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Using evidence-based HR

28 Aug

More companies are trying increasingly outlandish things to improve quality of life for workers and boost culture. Businesses are also tapping into big data to look for correlations between traits and talents to find the best people available. But is all of this ultimately going to work? That's where evidence-based recruiting comes into play.

For a company to have a great HR department, it better have HR manager software. This is something every company needs no matter what size. But besides that element, what can those charged with human resource planning do to ensure their strategies are effective at improving a return on investment?

According to Harvard Business Review, Google has long been a proponent of using "out of the box" ideas to get work done. One such concept is the napping pods system. But Google has been smart enough to use an evidence-based approach, HBR reported, and this means that when investors are asking if the company's expenses coming from people sleeping on the job or making their own espressos with a $2,000 machine are returning anything profitable, the company can back everything up.

An evidence-based solution to work-life balance
The way Google does its evidence-based HR is through a random survey that samples 4,000 employees with two in-depth surveys.  A recent study done in this way looked at work-life balance. According to the study, only 31 percent of people were able to separate their work from their personal lives. The other members of Google found themselves focusing on work even when at home.

The findings indicated that most Google employees wanted to get a better work-life balance and separate their jobs from their personal lives. As a result, the company instituted several programs, such as "Dublin Goes Dark," in which Dublin-based office employees were asked to leave their phones and other devices at the front desk before going home. As a result, stress reduced considerably.

Finding evidence-based solutions to other HR matters
When working out employee management solutions, Abhishek Mittal, an HR Blogger and freelance HR professional, tries to focus on using evidence to solve problems at the companies where he works. In one situation, he was asked to find out whether moving employees horizontally into skill areas outside their general expertise was a good idea. Mittal used an algorithm to find out any correlation between moving horizontally and performance.

"I worked with the client to design an analysis plan - examining patterns of career moves of high-potentials over several years and connected that with their KPI achievements," Mittal wrote. "After a few days of number-crunching, the verdict was out - high-potential employees who moved across businesses achieved an average 7 percent  more than those who moved within their business units."

Using this strategy offers a long-term benefit to any company that wants a real solution with the evidence to back it up.

Finding great leaders

25 Aug

Those who want to hire great leaders need not look much farther for human resources solutions than a few quick boxes to check during an interview. Great leaders often have similar traits that can be found through careful searching and navigation. But you may not need to hire a personable leader for every position. Someone in a management role who looks after HR payroll software may need great organization skills, but they may not need leadership skills.

In other words, hiring great leaders means fitting the right skills to the right job. Inc Magazine refers to this as the three kinds of focus that people in management positions can have.  Some people are focused internally on staffing issues while others reach outward to encompass other businesses and are more focused on the relationships a company has with its customers, partners and supply chain. Hiring for leadership, a good human resources professional should first look toward what kind of leader is necessary for the job.

There is also a third category of leader who focuses primarily on strategy. This kind of leader is the one you want making long-term decisions.

It may be an unusual concept for traditionally-minded companies, but while some people thrive moving in a straight upward path in a company, going from entry level to mid-level to managerial positions, others are automatically better at certain tasks that may be parallel to the original positions they started with. If a company finds someone who can write but would prefer to work with spreadsheets, then don't be afraid to perform a horizontal promotion and move that person somewhere he or she can thrive.

Improving leaders through skills development
Another important step when making leadership choices for a company is how to develop existing managers so they can excel and become better at their jobs. Entrepreneur recommended that managers look inward at their accomplishments and ask what they have done well so far and what they can improve on.

They should also focus on bettering those around them, according to the article. Companies with strong mentoring programs will likely have a stronger and more cohesive work culture. They will also foster loyalty between mentor and mentee, which can lead to a greater level of professionalism and discipline.

Finally, looking inside of oneself and asking about motivations is a key point. A person ideally should work to better the company rather than his or her own career. The company should be of paramount importance for leaders.

Training management is critical

22 Aug

Management training is a crucial step for companies that choose to promote from within rather than hire from without. When it comes to human resource planning, this strategy can sometimes be a way to let culture grow in a business so people who have already been indoctrinated in a company's message and method of operations are moving upward into managerial roles and directly educating the next generation of staffing. This is in opposition to creating seminars or showing in a guidebook how a culture is supposed to operate. One may find that culture is better cultivated through the direct teaching by management to employees rather than from reading about it or learning about it in another way. Direct experience has always been a great method for people to learn things.

