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Healthy…or NOT?

23 Sep

For mPrevent Dysfunctional Performance Reviewsany years now, wellness programs have been a fixture in work-based health benefits, and they continue to gain traction. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 77% of firms offering employee health benefits also provide at least one wellness program.

Increasingly, employers are focused on addressing lifestyle diseases that contribute to the poor health of their employees and to rising health care costs.  According to a survey of large companies conducted by the National Business Coalition on Health, employers believe workers’ unhealthy lifestyle habits, including a poor diet, smoking, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption, are responsible for the rise of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes.

This has led to a wider adoption of workplace wellness programs to help employees retain and/or improve their health.

Some of the more common wellness programs in which employees are asked to participate are those that involve screening activities, such as health risk assessments and other biometric assessments to collect information about an employee’s height, weight and blood pressure, among other measures.  In fact, according to the RAND Employer Survey, 80% of employers with a wellness program screen their employees for health risks.

Other programs ask employees to take action to address specific lifestyle behaviors known to impact health. For example, smoking cessation classes and weight loss programs that include education about nutrition and exercise are very common among companies with workplace wellness programs.

It’s common for employers to offer financial incentives, such as reduced insurance premiums, cash and gift cards to encourage workers to participate in wellness programs. In fact, the RAND Employer Survey found that nearly seven in ten companies offering workplace wellness programs use financial incentives as a strategy to encourage employees to get involved.  Often, companies require employees to demonstrate that they’ve made some headway toward their health-related goals before paying-up.

The Affordable Care Act only bolsters the wellness trend by increasing the amount by which companies can incentivize employees.  Starting in 2014, companies can increase the amount they reward workers for taking part in wellness programs from a maximum of 20% of the cost of health coverage, to 30%, and up to 50% for participation in anti-smoking programs.

Understandably, the growth of workplace wellness programs has raised concerns about how employee health information is being used, and whether some people are being discriminated against based on their weight or other health measures, such as blood pressure or cholesterol levels.

A recent high profile case at Penn State in which the university required employees to fill out health questionnaires or pay a penalty, caused an uproar that resulted in the university softening its position. CVS raised eyebrows earlier this year when it required employees to take a health screening that captures body weight, blood pressure and other health measures or pay a $600 annual penalty.

Employers are required to comply with HIPAA laws to protect the health-related information they collect from workers. To prevent discrimination, the Affordable Care Act requires that people with medical conditions that make it difficult for them to meet standards be given reasonable alternatives to qualify for rewards.

The jury is still out on how effective wellness programs are at changing employee health behaviors, but it’s clear that employers’ interest in using wellness programs as one way to help workers improve the state of their health and control health related costs is here to stay.

 

 

Top do’s and don’ts of video interviewing

30 May

Overcoming Workplace NegativityFor HR professionals to nail virtual interviewing, they need to be just as careful as job seekers.

Many HR professionals can’t do without their human resource information systems these days, preferring their software solutions to more traditional ways of keeping track of the recruiting process and employee data. One of the biggest types of technologies that is making an impact on HR is video interviewing. While not everyone is on board with the technology-Kevin Ryan, founder and CEO of Gilt Groupe, told Inc. magazine he doesn’t think CEOs should waste their time with the software-video conferencing with candidates can actually make it easier for HR professionals to get in touch with a wider range of candidates.

Prevalence of virtual meetings
There are dozens of web conferencing companies and programs on the market today. PC World even made a list of some of the best video interviewing platforms in 2013. The software has become so popular that, according to an infographic by web meeting tech firm PGi, six in ten hiring managers now turn to video interviewing to conduct face-to-face meetings with job candidates during the hiring process.

With web meeting platforms being cost-effective and easy to use for both hiring managers and job seekers, video interviewing has taken off among human resources professionals in recent years. In fact, the PGi infographic noted 74 percent of recruiters and 60 percent of hiring managers feel video interviews make it easier for them to do their jobs, and 90 percent of recruiters and 88 percent of hiring managers believe it speeds up the recruitment process.

HR professionals and hiring managers can get a better picture of who the candidate is during video conferencing because they can see the person’s body language. In a blog, VidCruiter, a video recruiting software company, advised job seekers to wear the same professional attire to a virtual conference as they would for an in-person interview, and also to ensure all of their surroundings are free of clutter and remain mindful about their facial expressions.

