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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.

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.

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