Business Law Review cites the example of GEICO, which hires most of its managers from entry-level workers who have simply moved upward in the business after having grown there over the course of many years.

In order to train staff that may not have gotten a degree in business management or otherwise have experience in certain important business concepts like finance or accounting, the company offers something it calls GEICO University. This program is in addition to a tuition reimbursement program that it gives to full-time associates.

Companies without the resources for college-training can also teach managerial skills
According to Forbes, one way to train managers without having a large budget is to hire people with teaching experience. In the example Forbes gives, a business that works heavily with the military makes a point of hiring leadership with experience at TOPGUN, the Navy's military flight school. These are people who are trained educators that left the military to seek civilian jobs. Because they already know how to teach, the company makes it part of those people's jobs to educate managers-in-training on a weekend or during off-time hours as a kind of informal class.

Even when a company doesn't have any teachers, it can pick experts who already work for a company to help mentor managers in a particular skill set, according to Forbes. For example, people from an IT security background can teach managers about good security rules of thumb, while members of the finance or accounting team can bring managers up to speed about those areas of interest without the company needing to hire an extra staff member or reimburse a person's college courses.

However a company chooses to hire managers, it will likely need to train them – even if this doesn't involve going back to school or building a special program.

Two approaches to management and HR

19 Aug

Management and human resources work together at IKEA, according to HC Online, and this allows the company a greater level of success than it otherwise would have enjoyed.

The plan to integrate HR and management was something planned from the beginning.

"Thirty years ago, [IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad] never imagined or constructed an organization of 'HR' people, but rather outlined a philosophy that put the growth of people and the growth of the business on an equal footing," IKEA HR Manager Jessica Murphy explained in an interview with HC Online.

Human resources are linked with management in a number of ways at IKEA. One such way is by having weekly meetings in which the two sides exchange ideas.

Why companies hate HR
This goes against many other leaders in the business field, who have written articles describing a desire to get rid of HR or change it in some way, according to Forbes. The theory is that HR is based on a collection of different regularity experts, people who are good at employee management systems and people who know how to use payroll software programs. In other words, the whole thing is unrelated to the act of managing people and making money, and therefore should be outsourced.

The two approaches – IKEA's approach and the one described by Forbes – show the discrepancies that can happen when companies don't understand what HR does. If a company's management doesn't know HR, then the human resources team must be sure to communicate this. HR is about much more than doing paperwork.

Introducing big data to an HR program

6 Aug

Using big data to select candidates is quickly becoming the new norm in the human resources field. Many companies are building human resource information systems that can scour the internet and find resumes. The software can analyze people based on things such as where they went to college and how much work experience they have. In the end, the software can make an estimate of how well such a potential candidate would work for a certain company.

A tool like this expands the reach of an ordinary hiring advertisement because HR professionals can even find people who have never heard of a company and include them in the pool of candidates used for human resource planning.

People analytics
The fancy word for this new way of doing HR is people analytics, according to The Washington Post. It means using big data to find correlations with various fields and job requirements. Some of the results might be surprising. According to the Post, for example, there is no correlation between being a skilled programmer and going to college. In fact, many skilled programmers didn't go to college. People analytics can determine this by looking at major companies and the backgrounds of the programmers who work there.

Using computers to determine whom to hire may seem like a less-than-ideal way of doing human resource planning, but according to the Post, a quarter of the people who get hired through the traditional process of posting a resume to a job site and then coming in for an interview last at their companies for less than one year.

HR professionals are using these new software programs to turn this number around so the vast majority of hires stick with a company for the long term.

Advice for those seeking to build a big-data HR program
Enterprise Apps Today recently offered some advice for those seeking to integrate big data into their existing human resource systems. The basic idea is to start small and figure out a way to bring data analysis into the equation slowly.

Big companies can take advantage of a large hiring budget to hire statisticians to crunch numbers on a larger scale. If a company can afford it, building a dedicated big-data team not only for the hiring process but also for analyzing performance of existing employees might be a good idea. Smaller companies may want to start with preexisting software and work their way toward further incorporation of data analysis as workers gain experience working with the specialized computer programs.