For HR professionals to nail virtual interviewing, they need to be just as careful as job seekers. While challenges can happen no matter how ready you are, HR professionals still should prepare as much for a video interview as for an in-person or phone meeting.

Here are some do’s and don’ts recruiters need to follow when conducting video interviews:

Do: Check first to see if the candidate has access to web conferencing technology
Don’t: Assume all candidates have webcams or video communication
Even though many people use the Internet and various types of web-enabled devices, not everyone may have a webcam on their computer or have access to video conferencing technology. If you wish to conduct web meetings with candidates, speak to them beforehand to ensure they have an Internet connection and have technology compatible with your video conferencing software. Also, ensure there are no issues with your company’s Internet connection and your web meeting software to avoid confusion and issues arising during the interview, according to Accountemps.

Do: Use a private space
Don’t: Conduct the interview in public company areas

Just as how job seekers need to be aware of their surroundings, so too should recruiters. Don’t conduct a video interview in an open part of the office or in a public space. Reduce the level of distractions in the area by holding the interview in a private conference room or walled-in workspace. This way, you and your interviewee aren’t disturbed, and the job seeker feels respected.

Do: Ask questions that showcase the person’s actual experience
Don’t: Quiz about information that can be easily faked with a google search
Be careful of the types of questions you ask candidates during video interviews. According to a Q&A on online recruiter resource ERE.net, the site recommended HR professionals and hiring managers not to change their questions too much, but to be careful about questions that have answers that can be searched online. Textbook questions can be easily aced during a video interview, so ask open-ended questions about the person’s professional experience or problem-solving ability to prevent candidates from looking up notes online.

Do: Ensure the camera is centered and quality is good
Don’t: Adjust the webcam or screen during the interview
Nothing may be more distracting or irritating than having to stop a video meeting or postponing one because the other person didn’t check his or her equipment beforehand. It can be a red flag to recruiters for job seekers to disturb their webcam because it isn’t positioned properly, and it can throw the interviewee off if the HR professional or hiring manager does the same. Technical issues can happen, but if you adjusted your equipment and something still seems off when you start speaking to the interviewee, try not to let it distract you. ERE.net suggested not focusing on the quality of the video, camera framing, or lighting, but on the person you are talking to.

Video conferencing may continue to take off, and recruiters need to ensure they follow some best practices to ensure they are using the technology correctly.

Stop Talking and Listen For a Change

13 Jan

Positive and Constructive CriticismWhat do you look for in a good candidate?  That’s the magic question.  There is an easy answer.  It’s the candidate who is the best qualified candidate to do the job, right?  Well, yes in that respect but, there are other factors to consider.  Aside from the legal-type considerations, and believe me there are plenty, there is something called behavioral interviewing that you should really consider.

So, what is behavioral interviewing?  Long story short, it’s getting the candidate to talk about their previous (work related) experiences and describe past projects, success stories, failures, reflections and how they may have handled their failures differently with a more favorable outcome.  What does all this mean to the interviewer?  It means you need to SHUSHHHHHHH…listen to the candidate talk.  One of the most interesting things that occur during interviews is that the interviewers talk more than the candidates do.

Stop for a minute and think back to every job you’ve ever interviewed for.  How many times has that happened to you?  My guess is that it’s happened a lot of time throughout your career.  Why does this phenomenon occur?  Well, the easy answer is that most people don’t like long gaps of silence. It falls outside of their conversational comfort zone.  They like to “fill up” the dead air space.  Additionally, listening is not the same as hearing.  You can hear a lot of things but, are you really listening?  Have you really honed the skill of being able to filter out all external stimuli thus being able to focus on only one thing solely?  Most people would probably not admit to being able to do that though.  Let’s face it, we are told continuously by our teachers, peers, mentors and supervisors that being able to multi-task adds great value to our job and works well for meeting overall objectives.  In the interview though, not only could your multi-tasking be mis-interpreted by the candidate as being rude (for example looking at your email, sending a quick text or answering a call), you are also missing out on actually listening to the candidate talk about their experiences.

Bottom line, ask your question.  Hopefully, its open ended and behavioral based.  Then, listen to the candidate’s response.  Process their response, and then ask another probing question to their response.  Do this until you are satisfied that you have a good feel for the fit in matching the candidate’s professional experiences to your company’s mission and where you want that candidate to add the most value for you.

