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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.

Stop Talking and Listen For a Change

13 Jan

Positive and Constructive CriticismWhat do you look for in a good candidate?  That’s the magic question.  There is an easy answer.  It’s the candidate who is the best qualified candidate to do the job, right?  Well, yes in that respect but, there are other factors to consider.  Aside from the legal-type considerations, and believe me there are plenty, there is something called behavioral interviewing that you should really consider.

So, what is behavioral interviewing?  Long story short, it’s getting the candidate to talk about their previous (work related) experiences and describe past projects, success stories, failures, reflections and how they may have handled their failures differently with a more favorable outcome.  What does all this mean to the interviewer?  It means you need to SHUSHHHHHHH…listen to the candidate talk.  One of the most interesting things that occur during interviews is that the interviewers talk more than the candidates do.

Stop for a minute and think back to every job you’ve ever interviewed for.  How many times has that happened to you?  My guess is that it’s happened a lot of time throughout your career.  Why does this phenomenon occur?  Well, the easy answer is that most people don’t like long gaps of silence. It falls outside of their conversational comfort zone.  They like to “fill up” the dead air space.  Additionally, listening is not the same as hearing.  You can hear a lot of things but, are you really listening?  Have you really honed the skill of being able to filter out all external stimuli thus being able to focus on only one thing solely?  Most people would probably not admit to being able to do that though.  Let’s face it, we are told continuously by our teachers, peers, mentors and supervisors that being able to multi-task adds great value to our job and works well for meeting overall objectives.  In the interview though, not only could your multi-tasking be mis-interpreted by the candidate as being rude (for example looking at your email, sending a quick text or answering a call), you are also missing out on actually listening to the candidate talk about their experiences.

Bottom line, ask your question.  Hopefully, its open ended and behavioral based.  Then, listen to the candidate’s response.  Process their response, and then ask another probing question to their response.  Do this until you are satisfied that you have a good feel for the fit in matching the candidate’s professional experiences to your company’s mission and where you want that candidate to add the most value for you.

After all, you want to feel extremely comfortable that you know this person will grow to be your star top performer!

How Far Do You Reach in Your Outreach Programs?

6 Jan

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s all cannon-150x150about the journey, not the destination”?  Sure you have.

If you’ve never heard the term “outreach program”, it’s all about seeking to hire qualified women, minorities and veterans into your open positions.  Mostly, government contractors and others doing business with the Federal Government are required to create Affirmative Action Plans as part of their ongoing recruitment efforts.  As part of those plans, there are some components that deal with outreach.  As part of their compliance efforts, that’s how some companies try to fill positions with qualified candidates from specific sectors within the labor market.  So, how does that saying fit into a company’s outreach program?  It’s all about setting out to do what you say you are going to do with respect to informing segmented groups about your company and “reaching out” to them with your job opportunities.  It’s as simple as that.  If you create and follow a comprehensive plan or program that branches out to these specific sectors and you aren’t successful (through no fault of your own) on attaining your goals it may go a long way in assisting you during an audit by demonstrating to the auditor that you put forth your best effort in trying or at the very least, demonstrate how far you were willing to “reach out” to the various groups in your program.  But, how far do you reach?  That’s what’s up for debate currently in the legislation.

If you earnestly go about creating a solid outreach plan, attend diversity job fairs, volunteer to speak at various diversity group meetings and/or training sessions, partner with your local department of labor office and take the time to meet the reps at your local veteran’s office, you should be on track to a great plan.

For more information on how you can track your progress in support of your goals, check out and see how the Sage HRMS system can generate the reports you need to get the job done!

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.

Top 5 Tips to Avoid an Employment Lawsuit

19 Aug

No one wants to be involved in a lawsuit—they can be timely and expensive and can negatively impact an organization’s reputation. Despite employers’ making efforts to avoid litigation, employment lawsuits are on the rise. According to Human Resource Executive Online, federal wage-and-hour lawsuits jumped to a record high between April 2012 and April 2013. During this 12-month period, 7,764 Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits were filed, with no clear explanation for the spike.

