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Strategies on how to have tough conversations with your employees

15 Apr

InterviewWhen it comes to strategic human resource management, at some point, every manager or HR professional has to sit down a worker to have a hard conversation. Many leaders hold off speaking with employees about difficult issues because they are unsure of how to handle these types of situations. Should they apologize to show empathy? Is it acceptable to just email the worker? Whether it is a termination or a performance review, HR professionals and company management must walk a fine line. Supervisors who know how to handle tough conversations and employ effective employee management are able to ensure positive outcomes to difficult meetings.

Here are four strategies for having tough conversations with employees:

Hold Conversations in Private to Keep Confidentiality
Every time managers need to have a meeting with workers about sensitive topics, they need to do so in private. This keeps the situation between the supervisor and the employee. Co-workers shouldn’t know if an employee is not doing well unless the manager feels it is in the person’s best interest to let others know, and even then there may be legal consequences for not maintaining confidentiality. Having conversations where other people can listen into the meeting can cause the employee to feel as if he or she is not being respected. Being compassionate and empathetic can go a long way to the worker understanding the points his or her boss or HR professional is making during their meeting.

Stay Brief and to the Point
Managers don’t want to beat around the bush when they enter a difficult meeting. According to a review of an HR management book in Forbes, being truthful right from the get-go can prevent any miscommunication and let the worker know exactly what the issue is. The article suggests leaders follow a simple, three-step process: facts, feelings and identity. Stating the facts right from the beginning gets everyone on the same page.

However, managers need to be careful how they plunge ahead with the conversation. Being overly critical can cause only further issues. According to Forbes, HR consultants advise supervisors should always try to achieve “clean, clear, lucid truth.”

According to an article in Inc. magazine, compassion is a key trait of effective leaders. Professionals who show they are empathetic to their workers’ needs and feelings are more likely to receive loyalty from those employees and enhanced productivity. In an article for Harvard Business Review, leadership consultant Peter Bregman wrote managers need to approach difficult situations from the employees’ point of view.

For example, the Forbes article explained how one manager would use the phrase “I’m not loving that” to get right to the point of an issue without being too harsh.

Seek Guidance of Legal Counsel Where Necessary
Leaders shouldn’t hesitate to receive advice from legal counsel when appropriate. Some types of difficult conversations, like terminating an employee, can have legal consequences if supervisors don’t handle the situation correctly. Speaking to lawyers or legal experts can prevent professionals from inadvertently sticking their feet in their mouths.

Keep HR in the Loop
Perhaps most importantly, managers should take advantage of HR professionals’ knowledge and experience with speaking to workers. HR should role play the conversation so the appropriate adjustments to leaders’ delivery can be made. According to Forbes, everything from body language to tone of voice is important during sensitive meetings. HR professionals can ensure managers understand what they can and cannot say, as well as how to correctly get to the point without sacrificing empathy.

Managers shouldn’t hesitate to speak to workers about issues that need to be addressed, but they need to do so carefully and make sure they are not creating further problems.

The importance of mentorships within the workplace

2 Apr

Man w clipboardMost workplaces provide internships to college or high school students, or they utilize training management software and match young employees with their more experienced colleagues for mentorships. Both types of learning opportunities can benefit workers and their employers, and human resources departments should not discount the advantages of establishing internships or mentorships in the workplace. With the right employee management system, your organization can develop or optimize its internships and mentorships, benefiting the entire company.

Developing workers through these solutions allows them to learn from subject matter experts and provides HR departments with a stronger pool of internal talent. Here are the three biggest advantages your organization can experience by instituting internships and mentorships:

Have the Best Teach the Business
Every company has subject matter experts whose knowledge can greatly benefit the whole workforce. Developing entry-level or mid-level workers’ skill sets through mentorships and providing students with opportunities to experience the professional workplace firsthand gives them access to industry experts at your organization, which can lead to networking opportunities.

Developmental opportunities with industry experts are so coveted that tech giants Google and Apple and multimedia powerhouse The Walt Disney Company grabbed the top spots of ideal employers for business students in the 2014 Universum Student Survey. When asked which companies the 46,000 surveyed undergraduate students would want to work for, most picked companies that had professional training and development opportunities as well as were leaders in their respective fields.

