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January 12, 2016

The Four Employee Engagement Languages

Filed under: Engagement,HRN News,Management Practices10:11 am


A popular relationship book first published 20 years ago is “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. In his book, Chapman describes five primary ways in which we each feel loved. Each of us feels loved and appreciated in different ways and the book tries to improve romantic relationships through learning your partner’s primary love language and demonstrating it regularly. The love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. To borrow from Chapman’s concept a bit, I’d like to introduce The Four Employee Engagement Languages.


As managers and colleagues, we know the importance of employee engagement and a primary way we can keep employees engaged is to ensure they feel valued as a member of our organization.


1) Words of Affirmation

You have probably noticed that many of your employees or coworkers often find encouragement through recognition. Whether it’s for taking on an extra project or going above and beyond for a customer, simple recognition of that effort can speak volumes to an employee who appreciates words of affirmation. As a manager, find out which of your employees or colleagues appreciates encouraging words and affirm them regularly. Be sure to find out whether that employee prefers this recognition publicly or privately as it can be damaging to provide public recognition to an employee who doesn’t like lots of attention drawn to him or her.


2) Acts of Service

Some employees feel appreciated when a coworker or manager steps in to assist with a project or takes care of a problem without being asked. When someone jumps in to help relieve your workload or volunteers to take care of an unwanted project, you’re likely to feel a sense of unity within your team. Consider which employees might most appreciate someone stepping in and sharing the load and seek to meet that need when possible.


3) Receiving Gifts

Similar to words of affirmation, some employees enjoy receiving those small notes of encouragement or a box of chocolates to show appreciation. There are many organizations and catalogs at HR’s disposal to find creative ideas for employee recognition through small gifts. Be sure to recognize small achievements as well as the big ones. Don’t just wait for an employee to earn a certification to be given an award, find ways to award employees for the small things, too. And, it’s not always a specific achievement, but sometimes just a simple reminder of how much the organization values that employee.


4) Quality Time

You might recognize the employees who need quality time as the ones who often stop to talk with their coworkers or are quick to offer to have a meeting instead of an email or phone call. Employees who most appreciate quality time enjoy the interaction with their manager or colleagues and thrive on the ability to spend time with people, even if it’s just for work. While it can sometimes be viewed as a time-waster, consider employees who seem to enjoy or find a need for that extra meeting and try to meet one-on-one with them when warranted.


Getting to know your employees and coworkers at a deeper level and finding out what makes them tick will benefit both you and employees. Find the ways they feel most appreciated and seek to ensure they feel valued and remain engaged team members.


December 3, 2015

The Seasons of Performance Management


In many regions of the country, folks are enjoying the changing of seasons. Cooler temperatures, colorful leaves (on trees or in piles on the ground), pumpkin carving, cider and donuts, early holiday music (if you’re into that), and other evidence of late autumn abound. At work, there are other markers of fall that may not be so relaxing and enjoyable, including budget planning, open enrollment and benefits review (for HR), and performance appraisals. There may not be much that can be done to make all of these things easier but at least when it comes to performance appraisals, it does not have to be a feared task at the end of the year. Just as regular maintenance to one’s yard, home, or automobile makes the change of seasons less troublesome, ongoing performance management can make the year- end appraisal both simple and more meaningful.


As performance management consultants and experts, we have been through every possible challenge associated with performance. Through decades of experience across many industries, we have learned how to coach managers to get the most out of their employees. Performance management should not be something that only occurs at year-end, as a means of planning salary/wage increases. We propose that managers and employees meet monthly or weekly to review performance informally. If such frequency is not practical in your organization, then at least consider checking on performance measurements with the change of seasons. This article provides some suggestions of some actions that can be conducted seasonally as part of a more comprehensive approach to performance management.

Performance Management in Winter

This is the season for most organizations to complete annual performance appraisals for employees. The most impactful thing that can be done during this period is for a manager and his/her employee to sit down for a discussion about performance. It is important that this discussion have a positive tone, which will help keep the employee engaged. Evaluation criteria should be applied consistently and objectively to all employees (ideally, employees with the same role/job should be evaluated on the same criteria). Such criteria should be defined and should have clear distinctions between performance levels, with specific behaviors, characteristics, and measurements in order to avoid bias. New goals should be developed with the employees’ buy-in and should be linked to organizational strategies for alignment.

Performance Management in Spring

As the ground thaws and flowers bloom, it is a good time to renew and revisit the goals that were established as the new year began. Re-calibration may be justified in light of changes to projects and priorities during the first quarter. Managers should meet with employees for a 30-minute discussion about goal progress and about action steps for focus during the coming weeks and months. Even more ideal than a quarterly meeting with the employee would be a monthly or bi-weekly check-in. This should be an informal conversation about goal progress and could focus on quick praise of the employee’s short-term successes.

Performance Management in Summer

As vacations are planned and kids get out of school, this is a good time evaluate budgets and annual initiatives. As should be done whenever the manager and employee meets, goals are reviewed and revised. There should be a plan for addressing PTO/vacation absences to ensure that goals are still

within focus. This is a great time to conduct stay interviews with employees to identify what they like about their jobs and what they need to be more engaged.

