Keeping employees motivated without breaking the bank

1 Dec

Motivation drives company performance.

Coming up with employee engagement ideas that boost motivation is an easy way to keep profits high and turnover low. When employees have the right spirit, they work harder and practice better teamwork.

The best way to keep people motivated is simply to be an employee-centric company, according to Staff Motivation Matters. Many businesses make a point of putting employees at the top of their list of stakeholders – ahead of customers and even shareholders. As a result, these businesses tell their employees everything that it makes sense to tell them, including good and bad news. They promote transparency and foster a spirit of genuine collaboration. Managers are chosen appropriately without picking favorites or valuing some employees more than others.  People give each other appropriate feedback and work together. Team building allows people to get to know each other and get along well.

Making career paths
Another aspect of the employee-centric point of view is the creation of career paths that employees can follow, Forbes contributor Victor Lipman noted. This means caring about what happens to people in the future. Everyone should be groomed for the positions that are appropriate for them This can be difficult because some employees by the nature of their jobs may get the idea that hard work is less important for their task But this should not be the case if someone explains to them that they can advance if they work hard and show a daily effort.

This goes along with being a caring boss or at least hiring caring people to be in managerial positions. Taking a genuine interest in someone's work and life goals could be a way of unlocking potential a manager didn't know was there. People could have skills they didn't indicate on their resume, or they might have done some training during their off hours.

Focusing on motivation at a granular level
Sometimes motivational factors are specific to individual employees. For example, one employee may be triggered by the idea of progress or forward movement. Entrepreneur suggested that when faced with an employee like that, the best motivation strategy is to use those words to highlight ways that a project or job would move a company in the right direction. Just changing how managers describe something can go a long ways toward encouraging the right frame of mind in an employee.

What makes a good employee handbook?

1 Dec

Employee Training is Affordable Way to Improve ROEIIf written correctly, the employee handbook can be a terrific resource for the employer and the employee. There are several elements that should be included within that relate to the company’s history/mission, values, policies, procedures, and benefits. Make no mistake about it, the handbook is often viewed as a means of protecting the company against discrimination and unfair employment practice claims but will also provide an outline of the general expectation that the employer has for its employees. Don’t confuse the employee handbook with a policy and procedure book. The two are different. A policy is a written statement that reflects the employer’s standards and objectives relating to the various employee activities and employment related issues. You can see clearly there is a difference. It is advisable for you to include legal counsel input as you craft an employee handbook. The handbook should be generic enough for the employees to know what is expected of them but provide enough guidance leading them to where they can go for the actual written policies of the company (which may exist in other department specific documents and/or standard operating procedure guides). Including legal counsel will ensure your policies conform to updated federal and state guidelines.

Employers should ensure the handbook is distributed to every employee within the organization (regardless of specific levels or job titles) and secure a written acknowledgement of their employees who have received the handbook, thus ensuring that all employees have read and understood the contents. Once the employer receives the acknowledgment, it should be secured in each employee’s personnel file. This is a very important step. A checklist should be developed to ensure that every employee’s acknowledgment (complete with signature) has been received. Written returned employee handbook acknowledgments should be readily available for you but completely secured with limited access. Keep in mind that state laws vary on electronic record retention schedules. Again, partnering in with your legal counsel will ensure your company remains compliant.

Handbooks should never be construed as an employment agreement; which could affect the employer’s “at-will status” with the employee. Handbooks should always be reviewed by legal counsel before distribution to the employees. Consult professional legal guidance for clarity in defining the differences between state and federal laws.

What if an employee handbook already exists at a company?

If your job now includes responsibility for employee handbooks, all the employer’s policies and procedures should be reviewed again to ensure they contain all of the provisions that the employer wants contained within as well as ensuring all applicable state and/or federal provisions have been included.  No assumptions should be made. Begin the process from scratch and cross-reference with the handbook that already exists. If the policies in the current handbook don’t make sense to you, they more than likely won’t make sense to an employee once reissued (or may be misunderstood by current employees). Rewrite the policy and provide your draft to legal counsel for review. If a policy doesn’t exist, write one. Partner with the appropriate department leads to which any policy affects. Have them review it first and then partner with your legal counsel. Prepare as much of the draft as you can as this will save a lot of cost. Here’s an example. If it’s a policy that supports the payment of paid time off and the payroll eepartment within the organization will be the department that supports and ultimately administers the policy on a daily basis, have that department head review it to ensure it clearly conveys the intent of the policy and that it can actually be administered by that department in the manner in which it is written and intended to be administered. Again, the emphasis will be to ensure that your legal counsel has had the opportunity to review this prior to any policy issuance to the employees. This will also help ensure compliance.

