Archive | Human Resources Management RSS feed for this section

Revamping performance reviews to increase employee engagement

20 Apr

Employee reviews are critical to career development and business growth. Human resources professionals must examine the review process closely, as many companies tend to use the same methods for performance evaluations year in and year out. Revamping reviews can enhance employee engagement

The power of inclusion
Feedback is certainly a powerful tool in that it clarifies exactly what tactics are working for an employee and which ones need improvement to keep up with performance standards. However, Inc. magazine noted that simply administering feedback to employees isn't always enough to convey their importance in relation to the entire company. In fact, workers who are given an equal combination of autonomy and responsibility to make decisions feel more valued in their roles.

Fast Company reported that when employees are asked to make decisions that directly influence their work and that of their peers, a greater sense of community and well-being begins to build. Happy employees are more productive and contribute stronger work to their organizations because they see the results of their efforts. 

Rather than reviewing an employee from only one side of the table, HR should consider turning the process into a conversation. Offering the employee a chance to evaluate his or her performance before listening to outside input can establish a stronger relationship between worker and employer. This action demonstrates trust and interest in fostering that employee's success. Whether beginning the review by asking employees to discuss their work or sending out planned review questions ahead of time, this approach gives workers a greater sense of control over their positions and their ability to improve.

Once may not be enough
Business Insider encouraged companies to think outside of the box and review employees more frequently so that any negative observations are addressed sooner rather than later. Surprising employees with the news that their performances have been less than acceptable for a long period of time will immediately question their future with the company and how highly they are valued by supervisors.

The negative effects of comparing and contrasting
It's hard not to measure oneself against peers; bosses and HR professionals must be sensitive to the fact that team members may already be in silent competition with one another. It doesn't help to compare any employee to another, particularly during a performance review. Instead, it's a good idea to narrow the focus to the employee under review and his or her strengths. What does this person bring to the table that no one else does? How are contributions made in meetings conducive to growing the business? 

In the same vein, if it seems a team member is not fitting in with others, avoid discussing the situation in a negative light. Explore how this person's unique perspective can contribute to the team's assignments. 

A robust human resources management software platform provides HR professionals with the tools they need to develop the most productive method of conducting performance reviews possible.

Monitoring employee stress and physical activity

20 Apr

When people think about stress, they often picture a frantic emotional or physical state that increases heart rates, causes perspiration and makes focusing on a single task difficult. However, in today's workplaces, physical stress looks very different than it used to. Multiple studies have emerged in recent years indicating that sitting at a desk all day is almost as bad – if not worse – for the body as smoking. The stress placed on the body by being sedentary all day can dramatically decrease employee health and productivity.

How much time is spent sitting?
The Annals of Internal Medicine published findings from a study on the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on health completed earlier this year. Sedentary is an adjective used to describe an inactive person or way of life. As many office workers know all too well, a large portion of the day is spent sitting at a desk. Unfortunately, the study, "Sedentary Time and Its Association With Risk for Disease Incidence, Mortality and Hospitalization in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis," found that despite efforts to exercise before or after the workday, sporadic activity does little to undo the damage that sitting for 8 to 12 hours every day does to the human body.

Pain Management and Injury Relief noted that on average, adult workers spend 9.3 hours per day sitting down. This number has steadily increased over the past 150 years; in the past, our ancestors spent 90 percent of their daylight hours moving or walking. Today that number is as low as 40 percent. In fact, 50-70 percent of people spend at least six hours sitting down every day, whether at a desk, in front of the TV or participating in other leisure activities.

The impact of sitting still 
The sedentary time study noted this passive stress increases the likelihood people will develop a variety of diseases in their lifetimes. High cholesterol, slowed blood circulation, cardiovascular disease, obesity and colon cancer are more likely to emerge in people who sit for 8 to 12 hours every day. In fact, one's risk for developing Type 2 diabetes increases by an alarming 90 percent with that type of sedentary lifestyle.

