What’s happening in the telemedicine industry?

2 Apr

Telemedicine is the future of the health care industry.

Telemedicine may still be relatively new, but it's certainly undergone many changes recently. Just several months ago the benefits and drawbacks of telemedicine were still fairly unclear and the technology had barely taken off; recent developments have shined more light on the advantages, suggesting the potential telemedicine has for human resource planning could be extremely beneficial.

The current advantages of telemedicine
A recent report from the Altarum Institute revealed telemedicine continues to offer benefits with regard to quality of care and cost effectiveness. The "Telemedicine Today: The State of Affairs" research report indicated telemedicine offers savings of hundreds or thousands of dollars for patients who use the emergency room for primary care visits, which translates to massive benefits for those in need of health care.

This is also true of simple visits to primary care doctors. The Healthcare Performance Institute's "Telehealth and the U.S. College Population" report noted that while the average three to six minute basic office visit cost $133 in 2011, a telehealth consultation cost only $35 to $40

The report also noted that 70 percent of office visits and 40 percent of ER visits are unnecessary. In these instances, telemedicine can save both money and time.

It's not just a small number of people who are interested in telemedicine, either. A survey from Software Advice revealed 75 percent of people who had never used the technology before were interested in trying it, as opposed to making an in-person appointment. Twenty-one percent of people who had used these services said the quality of care they received was the same or better than they'd received in person.

Some drawbacks remain
These advantages don't mean that the telemedicine industry has no room to improve. According to the Altarum Institute report, the field remains confusing for consumers, as different state regulations create rules that can be difficult to follow and vary from one location to the next. 

Aside from this difficulty, it does appear telemedicine is working to reduce medical costs and save time.

How have early adopters fared?
Early adopters are often thought of as forward-thinking, tech-focused private companies. However, the telehealth movement proves this definitely isn't the rule. The Veterans Health Administration is one of the most prominent examples of an organization that has tried out a telemedicine program successfully, according to a report from The Commonwealth Fund. The research detailed that patients had satisfaction levels higher than 85 percent for telehealth care and "bed days" dropped by 40 percent.

Some of the keys to the VHA's success, according to The Commonwealth Fund, were aligning their telehealth strategy with the organization's overall mission, standardizing elements of the program, properly training staff with dedicated resources and gathering evidence of targeted outcomes. 

Centura Health at Home is another telehealth care system that completed a one-year pilot program to successful results. CHAH noticed ER visits declined significantly – from 283 visits in the year before the program to a mere 21 the next. Hospital readmission rates and the frequency of home visits also dropped, saving patients and health care facilities both time and money. 

As the telemedicine industry continues to grow, it will undoubtedly still face challenges. However, these setbacks may very well be overshadowed by the massive benefits organizations utilizing telehealth services have noticed thus far. The future of medicine is here, and while it certainly looks nothing like the past, it presents greater opportunities for HR professionals. If employees have greater access to telemedicine, they may be able to take care of any small medical problems more quickly and easily, resulting in fewer sick days, enhanced productivity and overall, happier employees.

Executive Order 13672 lists sexual orientation and gender identity as protected parties

19 Mar

It's important to stay abreast of all new rules of regulations that affect HR.

As the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identities become more widely accepted, company executives have a new responsibility to ensure that all of their employees are treated fairly and respectfully in the workplace. In order to comply with regulations and prevent discrimination, employers must be armed with the most up-to-date information and HR solutions to cover all protected parties.

The latest ruling
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new rule that extends workplace protections to individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

"Americans believe in fairness and opportunity," Thomas Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, said in a press release. "No one should live in fear of being fired or passed over or discriminated against at work simply because of who they love. Laws prohibiting workplace discrimination on the bases of sexual orientation and gender identity are long overdue, and we're taking a big step forward today to fix that."

The "big step forward" Perez refers to is Executive Order 13672, which President Barack Obama signed on July 21, 2014, to add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected Equal Opportunity classes under Executive Order 11246. The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced the order, known as the Final Rule, on December 3, 2014, and declared that it will take effect 120 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

The public response
This is the first time in history that the federal government has taken action to promote workplace equality for the LGBT community within the private sector. It comes at a time when the American public seems to be ready for change. A 2014 poll conducted through the Human Rights Campaign found that 63 percent of voters favored a federal regulation protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination.