After all, you want to feel extremely comfortable that you know this person will grow to be your star top performer!

A View of Customer-Centric HR

30 Aug

Most HR professionals focus their efforts on maintaining strong relationships with employees. While helping employees succeed is important to any company, HR professionals who operate solely for their workers are missing out on an opportunity to benefit an organization in other tangible ways.

One of the best ways to improve HR practices is by understanding that a company’s clients are also an HR department’s customers. By interacting with customers and improving customer relations, an HR department can create systems that help train, retain, and reward employees. Keep reading to find out how an HR department can evolve into a customer-focused department.

Change the Approach
In order to bring an entire company’s focus onto its customers, an HR department has to change its way of thinking. Rather than focusing entirely on the inner workings of an office, HR professionals should shift focus to include outside influences, particularly the customer experience.

According to Dave Ulrich, a management professor at the University of Michigan, a company can focus on not only being an organization that top candidates flock to, but also on acting as a company that employs people who draw in clients, the Society for Human Resource Management reported.

“Almost every HR practice can be filtered through the eyes of the customer,” Ulrich told SHRM.

He went on to say an integrated relationship among employees, customers, and an HR department is gaining in popularity, making it essential for companies to get on board with the trend before they get left behind.

Implement Training Programs
If a company wants to improve its client relationships, the first place to begin is with employee management strategies, particularly training employees. With sales- or customer-based companies, it’s important for managers and supervisors to train employees how to balance customer relationships with efficiency.

These training sessions should center on developing and maintaining positive client partnerships—HR staff can develop training packets and programs that show new hires the best ways to forge these relationships, as well as effective techniques to dealing with difficult clients and ways to keep companies coming back for more.

HR professionals can enlist the talents of top salespeople or employees who best exemplify customercentric traits a company is striving for. These training sessions remind employees of the importance of clients in their business and can improve sales and communication skills across an organization.

Establish a Positive Company Culture
HR professionals understand better than most how essential a positive company culture is to overall business success. When employees feel uncomfortable contacting their supervisors or have a negative opinion about their jobs, they are far less likely to succeed.

An office or employee with low morale may also be looking out for the next job opportunity. This is a huge detriment to a company—disengaged workers generally feel unattached to their jobs, and that translates onto customers as well. Although this is not an easy fix, HR staff would be wise to focus internal efforts on opening the lines of communication with workers, invite questions or concerns from employees, and encourage camaraderie between workers.

When workers feel optimistic about their jobs and engaged with the task at hand, they are more receptive to the idea of strengthening client relationships. By helping workers focus on client relationships, an HR department can greatly benefit a company. These improvements may feel like they are happening organically, as employees gain the drive to thrive in client communications on a regular basis.

Set up Rewards Programs
There are few greater ways to increase performance than through strong incentive programs. Companies can set up plans that financially reward strong sales numbers—a common practice—but can also set up systems that recognize the hard work it takes to improve client retention and satisfaction.

One way an HR department can increase client retention and happiness is by involving customers in the process. HR professionals can reach out to clients and ask them about their interactions with staff members who handled their business. If an employee receives a certain number of positive reviews, he or she can earn financial incentives such as bonuses, days off from work, gift cards, or tickets to a popular sporting event. The specifics are up to company officials, but the general rule applies that employees who have incentives to work toward excel in the workplace—including improved client relationships.

Learn More About Clients
Improving customer relationships can come from within a corporation, but HR departments that are looking to truly transform the way a company does business may want to enlist the help of current customers. According to the SHRM, HR professionals can go to sales meetings to gather information from clients.

HR teams should be clear that this is not an assessment of what clients want out of an experience and can stress to customers that a company wants to hear their input and include them in the process of improving product delivery and company practices.

Focusing on customers rather than employees can be a big adjustment for HR professionals, but implementing effective changes can help employees succeed and keep clients happy.

Are You Setting the Right Work Goals?

28 Aug

wondering-150x150Today’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of theworkplacetherapist.com – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.

Setting the right work-related goals is critical for keeping you moving forward and avoiding getting “stuck” in the wrong role, company, or occupation. The challenge is that one size does not fit all. There are a myriad of combinations that may work for you. To that end, I’m going to tell you what works (and has worked) for me and for others. Consider this your menu to sample from as you move into the next year. You’ll see, I definitely have my “specials of the day.”