Fixing stress with active company culture 
Since the workplace often enables sedentary lifestyles, it's important that businesses provide employee engagement ideas pertaining to health and wellness programs to decrease physical stress. A corporation that weaves physical activity into its culture elicits greater achievement from individuals and develops more productive teams. Businesses should consider offering discounts on local gym memberships or paying a portion of an employee's enrollment in a marathon or charity run. Establishing a company sports league or playing recreational sports each season is another way to not only boost activity but camaraderie as well.

Companies that may not have the funding or resources to provide extensive training or health programs to employees can still encourage a more active lifestyle. Standing desks are becoming more popular among offices around the world, as it provides a convenient and healthy alternative to sitting down all day. Workers who have invested in a standing desk actually found they were less stressed, according to Pain Management and Injury Relief. Aside from burning more calories, standing up at work made 87 percent of workers more energized and 71 percent more focused.

Employees can also find moments throughout the day where standing could take the place of sitting. Phone calls can be taken standing up and meetings with a few colleagues could take place on a walk as opposed to a conference room.

Any method used by a business to get employees up and active is worth the effort. Those workers are the future of the company and managers should be investing in their health every day. 

Nurturing future leaders through succession development

20 Apr

Businesses today must have formidable succession plans for leadership roles. Without cohesive strategies in place, a corporation could lose its industry stature or reputation when current leaders resign or move on.

According to a 2014 study completed by the Institute of Executive Development in conjunction with Stanford University, corporate leaders see succession plans as a vital aspect of their businesses‚Äč' futures, yet 46 percent stated they had no specific candidate in mind to succeed the current CEO. Should a CEO leave tomorrow, it would take those companies a median of 90 days to fill the position. 

Fast Company stated that most corporations either have no plans for succession or a strategy with too many complicated rules, stages and candidates. This simply isn't conducive to a healthy business.

Why build a succession plan?
A succession plan helps businesses maintain continuity in leadership and operations. It also helps human resources professionals identify potential candidates early on and work with these employees' strengths for a long period of time rather than tossing new CEOs into the hot seat at a crucial moment and expecting a faultless performance.

From an employee's perspective, working for a company with a succession strategy makes committing to professional development a more meaningful endeavor. From management's point of view, the process allows current leaders an opportunity to demonstrate power, which in turn actively earns employee trust. Being able to delegate duties and motivate top talent is at once a strong display of power and care. Plus, implementing a succession program will motivate senior leadership to remain accountable and on top of their businesses' performance until the day they leave.

One common motivator for establishing a succession plan among the executives in the survey was risk reduction. While this is certainly important, it doesn't focus on the professional development necessary to properly groom someone for as significant a role as CEO. Harvard Business Review encouraged companies to focus on succession development rather than succession planning as they develop their unique programs. This is because while a plan helps an organization understand the process, when it comes time for a successor to fill a leadership role, he or she will need to have had significant experience with those responsibilities already to make the transition smoothly.

How can a company initiate succession development?
The two words human resources professionals need to remember when designing a succession development plan are honesty and practice.

  1. Honesty: It's irresponsible to promise a position to someone or begin nurturing candidates who will never be considered for a CEO position. Any professional or succession development program must be straightforward with participants - and applicants, if applicable - about their chances of obtaining that top spot and what is expected of them along the way.
  2. Practice: Without actively practicing making tough decisions, performing routine tasks or interacting with clients, no prospective successor is going to be ready to take over a CEO's position. It's necessary that HR departments and senior leaders alike facilitate opportunities for those top candidates to try their hand at the work. 

Human resource information systems can improve the design and execution of a promising succession development strategy - something every business needs to secure its future. 

BYOD: How can employers and employees protect themselves?

20 Apr

Bring Your Own Device has been one of the biggest trends in the workplace for years. As more employees rely on smartphones and tablets to review data on the go, stay in touch and work remotely, the concept of using a personal device for work purposes is certainly here to stay. In 2013, Gartner predicted that half of employers would require employees to use their personal devices for work by 2017. A recent report from Tech Pro Research revealed 74 percent of respondents are already utilizing BYOD or plan to do so in the future. Only 62 percent said the same when identical research was conducted two years ago, indicating BYOD continues to gain ground. 

