Finding and building a team

2 Sep

Great teams take time to form.

Building great teams doesn't happen overnight. It requires an overall human resource planning strategy that goes beyond team building exercises. That being said team building exercises don't hurt, according to What matters is the right team and the right exercises.

How to find the best candidates for building a team
Ideally, a team works together because the members are all people who fit into the culture of the workplace. This returns the concept of teamwork to the now common discussion of whether or not companies should hire for culture. According to ERE, hiring for culture, when done in the right way, is ultimately a good thing.

Working with people who are very different from each other can also be a good thing. Workplace diversity is founded upon the idea that people with different backgrounds have different perspectives; by using a strategy formed from a group of unique people who work together, workers can forge a stronger company. If hiring for culture means hiring against diversity, then someone is making a mistake.

The best culture a company can have is a diverse one. When everything thinks and acts alike, then everyone will consistently make the same mistakes. Instead, hire people who are different from each other but also complement each other and get along. If your team has a weakness, then hire for strength in that area. This way, people will have different skills that all complement the overall teamwork of the company.

How to take the raw materials for a team and shape it into something great
After hiring the right people, how do you make sure you get them to find each other and get along? Ideally, team building exercises are ice breakers that let people get to know each other in ways that will stick, allowing everyone to bond and form a tactical unit. recommends looking for team-building activities that improve communication and help people understand each other better. Activities should also center on making decisions together and forming a group consensus, along with the ability to plan as a group.

Ultimately what a team has behind it is a trust that is formed through bonds. People in teams make bonds when they experience and overcome hardship together. When every person on a team trusts every other person, then people won't second guess someone or become angry and frustrated. People will know what their own personal strengths and weaknesses are, and they will work together in tandem as a unit.

Using evidence-based HR

28 Aug

An evidence-based approach to HR solutions helps to prove theories.

More companies are trying increasingly outlandish things to improve quality of life for workers and boost culture. Businesses are also tapping into big data to look for correlations between traits and talents to find the best people available. But is all of this ultimately going to work? That's where evidence-based recruiting comes into play.

For a company to have a great HR department, it better have HR manager software. This is something every company needs no matter what size. But besides that element, what can those charged with human resource planning do to ensure their strategies are effective at improving a return on investment?

According to Harvard Business Review, Google has long been a proponent of using "out of the box" ideas to get work done. One such concept is the napping pods system. But Google has been smart enough to use an evidence-based approach, HBR reported, and this means that when investors are asking if the company's expenses coming from people sleeping on the job or making their own espressos with a $2,000 machine are returning anything profitable, the company can back everything up.

An evidence-based solution to work-life balance
The way Google does its evidence-based HR is through a random survey that samples 4,000 employees with two in-depth surveys.  A recent study done in this way looked at work-life balance. According to the study, only 31 percent of people were able to separate their work from their personal lives. The other members of Google found themselves focusing on work even when at home.

The findings indicated that most Google employees wanted to get a better work-life balance and separate their jobs from their personal lives. As a result, the company instituted several programs, such as "Dublin Goes Dark," in which Dublin-based office employees were asked to leave their phones and other devices at the front desk before going home. As a result, stress reduced considerably.

Finding evidence-based solutions to other HR matters
When working out employee management solutions, Abhishek Mittal, an HR Blogger and freelance HR professional, tries to focus on using evidence to solve problems at the companies where he works. In one situation, he was asked to find out whether moving employees horizontally into skill areas outside their general expertise was a good idea. Mittal used an algorithm to find out any correlation between moving horizontally and performance.

"I worked with the client to design an analysis plan - examining patterns of career moves of high-potentials over several years and connected that with their KPI achievements," Mittal wrote. "After a few days of number-crunching, the verdict was out - high-potential employees who moved across businesses achieved an average 7 percent  more than those who moved within their business units."

Using this strategy offers a long-term benefit to any company that wants a real solution with the evidence to back it up.

Social media and the hiring process

27 Aug

Some companies use social media to advertise their job openings.

