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Telecommuting good for millennials, although with some risks

25 Nov

Telecommuting is a great way to retain employees and bring in new recruits, according to a study by the Government Business Council. The report found that 74 percent of employees and 56 percent of managers would telecommute more often if it were possible. However, many people said that telecommuting can take some of the communications out of usual operating procedures, because many people do not take advantage of the different options for speaking with others who are also doing telework. For example, the use of videoconferencing and screen sharing are still not common enough that working from home is functionally the same as working from the office.

Additionally, telecommuting can present technical problems, such as the ones faced by the U.S. Post Office, which suffered a breach related to its employee database, according to USA Today. The organization believes that this will offer greater Internet security because hackers will not be able to use passwords and other information to break into the telecommunications networks used by those who choose to work from home.

The U.S. Postal Service is unique because it offers cubicle space to everyone who works from home, so that no one is required to telecommute to work. Other government organizations offer online-only jobs that do not have physical space in an office to work from.

Millennials expect telecommuting options
Human Resources Executive Online reported that many young people who are beginning work have started to expect telecommunication as a matter of course. Many businesses and government offices have began offering expanded options for people who want to telework one or more days a week. Some companies limit the number of days people can telework, while others allow people to do their jobs remotely as long as they still perform the necessary duties that cannot be done from home, such as attend meetings outside the office.

Even with teleworking as an option for some positions, it is absolutely OK to say that it cannot be done for certain jobs that require people to be in the office every day. Even so, it's better to split jobs by categories as to whether someone can telecommute to them or not, versus completely rule out doing work from home at all, according to George Jakabcin, who works with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

"It's OK to say certain positions are not telework eligible," he said. "But don't use that as a crutch to say no to telework (at all)."

Having an employee management system that supports telecommuting without subjecting the company to the risk of data breaches is probably the best approach to offering telework for millennials.

Presentation crucial for social media hiring campaigns

24 Nov

Social media can be a great way to recruit employees. The push to begin expanding into the world of LinkedIn and other networking sites was gradual at first, according to Talent Circles, but the process has been speeding up. As communication along these networks becomes more complex, the news site advocates for a new system of metrics for analyzing the success or failure of social media efforts.

For example, the old way of judging the quality of a post was by looking at its retweets, shares and likes. But these are superficial measures of quality. The important thing is being able to connect with potential candidates. Doing this with funny posts or something that gets a lot of views isn't going to work as well as sending out a specific message that is targeted to particular audiences who will be smaller in number but more engaged with the material.

To measure the true engagement people have with a business, a better way of doing things is by looking at the substantive responses in the form of job applications and comments on the posts. If you are looking for specific candidates and not getting them, then your social media campaign isn't working, no matter how popular it is. Instead, think about focusing on niche audiences and writing specifically with their interests in mind.

Social media campaigns depend on the project
Of course, some people successfully engage a wide audience because the industry they want to recruit doesn't have strict barriers to entry. Gallup described a number of companies that have begun advertising their seasonal jobs via social media platforms. This way the company can simultaneously promote its identity as being set apart from similar businesses and at the same time offer work that many people need during the holidays.

Companies like Macy's and Wal-Mart have all begun to post season's greetings alongside job postings for specific calendar days. People who want to look more deeply into the programs can apply online.

How to advertise on social media
Whether a company is hiring for large-scale temporary work or for particular industries that have specific job requirements, it is important to remember that anything a company does on the Internet is a part of its branding not only as a company but also as a place where people would work for a living. As such, it is crucial to ensure that everything involved with the hiring process go smoothly to give people the sense that working for the company will be free of bureaucratic red tape. Using quality employee management software is a good way to ensure a smooth hiring system.

Reducing workplace stress through meditation

19 Nov

Employees are stressed out. Forbes reported the average business person has between 30 and 100 projects to tackle at once. Balancing between these different projects and also attending meetings and dealing with burnout can be challenging. Additionally, 40 percent of adults say they can't sleep because of how stressed out they are.

The best ways for office workers to calm down is to reduce the distractions they deal with – this can include meetings if there are too many of them. Phone calls and instant messages are also distracting. They take away time when people could work. The best plan of action is to do a triage of what is important immediately, what can wait and what doesn't need to be dealt with at all. Some people go so far as to only answer messages during certain periods of the day.

Scheduling is a good idea because it allows people to take breaks when they need them. Breaks can actually reduce stress, and people will get more work done if they pause briefly during the day. One way to exercise during a break is to do meditative breath practices.

"Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project has shown that if we have intense concentration for about 90 minutes, followed by a brief period of recovery, we can clear the buildup of stress and rejuvenate ourselves," said business psychologist Sharon Melnick in an interview with Forbes.