As BYOD becomes a more critical part of business operations and keeps contributing to employee engagement, it's essential both employers and staff members know what rights each party has and how to protect themselves.

What can an employer really see on an employee's device?
There's often confusion about what the management team can do with a worker's smartphone or tablet – the staff member does own the device, after all. Plenty of controversy surrounds this issue, as employees may have photos, records or other data of a personal nature on their devices that they don't want their employer rifling through.

According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, it is possible, but not necessarily likely, for an employer to access the following depending on an individual company's BYOD policy:

  • Phone records and contact information
  • Internet browsing history
  • Location information
  • Social media accounts
  • Messaging histories

In an interview with CIO magazine, MobileIron's president of strategy, Ojas Rege, largely corroborated this information. Rege said that a company can't see personal videos, photos, email or texts that aren't sent over a company messaging app. However, employers do have access to information about an employee's location, data storage use, battery level, corporate email and corporate data.

In the unlikely event of business litigation, an individual's device could be subject to search and review as evidence. 

One of the things employees are most concerned about is their device being wiped if they leave the company or lose their smartphone. Seventy-one percent of respondents to a Zix Corp poll said they wouldn't use a personal gadget for work if they knew their employer could wipe it remotely. 

How can employers protect themselves?
Your employees may have extremely sensitive business data on their devices, meaning the last thing your company wants is to lose track of that information. Unfortunately, smartphones and tablets do get misplaced, and when they do, your organization needs to know it's protected from data loss. Human resource solutions that help mitigate data theft with employee concerns are critical.

Any company considering allowing employees to bring their own devices needs to first create an airtight BYOD policy that workers who want to use their personal devices must sign off on. The American Bar Association's "BYOD Policies: A Litigation Perspective" report notes that a strong BYOD policy must consider the following elements to effectively mitigate risk:

  • Training and employee buy-in
  • Ownership and cost of the device
  • Striking a balance between employee privacy and employer data security
  • Maintaining confidentiality of trade secrets or other confidential information
  • Policy synergy

One of the more important elements will include gaining consent to wipe a device that is lost or stolen. As this is a major concern for employees who bring their own smartphones or tablets to work, it needs to be addressed clearly and both parties need to understand exactly what will happen if the device goes missing – and in what timeframe. If policy calls for devices to be wiped immediately when reported lost or stolen, regularly encourage employees to back up any contacts, photos or other personal data they wouldn't want to lose and could not recover.

Governing BYOD within the company
For nearly as long as employees have been using personal devices on the job, there's been a dispute over which department is in charge of the BYOD policy – HR or IT? 

This uncertainty continues today, and this is a significant business risk. A policy that's ineffectively governed can create confusion or lead employees to take unnecessary risks with corporate information stored on their devices. What elements does each department need to consider to create a cohesive strategy that both sides have a role in creating, implementing and carrying out?

First and foremost, the IT department needs to have security in mind. IT professionals need to detail exactly what antivirus protection devices must have and which applications are risky and should be banned. Similarly, they need to have any other relevant elements of data protection considered. For example, requiring passwords, explaining what happens in the event a device is lost or ensuring all employees are up to date on which devices are permitted all fall within the IT spectrum.

HR will have other considerations in mind. One major task is balancing an employee's privacy concerns and legal issues with the company's needs and ensuring everyone knows what's in the BYOD policy. Similarly, it may be HR's responsibility to make sure everyone knows who pays for new devices or upgrades when they're necessary. 

BYOD litigation
The risks of BYOD are numerous – and they're not all security related. Lawsuits are another drawback of BYOD, though not a very large one.

However, as of early March 2015, California employers are gearing up for class action lawsuits over BYOD expense reimbursement policies. This was expected, as last year a state court decided that companies had to reimburse employees for calls they took on their mobile phones that were work related. This will present new challenges for the BYOD realm and could change how many employers allow workers to use their personal phones for work.

