Archive | HR & Employee Relations RSS feed for this section

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.

Meet Ryan Blanck

27 Jun

Ryan Blanck Amanda BlanckRyan Blanck, founder and CEO of Deviate, is a fun, magnetic leader who is a Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) and Certified Personal Trainer (CPT). Blending his unique background in leadership and fitness, he specializes in performance improvement to lead his clients to achieve their champion within.

His primary clients are visionary leaders, high-performing teams, and world-class athletes and entertainers.

Ryan is a guest leadership educator at Stanford University and Penn State and has been interviewed by The Huffington Post, The Desert News, Esquire, and Vim and Vigor magazines. Ryan has advised and coached leaders within organizations such as the World Bank, Google, Nike, and United Way. Ryan is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, International Association of Facilitators, American Council on Exercise (ACE), and IDEA Health and Fitness Association.

Joey Baird, Sage HRMS: Tell me about your company. What do you do, and what is Deviate’s mission?

Ryan Blanck, Deviate: Deviate’s mission is to inspire and activate peak performance. We are a performance improvement consultancy. We focus on three major markets: First is the individual bold leader (for example an executive who wants to elevate his/her game), the next group is elite teams or organizations, and the third group is professional athletes and entertainers who want to achieve the next level of greatness. We work primarily in within three buckets: leadership, organizational, and life development.

Staying “on top” is often more difficult than getting there. For leaders and teams committed to their pursuit of greatness, there is no such thing as resting, coasting, or simply maintaining. Once we’ve tasted success, it only fuels our desire for more; and, with it higher expectations and pressures. Preparing for and dealing with these expectations and pressures is vital.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter whom you are talking to; everyone wants to perform better or reach that next level in his or her career and life. We help leaders build a plan to achieve their goals, facilitate that process, and hold them accountable to make it happen.

For example, I am working with a music group, and one of their ten-year goals is to win a Grammy. We are helping them find a way to do that. Musicians are great at what they do but are not trained in strategic planning and organizational development. How do you hire the best manager, tour manager, or strategically think about where you want to be in ten years?

Musicians focus on their craft and focus on music, so oftentimes they are not as skilled with running their “business.” We help mold that in them and help them elevate their game when it comes to working with all the different personalities within the group. We teach them how they can function at a high level using clear, real-time communication to propel their career forward. The same can be applied to business organizations and athletic teams.

How did you come up with your company name Deviate, and why?

When I was in the process of starting the business, I was working with a friend of mine, and we were talking about my background, which is in human performance from a physical standpoint in personal training and leadership. He came up with the name when he was summarizing what I did. He said, “It is like you take people down a deviated track; they have been going down a certain path, and once they meet you, you help them go down a different path they always wanted  to follow.” The tag line for the business says it all: “off track on purpose.” We literally take people on an off track journey purposefully to get them where they are their happiest and where they want to be.

What are the top issues facing today’s business leadership?

I see communication as a huge issue today. What you say, how you say it, and how quickly you say it. Communication has two actions: intent and impact. What you want to say is the intent, and how your words and delivery are taken by the receiver is the impact.

Regarding communication and leadership, another large issue is giving clear, concise feedback in real time. Most people sit on their point-of-view and wait too long to provide coaching. They stew on their thoughts and enable bad behaviors. The result of this inactivity is a culture of toleration and lack of trust. Leaders should address issues and conflicts in a positive way immediately. Having a dialogue right away is easier and more effective than enabling a behavior and trying to correct it later down the line.

What makes a great leader stand out in the crowd?

There is one significant difference between a leader and credible person. The characteristics of the two are very similar but the leader has one key trait: vision. A leader takes his vision and paints a vivid picture with a lot of color to show his team what they are working toward – the destination. Otherwise employees are just doing whatever is in front of them without intention and clear focus. To stand out as a leader, you need to be deliberate in bringing this vision to your team.

Think of it like this… you’re headed out on a family vacation. You need to select your destination before packing your bags and loading your car. And, you need to outline your route to determine when to hit the road to miss traffic and time your arrival accordingly.

Leadership needs to follow a similar process. Otherwise our performance suffers because we end up doing a lot of activity rather than productivity.