Providing internships to talented students and investing in mentoring within the workplace can help experts pass on their knowledge and encourage innovation within their respective industries. Internal workers who are mentees of company leaders or experienced workers may even be fast tracked for promotion, furthering their companies’ success.

Develop Internal Talent
According to an article in recruitment resource ERE.net, many companies approach internships and mentorships as opportunities to scope out potential talent. Giving students real-world experience in their chosen industry lets companies get ahead in acquiring the best new talent. Hiring workers who have been mentored by the best also means you don’t have to go through a long and tedious recruitment process. As these employees already know how the workplace operates and fit into the company culture, they are great candidates for positions.

According to an article in Harvard Business Review, competition for workers with strong potential has heated up over the years. However, without effective mentoring programs, companies can see themselves with low worker retention and employee engagement, the article noted. For example, the HBR story’s author explained one consulting firm saw itself losing talented young professionals because it didn’t have a mentorship program.

Workforce suggested matching mentors with mentees using employee management software to help HR departments develop key performers.

Promote Positive Associate Relations
Positive associate relations is often not a benefit many HR departments consider when looking at the advantages of mentorships and internships. However, these developmental opportunities encourage positive relations between associates. Mentors and mentees, as well as interns and their supervisors, can develop working relationships that strengthen the entire workplace environment. According to new research published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, mentors and internship supervisors’ perceived organizational support (POS) increases when they coach talented workers.

“There is empirical evidence that suggests that employees’ POS helps increase their sense of obligation and desire to reciprocate to the organization, fulfill their socioemotional needs and incorporate organizational membership and role status into their social identity,” the researchers wrote.

Developing talent through either mentorships or internships is crucial for employers. Taking time to train and support workers with leadership potential can strengthen the entire company from the inside out. When mentees and interns do well and are either promoted or hired, they feel loyal to the organization and mentors and supervisors feel accomplished.

Challenges facing HR and Payroll Managers in 2014

24 Mar

Woman Working Using Flex HoursHuman Resources is an ever-changing industry, and HR professionals know they need to remaining constantly alert for new regulations and issues to arise. This year has already shaped up to be a challenging one for many HR departments across the U.S. From keeping key workers at the company to implementing effective payroll management, HR professionals and payroll managers are facing numerous challenges during 2014.

Here are the top three issues HR departments are coming up against this year:

Compliance with the ACA and Its Results
Much has been said about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) within the past few years-especially within the last couple months. This is because the ACA is not only going to impact how companies provide healthcare to employees, but there will be legal compliance standards that will occur as a result. These include employee litigation and audits from the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the ADP Research Institute, the ACA presents one of the most complex HR compliance challenges of all time. The lack of preparations on the part of employers has escalated the impact the ACA is having on the business community as a whole. For example, ADP wrote one-fifth to one-third of companies did not even have a clue how much of an effect the ACA’s health insurance exchanges would have on their businesses this past January. In addition, more ACA regulations are coming, and employers are just as unprepared for potential penalties and the Excise Tax Assessment as they have been for other aspects of the healthcare reform law. Even though the healthcare landscape continues to shift and evolve, HR and payroll professionals need to get on steady ground when it comes to understanding their compliance requirements and mitigating their own legal risks.

Retaining Top Talent
The recession remains in many people’s minds, but employees are beginning to feel more confident about their employment options. As the labor market shows signs of improvement, many employees who have waited on the sidelines for better career opportunities may decide to jump ship before the year is out. While this is a good sign for the job market, HR professionals are looking to lose some of their best performers this year if they don’t implement new employee engagement ideas.

According to a late 2013 poll by Right Management, 83 percent of 871 surveyed U.S. and Canadian employees said they will look for a new job this year. In 2009, only 6 in 10 employees said they intended to “actively seek a new position” in the coming year, but that number jumped to 84 percent the following year and has stayed about the same ever since. More top workers used to network to feel out their employment opportunities, but now the majority are becoming active job seekers instead. Twenty-one percent of employees said they were networking to keep their options open in 2009, but that number remained at 8 or 9 percent between 2010 and 2013.