If this class action suit does move forward, it will doubtless change the world of BYOD and policies companies put together for their employees. This will require both HR and IT departments to stay up to date on the latest developments in BYOD and ensure their policies are not only sound from a security standpoint, but also not in violation of any local legislation. 

The modern performance evaluation

16 Apr

Performance evaluations aren't usually the most comfortable meetings for employees or their management teams. Any situation that requires one individual to judge another is going to be stressful, and that can reduce the overall effectiveness of what could otherwise be a productive and beneficial meeting.

Thankfully, the outdated concept of the traditional performance review is starting to change, and they're being replaced by more effective, engaging conversations and human resource solutions that have a more lasting impact. 

Consistent conversations over annual rubrics
One of the major problems with the now-outdated annual performance review was its infrequency. Getting feedback once a year wasn't allowing workers to change their strategies as soon as management thought something wasn't working well. This allowed them to build up bad habits or go into their reviews thinking everything was fine, when in reality management had a very different opinion. In addition, the person conducting the review could be harping on an event or project the employee being reviewed doesn't even remember well, making it a pointless exercise. 

Traditional rubrics don't leave much room to consider each worker's unique skills and limitations. Consider those old rubrics as a guide, or something to spark ideas and conversation, rather than something that needs to be strictly followed at all times. Because ultimately, that's what the modern review should be – a conversation. Both parties should have a chance to speak and discuss each point on the agenda, ask questions and raise concerns. A successful evaluation should never consist of an HR manager rattling off a list of problems. 

Ohio State University's Office of Human Resources released a document detailing some of the most common problems with traditional reviews. They can sometimes result in a "halo effect" or rating an employee highly in every category because of exceptional performance in one area, or the contrasting "horn error" which leads managers to lower all factors in a review based on poor performance in one area. If an employee has struggled in the past, the "spillover error" could leave HR managers downgrading performance numbers even if the worker has improved.

It's critical managers have two-way chats with their teams instead of one-sided conversations while their staff members sit by. Asking employees how they can improve their performance in a specific area or what they think they've improved on can give those conducting the review an idea of how the employee sees him or herself. Requesting more detail on why or how an individual made a certain decision, where they want to develop their skills more and what's prevented them from achieving those goals may give more insight into what the worker's day consists of and if they're bogged down with time-consuming tasks.

What do employees think of these evaluations?
In a perfect world, reviews would inspire employees to improve and tackle tasks with renewed vigor. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case. "Performance appraisal satisfaction: The role of feedback and goal orientation," a study completed by researchers at Kansas State University, Eastern Kentucky University and Texas A&M showed that top performers who want to improve are quite bothered by getting negative feedback.

With this in mind, those organizations that think it necessary to keep evaluations need to ensure the best employees aren't getting reviews that will discourage them or motivate them to leave the company.

What makes a review effective?
Ultimately, both managers and employees should walk away with several key pieces of information and should never be surprised during the review. The hallmarks of a good review are shared responsibility from both employee and supervisor, the chance to set goals and an opportunity to recognize achievement or improvement. 

If neither party feels these objectives have been achieved, it's hard to consider the review a successful or productive one. 

How do bonuses factor in?
Most managers love rewarding great performance with a bonus. However, they need to go about it a certain way. Michael Beer, chairman of management consulting firm TruePoint and professor emeritus of business administration at Harvard Business School, told Inc. magazine that under no circumstances should a manager say they plan to discuss bonuses with employees in performance reviews

"You can't get someone to really be listening and trying to learn about what they can do to change or problem solve when they know the meeting is about what their bonus is," he said. "They're going to be very defensive and closed."

Rather, the bonus talk should be saved for after the review, when the employee already knows how they're doing, where they can improve and will be fully focused on the topic at hand. 

By optimizing performance reviews, employees will be more engaged in and satisfied with the process, and management teams can see more consistent, stronger performance throughout the year. 