Enterprise Apps Today specifically advocates using software for smaller companies, since these packages often come with the advice of a dedicated team who will help human resources staff integrate data-based solutions software through an information hotline.

"Vendors have spent years developing vertical-specific online services and tools to help their customers make the most of their data, which means they're ready to use and already designed to help specific kinds of businesses," said Chad Carson, co-founder and vice president of products at Pepperdata, a company that makes big-data software.

The bottom line is for companies to take it slow and thoroughly understand each step of their integration of big data into the ordinary business of running human resources for a company.

Employers leaning more toward target date retirement funds

30 Jul

One of the major shake-ups in retirement planning has many businesses now using target date retirement funds (TDFs). However, many workers are still uncertain about their employee benefits management and how the new system works to their benefit and if it's in a company's best interest to use them.

TDFs have been around since the 1990s, but have become more widely used in the last few years because they give workers the option to invest more conservatively while employees get older, Benefits Pro reported.

The new system strongly favors equities and stocks when workers are younger and gradually moves to bonds and fixed income options once employees get closer toward their retirement age, the Motley Fool reported.

However, after the stock market crashed in 2008, many found out that TDFs took a hit as well, which made it nearly impossible to see a return on investment when workers were just two years away from retirement, the source reported.

Jake Adamczyk, associate vice president for Aurum Wealth Management Group, explained that if companies continue to stick with TDFs, employers should still comply with current regulations, but something should be done if they are going to be used as a "quantified default investment alternative," the source reported.

"The alternative is employees or participants investing on their own and all the studies done, all the research says professional guidance is better than folks doing it by themselves," said Adamczyk, according to Benefits Pro.

TDFs grow rapidly after market settles
The importance of saving for retirement is only growing since many workers are nearing their expected retirement date with little funds saved, USA Today reported. Currently, TDFs account for $670.6 billion in total assets, which is more than four times higher than the $160 billion reported at the end of 2008. One of the biggest concerns for businesses implementing these plans is if their workers will have too much equity exposure when they are getting close to the targeted retirement date, Barron's reported.

Generally, younger workers will see equity allocation make up around 90 percent of their funds, while it will slowly move to 50 percent or less when workers are nearing their retirement date, the source reported. TDFs have seen success since the market has rebounded and several industry observers believe it's not a bad idea to shift 401(k) plans to TDFs since it's a good investment.

"Target-date funds are a better choice for almost everyone than trying to manage their own retirement portfolio," said Joe Nagengast, a spokesperson for Target Date Analytics, a retirement plan consulting firm, according to financial investment publication Barron's. "With a target-date fund, you get a rational investment approach, broad diversification and a strategy for lowering risk as the retirement date approaches."

Employees looking for unique options
There are three major companies that cover 70 percent of the TDF market: Fidelity, Vanguard and T. Rowe Price, Barron's reported. Specifically, Fidelity currently has $186 billion target-date funds at the end of May 2014, which has grown since businesses are comfortable having them manage retirement-plan assets.

"A lot of what we see with smaller plan sponsors is that they're skeptical that they can find an investment manager who can beat the market over time after fees," said Greg Carpenter, CEO of Employee Fiduciary, a firm that controls 401(k) plans, according to the source. "They're choosing index target-date funds. That gives their employees a fighting chance to be retirement ready."

Experts believe that TDFs are a "sound alternative" for several 401(k) plan investors, but employees are going to want to have their funds specifically tailored to their unique needs, U.S. News and World report said. In some circumstances, workers are finding out that their TDF plan is not specifically adjusted to the date they wish to retire, which can change retirement plan outlooks.

Employee Retention Remains a Top HR Concern

21 Jul

HR professionals know that recruiting talented workers is just the beginning of their employee management duties, with retention being one of the core workforce elements every HR department needs to focus on. According to a recent poll by Human Resource Executive (HRE) Online, HR professionals continue to see numerous challenges, with employee retention being one of them. 

HRE Online's "What's Keeping HR Up at Night?" poll received more than 400 responses from HR professionals, and found retaining workers came in at No. 3 on the list. Employee engagement and productivity earned the top spot with 36 percent of responses, while development leadership talent secured No. 2 with 28 percent. But retaining key talent was considered by 24 percent to be a key challenge. In fact, 37 percent of respondents said they gave their concern about losing top performers a 4 out of 5, showing many are very concerned about their retention of crucial workers.

