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Been there, done that!

22 Oct

Woman Working From HomeI’ll never forget the day I started with my new company (several years ago). My first project was to canvass for new external talent, track candidate skills, coordinate interviews and then onboard the new hires. Sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? It was for a while. Until my job role quickly expanded into other areas of HR, we started hiring like crazy and as we grew in size, I now needed to formulate processes to support the varying federal and state legislation (based on our new company size). Time out! I knew using a spreadsheet to keep track of everything wasn’t going to cut it any longer. Instead of waiting, I decided to dive right into looking for a HR and recruiting solution that would support the company’s growth, fulfill legislative obligations and keep my sanity in check! I knew I needed to do it quickly but at the same time, didn’t want to act hastily. Since I’ve had the opportunity to use many solutions prior to this role, I knew where I needed to look. Hence, my reason for writing this blog piece.Let me save those of you who either are new to the role or the HR/payroll profession or have not had the opportunity to use any automated HR/payroll systems in your past. There are a couple of products that I can specifically recommend to you to help automate your processes. If you are looking to wean yourself off of using spreadsheets to keep track of candidates and/or processes and you use multiple formulas to calculate and report on things, look into Sage HRMS and Sage HRMS Cyber Recruiter. Right away, these products will help you solve these issues (as well as a myriad of others).

Oh, yeah, getting back to my story. Remember, I was telling you about that first project I was tasked with doing in my new job several years ago? The one where I was canvassing for new external talent, tracking their skills, coordinating all interviews, and then onboarding them as they were hired using a spreadsheet: that story. Well, unfortunately, my computer crashed, and I lost everything I had worked on that first month into my new job. Words can’t accurately describe how I felt at that exact point in time. Let’s just say, it wasn’t a pleasant experience at all!

Don’t wait for something like that to happen to you; visit www.sagehrms.com or call 866-271-6050 and have them show you how they can make your life easier, automate your processes, and keep everything centralized so you can create reports without using formulas and linking spreadsheets.

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.

The Challenge of 2014: Retaining Talent

10 Mar

It’s no surprise that positive associate relations are necessary to support a safe, happy, and productive workforce. Many organizations pride themselves on their relationships with employees and work hard to ensure workers have a fruitful work/life balance. Yet, how important are these things, really? What are the consequences should an employer choose not to focus on employee satisfaction and talent management? According to recent studies, some employers may have underestimated the importance of keeping their workers happy.

For example, according to career management firm Right Management’s new survey, as many as 83 percent of the 900 employees surveyed reported they would voluntarily leave their jobs in 2014. As active job seekers and established members of the workforce begin to gain higher rates of confidence in the labor market – and as more jobs are becoming available – they are more likely to take employment risks and look for better opportunities.

In fact, in October 2013 more than 2.4 million Americans left their jobs, accounting for 56 percent of all voluntary and involuntary separations that month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In short, this means employees have the upper hand in making decisions based on their career prospects, and are less dependent on employers. Conditions have vastly changed since 2009 when, according to Right Management’s survey, only 60 percent of employees said they would actively seek new jobs. The upward trend is most likely attributable to economic conditions directly following the 2008 financial crisis, which left many workers dissatisfied and “stuck” in their positions amid financial uncertainty.

Yet now as economic tides turn and workers gain more autonomy, employers must utilize their talent management software to retain top performers and engage their staffs.

Employees Desire More
One of the biggest changes to the labor market is the influx of millennial workers and how their attitudes and preferences have begun to shape the work environment. According to a 2012 Forbes infographic, there are more than 80 million millennial adults in the U.S. and 36 percent of the workforce will consist of these workers this year. This number increases to 46 percent by 2020. Millennial employees differ greatly from their baby boomer and Generation X cohorts in that they are much more technology driven, have reached higher levels of educational attainment, and can make companies appear more attractive to shareholders and prospective workers.

But they also drive the need for employers to offer its employees more than simply a paycheck. According to Forbes, millennials also require purpose and a sense of accomplishment to stay loyal to their employers – a trend that is catching on. A Hay Group study that looked at global job outlook, retention and turnover found that in North America, more than 36.7 million workers will have departed from their jobs between 2014-18, with a spike in 2014. Employees who responded to the Hay Group study also reported a supportive workplace, opportunity for career advancement, and competent leadership as the top reasons to stay with an employer.