How important is collaboration in the workplace?

No one is successful alone. When you work in a collaborative environment where there is clear and open communication, where a vision is set, and people are clear on their roles and expectations, that is when true collaboration happens, and your organization can move forward faster.

At Deviate when we work with organizations that want to better their collaboration, we introduce them to the “Reverse CARE Model.” Reverse CARE stands for Expectations, Responsibility, Accountability, and Consequences. When each team member knows what is expected, what they are responsible to do, what they will be held accountable for, and what the consequences are ahead of time (not always negative, often are rewards), a model is created for that group to succeed.

What else can organizations do to foster collaboration? Can you recommend a particular activity or organizational structure? 

Team-building retreats are a great exercise to help improve the level of collaboration within a group. These retreats, if done correctly, help build group camaraderie. When people have better relationships, they embrace each other’s vulnerabilities, communicate more effectively, and become more productive.

When leading an organizational overhaul, we ask three question to assess the culture and employee engagement/satisfaction:

  1. Would you recommend (to a close friend) working here?
  2. Do you have friends at work?
  3. Are you having fun?

Oftentimes organizations have siloed teams, those groups that segment themselves off from the rest. Organizations need to break down these groups by creating cross-functional teams. Cross-functional teams cause people to work with those they wouldn’t otherwise work with. When they work in different environments on organizational goals instead of only their segmented team goals, they see a broader perspective. This enhanced perspective allows them to have a great stake in organizational success, and the silos crumble.

Here’s another analogy… you’re star quarterback in the National Football League. What matters most: Winning a passing title, leading the league in touchdown passes, leading the NFL’s top-rated offense, or winning the Super Bowl?

We see many leadership experts talk about health and wellness in the workplace. What steps can businesses take to provide their employees with improved health and wellness options? Also, why are these initiatives important to organizations as a whole?

We believe that your performance will only go as high as your health and happiness. Who we are doesn’t change between work and home. When you have someone in your organization who is unhappy and unhealthy, it will rub off on their work performance and the team environment. Cancer spreads.

Health and wellness are important because it has been proven that for every 50 minutes of rigorous fitness in your week, you will reduce your likelihood of feeling depressed by half. Working out will also provide you with more energy and helps you become more productive. A half-hour workout before work will make you 15% more productive that day. Through science we continue to learn the deeper connection between body and mind; ignore one and we suffer greatly. Working out helps create healthier, happier, and more innovative people and work environments.

Can you give us some easy health and workout tips we can all do while in the office?

Sure thing, here are a few tips:

  • As a society, we are overfed and under nourished. Remove unhealthy food and beverages from the workplace. Make sure that if you are offering food to employees, provide healthy options. Offer fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and raw seeds instead of sugary and salty snacks. Offer green teas, water, and other healthier drink options instead of sodas and coffee.
  • Provide group fitness activities for employees.
  • Hold stand-up or walking meetings and provide stand-up desks. Why can’t we meet in the gym or during a jog? The key is to get employees up and moving and not sitting all day.
  • Provide health screening so employees and their families can understand their body composition and the health risk of unhealthy living. Make sure these screenings are provided by a health professional.

Employees who are healthier will take fewer sick days, will create a happier work environment, and will become more productive as a result. At Deviate we like to call companies that understand the importance of wellness in their workplace “sweaty companies.”

Thanks for the opportunity to allow us to interview you! Anything else you’d like to mention?

It was a pleasure for sure. I’d love for your readers to subscribe to the Deviate blog. We publish a few times a week with content that is extremely relevant to human resource professionals. Also, they should take a look at one of our upcoming communication coaching programs, Thrive.

HR, Social Media Becoming Increasingly Intimate

12 Jun

Human resources departments are becoming increasingly savvy regarding their approach to information technology and social media as HR software continues to become more commonplace at organizations around the globe.

In the past few years, the value of social media and data analysis to HR processes has begun to surface, persuading HR and IT departments to join forces and collaborate in ways not seen before. Yet the increasing importance of human capital management and HR’s reliance on new technology has made such initiatives critical to an organization’s performance.

