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April 27, 2015

Managing Goals through Change

Filed under: Communication,Engagement11:02 am

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by Nancy Norman, HR Product Manager

Even with the most careful and brilliant planning, change is inevitable.  Imagine if a sailor navigating the seas was so set on his selected course that he failed to adjust to the change in the winds or weather.  He may never reach his intended port and may find himself in great peril.  The saying goes, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes,” which means that even the most carefully crafted goals should be subject to change.  While many of us feel that change is for the Byrds, “to everything… there is a season… and a time for every purpose.” It is each manager’s responsibility to be alert to the coming changes in the “seasons” that will impact his/her functional areas and appropriately adjust his/her course based on the company’s strategic plan and organizational goals.  If that’s the case, what can be done to encourage the creation of goals that are effective and properly nimble to ensure success?

Know and Understand the Strategic Plan:
In order to set goals that align with organizational strategy, managers have to first know what that strategy is and have a thorough understanding of how it applies to their departments and individual roles. Managers should be able to effectively communicate this to their employees.  Human Resources should be instrumental in making this information available in a timely fashion and helping management know what to do with when strategy changes direction?

Review the Strategic Plan and Goals Regularly:
When direction changes, it is important they take the time to re-assess the focus and direction of the goals that have been set and make the needed adjustments to stay on target.  We will not know of important changes if we are not keeping in touch with our organizations strategy.  Annual goals should be reviewed at least quarterly to ensure they are still accomplishing an outcome that will be meaningful.

Set Expectations:
Communicate to employees that their goals are significant and an important part of your overall success.  As goals are set with employees, be sure to set the expectation that they will be reviewed often and adjustments will be made if business needs shift.  The knowledge that their goals are a component of a greater purpose should provide the motivation and understanding necessary to weather changes with the proper attitude.

Don’t Confuse Flexible with Non-Specific:
While you want goals to be flexible, this does not mean that they are not defined.  You should not forget the rules of effective goal setting.  Goals need to continue to be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.  Specific details set clear expectations and help the employee understand what it is they are trying to accomplish. They must be easily measured and feasible both in the employees ability to achieve the goal and its relevancy to their current role.  Timelines and due dates are also critical for success.

Human Resources is an important link between key company stake holders and the people on the ground getting things done.  HR can be instrumental in providing the necessary information and training for managers to be successful in setting goals and managing them throughout the year.  Create a culture where each employee thinks strategically and looks for and anticipates change.  It’s inevitable; it may as well be embraced.

 

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April 21, 2015

Avoid Dress Code Discrimination Issues

Filed under: Discrimination,Training12:12 pm

ThinkstockPhotos-537247283

 

This is the second of a two-part series of blogs regarding dress codes. Today’s post deals with discrimination, which can be a major item of consideration for many organizations. Here are some of the areas you want to think about when drafting your policy.

1. Disability Discrimination

a) Dress and Appearance

Dress or appearance standards that adversely affect or otherwise screen out qualified disabled applicants or employees have been found to be discriminatory.

Examples:

  • Excluding applicants or discriminating against employees because of obesity may be illegal.  Severe obesity may be a disability under the ADA.  Such cases would be examined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Regarding an individual as disabled because of obesity may also be discriminatory.  For example: an ADA violation was found where an obese applicant for a bus driver position was regarded as disabled because it was believed she could not move appropriately in case of an accident.  She was otherwise qualified for the position based on her driving record, experience, and references.

Failing to hire an applicant due to his facial disfigurement can constitute disability discrimination.

2. Religious Discrimination

Title VII requires that organizations must accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practices unless an undue hardship is created.

Examples:

The following practices have generally been upheld:

  • An employee was transferred to a janitorial position after refusing to shave his beard for religious reasons.  The company contended that the issue was safety, as the beard did not permit a proper fit of a respirator.

Discrimination has been found where:

a) A nurse had been required to wear a nurse’s cap without a tight fitting scarf underneath (her religion required that her head be covered).

b) A hair salon had refused to allow an employee to wear a yarmulke to work (Jewish skullcap).

c) An airport had refused to allow security workers to wear headscarves (as required by their religion).