“With retention a growing concern for organizations – not just for key high performing employees, but also core employees – understanding the factors that drive commitment and loyalty is essential for managing increasing turnover risks in the months and years ahead,” said Mark Royal, a senior consultant with Hay Group. “Now is the time for organizations to understand where they stand on and tackle these influences, to keep employees from taking flight.”

These trends indicate a growing need for companies to hone in on talent management strategies to ensure the business retains its top performers in 2014. As economic confidence influences employees’ decisions to migrate to better jobs, prioritizing talent management strategies will be essential to the company’s long-term success.

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!

How Far Do You Reach in Your Outreach Programs?

6 Jan

Have you ever heard someone say, “It’s all cannon-150x150about the journey, not the destination”?  Sure you have.

If you’ve never heard the term “outreach program”, it’s all about seeking to hire qualified women, minorities and veterans into your open positions.  Mostly, government contractors and others doing business with the Federal Government are required to create Affirmative Action Plans as part of their ongoing recruitment efforts.  As part of those plans, there are some components that deal with outreach.  As part of their compliance efforts, that’s how some companies try to fill positions with qualified candidates from specific sectors within the labor market.  So, how does that saying fit into a company’s outreach program?  It’s all about setting out to do what you say you are going to do with respect to informing segmented groups about your company and “reaching out” to them with your job opportunities.  It’s as simple as that.  If you create and follow a comprehensive plan or program that branches out to these specific sectors and you aren’t successful (through no fault of your own) on attaining your goals it may go a long way in assisting you during an audit by demonstrating to the auditor that you put forth your best effort in trying or at the very least, demonstrate how far you were willing to “reach out” to the various groups in your program.  But, how far do you reach?  That’s what’s up for debate currently in the legislation.

If you earnestly go about creating a solid outreach plan, attend diversity job fairs, volunteer to speak at various diversity group meetings and/or training sessions, partner with your local department of labor office and take the time to meet the reps at your local veteran’s office, you should be on track to a great plan.

For more information on how you can track your progress in support of your goals, check out www.sagehrms.com and see how the Sage HRMS system can generate the reports you need to get the job done!

The Pros and Cons of Open Book Management

20 Sep

Open book management is a term that has been around for years, although there is still much confusion around the subject. The term itself is easy enough to understand – open book management is a business philosophy centered on involving a full staff in making a company more successful. Under the theories of open book management, involving more people in decision-making and planning can make a company thrive financially and organizationally. However, actually carrying out an open book management plan can be challenging, making it important to understand the pros and cons of such a program:

Pros of Open Book Management

Increased Transparency
Allowing a staff access into company financials is a powerful way to increase transparency among a workforce. Businesses that keep decisions separated by department or allow only the top executives at a company to have any influence on large decisions may be successful, but at these some companies, staff may feel left in the dark.

Open book management, on the other hand, leaves room for employees to contribute to the way a business is run, while increasing transparency and trust in management. When staff members feel they can trust their supervisors and are fully informed on the inner-workings of a company, they may be more likely to trust for executive decision-makers at a company.

Sense of Community
Sharing ideas can bring staff together and foster an environment in which employees feel open and honest with one another. A sense of community can positively affect a company on numerous levels, as camaraderie and developed relationships enable others to connect on a personal and professional level. This can increase happiness and employee engagement at the office, as well as open dialogue for workers to get to know the way other workers think.

Unique Ideas
By sharing financial and operational information with staff, executives may find more unique and exciting ideas coming from an office. Armed with pertinent information on how a company is working, individuals may be able to give new insights on how to approach a particular problem, or may come up with an idea to streamline operations. Sometimes, it takes a fresh perspective to solve a problem – involving an office in decision-making can provide unique insights and may result in improvements across a company.

Cons of Open Book Management

Information Overload
Too much of a good thing can be a hindrance when it comes to open book management. While some workers may be excited by the prospect of understanding company profits and becoming more financially literate, others may be overwhelmed by the onslaught of information. Some workers are excellent in their current roles because they are focused on the task at hand and do not have to worry about extraneous information.

Involving these staff members in increased decision-making can result in information overload, which can be distracting. If a company is implementing an open book management plan, it would be wise to involve only those who are most enthusiastic about the prospect of more responsibility and fiscal involvement to join in the new initiative.