Meditation one of many employee engagement ideas
Believe it or not, meditation really does help reduce stress. The Wall Street Journal cited that Dow Chemical brought mindfulness meditation training to its workers as a way of relieving some of the stress its workers feel. Every week for one hour, about 90 employees enter a Web conference, fill out a workbook and practice exercises. It really seems to be affective.

Additional approaches include ideas as varied as filling the office with potted plants and focusing on special cognitive-behavioral training.

The idea behind the "filter out the positive, focus on the negative" work is that ideally people will really begin to appreciate the sights and sounds around them without tying them to unhappy things. For example, if someone is in a traffic jam, he or she can focus on the blinking lights and the sound of the engines, which don't necessarily need to be associated with feeling unhappy.

Keep in mind there are limitations to stress management.

"These techniques aren't going to make up for having a jerk for a boss," says Patti Johnson, chief executive of PeopleResults, a human-resource consulting company. "When you're under major stress doing three projects at a time, the meadow and meditation aren't going to help with that."

How to keep employees with good on-boarding

18 Nov

Employees have been switching jobs more quickly now than ever before. Forbes cited a statistic by the Department of Labor that said the average tenure of an employee in the U.S. is only 1.5 years. The story noted that many of the reasons employees quit are lack of intrinsic motivation. Employees should connect with each other and with the work they're doing. They should have an idea that they are benefiting the world with what they do. Forbes referenced Walt Disney, who came up with Disneyworld and sold his employees on the vision of how it would change the face of amusement parks.

Employees want to feel a personal satisfaction in what they do. For example, workers for theater companies often don't get paid, but they love the work. The job such people do for money tends to be low paying and not intrinsically rewarding. In theater, someone can be happy they did a good job, but for waiting tables, the only thing that matters is the tips. Try to find ways to get your employees interested in their performance. Make them feel like what they're doing is important.

Successful on-boarding can lead to longevity
Sometimes employees quit because they haven't been educated enough about the work they'll be doing, according to HR Morning. Of the five major reasons for why people quit, the biggest ones involve the work being different from what was expected, the work being boring or the wrong fit and a lack of training.

Those charged with human resource planning should pay attention to on-boarding. Successfully explaining the job so employees have a reasonable idea of the work they'll be doing is a great way to keep out people who wouldn't be interested in the job and to encourage interested people to continue the application process. Lying about what a job entails will only make workers feel confused about assignments and dissatisfied with work they hadn't planned on doing.

HR Morning recommended that on the job training and being assigned a mentor are two things that employees really want in order to feel acclimated to a new job. Additionally, for the training, they would prefer a manager to help them with work, while others wanted someone from the HR department.

Proper training can ensure that people who want to work at a job will know exactly what that job is, and they will also learn from someone about the right way of doing it. As such, the quality of the on-boarding process is crucial to employee longevity.

How to keep millennials on the team

14 Nov

Job hopping has been a trend among millennials recently, according to Human Resources Executive Online. The website reported that most young workers stay at their first jobs for less than a year before moving on to another position. Fueling this trend is the tendency for many workers in the recession and post-recession years to take jobs for which they were over-qualified. Additionally, employees are less committed to employers, said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals, a staffing group that performed a survey on this subject. The study indicated 77 percent of employers believe that people who have just graduated college are very likely to quit within a year.

"It's true that the 'grass isn't always greener,'" Funk said, "but this generation seems plenty willing to go check out the grass on the other side. Employers, take note."

Retaining millennials
One human resource planning strategy of keeping employees around includes giving them more work, according to Val Grubb, president of Val Grubb and Associates, an operations consulting firm. She believes millennials are ready to work hard and have high expectations of rising through the ranks of workers.

"If they say they want to be CEO, ask them, 'What does the company look like that you want to be CEO of?'" Grubb suggested. "Remember, they have so little work experience, so little customer-service experience. They don't connect the dots to understand how meticulously managing invoices [something they might find tedious or boring], for instance, will set them on their way to managing budgets, which—oh by the way—will affect the financial health of the company a CEO cares about."

Job hopping hurts retirement benefits
Something millennials may not have considered is the reality that many people who leave a job early are missing out on their employer's vesting policy, CNN Money reported, citing a study by Fidelity. Those who quit their jobs before they earned the right to retain the money their employer put into their 401(k) have the potential of losing thousands of dollars.

Over a third of millennials fall into this category, according to the story.

"Chronic job hopping could really sink your retirement savings," said Meghan Murphy, a director at Fidelity who conducted the analysis.

Companies that want to keep people would do well to teach their employees about the value of saving money away for retirement, and it would also help to explain the rules about vesting.