Although there was no prior federal law prohibiting LGBT discrimination at work, states and companies across the country already have their own rules in effect. According to a White House press release, the District of Columbia and 18 other states have laws stating that LGBT workers can't be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

What is expected of employers?
In order to help businesses comply with the new regulations, the OFCCP stated that it will host webinars, workshops and forums to talk employers through the amended requirements. Additionally, it will publish fact sheets and other printed materials for distribution. Company executives should use this information to amend their employee handbooks, company policies, job postings and other internal and external-facing documents to ensure that everyone involved understands the new regulation. 

Associate Relations departments are crucial for an effective workplace

19 Mar

Associate Relations department can encourage positive company culture.

The Associate Relations department is one of the most critical within an organization, as it is responsible for facilitating positive relationships and overall employee management. Sometimes also called Human Resources or Employee Relations, this team helps streamline office processes and makes a beneficial addition to a company for five main reasons:

They help disseminate information
Whether it involves circulating updated office policies, explaining new government regulations or sharing company news, the Associate Relations team can ensure that all coworkers receive the same information. When everyone is on the same page, it can help cut down on inter-departmental gossip and miscommunication, which in turn can alleviate some work-related stress.

If there is a disconnect between management and employees, the Associate Relations department can also help cultivate and distribute the information needed to clear up the problem.

They streamline disciplinary actions
Performance reviews and meetings about misconduct can be tense for managers and employees alike, especially when the former are not properly trained in how to handle these situations. Associate Relations team members can work together to create written guidelines and hold training sessions to ensure that all confrontations regarding workplace disruptions, poor performance, disciplinary action and other complaints are handled professionally and respectfully. Associate Relations understands the serious nature of confidentiality and can help the reporting individual take the right steps toward resolving the problem by involving all of the right parties without causing a scene.

They can help boost morale
Everyone is busy during the workday, so in many cases company morale is put on the back burner while job-related tasks are being completed. However, if employees are unhappy at work and do not have a positive impression of the company or its values, they are likely to become unmotivated and not put their best effort forward. Something as simple as hosting team gatherings after work, finding interesting speakers to give "lunch and learn" presentations or organizing company-sponsored intramural sports teams can make a huge difference and can be planned on a more regular basis with the help of an Associate Relations team.

They manage the employee assistance program
In the modern working world, companies are becoming more willing to accommodate the needs of their employees and are even providing programs to help them through hard times. Employee assistance programs can help with everything from drug and alcohol addiction and mental health counseling to setting up flexible spending accounts and working with management to agree on nontraditional work schedules to better fit the needs of working parents. 

They facilitate quality in the workplace
At some companies, the Associate Relations team also acts as the office manager. Members of the team will be in charge of acknowledging employees' birthdays, work anniversaries and other special occasions, in addition to ordering supplies and being the point of contact when computers and other machines are not working properly. Associate Relations often also conducts office-wide surveys to give employees a confidential space to air their grievances and request changes. 

In companies without Associate Relations teams, these responsibilities are often distributed to executives and managers who do not have the time to give relevant tasks the attention they deserve. Those considering the pros and cons of creating a new Associate Relations team should start by thinking about the processes they currently have in place. Who is in charge of each of the functions listed above? Are they managed efficiently? Associate Relations professionals are typically very passionate about fostering happiness and balance within the workplace and can help streamline all office processes to make the workday run more smoothly for everyone. 

The 401(k) plan and its real value to employees: 401(k) basics

17 Mar

401(k)s are employer-sponsored retirement plans that allow employees to steadily put away money.

Enrolling in a 401(k) plan is a great way to save money for retirement at any point in your professional career, as well as a key aspect of employee benefits management. However, before getting started, it's important to understand exactly what a 401(k) is, what to expect and how to get the greatest contribution benefits.