Increased Worker Demands
Revealing financial and operational information to employees can have some unexpected consequences. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, some employers are nervous to let their employees know how much profit a company makes.This may be for a few reasons – companies that are not performing well may not want their employees to know the ins and outs of a troubled business.

Companies that are beating expectations and bringing in large profits may not want to show their employees this information for a different reason entirely. Some supervisors fear if workers see how well their department is doing, or that the company recently brought in dozens of new clients and has more cash to go around, that employees will be more inclined to ask for raises or become complacent. If a company is worried about this outcome, they may want to take it slow in opening up their management style.

Difficult to Implement
Involving employees in business decisions is a great way to move business forward, but not everyone starts off as a financial expert. Many companies switching to open book management plans offer financial training sessions to acquaint employees with financial operations.

After these training sessions, communication is essential, so weekly meetings and reports are often necessary to keep an open book management plan working. For certain companies, the involved nature of open book plans can prove to be too complicated.

Open book management plans aren’t right for every company, but when they’re used right, they can be the perfect solution for many business needs.

Align Employee Goals With Company Objectives

12 Sep

Creating career development plans and setting out company objectives are often seen as separate events. However, in order for a company to succeed, it is important to recognize the relationship between these two business components and how powerful a company plan can be. Exactly how does a company go about interweaving employee goals with business objectives? Keep reading to find out how:

Plan For Success
Before launching into a new employee management strategy, it’s important for company leaders to identify areas for improvement as well as routes to success. Executives and HR professionals can begin by conducting an honest and objective company overview.

Executives should ask themselves how sales are adding up, if company morale is low, if a company is efficient, and how each of these answers stack up against mission statements and objectives. Leaders should measure the difference between company realities and goals set forth in a mission statement.

However, as companies should always be striving to move forward, mission statements and company objectives need to be evaluated and revised. Perhaps in order to compete an increasingly digital world, a company needs to focus more on using smart technology like HR software and mobile devices. Others may need to factor in changing markets and adjust goals accordingly.

Communicate With Staff
Once an organization has identified new objectives and areas of growth, it’s time to share the results with staff. It is valuable to tell employees their performance matters not only for short-term goals, but for long-term organizational success.

During a presentation, an executive can show employees the difference between current company practices and goals the business should be striving for. It’s vital for success that company leaders communicate honestly with staff about future changes and new plans that will help them thrive.

Set Challenging Goals
Establishing new goals for employees is essential to tying individual goals to overall company objectives. One of the best ways to ensure positive outcomes is to include each staff member in their own planning session.

Certain employees’ sales numbers may be lagging because they are not being challenged – these same workers may be perfect for leadership roles and can help drive a company forward to new heights. HR representatives can sit down with employees and map out new ways for them to succeed. For example, if a company needs to improve new hire performance, an HR professional can set up a new program in which company veterans work with new employees to get them up to speed quickly and efficiently.

Or, if sales numbers are not where they should be, a company can challenge employees to achieve greater sales numbers each month. The main thing to remember here is that goals need to be both challenging and attainable. Lofty goals that are impossible to reach will not encourage workers to thrive – rather, they may discourage staff and make them feel they cannot succeed in their current roles.

Consider Compensation Plans
Sometimes, employees need more than encouragement to help get a company on track to meet business objectives. This is where compensation plans come in. These programs are especially important in sales-based organizations, where individual performance adds up to company profits on a daily basis.

A company can bring about higher sales by tying achievements – such as a 10 percent increase in sales over a quarter – to financial incentives. Bonuses and commission rates will motivate employees to perform better, and along the way they will be guiding a company toward achieving its main objectives.

Track Success
It’s not enough to implement a strong plan to align personal performance with company objectives – progress also needs to be monitored on a regular basis. After a plan has been put in place, HR professionals need to set aside time to track a plan’s success to ensure high return on employee investment.

Company leaders can request regular meetings with employees to talk to them about their performance, make adjustments to individual plans, and to receive honest feedback from staff. These meetings will give insight into how an employee can most benefit from a plan, and how an employee can simultaneously benefit the company as a whole with their success.