3. Racial Discrimination

Charges by employees alleging that dress and grooming standards violated their freedom of expression have generally been upheld.  Expressions of cultural heritage are typically not protected by Title VII.

Examples:

a) African-American employee charges that the company dress code infringed on their black pride and culture were not upheld.

b) Title VII did not protect an employee’s wearing of nose jewelry, which she contended was an expression of her Mexican Indian heritage.

4. What about state and local laws?

Employers must also ensure that dress and appearance policies meet state and local legal requirements.

Examples:

a) California does not allow employers to prohibit employees from wearing pants in the workplace;

b) Wisconsin requires organizations to state their dress and grooming requirements at the time of hire;

c) The District of Columbia (as well as numerous localities) prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s appearance, including style of dress or hair.

We’d love to hear if you’ve face any dress code issues and how you dealt with them!

 

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April 13, 2015

Spring Flowers Lead to Summer Dress Codes

Filed under: Discrimination,General HR Buzz8:25 am

dress code

by Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Senior HR Consultant

If yours is like many companies, these two items may be part of your current discussion regarding summer dress code. Yes, it’s rapidly approaching, and it seems the discussion erupts after the first warm, unexpected day when an employee shows up to work in something that is, perhaps, questionable. Then the whole can of worms opens up. Is it appropriate to wear sleeveless tops? What about collarless shirts?

Many of these answers depend on your business, your customers and the overall philosophy of appropriate “dress” within your culture. Whatever the point of view, an understanding of the issues and legal concerns surrounding dress and appearance standards is necessary to ensure that you can implement an effective code that meets the needs for professionalism and safety in your organization. Our next two blogs will explore some items for consideration when drafting your dress code policy.

  1. How much freedom does an employer have in setting appearance standards for its employees?
    Typically, a lot. Organizations may generally impose standards based on “social norms.” Appearance and dress requirements that are based on legitimate business needs (e.g., safety needs, industry norms, management philosophy, types of jobs involved and common business standards) are more likely to be upheld should a discrimination charge be filed. Workplace rules based on “personal taste” are typically difficult to defend.
  2. What are the discrimination issues?
    Dress and appearance standards may violate federal or state anti-discrimination statutes if they are applied inconsistently or create a disparate impact on a protected group. Sex and religious discrimination are most commonly alleged.
  3. Sex Discrimination

a) Dress and Appearance
Dress code differences for men and women do not inherently create sex bias. Different dress standards for men and women that reflect common social norms have generally been upheld. Therefore, employers do not have to apply identical dress standards for men and women. However, dress codes not based on societal norms that impose a greater impact or burden on one sex, that are antiquated or based on sex stereotypes, or that are significantly different for men and women typically cannot be upheld.

Examples:

The following practices have generally been upheld:

  • Requiring men, but not women, to wear ties.
  • Allowing women, but not men, to wear earrings.
  • Terminating a female juvenile center employee for wearing too much makeup (after repeated warnings).
  • Prohibiting men from wearing long hair.
  • Because of safety reasons, requiring employees to wear hair a certain way or to use a hair net.
  • Requiring facial hair to be neatly groomed; however, completely prohibiting facial hair may be discriminatory on the basis of religion, disability or race.

Discrimination has been found where:

  • Female employees, but not males, were required to wear uniforms.
  • Female employees, but not males, were forced to wear smocks.
  • A manager required a female employee to wear makeup within days of being notified that the employee was pregnant. The manager had also asserted that pregnant women were less attractive.
  • Maximum weight requirements were established for female airline employees where none were established for males.
  • Only women were required to wear contact lenses.
  • A convenience store fired a black employee who had a skin disease aggravated by shaving and who refused to shave. (Black males are most likely to have this condition, known as PFB.) Company concerns regarding “image” generally don’t justify a “no beard rule.” PFB may also be a disability under the ADA.
  • Male employees were required to wear jackets and ties, but females could wear jeans, sweaters, and other informal apparel.

b) Harassment
Employers have been held liable for sexual harassment because they had required female employees to wear provocative clothing.

Discrimination has been found where:

  • A female lobby attendant was required to wear sexually revealing and provocative clothing that subjected her to derogatory comments and harassment from the public.
  • A female cocktail waitress was required to wear a revealing costume while male servers wore tuxedos.