What is a 401(k) plan?
A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan that helps employees steadily put money away for retirement. These programs have many different components, and here's what you need to know:

  1. Both public and private for-profit companies offer 401(k) plans. Some employers will allow you to set up a 401(k) plan immediately after you start working, while others will enforce a waiting period of usually one month to one year before you are eligible.
  2. A percentage of your paychecks will be put into savings. Before you receive each paycheck, a designated percentage will be deducted and set aside in a separate 401(k) account. 
  3. Some employers offer a company match. The company match refers to the amount that an employer contributes to 401(k) accounts. Companies will match up to a certain percentage of your contribution – usually 3 to 6 percent of your paycheck – which helps your 401(k) grow even more.
  4. The maximum amount you can put into your 401(k) changes each year. The cost-of-living index and inflation are taken into account when considering this number. According to the IRS, the maximum amount you can contribute to your 401(k) plan increased from $17,500 to $18,000 in 2015.
  5. The IRS also imposes a "catch-up contribution" limit.  If you are 50 or older, you may be eligible to add an additional $6,000 to your 401(k) on an annual basis, according to the IRS.
  6. Enrolling in a 401(k) plan will reduce your taxable income base. Money designated for your 401(k) is taken before state and federal income taxes are applied to your paycheck. This will reduce your take-home pay, but also require you to pay less money in taxes.
  7. The money in your 401(k) account is not taxed until you start making withdrawals. As you will likely have no income during retirement, your personal tax rate will be lower than when you were working, and you will therefore owe less money to the IRS.
  8. You can start accessing your money as early as age 59 and one-half.  Prior to that age, you will be subject to an early withdrawal penalty. However, if you become completely disabled or are over age 55 and have been let go by your employer, you will be exempt from the penalty.
  9. You must start withdrawing from your 401(k) by age 70 and one-half. If you are still a full-time employee with the company that sponsors your plan, you are exempt from this rule.
  10. If you leave your current employer, there are options for what to do with your 401(k). Typically, there are four things you can do: Withdraw your entire balance as a cash payout; roll your account balance over into an IRA; roll your account balance over to a plan with your new employer; or, if allowed by the employer, leave the balance where it is.

Why is this a good savings option?
One of the largest benefits of having a 401(k) plan is how simple it is to start and maintain. After the initial enrollment, you are not required to do any additional work unless you want to make changes to the contribution amount.  It is completely separate from your standard savings or checking accounts, so you will be able to consider larger purchases like homes, cars or vacations without being tempted to dip into your retirement savings. 

The 411 on the workplace bully

16 Mar

It's important to recognize the signs of office bullying.

In an office setting, odds are that not all co-workers will get along seamlessly. However, as an employer, you need to be able to discern whether someone is taking unfriendliness a little too far and has become an office bully.

Workplace bullying can take on many forms – including verbal abuse, work sabotage, work interference, intimidation, threatening behavior and more – and can either be general behavior toward all co-workers or targeted to a specific individual.

Many times these issues arise out of the office bully needing to feel a sense of control. In many cases, managers – rather than other employees – can be the biggest offenders. According to a study conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, in 57 percent of cases, workplace bullies are men, but both male and female bullies are more likely to target female co-workers. 

Workplace bullying can have a huge impact on morale in the office, especially if many staff members are having issues and feeling uncomfortable.  And don't forget – human capital is one of your greatest assets. If you sense that you may be having a bullying problem in your office, keep the following topics in mind as you plan for a conversation about the employee's action and future with the company.

  • Know the difference between being a bully and having a bad day. If a single co-worker makes a complaint about an isolated incident, it may not really qualify as office bullying. Everyone has bad days when they may be irritated or act semi-inappropriately, but with an office bully, the behavior is consistent.

    "The key is that it's not just a one-time thing," Stacy Tye-Williams, lead author of a study published in the journal Management Communication Quarterly, explained. "It's more than one person snapping you on a bad day. It's the person who snaps at you repeatedly to a point where you go, this is systemic. This is how they work."

  • Make sure you understand the company's disciplinary policies. Each company has its own system for dealing with employee-related problems, so be sure to brush up on your company's policy before meeting with the office bully. This way, you can know for sure that you are passing on the proper future actions that may take place, including counseling, suspension or termination.
  • Keep the complaints confidential. When you confront the office bully, you will need to bring up the fact that complaints were made. However, whenever possible try to keep the stories general so the bully can't tell who filed complaints. If he or she can tell who is reporting them, it may lead to retaliation that can be even worse than the initial offending behavior.
  • Be sure to keep notes of the behavior. It may be difficult to remember specific details after an incident occurs, so be sure to have physical evidence of the complaint.