Another way to track program success is by using customer surveys. Whether a company works with businesses as clients or directly with consumers, surveys can be invaluable to monitoring performance. If a company has an overarching objective to improve the level of customer service, it can ask clients and customers about their experience with salespeople, or ask about their opinions of the brand as a whole.

Every company should always be striving forward to achieve more and better their business practices. It is always important to remember that employee performance directly affects company behavior, which is why HR professionals should guide staff toward the kind of performance that will improve a company overall.

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.

Dos and Don’ts When Linking Premiums to Wellness

23 Aug

Spurred along by large-scale health care reforms, wellness incentive programs have grown significantly in popularity over the past several years. Rising premiums and mandated extension of coverage has led employers to pursue cost savings through proactive talent management with health-based incentives. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, spending on wellness incentive programs has doubled over the past four years. Corporations are expected to spend an average of $521 per employee on wellness incentive programs in 2013, up from $460 in 2011 and $260 in 2009.

With such a surge in popularity, many companies are looking to adopt their own individualized initiative that links wellness to premiums. Navigating such programs can be confusing, however, leaving many employers at a loss on where to begin. Here are a few dos and don’ts for employee wellness programs.

Do:

Begin With Screenings
The first step to any wellness plan is to assess the current health of employees. This can be achieved through an initial checkup with a general practitioner. Doctors can measure weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure during these visits, giving staff members a general overview of their health. By using these results as a benchmark, it will be much easier to track individual progress made by workers.

For example, employers can extend incentives to those with high cholesterol that focus on reducing bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol. On the other hand, those with good cholesterol readings can be encouraged to improve their health in other ways.

Link Wellness to Incentives
Once health assessments have been completed, an employer should set up incentive-based programs that reward improvements in health. One of the most popular reward systems is to decrease premium payments when health goals have been reached. According to the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments study, 61 percent of employers offered reduced premium rates to employees who improve fitness levels.

A popular way to incentivize employees is to set up group or individual weight-loss programs. When employees reduce their weight by 10 percent, for example, they can become eligible for lower premiums, cash rewards, gift cards, or other savings. These measures spark motivation and drive to become more fit in the long and short term.

Communicate With Employees
Regardless of the benefits of a wellness program; it is likely that some staff members will resist the changes. It might not sit well with some who feel their personal life and health is beyond the purview of their employer. To counter negative responses and bad publicity, it’s important that executives or supervisors provide a thorough explanation of the plan and how it can positively affect workers.

Executives should hold companywide meetings to explain the plan in full and encourage questions from attendees. It is equally important to provide written explanations of the plan for team members, whether that means handing out physical packets of information or sending electronic versions by email. Supervisors and HR professionals should welcome input from staff. Opening the lines of communication can cut down on resistance and resentment.

Don’t:

Focus on Penalties
It is likely that many staff members will engage in a wellness program to save them money. However, staff should always feel free to opt out of fitness programs without penalty. Yet a Georgetown study found that some companies have chosen to create plans that work much differently from others.

The “Premium Incentives to Drive Wellness in the Workplace” report revealed that some employers are instituting programs in which deductibles are initially set at high rates. For example, companies have created programs where deductibles are first raised from $500 to $2,500. Workers can then participate in the program, and when they hit certain goals, their deductibles are decreased by $500 at a time.

This may be somewhat effective, but employers should expect heavy resentment among staff over increased rates.

Limit Access to Health Care
Another outcome of poorly developed programs is limited access to health care. When individuals have high deductibles and premiums, they may be less likely to visit the doctor for routine checkups or preventative care. An employer may not be directly stopping employees from visiting a physician, but such high costs may prevent individuals from seeking medical help when they need it.

Limiting access to health care will not only affect employees, but may result in higher absenteeism and illness among staff, costing a company money.

Discriminate Against Employees With Preexisting Conditions
When developing incentive programs for wellness, employers should be careful not to discriminate against workers with preexisting conditions. The Georgetown study cited one such example—itself a warning to employers:

At an unnamed company, a woman with Type 1 diabetes was unable to reach the Body Mass Index standards set forth by her company. Although she had been exempt from the program while pregnant, after the birth of her child, her employer reenlisted her in the weight-loss program. Her doctor, however, advised her not to lose any weight because of her issues with hypoglycemia and other medical troubles related to diabetes.