Part two of this blog will focus on avoiding potential discrimination issues when concerning disabilities, religion and racial items. So, don’t miss next week’s blog!

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April 6, 2015

FMLA Updates Redefine Spouse

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:29 am

same sex

by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling it unconstitutional. As a result of this ruling, many federal statutes have been reviewed to determine if this ruling has any implication on the interpretation of the act. The most recently updated law is the Family Medical Leave Act. Under the new law, the definition of spouse has been changed to reflect all legally married same sex spouses, regardless of the state in which they currently reside. This is referred to as the “place of celebration” rule, rather than the previously used “state of residence” rule.

In practice, this enables all same sex spouses, who were legally married in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, to take Family Medical Leave to care for their spouse or family member regardless of the state in which they currently reside. This final rule’s definition of spouse includes lawfully recognized same sex and common law marriages and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the United States, if the marriage could have been entered into in at least one state.

What does this mean in practice for administrators of the FMLA?

  1. Lawfully married same sex partners will be able to take leave under the FMLA to care for their own or their spouse’s serious health condition.
  2. Lawfully married same sex partners will be permitted up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a partner injured or suffering an illness as result of a military action.
  3. Eligible employees will also be able to take leave to care for their step-child (natural or adopted child of the employee’s same sex spouse)
  4. Eligible employees will be able to take leave to care for a step-parent who is the same sex spouse of the employee’s parent.

In order to be considered a covered employer under the Family Medical Leave Act, the employer must meet the following criteria:

  • private sector employer with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year;
  • public agency, including a local, state, or federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period:

  • for the birth of the employee’s child and for bonding with the newborn;
  • for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care and for bonding with the newly-placed child;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition; or
  • When the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job due to the employee’s own serious health condition.

If your company is required to follow the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act, it is highly recommended that human resource practitioners update their handbooks and policy manuals to reflect the updates to the statute.

For more information or to read the Department of Labor fact sheet, click on http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/factsheet.htm

 

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March 30, 2015

Measuring the Effect of Training

staff training

 

How effective are your training programs? Do they result in greater productivity, fewer accidents, less expense, lower turnover, increased employee satisfaction or greater customer retention? Do they change people’s attitudes? Do they lower your risk of lawsuits? Answers to questions like these are necessary to determine if your training efforts are producing results … results that can affect your bottom line.

Conducting an ongoing evaluation of your training programs is absolutely necessary. It can help you keep your training programs cost-effective and relevant by revealing when programs should be revised or replaced. You must analyze your training results in several different areas, such as:

  • Training Participant Evaluation
    Getting participant feedback is a vital part of training evaluation. You can do this through surveys, either via paper or computer. Areas to evaluate could include: content, delivery and logistics. Keep in mind that surveys are subjective, but they should help you get an overall feel for how the training is received.
  • Skills/Principles Learned
    Actual learning as a result of training is another important area to measure. If the training teaches certain skills, participants should be tested prior to and after the training so you can see what skills they gained. If the training covers knowledge and theory, testing participants at the end is a simple way to measure learning results.
  • Identify Results
    It’s important to be able to assess how the training impacts the bottom line. Identify specific results that are desired from the training and follow up to see if they occur. It’s also important to assess the behavior of training participants once they return to the job. Did the training impact their behavior?
  • Calculate ROI
    The final step is to calculate the return on investment (ROI) as it relates to the training. Once you identify the results and calculate the costs of the training, decide if the return is worth it. Be sure to factor in ALL costs related to the training: wages of developers and presenters, outside trainer fees, material costs such as paper and pens, downtime during training, facility and equipment charges, administrative costs, travel costs, etc.) The list can be extensive, but needs to be complete for the results to be useful.

Calculating the benefits of your training programs can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s essential if you want to know whether your training efforts are helping you meet your goals.

If your organization needs a hand developing, measuring or improving its training, HR Performance Solutions’ HR consultants can help.

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March 23, 2015

The Gift of Employee Recognition

Filed under: Performance Management,Total Rewards8:32 am

Employee of the Month

by Megan Mohr, CCP, Compensation Consultant

Know anyone that’s thinking of changing jobs in the not too distant future? You’re not alone. A survey from CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive found that 21% of fulltime employees were looking to change jobs last year. That’s up 4% from the year before – and the highest percentage since 2008.

