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“Ambush” election rule sees controversy

27 Jan

The National Labor Relations Board was notified on Jan. 6, 2015 that it was being sued because of its new streamlined union election rule, according to the Daily Caller. The new rule is called the "ambush election rule" by those who oppose it. It was intended to make it easier and faster for employees to unionize. Critics argue that the rule accelerates union elections so much that employers aren't able to explain to employees what would happen if they chose to unionize.

"Furthermore, we question the need for the regulation given that 95 percent of all elections are now conducted within two months and that unions win more than two-thirds of them," said Randy Johnson, member of the Chamber of Commerce, in a statement.

What this means for managers
The law goes into effect April 14, 2015, JD Supra stated. Provided the legislation passes, its rules will make it harder for employers to explain to employees who want to unionize the significance of their actions. Employers must therefore take caution and make sure they stay on top of what employees want. At the first sign that people begin talking about unions, it would be a good idea to make sure employees understand the full repercussions of such a choice. Employers won't have as much time as they had before to argue in favor of a non-union resolution, which makes it that much more critical to use every moment to explain why unions aren't necessary. It also serves to put much more control in the hands of employees, who could unionize quickly if they aren't reaching a satisfactory resolution from discussing things with management.

Additional employee rights
JD Supra reported that under the NLRB, employees with work email can use this to communicate their ideas for unionizing freely. Employers thus have a difficult time now when it comes to preventing unions from occurring as part of an employee management system. The best likely solution is to talk to workers about their thoughts and feelings regarding unionization and whether it is in their best interest to form unions. Remember that relying on lagging indicators, such as an email advocating for a union, isn't as useful as paying attention to leading indicators like a feeling of overall dissatisfaction in the office. When workers aren't happy, they may not immediately think of unions, but the concept is on the horizon and should be addressed quickly before it becomes a major issue.

Engaging workers with the job

16 Jan

Engaging workers and keeping them happy is a full-time job. For human resources management professionals, employee engagement is part of the daily grind. According a study by Gallup cited by the Chicago Tribune, there are costs when employees aren't connected to their work. Only 30 percent of Americans describe their relationship to their jobs as "engaged," and this lack of engagement is costing the U.S. between $450 to $550 billion per year in lost productivity.

The Tribune recommended employers who want to encourage their employees to work hard try to rediscover their purpose as companies. One such business, Medix, faced a great deal of turnover from millennials until its managers put together the slogan "Positively Impacting Lives," and transformed it into a company that helps people find employment.  The important aspect here is finding a way for employees to feel like they are doing something major and purposeful with their lives. Even people who work in administrative support positions need to believe the work they are doing is meaningful to the people they are assisting. Millennials in particular want to be leading lives of meaning through their work. Separate studies cited by the Tribune show that millennials will do jobs for less money if the business they do is perceived as valuable.

Remember to treat employees as human beings
A Forbes article explained that people generally don't respond to a more relaxed work environment by instantly becoming engaged and working harder. Typically, the engagement must come from an interior place created when managers sit down and really communicate with their employees. Employees don't necessarily care if the human resources team installs a foosball or a soda fountain in the employee lounge. What matters is connections between the staff and managers. If people don't feel like their employers care about them, then it won't matter how much focus is placed on engagement because workers will feel that they are not being respected.

Emotional connections
According to Gallup, the emotional connections people have at their jobs are what keep them returning. This doesn't mean having friends at the office, but that people treat each other well and that the job is something treated as important by other people. People have the same needs from their work as they do from every other part of their lives. Although people expect to work, they also want to be treated fairly instead of replaceable staff members.

Ultimately, treating people with the respect they deserve will be better in the long term than making work fun. Doing a survey to see how happy employees are isn't as important as connecting with workers on a deeper level.

"Surveys are fine, but simply having actual conversations and asking employees 'What can we do better?' is much more valuable," said Neil Morrison, group human resources director for Penguin Random House U.K., according to an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "If employees can't sit down with their boss and talk about things, it doesn't matter how many anonymous surveys you run; you have a problem."