With such large increases in employment lawsuits, it is important for employers to take precautions to protect a company against litigation. Keep reading to find five tips on how to avoid an employment lawsuit:

1. Mind the FLSA
In order to avoid employment lawsuits, it’s important to keep an eye on any changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, misclassifying employees as exempt or nonexempt from overtime payments, as well as violations for off-the-clock work, are common mistakes that put employers at risk.

Placing an employee in the wrong category can result in missed overtime hours, incorrect salary payments, and other FLSA violations. The fallout from these violations can greatly cost a company.

2. Hire and Let Go With Care
Firing someone is one of the easiest ways to bring about a lawsuit. Experts agree that if a company wants to fire an employee, it must be done with care. If an incident has taken place, rather than firing someone on the spot, managers should send the individual home first or place him or her on administrative leave until an investigation has been carried out. Companies should also be sure to document the decision every step of the way to reduce the chance of legal action.

3. Be Smart With Severance Policies
Severance packages can be thought of as insurance against lawsuits. In exchange for the extension of a severance payment, employees should consent to signing a release waiving any claims against the organization. Employers may not be excited to offer severance to a departing employee, but being generous with these packages can encourage employees to walk away with payment rather than raising a lawsuit against a company.

Some companies are wary of severance packages and worry that doling out severance implies some level of guilt or wrongdoing on their part. On the contrary, courts understand that severance packages are part of a responsible employee management scheme that can help a company steer clear of wrongful litigation.

4. Train and Monitor Staff 
Many workers have trouble recognizing what qualifies as inappropriate workplace behavior, which is why it’s crucial to draft airtight company policies regarding harassment and discrimination. In addition to creating solid policy, training is also essential in order to avoid harassment lawsuits. Many states require harassment training—if a company does not comply with these laws and a harassment suit is lodged against the organization, the outcome can be costly.

Even in states where antiharassment training is not required, companies would still be wise to educate staff on harassment policies. This will reduce the likelihood of a suit, which will save a company money and its reputation. Training sessions should focus on all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment, bullying, age discrimination, disability, and racial harassment.

Company management should be careful with staff, even after training. Supervisors should be present at the workplace and look for any warning signs of inappropriate behavior. If a manager witnesses harassment or other workplace transgressions, he or she should correct it immediately by addressing the situation directly with the employees.

5. Open the Lines of Communication
If a company wants to get ahead of a legal problem before it begins, supervisors should invite employees to be open and honest with them about company concerns. Workers should feel comfortable going to a supervisor when they have questions about their wages or encounter harassment or discrimination at the office.

When employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns, managers will be informed of problems before they get out of control and result in litigation.

Litigation is no joke, but employers don’t have to be in constant fear of a lawsuit either. By following these tips, a company can stay out of trouble and create a work environment where staff feels safe and comfortable.

Helpful Ideas to Deal With Difficult Candidate Rejection

9 Aug

As any HR professional knows, the hiring process can be stressful. However, as difficult as it may be to find the right candidate for the job, it’s important to remember that job-seekers are likely even more concerned about the application process. These individuals have spent time perfecting their resumés, researching the organization, crafting cover letters, and preparing for tough interview questions.

After an interview, or even after electronically submitting these application materials, many candidates wait with anticipation to receive word of the outcome of their applications. Although companies may receive stacks of materials from potential candidates and have to spend a considerable amount of time digging through resumés to find candidates for the interview process, they still need to dedicate the necessary time to informing applicants when a decision has been reached. As such, HR must develop an efficient and comprehensive plan for candidate rejection to protect their company reputation and maintain fair hiring policies. Keep reading to find human resources solutions for managing the rejection process:

Always Respond
No matter the outcome of an application, it’s important to deliver the news to a candidate. According to U.S. News & World Report, employer silence after an interview is one of the top five complaints of job-seekers. The source reported that this silence comes off as “callous and dismissive.”

