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Commute time affects employee performance

14 Aug

Human resources departments face a lot of questions in the hiring and onboarding process. Strategic human resources management requires that you pay attention to any factors that may have a negative impact on productivity. For instance, one element many companies don't consider is the effects of a long commute on employee retention. Should businesses take commute time into account during hiring decisions?

Drawbacks of long commutes
Many companies have noted a long commute leads to increased turnover. There are a number of potential reasons for this. For instance, travel to and from work considerably cuts into an employee's free time. Gas and other transit costs also diminish an employee's income. According to Safe Workers, there are other ways a long commute can damage an employee's well-being. Workers may become stressed about balancing their time between the office and their families. This anxiety may take its toll on their health and performance levels.

Naturally, employers experience drawbacks when employees face long commutes. According to ERE Media, extensive travel time may lead to more frequent absences and lateness, poor performance and increased turnover.

Identifying turnover problems
Analytics can help companies identify where turnover issues are coming from. Undercover Recruiter highlighted the story of Gate Gourmet, a catering company operating out of Chicago's O'Hare Airport. The company experienced extremely high turnover and wondered whether commute times had to do with it. After looking over data in its employee management system and other information, it determined that retention was directly tied to employees' distance from the airport and how easy it was to reach public transit from their residences. The business was able to adjust its recruiting and hiring strategies accordingly and reduced turnover to just 27 percent, down from the initial 50 percent. Other companies can take similar measures to determine whether commutes are having an impact on retention. If so, there are a number of approaches businesses can take to approach this problem.

Dealing with the commute issue
HR managers may choose to simply limit hires to those who live relatively close by. However, before immediately ceasing to hire anyone who doesn't live within a certain radius of the business, do some more background work. ERE Media found that the impact of a commute may differ based on specific positions.

There are other ways to approach the problem as well. For instance, you can provide incentives for staff to live nearby. Some companies give out yearly bonuses for employees who live within a set number of miles from the office. Another incentive that is easy to implement is giving staff the opportunity to work remotely. This solves many of the issues associated with a long commute. Another option, as Safe Workers pointed out, is to offer flexible scheduling. For instance, if the employees are allowed to make their own schedules, they may be able to adjust their time to avoid rush hour traffic, which may add time onto an already lengthy commute.

HR managers can suggest strategies to deal with worker commutes and help increase worker morale and efficiency.

Unique benefits ideas

14 Aug

Workplace benefits are often some of the top reasons workers choose to stay at a company. Health insurance, paid time off and sick days rank high on that list, but there are a number of other relatively cost-effective benefits employers could offer. In fact, according to the Society of Human Resources Management, 35 percent of HR staff said their employers had increased benefits offered between 2014 and 2015.These advantages could also operate as employee engagement ideas.

Health and fitness benefits
Many workplaces provide benefits that encourage employees to stay fit. As an added plus for your company, it may be able to reduce health care benefit costs, SHRM noted. One common way to approach fitness is to reimburse staff for a portion of their gym memberships. You can also opt to have a small fitness center onsite for staff to use. Some companies take this one step further and include coaching and training in the package as well.

Education and professional development
The opportunity to gain new skills and build up their resumes is invaluable to many employees. Employers may offer flexible scheduling for employees who might be pursuing a degree. For Starbucks' College Achievement Plan, the coffee chain partnered with Arizona State University to provide eligible staff free college tuition toward their Bachelor's degree. It's also important to invest in professional development for staff, for instance, by paying for certifications and training.

Commuter packages
Traveling long distances to work, whether by car, rail or public transportation, adds up considerably. Why not reimburse workers for fees associated with travel? This perk also widens the talent pool by providing an incentive for more people to apply even if they live relatively far away. In addition, according to Entrepreneur, payroll taxes don't apply because commuter benefits are "tax-free transportation fringe benefits."

Paid sabbaticals
Vacation time is a ubiquitous office benefit, but some businesses offer even more. After a set amount of time working with the company, offer the opportunity to take an extended vacation of one month or more. One week at the beach certainly provides some rest and relaxation, but a longer leave of absence gives staff the opportunity to truly travel or pursue their hobbies. Entrepreneur noted how social networking platform MeetUp allows three entire months of sabbatical for employees who have been with the company more than seven years. 