“[HR and IT collaboration] has not mattered in the past because people management has not been seen as essential to success as it is today,” John Ingham, HR technology consultant, told Computer Weekly. “What you have is a huge gap between what organizations are doing and what they could be doing, in one of the areas that is becoming the most important for business.”

The Year for Social
In order to make the most out of that partnership to benefit the company as a whole, HR has consistently upped its use of social media. Already, Forbes has heralded 2013 as the “Year of Social HR,” as organizations and individuals mine the business possibilities of social media and find innovative ways to integrate them into the fabric of their recruiting, talent management, employee engagement, and development strategies.

According to a recent study commissioned by SilkRoad, 75 percent of human resource and talent management leaders admit their organizations’ internal and external social networking technology is lagging behind.

Forming a Social Media Policy That Matters
A social media policy is a must for any organization, and there are a few major points that need to be taken into account when creating a social media policy that will be of genuine benefit to the company and the workforce.

First, social media isn’t going anywhere. Employees are already coming to the table with years of social media exposure and experience. As time passes and more people who were drilled in social media platforms at an earlier age cycle into the workforce, a common-sense social media policy is going to become more and more necessary.

Providing employees with the technological tools and know-how should enable them to better perform, collaborate, and innovate—but that’s the easy part. While it is clearly beneficial to any business to engage social media, it is important employees operate within a known and clearly communicated framework to ensure the business benefits from facilitating social media interaction. Steps to take in working toward that goal could include formulating guidelines for social media communication, maintaining a professional code of conduct, and clearly outlining disclosure allowances over social media. Another point to keep in mind is time spent on social media. For example, how much time is healthy for an employee to spend engaging in social media platforms in an average day? Any guideline should operate as a forward-thinking, empowering policy for employees, not as a mechanism of control.

Second, when creating a social media employee handbook, invite and incorporate employee input into the drafting process. Employees are more likely to enforce and adhere to a policy they helped create. Evaluate your company culture as you go along and listen to what your employees are saying. If the majority of your employees frown at just the mention of a “handbook,” look for more innovative ways to make your policy interactive.

Incorporating conversational elements into an interactive policy platform engages both employees and clients. If it’s interactive, you increase the likelihood that people are being stimulated at a level they are accustomed to and perhaps expect from any thoughtful organization as a minimum.

How to Make Social Media Work for You
The recruiting power of social media has become, in many ways, common knowledge. But its potential to improve employee engagement has yet to be fully exploited by employers.

One of the most powerful tools inherent in social media lies in one’s ability to listen and monitor. Social media allows real-time, organic conversations to take place among employees, clients, and potential clients, conversations that can be observed in public for free, conversations that employers can join and interact with to improve business practices and perceptions.

To learn more, download our white paper “Social Media and HR: Friend or Foes?” from our Human Resources Best Practices and Tools document library.

Reduce Stress and Boost Profits

6 Jun

Not all stress is created equal. There are healthy levels of stress that can be highly motivating and push employees to rise to workplace challenges. But too much stress produces diminishing returns in the long run. In a quickly evolving working environment, employees are confronted daily with increases to their workloads, changes to teams and promotion structures, ineffectual or unsympathetic management, and various day-to-day elements of working life—which can all lead to stress.

This is especially important for HR professionals to recognize. High stress leads to low productivity and strategic human resource management aides in alleviating some of that stress—like ensuring employees are not too pressed on deadlines—will turn out to be beneficial to the employee, the manager, and the business, which will see the financial results in the long-term.

The Economics of Stress Management
For many HR professionals, stress is recognized as a serious wellness issue. In a December 2012 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), stress and mental illness were identified by HR professionals as their top employee health concerns.

The impacts of workplace stress are numerous. Stress has the potential to cause headaches, anxiety, substance abuse, high blood pressure, obesity, exhaustion, heart disease, and diabetes.

It is no secret that stress and depression are linked, as research suggests. Stress is both a mental and physical phenomenon. When we are overstressed, the body releases chemicals that compromise the immune system. It comes as no surprise then that stress, depression, and other mental illnesses are the primary causes of workplace absences, according to SHRM.

Factors like low job control, job insecurity, a lack of social support, work-family conflicts, and high-job demands have all been identified as potential causes of stress and depression.

