venture, you’ll want to first ask yourself: What do I want to accomplish by going paperless? Yes, efficiency and cutting costs are great reasons. But there could be more, and, depending on the software vendor, you don’t want to miss out. Will your software allow you to create recruiting strategies more easily? Improve internal or organization communication? Build an integrated compliance strategy? In what ways can your employee evaluation process take advantage of technology to be more effective? Think about the critical components for your business.

What does your business or industry require regarding HR compliance? Document security? How and where are you going to store the electronic files? Is the archive searchable? Intuitive?

The questions don’t have to be heady, either. What’s your budget? What’s the timeframe? Who’s going to manage the system? Will you need professional assistance to implement and install the system? Will you need help converting old paper files to electronic ones? What hardware will such a system need to operate reliably? Is your corporate culture ready for the shift?

Converting Paper Files
This is probably the most challenging period during a company’s paperless transition. The conversion of old files is a task that requires a heroic amount of work, and most companies make the mistake of misjudging how much time and labor it will actually take to complete. It’s important to understand the benefits your business will experience during this stage of the process. Once digitized and archived, your files will be searchable, electronically shareable, and modifiable—all within seconds.

Once a document is scanned, it needs to be labeled, indexed, and placed in an appropriate database. If done right, this will consistently save time and money and significantly reduce misplaced or lost files.

It is generally recommended to take baby steps, converting one department or section of the office at a time. Some companies perform a pilot test first on a small scale to work out any bugs and equipment needs as well as gauge employee reactions.

Once You Are Paperless
After your old files are converted, you’ll need to answer a new set of questions concerning your business. Clients, vendors, and customers will continue sending paper documents—and some tax documents cannot be converted electronically—so you’ll need to decide how you are going to assimilate these hard-copy documents into your paperless system. How and when will employees be trained using the new system?

You’ll also need to evaluate how your system will be backed up. Do you have an emergency power supply or plan of action? In regards to document security, will you need user authentication? Digital signatures? Data encryption? Are your servers robust enough to support your business activity?

The transition to a paperless work environment isn’t as easy as it sounds, but once you make the choice to change and select a software vendor, your business will begin to save time and money, and before you know it, you won’t be able to imagine how you did business without a paperless solution.

Building a Recruiting Process: A Perfect Blend of Old and New

17 Apr

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 Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series that are approved for 1.00 recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

One of the top concerns among human resources and businesses across the nation is talent management—or lack thereof—within an organization. If your company is struggling to attract and retain talent in the workplace, it may be time to reevaluate the way your human resource team is going about the recruiting process.

The Cost of a Bad Hire
A strong recruiting process is essential to help foster growth and sustainability within a business. Without a strong recruitment process in place, organizations face the consequences of a bad hire. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, more than 40 percent of employers in the United States have made bad hiring decisions. These bad hires not only waste precious company time, but they can also cause a huge financial loss within the business. In fact, respondents to the CareerBuilder survey reported that they lost an average of $25,000 in 2012 because they selected the wrong candidate for the job.

Too often, organizations pressure the human resource team and hiring managers to find a candidate and get them into the workplace “ASAP!” Instead of trying to fill a vacancy as soon as possible, step back and take a look at the organization’s current recruitment practices.

Twenty-two percent of hiring managers from the survey said they hired a new employee even though they didn’t really get to know them well enough during the interview process. Meanwhile, 9 percent of respondents admitted that they didn’t even check a candidate’s references. Stop the cycle of a bad hire and save your company the trouble of losing time and money by reevaluating your organization’s current recruitment strategy. Here are a few ideas that bring tried-and-true recruiting practices and blend them with new, effective talent management methods to build a soundproof recruitment process that is the perfect combination of old and new methods.

Best of the Oldies
The most successful, business-savvy HR managers know that you don’t fix something that isn’t broken. In that case, these tried and true talent management practices have continued to help companies across the globe recruit the best of the best.

Start from the bottom line: In order to attract the right talent, you need to address what divisions are lacking within the company. What departments are falling behind? Are any of your employees staying late on a continuous basis because they are swamped with a work overload? These are the questions you need to ask yourself if you want to help your business grow. Aimlessly hiring employees won’t help the organization meet or exceed business goals.

Have a succession plan in mind: One of the most common mistakes companies make is that they overlook talent within the workplace. Before you start recruiting to fill a vacant midlevel or high-profile position, scan the office and asses the current workforce. This is an HR solution that can save time and money that is often wasted on trying to recruit outside of the company. Why extend your efforts if you already have the talent right under your nose?

Foster an employer culture that encourages employee engagement: During the interview process, it is likely that you’ll show a few of the final candidates around the workplace to help them gauge whether or not it’s a good fit.