Bring your pet to work
This one may not be suitable for every business environment, but if you can swing it, allowing well-behaved pets in the office is a huge plus for many employees. Forbes wrote about how Trupanion, a pet insurance company, allows pets in the office every day and also extends pet insurance to staff. In an interview with the publication, CEO Darryl Rawlings said there are more than 80 dogs and cats in the office each day.

Concierge services
Dealing with day-to-day chores like changing car oil or dropping off dry cleaning take time and energy. Entrepreneur pointed out how some companies offer to run these errands on behalf of staff. The goal is to help employees obtain a better balance between work and home life. You might want to consider other helpful services for those trying to balance a family and a full- or part-time job, such as providing on-site daycare.

Workplace benefits contribute to employee engagement and shouldn't be overlooked, and unique offerings go a long way to attract awesome talent. HR can help keep benefits packages effective by being sure to communicate to staff what benefits they have access to, SHRM suggested. Also be sure to obtain feedback about your current benefits programs. Do staff members use them? Could they be improved?

How HR can impact employee engagement

27 Jul

Everyone knows how important employee engagement is. However, human resources professionals often feel cut off from the day-to-day operations of their companies, making it hard for them to have an impact on engagement. Here are a few ways HR departments can have a positive impact on employee engagement:

Feedback mechanisms
Despite the fact that managers have more direct contact with employees, HR likely has more insight into engagement levels. It's generally the duty of HR to conduct surveys and ask for feedback from staff. This often means the HR department is the first to see potential problems among staff. HR staff should pass on any important information to direct managers and use their overall perspective to increase morale across the company.

Train managers
According to HRZone, most employees agree that their managers have significant influence over their engagement levels. Employees struggling with bad managers may lose some of their commitment to the business. To avoid this kind of situation, HR should work with managers to teach them some skills that will increase engagement. For instance, make sure they check in with their employees frequently so they know how staff are actually doing and make sure their concerns are heard.  

Know employee history 
Out of all departments, HR has access to the most robust information about each employee. Using employee management software, HR can quickly pull up a staff member's history and find out if his or her recent performance adequately reflects what that employee is capable of doing. If workers' performance isn't great, HR might be able to see what has changed in the meantime that may have affected their state of mind. Having a database of employee data is key in identifying potential issues.

Provide incentives
It's hard to keep up the good work when there's no reward for a job well done. HR should work with executives to establish a reward program for employees. According to Human Resources IQ, the incentives could be monetary, such as a raise. Administrators could also offer gift certificates or even paid time off. On the other hand, an incentive could be as simple as demonstrating to individuals exactly how they contribute to the overall team.

Employee engagement is an important driver of success at many companies. Engaged workers simply perform better. It's up to HR to use its unique perspective and insight to help companies support their staff and lead to happier, more productive employees.

The pros and cons of offering employees unlimited PTO

27 Apr

Many businesses these days are considering offering employees unlimited vacation days. Several prominent companies like Netflix and Groupon already give workers as much paid time off as they need. If a corporation is up in the air over whether to take a plunge into the world of unlimited PTO, it's time to weigh the pros and cons of such a decision and learn from others' experiences.

Who is currently offering unlimited PTO?
According to a study conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management, only about 1 percent of companies give their employees unlimited PTO. While some of these are large corporations, others are start-ups or companies experiencing exponential growth that wish to take a more innovative approach to company culture.

It should be noted too that 40 percent of Americans working at businesses with strict or limited vacation policies are still leaving days available at the end of the year. This may be due to the fact that employees aren't sure how employers feel about their taking time off. SHRM noted that two-thirds of U.S. workers experience misleading or negative messages about taking time off.

Inc. magazine also reported that most American workers do not aspire to leadership roles with more responsibilities than their current positions because they strongly value personal time. This is the age of perfecting the work-life balance, and employers must respond accordingly.

What are the pros?
The rationale behind implementing a policy that entitles employees to as many vacation days as needed is simple: Decrease stress, increase productivity. Inc. emphasized the fact that the number of days off each person needs over the course of a year changes depending on health, personal and familial issues. Rather than grow anxious about taking vacation time to have surgery or help out a family member, businesses want their employees to feel comfortable leaving and coming back to work as needed.