The struggle between hiring managers and recruiters

14 Nov

Hiring managers don't always get along with those charged with human resource planning.  For example, according to research cited by CBS News, most recruiters believe they have a high understanding of the jobs they recruit for, while hiring managers believe recruiters for the most part have a low understanding. With that mindset, it's natural that problems will arise. Recruiters are the ones who search for the potential employees and bring them into the company, while the managers are the ones who have to determine which of these people should be hired.

The main problem seems to lie with a miscommunication between hiring managers and recruiters. If recruiters are made to better understand the job, then there may be better candidates to review during the interview process. Additionally, recruiters should spend more time screening the potential hires to make sure they are really good fits for the role, and they shouldn't misrepresent what the job entails to get more people on board. This will only slow things down.

If hiring managers and recruiters learn to work together, understanding each other's personalities and job preferences, then the work might go more easily.

Working with hiring managers
Hiring managers need to ensure that employees fit into the company. If someone in charge of placing someone in a position makes an error of judgment and hires someone who doesn't fit, then the entire office can suffer. As a result, hiring managers are strict with how they hire people. According to the Harvard Business Review, hiring has changed in recent years. The old way of hiring consisted of looking at resumes on paper and then doing a 30 minute interview with the best potential employees. Following that, a hiring decision was made. However, now things are much different. Companies take time to pour through not only resumes but also detailed interviews that often last several rounds. Additionally, candidates must submit a great deal of their own work to the employer in order to prove their abilities.

The HBR blames this on cost cutting that went on during the '90s, which meant that every employee had to do many jobs at once, and not just the ones that he or she was assigned on paper during the application process for getting the job.

The best solution to hiring good workers is to find an excellent recruiter and tell that person exactly what is wanted from a job. After that, go through the resumes that make it through the screening process and see what fits. Don't be so extreme about hiring the best candidate. Instead, focus on the one or two core requirements of the job in question.

Challenges of retaining employees after a merger

14 Nov

Keeping employees engaged during a period when two companies are merging can be difficult, Human Resources Executive reported. The problem lies with the changes in culture that happens when companies come together. A recent study by Towers Watson shows that of 248 respondents, 68 percent of companies were able to keep their most of their employees by using a retention agreement. Such an agreement means that companies will provide incentives or else penalize those who choose to leave the business before a certain period of time.

These agreements work, but using a carrot or a stick to enable certain behaviors is not the same as providing an internal motivation, such as improvements in expediency at the job or other perks that come when two companies join forces. Having said that, Towers Watson does recommend having key employees, which it defines as those who make a major difference in how a business runs, sign a retention agreement.

"An [acquiring company] does not want revenues, client relationships, proprietary technology and know-how, or unique processes to walk out the door," said Jay Meschke, president of CBIZ Human Capital Services.

Keeping employees without using a retention agreement
Aaron Sanandres, principal in PwC's human resources services practice in New York, told HRE Online that the key to a retention agreement is that it is essentially promising that although times will be difficult in the short term, they will improve in the long term. As such companies wishing to keep top talent from leaving a year after a merger should consider offering other incentives for retention.

Some ways of having people stay involve providing an environment that people enjoy working in. For an extreme example, The Fiscal Times recently said that Twitter bought log cabins that employees can use as a cafeteria at lunch – or they can work there during their hours when they don't need to be in meetings.

Another company has a machine that dispenses beer whenever someone fills out his or her timesheet completely, indicating that all the day's work is done.

These are somewhat gimmicky tricks, since a company in an urban area can just let its workers eat wherever they prefer, and companies can always keep beer stocked in the fridge for workers who are off duty and want to have a drink before they go home for the day. At its core, though, the two ideas focus on a culture of caring for the worker through employee self service, and when people sense that they are being placed foremost in the company, they will stay longer.

EEOC sues company over wellness program for third time

14 Nov

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed another lawsuit against wellness penalties, according to HR Morning. The basic issue is that the company Honeywell recently made a wellness program part of its company policy. Anyone who didn't participate faced a $500 surcharge to their health care premiums. There would be additional charges against people who refused to take part in wellness screenings, including spouses of employees.

This is an extreme example of a trend for having programs that unintentionally discriminate against people who cannot meet certain criteria for a wellness or insurance plan. For example, weight goals for wellness programs can cause issues. Those tasked with human resource planning must be sure to avoid discriminatory actions having to do with goals that incentive a behavior. The best way to circumvent a potential suit is to offer an alternative goal that can be done instead of the main goal. For example, instead of quitting smoking to receive a benefit, someone can join a smoking-cessation program to receive the same benefit.

What makes this suit different
The unique factor in this lawsuit is that the EEOC has now said that the policy violates the Genetic Information Nondiscrimation Act because it not only asks for employee test results, but for spouse test results as well. Furthermore, like other EEOC cases against wellness programs, the program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because of the severe penalties.