Those in the business of keeping up with the latest advancements in recruiting and human resource planning will know that social media is one tool companies can use to find candidates. A study by the Human Capital Institute reported by Human Resource Executive Online found that although 72 percent are using social media for this purpose, only 55 percent actually believe they are using it effectively. Additionally, some question that even 55 percent of companies are successfully managing their recruiting through social media.

Recruiting candidates is never easy, and many companies are turning to personnel management software to help them keep up with the flood of potential employees that are coming from school and leaving their previous jobs to find better opportunities. Contacting these people through social media can be a challenge. People have to do more than just passively submit job listings

"Most people just post jobs, versus the hard work of building a talent community around the employer's brand," Jenna Filipkowski, director of research at HCI, told HRE Online. "The ones that use social media effectively are able to do both."

In other words, one of the best ways to use social media is to use it as an advertising tool to display a company's brand image and culture. This doesn't require companies use flashy images of fun parties to make people want to work for them. HRE Online cited an example of a diversity head at a firm who posted facts about her company's commitment to diversity and its percentage of diverse executives.

Other advertising strategies
Another way to build a brand is to start with smaller connections, such as tweeting about sports on Twitter.

"I'm a big White Sox fan, and discussing that via Twitter has helped me build personal rapport with people in this area whom we've ended up hiring," said Jill Neumann, HR Executive at SWC Technology partners, which finds most of its recruits via social media. "Talking about your likes and dislikes, funny banter about things that happened that day - doing this makes it more likely you'll attract lots of followers on Twitter."

Another way of getting people interested in a company is for the business to post a cognitive game or another challenge on its Facebook page for people to solve. This will give more ways for potential workers to interact with the page than simply following it or liking it.

Social Media Risks
One risk of using social media to recruit employees is that many companies will search candidates on social media platforms like Facebook. A separate HRE Online article pointed out there is a risk to this because companies can find out information they legally are not supposed to know, such as whether a woman is pregnant or not.

"It can be a tremendous risk because even if they don't mean to do it, employers could be screening using illegal or impermissible criteria, such as race, sex, ethnic background, etc.," Dianne Moretzsohn, a lawyer with McCausland Keen & Buckman, told the website. "It's obvious you can't use social media and hope to control for that."

According to The Fair Credit Reporting Act, employees must make it clear they are using background checks or credit checks when examining candidates. Additionally, these checks must only be relevant to the position. For example, checking for a driver's license is not legal if the job doesn't require driving.

However, no such requirements exist as of yet for social media. The laws in this field remain relatively murky because the subject is still very new. Employers may wish to let their own social media pages speak for themselves rather than look at candidates' pages.

Finding great leaders

25 Aug

Managers provide leadership for a company.

Those who want to hire great leaders need not look much farther for human resources solutions than a few quick boxes to check during an interview. Great leaders often have similar traits that can be found through careful searching and navigation. But you may not need to hire a personable leader for every position. Someone in a management role who looks after HR payroll software may need great organization skills, but they may not need leadership skills.

In other words, hiring great leaders means fitting the right skills to the right job. Inc Magazine refers to this as the three kinds of focus that people in management positions can have.  Some people are focused internally on staffing issues while others reach outward to encompass other businesses and are more focused on the relationships a company has with its customers, partners and supply chain. Hiring for leadership, a good human resources professional should first look toward what kind of leader is necessary for the job.

There is also a third category of leader who focuses primarily on strategy. This kind of leader is the one you want making long-term decisions.

It may be an unusual concept for traditionally-minded companies, but while some people thrive moving in a straight upward path in a company, going from entry level to mid-level to managerial positions, others are automatically better at certain tasks that may be parallel to the original positions they started with. If a company finds someone who can write but would prefer to work with spreadsheets, then don't be afraid to perform a horizontal promotion and move that person somewhere he or she can thrive.

Improving leaders through skills development
Another important step when making leadership choices for a company is how to develop existing managers so they can excel and become better at their jobs. Entrepreneur recommended that managers look inward at their accomplishments and ask what they have done well so far and what they can improve on.

They should also focus on bettering those around them, according to the article. Companies with strong mentoring programs will likely have a stronger and more cohesive work culture. They will also foster loyalty between mentor and mentee, which can lead to a greater level of professionalism and discipline.