What happens in the event of a cyberattack?

15 Apr

Cybersecurity is a top concern for every business. With multiple high-profile data breaches that cost businesses millions of dollars and seriously damaged their reputations in recent years, it's increasingly apparent that one area companies can't afford to neglect is IT security. 

But what happens if a company does indeed experience a breach? Even if all the necessary security measures are in place, every business needs to be ready for the worst. 

Who takes responsibility? 
It's an age-old question: Is HR or IT responsible for cybersecurity? In some cases one department wants control of this task and the other doesn't, making it easy to determine who blame should fall on if anything goes wrong. But all too frequently, it's difficult for leaders within these areas to decide which should take the lead. 

IT seems like an obvious choice to lead data protection initiatives – after all, cybersecurity certainly seems to fall under the information technology umbrella. And while IT professionals may be able to advise and contribute to the discussions about mitigating breaches, they aren't the only ones who have a horse in the race.

Unlikely as it seems, human resource solutions should play a major role in the cybersecurity process. In an interview with the Society for Human Resource Management, Philip L. Gordon, a shareholder in the Denver office of Littler and co-chair of the firm's Privacy and Data Protection Practice Group, claims that lost or stolen devices are one of the most common causes of data breaches. He says that training employees to report a missing device immediately is critical, and this could be one of the onboarding sessions HR completes with new workers. 

Similarly, he recommends HR have a stringent office security policy, and make sure reception workers don't allow any unauthorized individuals to walk through the workspace without supervision. 

If the IT department refuses to take the lead on data protection, the HR department may opt to create a new position like " Chief Security Officer" or something similar. This person would need to have a firm grasp on legal compliance and a strong understanding of the technical aspects that cybersecurity calls for. 

What if IT doesn't step up?
To keep from encountering any confusion over who's responsible for what when it comes to security incidents and protection, it's vital to have a plan in place before anything happens. 

While HR may be responsible for training employees on how to mitigate security risks and working with employees if one does happen, IT will be responsible for certain things given its more technical expertise. The department should be aware that if a hack does happen, it is responsible for taking machines offline, preserving evidence of the breach and working with forensics to determine what data has been compromised and how to delete any malware or hacker tools.

Experian's Data Breach Response Guide details what steps need to be taken within the first day after a breach occurs. Every organization should have a point person to go to for each item on the list, whether it's someone in the IT or HR department. The steps include recording when the breach was discovered and when someone acted on it, alerting the appropriate parties, making sure additional data loss doesn't occur and starting an investigation.

What must a company provide after a breach?
No business plans on getting hacked, but in the event it does, higher-ups need to know what documentation they be required to provide.

The Federal Trade Commission's 2014 Privacy and Data Security Update details when companies in certain industries are required to inform consumers of data breaches. The Experian report also shows how multiple states are considering more thorough notification laws that would require businesses to provide even more information about the data breaches they experienced, including what personal information was accessed, when the breach occurred, what happened and sometimes even if the notification was delayed because of a law enforcement investigation.

After a security incident, documentation at every single stage of the process is key. Professionals responsible for investigating the breach should have notes relating to each person they spoke to about the issue, how long it took them to get the authorities involved, what information was accessed and so on. They should also note not just what they did and when, but why they took those steps.

Businesses have to act now
Even if a business thinks its data is secure, chances are it can be compromised at some point. The Experian report says that in 2012 alone, 267 million records were exposed thanks to cybersecurity incidents. 

With such great repercussions, companies have to be know how to mitigate the risk of an incident and how to proceed if one does happen. By combining the duties for HR and IT, no one department has to bear the entire burden and each department can specialize in its own area.

What’s happening in the telemedicine industry?

2 Apr

Telemedicine may still be relatively new, but it's certainly undergone many changes recently. Just several months ago the benefits and drawbacks of telemedicine were still fairly unclear and the technology had barely taken off; recent developments have shined more light on the advantages, suggesting the potential telemedicine has for human resource planning could be extremely beneficial.