The Forest

As it relates to work and career goals, most of us fall short when it comes to possessing a long-term vision of where we see ourselves professionally. We get caught up in the trees and lose sight of the forest. As a result, we end up wandering in the workplace woods for a very long time. If we aren’t careful, we become pricing specialists for the tire industry. Consider the following exercise to overcome the forest dilemma:

Step 1: Gaze into my crystal ball and look five years into the future (or ten years if you are ambitious).

Step 2: My crystal ball only shows perfect. Describe what perfect looks like for you. What would your perfect life look like? Consider things like: where you would live, what your job would be, what your family situation would look like, and so on.

Step 3: Forgive yourself. Inevitably, there will be questions you don’t have answers to. Don’t beat yourself up. Work with what you know. If you know you want to live next to the ocean but you don’t know what your job would be, no sweat. That little piece of information is still extremely valuable . . . particularly if you currently live in Omaha.

Step 4: Given where you see yourself down the road (five or ten years), track back to this year and ask yourself: What do I need to get done this year to set myself up well to move toward my long-term vision?

The Trees

You’ve stuck your head above the tree line, and you’ve gazed at the big picture. Now consider the trees standing in your way. In other words, once you have your longer-term goal and a related goal for this year, you can more adequately take on a more specific work-related goal.

For a helpful framing of your work-related goal(s) for this upcoming year, consider the following three big categories. In Harvey Coleman’s book Empowering Yourself, The Organizational Game Revealed, he offers a simple yet extremely helpful acronym: P. (performance), I. (image), E. (exposure). Consider these as helpful “tree” categories to get you moving down the path you’ve set.

Performance—Goals that have to do with how you do your job. This can include doing your job better, learning new skills, or even removing tasks you are doing from your job that either you don’t do well or shouldn’t be doing at all (delegation). Naturally, while important, Coleman argues this category only makes up about 10% of one’s long-term success.

PIE-150x150Image—How others perceive you. Your brand. If you’ve had the fortune of getting 360 feedback this year, you might have noticed components in your feedback which are more about other’s perception of you than your performance (Ex: You always arrive late to meetings, people can always tell when you don’t like what they are saying by your eye-rolling, you cut others off, you don’t dress professionally, and so on). A critical category to be sure. Coleman weighs this category as contributing a meaty 30% to your long-term success.

Exposure—How much visibility you are getting with and from others. Do others talk about you in meetings when you aren’t there? Are you networking with the right people? Do the right people “know” you? Upon first glance, this category seems nonessential. Au contraire. Coleman argues exposure makes up a whopping 60% of your long-term success. Expose away . . . appropriately of course.

Your Compass

All that stands between you and that sandy white beach is you. Get moving. As a mentor of mine always says, “keep it simple.” Narrow your work-related goals down to one or two. No more. If you can do that and stay true to your compass, you’ll be working under an umbrella in no time.

Is Your Coworker an Emotional Vampire?

31 Jul

Today’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of theworkplacetherapist.com – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.

vampireLarry was a mysterious colleague. “Charming and captivating” were words his coworkers used to describe first meeting Larry. Larry just seemed to emit a certain attractive quality. It would reel you in like a moth to a flame. But then something strange would happen. The more time spent with Larry, the more his coworkers would complain of feeling drained and exhausted. Larry became known for turning 30-minute “touch base” meetings into 2-3 hour marathons where he would talk, preach, reenact, dream, and generally suck up the energy in the room. Unfortunately, while Larry was feeding off of the energy in the room, his coworkers suffered. Larry would leave the meetings energized with an extra hop in his step while his coworkers crawled to the door, exhausted and drained from Larry’s endless one-way banter. Larry is part of a dangerous office breed: the emotional vampire.

How You Know You’ve Been Bitten

Emotional vampires are sneaky and subtle. They move in as charming colleagues. They are captivating, entertaining, and generally interesting. The problem is that their energy comes from the people around them. Whether they hijack meetings to dream about big ideas or they take over discussions to complain about their workload, their energy comes from being heard and reaffirmed. They suck mercilessly until they are fed, leaving shriveled colleagues in their wake. How do you know if you’ve been bitten? Three signs:

  1. The emotional vampire talks about him/herself relentlessly—They find ways to take what you are talking about and turn it to themselves. They listen very little and talk incessantly.
  2. The emotional vampire has no boundaries and no respect for others’ time—They grab you in the hallway, causing you to be late. They never ever end meetings on time.
  3. You feel exhausted after you spend time with them—They usually start off meetings semiflat and end meetings looking and acting “high.” Those in the meeting with the emotional vampire have the opposite experience. If you find yourself bringing coffee to meetings in anticipation of the energy drain you’ll likely experience, you may have an emotional vampire on your hands.