According to SHRM, stress is the number-one cause of long-term absences—more than physical injuries such as neck pain, repetitive strain injuries, and acute illnesses like cancer and heart attacks.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 18.8 million American adults—9.5 percent of the adult population—will suffer from depression or a depressive illness. In any three-month time period, an employee struggling with a depressive condition will miss, on average, 4.8 workdays, resulting in 11.5 days of significantly reduced productivity on the job. It is estimated that depression will cause 200 million lost work days each year, costing employers between $17 and $44 billion in lost productivity.

There are many other impacts besides this staggering loss in productivity. High-stress levels lead to other negative, less tangible side effects, including employment disengagement, apathy, and high turnover and attrition—which all have economic consequences of their own.

When human resource planning involves employee engagement ideas that combat depression at its source, it will not only save the company money in lost work days, but also motivate employees to work more efficiently through the support and aide of colleagues and supervisors—helping the business to achieve a larger return on employee investment.

What Can Be Done About Stress
There are certain occupations that are associated with more demanding workloads and higher levels of stress. HR professionals need to prioritize stress management in those industries, especially the service industries. While reducing the workload may not be an option, there are a number of stress management options companies can pursue to improve their employees’ quality of life, reduce stress, and save money.

Many companies establish some form of wellness program. Typically, these programs include resources employees can access that promote healthy living habits such as dietary suggestions, exercise programs, and discounts or incentives at a partnering gym. Such programs enable employees to manage their own time and schedules and juggle the demands of various workload responsibilities.

One possible benefit from employing such a system is the ability to offer flexible work arrangements—by far the most significant factor in reducing stress. Some companies already offer flex time options, or “being there” time—a time management strategy that recognizes an employee’s obligations outside of work. Usually, flex time comes as a set number of hours that can be used at the discretion of an employee a few hours at a time, empowering him to attend his child’s school play or ballet recital. HR software solutions allow employees to log their own hours and track projects independently. Not only does this reduce stress, it improves productivity and employee engagement.

Time Management Leads to Stress Management
There are myriad ways a business can implement a flexible work arrangement, and the demands of a specific business will dictate the type and amount of flexibility that is available. Whether they organize a weekly lunch outing to destress employees or provide greater flex time options, effectively managing time will translate to a happier, less stressed employee—which in turn means good things for the business itself.

By changing mindsets about how a workload is distributed and tackled by employees, businesses can dramatically reduce stress by restoring control to an employee’s life—a trust that many employees will be grateful for and work hard to maintain.

What Matters Most

4 Jun

For HR professionals who are recruiting for a new position or looking to fill an existing opening, you will inevitably be confronted with the task of writing a job description—the first impression a prospective employee gets for both the position and the company.

Compliant Job Descriptions
It is important as you draft each job description that the posting is in full compliance with federal regulations such as the Equal Pay Act of 1963 or the Fair Labor Standards Act. To ensure the job description is fully compliant, employers needs to write descriptions as directed by a number of legal standards.

For example, the FLSA stipulates that employers will need to analyze the proper classification for the position they are recruiting for to determine if it is exempt from overtime pay. Compliance can sometimes be a complex issue. Descriptions with vague wording or gray areas may end up being violations of federal laws such as the Equal Pay Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. A good job description may not eliminate all of these discrepancies or involuntary omissions, but the goal is to minimize them as much as possible.

As part of your human resources solution, it may be easy to get distracted by legal compliance issues and forget about the tonality of the job description. It’s important that a balance is struck so that compliance is achieved and the description also falls within the cultural life of the brand and the company. A dry, off-message job description might be fully compliant but lacks the versatility and life that inspires and attracts top talent.

The Black Hole for Job Seekers
According to a recent study conducted by TheLadders, job seekers spend less than 60 seconds reviewing a job posting before deciding to apply or move on—a figure that HR professionals ought to pay attention to when drafting job descriptions.

The online job-matching service conducted the survey in March of 2013 employing eye-tracking technology to determine not only what information job seekers prioritized as they perused potential job listings but how they read them.