A major reason employees want to flee is lack of recognition in their workplace. Another study, this one from Bersin & Associates, discovered that employers who had recognition programs to promote employee engagement had lower turnover.

When you consider that the average job tenure for U.S. employees is 4.6 years and only 3.2 years for millennial employees, it may be time for your company to rethink its recognition program. And if your organization doesn’t have one, now’s the time to put one in place. Here are four things to consider when rewarding employees:

  1. Rewards Aren’t Always Monetary
    Even though actions speak louder than words, sometimes employees need both in the form of positive feedback. Whether it’s verbal or written, formal or informal, a few kind words can go a long way to making your employee feel valued. And an employee that feels valued will stick around longer and produce better results.
  2. Start Early
    Don’t wait for an employee’s five-year anniversary to shine a light on them. The sooner you recognize an employee, the sooner you set the standards for work quality and fulfill their need to be appreciated. Try a yearly anniversary recognition – this will keep them engaged with their job and your organization.
  3. Give it Meaning
    Who wants a hollow compliment? Definitely not your employees! Personalize your recognition program so it means something to each individual and makes them feel special. Instead of a more blanket form of recognition, perhaps let each department have input in how they’d like to be recognized.
  4. Get Everyone on Board
    From top to bottom, everyone needs to fully buy in to your company’s recognition program. Make sure that your managers actually have the skills and feel comfortable enough in their roles to work with and recognize their employees. Some training may need to happen before your program can be successful and impactful.

However your organization approaches its recognition program, here are the two the main takeaways: 1) You need to have one in place, and 2) Some thought and care need to be taken before unveiling it to your staff. If done correctly, your recognition program can be the gift that keeps on giving.

If your company needs a hand contending with employee recognition or training, our HR Performance Solutions HR consultants can help. Click here to contact us or to learn more.

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March 16, 2015

Why Honesty is the Best Policy with Termination

Filed under: Discipline & Termination3:43 am

fired

by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant

Most employers have a traditional at-will employment policy that states either the employee or the employer can terminate employment with or without cause at any time with or without notice. This is a great policy … until the moment of execution when the manager wants to terminate an employee with little or no documentation. Conducting a termination by invoking the at-will policy may find your company at the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit.

Employers who choose to hide behind a reduction in force or position elimination may also be at risk.  This strategy may be effective, unless the position is not eliminated and the “downsized” employee finds an advertisement for her eliminated position posted online two weeks later and sues the employer for discrimination or wrongful termination.

So, what strategies can an employer put in place to reduce the risk of being sued by a disgruntled former employee? Honesty is always the best policy and, in most cases, the reasons for termination should not be a surprise to the employee.

Following are a few steps to help reduce the risk of being accused of unfair employment practices:

  • Clearly communicate to the employee the specific performance issue
  • Establish goals for improvement
  • Identify a timeline for improvement
  • Follow-up and follow through with employee to ensure they understand the importance of improvement
  • Document all follow-up and action steps
  • Terminate employee if objectives are not met

Of course, there may be circumstances that require immediate termination. In these circumstances, best practices still dictate that the reasons for termination be communicated clearly to the employee.

Whether your organization needs help with performance management or any other HR related area, please contact HR Performance Solutions today.

 

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March 9, 2015

Keeping it Simple!

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Performance Management4:46 am

Simple

by Nancy Norman, HR Product Manager

Having worked at HR Performance Solutions for nearly 12 years, I have been “around the block” when it comes to dealing with performance appraisals. After implementing hundreds of performance management systems and training thousands users on performance management best practices, I have one piece of advice that can make all the difference.  Keep it simple!

What do I mean by this? The process should be kept simple enough that it makes it easy for your managers and employees to be successful. Often I hear how difficult it is to get managers to do timely appraisals or to keep track of things throughout the year. Employees often think of appraisals as a bad experience or one that has little or no value.