Finally, looking inside of oneself and asking about motivations is a key point. A person ideally should work to better the company rather than his or her own career. The company should be of paramount importance for leaders.

Training management is critical

22 Aug

Training can be a major factor in how well managers perform.

Management training is a crucial step for companies that choose to promote from within rather than hire from without. When it comes to human resource planning, this strategy can sometimes be a way to let culture grow in a business so people who have already been indoctrinated in a company's message and method of operations are moving upward into managerial roles and directly educating the next generation of staffing. This is in opposition to creating seminars or showing in a guidebook how a culture is supposed to operate. One may find that culture is better cultivated through the direct teaching by management to employees rather than from reading about it or learning about it in another way. Direct experience has always been a great method for people to learn things.

Business Law Review cites the example of GEICO, which hires most of its managers from entry-level workers who have simply moved upward in the business after having grown there over the course of many years.

In order to train staff that may not have gotten a degree in business management or otherwise have experience in certain important business concepts like finance or accounting, the company offers something it calls GEICO University. This program is in addition to a tuition reimbursement program that it gives to full-time associates.

Companies without the resources for college-training can also teach managerial skills
According to Forbes, one way to train managers without having a large budget is to hire people with teaching experience. In the example Forbes gives, a business that works heavily with the military makes a point of hiring leadership with experience at TOPGUN, the Navy's military flight school. These are people who are trained educators that left the military to seek civilian jobs. Because they already know how to teach, the company makes it part of those people's jobs to educate managers-in-training on a weekend or during off-time hours as a kind of informal class.

Even when a company doesn't have any teachers, it can pick experts who already work for a company to help mentor managers in a particular skill set, according to Forbes. For example, people from an IT security background can teach managers about good security rules of thumb, while members of the finance or accounting team can bring managers up to speed about those areas of interest without the company needing to hire an extra staff member or reimburse a person's college courses.

However a company chooses to hire managers, it will likely need to train them – even if this doesn't involve going back to school or building a special program.

Incentivizing executives and employees alike

21 Aug

Executive compensation is often linked to company performance.

Companies are increasingly turning toward alternative methods of incentivizing top performers and executives. By incorporating some form of long-term incentive (LTI) program into their employee management systems, companies are able to reward major players in the business by linking performance with salaries. This was the same theory behind stock options. However, Human Resource Executive Online reported that the question of whether these LTIs are actually linked to performance or not is actually uncertain.

A recent study by Towers Watson reported by HRE Online shows that in the 430 participating companies, the successes and failures in the marketplace were fairly broad, while the payouts received from LTIs to executives were narrow. In other words, whatever system is being used to make these awards to major company impact-makers is not yet completely in alignment with the actual performance of the business.

"For pay mix, the shift away from stock options to performance-based LTI vehicles may limit LTI's upside potential over periods of strong performance," the study said, according to HRE Online. "[This suggests] that performance-plan thresholds [and significant levels of restricted stock] may protect awards [at companies performing at a lower level of success.]"

Other ways to reward employees
Companies that seek to retain talent not only at the executive level but in lower levels as well can look to perks. According to, perks are a great way not only to reward workers and keep people from leaving the company, but businesses can also establish culture through the perk selection.

Google, for example, features nap pods for those who want to sleep. This is part of its strategy of making its employees feel valued through quirky things like do-it-yourself espresso bars and an in-house barber shop. Other companies have done this on a smaller scale through choices like bagel Fridays and free coffee.

Incentives at companies can also have to do with what the company's business is. They can additionally be methods for encouraging wellness or other good worker behavior. For example, Caesars Entertainment, a casino in Las Vegas, gives specially earmarked cash to its workers, who can use the money to gamble. It also offers free meals in the employee dining room. Bally Technologies, a company that builds Casino gaming machines, offers subsidies for local gym memberships, as well as tuition reimbursement for going to college.

Having perks for your workers doesn't necessarily have to cost money. Some companies throw in-office parties, which don't have to cost much, while others offer a happy hour or a poker night.