Acknowledging a candidate post interview is important for many reasons. When a company doesn’t keep up contact with candidates, it may receive an influx of follow-up emails asking for further information. Perhaps most importantly for the company, the hiring process reflects on the company. Lack of response to clients may damage a company’s reputation—there are many online outlets where potential employees can voice their dissatisfaction with the process, and a negative review may prevent qualified individuals from applying.

Despite this general sentiment, a report by CareerXroads Sources found that 50 percent of companies never communicate with candidates again if they are not selected for a position. This is disheartening for job-seekers, as they may be waiting for days or weeks to hear word from an organization.

Draft a Standard Response
Communication with potential hires doesn’t have to be complicated, and people would rather find a standard email from a company in their inbox than hear nothing. It should only take a few minutes to come up with an appropriate statement, as an HR representative can create a neutral message that sufficiently details what the decision was, why the candidate was not selected, and offers some appreciation for his or her interest.

According to HR Magazine, a company can simply thank the applicants for their time and tell them the company has decided to continue its search with other applicants. Keep this email saved, and when a company decides to reject an application, send this off as soon as possible. If a company feels an applicant deserves a more thorough response, it can always opt to personalize an email.

Consider the Source
Not replying to a candidate is bad enough, but when an applicant has been referred to a company by a personal contact, communication is even more crucial. According to the CareerXroads survey, nearly 65 percent of openings are filled through employee or personal referrals or are internally found.

This means that when a potential hire doesn’t get a response from an organization, not only will the candidate be offended, there is a serious chance of damaging company reputation among current employees, former colleagues, or personal contacts.

In order to protect the company name, it may be wise to personalize these rejection letters. A company can let candidates know that it has decided to go with someone with more appropriate skills or encourage them to apply to future job openings at the company after they have gotten more relevant experience.

No matter the quality of an application or the number of resumés a company receives, it’s important to remember that every job-seeker deserves a response. After all, they all took the time to write a cover letter, provide references, and worried over what to say in an interview. The least a company can do is acknowledge this effort and let them know the outcome of their application.

If you’d like more resources regarding hiring and recruiting like white papers, presentations, and recordings see our best practices and tools page or our Sage HRMS Cyber Recruiter page.


Five Tips for Safeguarding HR Data

2 Aug

Now that employees are using personal devices to work from home, accessing company information on mobile phones, and traveling around the world with valuable information stored on tablets and laptops, data security has become more critical than ever.

HR professionals know how important this data is and how easily it can be compromised. Everything from private employee history to salary information and medical forms are now stored on web-based programs. If a leak occurs or a company is hacked, private information may be made available to unauthorized sources, external and internal, an often chaotic event. In an age where technology is king, how can a business protect confidential information? Keep reading to find five tips for safeguarding HR data:

1. Get Real and Get Protected
Plenty of companies have trouble with data security, but there’s a large sense of denial floating around the business community about whom exactly it happens to. According to a study conducted by the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance, 77 percent of small-business owners said their company is safe from viruses and spyware, but 87 percent of respondents do not have an official Internet security plan in place.

In that same survey, 66 percent of small-business owners reported not being worried about data leaks and hacking, even though 73 percent of respondents said a secure Internet connection was critical to company success. This disconnect and resulting complacency regarding security is what ultimately leads to leaks, whether they are internal or a company is hacked from outside sources.

It’s time for businesses to take this issue seriously—companies can begin by implementing human resources solutions based on employee responsibility and should also be using software solutions to help monitor employee activity and keep hackers out.

2. Communicate With Staff
One of the most basic and important ways to improve data security is to clearly explain company policies to a staff. Inform new hires about Internet policies and employee responsibility. This can include policies regarding personal devices, too—if a staff member accesses company data on a personal device, a business may recommend downloading security software to protect it and can even require employees to disclose the devices they may be working from.

3. Tighten Password Protection
An HR team can protect data by requiring everyone at a company to use passwords when logging on to work computers. Computers should be set to require a password to gain access every time the monitor shuts down due to inactivity.

A company can also require password rotation on a regular basis and use complex, unique passwords that will be tough to crack—such as those with character minimums and case-sensitive type.