The current advantages of telemedicine
A recent report from the Altarum Institute revealed telemedicine continues to offer benefits with regard to quality of care and cost effectiveness. The "Telemedicine Today: The State of Affairs" research report indicated telemedicine offers savings of hundreds or thousands of dollars for patients who use the emergency room for primary care visits, which translates to massive benefits for those in need of health care.

This is also true of simple visits to primary care doctors. The Healthcare Performance Institute's "Telehealth and the U.S. College Population" report noted that while the average three to six minute basic office visit cost $133 in 2011, a telehealth consultation cost only $35 to $40

The report also noted that 70 percent of office visits and 40 percent of ER visits are unnecessary. In these instances, telemedicine can save both money and time.

It's not just a small number of people who are interested in telemedicine, either. A survey from Software Advice revealed 75 percent of people who had never used the technology before were interested in trying it, as opposed to making an in-person appointment. Twenty-one percent of people who had used these services said the quality of care they received was the same or better than they'd received in person.

Some drawbacks remain
These advantages don't mean that the telemedicine industry has no room to improve. According to the Altarum Institute report, the field remains confusing for consumers, as different state regulations create rules that can be difficult to follow and vary from one location to the next. 

Aside from this difficulty, it does appear telemedicine is working to reduce medical costs and save time.

How have early adopters fared?
Early adopters are often thought of as forward-thinking, tech-focused private companies. However, the telehealth movement proves this definitely isn't the rule. The Veterans Health Administration is one of the most prominent examples of an organization that has tried out a telemedicine program successfully, according to a report from The Commonwealth Fund. The research detailed that patients had satisfaction levels higher than 85 percent for telehealth care and "bed days" dropped by 40 percent.

Some of the keys to the VHA's success, according to The Commonwealth Fund, were aligning their telehealth strategy with the organization's overall mission, standardizing elements of the program, properly training staff with dedicated resources and gathering evidence of targeted outcomes. 

Centura Health at Home is another telehealth care system that completed a one-year pilot program to successful results. CHAH noticed ER visits declined significantly – from 283 visits in the year before the program to a mere 21 the next. Hospital readmission rates and the frequency of home visits also dropped, saving patients and health care facilities both time and money. 

As the telemedicine industry continues to grow, it will undoubtedly still face challenges. However, these setbacks may very well be overshadowed by the massive benefits organizations utilizing telehealth services have noticed thus far. The future of medicine is here, and while it certainly looks nothing like the past, it presents greater opportunities for HR professionals. If employees have greater access to telemedicine, they may be able to take care of any small medical problems more quickly and easily, resulting in fewer sick days, enhanced productivity and overall, happier employees.

Associate Relations departments are crucial for an effective workplace

19 Mar

The Associate Relations department is one of the most critical within an organization, as it is responsible for facilitating positive relationships and overall employee management. Sometimes also called Human Resources or Employee Relations, this team helps streamline office processes and makes a beneficial addition to a company for five main reasons:

They help disseminate information
Whether it involves circulating updated office policies, explaining new government regulations or sharing company news, the Associate Relations team can ensure that all coworkers receive the same information. When everyone is on the same page, it can help cut down on inter-departmental gossip and miscommunication, which in turn can alleviate some work-related stress.

If there is a disconnect between management and employees, the Associate Relations department can also help cultivate and distribute the information needed to clear up the problem.

They streamline disciplinary actions
Performance reviews and meetings about misconduct can be tense for managers and employees alike, especially when the former are not properly trained in how to handle these situations. Associate Relations team members can work together to create written guidelines and hold training sessions to ensure that all confrontations regarding workplace disruptions, poor performance, disciplinary action and other complaints are handled professionally and respectfully. Associate Relations understands the serious nature of confidentiality and can help the reporting individual take the right steps toward resolving the problem by involving all of the right parties without causing a scene.