Plus, an organization that trusts its workers to take responsibility for assignments increases loyalty. When employees feel more responsible to their team members, rather than just the corporation as a whole, they make the effort to ensure all bases are covered before taking off for a day or two.

Unlimited PTO can also save businesses money and human resources professionals' precious time., another company implementing this type of vacation policy, told SHRM over the course of a single year it saves 52 hours of administrative HR time. A recent Gallup study predicted businesses lose between $450 billion and $550 billion every year due to disengaged employees' behavior. One solution to this lack of enthusiasm is time away from work, which can feel like hitting the refresh button upon returning to the office.

Finally, there's the case of the millennial applicant. The younger generations are keen on maintaining healthy work-life balances and are also not used to the corporate work week schedule. In fact, in an survey of 2,024 people, 69 percent claimed they would be more likely to take a job if it offered unlimited PTO. While millennials certainly want freedom, they enjoy working for businesses that support their lifestyle and personal values. Companies that offer uncapped or flexible PTO options may be more appealing to this emerging workforce. 

What are the cons?
Unlimited PTO is certainly not the right move for every business. There are drawbacks to this set-up that companies should be aware of, including backlash from employees.

SHRM reported that when the Los Angeles Times attempted an unlimited PTO policy, many staffers who had been at the company a long time expressed anger and hurt, as they had saved up many vacation days over the years to cash in on just before leaving the company for good. The situation could have potentially caused a rift between new and existing employees. The same could happen between departments at the same company. Depending on the nature of the corporation, some workers may just have to be present more often than others. If one department can more easily take advantage of unlimited PTO, it poses the potential for tension between teams. 

In addition, if a business is only comprised of a small group of employees or all workers are paid an hourly wage, unlimited PTO may not be the best solution. 

Companies can better manage their employees' PTO schedules, communicate changes to PTO policies and support workers at all stages of the employee life cycle with employee management software

Cloud-based tools coming to the forefront

31 Dec

Cloud-based HR manager software is quickly becoming the normal way that business is conducted, according to Mid-Size Insider. While some question whether cloud-based tools are actually making business more difficult, most people agree that the ability to work from anywhere in the world as long as one has Internet access ultimately benefits a business, so long as the company is still being run efficiently and with the proper regard for its workers.

Cloud-based tools allow employees to check their employee status, their benefits packages, and everything else whenever and wherever they might need this information. For example, a user might access the cloud in order to give proof of employment to someone when he or she is buying a car. Another person may want to double-check to see whether his or her dental coverage extends to oral surgery.

The benefit for those on the HR side of the business is also very large. For example, someone could perform data entry at home, and rather than simply populate an Excel spreadsheet, the information would be sent through the cloud to the actual HR software, which would then span the entire database at once, saving time and letting someone work at their house if he or she chooses.

Cloud-based tools benefit businesses
It is somewhat surprising, given the functionality of the cloud, that some have argued against it. But some people have cited fears that having constant availability to business information may be overwhelming for employees, who might feel compelled to work at all hours, according to the Society for Human Resources Managers. However, according to a study by Softchoice, a technology provider, 74 percent of 1,000 workers who were surveyed said they enjoyed using the cloud and that they were happy with their jobs. Eighty-five percent of those who used six or more cloud apps for work also reported they had an optimal work/life balance.

"The deluge of mobile devices and cloud apps into our personal and professional lives has fueled a common perception that technology leads to overworked, disengaged staff," said Francis Li, vice president of information technology at Softchoice. "On the contrary, our research shows that technology, and cloud apps in particular, have the potential to play key roles in solving long-standing employee engagement challenges."

Having mobile devices allows staff to work whenever they want, as well as any place they choose, even if this means working from home during unconventional business hours. Generally, this gives workers more freedom to choose when and how they want to do their job, which can improve morale at the office.

Need a big reason to get a time and attendance system in place? Read on . . .