Here are three tips to keep it simple and find greater success:

  1. Culture: Create a culture that expects both managers and employees to manage performance throughout the year. When managing performance is the expectation and foregone conclusion, it’ll become a natural part of their daily routine. “Everybody’s doing it.”
  2. Tools: Implement tools that are simple and easy to understand. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is an application that’s difficult to understand and use. If the problem is training, you can fix that.  If the problem is the tool, you can fix that as well.
  3. Process: Well meaning, but misguided decision making sometimes results in an over-complicated appraisal process. It can be hard enough to get employees and managers to do one appraisal a year, let alone monthly or quarterly. If the nature of your business is such that it demands this level of feedback, then make sure your employees understand why and help them to buy into the process. If you’re able to meet the needs of your business and your employees with a simpler process, you might want to scale back.

Ultimately, ask yourself why you do appraisals and what do you expect for your return on investment? Does your business culture, its tools you use and the processes you have defined support the “why”? Are you getting the results you need and expect? If not, don’t be afraid to mix it up.

And if you need help, HR Performance Solutions is here to review your system setup and make recommendations. Our HR consultants are here to help get your organization where it needs to be.

 

 

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March 2, 2015

Putting Job Descriptions under the Microscope

Filed under: ADA & Disability,Hiring & Jobs4:41 am

man_microscope

by Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Sr. HR Consultant

Job descriptions. They’re something every human resource person and manager know are important, but keeping them current and pertinent can sometimes slip through the cracks.

Having the most accurate job descriptions for your employees not only ensures everyone is on the same page on duties and responsibilities, but they can help protect your organization from facing disability discrimination claims.

If your business has at least 15 employees, you need to ensure that your job descriptions correctly identify what all the essential job functions are of each position – and list any specific tools or resources needed. Here are six steps to  help ensure that all of your current and potential employees have the most comprehensive job descriptions:

  1. Collect Information and Analyze
    Why not start at the source? Interview your employees and managers about the various positions. Use questionnaires. You might even want to take some time to casually observe your employees in their positions to confirm that your descriptions are correct.
  2. Use Visual Aids
    If an employee needs specific resources or equipment for their job, include a photo of what they are. Or, depending on the position, you could videotape the individual performing their job.
  3. Identify Hazards
    Include any hazardous exposure disclosures that safety laws require.
  4. Describe the Environment
    Is the position indoors or outdoors? Is there easy access from one floor to the next (stairs and/or elevator)?
  5. Mental and Physical
    Be sure the job description includes employer expectations outlining mental and physical requirements, education and training plus any attendance or schedule requirements.
  6. Making Distinctions
    As with anything, there’s a difference between what’s required and what would be “nice to have.” There’s no place in a job description for the latter. Only include what an employee needs to get the job done.

Writing Those Descriptions

When it comes to sitting down and actually writing the job descriptions, you’ll want to: use simple and concise language with active verbs; try not to include any industry jargon that outsiders may not comprehend; use a consistent format throughout all your job descriptions; and have supervisors and employees verify the information. Combine these and the six steps above and you’ll have comprehensive job descriptions to keep everyone on the same page and the Americans with Disabilities Act satisfied.

 

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February 23, 2015

When is an Independent Contractor Not an Independent Contractor?

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:37 am

analyze staff

By Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Sr. HR Consultant

Think you have a good grasp on the difference between regular employees and independent contractors? The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) seems to be cracking down even more lately when it comes to enforcing misclassifications.

The DOL recently announced numerous instances where a number of companies failed to classify their employees correctly and now owe the agency back wages and damages ranging from $109,000 to $1.3 million. To save your company from being added to this list, here are a few vital warning signs that you may have misclassified your employees:

  • You have given your contract employee paid vacation or sick leave.
  • You pay your contract employee by the hour or on a salaried basis, versus by the project.
  • The work they perform is usually paid reported on a W-2 basis.
  • The person’s business expenses have been reimbursed.
  • You’ve had the contract employee sign a non-compete agreement.
  • They only perform work for you and do so as an individual, rather than as a company.

Don’t be mistaken, the DOL is taking this seriously. They’ve hired over 2,000 investigators since 2008. Looking for misclassifications has become a routine investigation for them now.

So, take a second look at any contract employees you may have and reclassify as needed. Just make sure you make up any back pay you may owe them to be compliant.

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