Rebecca Ray, executive vice president of human capital management practice The Conference Board, told HRE Online that keeping workers at the organization is important for every business, large or small.

"There is no greater challenge than the need to have high-performing, engaged employees and effective leaders to deliver on a business strategy," Ray said. "This is the same in every region, in every market, in every industry."

According to an article in TLNT, HR professionals don't have to let their worry about employee management stop them from getting their needed eight hours of shuteye. There are numerous strategies to increase retention, and many have a talent management element to them. Recruiting the right workers in the first place is one of the easiest ways to improve retention, but providing workers professional development opportunities, rewarding and recognizing strong performance and promoting strong leaders can also make a difference to retention. 

Tapping into the Talented Millennial Generation

21 Jul

Millennials, also called Generation Y, is the latest generation in the workplace, and many recruiters and HR professionals have been looking for ways to recruit the most talented from this generation and what works best to keep them at the organization. Many companies have tried different tactics to drive recruiting and engagement from this age group - from offering fun competitions to giving them flexible work hours, employers are taking a lot of approaches to ensure their human capital is strong. Before HR professionals start implementing new ideas and strategies to recruit, engage and retain workers of this generation, they need to first understand what has already worked.

Determining What Resonates with Millennials
To some, millennials act entitled and jump from job to job, but Brent Grinsteiner – a recruiter at Manpower who also happens to be part of this generation – thinks negative perceptions about these workers overshadow their true benefits. Grinsteiner wrote millennials have experiences that are unique from other generations, and they are often driven to succeed and welcome professional development. They do best when they are given clear but concise information and are able to communicate through digital channels, such as email. LinkedIn's Lydia Abbot noted in an article that millennials are also strong multitaskers and collaborators who desire career advancement and a work-life balance. Grinsteiner wrote HR professionals need to understand that to reach out to millennials – whether they are employed at the company or are currently involved in the recruitment process – is that they want communication with their managers and to feel a sense of accomplishment from their tasks.

Therefore, best practices for acquiring and keeping top millennial talent often revolve around taking advantage of these attributes and leveraging their existing experience and abilities. Here are just a few best practices:

  • Recruit where millennials are: Many millennial workers use social media and online job boards to look for jobs, but they also often try to network both online and through their mentors. 
  • Make professional development fun: Gamification is one way to train and educate millennials, but collaborative training sessions can encourage teamwork and also be ben‚Äčeficial. 
  • Offer them opportunities to challenge themselves: Most millennials want to advance in their careers and develop new skills, so assigning them projects that can help improve their abilities and experience can be a great way to encourage loyalty.

One company that has been innovative with millennial employee engagement is Marina Maher Communications (MMC), which ended up creating a competition among the members of its workforce. According to an article in Forbes, MMC asked all of its employees to compete but collaborate with one another to raise money for the nonprofit She's the First. What resulted was a more creative and social company culture. The millennials in the workforce used their existing abilities, passion and resources to start fundraising, despite having no previous experience doing so. They were able to succeed at their goals because the company found something their millennial workers were passionate about. The Forbes article noted the company took away from this experience that millennials are resourceful and innovative, and the company culture has changed for the better because of it.

Key Insights Into Offering Tuition Reimbursement Programs

16 Jul

Developing workers' skill sets and knowledge can help their employers become more successful and have greater shares in the market. HR professionals are key when it comes to the talent management of the workforce because they are integral in providing training and education to workers. However, many workers often need to go back to school, or have gone to college and are in high demand among employers. Offering tuition reimbursement can encourage employees to gain the knowledge they need to help the business and also lead to acquiring more talent within the company. Even though these programs aren't new, they are seeing a revival, and employers and their HR professionals need to establish whether it is in the best interest of the company to invest in a tuition reimbursement program.

The Benefits of Offering These Programs
Tuition reimbursement initiatives are becoming more popular. One of the most cited models for this type of program is the one used by Starbucks. The Hill noted Starbucks offers full tuition for workers who choose to study at Arizona State University, and there are 40 programs Starbucks allows them to decide from. The program specifically aims to get those workers who are partially done with their degrees to finish their education.