In the end, human resources is about connecting people with others in ways that are appropriate, respectful and real. This is what keeps people coming back to work day after day.

Using culture to strengthen HR

16 Jan

People often think of human resources as simply a payroll- and compliance-based part of the organization, but it can be much more than that if managers give the department the right tools. HR ideally should drive culture and create an environment where employees can feel confident coming into the office that they will have a great day. According to Forbes, this means treating culture as a "strategic advantage and competitive weapon." The theory is that when the culture is very good, then people who visit the office will feel the energy and want to be part of it by buying the product or service the company sells.

Part of the means for bringing this about is hiring someone or training people for the skills behind a great culture, which are essentially based on emotional intelligence. They have less to do with knowing compliance rules than with understanding when the vibe at the office is negative and figuring out how to quickly turn that around. To do this, management should have the right tools for changing the cultural barometer. This could range from having parties to discussing recent business proceedings with employees to make sure everyone is on board with various transitions happening in the workplace.

Convincing HR to get on board with culture
It may be difficult to convince those involved in human resources planning of their own importance. Perhaps it would help to remind them that as the new year begins, human resources could take on the additional responsibility of ensuring a quality work environment. Business 2 Community cited that last year was called "the year of the employee" by Deloitte. Even so, managing people so they stay in the workplace and function at a high level is something that still challenges HR, B2C reported, primarily because HR doesn't have control of every step in place.

One way to convince human resources to go along with a plan for expanding the scope of the section's operations is to give it more power to hire and fire employees. On one hand, this could be seen by people in different operational groups as infringing on their own rights to hire whoever they want. At the same time, giving HR a little more power isn't the same as ceding responsibilities for the entire company to human resources. It would really come down to having someone sit in on meetings with potential recruits and give feedback about how they might fit into the current culture. This could be a good way to give HR the tools it needs.

The changing world of retirement

13 Jan

Retirement is changing, and it's an essential part of good human resource planning to get ready for it by explaining the available options to those approaching the age when they can stop working full time. For many people, the idea of retirement doesn't come up until middle age when it may be too late to invest properly and have enough money for the future. Getting even the youngest members of the staff involved with planning for their retirement is a good idea.

Begin investing early
The best way to have a good retirement fund is to get started early in someone's career and continue to receive deposits. Many companies will match some of the money going into a retirement fund. HR Morning reported that businesses have begun to change their matching strategies so that employees have to save more money to earn the full benefits. The example cited was companies beginning to match 25 percent of employee contributions up to 12, versus matching 50 percent of contributions up to 6 percent of pay.

The U.S. government is also making it easier to create Roth 401(k)s, which means that employers have begun offering more of these.

Consider a period of semi-retirement
Many workers who don't have enough in savings to retire fully from work have begun working part time on top of living off of their saved earnings. According to a study by the University of Michigan cited by U.S. News and World Report, about 20 percent of 65 to 67 year olds have extra jobs they use to earn money for paying bills. People who leave work early also have a greater incentive to continue working somewhere else because they often earned less money compared with people who retire later. People who work longer tend to earn higher wages. If someone is already earning a high salary, they will likely keep working past the usual retirement age, while people who earn less cash will work in part-time jobs sometimes through the age of 70 in order to earn enough to live.

Educating workers
It is important to make use of early investments, and many who don't do this need to take part-time jobs when they retire. As such, workers ought to receive advice and explanations from people who have experience when it comes to explaining the different retirement options available to those who have worked sufficient hours. Even people just beginning their career often have possibilities they don't know about, and HR needs to inform employees about available investments.

The history of perks and what to do about them

12 Jan

Perks are becoming a major part of business for some industries. For example, The tech sector, has created a new job category called workplace coordinator that focuses entirely on managing and delivering new job perks, Human Resource Executive Online reported. People in the technology industry who work at places like Google and Microsoft have become used to having all kinds of things that other businesses couldn't likely afford, such as sleeping pods and a $2,000 espresso machine in the break room.