13 Oct

The Mistakes of Dealing With MistakesOn 10/8/14, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case that involved time that may or may not be compensable under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In this case, the Supreme Court reviewed a decision in which the Ninth Circuit court ruled that employers, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Portal-to-Portal Act, must compensate employees for the time spent in security screenings at the end of their shifts.

I won’t get into all of the details of the case, but this case proves that it is evident. Compliance with the FLSA continues to remain a top challenge for HR/payroll professionals. In a recent article, the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) reported that inquiries related to the FLSA exceed those of all other federal employment statues other than the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Until some of the rules of these acts are rewritten to make them clearer and easier to understand for everyone who has a stake in the process, it would be in any employer’s best interest to institute an automated time and attendance solution to properly capture and report time.

A time and attendance system allows you to collect, analyze, and take immediate control of your employees’ attendance and labor data. They are invaluable for ensuring compliance with labor regulations regarding proof of attendance. Plus, there are auditing functions contained within them to guarantee accuracy and compliance for payroll information.

While the outcome of this case is still pending, securing a great time and attendance system, instituting best practices, and keeping an eye on pending legislation should be at the top of every HR and payroll professional’s list.

Check out today to gain control over time and labor data.


Small companies can benefit from employee management systems

20 Aug

Surprisingly, even small businesses can benefit from HR manager software. According to Small Business Computing, the typical number of workers in which companies begin to receive a return on their investment after buying software like this is 50 employees.

It may seem counterintuitive that a company buying potentially expensive software would actually save money instead of lose it, but what must be remembered is that human resources management is an area where companies can't afford to make mistakes. There are too many regulations and numbers to keep track of for a company to safely believe it's keeping track of the federal rules as they change – not to mention ensuring every dollar of insurance and each hour of paid time off is accounted for properly.

SBC reported that smaller companies benefited from their human resource management system software primarily because of its time-saving features. Instead of using a spreadsheet and paperwork, which can take hours of time for a human resources office that is better focused elsewhere, companies can invest in a system that makes human resource planning simple and effective.

Employees will also appreciate the ease of applying for paid time off. Without an online system in place, someone would have to send an email, and an HR professional would have to take a look at the spreadsheet to see how many hours the employee has and whether he or she can take the time off or not. Instead, with a computer system, everything is streamlined into one system that automatically shows all the information an employee could want about his or her hours and paid time off, allowing for greater transparency.

What to keep in mind when using an automated HR system
Many larger companies make the mistake of relying too heavily on automated technology for something like assigning shifts for employees. This can be a problem because computers can never be made fully aware of what someone has in his or her schedule that is a special circumstance. According to Quartz, Starbucks introduced a schedule automation device that accidentally gave a woman named Janette Navarro, who has a young son to care for, the hours between the store closing and the store opening. This meant she would stay until the store closed and open it the next day, which resulted in a great deal of trouble. The situation was only resolved when Starbucks took a more proactive stance and allowed supervisors greater control over schedules.

Smaller companies may not have to worry about this issue as much because employees might have a closer relationship to the HR department. The key takeaway is that companies must always have a human component behind the machine to care for issues that crop up and can't be predetermined through a system's algorithms.

Benefits of HR systems
SBC wrote in a separate article that one of the major benefits of HR management software kits is they increase productivity. For example, a feature of some software is it can restrict the websites employees can visit, so they will stop going on Facebook or Twitter, and stick to the business at hand. However, SBC said this can backfire, as employees may become disgruntled or find ways to game the system.

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.

Study: Employers Invest More in Human Resources Systems

11 Jun

HR software continues to be of critical importance for employers to effectively manage their workforce, and a new study by global consulting firm Towers Watson uncovered HR departments have started to make smarter investments in their human resources solutions.

According to the 2014 HR Service Delivery and Technology Survey by Towers Watson, one-third of the 1,048 companies surveyed said they would be investing more HR dollars into the HR systems, with 29 percent saying they will specifically invest in a new core HRMS. Using a modern, innovative human resource system is essential for companies to remain competitive, because it ensures businesses invest in their employees and have the right support in place for decision-making. The Towers Watson survey suggested more employers are starting to understand this important aspect of the workplace, and are looking to strategize their human resources to improve their business overall.