Your Garlic Strategy for Keeping Emotional Vampires at Bay

I’ve fought my fair share of emotional vampires in the workplace, and I have the fang marks to prove it. After barely escaping their clutches on more than one occasion, I’ve learned that there are certain things that you can do that emotional vampires despise. Consider the following strategies:

  • If possible, never meet with them in person—Emotional vampires have to meet in person in order to effectively drain other’s energy. For them, it is not a preference, it is a need. Refuse to meet with them in person and offer a phone call instead. You’ll see them squirm, protest, and revolt. It seems fangs can’t penetrate through phone lines very well.
  • Never answer your phone when they call—When emotional vampires call, never answer your phone. Force them to leave a message so you know what they want and call them back on your time. If you don’t, they’ll catch you off guard and derail your day.
  • Always open every conversation with a “hard stop”—Emotional vampires suck and suck and suck until you tell them to stop. Your best preemptive strategy is to open every interaction with an emotional vampire by announcing, “Unfortunately, I only have ten minutes to talk.” It forces them to get to the point and keeps them relatively in check. Note: Whatever “hard stop” you announce, just be aware that they will not adhere to it, so be sure to give yourself a buffer.
  • Be aggressive and take charge—Emotional vampires tend to prey on our professional courtesies and politeness. They take charge of conversations and quickly turn the topic of conversation to themselves and what they want to talk about. They do not like aggressive conversationalists. If you are the one asking the questions of them and if you keep redirecting them back to the agenda, you’ll soon see that they will begin to avoid you. You prevent them from getting what they want, and they don’t like that.

Emotional vampires leave shriveled hollow shells of colleagues in their wake. Stop them in their tracks with the strategies outlined above and they might just see the light. Then again, like most vampires, emotional vampires don’t care very much for the light and may just look for another home that is darker and less bright. Either way, you rid your workplace of those nasty pests.

Good luck, stay sharp, and keep your garlic handy.

Five Reasons to Offer Flexible Working Arrangements

19 Jul

Out of sight, out of mind - that’s what many employers imagine might happen to an employee’s mindset when they’re out of the office. Most companies throughout the U.S. don’t offer flexible working arrangements for their staff. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 5 percent of employers offer flexible work schedules for a majority of their workers on a consistent basis, and that percentage has only gone up 1 percentage point since 2003.

Although traditional workdays are effective, it may be time for HR professionals and supervisors to update their employee management strategies, as an increasing amount of research shows flexible schedules benefit both employers and employees alike. Keep reading to find out five reasons to offer flexible working arrangements.

1. Attract Top Talent
Being able to work from home is considered a huge perk for prospective and current employees, and can act as an incentive to hire top-quality talent.

Entrepreneur and New York Times best-selling author Kevin Kruse said that the ability to work from home has helped him draw in top talent for more than two decades. Kruse wrote in Forbes that for 20 years he’s been telling new employees: “You can do your job wherever and whenever you want. You can even sit in a beach chair with a cocktail in hand for all I care, as long as you get our desired results.”

He goes on to say that offering a flexible schedule has allowed him to recruit star employees, and lure away talent from competitors without having to offer a raise in pay. A Census survey confirms this: people who work exclusively from home put in the same amount of hours as those in similar office-based roles, but made an average of $4,500 less per year than their counterparts.

When people have the choice to save money on commuting and have more freedom in their jobs, they’re far more willing to accept a lower salary.

2. Increased Employee Engagement, Happiness
On cold winter days, it’s difficult to find any joy in commuting – waiting for a bus or train, or climbing into a freezing car can be miserable, making employees dread going to work in the morning. On other occasions when a child is home sick, finding a way to care for them without missing work can be a real challenge. Offering flexible scheduling and the ability to work from home is a perk that should not be underestimated, as it increases job satisfaction and overall well-being.