New Recruiting Tactics
As organizations bring in new talent, human resource managers recognize that a return on employee investment has become increasingly difficult to maintain thanks to multiple generations working in one office. As baby boomers retire and Generation Y workers apply for their first jobs, human resources needs to assess what it is that job candidates are looking for in a place to work, what sort of benefits they value, and a way to blend these new ideas with older workplace traditions. Here are a few new practices business organizations are using to help meet the expectations of younger employees while maintaining the peace with loyal, long-term employees who are a few years from retirement.

Office Design: Cubicles and individual office spaces are becoming more obsolete in the workplace but are not completely extinct. Older generations, like the baby boomers, relate a personal office space as a means of recognition and reward for their hard work within a company, while Generation Y workers want an open-concept workspace where they can communicate openly with other coworkers. Consider combining an open floor concept in the middle of the office space to entice new employees and line the perimeter of the workplace with closed office spaces for mid- to senior-level executives and employees who have been with the company for a long period of time.

Make use of technology: Graduates entering the workforce are more technologically savvy than any generation before them. If you want to recruit top talent, your company needs to be stay on top of the latest technology trends and developments. This also means providing tools such as the latest payroll software solutions and employee self-service software. These tools help managers stay on top of employee management so they can better assess what areas of the company need to be improved.

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.

Cutting Wellness May Cut Profits

16 Jul

Human Resources Cost CuttingThis 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.

The cost of healthcare is continually on the rise as a result of the economy and recent changes to federal laws. Employers are trying to find ways to save money without sacrificing employee engagement, but the trade-off could seem too compelling for those already struggling with shrinking customer bases. The problem is, it may be more expensive to cut benefits than to continue these programs.

The healthcare condition

A study by Towers Watson has found that, indeed, average payments for insurance and other health costs have remained high for the last three years. In some countries, the annual increase has been more than 10 percent for overall coverage. The upward climb has seen a slowdown during that time frame, but the consistent trend isn’t heartening for HR and payroll personnel tasked with finding more money within existing infrastructure.

Proactive support initiatives

The problem with taking away benefits is that businesses have difficulty with retaining top talent and attracting similar candidates. Offering top-notch services may be more expensive, but companies like Verizon prove that this employee investment strategy actually pays off over time.

Verizon was named the National Business Group on Health’s 2012 Best Employer for Healthy Lifestyles. The credit was earned by offering wellness and health facilities at 44 of its central locations which offer free services to employees. Encouraging wellness through the company not only makes for a better-prepared workforce, it also helps manage the cost by stabilizing these facilities as business-owned, ensuring outside HMO’s can’t affect the cost or overcharge insurance providers for services.

Methods in management

Getting everyone on the same page for fitness may seem challenging to HR professionals, but there’s no need to invest in on-site medical facilities or other extravagant programs if it simply isn’t in the budget. You may even have an opportunity to use technology to improve employee wellness for much less of a cost, both for staff and the company.

Using innovative online teaching tools can give employees an education in self-help. A business can invest in its own wellness software or purchase licenses at much less of a cost in order to provide workers with tools about dieting, exercise and long-term planning. These tips and tricks are essential for promoting a more flex between work and life and increasing employee engagement through positive reinforcement of good habits

GenX, GenY, Gen? … The Risks of Age Profiling in The Workplace

15 Feb

Mary Anne Osborne, SPHRThis 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.

Recent trends in technology appear to have widened the generation gap as never before. The newest entrants to the workforce – Generation Y – have grown up in a world that is inundated with mobile devices, internet breakthroughs, tablet computers and social media.

As they have been predisposed to this technology from an early age, they appear to be especially adept at all things technical. In the context of the work environment, this creates a skill divide.

But how much is this trend unique to today’s business landscape? Could it be that generational tension has existed to varying degrees throughout time, and that HR managers merely need to adapt to these fluctuations and assess their employees according to individual merit?

To create a cohesive multi-generational workforce, industry experts say human resource teams need to create well-defined plans for managing and recruiting employees of different age groups. But of key concern here is not letting externally perceived notions of generational tendencies cloud judgment of character. This is perhaps most important in regards to hiring and recruiting.

Take Generation Y, for example. Many analysts have type-casted this so-called “millennial” generation as being needy, disloyal or even self-entitled. But is this really true? Of course not. These same young professionals are at the helm of many tech industry sensations, including Groupon, Facebook, Tumblr and foursquare. Furthermore, the recent economic downturn has dramatically altered their impressions of the world, particularly in regards to what they are or are not entitled to. 

The issue is that HR managers and recruiters would be ill-advised to leverage generational labeling in vetting job candidates or in engaging existing employees. Especially in North America, where the culture favors individualism over collectivism, employers need to interact with their colleagues and staff members on a personal basis.

The categorization of age groups tends to relate to economic, social and cultural differences, as well as how they have been affected by technology, education and the economy. But if these are the criteria for judging members of a specific cohort, then where does one draw the line? After all, a generation is merely a kind of demographic, so it’s worth it to ask oneself: What other demographics can be labeled and assessed with the same sort of sweeping generalizations?

To learn more from Mary Anne about The Risks of Age Profiling in the Workplace, listen to her recorded webcast now. 


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