    "Bullied employees must document their bullying experience as soon as possible so that they do not forget key information," said Lisa Barrow, a workplace bullying consultant with LMSB Consulting. "This will help them regain control over the situation."

    You can either have co-workers send you an email detailing their experiences or take notes during a one-on-one meeting, but make sure you get all the necessary details while they're still fresh in their minds.

  • Be stern with the offending employee. When you confront the office bully about his or her behavior, it's important to be stern. It is likely that he or she will try to make excuses or rationalize the actions as a joke, but you must remain firm that the behavior cannot continue and will not be tolerated.

HR in the hospitality sector: Part 3

16 Mar

What will be the keys to successful HR hospitality management in the future?

Hours and scheduling have long been a point of concern for the hospitality industry. With fluctuating schedules, it can be difficult to keep all employees correctly classified and content with their shifts. However, it's absolutely critical for HR departments to be proactive in this area, coming up with human resource solutions that ensure compliance with government regulations and guarantee employee satisfaction remains as high as possible.

Proposed FLSA changes would require attention from HR managers
Changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would alter which employees qualify for "white collar exemptions" to overtime pay mandates will soon be issued for public review and comment by the Department of Labor's Wage & Hour Division.

When finalized, these changes could have a significant impact on many employers, and the hospitality industry in particular. Currently, employees must earn a minimum wage of $455 weekly to be exempt from overtime pay. However, this threshold could rise considerably – in January, the Economic Policy Institute proposed raising it to $50,000 annually, which equates to roughly $960 weekly. 

Wages are only a part of what will qualify an employee for an exemption. The proposed new regulations could now require white collar employees to be performing overtime exempt duties for more than 50 percent of his or her working hours. That would disqualify managers who spend much of their days stocking, assisting customers or working a cash register from being overtime exempt.

If these speculated changes are implemented, wage costs in the hospitality industry could rise dramatically. To prepare, HR teams should begin documenting all job descriptions, highlighting those roles that would remain overtime exempt based on wage and performing managerial duties at least half of the time they're working. Careful payroll management and budget planning will also be essential – if a great deal of a company's employees are no longer exempt from overtime pay, the business will determine how it will be able to pay their higher wages, or if this warrants hiring additional white collar workers.

Managing shift-based work stress
When you're managing a shift-based workforce, you need the right scheduling tools to make the job easy – and a knowledge of how to address common problems that come with this type of work. Many of your employees may suffer from overtiredness, trouble sleeping, irritability, seasonal affective disorder and general burnout. These can all impact performance and lead to higher turnover rates.

To combat some of these issues, try to tailor schedules to employee preferences – it could be that some workers prefer working nights or early mornings, and you can schedule fewer people who prefer to work traditional hours during these shifts. Consider scheduling employees to forward shift rotations, such as day to evening or evening to late night hours, to ease the transition, as opposed to scheduling at random.

It's also key to train employees to recognize when they – or their coworkers – are overtired and posing a risk to themselves, others or the company. Research suggests late night shifts lead to increased accidents, and the longer employees are on duty, the more likely they are to have a health and safety incident.

When employees want to unionize
Hearing that employees want to unionize may be a win for organized labor, but not necessarily for your company. What steps can you take to address workers' concerns and and convince them to halt moving forward with unionization?

ReedSmith suggests being upfront with employees. The major concerns that often lead to calls for unionization are workplace safety concerns, job security, abusive or incompetent management teams and proper compensation. These all must be addressed immediately and management should move forward with the premise that what employees perceive about the situation is reality, even if complaints aren't grounded with facts. 

Next, reexamine the major areas of concern. Are any of them accurate? It may be that workplace safety issues present a hazard, individuals have been treated unfairly by a manager or that compensation and benefits are not sufficient for the work being performed. If there's something that needs to be adjusted, fix it, and clearly explain this to workers while continuing to monitor the situation in the future. 

HR plays a more critical role in hospitality than ever before
With how much the hospitality industry continues to grow and thrive, human resource professionals play a more critical role in managing employee engagement, payroll, scheduling and other duties than ever before. Without high-performing human resource systems and skilled HR employees, a business risks noncompliance with government regulations, high employee turnover and general disorganization. By investing in the best software – and best people – hospitality companies can rise above the competition.

HR in the hospitality sector: Part 2

16 Mar

When it comes to large-scale hiring and training, HR professionals have a range of responsibilities.