Shifting Perspectives Starting to Increase
Towers Watson's survey found the biggest factors in the boost of investment in HR solutions are time, money and talent - all of which employers are increasingly focusing on. The survey discovered 33 percent of businesses are now using employee engagement information to help them better manage the workforce and improve the company's financial outcomes. The employee engagement survey part of the Towers Watson study was new this year, according to the consulting firm, but has become an essential aspect in how companies gather measurable insights on their business and make changes. The information is often used to prioritize the business's strategies and needs, as well as showcase how well its HR solutions are setting managers up for success.

According to Benefits Pro, the survey noted HR portals and mobile solutions are gaining ground. Sixty percent of companies said they had HR portals this year, which is a rise from only 53 percent saying the same in 2013. Of those without an HR portal, half said they are looking into investing in one. Mobile is also being increasingly embraced by companies, as the survey found 46 percent had mobile HR transactions compared to only 36 percent last year.

In addition, the survey found employers are focusing their future initiatives on HR needs and functions to better support the company. These include manager self-service tools, which the survey saw had a spike in adoption this year, Benefits Pro reported. 

Best Practices for Complying with VEVRAA and Section 503′s New Regulations

28 Apr

When it comes to human resource planning to comply with federal employment legislation, human resources professionals need to stay updated to ensure they don't miss the implementation of new regulations. The U.S. Department of Labor's Officer of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) recently issued final rules under the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA), which deals with the employment of veterans, and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which requires affirmative action for the disabled.

The new regulations for both laws came into effect on March 24, according to DOL, so it's essential that HR professionals waste no time ensuring they are following the requirements. Only those contractors that had a written affirmation action program (AAP) implemented by March 24 are able to have more time to comply with the regulations. In addition, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) noted HR professionals can wait until their next affirmative action plan to start following some of the rules, such as the collection of data.

These two pieces of legislation are meant to motivate contractors to employ veterans and disabled persons without the need to meet quotas, according to SHRM. Each of the final rules require HR professionals to improve their hiring processes to meet certain employment benchmarks, including keeping certain types of data on file for future use and updating language in subcontracts. For human resource planning, this means HR professionals need to make sure they are adhering to each of the final rules, which may require HR departments to take time to work with other departments and adjust their recordkeeping procedures. 

How to Comply with VEVRAA and Section 503
According to DOL, there numerous new regulations that contractors need to follow, and each of these rules require their own methods of compliance. VEVRAA and Section 503 share some updated regulations. Here are just three and how HR professionals can comply with them:

  • Ask for self-identification: HR professionals and hiring managers must ask candidates before and after the offer of employment to self-identify as a veteran or a disabled person. According to The HR Group, this requires HR departments to draft a new section on their employment applications. There are samples from the DOL for this very purpose that HR professionals should utilize if they have not already done so.
  • Maintain quantitative data on the hiring of veterans and disabled persons: HR professionals now need to document and update quantitative comparisons on how many former service members and disabled Americans apply for jobs and the number who are hired, according to DOL. This could require HR departments to continually keep track of this data, and investing in human resource management system software can help.
  • The EO clause: Both VEVRAA and Section 503 now require HR professionals to incorporate the equal opportunity clause within job postings. However, HR representatives can't simply create their own clauses – they must follow the format of their state or local job service. 

VEVRAA has one regulation in particular that is unique to it. Contractors must now establish annual hiring benchmarks. They have two methods to choose from to do this, and HR professionals need to examine whether it is more beneficial for the business to follow the national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force or if using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or veterans' employment data from another departments is best. HR professionals can do this by understanding their company's hiring needs.

Section 503 also has an exclusive requirement: updating the definition of disability. According to DOL, HR professionals now must make the changes set down by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, and so HR professionals need to ensure they are revising their companies' nondiscrimination provisions correctly. HR professionals can draft the new definition and amend nondiscrimination policies by using government resources, such as from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

There are numerous actions HR professionals need to take to adhere to the new VEVRAA and Section 503 regulations, many of which can be made easier with an employee management system. From keeping track of worker data and hiring information to improving the company's affirmative action policies, HR software can help human resource representatives monitor their compliance with VEVRAA and Section 503.

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