What else should be in there?

Most employee handbooks include a message such as from the company owner, CEO, president, or other higher entity within the organization. It’s usually a welcome message that contains something about the company’s mission, purpose, or intent. It’s a great way to establish positive associate relations.

Of course, other important statements should be included such as, EEO, employment at-will, FMLA, COBRA, EEOC, anti-discrimination laws, ADA, and FLSA. Many other important considerations and legal mandates could apply in certain states. Again, it would be advantageous for you to have legal counsel review prior to issuance to the employees. Use all of the sources available to you; inclusive of any professional human resource organizations. If you’re not a member of any professional organization, join one that that is reputable and that you are comfortable with. Ask other professionals within your field. They will be able to help you select an organization that you can contact for introductory information. Professional human resource organizations will be able to assist you with tasks that are common to professionals within your industry. They may also be able to provide samples, templates, toolkits or checklists of items that you may have forgotten or for topics and/or items you weren’t even aware of because you are new to the field or performing this task.

Considerations for distribution to employees

Posting to your company intranet is a great way to communicate the handbook, however you need to be sure that there has been a mechanism created that can legally obtain the employee’s signed written acknowledgement. You’ll also need to consider how you will distribute the handbook to new employees.  Create a checklist to cross-reference the written acknowledgments you receive. You should receive an acknowledgement from every person of your organization, regardless of level or position within the company. Employee acknowledgements should be housed in a secure location, with access kept to a minimum.

Updating the handbook in between cycles

So, you’ve just finished updating your employee handbook and distributed it to the employees and you have now been made aware of a new major policy. Simple: create an addendum. Once you have had legal counsel review it, post the update to your intranet, recirculate the policy to the employees and be sure to include the addendum in your next major handbook update. Check with your legal counsel to inquire if you need to obtain any written acknowledgments from the employees. Be sure to clearly reference any previous policy that has been updated. Clearly convey that the new policy replaces any other versions that may have been previously circulated. Make sure the addendum contains a date or current revision schematic (if you use one). It should be extremely clear which policy governs and be easily cross-referenced with the new policy. Sometimes it’s helpful to provide a small paragraph that outlines exact changes to the policies. These help outline the differences between the policies.


Partner in with department heads who are responsible for administering a particular policy. Ensure you take their feedback into consideration and have them approve any and all final drafts of policies.

Review all drafts for clarity, consistency, and typos.

Use current revision schematics or calendar dates where necessary.

Ensure that a draft of the final employee handbook is provided to the executive that you directly report to so he or she has the opportunity to ask questions or provide feedback.

Obtain legal review; this is extremely important.

Obtain signed written employee handbook acknowledgements from every person and level within the organization.

File all signed written acknowledgements in a secure location; limiting access to only those who will absolutely need it.

Consult professional human Resource organizations for guidance in preparation or for best practices.

Visit for solutions that can help you manage the total employment life cycle.



Telecommuting good for millennials, although with some risks

25 Nov

Telecommuting is an option many millennials prefer.

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

Hiring via social media is quite common now.

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

Meditating can reduce stress.

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."