Having the option to work from home gives employees the sense that their supervisors value their happiness and appreciate a strong work/home balance. Happy employees are engaged employees, and any HR professional or manager knows how important engagement is.

Gallup’s “The Relationship Between Engagement at Work and Organizational Outcomes” report revealed just how vital employee engagement really is. According to the study, companies with approximately 9.3 engaged employees for every disengaged one experienced 147 percent higher earnings per share compared to their competitors.

3. Improved Productivity
A major reason why most managers resist telecommuting is they believe productivity will take a hit. Studies show, however, that the opposite is true.

Researchers at Stanford University found that, at CTrip travel agency in China, when workers were given the option to conduct business from home, they took fewer breaks during the day, absenteeism dropped, and performance increased by 13 percent,. Of that 13 percent, 9 percent worked more hours per shift, making flexible arrangements a smart human resources solution.

4. Cost Efficiency
Workplace flexibility can save a company money, making the option a valuable investment. If on any given day at an office, 25 percent of employees are working from home, that’s 25 percent people using phones, computers, desk lamps, printers, fax machines, and other electronics, saving on energy and improving sustainability.

Operating electronically also saves money on office supplies – workers won’t be using company paper, pens, and pencils if they’re working from their living room. As any office manager knows, the cost of these items can add up quickly – having to place fewer orders for everyday items frees up valuable room in an organization’s budget.

Business owners can also opt for power-saving technologies when fewer employees are in the office, and can make the switch to time-based Power over Ethernet optimization. PoE allows individuals to turn a network on or off based on a company’s schedule, so if a workforce is operating from home or is encouraged to leave the office by a certain time each day, managers can disable the network to save money.

5. Better Communication, Stronger Results
Working from home requires increased communication between a team and supervisors. Improved communication creates a more equal workplace, and when working from home, this information flow makes employees feel respected and valued, without feeling like they are being babysat or micro-managed.

At the end of the day, sales numbers, productivity and increased revenues are what really matters to a company, and employees should be paid for the work they do, not just for showing up to an office everyday. If an employee can successfully operate from home, what does a company have to lose?

Five Creative Tips for Effective Benefits Management

17 Jul

This guest blog post is courtesy of Mary Anne Osborne, SPHR, and principal of the Osborne Group. Mary Anne is a peoplecentric HR professional and consultant with over 25 years of HR experience in telecom, finance, manufacturing, healthcare, and higher education. Mary Anne presents monthly on our complimentary Sage Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series that are approved for 1.00 recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

Benefits take up a large portion of an HR budget, which is why it’s important for a company to develop a management strategy that will increase employee return on investment, engagement, and staff performance.

Implementing an effective benefits management plan can be difficult, however, as there are many things to take into consideration. Keep reading to find five tips on putting in place a great benefits management plan:

1. Be Innovative, Flexible
When thinking about employee benefits, oftentimes, most minds will go straight to fiscal-related benefits like retirement. Yet one of the easiest and least expensive employee benefits is a flexible work schedule. Flexible work schedules are gaining in popularity across all sectors, and for good reason. A recent Gallup poll found employee engagement was significantly higher at companies where workers enjoy a reasonable amount of flex-time.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace found that flex-time had the strongest correlation to employee well-being, happiness, and engagement. Gallup reported that engaged employees with flexible schedules had 44 percent higher wellbeing than disengaged employees with strict schedules.

One of the greatest aspects of a flexible schedule is that it is cost effective. If employees are allowed to work from home on a regular basis and still produce quality work, there’s no reason for managers to discourage this practice. Instead, managers can score points with a staff by offering this highly desirable benefit to a workforce.

2. Offer Well-Rounded Health Plans
Effective benefits plans include more than basic compensation and health care plans. If a company can afford it, it’s worth it to invest in a robust health program. This doesn’t have to be hugely expensive, however.

Building a fitness facility onsite is a great idea, but if a company can’t afford such a major investment, a health plan that comes with discounted gym memberships is an effective way to improve employee health and happiness.

Another plus? Regular physical activity cuts down on illness, meaning lower absenteeism and lower insurance costs. In addition to offering sound HMO or PPO health insurance plans, companies can kick off health programs with weight loss or fitness competitions, which will bring some extra life to an office and improve morale.