Small companies can benefit from employee management systems

20 Aug

HR management software can make the HR department more efficient.

Surprisingly, even small businesses can benefit from HR manager software. According to Small Business Computing, the typical number of workers in which companies begin to receive a return on their investment after buying software like this is 50 employees.

It may seem counterintuitive that a company buying potentially expensive software would actually save money instead of lose it, but what must be remembered is that human resources management is an area where companies can't afford to make mistakes. There are too many regulations and numbers to keep track of for a company to safely believe it's keeping track of the federal rules as they change – not to mention ensuring every dollar of insurance and each hour of paid time off is accounted for properly.

SBC reported that smaller companies benefited from their human resource management system software primarily because of its time-saving features. Instead of using a spreadsheet and paperwork, which can take hours of time for a human resources office that is better focused elsewhere, companies can invest in a system that makes human resource planning simple and effective.

Employees will also appreciate the ease of applying for paid time off. Without an online system in place, someone would have to send an email, and an HR professional would have to take a look at the spreadsheet to see how many hours the employee has and whether he or she can take the time off or not. Instead, with a computer system, everything is streamlined into one system that automatically shows all the information an employee could want about his or her hours and paid time off, allowing for greater transparency.

What to keep in mind when using an automated HR system
Many larger companies make the mistake of relying too heavily on automated technology for something like assigning shifts for employees. This can be a problem because computers can never be made fully aware of what someone has in his or her schedule that is a special circumstance. According to Quartz, Starbucks introduced a schedule automation device that accidentally gave a woman named Janette Navarro, who has a young son to care for, the hours between the store closing and the store opening. This meant she would stay until the store closed and open it the next day, which resulted in a great deal of trouble. The situation was only resolved when Starbucks took a more proactive stance and allowed supervisors greater control over schedules.

Smaller companies may not have to worry about this issue as much because employees might have a closer relationship to the HR department. The key takeaway is that companies must always have a human component behind the machine to care for issues that crop up and can't be predetermined through a system's algorithms.

Benefits of HR systems
SBC wrote in a separate article that one of the major benefits of HR management software kits is they increase productivity. For example, a feature of some software is it can restrict the websites employees can visit, so they will stop going on Facebook or Twitter, and stick to the business at hand. However, SBC said this can backfire, as employees may become disgruntled or find ways to game the system.

Two approaches to management and HR

19 Aug

IKEA's focus on management and HR working together enables its success.

Management and human resources work together at IKEA, according to HC Online, and this allows the company a greater level of success than it otherwise would have enjoyed.

The plan to integrate HR and management was something planned from the beginning.

"Thirty years ago, [IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad] never imagined or constructed an organization of 'HR' people, but rather outlined a philosophy that put the growth of people and the growth of the business on an equal footing," IKEA HR Manager Jessica Murphy explained in an interview with HC Online.

Human resources are linked with management in a number of ways at IKEA. One such way is by having weekly meetings in which the two sides exchange ideas.

Why companies hate HR
This goes against many other leaders in the business field, who have written articles describing a desire to get rid of HR or change it in some way, according to Forbes. The theory is that HR is based on a collection of different regularity experts, people who are good at employee management systems and people who know how to use payroll software programs. In other words, the whole thing is unrelated to the act of managing people and making money, and therefore should be outsourced.

The two approaches – IKEA's approach and the one described by Forbes – show the discrepancies that can happen when companies don't understand what HR does. If a company's management doesn't know HR, then the human resources team must be sure to communicate this. HR is about much more than doing paperwork.

Handling ADA during the hiring process

19 Aug

Disabled workers provide many benefits to companies that seek a more diverse workforce.

The American Disabilities Act is something that everyone involved with human resource management should know about. In a recent trial reported by Business Law Review (BLR), a nurse sued her hospital over an ADA matter, and although the trial was initially dismissed from court, she is asking for reconsideration.

According to BLR, Denise Riley alleged she had cognitive disabilities that limited what she could do on the job. Her employers gave her a negative review and then fired her. She filed suit, saying she was covered under the ADA. However, the court decided that under the ADA and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), employees can allege they have been discriminated against only because of an impairment. Additionally, the state of Pennsylvania is particularly strict about the standards of someone's disability when filing an ADA lawsuit.