The hospitality sector is unlike any other: with long hours year-round, large numbers of staff members and a relatively high turnover rate, it can be difficult for HR departments to keep up with hiring and talent management needs.

This is especially true when it comes to large-scale hirings. When an organization is about to enter the busy season or open a brand-new location, it will require plenty of new team members to ensure everything runs smoothly when patrons flood through the doors. Hiring isn't easy even under the best of circumstances – it requires skill and a lot of patience to find candidates who will not only do the job well, but fit into the company culture and contribute positively. This challenge is magnified when it comes to the mass hiring the hospitality industry does fairly regularly, but it is possible to streamline this process to ensure it's efficient and leaves a company with only the best applicants.

  • Shorten the hiring cycle: No HR manager wants to feel as though he or she didn't have enough time to thoroughly vet candidates and choose the ideal ones, but a hiring cycle that's too long only hurts a business – your top choices could have found other jobs by the time you offer them roles. Cut tasks wherever possible for HR employees – anything that can be automated with human resource solutions should be. This allows HR personnel to focus more on hiring and less on the day-to-day paperwork that could be taking up extraordinary amounts of time.
  • Consider employee referrals: Your organization may already have an employee referral program that rewards staff members who send successful hires your way, but make sure it's widely known and that all teams know you'll be hiring on a large scale in the coming weeks or months. 
  • Identify the top skills that matter: Your employees will need to be able to do a lot of things, but what are the top two or three characteristics or skills they have to have to be successful in the role? Narrow down your list of nine or 10 qualities an applicant must have substantially, and you'll find yourself with more people suited to the positions that are available. 
  • Do some homework on past hires: Have several of your most successful previous hires all come from the same companies, school or internship program? Look for a similar background when reviewing new applications, as these past experiences could have instilled a common work ethic in these individuals.

Retaining talent
When you're hiring new employees – especially on a large-scale level – the last thing you want to think about is many of them turning in notice in a few months. But this is something every HR professional has to keep in mind – after all, Deloitte estimates turnover in hospitality could be as high as 31 percent.

To keep employees from leaving for greener pastures, where they think they can hone their skills and better develop, put your company ahead of the game and offer to help them grow their soft skills from the very start. 

  • Emotional intelligence: Unlike IQ, EQ can be improved over time, and it's the ideal skill to help employees in the hospitality industry develop. EQ, or an employee's self-awareness, social awareness and relationship building skills, play a key role in connecting with patrons and coworkers. The Harvard Business review suggests that meditation and relaxation can be beneficial in improving this skill, but enhancing someone's ability to cope with rocky situations may be better. Try putting employees in a role-playing situation with another team member pretending to be a difficult customer and provide feedback on how their reaction needs to change.
  • Time management: Some employers feel younger employees especially struggle to manage their time. Devices like smartphones and tablets have made it easy for them to get distracted and flit from task to task without finishing anything. Give team members a list of things to do by the end of their shifts, and if they haven't completed it ask how they structured their day and broke up the time to see where they went wrong.
  • Communication: Again, some business leaders think this is an area in which more junior employees are lacking. Face-to-face communication is infinitely important, especially when individuals are dealing with patrons in the hospitality industry, and must be developed and enhanced. Observe how staff members behave during in-person interactions and offer feedback on what they've done well and where they need to improve.

By helping recruits develop these skills over the long term, you're giving them the tools they need to eventually ascend into a leadership position, and reducing turnover while you're at it. Talent retention depends on ensuring employees are engaged and developing valuable skills, and being proactive in this respect means you're grooming your organization's next generation of leaders.

HR in the hospitality sector: Part 1

16 Mar

HR departments play a critical role in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry is growing. It's not just a talking point – it's the truth. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the restaurant and bar industry has created nearly 1 in 6 new nonfarm jobs since the economic downturn. The Department of Commerce revealed that travel and tourism spurred almost $1.5 trillion in spending in 2012, and the industry's main subsectors – accommodations, air travel and food/beverage services – only continue to thrive.

This means the hospitality sector needs to be prepared to not only hire, but use human resource systems to hire efficiently and effectively, especially with some of the high turnover rates the industry sees as a whole.