Why employee self-service matters

18 Nov

HR Trend AnalysisWhat is employee self-service? You hear that term a lot, but if you are a relatively small employer and/or new to the HR role, do you really know? I didn’t until someone explained the concept and informed me that there was actually a product that could tie into my core HRMS to do the things I had been doing manually for years, then disseminate the necessary information to my managers and executives for approval or notification. Wow, talk about a surprise! How many personnel action forms have you completed for address changes, emergency contacts, phone number changes, and so on? You know the drill. A PA form is needed for everything! Plus, as HR, we are taught to “document” everything for use at some later point in time. Imagine … Employees key in their changes to personal information from the comfort of their desks (or even their homes), then, these changes follow some type of logical expression or pathway that you’ve preset in the system to automatically route to the appropriate individual(s) for approval or notification. Employees are able to access other pieces of HR information, which includes skills, job history, and performance reviews. Managers have instant access to employee data for both direct and indirect reports. They can review attendance information, employee performance, salary history, time off requested and much more. Really, the possibilities are endless.  Again … .whoaaaaa, cool! For some companies I’ve worked for, I was the person actually introducing and/or creating the PA form. What I mean by creating the PA form is taking a form and actually crafting it into an MS Word or other application (that is similar to being an artist or graphic designer using the computer), then training everyone on the PA form use, or just offering to complete the PA form for the managers to save them time for whatever change it is they needed to make within the HRMS. Can you say time consuming? Have you ever held that role? If you work in a small company, sure you have!

So, what’s the lesson learned or key takeaway here? Employee self-service products really can and do save you time and money. More importantly, though, they yield a healthy Return on Employee Investment by creating the best circumstances for each individual in the organization to perform at his or her best potential. For some employees within the organization empowerment makes all the difference in the world. By giving your employees ownership of their personal information and enabling them to input their own changes directly into the HRMS when it’s convenient for them to do so, you promote workplace satisfaction, thereby increasing your Return on Employee Investment. In addition, by encouraging your employees to use employee self-service to gain access to the relevant information they need when they need it, you can begin to enhance company communication and improve motivation. Plus, increasing employee engagement correlates directly with a positive impact on key metrics within the business, which will ultimately help the organization reach its goals.

The first step you need to take, though, is actually seeing an employee self-service product in action and then talking to a few people who are similarly situated to you with respect to the size of your organization and your specific role within it. It’s really that simple. I admit I was reluctant to the process at first because I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of things on my own; however, once I realized (and saw for myself) that I could streamline this process entirely, while empowering my employees in the process, then I could begin to retool the next big labor intensive HR process.

Take the first step and start here … Visit our website: or call Sage at 866-271-6050 and learn more about how this product will help you.


How to keep employees with good on-boarding

18 Nov

Training employees is worth the effort.

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.

Making changes to your 401(k) can boost returns

18 Nov

Plan your retirement early.

It may be a good idea to check your 401(k) occasionally. They best employee payroll software makes this easy. Someone's 401(k) benefits usually work by passively investing in different asset classes without your direct input. A portion of your money goes into each of the investments, and you don't have to think about it. The problem with this is there are points when your investing strategy might change, but if you don't update your 401(k) then your investments will never become anything different, which may cause you to gain less money than if you made periodic alterations to boost your returns, NASDAQ reported.

The best times to change your retirement fund are whenever something important happens, such as getting married or receiving a promotion. NASDAQ also recommended that you update at least once a year.

Consider an IRA
The Motley Fool also brings up the topic of the IRA. In terms of tax incentives, having both means that if your income is above $70,000 then you lose the deduction benefits of an IRA. Otherwise, anyone under the age of 70 1/2 can invest in an IRA. IRAs have a basic contribution limit of $5,500, while 401(k)s allow you to invest $17,500 of your money into them.

Employers generally match 401(k)s with money of their own, while IRAs only take money from investors and put it away. IRAs are cheaper in invest in, since there is generally little to nothing in the way of annual fees, although the return may not be as good. Additionally, IRAs give you many more investment options than a 401(k), which has a few investment plans you must choose from.

January 2015
Early next year, the maximum that someone can invest in a 401(k) will increase to $18,000, according to a separate Motley Fool story. Those who can afford to invest the whole amount will see a benefit to their returns assuming their employers do matching. This is the major reason why it would be a good idea to look at your 401(k). Another reason might be to switch from riskier investments early in a career to low risk investments later down the road when someone has more money to lose if things go south. An additional issue is how your company matches someone's money. If it gives that person stock, then it may be a good idea to put some of that money somewhere else if the company's longevity is in question.

The bottom line is that while a 401(k) is always a great way to make money, it will make you even more money if you pay attention to it at least once a year.

How to keep millennials on the team

14 Nov

Millennials often stay at jobs for a year or less.

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

The hiring process shouldn't be unnecessarily complex.

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.

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