4. Educate Employees
A strong employee management program will not only teach workers what not to do, but will show staff how to recognize dangerous websites or potential security breaches. A business can stress the importance of the policies by educating a team on what a breach really means: An information leak could result in the loss of private information, which no one wants.

Also establish a plan of action for employees who may experience a data leak. Let them know whom they should tell if they think their computer has been compromised or if any other data security concerns arise.

5. Monitor Regularly
As responsible as a staff may be, it’s ultimately up to the HR team and company management to make sure information stays safe.

A business can keep data safe by equipping work computers, tablets, and other devices with technology that will monitor employee Internet use. This will make it easier to see where potential threats may be coming from and can help HR representatives safeguard company data.

Five Reasons to Offer Flexible Working Arrangements

19 Jul

Out of sight, out of mind – that’s what many employers imagine might happen to an employee’s mindset when they’re out of the office. Most companies throughout the U.S. don’t offer flexible working arrangements for their staff. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5 percent of employers offer flexible work schedules for a majority of their workers on a consistent basis, and that percentage has only gone up 1 percentage point since 2003.

Although traditional workdays are effective, it may be time for HR professionals and supervisors to update their employee management strategies, as an increasing amount of research shows flexible schedules benefit both employers and employees alike. Keep reading to find out five reasons to offer flexible working arrangements.

1. Attract Top Talent
Being able to work from home is considered a huge perk for prospective and current employees, and can act as an incentive to hire top-quality talent.

Entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author Kevin Kruse said that the ability to work from home has helped him draw in top talent for more than two decades. Kruse wrote in Forbes that for 20 years he’s been telling new employees: “You can do your job wherever and whenever you want. You can even sit in a beach chair with a cocktail in hand for all I care, as long as you get our desired results.”

He goes on to say that offering a flexible schedule has allowed him to recruit star employees, and lure away talent from competitors without having to offer a raise in pay. A Census survey confirms this: people who work exclusively from home put in the same amount of hours as those in similar office-based roles, but made an average of $4,500 less per year than their counterparts.

When people have the choice to save money on commuting and have more freedom in their jobs, they’re far more willing to accept a lower salary.

2. Increased Employee Engagement, Happiness
On cold winter days, it’s difficult to find any joy in commuting – waiting for a bus or train, or climbing into a freezing car can be miserable, making employees dread going to work in the morning. On other occasions when a child is home sick, finding a way to care for them without missing work can be a real challenge. Offering flexible scheduling and the ability to work from home is a perk that should not be underestimated, as it increases job satisfaction and overall well-being.

Having the option to work from home gives employees the sense that their supervisors value their happiness and appreciate a strong work/home balance. Happy employees are engaged employees, and any HR professional or manager knows how important engagement is.

Gallup’s “The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes” report revealed just how vital employee engagement really is. According to the study, companies with approximately 9.3 engaged employees for every disengaged one experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share compared to their competitors.

3. Improved Productivity
A major reason why most managers resist telecommuting is they believe productivity will take a hit. Studies show, however, that the opposite is true.

Researchers at Stanford University found that, at CTrip travel agency in China, when workers were given the option to conduct business from home, they took fewer breaks during the day, absenteeism dropped, and performance increased by 13 percent,. Of that 13 percent, 9 percent worked more hours per shift, making flexible arrangements a smart human resources solution.

4. Cost Efficiency
Workplace flexibility can save a company money, making the option a valuable investment. If on any given day at an office, 25 percent of employees are working from home, that’s 25 percent people using phones, computers, desk lamps, printers, fax machines, and other electronics, saving on energy and improving sustainability.

Operating electronically also saves money on office supplies – workers won’t be using company paper, pens, and pencils if they’re working from their living room. As any office manager knows, the cost of these items can add up quickly – having to place fewer orders for everyday items frees up valuable room in an organization’s budget.

Business owners can also opt for power-saving technologies when fewer employees are in the office, and can make the switch to time-based Power over Ethernet optimization. PoE allows individuals to turn a network on or off based on a company’s schedule, so if a workforce is operating from home or is encouraged to leave the office by a certain time each day, managers can disable the network to save money.