It all starts with hiring
Most HR professionals love offering qualified candidates a job, but that doesn't mean they can hire every individual who walks through the door. What are the most important soft skills to look for to ensure you're bringing on a strong applicant who will prove to be successful with your organization?

  • A good attitude. Someone who claims to have a "positive, can-do attitude" in a cover letter or resume is certainly being cliche, but there's something to be said for candidates who have this skill. You want to hire people who won't spread negativity to other employees and are willing to do what it takes to complete a job well and without complaint. 
  • Easily transferrable skills. Some of your candidates may never have worked in hospitality before, but that doesn't mean some of their skills won't be relevant to the open position. Don't write off applicants who seem like they have no relevant experience – they may surprise you.
  • The ability to communicate. Successful hospitality workers need top-notch communication skills. If they're not able to express themselves, their ideas and problems they face, they won't be able to work well with others or, more importantly, present themselves and your brand positively to patrons.

The orientation and training process
Welcoming new employees to your company is a key element to starting them off on the right foot. Your orientation process should make new hires feel comfortable while giving them a thorough overview of the company, detailing exactly what their job will entail and assigning a them a point person to go to with questions. Don't forget to schedule time to have someone give new team members a tour, introduce them to other people they'll work with and give them a chance to thoroughly review the handbook or paperwork. Orientations will vary greatly depending on company culture and goals, but don't be afraid to mix things up and make it entertaining or interactive – you don't want an employee's mind to wander while they're supposed to be absorbing information. For employee engagement ideas, ask your recent hires what the most and least effective elements of their training were and update your program based on that.

As you're introducing employees to the company, they may have questions about scheduling and compensation. It may be worthwhile to explain shift differential scheduling, if this wasn't covered in the interview stages. Shift differential, or the extra compensation an employee may receive for working outside traditional business hours, may be confusing for some workers, especially if they are unfamiliar with this type of work, so providing them with a cheat sheet can help clear up confusion.

After employees have gone through orientation, they'll need to start learning the essentials of customer service so they can begin doing the job they were hired for. But will you use a vendor-produced tool, or an internally created one? There are benefits to each:

  • Vendor-provided systems don't require you to do any additional work – you can simply use the tool as is, over and over again.
  • Content created especially for your company is personalized and can be tailored to specific policies and situations your employees will face on the job. However, it may require some tweaking over time to get it just right.

Depending on how unique your service policies are and how involved you want to be in the customer service training process, you may prefer one over the other.

Measuring success and controlling costs
Turnover in the hospitality industry remains a problem, as it's significantly higher than the rest of the private sector. Deloitte estimates turnover in hospo is as high as 31 percent, a number that poses significant challenges for any business and highlights the importance of employee engagement.

By measuring this number alongside others, companies can see where they're going astray and how they can potentially lower turnover, while simultaneously increasing productivity and engagement metrics. Decreased turnover isn't the only advantage – Gallup research indicates companies with greater engagement have higher earnings per share. Not only that, but they receive better customer ratings, are more profitable and experience greater productivity. 

Why is HR so important to have in a company?

11 Mar

Ensure internal HR processes are in compliance.

When it comes to payroll management, benefits administration and hiring, many companies debate whether human resources should be handled internally or outsourced to a provider. Outsourcing is often cheaper, but firms can run into issues, especially in the recruitment process. New hires may not be a strong match for internal culture when someone outside the organization is making the employment decisions. 

The Affordable Care Act has created significant changes for how some companies administer benefits, prompting many businesses to outsource. A study from ADP revealed that out of the nine key benefits administration areas, companies are likely to handle at least six partially or completely in-house. However, health care benefits are becoming more complicated, requiring external guidance. Some large employers rely on multiple external providers to manage some of these key areas, but this can make compliance more difficult.

Striking a balance for human resources
With the wide range of HR responsibilities, it can be difficult for managers in this department to devote equal attention to all areas. A recent study from Glassdoor found that many employers expect to face a talent shortage in 2015, and 48 percent of recruiters do not see a sufficient number of qualified candidates for open positions. Many lack visibility into their hiring processes, which can cause them to rely on outdated hiring methods. For example, the study found that many businesses still do not actively prospect for talent on social media. Nearly one-third of respondents reported that their methods of advertising open positions were outdated. 

