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How to handle layoffs

23 Oct

Downsizing a company is unfortunate but sometimes necessary. Morale can be especially difficult to manage at a time when no one knows whose jobs will remain after the dust settles. According to legal advice website Nolo, some companies don't even tell their employees that layoffs will happen. The problem with that is sometimes they find out anyway, and if they don't hear it from the employers, it might make it even scarier. Additionally, some companies practice in the spirit of open communication, so they want their employees to know what's going to happen.

How to explain the situation
To avoid panic, it would be best for the employee management system team to follow some simple precautions, Nolo cited the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires that major companies notify workers of mass layoffs at least 60 days in advance. Additionally, it would help if the CEO and other major members of the C-suite get involved in the situation. Employees might otherwise feel jilted otherwise, since layoffs are such a big decision.

Keeping order in the face of a looming mass layoff
By keeping things impersonal, Human Resources IQ reported, companies can avoid at least some of the drama associated with bringing people into a room and telling them they won't be needed anymore. It will naturally and unavoidably be a painful process with many employees wondering how exactly one person was spared while another wasn't, and recognizing the impact will help to make people feel that the company is being responsible and sensitive to the feelings of everyone.

Additionally, offering severance support to those who are leaving will also make a positive impact on the people who are staying. They will see the company cares about what it's doing – that it doesn't treat its employees as replaceable entities but as important people with mortgage payments and other challenges.

Mustering the remaining staff to make them feel better
Those who will stay behind to continue working will likely be frazzled by the number of people who have left – many of them friends and all of them colleagues who once worked side-by-side with the people who remained. The best thing to do is to think of the people who are staying as new recruits, and bring them back with reinforced attention and support. According to Human Resources IQ, it may be the time to ask employees what they think the company should do for the future, now that the business has embarked on this new chapter.

OSHA begins process of changing PELs

22 Oct

Companies that work with hazardous chemicals should stay on top of the most recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration news. According to Environmental Leader, the agency has called its exposure standards "dangerously out of date." As such, it is beginning the process of revising its chemical exposure regulations by talking with various stakeholders in the industry, such as unions and other groups that take care of worker rights.

At issue is the number of chemicals that have come into existence since the first rules were made about the various levels of concentration different substances can reach in the air around workers. It must come up with new laws that cover everything that has happened since the most recent updates. There are currently in existence proposed, non-enforceable permissible exposure limits for the substances under scrutiny, but these are subject to what EL calls "complex analyses," which might change the end result of the proposed PEL​s.

OSHA has begun the process of asking for public comment for its PELs.

According to OSHA Administrator David Michaels, reported by Tire Business, there are 500 PELs set by OSHA, but there are tens of thousands of chemicals that may be hazardous to workers. Additionally, these PELs have largely been left the same since 2000 – only about 30 updates to the PELs have been made in the past 14 years.

New ways of addressing worker safety
OSHA wants to ask its stakeholders not only for help about setting PEL standards but also help coming up with ways of serving the working community better, said Michaels.

"This effort is aimed not just at standards, but at new approaches," Michael said. "Every chemical firm says it has standards stronger than OSHA's. We want to look at the issues and come up with approaches that may be regulatory, but may not be. This should prove effective before we even issue new standards."

Another group that keeps watch over PELs is the American Industrial Hygiene Association, which praised OSHA's decision to update its limits to more appropriate levels as per the new research that has become available since 2000.

"Updating the PELs has been, and remains, the number one public policy issue for our members," said AIHA President-Elect Daniel H. Anna. "The publication of this request for information marks a step forward for AIHA and other stakeholders who have long pushed for this update."

Those in the business of finding human resource solutions to problems affecting manufacturing companies should keep careful watch over the latest developments in OSHA's rulings.

