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What are the most and least stressful jobs available?

28 Mar

While everyone can claim they experience stress in their careers, some face it more than others due to strenuous work conditions or mentally challenging clients. For example, teachers in elementary school classrooms may face higher levels of stress than someone working a reception desk at a doctor's office. Individuals in labor-intensive positions such as construction, contracting and mechanics may face physical wear and tear, yet team dynamics and satisfying end product results increase their satisfaction levels.

For hiring managers and human resource specialists, it is best to know what jobs are the most stressful physically and mentally for employees. There is no clear-cut answer, but the resulting industries may surprise you:

Most mentally stressful jobs
Surprisingly, some of the most mentally stressful careers include TV news broadcasting hosts, actors, event coordinators, photojournalists and reporters, according to Forbes. The high stress of these positions comes from their need for accuracy, a strong professional look and the pressure of a perfect end product. In the general workplace, CEOs and brand ambassadors face more stress than interns or regular salaried workers.

Least mentally stressful jobs
As said by Business News Daily, the least stressful professions on the market include hairstylist, medical records technician, jeweler, librarian, laboratory technician and information security analyst. These positions are stress-free due to their flexible hours and low-risk industries. Non-seasonal retail positions are also listed as a low-stress industry for many employees.

Most physically stressful jobs
List Surge's top physically stressful jobs include military personnel, construction workers, cocoa farmers, general farmers, fishermen, miners, astronauts, oil rig workers and firefighters. These jobs top the list due to their high physical needs and their long, strenuous hours. Other physically stressful jobs include restaurant busboys, woodcutters, butchers and bodyguards or security services. These jobs are physically demanding due to their need for brute strength to accomplish the task. They also involve technical skills such as proper catch-and-release techniques for fishermen and proper drilling for miners.

Least physically stressful
According to Career Cast, office-based positions and physical therapy are considered the least physically stressful because they involve large amounts of sitting and constant human interaction. Of these, audiologists, dietitians, software engineers, programmers, dental assistants and speech pathologists experience less stress because the work is done primarily in one room and in a quiet setting. However, some careers such as animation, yoga and graphic design can lead to carpal tunnel if the employee does not take frequent breaks to stretch their hands.

Human resources and the year ahead

23 Mar

Human resources is a constantly evolving field. On one hand, new technologies will dramatically affect how employees get hired or dismissed, the efficiency of payroll and other components of HR. On the other, regular changes of regulations mean businesses and HR professionals must remain fully aware of what's happening to labor laws and guidelines. The year 2015 brought some major advances, often coming from issues as widely variable as predictive analytics and the Affordable Care Act. With 2016 fully under way, more advances in technology mean human resource planning should benefit while keeping apace with the times.

2015: The ACA and overtime dominates
If there is one issue that was and will remain a challenge to HR experts and officials, it's the Affordable Care Act. With the full law not taking effect until 2020, there are still some hurdles for employers to consider. In 2015, some of the top stories by HR Benefits Alert talked about the ACA to some degree. For one example, the IRS announced guidelines that would identify who qualifies as a full-time employee and therefore qualify for health insurance provided by the employer. The 30-hour threshold is different from the standard 40 hours used by most companies, which presents potential hazards.

An equally important change was new rules regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act, particularly concerning overtime. In early July, the Department of Labor announced the overtime exemption threshold would go up from $25,660 to $50,400 in annual salary, starting in 2015. Employees receiving a salary below the threshold must be allowed overtime, with some exceptions to specific tasks such as administrative duties.

2016: More agile, personal HR
While the regulations above will cause a stir in 2016, technologies will also play an important role. For example, the HR Trend Institute noted Agile HR practices, which include cutting down on meetings, keeping teams small and using collaboration as the focal point of all functions, will be an important part of changes in 2016 as more companies embrace them.

Another major development will be artificial intelligence. While predictive analytics enabled some understanding of a potential recruit and whether they will last at a company, AI platforms such as IBM's Watson are now creating opportunities to assess people before you even meet them.

On a less technological level, a big trend is taking better care of the employee by using a more personal approach to his or her productivity. For example, there is a greater emphasis on individualization, which intends to treat workers more like clients. In addition, there's a major push away from work-from-home practices in order to make employees more personable and build a stronger work culture.

Measuring quality of hire

2 Mar

Every HR manager understands the importance of hiring great employees. For many businesses, it means a higher rate of turnover if employees are unsatisfactory. There are ways for human resource managers to find the best hires and prevent turnover by using quality-of-hire metrics. These metrics are variables that set one employee apart from another. While no single metric can be applied across all industries, different metrics can be applied for various stages of employment. Here are the different ways human resource managers can use quality-of-hire metrics at their companies today.

What to measure
According to the Society for Human Resource Management, hiring for high-quality candidates is fundamentally different than hiring candidates for the lowest cost. However, metrics such as company enthusiasm often cannot be quantified. According to Inc. magazine, many recruiters complain that they can only measure a quality of hire after seeing their work performance for three to six months. This simply isn't the case. Human resource managers and human resource generalists can measure the quality of their hires using six to eight performance objectives. Skills, behaviors and competencies can be measured in these quantifiable forms as well as team spirit and go-getter attitudes.

How to measure it
When measuring these six to eight performance objectives or skills, behaviors and competencies, use a scale of one through five with one being unsatisfactory and five being the most impressive. These six to eight KPIs can be anything from volume of work produced to satisfaction by managers and teammates. Require each employee to score at least a 20 out of 25 to keep employment after checking in during the first month. Over the course of that month, track their trend of growth or work volume by requiring employees to fill volume logs and meet quotas by the end of a week or month. If a customer has not completed their quotas by the end of the month, they could face termination.

Other options
Many other factors can be taken into account when rating the quality-of-hire for a candidate. If scales are an unsatisfactory form of quantifying data at a company, use an equation in a spreadsheet to measure their productivity. It is also possible to use human resources management software to track the quality of your hires. With these tools, every human resource manager will be able to easily measure and keep the most effective talent for an organization.

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.