Being able to provide competitive compensation is going to be an essential employee engagement strategy for not only 2014 but into the long term, as Right Management’s numbers suggests retaining top talent is going to be a struggle for a while. Human resource planning will be a go-to solution for many in the industry because of this, and more HR professionals will need to seek out additional employee engagement techniques if they want to acquire and keep key performers.

According to Human Resource Executive (HRE) Online, employee engagement may be its own challenge throughout 2014. Offering employees growth opportunities through effective talent management, tracking worker satisfaction, and maintaining collaboration in the workplace are all going to be important strategies to keep employees engaged this year, HRE Online suggested. According to Forbes, it is going to take recognizing where dissatisfaction comes from for HR professionals to entice workers to remain at the company.

Complying with the OFCCP Mandate
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs’ (OFCCP) mandate pertaining to the hiring and employment of individuals with disabilities will be another key challenge this year, specifically Section 503. According to Business and Legal Resource, hiring managers must now reference Section 503 rules that require contractors to invite job seekers to voluntarily self-identify as disabled at the preoffer and postoffer phases of the hiring process.

BLR states “OFCCP’s final regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 503), require that employers invite job applicants and employees to self-identify as being an individual with a disability. On Jan. 22, 2014, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the final Voluntary Self-Identification of Disability form for use by covered federal contractors, beginning with contractors’ new plan year following the effective date of the final Section 503 regulation on March 24, 2014.”

The OFCCP does have training materials available on its website to help recruiters and HR professionals comply with the mandate.

 

Predicted costs, decisions, implications, and information for health benefits in 2014 (and beyond)

18 Mar

Clock and MoneyThe U.S.’s healthcare system has been rapidly changing, and human resource professionals are tasked with complying with new regulations on health benefits and preparing for upcoming trends. Certain health plans are becoming more popular-such as high-deductible health plans and health savings accounts-and staying informed about the growth of these tax-favored health benefits is to HR professionals’ advantage.

Yet, HR departments also have to provide workers with training on certain health offerings and how to be proactive when it comes to receiving cost savings. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a complex law to understand, and while HR departments cannot give insight into every aspect of the legislation, informing employees about these benefits should be part of every employee management system.

HR professionals need to know where the health benefits space is in the present, what trends are ahead, and how to successfully prepare for the future of health benefits.

The Shift in Health Benefits
No longer is the employer-sponsored benefits model the standard. There has been movement away from this model to consumer-directed healthcare benefit plans (CDHPs) for some time. According to the Business Group on Health, CDHPs put healthcare decisions into the hands of beneficiaries that is workers-instead of employers, even though businesses still pay for part of care. CDHPs are a way to control healthcare costs more effectively because they are a defined benefit.

According to Healthcare Finance News, CDHPs have been steadily growing in popularity for the past few years. In 2012, 58 percent of companies offered a type of CDHP, with 34 percent providing health savings accounts (HSAs) and 18 percent offering health reimbursement accounts (HRAs).

High-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are other types of CDHPs that are growing in popularity and will continue to be go-to health benefits into the near future.

Because HSAs are tax exempt, it is expected that many employers will turn to these accounts, especially to save money under the ACA, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. HDHPs in particular have already seen increased use within the past few years, and enrollment in these plans have skyrocketed since aspects of the ACA came into effect. According to Business Insurance, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) found 30.3 percent of group healthcare plan participants were enrolled in HDHPs during first quarter 2013, a significant jump from 2008′s 17.1 percent. ACA Watch suggests this number is only going to keep increasing. Use of FSAs is also rising with the NCHS finding 22.8 percent of health plan participants having one in 2013 compared to only 18.7 percent in 2008.

Value of Providing Workers with Education on Health Benefits and ACA
Because CDHPs put more power in the hands of employees, HR professionals need to ensure all workers understand their benefits. Yet, employers can’t stop there-the ACA is going to remain a defining part of the workplace into the future, and workers need to know how the law influences their health benefits. With this knowledge, employees will be better able to be proactive with their healthcare, saving themselves and their employers money. Without it, Becker’s notes employees may not make the correct care choices and see large payment responsibilities that they are unable to pay, negatively impacting not only themselves but their healthcare provider and the industry as a whole.