How to handle harassment and discrimination complaints

22 Oct

Addressing harassment in the workplace is a matter of great importance. According to Nolo, a non-profit legal information website, if employee management handles harassment badly, it can lead to costly legal battles and investigations by the government. All complaints must be handled carefully and with the proper consideration, or else companies may put themselves at liability.

Nolo recommended that HR leaders treat complaints with respect and compassion, keeping an open mind about what happened. Employees who speak about an issue have likely put a lot of thought into their complaint and probably feel anxious or worried about what they have done – it hasn't been something that was made lightly, and therefore, companies should address the  concerns very carefully and as soon as possible. Don't immediately disagree even if the person who was called out for harassment is someone that other people think well of.

Before the complaint is made
Companies should have a harassment policy in place. The policy should address anything that could come up in ways that honor the rights of both the person cited in the complaint along with the individual who made the complaint. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, HR Hero reported, has issued a rule that all workplaces must have an established harassment policy.

Some examples of harassment include, but are not limited to:

  • Offensive comments that are delivered persistently
  • Threats or intimidation
  • Making false accusations
  • Physical assault
  • Sabotaging the victim's work

Additional concerns to address are the work environment. The place where employees work can be called hostile when a responsible person would find it hostile for one or more people. This happens when one or more people create an intimidating or oppressive feeling at work.

Once the complaint is made
Make sure to keep the complaint confidential. Additionally, have it set down in writing. Following that, interview whoever is involved, including bystanders or other people who might have heard something. Ensure the interviews are recorded. If it comes to it, then act on the policy and discipline the person who committed the act.

Failure to act on a harassment policy, or if the policy doesn't correspond with best practices put forth by the EEOC, may cause the government to step in. Once the government is involved, employers must comply with everything the government said. Nolo cited that it may be a good idea to hire a lawyer at this point if one isn't on staff or hasn't been hired yet. The government could issue fines if the law isn't followed to the letter.

Personalizing big data

21 Oct

Recruiting for positions has become difficult for many in the strategic human resource management profession. There are so many complexities having to do with the big data revolution that many haven't begun to adapt to a dramatically different recruiting landscape. As such, many mistakes can be made.

When hiring managers sort through resumes, do they throw away the ones of the people that aren't hired? According to HR Morning, this can be a mistake because such candidates might turn out to be very useful in the future. Keeping track of individuals who didn't get the job can sometimes mean hiring someone for another position later that the person might have been more suitable for. Because the jobs market is so competitive, many potential hires feel overwhelmed, and won't apply again after missing one job opportunity at a place of business. This points to another difficulty with recruiting, which is that, without some way of going out and finding candidates, many companies will be short of adequate hires. Talent is hard to find, whether a company keeps old resumes of good workers or goes out to find others by using big data to search through LinkedIn.

The problem of finding talent is so extreme that HR Morning even recommended creating applications with fewer questions rather than more. The initial theory behind a large roster of questions was that it would weed out disinterested applicants. However, many now fear that those clients might be top performers who already have a lot of options on the table.

Outsourcing your recruitment campaign
Outsourcing your recruitment may not be the only solution that some companies need to find a great hire. In theory, these recruiting firms use big data to collect thousands of applicants, which are then narrowed down until the six or seven perfect candidates are selected. This is all well and good, Talent Circles stated, but what companies really need to do for their job seekers is to mentor and build a relationship with them. This is where many companies move from the sourcing phase of recruiting to the more personal phase. A good recruiting firm will allow companies to contact hires itself and speak with them. It adds a human touch. 

In the end, the best approach may be to hire specialists in big data and follow up the work with individualized phone calls. This promotes a selective process without leaving out potential hires.

The NFL and domestic violence

20 Oct

Recent domestic violence disputes in the NFL have caused many in the human resources field to look toward their own businesses and ask what they themselves are doing about this issue.  According to Human Resources Executive Online, less than a third of of U.S. workplaces have a domestic violence policy. Even those with a policy often focus on protecting the victim and avoid punishment for the perpetrator.