3. Balance Work and Life
Remember above all else that employees exist outside of the office. This may sound basic, but many members of a company would argue that being overworked by managers makes them feel like they are valued only as workers and not as people.

This is an easy fix. Employers can offer more time off, either through a revised benefits package or through incentive programs like sales competitions. Set up a monthly sales competition, and instead of (or in addition to) monetary rewards, award the winners with an extra day off that they can take whenever they’d like. This will allow for greater balance between work and life, and will improve worker happiness.

4. Focus on Communication
If an HR professional or manager finds himself stuck deciding between benefits management plans, it’s a good idea to consult the staff. After all, they’re the ones who will be subject to any plan.

Asking employees what kind of benefits they’d like to see, or what changes are necessary to improve productivity, will increase communication and the important relationships between a staff and their supervisors. Many companies are choosing to use office management software, which facilitates easy and effective communication.

5. Stay Open to Possibilities
There’s no rule that a benefits management plan has to stay the same for years at a time. In fact, keeping up with industry trends can help companies stay ahead of the competition.

If a company wants to keep star employees around, they would be wise to update a benefits plan, incorporating flexibility with traditional perks. This is a winning combination that will improve employee retention, engagement, and productivity.

Creating a motivational and cost-effective benefits management program can be tough, but with a little creativity and dedication to talent management, a company can improve practices across the board.

Reduce Stress and Boost Profits

6 Jun

Not all stress is created equal. There are healthy levels of stress that can be highly motivating and push employees to rise to workplace challenges. But too much stress produces diminishing returns in the long run. In a quickly evolving working environment, employees are confronted daily with increases to their workloads, changes to teams and promotion structures, ineffectual or unsympathetic management, and various day-to-day elements of working life—which can all lead to stress.

This is especially important for HR professionals to recognize. High stress leads to low productivity and strategic human resource management aides in alleviating some of that stress—like ensuring employees are not too pressed on deadlines—will turn out to be beneficial to the employee, the manager, and the business, which will see the financial results in the long-term.

The Economics of Stress Management
For many HR professionals, stress is recognized as a serious wellness issue. In a December 2012 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), stress and mental illness were identified by HR professionals as their top employee health concerns.

The impacts of workplace stress are numerous. Stress has the potential to cause headaches, anxiety, substance abuse, high blood pressure, obesity, exhaustion, heart disease, and diabetes.

It is no secret that stress and depression are linked, as research suggests. Stress is both a mental and physical phenomenon. When we are overstressed, the body releases chemicals that compromise the immune system. It comes as no surprise then that stress, depression, and other mental illnesses are the primary causes of workplace absences, according to SHRM.

Factors like low job control, job insecurity, a lack of social support, work-family conflicts, and high-job demands have all been identified as potential causes of stress and depression.

According to SHRM, stress is the number-one cause of long-term absences—more than physical injuries such as neck pain, repetitive strain injuries, and acute illnesses like cancer and heart attacks.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 18.8 million American adults—9.5 percent of the adult population—will suffer from depression or a depressive illness. In any three-month time period, an employee struggling with a depressive condition will miss, on average, 4.8 workdays, resulting in 11.5 days of significantly reduced productivity on the job. It is estimated that depression will cause 200 million lost work days each year, costing employers between $17 and $44 billion in lost productivity.

There are many other impacts besides this staggering loss in productivity. High-stress levels lead to other negative, less tangible side effects, including employment disengagement, apathy, and high turnover and attrition—which all have economic consequences of their own.

When human resource planning involves employee engagement ideas that combat depression at its source, it will not only save the company money in lost work days, but also motivate employees to work more efficiently through the support and aide of colleagues and supervisors—helping the business to achieve a larger return on employee investment.

What Can Be Done About Stress
There are certain occupations that are associated with more demanding workloads and higher levels of stress. HR professionals need to prioritize stress management in those industries, especially the service industries. While reducing the workload may not be an option, there are a number of stress management options companies can pursue to improve their employees’ quality of life, reduce stress, and save money.

Many companies establish some form of wellness program. Typically, these programs include resources employees can access that promote healthy living habits such as dietary suggestions, exercise programs, and discounts or incentives at a partnering gym. Such programs enable employees to manage their own time and schedules and juggle the demands of various workload responsibilities.