“Job seekers and hiring managers alike share a problem with job listings—job seekers apply for jobs they don’t fit, leaving hiring managers with applications that don’t fit the bill,” said Alex Douzet, CEO and cofounder of TheLadders. “There is so much finger-pointing in the job search, mostly by job seekers who think that overwhelmed recruiters and faulty application software are the factors behind them never hearing back. However, our eye-tracking study shows that job seekers simply need to take a better look in the mirror—and better understand their competition—before they even think of applying to that next job.”

The survey revealed that even though job seekers self-report spending ten minutes assessing each opportunity, only 10 percent of that time is spent evaluating the job description. Of that percentage, the most time was spent focusing on the title of the position, the company name, and the details of the job, such as salary and recruiter contact information.

As an HR professional, that’s important information. Go into the job description drafting process knowing what job information is a priority for a job seeker. You have 60 seconds to make an impression. Make it count.

Writing a job description can be a tricky thing, navigating both the legal world and that of the prospective employee. The key is in striking a balance between legality and language that is as inviting as it is clear.

Stay ahead of the curve and avoid costly employment issues with HR Essentials Career Enhancement Training Library. The library includes 29 HRCI certified courses and over 70 others handpicked by Sage to support HR organizations on key topics such as interviewing, hiring, background checks, performance reviews, and termination.

If Something is Worth Doing…

22 May

8912598-italian-girl-with-pizza-and-wineI’ll bet you think you know what words are coming next; but you’d be wrong.

About twenty-five years ago I was working for a company where the CEO was a wild man. I don’t mean a Robinson Crusoe, beard down to his belt, living on a tropical island-kind of wild man; I mean a guy who expressed some great ideas in the most unexpected ways. And among my favorite of his expressions was the following:

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”

Now on the surface of it, that might not seem like a terribly wise business mantra. But let me give you some background as to when and where I initially heard it said.

It was in a technology company; it was the late 80s or early 90s and I had just joined their marketing department. The timing of my arrival just happened to coincide with the early planning stages for a major trade show we were to attend. And the topic of conversation was how we were going to present ourselves at this conference.

Now keep in mind – this was “back in the day” when if someone said “computer”, the name that popped first into everyone’s head was IBM. And tradeshows were serious affairs; “doing something bold” at your booth usually meant that you opted for a yellow tie instead of a red one to go with your blue suit. In fact, at my preceding job I had once had the gall to ask the marketing manager there “what color suit” should I wear at an upcoming conference and received the helpful answer “Any color you like – as long it’s blue”.

That answer didn’t sit well with me, and I bided my time until I was in a position – at a different company, of course – to try to do something about it.

So when I realized that my arrival at this new company – in a position of some influence – coincided with their planning for an upcoming event, I couldn’t resist the temptation to suggest that we try something a little daring at the upcoming show. I suggested that we arrange our booth – and staff – to look like an old-fashioned, neighborhood Italian restaurant. Bistro tables. Red-and-white checkered tablecloths. Menus instead of the usual product data sheets. And booth staff dressed up like waiters and waitresses.

The reaction was phenomenal. Everyone hated it.

Well – almost everyone. The CEO, normally a very active participant in corporate discussions, was surprisingly quiet. He was listening to everyone else in the conference room telling me why my idea wouldn’t work. Heck – “wouldn’t work” was how the nicest of my new colleagues were phrasing it; others were openly questioning my sanity, my employment, and the very distinct possibility that I was overly self-medicating.

And yet when I started listening – really listening – to peoples’ comments, I realized that it wasn’t the “restaurant theme” that everyone objected to. It was that fact that everyone felt that we couldn’t do justice to that theme. The objections ranged from “we can’t actually serve food or wine”, to “we don’t have time to change our existing booth graphics” to look like restaurant menus.

That’s when our CEO uttered those unforgettable words:

“Well you know . . . I kind of like the whole restaurant approach, and I think that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.”

Needless to say that broke the tension in the room pretty well and it was a good two or three minutes before all of us regained our composure . . . not to mention our chairs. And then some poor soul asked our CEO:

“You mean you want us to do a bad job?”