Employer resources for educating employees about the complexity of their benefits and ACA mandates will be essential this year and coming years. According to ACA Watch, the majority of employers are specifically concerned about employee benefits education, and a survey from the Midwest Business Group on Health found more than 70 percent of employers are taking action to educate workers about health benefits.

HR professionals need to be able to predict and prepare for changes to health benefits. Utilizing human resources solutions can keep HR professionals organized during these changes.

 

Benefits Education Pays Off

3 Mar

human resources creating a happy workforceAs healthcare costs rise, employers have continued to shift a growing percentage of the cost of health benefits to employees. And, as workers shoulder more of their medical costs, they will need to better understand the health benefits they are offered at work and how to effectively use them.

Cost-Shifting Increases Employee Costs and the Need for Education

Workers are contributing almost twice as much today toward the amount of their employee health benefits as they were 10 years ago. To manage their own costs, employers continue to increase workers’ premiums, co-pays and deductibles. This, along with the movement toward consumer directed health plans (CDHPs) which include high deductible policies, leave workers with higher out-of-pocket costs at the time they seek medical care.

And, the movement toward CDHPs is growing.

According to a recent survey by the National Business Group on Health, 72% of employers now offer at least one CDHP. Employers offering only these plans have risen from 19% to 22% in the past year.

A different but related trend just gaining traction is likely to not only increase the cost of health benefits for workers, but also the requirement that they take a more active, and therefore, educated role in selecting and navigating those benefits.

A recent Reuters article reporting on the 2013 annual policy forum sponsored by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) cites “a shift in workplace health insurance akin to the dramatic shift in recent decades from traditional pensions to 401(k)s. Health insurance will move in the same direction in the next five years,” Mark Miller of Reuters writes.

Instead of providing a defined benefit, many employers are increasingly looking to offer a defined contribution, thereby limiting their exposure to rising costs while shifting that risk onto workers who will not only pay more for their health benefits, but will also bear a greater responsibility in understanding how the products work in order to best select and utilize them. Employees have a poor history of managing 401Ks, however, and health insurance in all its confusing details is likely to follow a similar path.

Education Benefits Everyone

Benefits play a critical role in attracting and retaining good employees. Not only is it important for workers to have a good grasp of their benefits, employers also gain by playing a role where possible, in assisting employees in maintaining productivity, and physical and financial stability. A strong health benefits program that is well utilized by employees is one critical tool in meeting those objectives.

The MetLife 2013 study of Employee Benefits Trends highlights the value of employee access to information about how to select and use their benefits.

According to the study, 51% of engaged employees reported that they “appreciate online decision-support tools that help prioritize needs and make clear how decisions will impact their paycheck.”

In addition, clear communications were found to be critical to employees’ ability to understand, appreciate and effectively use their benefits. More than 4 in 10 (43%) engaged employees said that ongoing education about how to use their benefits would be very helpful.

Numerous other studies have found that benefits education tends to enhance employee satisfaction, and that when benefits are clearly communicated, employees show higher levels of engagement and loyalty.

As employers continue to alter the design of their health benefit offerings to manage their own costs, they will be well served to also consider enhancing their employee education program.

Visit:  www.HealthBenefitsExplained.com to learn more

E-Cigarette and Medicinal Cannabis Use by Employees: Gray Area Matters

20 Jan

Every year brings new challenges for employers, yet few are probably prepared for never-before-seen issues, such as e-cigarettes and medicinal cannabis use at the workplace. Not surprisingly, employers in states that abide by the Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988, such as Colorado and Washington, may be especially hesitant when it comes to understanding the law’s full legal implications. It’s understandable that many HR policies in states where these laws are active may be a bit hazy, as the legal rhetoric outlining the rules are less than clear.