For the NFL, the question is pressing because the company is such a public one. Many are calling for someone to audit the NFL to make sure it is taking domestic violence situations seriously. However, who would audit the NFL? Would it be a major company like a Big Four accounting firm, or would another party have to step forward?

So far, the employee management department at the NFL has appointed four women to review its policies on domestic violence and sexual assault. Critics, according to HRE Online, have raised concerns about what they perceive to be the tepid response by the NFL, which originally punished offenders with a two-game suspension. Additionally, according to Forbes, many times the punishments faced by offenders are suspended long enough for them to play in important games. Players can appeal to have their suspensions removed, because of due process, this can often work. Forbes also cited that the players' union often supports these actions.

Creating a domestic violence policy
Whether or not the NFL finds a more appropriate solution to the problem of domestic violence with its players, ordinary companies must also find a way to create solutions that help the victims and punish the perpetrators of domestic violence. HRE Online cited the statistic that 321 women and 38 men were killed on the job by a current or former spouse between 1997 and 2009. Additionally, of the women killed in the workplace, 33 percent were murdered by their former or current partner.

With only 30 percent of employers taking responsibility for domestic violence, many people who have spent time trying to escape their spouses because of injuries, finding a safe house or getting a court-ordered restraining order against their former partner have lost their jobs because of missed days at work or other reasons, according to Forbes.

The challenges of policy-making
One of the difficulties of punishing those who commit domestic violence by firing them is that it may ultimately serve to perpetuate domestic violence, according to U.K. news site My Next Fone. If someone loses his or her job from committing a violent act, then that person may attack his or her partner in anger. Or, a partner may be afraid to come forward because he or she relies on his or her spouse for monetary support.

Those who want to find an existing model for domestic violence solutions may wish to look to the federal government.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has published a document called  "Guidance for Agency-Specific Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Policy" which federal agencies use to resolve disputes relating to those issues. One concern with the plan is that it focuses on an employee's ability to perform his or her job – the government does not want to address what it perceives as a personal problem.

Because of the public nature of the NFL, many will be turning to it to see how it resolves these issues as they become more exposed to the media. If the NFL takes its own problem with domestic violence seriously, then likely other companies will follow suit. The conversations happening at many HR departments right now are primarily due, after all, to the recent domestic violence suspensions that have taken place very publicly.

How to manage telecommuters

16 Oct

Telecommuting is quickly becoming a very typical way for employees to connect with their jobs without leaving their homes. According to a study by The University of Illinois, telecommuters using this form of employee self service can perform as well at home as they can in the office, and sometimes better, Reuters reported. It also improves morale and sometimes encourages people to work longer hours because they can just stay "plugged in" without worry about a commute back and forth.

The trick to a good telecommute policy is to give the employees who telecommute the same things you would give workers who are at the office. One example would be a chance to socialize virtually using a chat room, according to entrepreneur Marten Mickos, who used telecommuting for his 70 global employees, sending information into a central hub via the cloud, CNN cited.

An additional concern raised by Time is whether the job itself is appropriate for telecommuting. There have been some examples of people functioning as office managers on a telecommuting basis, but this may not work all the time because people in the office want to meet their bosses face-to-face. However, for jobs where someone fills out paperwork, such as a tax professional, it may not be necessary to sit in the office and do taxes when someone could bring the forms electronically to their homes and work from there.

Keeping control of the situation
Remember as well as that telecommuters must be held accountable, so don't let someone begin telecommuting until he or she has proven an ability to work in the office very effectively, and then give that person the chance to work from home on a trial run. If your employee can do it, than give him or her the opportunity to do it two or three days a week. Don't give anyone the chance to just disappear from the office without proving he or she can do it and still be working. For those who need to conference call into a meeting, make sure to set that up a few days in advance to be certain it works.