It wasn't always this way
It hadn't been the case at the beginning that perks would become major parts of business. Twenty years ago, working in the Silicon Valley wasn't too different from other parts of California, but according to historian Michael S. Malone, it changed when Hewlett-Packard began offering donuts in the morning, plus beer on Friday and a large parcel of land for people to enjoy on the weekends. The company added stock options and other benefits as well, Malone added in an interview with HRE Online.

During the dot-com bubble, the perks became more extreme because it was so necessary to get the programing done for much of the business. Companies offered activities such as laser tag, which gave the offices a college-like feel to make the young men at the firms feel comfortable working the long hours.

Things are beginning to change again as those same young people have grown up to be in their thirties and now want more family-oriented perks.

What companies can do to offer perks in their own offices
Although most businesses won't be able to lavish their employees with filet mignon every Friday, there are still some things that they can do to keep people happy with their jobs and retain employees longer.

Forbes reminded its readers that the real value of perks is that they make people feel loyal and boost morale. For companies on a budget, simply letting the office become more relaxed might be enough of an incentive for people to begin to form a community that inspires people to stay longer than they otherwise would. The idea is to make people feel welcome and connected. When people have emotional connections to their job, they are going to stay longer and take the business more personally.

One example Forbes cited was giving a $25 bottle of Whiskey versus a $50 gift card. Gift cards are nice, but they don't reflect the same spirit of knowing someone and what he or she likes that a particular bottle of whiskey does.

In the end, it's really about providing an employee management system that generates a good community that will grow and prosper.

Discouraging absenteeism

12 Jan

Absenteeism is a major problem among businesses, according to HR Morning. It has a moderate to large effect on about 75 percent of companies responding to a recent study by the Society of Human Resource Management. The amount of money a company loses could total something like 22.1 percent of payroll. The biggest drain on cash comes from unplanned absences, according to the study, and much of the work that has to be done for absences involves finding someone else to do the work for the person who left the company temporarily. Generally, the people who cover for someone who is gone for a day are less productive than they would be if they'd just been doing their own work.

Encouraging workers
All it really takes to get workers in the office is to keep them healthy and motivated, but this isn't always easy if the work is hard and it's the flu season. According to Forbes, there are still some ways to encourage employees to show up every day, ready to work hard and give their all to the company. 

One method that people in charge of human resource planning could include in a program is showing workers the way they impact the bottom line. In other words, get them feeling like what they do matters to the team and to the company. People want to have responsibilities, and if they feel that people are counting on them, then they will work harder.

Salary and perks are also important, Forbes wrote, but not as much as giving people challenging but doable work and having them complete assignments that build skills they can carry with them into the next job. People are generally willing to negotiate their salary, but it would be a bad idea to negotiate too hard for a low one. Give someone a reasonable amount of money, and don't let a desire to be thrifty get in the way of giving workers enough monetary encouragement to stay at a job.

Perks matter if they go along with challenging, interesting work that people would enjoy doing. One way to foster this is to give people work that is different from what they usually do. When they are performing something new, it feels like a change of pace, and this will help them grow more adept in their roles as employees. It will also feel refreshing since they won't be coming into work and doing the same thing every day.

Employee classification continues to be major issue

31 Dec

Employee classification continues to be a major subject of debate among those tasked with human resource planning. Even a company as large as Google can make this mistake. It is currently being sued for misclassifying someone as an independent contractor. It's the same old argument, having to do with the way the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor test to see if a worker is a contractor or an employee.

According to Human Resources Executive Online, the worker in question spent 45 hours per week on his project, but Google did not pay for more than 30 hours of work.  He is suing through the San Francisco office of law firm Hinshaw & Culbertson.

"This issue impacts every employer, both public and private, in any [line of] business," says Amy Jensen, a partner in that law firm.

California, where Google's main office is located, has unique laws protecting employees that go above and beyond what federal laws demand. However, the problem with worker classification is nationwide, and no company is exempt from an investigation by the DOL.

Lee Schreter, who is the co-chair of Littler Mendelson, a law firm dealing with employee classification, says that companies need to prepare for emergencies before they happen.