Guidance on E-Cigarettes at Work
Twenty-nine states have laws that strictly prohibit ”inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other lighted smoking device for burning tobacco or any other plant” in the workplace. However, electronic cigarettes don’t actually burn anything, but rather contains a heating feature which releases nicotine vapor, according to Ohio lawyer Jon Hyman’s blog on Workforce’s website. This distinction will surely challenge workplace anti-smoking rules, as e-cigareets technically fall outside the lines of what a traditional cigarette consists of and how it is smoked. E-cigarettes are currently allowed in public places that restrict traditional smoking.

In the past, anti-smoking laws in the workplace were implemented to help reduce employees’ exposure to second-hand smoke and lower health-related risks of nicotine addiction among employees who smoke, wrote HR Hero. However, most employers still allowed workers to take intermittent breaks throughout the day to smoke in designated areas. Yet today,’s proponents of e-cigarettes in the workplace say allowing indoor use on the job boosts productivity because the need for outdoor breaks is eliminated. These advocates also say there is no evidence that proves people’s exposure to electronic smoking increases their health risks”, Hyman explained.

To cope with the changing landscape of workplace smoking laws, employers and HR departments must make sure to specifically prohibit e-cigarettes while on the job, as current laws technically allow their use.

Smoke on the Water Cooler: Clarity Needed on Medicinal Cannabis Users
Although employers must be sure to pay attention to their smoking policies in the workplace, there is even more work to be done to negotiate proper guidance on employees who legally use medicinal cannabis outside of work or after hours. Not only are the stratification of laws across America unequal in their level of legality (as in decriminalization, medicinal use, recreational use and total prohibition), the laws regarding their application for employees and employers alike are muddled.

“It’s throwing employers for a loop because many have policies in place where testing positive for THC, or Tetrahydrocannabinol (the active ingredient in pot) requires the employee to be terminated or to participate in some sort of treatment program even if it’s not necessary,” Alison Holcomb, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, told CNBC when asked how employers with anti-drug policies should enforce rules against legal users of medicinal cannabis.

The only clear guidance issued so far comes to HR departments of businesses that receive federal grants and contracts as these businesses must adhere to the Drug-Free Workplace law, which would require the termination of employees who test positive for THC regardless of any medical uses. Similarly, the Department of Transportation also prohibits any use of illegal substances by its drivers.

Some states, such as Montana, New Jersey, Michigan, Hawaii, Colorado, Vermont and New Mexico all have specific employee protection clauses built into their legislation which only allow termination for on-the-job use or impairment.

Yet, not all states have issued statues that explicitly state what is allowable or legal for workers or HR departments, so it’s vital employers advise legal counsel before implementing any specific policies or enforcing workplace drug rules. Employers must also bear in mind that medicinal cannabis users have been approved by a doctor, usually for compassionate use due to terminal diseases or serious illnesses, and should compare medicinal use to workers taking a Vicodin for pain management once off work premises and after hours.

Now is the time for HR Departments to consult with their legal counsel, review and update the employee handbooks and stay in front of the changes in the legislation.

The Pros and Cons of Open Book Management

20 Sep

Open book management is a term that has been around for years, although there is still much confusion around the subject. The term itself is easy enough to understand – open book management is a business philosophy centered on involving a full staff in making a company more successful. Under the theories of open book management, involving more people in decision-making and planning can make a company thrive financially and organizationally. However, actually carrying out an open book management plan can be challenging, making it important to understand the pros and cons of such a program:

Pros of Open Book Management

Increased Transparency
Allowing a staff access into company financials is a powerful way to increase transparency among a workforce. Businesses that keep decisions separated by department or allow only the top executives at a company to have any influence on large decisions may be successful, but at these some companies, staff may feel left in the dark.

Open book management, on the other hand, leaves room for employees to contribute to the way a business is run, while increasing transparency and trust in management. When staff members feel they can trust their supervisors and are fully informed on the inner-workings of a company, they may be more likely to trust for executive decision-makers at a company.

Sense of Community
Sharing ideas can bring staff together and foster an environment in which employees feel open and honest with one another. A sense of community can positively affect a company on numerous levels, as camaraderie and developed relationships enable others to connect on a personal and professional level. This can increase happiness and employee engagement at the office, as well as open dialogue for workers to get to know the way other workers think.