One possible benefit from employing such a system is the ability to offer flexible work arrangements—by far the most significant factor in reducing stress. Some companies already offer flex time options, or “being there” time—a time management strategy that recognizes an employee’s obligations outside of work. Usually, flex time comes as a set number of hours that can be used at the discretion of an employee a few hours at a time, empowering him to attend his child’s school play or ballet recital. HR software solutions allow employees to log their own hours and track projects independently. Not only does this reduce stress, it improves productivity and employee engagement.

Time Management Leads to Stress Management
There are myriad ways a business can implement a flexible work arrangement, and the demands of a specific business will dictate the type and amount of flexibility that is available. Whether they organize a weekly lunch outing to destress employees or provide greater flex time options, effectively managing time will translate to a happier, less stressed employee—which in turn means good things for the business itself.

By changing mindsets about how a workload is distributed and tackled by employees, businesses can dramatically reduce stress by restoring control to an employee’s life—a trust that many employees will be grateful for and work hard to maintain.

Is Your Workplace Negative?

20 May

Negative WorkplaceToday’s guest post comes to us from Brandon Smith. Therapist, professor, consultant and radio host, Brandon brings an upbeat, witty approach to the challenges of workplace health and dysfunction. Brandon is the founder of theworkplacetherapist.com – a resource dedicated to eliminating dysfunction at work, improving workplace health and restoring optimism and focus in the workplace. Brandon also currently serves as faculty at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School where he teaches and researches on topics related to leadership, communication and healthy workplace dynamics.

My Work Place is Negative

I get it. The last several years have been tough. “Do more with less… there won’t be any raises this year… you are lucky to have a job… we may have to close our doors tomorrow…” Working day-in and day-out under these conditions can get to anyone. A therapist colleague told me a story that I think captures this sentiment perfectly. Several years ago he had a client who was in a highly toxic, negative and abusive relationship. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get her to change her perspective. One day he finally came to a realization. Here’s what he told her, “I’m a very healthy person. And yet, if I were in the relationship you are in 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, I would be just as broken-down, lost and as negative as you are.” Workplace negativity can get to us. To that point, here was a question I received over the past week from a reader that I think sums up many of our collective feelings of frustration at the office:

Where we work, the morale is terrible. Everyone is overworked, frustrated with our demanding customers and generally burned out. As a result, we are handling stress in negative and unhealthy ways. What specific tools can we use to change the negative and unhealthy ways we are handling stress? For example, I would like to put a punching bag in the back so we can hit it as a way to vent and then hopefully go about our business a bit happier.

To feel so stressed and frustrated that the idea of hitting something sounds like the perfect cure truly says it all. And to the reader’s question, what is the right solution? Is a punching bag in the back room the answer or is it something else? While a punching bag may sufficiently empty out the negativity from our veins, it doesn’t resolve the core issue. Negativity has infected our workplaces and unless treated, no amount of punching bags are going to fix the problem.

Stomping Out Negativity At Work

Below are a few different treatment options for eliminating negativity at work. Feel free to take them in combination. Daily doses are recommended.

  • Leadership needs to declare war. A critical starting place for eliminating negativity at work is for leadership to take a stand and declare all-out war against any forms of negativity at work. This can be the boss or a team decision. Regardless, those who lead need to announce that negativity is no longer welcome and they must be prepared to confront it at every turn. What does this mean? I’ve seen leaders who are serious about fighting negativity send an employee home when they become “infected.”
  • Make it a game. A second treatment option is to turn the negative moments at work into positive events by reframing them. In other words, make it a game. For example, I worked with an insurance company several years ago that had developed an interesting way to combat negativity at work. During the week, customer service reps would take a beating with disgruntled customers. At the end of each week, reps would meet and share their most difficult customer interactions. Whoever had the most difficult or challenging encounter won the “crazy customer” trophy. A huge oversized trophy, the “crazy customer” trophy would live at the desk of the rep who won it until the next week when more stories were shared. Games and fun competition can take a negative event and create a more playful team experience.
  • Throw out all the bad apples. Sometimes negative work environments are the product of a bad apple – an employee who is so negative he / she is poisoning everyone else. If there is a bad apple coworker in your midst, inviting them to leave is a necessary first step.

There you have it – strategies for eliminating negativity at work. Feel free to combine any of the above remedies. Take regularly and often.

Of course, if nothing else works throw up the bag in the back and wear it out. Who knows? You might find you have a future in the ring.

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