"Employers can plan ahead for this type of litigation and build the necessary evidence today to defend against these claims in the future," said Schreter.

The rules for employee classification
There are ultimately two tests the government can use to see if a worker is an employee or not. One test, by the IRS, looks at behavior, finances and the type of relationship. If the company treats its worker like an employee, pays the person like one and has a contract that refers to its worker as an employee, then the worker is by default an employee and entitled to benefits.

The DOL test looks at six different areas to see if the worker is a contractor or not, but the guiding principles are the same as for the IRS's test.

The penalties for misclassification are severe and involve at the very least a new taxation for employees formerly classified as independent contractors. The DOL might also fine the company for breaking the law, whether intentionally or not.

Special California rules
As an added challenge, California has its own rules governing meals and rest breaks, according to HRE Online. These are dictated by whether an employee has a salary or gets paid hourly wages. Those with wages must receive regular paid breaks. Simply giving an employee a salary will not be enough to make that employee qualify for not receiving paid breaks any longer. The rules are more complex than that.

"If you have a workforce with a lot of standardization, HR folks or in-house counsel should conduct a review of the various job classifications, especially where they have the most employees and/or the ones in the gray area," said Employment Partner Emma Luevano of Mitch Silberberg & Knupp in Los Angeles. "They should make sure they're being classified properly."

The costs misclassification are high, but due diligence can help to mitigate disasters.

College students getting hired more often

31 Dec

Employers are hiring college students again, according to Human Resources Executive Online. This is ultimately good for college students, but even better for companies because they can choose whoever they want from a list of many good candidates. In a climate like this, it makes sense for a business to take its time and look at multiple people. In other words, the employer's market of the recession has returned when it comes to hiring recent grads.

A recent study by Michigan State cited by HRE Online showed that college hiring has increased year-over-year by 16 percent. The study also indicated that businesses planning to hire college students were choosing those with backgrounds in business, engineering and computer science.

"As the economy continues to strengthen, employers are clearly much more confident about hiring college graduates," said Philip Gardner, director of MSU's College Employment Research Institute, according to HRE Online.

How to hire new employees
With so many people to choose from, the question becomes a matter of how to properly conduct all of the interviews and find the right candidates.

According to Talent Circles, the best recruiting policies are ones that simultaneously break new ground and at the same time don't necessarily go overboard at being different for difference's sake. A good example of this would be the examination process of the candidates. Companies should avoid using Facebook to see what a candidate is like because information could be found that isn't supposed to impact a job applicant's chances of employment. At the same time, don't hesitate to create a compelling online presence and accept applications through LinkedIn or another similar site.

Remember also that even though it's OK to pick and choose from a list of candidates, a company must also make an effort to differentiate itself from the competition because there are a large number of businesses that cover similar ground. At the send of the day, a job candidate might choose one position simply because it's close to his or her house and pays well, while someone else will go to another state for work because that person wants a specific industry that isn't available where he or she is living.

Interviews
The interview process is one many people use to base their opinions of a candidate on, but remember not everyone interviews well, and not every job will necessarily require someone with perfect interview skills. While sales personnel will be expected to sell themselves, an engineer might not have that same pressure.

On the subject of interviews, those charged with human resource planning must remember to avoid asking illegal questions. This doesn't mean an interviewer can't find out the relevant information to the job, but it means people have to be careful. Instead of asking someone, "How long have you lived in the U.S.?" to someone with a foreign accent, which is illegal, it may be better to ask, "How familiar are you with our customer base." This, according to Rikka Brandon is the proper way to get the information someone really wants to know without positioning a company for a lawsuit.

Managing companies while eschewing the manager label

31 Dec

For a long time now, there have been a variety of management styles in the workplace. These range from the task-focused manager to the one who emphasizes learning on the job and guiding people toward doing better with each new assignment. Everyone benefits differently under an appropriate style. A new way of managing people has recently come under attention. It's called the "managerless business" because it is a style of running a company without managers at all.