Unique Ideas
By sharing financial and operational information with staff, executives may find more unique and exciting ideas coming from an office. Armed with pertinent information on how a company is working, individuals may be able to give new insights on how to approach a particular problem, or may come up with an idea to streamline operations. Sometimes, it takes a fresh perspective to solve a problem – involving an office in decision-making can provide unique insights and may result in improvements across a company.

Cons of Open Book Management

Information Overload
Too much of a good thing can be a hindrance when it comes to open book management. While some workers may be excited by the prospect of understanding company profits and becoming more financially literate, others may be overwhelmed by the onslaught of information. Some workers are excellent in their current roles because they are focused on the task at hand and do not have to worry about extraneous information.

Involving these staff members in increased decision-making can result in information overload, which can be distracting. If a company is implementing an open book management plan, it would be wise to involve only those who are most enthusiastic about the prospect of more responsibility and fiscal involvement to join in the new initiative.

Increased Worker Demands
Revealing financial and operational information to employees can have some unexpected consequences. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, some employers are nervous to let their employees know how much profit a company makes.This may be for a few reasons – companies that are not performing well may not want their employees to know the ins and outs of a troubled business.

Companies that are beating expectations and bringing in large profits may not want to show their employees this information for a different reason entirely. Some supervisors fear if workers see how well their department is doing, or that the company recently brought in dozens of new clients and has more cash to go around, that employees will be more inclined to ask for raises or become complacent. If a company is worried about this outcome, they may want to take it slow in opening up their management style.

Difficult to Implement
Involving employees in business decisions is a great way to move business forward, but not everyone starts off as a financial expert. Many companies switching to open book management plans offer financial training sessions to acquaint employees with financial operations.

After these training sessions, communication is essential, so weekly meetings and reports are often necessary to keep an open book management plan working. For certain companies, the involved nature of open book plans can prove to be too complicated.

Open book management plans aren’t right for every company, but when they’re used right, they can be the perfect solution for many business needs.

Align Employee Goals With Company Objectives

12 Sep

Creating career development plans and setting out company objectives are often seen as separate events. However, in order for a company to succeed, it is important to recognize the relationship between these two business components and how powerful a company plan can be. Exactly how does a company go about interweaving employee goals with business objectives? Keep reading to find out how:

Plan For Success
Before launching into a new employee management strategy, it’s important for company leaders to identify areas for improvement as well as routes to success. Executives and HR professionals can begin by conducting an honest and objective company overview.

Executives should ask themselves how sales are adding up, if company morale is low, if a company is efficient, and how each of these answers stack up against mission statements and objectives. Leaders should measure the difference between company realities and goals set forth in a mission statement.

However, as companies should always be striving to move forward, mission statements and company objectives need to be evaluated and revised. Perhaps in order to compete an increasingly digital world, a company needs to focus more on using smart technology like HR software and mobile devices. Others may need to factor in changing markets and adjust goals accordingly.

Communicate With Staff
Once an organization has identified new objectives and areas of growth, it’s time to share the results with staff. It is valuable to tell employees their performance matters not only for short-term goals, but for long-term organizational success.

During a presentation, an executive can show employees the difference between current company practices and goals the business should be striving for. It’s vital for success that company leaders communicate honestly with staff about future changes and new plans that will help them thrive.

Set Challenging Goals
Establishing new goals for employees is essential to tying individual goals to overall company objectives. One of the best ways to ensure positive outcomes is to include each staff member in their own planning session.

Certain employees’ sales numbers may be lagging because they are not being challenged – these same workers may be perfect for leadership roles and can help drive a company forward to new heights. HR representatives can sit down with employees and map out new ways for them to succeed. For example, if a company needs to improve new hire performance, an HR professional can set up a new program in which company veterans work with new employees to get them up to speed quickly and efficiently.

Or, if sales numbers are not where they should be, a company can challenge employees to achieve greater sales numbers each month. The main thing to remember here is that goals need to be both challenging and attainable. Lofty goals that are impossible to reach will not encourage workers to thrive – rather, they may discourage staff and make them feel they cannot succeed in their current roles.