They can help boost morale
Everyone is busy during the workday, so in many cases company morale is put on the back burner while job-related tasks are being completed. However, if employees are unhappy at work and do not have a positive impression of the company or its values, they are likely to become unmotivated and not put their best effort forward. Something as simple as hosting team gatherings after work, finding interesting speakers to give "lunch and learn" presentations or organizing company-sponsored intramural sports teams can make a huge difference and can be planned on a more regular basis with the help of an Associate Relations team.

They manage the employee assistance program
In the modern working world, companies are becoming more willing to accommodate the needs of their employees and are even providing programs to help them through hard times. Employee assistance programs can help with everything from drug and alcohol addiction and mental health counseling to setting up flexible spending accounts and working with management to agree on nontraditional work schedules to better fit the needs of working parents. 

They facilitate quality in the workplace
At some companies, the Associate Relations team also acts as the office manager. Members of the team will be in charge of acknowledging employees' birthdays, work anniversaries and other special occasions, in addition to ordering supplies and being the point of contact when computers and other machines are not working properly. Associate Relations often also conducts office-wide surveys to give employees a confidential space to air their grievances and request changes. 

In companies without Associate Relations teams, these responsibilities are often distributed to executives and managers who do not have the time to give relevant tasks the attention they deserve. Those considering the pros and cons of creating a new Associate Relations team should start by thinking about the processes they currently have in place. Who is in charge of each of the functions listed above? Are they managed efficiently? Associate Relations professionals are typically very passionate about fostering happiness and balance within the workplace and can help streamline all office processes to make the workday run more smoothly for everyone. 

The 401(k) plan and its real value to employees: 401(k) basics

17 Mar

Enrolling in a 401(k) plan is a great way to save money for retirement at any point in your professional career, as well as a key aspect of employee benefits management. However, before getting started, it's important to understand exactly what a 401(k) is, what to expect and how to get the greatest contribution benefits.

What is a 401(k) plan?
A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan that helps employees steadily put money away for retirement. These programs have many different components, and here's what you need to know:

  1. Both public and private for-profit companies offer 401(k) plans. Some employers will allow you to set up a 401(k) plan immediately after you start working, while others will enforce a waiting period of usually one month to one year before you are eligible.
  2. A percentage of your paychecks will be put into savings. Before you receive each paycheck, a designated percentage will be deducted and set aside in a separate 401(k) account. 
  3. Some employers offer a company match. The company match refers to the amount that an employer contributes to 401(k) accounts. Companies will match up to a certain percentage of your contribution – usually 3 to 6 percent of your paycheck – which helps your 401(k) grow even more.
  4. The maximum amount you can put into your 401(k) changes each year. The cost-of-living index and inflation are taken into account when considering this number. According to the IRS, the maximum amount you can contribute to your 401(k) plan increased from $17,500 to $18,000 in 2015.
  5. The IRS also imposes a "catch-up contribution" limit.  If you are 50 or older, you may be eligible to add an additional $6,000 to your 401(k) on an annual basis, according to the IRS.
  6. Enrolling in a 401(k) plan will reduce your taxable income base. Money designated for your 401(k) is taken before state and federal income taxes are applied to your paycheck. This will reduce your take-home pay, but also require you to pay less money in taxes.
  7. The money in your 401(k) account is not taxed until you start making withdrawals. As you will likely have no income during retirement, your personal tax rate will be lower than when you were working, and you will therefore owe less money to the IRS.
  8. You can start accessing your money as early as age 59 and one-half.  Prior to that age, you will be subject to an early withdrawal penalty. However, if you become completely disabled or are over age 55 and have been let go by your employer, you will be exempt from the penalty.
  9. You must start withdrawing from your 401(k) by age 70 and one-half. If you are still a full-time employee with the company that sponsors your plan, you are exempt from this rule.
  10. If you leave your current employer, there are options for what to do with your 401(k). Typically, there are four things you can do: Withdraw your entire balance as a cash payout; roll your account balance over into an IRA; roll your account balance over to a plan with your new employer; or, if allowed by the employer, leave the balance where it is.