Her employer refused to remove her from the program, and as a result of her inability to participate, her premiums shot up from $175 per month to $320 per month. Programs like these are not only discriminatory, but may result in legal complications for a company.

When developing a wellness program linked to premiums as part of a human resources solution, it’s important to remember that employees should come first. Reducing health care costs will undoubtedly benefit a company, but in order for such a program to succeed, staff should always feel welcomed by a program rather than penalized or excluded.

On a related note, remember that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (PPACA) individual mandate will go into effect on January 1, 2014. Prepare your business by visiting SageCanHelp.com to learn how.

How to Create Employee Engagement Programs That Work

12 Aug

A recent poll from Gallup revealed only 30 percent of employees are engaged at work. Disengaged workers represent a cost to U.S. business between $450 billion and $550 billion every year, according to CEO.com. This represents a crisis state in human resources management. While efforts to increase employee engagement are common, too many fail. Employee engagement ideas run the gamut from perks and parties to trendy initiatives like standing desks. However, without a solid basis in analysis and research, these efforts may not work.

Understand What Employee Engagement Really Is
While having a happy workforce is an admirable goal, it’s not directly linked to engagement. An employee who is engaged is one who feels committed to his organization and its goals. According to a paper published in the Academy of Management Review, employee motivation stems largely from internal factors rather than external ones. Workers whose highest-order goals align with their positions are most likely to be engaged. These goals are of the broadest type and include status, autonomy, achievement, and interacting with others. Savvy recruiters will try to match candidates to jobs using these goals, and managers can help workers become more engaged by highlighting how their work fulfills them.

As this study shows, employee engagement is a phenomenon in the domain of organizational psychology as much as human resource solutions. Insights about what employee engagement is and how to foster it may be found in psychology publications as well as industry-specific channels for human resources professionals. For example, according to the Harvard Business Review, giving employees a measure of autonomy and self-direction can help them feel more engaged, as can an active social support system at work. Adding an academic understanding of how to engage employees may make the difference between a successful effort and one that simply takes resources and time while only producing underwhelming results.

Realize That Employee Engagement Can Be Measured
It is common in the business world to assert employee engagement is neither objective nor measurable, according to CEO.com. Many studies have contradicted this, including the Gallup poll that was able to gather hard data on how many American workers are engaged. Neglecting to measure engagement because of the notion that it can’t be done will hinder efforts to improve it. There are criteria for engagement that are easily measurable—increased engagement can lead to higher morale and productivity, for example. It’s also possible to get a read on engagement itself, whether through anonymous surveying or another method.

Companies should measure employee engagement periodically. Gathering data before, during, and after a particular effort to increase engagement can provide insight on what works and what realistic goals are for the future. It is also important to make all information available to many more people than just executives. Individual managers can help with on-the-ground strategies to increase engagement, but unless they have data to guide them, they may not be able to be as effective as possible.

Make Plans as an Organization
C-suite inhabitants, no matter how good their intentions, may not really know what their employees need to feel engaged at work. For this reason, plans for employee engagement programs should always originate from several points in a company’s hierarchy. Managers who work directly with employees of all kinds should be consulted regarding what they believe their teams need and value. While there is research that supports many types of engagement initiatives, it’s also important to match a program with a company’s employees in order to get the best results. What works for one organization may fall flat at another. Feedback from middle managers and other staff can refine plans and ensure that all employees feel connected with the efforts in progress at a company.

Similarly, initiatives ought to originate from many levels and departments. A top-down program may be seen as an out-of-touch imposition, while one that has a grassroots feel may be more compelling. If it is possible to leverage employees who are among the engaged minority to encourage their colleagues, human resources professionals should consider doing so. Strategic human resource management requires a certain amount of creative thinking and collaboration, both of which would not be out of place in these efforts.

Continue to Measure and Improve Employee Engagement
Fostering an engaged culture in the workplace isn’t a one-time effort. Companies whose engagement statistics improve after a particular effort aren’t done with the task. Rather, it’s important to measure engagement periodically and address the topic before it becomes an issue. Integrating engagement initiatives that have seen success into the day-to-day running of a company is a great idea, as is including ways to keep workers engaged in management training. With research and planning, any company can help its employees become truly engaged, which will benefit everyone.

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