5. Better Communication, Stronger Results
Working from home requires increased communication between a team and supervisors. Improved communication creates a more equal workplace, and when working from home, this information flow makes employees feel respected and valued, without feeling like they are being babysat or micro-managed.

At the end of the day, sales numbers, productivity and increased revenues are what really matters to a company, and employees should be paid for the work they do, not just for showing up to an office everyday. If an employee can successfully operate from home, what does a company have to lose?

The 101 of Performance Rating Scales

3 Jul

Performance rating scales are beneficial to every type of business. They allow employers to gauge worker progress and help employees understand company objectives. Rating scales are often utilized because they are generally easy to administer, are low cost, and create quantitative assessments that are useful for employees, managers, HR representatives, and even executives. Here’s an outline of what must go into developing a performance rating policy:

Developing a Scale
There are a variety of scales for management officials to choose from when structuring a system—which can make the process a bit confusing. However, once a manager decides on the appropriate measurement system, performance management will become easier and offer more insight. These are a few of the most common types of rating systems:

  • Numeric: In this system, employees are rated on a numeric scale such as 1-5 or 1-10. By using numbers, employers can track performance using a scale that is easy to understand for employees and managers alike.

Be sure to include rating documents that explain why a rating of “1” is termed as poor performance and “5” is above average. If an employer is looking for a more precise assessment, he or she can use a scale of 1-10 and assign each numeric figure as a highly specific rating.

  • Alphabetic: This method employs the use of letters as markers of achievement. Managers can develop a rating system in which traditional alphabetic values are assigned to each letter.

For example, an “A” would mark an exemplary performance, while a “C” would indicate satisfactory achievement.

  • Verbal Phrases: Rather than employing a coded numeric or alphabetic system, companies can opt to utilize a method in which phrases mark performance. One can use the terms “Unacceptable,” “Basic,” “Effective,” and “Very Effective.”

Because phrasing can be interpreted in several different ways, it behooves managers to define criteria for each designation. For example, it should be made clear that rating a worker as “very effective” would mean that the individual consistently produces high-quality work, has strong ethics, and benefits the company as a whole.

Selecting a plan doesn’t have to be tricky. Consider these three basic rating systems as a starting ground to assess employee performance.

Guidelines for Assessment
Once a method of appraisal has been selected, HR representatives and managers can decide on assessment criteria. Here are a few examples of ranking programs:

  • Behavior Appraisal: Managers can assess employee efforts by focusing on their behavior. Being a star employee is about more than just showing up every day and producing results—behavior can affect office morale and client interactions.

It’s important that rating systems take into account employee performance metrics, attendance, and qualitative benchmarks such as attitude. If a supervisor wants to understand his or her company as a whole, he or she can take these rating systems and rank employees from high achieving to those who most need to improve. Being able to see a clear breakdown of employee performance is extremely valuable and can help decision makers guide their company in the right talent management direction.

  • Trait Valuation: While the behavior-appraisal method focuses on quantitative data as well as specific employee actions, trait appraisal focuses more heavily on subjective qualities. Some criteria such as willing to make the extra effort can easily be determined and feed into measuring return on employee investment.

Supervisors can create a checklist with categories like helpfulness and dependability and mark off positive qualities for each of their employees. This method is particularly popular in customer-service companies, where human interactions are the key to success.

  • Paired Comparisons: This method compares each team member against the rest of his colleagues to develop an understanding of team dynamics and areas in which to improve on in departmental collaboration, for instance. Paired comparisons also provide managers with breakdowns that are supremely resourceful in trying to decide between promotion considerations between two or more candidates.

Whichever rating system HR professionals settle upon, it is essential to effective talent management through assessments that are clearly defined. Such strategies enable companies to diagnose their workforce and gain greater insight into employee engagement, efficiency, and productivity.