An additional concern is whether the employees will want to be reimbursed for their Internet and phone services. A policy should be in place, even if it is as simple as "nothing will be reimbursed." Additionally, make sure that parents who telecommute and have little children are also ensuring that someone else is home with them to take care of the kids – this is just a safety issue as well as an attention issue.

Venting on social media? The NLRB has employees’ backs

9 Oct

Many consider the National Labor Relations Board to be the governing body in charge of protecting employee and employer rights. The National Labor Relations Act enacted by Congress in 1935 was designed to put into plain text the various safeguards that give employees the ability of collective bargaining and striking, and many of the activities commonly associated with labor unions.

However, the digital age has thrown a bit of a wrench in the straightforward statements originally contained in the 20th century legislation. Specifically, social media is difficult terrain for some employers to navigate in the way they're able to set policy that influences their employees' online behavior. The recent case involving a sports bar and grill clarified the extent to which social networks fall under the protection of the NLRA. It's a case that human resources managers should pay close attention to, especially when they're developing or redefining employee management policies.

The importance of Section 7 of the NRLA
There are portions of the NLRA that are used as a reference when discussing protected speech, collective bargaining and other important employee rights. Nonetheless, Section 7 of the NLRA contains language discusses "concerted activities" as they pertain to mutual aid or protection. Employees have the right to collaborate to improve working conditions. The case involving the sports bar saw this principle applied to social media.

A Facebook discussion as a concerted activity
Four employees of the sports bar and grill held a Facebook discussion about their wages. In particular, they spoke of how they believed they unfairly had to pay state taxes due to accounting errors on the part of the bar owners. The judge in the case ruled in favor of the employees, finding the Facebook discussion, which was held on one of the participant's personal pages, was protected under Section 7 of the NLRA. Despite some of the profane language used on the social network, it wasn't deemed to be defamatory.

As a result, two of the employees, who were fired by the employer for violating the company's online sharing policy, were able to reassume their positions within the company. In addition, the other two individuals who "liked" the comments made by their colleagues were also protected under the NRLA.

What does this mean for employers?
Law firm Seyfarth Shaw indicated employers need to first construct their employee policies regarding online conduct in full purview of the NRLA. In other words, employees must be allowed to discuss their wages, work environment and other work-related matters without fear of dismissal.

How to handle salaries

8 Oct

Only about half of employees believe their fellow workers are being paid in a way that reflects their performance, according to a study by Towers Watson. Additionally, 4 in 10 employees are highly engaged with their work. Although Entrepreneur reported that most employees are happier in a job they find more satisfying for less pay versus a higher paying job that is not as enjoyable, the research by Towers Watson would seem to indicate most people choose work based on salary.

So, who's at fault here? Are employees putting too much of the burden on managers, or are managers not working efficiently enough at finding appropriate salaries? According to Human Resources Executive Online, it's a bit of both. Some managers are able to get away with doing poor work because they aren't properly reviewed by those in a managerial position. Other times, salaries are handled by people who are too far up the chain of command to make accurate decisions.

Employees can't all be star performers
Laura Sejen, global practice leader of rewards for Towers Watson, suggests that most employees are able to do about the same level of work in comparison with other workers doing the same job.

"Put yourself in the shoes of a manager with pay decisions to make," Sejen said in conversation with HRE Online. "On average, people tend to do their jobs well. Some do better and some do worse, but on average, most of your employees fall into what I call the 'steady Eddie' category. [As such,] it becomes difficult to have these conversations with these steady Eddies year after year, it becomes difficult to tell them their merit increase is only about 2.5 percent or 3 percent, because that's what's required to be able to give more to star performers."

Managers must be willing to tell their employees that ultimately not everyone is in a high-performing position where a greater salary would be appropriate. In a best case scenario, the largest bonuses rightly should go to the few workers who truly make a big difference for the company.

How employers can make employees feel valued
Money is a major incentive for getting workers motivated, but ultimately it is not the only tool in a employee management's toolkit. According to Entrepreneur, giving employees an opportunity to make a positive work/life balance for themselves may help inspire them to work harder when they are doing their job, as well as to rest thoroughly when they are not working.