According to an article in Forbes by finance expert Luke Landes, employers can gain much from providing workers with this type of benefit. Landes said he took advantage of this employer's tuition reimbursement program specifically to help him with his day-to-day tasks. Yet just better performance isn't the only gain – these programs can help with employee retention and loyalty, and can even encourage stronger talent acquisition and management. This is because higher-quality workers tend to be attracted to companies that value these initiatives.

Tuition Reimbursement Initiatives Should Be Part of Company Culture
These programs shouldn't just be an add-on to the company's current talent management and professional development initiatives – they should be an integral part of the entire company culture. Because worker quality is critical to employers' success, their training and development should be as well. The company culture should drive workers to improve and be better, but only making tuition reimbursement programs open to certain employees or not giving workers information on these initiatives can cause talent management to stagnate at the organization. HR professionals should look to ensure all workers understand the benefits of taking advantage of the company's tuition reimbursement perk. 

Wearable devices could boost employee engagement

14 Jul

Human resources departments are beginning to use more technology to boost employee engagement and motivation. A new report from the International Data Corporation explained by the year 2018, there were will be nearly 112 million wearable computer devices purchased by not only consumers, but employers and businesses as well. In 2014, the report expects 19 million wearable devices to be sold, which would be a nearly 79 percent growth from 2018 figures.

What devices are being used?
Businesses have found wearable devices can work effectively as a healthcare or medical device. Human resources are able to keep productivity levels up with wellness programs, which wearable devices would benefit workers. Wearable technology is used to measure or track height, weight, blood pressure, pulse, sleep patterns, cholesterol and glucose, the Media Post reported.

Wearable devices can include bands, watches or even eyewear that could record or track personal information. According to the source, wearable devices make it easier for doctors to access more information about a person's medical history or what prescriptions they are using.

Wearable devices could also remind workers when to take certain medication, track calorie levels and send alerts when to exercise or when blood sugar levels get dangerously high, the source reported.

"These devices can tell you under which conditions your workforce is most productive, under which conditions your workforce is most alert and what makes them happier and more satisfied in their jobs," said Dr. Chris Brauer, a professor with the Institute of Management Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, according to Bloomberg BNA.

Legal debate over wearable devices
Employers looking to provide wearable devices for workers are causing a lot of debate. Businesses sometimes offer rewards and incentives to lose weight or to eat healthier so their workers live longer and medical costs for controllable diseases are lower.

However, businesses have to make sure their employees acknowledge wearable devices are fully optional and will not affect their job whatsoever if they decline to participate in any sort of wellness program, Bloomberg BNA reported. Personal health information should remain disclosed for workers if they choose so.

"Organizations are going to be in extremely difficult positions in choosing between being able to harness the power of data that could give them a competitive advantage and the implications of requesting or requiring from their employees that they reveal behavioral data that extends well beyond the scope of traditional workplace studies," said Brauer, according to Bloomberg BNA.

Employers benefiting from additional information
Some businesses are seeing benefits to giving their workers wearable devices. The wearable devices are providing businesses with additional health information that might not have been accessible before, Bloomberg BNA reported.

"The real problem is employers often don't know what people are doing at work, and that's the core of business so we need to measure that," said Ben Waber, the co-founder, president and CEO of Sociometric Solutions, a company that makes devices to measure movements in tone of voice, according to the source. "It will enable subtle changes in the work environment. It will help organizations identify what shapes interactions and then change the environment to support those interactions."

The devices are also proving to be of value in terms of saving companies money on healthcare costs. According to the Vitality Group, through a five-year study, hospital costs fell by 6 percent for those who were using wearable devices to track health-related issues that were once inactive. For those who were active the entire time through the entire five-year research, those participants were able drop their hospital costs by 16 percent.

Data could be used to figure out what improves productivity 
Employers will also be able to store information in the cloud to help get a better understanding of which health conditions need the most improvement. It could also increase job satisfaction when companies can clearly understand what health-related issues boost or hurt work productivity.

However, Brauer said the accuracy of the information collected all depends on the duration of time in which workers wear the devices and how much employee information is recorded, BNA Bloomberg reported.

When companies are able to keep their employees more involved with their health, workers begin to feel more appreciated by their employer. Retention rates and employee engagement will increase with more focused workers who are eating healthier and paying more attention to their well-being.

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