These fees are what allegedly make the wellness program unlawful, according to Insurance Journal.

"We are not seeking to stop testing and not seeking to stop the assessment of the smoking surcharge," Laurie Vasicheck, an EEOC attorney, told the judge. "What they can't do is penalize employees who do not want to go through it."

The size of the fine ultimately makes the testing feel involuntary.

How the case is unfolding
According to Insurance Journal, Honeywell is continuing to practice its policy as is because the judge in the case, Ann Montgomery, wasn't prepared to make a preliminary determination. She argued that it would be easier to fine employees later if she decided the rules were legal, compared to taking back penalties if the program was found to be illegal. Honeywell defended its case, saying that it wasn't breaking the law.

"The incentives we provide are specifically sanctioned by two separate federal statutes," Honeywell lawyers said in court. "We don't believe it's fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not."

This is the third such case brought by the EEOC against a wellness program.

Avoiding purple squirrel syndrome

14 Nov

Sometimes, hiring managers get caught up in trying to find exactly the right candidate who perfectly matches the job description, according to HR Morning. This is called looking for a "purple squirrel" because finding someone who is an exact duplicate of what management wants is about as likely as finding a squirrel with purple fur. The problem often shows up in descriptions of the jobs themselves. People ask for software developers who graduated from Harvard and have 10 years of experience designing exactly the kind of payroll software programs that managers want to have built for the company. By starting with such an unreasonable expectation, recruiters aren't going to be happy with the results. Look as much as they want, the hiring team isn't going to find someone who matches every line of a job description.

HR Morning goes so far as to suggest that part of the so-called skills gap is due to people looking for candidates who simply don't exist. Additionally, employee resumes are often extremely general.

What to do instead
Instead of finding the perfect candidate, why not try to find a candidate who matches several of the major requirements? That was the suggestion of HR Morning. Talent Circles has a few more ideas. Companies need to implement a more active version of recruiting than just putting out job descriptions onto a website and hoping the right people find. them. Ideally, a person should be looking for the right people, and this means moving outside of traditional hiring practices and looking on industry- or hobby-specific communities on the Internet to find someone who fits a certain role.

Additionally, don't be afraid to contact people directly through email with a job you think they could fill. People tend to get angry at big data email blasts. However, when someone in recruiting sends a personal email, the effect is much less irritating. Just be friendly, and think of the hiring process as a conversation.

One way to look for people is to find websites offering professional content, such as HR or technology blogs, and do Google searches of the writers. You may find someone who is just right for the job. Find their information on LinkedIn and get in touch.

The best approach therefore is an active one that emphasizes reaching out to the right people and not being afraid to follow potential workers for a while before approaching them with a job offer.

Americans don’t take their paid leave

10 Nov

The majority of Americans don't use all their vacation time, according to Human Resources Executive Online. A recent innovation in paid leave may reduce this problem, but it might also make it worse. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has initiated a plan that will offer unlimited vacation to every employee provided they've done all their work. The problem with the plan is the question of when work has been finished is relatively ambiguous for most Americans – there is always something to do on the job.

Currently, only about 1 percent of companies offer unlimited days off. Additionally, the leave is typically given to those in positions that already provide flexible working days. The plan has more to do with human resource planning on the financial end than it does with presenting an incentive to workers.

"Unlimited leave is being offered primarily to executives and managers, who already have a great deal of flexibility," said Mary Tavarozzi, HR manager at Towers Watson. "Hourly workers would probably take more time if they were offered unlimited vacation time, but they – in general – are not the ones being offered this benefit."

She explained the reason many companies offer unlimited leave to executive is that when business people don't take their days off, they receive accrued leave, which must be reconciled with financial statements, becoming a liability.

The problem for employees
Time Magazine reported that the total cost of accrued vacation time that employees never use comes to about $52.4 billion, or 169 million paid days off, citing data from the U.S. Travel Association.

Some of the reasons people don't take vacation time are nobody else can do a certain job or that it may lead to a promotion. However it was found that those who forfeit their leave are actually less likely to become promoted. Additionally, those who refrain from taking vacations say they are more stressed at work.

A small company that offers unlimited days off
A business-to-business company called crowdSpring offers its employees as many days off as they want, but for the most part, they use it in small pieces, such as taking a Friday or a Monday off of work, rather than spending a month out of the office. Mike Samson, founder of the firm, said to Human Resources Online that it was likely if the company grows larger than its 15 employees, he may have to reconsider the policy, although he would never get rid of it completely.

Whether companies adopt more radical vacation policies in the future or not, it appears evident that taking time off is a good thing.

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