One example of this is to allow employees to customize their work schedule. In theory, employees should be able to work however they want as long as they show up to the appropriate meetings and get work done on time. If giving them the opportunity to work early in the morning and leave early in the afternoon is appropriate, then consider doing that, as it may positively impact their job experience.

Opening up the salary process
A suggestion by HRE Online is to make salaries more transparent by showing how the numbers are generated. Additionally, professionals across different units can work together to identify true high performers and reward them accordingly.

An example cited by Sejen is that if a company only wants to reward the top 10 percent of its employees, then it should evaluate what makes an employee a "top earner," and then make this information well known. After that, it should clearly and precisely evaluate those 10 percent and ensure the number is accurate, so it doesn't grow to 20 percent or shrink to 5 percent.

"One of the best things HR can do [when it comes to payroll] is to shine [a light on the process] by measuring and making visible what is really happening," said Jim Kochanski, a senior vice president with Sibson Consulting.

Building a successful wellness program

3 Oct

Workplace wellness programs are still being studied as far as whether they are effective, with some employee management teams reporting success and others saying that they haven’t seen their expenses reduced. It may be that the type of wellness program has more to do with its success or failure, so that leadership in each company must look closely at what sort of program employees would benefit from the most.

A study by RAND corporation found that about half of all businesses with 50 or more employees have wellness programs. According to the New York Times, most medium-to-large companies spend about $521 per employee on making sure workers stay healthy. Additionally, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that most companies believe their program is working effectively. What is ultimately difficult to gauge is whether this is true or not.

One of the problems with wellness programs is that it’s impossible to know whether someone would have gotten sick with – or without – something in place that encourages employees to exercise or eat right. According to the New York Times, the research may show that wellness programs do not work – or they at least cannot be proven to reduce illnesses.

Engagement a major factor in health programs
A more optimistic report comes from a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, according to Human Resources Executive Online. The research was collected between 2007 and 2011. It looked at 13,627 UPMC employees who were enrolled in the company’s MyHealth chronic-disease management and wellness program. The study also examined 4,448 workers who were employed at another healthcare organization with a different program that did not study chronic diseases and did not help employees manage their health in the same active way as MyHealth.

The study found that MyHealth managed to reduce the annual payouts for medical costs by anywhere from $3,000 to $250 per year per individual. Those who shifted from high risk to medium or low risk saved the most money, but even those who moved from medium risk to low risk also reduced health expenses.

In an interview by HRE Online with Michael Parkinson, who conducted the study, reported that the takeaway is that engagement with each employee is crucial for a proper medical benefits program to succeed.

“[Incentives] are not a silver bullet,” Parkinson said to HRE Online. “They have to constantly evolve to reflect higher levels of engagement.”

Coaching as a way to reduce health costs
A separate article by HRE Online cited the increasing number of companies that are hiring coaches to help with their medical programs. These coaches work directly with employees on their health and help them reach attainable goals quickly. One such coach helped an employee to quit smoking in about half a year.

According to HRE Online, these coaching programs are the ultimate form of an engaged health initiative. Additionally, the programs appear to reduce the cost that employers pay out in the form of health insurance or missed working days.

“In a benchmarking call I recently had with a few employers, their perception is that face-to-face coaching is working,” said LuAnn Heinen, an NBGH vice president and wellness expert, to HRE Online.

Personalized service means that employees receive help directly for their exact medical needs, which is a better solution than programs with more generalized health goals for entire departments or companies. Each employee has his or her own health problems, which require specialized approaches that coaches can directly address.

“From our [employee] surveys, we feel people wanted more personalized advice,” said Dr. Andrew Crighton, Prudential’s chief medical officer, to HRE Online. “We needed a different model, one that included encouragement and goal setting.”

Although this is more involved than more traditional approaches, it may ultimately save money and hold greater benefits for companies in the long run.