Consider Compensation Plans
Sometimes, employees need more than encouragement to help get a company on track to meet business objectives. This is where compensation plans come in. These programs are especially important in sales-based organizations, where individual performance adds up to company profits on a daily basis.

A company can bring about higher sales by tying achievements – such as a 10 percent increase in sales over a quarter – to financial incentives. Bonuses and commission rates will motivate employees to perform better, and along the way they will be guiding a company toward achieving its main objectives.

Track Success
It’s not enough to implement a strong plan to align personal performance with company objectives – progress also needs to be monitored on a regular basis. After a plan has been put in place, HR professionals need to set aside time to track a plan’s success to ensure high return on employee investment.

Company leaders can request regular meetings with employees to talk to them about their performance, make adjustments to individual plans, and to receive honest feedback from staff. These meetings will give insight into how an employee can most benefit from a plan, and how an employee can simultaneously benefit the company as a whole with their success.

Another way to track program success is by using customer surveys. Whether a company works with businesses as clients or directly with consumers, surveys can be invaluable to monitoring performance. If a company has an overarching objective to improve the level of customer service, it can ask clients and customers about their experience with salespeople, or ask about their opinions of the brand as a whole.

Every company should always be striving forward to achieve more and better their business practices. It is always important to remember that employee performance directly affects company behavior, which is why HR professionals should guide staff toward the kind of performance that will improve a company overall.

A View of Customer-Centric HR

30 Aug

Most HR professionals focus their efforts on maintaining strong relationships with employees. While helping employees succeed is important to any company, HR professionals who operate solely for their workers are missing out on an opportunity to benefit an organization in other tangible ways.

One of the best ways to improve HR practices is by understanding that a company’s clients are also an HR department’s customers. By interacting with customers and improving customer relations, an HR department can create systems that help train, retain, and reward employees. Keep reading to find out how an HR department can evolve into a customer-focused department.

Change the Approach
In order to bring an entire company’s focus onto its customers, an HR department has to change its way of thinking. Rather than focusing entirely on the inner workings of an office, HR professionals should shift focus to include outside influences, particularly the customer experience.

According to Dave Ulrich, a management professor at the University of Michigan, a company can focus on not only being an organization that top candidates flock to, but also on acting as a company that employs people who draw in clients, the Society for Human Resource Management reported.

“Almost every HR practice can be filtered through the eyes of the customer,” Ulrich told SHRM.

He went on to say an integrated relationship among employees, customers, and an HR department is gaining in popularity, making it essential for companies to get on board with the trend before they get left behind.

Implement Training Programs
If a company wants to improve its client relationships, the first place to begin is with employee management strategies, particularly training employees. With sales- or customer-based companies, it’s important for managers and supervisors to train employees how to balance customer relationships with efficiency.

These training sessions should center on developing and maintaining positive client partnerships—HR staff can develop training packets and programs that show new hires the best ways to forge these relationships, as well as effective techniques to dealing with difficult clients and ways to keep companies coming back for more.

HR professionals can enlist the talents of top salespeople or employees who best exemplify customercentric traits a company is striving for. These training sessions remind employees of the importance of clients in their business and can improve sales and communication skills across an organization.

Establish a Positive Company Culture
HR professionals understand better than most how essential a positive company culture is to overall business success. When employees feel uncomfortable contacting their supervisors or have a negative opinion about their jobs, they are far less likely to succeed.

An office or employee with low morale may also be looking out for the next job opportunity. This is a huge detriment to a company—disengaged workers generally feel unattached to their jobs, and that translates onto customers as well. Although this is not an easy fix, HR staff would be wise to focus internal efforts on opening the lines of communication with workers, invite questions or concerns from employees, and encourage camaraderie between workers.

When workers feel optimistic about their jobs and engaged with the task at hand, they are more receptive to the idea of strengthening client relationships. By helping workers focus on client relationships, an HR department can greatly benefit a company. These improvements may feel like they are happening organically, as employees gain the drive to thrive in client communications on a regular basis.