Why is this a good savings option?
One of the largest benefits of having a 401(k) plan is how simple it is to start and maintain. After the initial enrollment, you are not required to do any additional work unless you want to make changes to the contribution amount.  It is completely separate from your standard savings or checking accounts, so you will be able to consider larger purchases like homes, cars or vacations without being tempted to dip into your retirement savings. 

HR in the hospitality sector: Part 2

16 Mar

The hospitality sector is unlike any other: with long hours year-round, large numbers of staff members and a relatively high turnover rate, it can be difficult for HR departments to keep up with hiring and talent management needs.

This is especially true when it comes to large-scale hirings. When an organization is about to enter the busy season or open a brand-new location, it will require plenty of new team members to ensure everything runs smoothly when patrons flood through the doors. Hiring isn't easy even under the best of circumstances – it requires skill and a lot of patience to find candidates who will not only do the job well, but fit into the company culture and contribute positively. This challenge is magnified when it comes to the mass hiring the hospitality industry does fairly regularly, but it is possible to streamline this process to ensure it's efficient and leaves a company with only the best applicants.

  • Shorten the hiring cycle: No HR manager wants to feel as though he or she didn't have enough time to thoroughly vet candidates and choose the ideal ones, but a hiring cycle that's too long only hurts a business – your top choices could have found other jobs by the time you offer them roles. Cut tasks wherever possible for HR employees – anything that can be automated with human resource solutions should be. This allows HR personnel to focus more on hiring and less on the day-to-day paperwork that could be taking up extraordinary amounts of time.
  • Consider employee referrals: Your organization may already have an employee referral program that rewards staff members who send successful hires your way, but make sure it's widely known and that all teams know you'll be hiring on a large scale in the coming weeks or months. 
  • Identify the top skills that matter: Your employees will need to be able to do a lot of things, but what are the top two or three characteristics or skills they have to have to be successful in the role? Narrow down your list of nine or 10 qualities an applicant must have substantially, and you'll find yourself with more people suited to the positions that are available. 
  • Do some homework on past hires: Have several of your most successful previous hires all come from the same companies, school or internship program? Look for a similar background when reviewing new applications, as these past experiences could have instilled a common work ethic in these individuals.

Retaining talent
When you're hiring new employees – especially on a large-scale level – the last thing you want to think about is many of them turning in notice in a few months. But this is something every HR professional has to keep in mind – after all, Deloitte estimates turnover in hospitality could be as high as 31 percent.

To keep employees from leaving for greener pastures, where they think they can hone their skills and better develop, put your company ahead of the game and offer to help them grow their soft skills from the very start. 

  • Emotional intelligence: Unlike IQ, EQ can be improved over time, and it's the ideal skill to help employees in the hospitality industry develop. EQ, or an employee's self-awareness, social awareness and relationship building skills, play a key role in connecting with patrons and coworkers. The Harvard Business review suggests that meditation and relaxation can be beneficial in improving this skill, but enhancing someone's ability to cope with rocky situations may be better. Try putting employees in a role-playing situation with another team member pretending to be a difficult customer and provide feedback on how their reaction needs to change.
  • Time management: Some employers feel younger employees especially struggle to manage their time. Devices like smartphones and tablets have made it easy for them to get distracted and flit from task to task without finishing anything. Give team members a list of things to do by the end of their shifts, and if they haven't completed it ask how they structured their day and broke up the time to see where they went wrong.
  • Communication: Again, some business leaders think this is an area in which more junior employees are lacking. Face-to-face communication is infinitely important, especially when individuals are dealing with patrons in the hospitality industry, and must be developed and enhanced. Observe how staff members behave during in-person interactions and offer feedback on what they've done well and where they need to improve.

By helping recruits develop these skills over the long term, you're giving them the tools they need to eventually ascend into a leadership position, and reducing turnover while you're at it. Talent retention depends on ensuring employees are engaged and developing valuable skills, and being proactive in this respect means you're grooming your organization's next generation of leaders.

Switch to our mobile site