How should job seekers use social media to find a job and connect with a prospective employer?

1 Oct

Where do most job seekers begin their search for jobs? Job boards? Aggregators like Indeed? Ratings sites, such as Glassdoor? In most cases, applicants have ditched the daily newspaper's want-ads section for the far more efficient and wide ranging appeal of the Internet. However, that leaves a wide variety of options open for today's job seeker.

There's a trend that's gaining momentum that may influence employee engagement ideas. Social media has rapidly evolved from a space where friends and family connect over various geographies into an all out digital networking environment. This extends far beyond LinkedIn, although that particular social site remains the forerunner in the world of online job seeking and recruiting. In fact, employers have taken to social media profiles to gain insight into the backgrounds, interests, activities and personalities of job seekers at rapid pace.

U.S. News & World Report cited the Society for Human Resources Management 2013 report, "Social Networking Websites and Recruiting Selection," that found more than three-quarters of employers have used social media as a resource for recruiting strategies. What's more, nearly 7 in 10 use these sites to specifically target applicants based on the need for unique skills. The vast majority also use social networks as a means to strengthen their brand awareness and give job seekers a fairly direct channel to connect and contact their organization.

What are the leading social media sites?
LinkedIn is the preferred choice among employers, with 92 percent using the site. The second most popular network is Facebook, while Twitter and Google round out the top four sites.

However, this doesn't mean that a job seeker should stick with LinkedIn alone. In many ways, social networking sites are a way for applicants to build their online presence. Accordingly, they need to keep in mind how they present themselves online because the content posted on sites like Facebook and Instagram coalesce to give an employer a holistic perception. It's the responsibility of the job seeker to ensure their online "brand" is consistent across the various platforms.

Yet, one of the main draws of social networks is the fact that they level the playing field to some extent. Job seekers have a unique chance to connect with specific companies, discuss topics with industry leaders that they admire and take the initiative in reaching out to a company to build a relationship. In doing so, they have the chance to proactively initiate the recruitment process.

What is the correct protocol?
Is there social media etiquette? In a sense, each social network provides a fairly distinct way to engage prospective employers, but job seekers can begin with small steps. One of the simplest ways they can ease their way into engaging a company that interests them is to follow it. While somewhat passive, this move signals to the organization that the person has an expressed interest in what it does or the brand in general.

Another key element that many job seekers forget to address is social profile cleansing. A recent article for The New York Times tech blog went into detail about the cottage industry of profile "sweeping" service providers. Many are startups that have devised various ways to scrutinize and wipe clean Facebook and Twitter profiles that may include content that will raise the eyebrows of a recruiter. Some providers can even identify photos that may send up red flags. Without resorting to hiring a social network maid service, job seekers can take it upon themselves to be judicious in what they post as public and private on the various networks.

Get involved

From this point, the job seeker can take a more active role by liking specific pieces of content the company posts and then joining the conversation using the comments box. Linda Descano, president and CEO of Citi's Women & Co., told Fox Business that this approach helps job seekers make a positive first impression. It also shows the person is engrossed in a particular aspect of the company.

Specifically looking at the possibilities of LinkedIn, there are additional steps that job seekers can take to increase their visibility in employers' eyes. The Muse explained it's important to stay active on the platform. For example, instead of following what others in a relevant industry have written or posted, a job seeker can take the initiative and write his or her own articles. Coherent, relevant content can draw the attention of an employer looking for an individual who is not only up-to-date on industry events, but also addressing them with original ideas.

Choose networks wisely
Depending on a job seeker's skills or interests, different networks have unique strengths. For example, Pinterest is a great site to post visual content that a job seeker created. Mashable highlighted the fact that this particular platform allows people to be creative in the ways they present their resume. Although it's easy to upload the document to the Pinterest board, it's a better idea to connect various aspects of a work history or professional experiences to relevant pictures and other content.

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