According to a story by Mike Haberman of Blogging 4 Jobs, these businesses are organized by teams of associates who decide things together by group consensus. Haberman said that his studies on managerless companies left him with a few questions, mostly centered on legal issues, such as FMLA or reasonable accommodation requests, and other such business matters that are usually confidential. For example, how would a company that decides everything as a group handle a harassment complaint?

Easier ways of handling companies with reduced managerial responsibilities
Fast Company reported that many managers have taken on mentor roles, which is more suitable for millennials and Gen-X employees, who eschew traditional management. While a mentor continues to have the power to hire and fire, this person can also be tasked with helping employees to reach a greater level of potential. Such managers are always concerned with how much further an employee could go down his or her career path and what skills this person needs to do his or her best.

Millennials are leading the way with much softer approaches to managing people. This is the so-called best friend style of leading groups, which means taking the managerial role and putting it into a social setting.

"The team might work all day, for example, and then grab dinner together," says Thomas Moran CEO of staffing firm Addison Group. "This is a softer leadership style that motivates through communication."

The difference can often mean that managers are liked rather than disliked, as had sometimes been the case with boomer leadership. However, it leads to its own problems because sometimes the personal and the professional don't go well together, and when the personal breaks down, then the person causing the social faux pas may begin to feel uncomfortable and leave the office.

Best practices for leadership without being too dominant
In the end, it may be that with the different kinds of leadership available, the idea of getting rid of any managers at all might become a more extreme notion than it already is. In the meanwhile, many people are doing fine just mentoring, according to Moran, and this lets people stay as bosses without sacrificing too much in the way of being overly authoritative.

According to Leaders in Heels, it doesn't necessarily matter what kind of boss people are in general, as what kind of boss they are in a given situation. During times of intense stress, it may be better to be the strong leader people can follow orders from, and when things are more relaxed, to pull back and become a mentor for people.

Neurodiversity: Bringing those on the autism spectrum deeper into the workplace

31 Dec

Workplace diversity now includes people on the autism spectrum and employees with ADHD and dyslexia, according to Fortune magazine. In other words, the differences now include categories having to do with someone's brain. The new civil rights movement is calling for neurodiversity as a way to help people think differently at the workplace, and companies as large as Freddie Mac are taking notice and hiring more people whose brains operate in ways previously considered outside the norm.

Diversity in areas like this are important because people who want to work for companies typically cite diversity as something they care about, according to a study by Glassdoor, cited by Human Resources Executive Online. Fully two-thirds of 1,081 respondents said they consider diversity important, and the number increases when examining minority groups, such as women, African-Americans, Asians and Latinos. Even so, the majority of white respondents said they were concerned about diversity, as well.

The bottom line is that it's becoming increasingly important that those charged with human resource planning care about who they hire, whether this means hiring people from groups considered to be racial or ethnic minorities or people who are on the autism spectrum. The ultimate goal of a diversity program is to create a workplace where people can get along and think differently by virtue of having different backgrounds and perspectives. When everyone has a unique way of thinking, then the ideas that groups come up with will be stronger because of the joint effort of people getting involved. This is up-to and including people who are on the autism spectrum or have ADHD.

"We see differences in physical, cognitive, and mental health as differences in the human condition," said Lori Golden, abilities strategy leader for EY. "The most relevant challenge for business is to bring in the very best talent for the work we do and create an environment that can unleash the full abilities of every person."

The neurodiversity movement is just one of a continuing progression of movements designed to get everyone in the workplace operating together cooperatively. According to the study by Glassdoor reported by Human Resources Executive Online, people respond very positively to this way of doing things, choosing to work where they can enjoy working with a large number of different people, rather than cookie-cutter molds of the same sort of person.

Starting a diversity program
The best way to begin a diversity program is to start internally, according to HRE Online. The second way to work is by targeting specific talent pools or groups of people. The most important thing is really for everyone in the company to actually care about the project, however.

"It is very, very difficult for any important initiative to get traction if the head of the firm isn't behind it," said Corbette Doyle, a lecturer in organizational leadership at Vanderbilt University.

The benefits that come from things such as neurodiversity include a stronger workplace overall and a more attractive one to applicants.

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