According to the court, Riley had not explained the degree of her disability thoroughly enough to say whether she had truly been fired because of her condition. As such, her explanations were insufficient for proving she had a disability.

What must be taken from this story is that the ADA and ADAAA are broad in theory, but when applied on a state-by-state basis, disability claims and lawsuits related to them can sometimes require a very strict definition of disability.

Hiring for disabilities
Hiring people who are disabled can often bring more diversity to a company. This is part of strategic human resource management. When many different people come from different backgrounds and experiences, companies benefit from having a greater depth and breadth of understanding. There are some things that must be kept in mind when it comes to hiring people with disabilities, however.

The Small Business Association explains there are tax benefits to hiring legally disabled people. These come in the form of credits that off-set taxes. Along with this comes the responsibility for providing your disabled workers with reasonable accommodations, such as wheelchair access and a suitable working environment. Companies are not legally required to do anything but provide reasonable accommodations, which means that people with disabilities must "enjoy equal employment opportunities" as workers without disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Labor also has methods for ensuring those with disabilities are given equal opportunities in the hiring process. These can include forming partnerships with disability-related advocacy groups, along with posting job announcements in disability-related magazines or newspapers, websites and job fairs.

Internships and mentoring programs for disabled youth are also options for companies that want to recruit those with disabilities.

Legal issues to consider when hiring persons with disabilities
One thing companies should do, whether they choose to actively hire the disabled or not, is to avoid anything that the ADA and ADAAA would consider discriminatory in the hiring process. According to Fisher and Phillips LLP (FP), a legal firm that works with employers on legal cases having to do with the hiring process, many companies want to hire disabled workers but are unsure if they can do their work with appropriate reasonable accommodation. However, these companies are afraid to ask the candidate certain questions for fear of violating the law.

"A 'qualified' individual is one who satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements of the employment position the individual holds or desires, and who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of such position," FP wrote.

This means companies can ask a disabled candidate any questions they would ask a candidate who is not disabled. However, they cannot ask anything they wouldn't ask a candidate without disabilities. A good way to begin the hiring process, in this case, would be to begin creating a list of essential functions for the job, and then asking all candidates if they can do these essential functions.

How to control absenteeism

12 Aug

Being absent from work too much can bring down a company's bottom line.

Absenteeism in the workplace can be a dangerous thing. It harms a company's bottom line and makes it difficult to get work done. Additionally, firing someone for long absences can be tricky because of labor regulations. There are other ways of handling absences in the workplace that might help companies avoid having to fire someone and risk a lawsuit. The Small Business Administration offered some points of advice for handling an employee who has been absent for too long.

The first thing is to assess the situation from the employee's point of view. Is he or she gone from work for a good reason? Is this person getting his or her work done and just wants to have a different schedule that is more conducive to the kind of life he or she lives outside of the office? In such a case, it may be time to discuss whether or not to simply negotiate for flextime. Otherwise, consider other employee engagement ideas.

Human Resources Executive Online reported that sometimes when employers come into the office early and see someone come into the office later in the day and then work until later as well, the employer will unconsciously have a bias against that person because he or she will be perceived as being lazy. This may not be happening in the case of someone who regularly comes into work late and leaves early, but employers should consider every possibility.

There may be a better option for the employee than leaving work and building up unpaid days
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees can take time off for a number of reasons, and there are other legally-appropriate ways to miss work, such as maternity leave or extended sick leave. If the employee is not made aware of these options, he or she may simply be unsure of how to take appropriate steps to miss work under these rules.

That being said, according to Forbes, absenteeism can lead to major costs at the office. After giving the employee time to explain and if the employee simply feels disgruntled or doesn't like the work, then firing that person may be best for the company.

One way to prevent absenteeism before it starts is by giving employees plenty of incentives that keep them healthy, such as wellness programs and benefits tied to days spent on the job. For example, if an employee has vacation days that are remaining on the clock after the year is over, then allowing some to carry over might encourage people to come into work more often.

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