And that’s when our CEO explained what he meant. Many organizations shy away from bold new initiatives because they are afraid of failure. That’s nothing new. But our CEO explained that in his experience, many organizations chose not to try something new because they were afraid that they weren’t going to be able to do as good a job on it as they’d like to.

That’s right – there’s “fear of failure” and then there’s “fear of incomplete success” – and it’s the latter of these that our CEO was talking about. You see, nobody wants to undertake a project thinking that he or she will be able to get it to only 65% (or so) complete. As humans, we are trained to envision the end-result of a project and that end result vision is rarely, if ever, imperfect or incomplete.

But that’s exactly how we should envision many of our business initiatives.

Because — when it comes down to choosing between a project imperfectly done and a project not attempted at all, it’s better to try and partially succeed rather than to not try at all. A project attempted can be evaluated, improved upon, or even abandoned. As long as you set your expectations so that “imperfection is acceptable”, your finished project will be good enough to fairly evaluate its current success and its potential for even greater success in the future.

So – the next time you have the opportunity to try something new but are concerned that you might not have all the resources to “do it right”, go ahead and do it anyway. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.

(Oh yes – and we DID end up doing the Italian restaurant theme at the show that year and it was a huge success.)

Today’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 co-founder 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.

Is Your Workplace Negative?

20 May

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

My Work Place is Negative

I get it. The last several years have been tough. “Do more with less… there won’t be any raises this year… you are lucky to have a job… we may have to close our doors tomorrow…” Working day-in and day-out under these conditions can get to anyone. A therapist colleague told me a story that I think captures this sentiment perfectly. Several years ago he had a client who was in a highly toxic, negative and abusive relationship. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get her to change her perspective. One day he finally came to a realization. Here’s what he told her, “I’m a very healthy person. And yet, if I were in the relationship you are in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I would be just as broken-down, lost and as negative as you are.” Workplace negativity can get to us. To that point, here was a question I received over the past week from a reader that I think sums up many of our collective feelings of frustration at the office:

Where we work, the morale is terrible. Everyone is overworked, frustrated with our demanding customers and generally burned out. As a result, we are handling stress in negative and unhealthy ways. What specific tools can we use to change the negative and unhealthy ways we are handling stress? For example, I would like to put a punching bag in the back so we can hit it as a way to vent and then hopefully go about our business a bit happier.

To feel so stressed and frustrated that the idea of hitting something sounds like the perfect cure truly says it all. And to the reader’s question, what is the right solution? Is a punching bag in the back room the answer or is it something else? While a punching bag may sufficiently empty out the negativity from our veins, it doesn’t resolve the core issue. Negativity has infected our workplaces and unless treated, no amount of punching bags are going to fix the problem.

Stomping Out Negativity At Work

Below are a few different treatment options for eliminating negativity at work. Feel free to take them in combination. Daily doses are recommended.

  • Leadership needs to declare war. A critical starting place for eliminating negativity at work is for leadership to take a stand and declare all-out war against any forms of negativity at work. This can be the boss or a team decision. Regardless, those who lead need to announce that negativity is no longer welcome and they must be prepared to confront it at every turn. What does this mean? I’ve seen leaders who are serious about fighting negativity send an employee home when they become “infected.”
  • Make it a game. A second treatment option is to turn the negative moments at work into positive events by reframing them. In other words, make it a game. For example, I worked with an insurance company several years ago that had developed an interesting way to combat negativity at work. During the week, customer service reps would take a beating with disgruntled customers. At the end of each week, reps would meet and share their most difficult customer interactions. Whoever had the most difficult or challenging encounter won the “crazy customer” trophy. A huge oversized trophy, the “crazy customer” trophy would live at the desk of the rep who won it until the next week when more stories were shared. Games and fun competition can take a negative event and create a more playful team experience.
  • Throw out all the bad apples. Sometimes negative work environments are the product of a bad apple – an employee who is so negative he / she is poisoning everyone else. If there is a bad apple coworker in your midst, inviting them to leave is a necessary first step.

There you have it – strategies for eliminating negativity at work. Feel free to combine any of the above remedies. Take regularly and often.

Of course, if nothing else works throw up the bag in the back and wear it out. Who knows? You might find you have a future in the ring.

Switch to our mobile site