Because human resource professionals are typically being pulled in many directions at the same time, it can be a challenge to manage every issue that enters their offices. If an employee reports a problem, he or she may feel like the HR manager doesn't devote enough attention to the issue. This reduces trust in your HR department, which is detrimental over time. Although hiring needs to be a priority, this department also needs to maintain an active role in the company's operations. 

Conducting HR audits
If HR is disconnected from the rest of the organization, it may be a good idea to conduct an audit of current processes to identify areas for improvement. HR.BLR.com recommended the following considerations for an audit:

  • The hiring process: Employers need to assess their employment applications, interview procedures, background checks and offer letters, as well as state and federal compliance. What kinds of onboarding procedures are in place? 
  • Employee handbook review: Are existing policies still effective and in accordance with all laws? Some regulations have been updated over time, so it's important to understand how laws could potentially impact your policies. HR professionals need to make sure the guidelines in the employee handbook match the company's practices. 
  • Disciplinary policies: In addition to the employee handbook, an audit should cover all disciplinary actions. While it can be difficult to build employees' trust in the HR department, it's important to have a clear written procedure for prohibited conduct, consequences, the number of written or verbal warnings someone receives before termination and the termination process itself. Some employers do not have a formal process, but it's crucial that the publicized procedures match the actual practices. 
  • Recordkeeping: Some state and federal laws govern the length of time employees records must kept and what types of information should be retained. HR managers need to ensure all forms are properly filled out and personnel files are kept separate from medical records to avoid compliance issues.

The HR department needs to take an active role in events in the organization. Increased involvement can make employees more aware of this department. 

Top workplace trends for 2015: Part 2

3 Mar

Work-life balance is a big issue for employers in 2015.

Now that we've covered the employee-related changes, we'll take a look at those affecting technology and the workplace.

1. Social media becomes an even stronger tool for attracting talented employees
Most companies have already embraced social media as a great way to communicate with customers and show off their brand personality. In fact, according to Adweek, about 88 percent of brands utilized social media as part of their marketing strategies in 2014. To date, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn are some of the most effective forums. However, in 2015, more businesses will begin to use social media to attract and connect with top talent. Large companies like Nestle have already begun to incorporate this strategy, adding dedicated Careers profiles to their arsenal of social media pages.

2. The separation between work life and home life will shrink
Technology companies are increasingly focusing on wearable technology and mobile devices, making it easier for everyone to stay connected. Unfortunately, in 2015 this may also lead to a more "blended" work-life balance, according to the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. If workers do not need to be physically present in the office to complete their assignments, it is likely that it will become more difficult to fully step away from work in off hours. 

3. Offices steer away from the "cubicle farm" design
Many companies are now reconsidering how sitting in a cubicle impacts employees, so 2015 will likely see a shift away from the "cubicle farm" office plan. Having all coworkers sit in rows of cubicles has led to less personal interaction in the workplace, as many admit that it now seems easier to just email a neighboring coworker a question rather than standing up and having a face-to-face conversation. To combat this problem and refoster a sense of teamwork, large companies are designing open floor plans with comfortable seating and artwork, giving the office a more welcoming environment. Some will also include designated areas for large meetings, group lunches or one-on-one check-ins to encourage employees to move around more during the workday.

4. A new emphasis will be placed on social responsibility
The Internet has made sharing information easier than ever, and one of the most positive effects has been the impact on raising money for different initiatives. Corporations as a whole have a reputation for being malevolent and greedy, but joining in on fundraising and charitable campaign initiatives and sharing their participation on social media can now help revamp their images. In 2015, this corporate social responsibility will become the norm. Companies will be expected to create videos for viral campaigns, start online crowdsourcing fundraising initiatives and live-blog from charitable conferences. Additionally, there could be an uptick in the number of companies sponsoring teams for events like 5K races or half marathons benefiting various health causes.

5. Employers will offer better wellness incentives
The idea that healthy employees can be happier and more productive is not a new one, but the way employers approach the subject is likely to change in 2015. One of the largest health-related trends has already begun, and it involves offering employees alternatives to traditional desks and chairs. Working at treadmill desks or standing desks and using exercise balls instead of chairs are all great alternatives that are steadily becoming more popular. Additionally, more companies may adopt offering healthy incentives to employees. This may include reducing monthly health insurance costs for nonsmokers, or supplementing the cost of wearable activity or step trackers during office-wide weight loss competitions.

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