To Be or Not to Be—An Alert

1 Jul

1189820-bigthumbnailToday’s guest post comes from Don Farber. Don writes frequently for the Employer Solutions blog and is a leading spokesperson on the value of business activity monitoring. Don has over 25 years’ experience in the front-office and back-office software industry and is cofounder and vice president of Vineyardsoft Corporation. Don is a frequent speaker at industry events and author of numerous white papers on such subjects as identifying support rep burnout, enabling organizations to become more “data-driven,” and cost-effective compliance.

There are a few phrases in the English language that will live forever; one of my favorites is “Red Alert!” from the original “Star Trek” television series. When Captain Kirk shouted that out, you just knew something exciting was about to happen.

But did you ever notice that every now and then a young yeoman would walk up to Kirk’s chair and hand him some kind of electronic notebook, which he’d glance at, scribble on, and then hand back? What the heck was on that . . . his lunch order?

Personally, I think it was something important, like the state of the ship’s dilithium crystals. (Non-Trekkies may wish to Google that.)

The point—and I do have one—is that “alerts” come in many shapes and sizes; and before you start debating whether an alerts system may be beneficial to your HR organization, it’s worth taking a few minutes to understand what an alert is . . . as well as what it’s not.

Some people would argue that by definition, an alert has to contain minimal information—like a stop light, whose only information is “stop,” “slow down,” and “go.” I disagree. As an example, many HR organizations choose to alert managers whenever they have an employee coming up for annual review; those “alerts” contain a raft of employee information and performance statistics so that the manager can be well informed and ask the most relevant questions.

Other people would claim that an alert is defined by virtue of the manner in which the information is delivered. Thus a text message sent to your cell phone is an “alert,” whereas an absenteeism report sent to your email account is not. Again, I respectfully disagree. Many HR organizations dynamically track employee absenteeism throughout a month so they can alert managers if and when any of their staff are out of the office more than usual.

So—what are the unique characteristics of an “alert”?

Two things: timeliness and criticality of information.

Timeliness is an interesting concept because it can mean “within minutes” if we’re talking about identifying and alerting about an erroneous pay rate. But timeliness could also mean “before the end of this month” if we’re looking at employees’ accrued sick time. So in reality, “timeliness” can’t be pinned down to any particular interval, but rather must be defined in terms of “soon enough.” (And what’s “soon enough” for one business condition is “way too late” for another.)

Even more interesting, though, is an alert’s “criticality of information.” But as to what kind of HR-specific activities should be considered “critical” and which should not . . . well, that could spring a debate that won’t be over anytime soon. One easy answer is to say that something is “critical” if—by not responding to it—something bad would happen.

Unfortunately that’s not always the case. Sometimes an alert is critical for the simple reason that it is expected by the recipient—and if that receipt doesn’t occur . . . well, that’s bad too. And so, although the receipt of an “expected alert” doesn’t prevent anything bad from occurring, the absence of that alert can fail to reassure the recipient that “all is well.”

“Expected alerts” also bring up the subject of “reports and forms as alerts.”

Let’s say your HR department wishes to monitor employee absenteeism. If an employee logs excessive sick days, you want to alert his manager—and, you’d like that alert to include a report of that employee’s recent absences. So is the delivery of this information an “alert” or is it a “report”?

In truth, it’s both. It’s an alert that includes the contents of a report as part of the alert’s notification message. The same is true for the timely delivery of relevant forms and documents. If an employee is approaching that narrow window of opportunity when he can change his elected health benefits, an alert would be the ideal way to notify him about that opportunity—as well as to deliver the appropriate forms he would need to change his enrollment.

Even today you’re probably making more use of “alerts” than you might think. Automating the processes whereby you get the right information to the right people—and when it’s needed the most—is all that it takes to be an alert. Well . . . that plus setting phasers on “stun” . . .

To learn more about business activity monitoring and how your organization can benefit from increased notifications, view the Sage HRMS Alerts and Workflow by Vineyardsoft information page. There you’ll find white papers, webcasts, and data sheets that will help you identify trends or problems across your entire business as they occur, rather than hours, days, or weeks later.