Set up Rewards Programs
There are few greater ways to increase performance than through strong incentive programs. Companies can set up plans that financially reward strong sales numbers—a common practice—but can also set up systems that recognize the hard work it takes to improve client retention and satisfaction.

One way an HR department can increase client retention and happiness is by involving customers in the process. HR professionals can reach out to clients and ask them about their interactions with staff members who handled their business. If an employee receives a certain number of positive reviews, he or she can earn financial incentives such as bonuses, days off from work, gift cards, or tickets to a popular sporting event. The specifics are up to company officials, but the general rule applies that employees who have incentives to work toward excel in the workplace—including improved client relationships.

Learn More About Clients
Improving customer relationships can come from within a corporation, but HR departments that are looking to truly transform the way a company does business may want to enlist the help of current customers. According to the SHRM, HR professionals can go to sales meetings to gather information from clients.

HR teams should be clear that this is not an assessment of what clients want out of an experience and can stress to customers that a company wants to hear their input and include them in the process of improving product delivery and company practices.

Focusing on customers rather than employees can be a big adjustment for HR professionals, but implementing effective changes can help employees succeed and keep clients happy.

Best Practices for Setting Pay Scales

26 Aug

Salary management is an essential human resources issue, and one that many HR professionals find challenging. Recruiting and retaining the best talent is essential to success, but salaries and pay scales must also stay within a company’s budget. Finding a balance can be tricky—here are a few tips on setting up a company pay scale.

Gather Information
The best way to begin building a compensation plan is to use industry salary data as a benchmark. An HR professional can do this by consulting online databases that record median wages by sector—the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides industry-specific wage information, sorted by occupation and location across the country.

Similarly, there are many websites online that provide salary information. It’s also helpful to check out a competitor’s compensation plan. If an HR representative is looking to hire a new accountant, for example, he or she can look at job descriptions and salary information at large accounting firms. This will give a hiring manager a figure to reference when creating a fair payment plan.

Establish Employee Value and Fair Compensation
Once an HR professional has a general idea of salaries in the field, it’s time to evaluate a role and how much a candidate or current employee will bring to the company. Entrepreneur recommends that HR representatives ask themselves how much value a new hire will add to the organization.

For example, at a sales-based organization, an HR representative can tally up the potential revenues a new hire would bring in. If a salesperson is projected to bring in $300,000 for the company in his first year, a salary of $70,000 per year would fall short of candidate expectations and would likely result in a job offer being rejected by a candidate.

Companies should think of good hires as an investment and establish a benchmark for the highest amount they are willing to pay. Linking fair compensation to abilities and capacity to grow makes it much easier to weed out candidates who are asking for a salary far surpassing the benchmark, while still allowing companies to offer a competitive rate.

Evaluate Candidates and Employees
A good candidate will not only bring talent to an open position, but also knowledge and experience gained from previous jobs. An applicant who will be able to fulfill the needs of the job, as well as offer leadership and training for future employees, may deserve higher pay than a candidate who is new to the industry.

Current employees should also be regularly evaluated to determine fair compensation. It is essential for companies to keep an eye on industry trends, because employees are likely doing the same. No matter the level of company loyalty, if an employee sees that a similar position at a competing company offers $10,000 more per year than his current job, that employee may leave the company. Regular raises and annual salary adjustments for inflation are both part of a smart salary management plan and help keep talented individuals around.

Consider Position and Requirements
Deciding how to pay employees may be just as important as determining a salary. There are many things to take into consideration, such as whether an employee will be paid hourly or by a fixed salary. Some companies, particularly those based in sales, offer commission rates. Yet this same plan may not be the best fit for an administrative position.

Other positions are better suited for hourly wages, such as those in retail or for temporary workers. On the other hand, this pay scale would likely not benefit a company where staff members routinely work overtime at their own discretion—under the guidelines of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must be paid time-and-a-half their hourly rate for any work past 40 hours per week.

In order to navigate the complications of payroll processes, many companies have begun using HR payroll software, which streamlines the payment process and keeps accurate records, making life easier for HR professionals at any company.

For more information regarding best practices for compensation, visit the Sage HRMS Payroll or the Payroll Best Practices and Tools portion of our website. 

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