Performance Management in Autumn

This a the perfect season for infusing staff with a renewed focus, as normalcy at home is re-established with the kids back in school and eyes turning back to those goals that were aligned with strategies at the beginning of the year. Indeed, this is something that should have been occurring throughout the year. Yet, late third quarter and early fourth quarter are times when there is greater analysis of results in order to effectively plan for the upcoming fiscal year. Managers need to be careful not to give employees the impression that they are a secondary focus, behind that actual planning. As the fourth quarter progresses, plans should include ample time for meaningful discussions about the employees’ performance.

Seasonal performance management is more effective than only an annual appraisal. In fact, the most employee-centric organizations practice employee performance management as something that should occur monthly, weekly, and daily to keep employees engaged. Start where you are and let employees know what you appreciate about them.


November 5, 2015

Reinventing Performance Management to Drive Business Performance

As the end of the year approaches, HR professionals begin to feel the year end crunch: benefit open enrollment, holiday party planning, and the dreaded performance review season.

Does this sound familiar? If it does, you are not alone. In a recent Gallup survey, more than 58 percent of HR executives said their current performance management system was weak in driving high performance; 58 percent also said their current evaluation process was not an effective use of time.

These are disturbing numbers. They beg the question, “How how can we improve and innovate on our current performance systems?”

Traditionally we have evaluated staff members based on output. But as the economy is shifting and more than 70 percent of all jobs are knowledge or service based, it is no longer enough to evaluate employees strictly by their output; we must also evaluate them on non-tangibles such as adaptability and innovation.

The impact of the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect
The challenge that managers face is, “How do we measure these skills without succumbing to the Idiosyncratic Rater Effect?” That’s the idea that a manager’s rating of an employee is a better reflection of his or her own idiosyncrasies than of the employee’s actual skill set.

This means that when a manager conducts the year-end performance appraisal, the rating actually says more about the rater than about the ratee! There have been several published studies in both Personnel Psychology and the Journal of Applied Psychology documenting this effect in employee performance evaluation.

Managers are disturbingly unreliable raters of other people’s performance, says Founder and Chairman Marcus Buckingham of the Marcus Buckingham Company, a leading performance management and employee engagement consulting firm. If we can’t trust this data to help make good business decisions such as who to promote, where to put training resources and how to compensate staff, what do we use?

A new type of evaluation that works
Consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte attempts to answer the question by posing a new form of evaluation that allows the rater to provide his or her opinion on the things that will matter most in making compensation and promotion decisions.

The system requires the manager not to rate the employee’s skill set, but instead answer questions about the manager’s own future action with respect to the employee. The questions summarize the manager’s intent to provide the highest possible compensation increase, the manager’s willingness to work with the employee on another team, the manager’s perception of the employee’s risk for low performance and the manager’s perception of the employee’s potential for promotion. This type of rating system requires the rater to think through the action he or she will take with an employee, rather than giving an unsupported numerical rating.


August 17, 2015

Are Your Passwords Really Protecting You?

Filed under: General HR Buzz1:58 pm


Nowadays, being “on the grid” refers to much more than our culture’s reliance on public utilities and municipalities. With the dawn of the digital age, all of your personal and private information is interconnected through an intricate web of virtual databases. Phone numbers, addresses, photos, affiliations, memberships and accounts are all accessible with a few clicks … spooky stuff.

It’s important for you and your credit union’s employees, both personally and professionally, to keep personal information protected. While in theory most people will agree, in practice we can display some pretty bad habits.

SplashData compiles an annual list of millions of stolen passwords made public throughout the year. In case you haven’t seen it, here are the most recent top 25 passwords in order of popularity:

  1. 123456
  2. password
  3. 12345
  4. 12345678
  5. qwerty
  6. 123456789
  7. 1234
  8. baseball
  9. dragon
  10. football
  11. 1234567
  12. monkey
  13. letmein
  14. abc123
  15. 111111
  16. mustang
  17. access
  18. shadow
  19. master
  20. michael
  21. superman
  22. 696969
  23. 123123
  24. batman
  25. trustno1

Play your part and protect your information. Here are a few simple tips for creating a stronger password:

  • Make sure it’s at least eight characters long
  • Include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols
  • Love pizza? Have a favorite pet? Born in January? Nice to know, keep it out of your password! Don’t include details that people know about you or is publicly attainable
  • Use multiple passwords – if one gets cracked, at least the others didn’t
  • If you write it down or keep it in a document, make sure to keep it hidden
  • Don’t give it out to anyone else

Take the time to come up with a good password and protect it. It’s an investment that only takes a few minutes, and is well worth it!


July 16, 2015

Are You Feeling the Attraction and Retention Pinch?

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:27 am


by Gene Mandarino, HR Performance Solutions

Are you feeling the attraction and retention pinch? If you aren’t yet, you soon will be. Executive mobility is increasing, unemployment is dropping, and retirement funds are growing. Credit unions are no longer recruiting from the ranks of the unemployed but are being forced to recruit from the ranks of the employed. This market dynamic will drive up the costs of attracting and retaining executives. Is your compensation strategy prepared to deal with this?

As a compensation consulting company, we are in the business of helping credit unions determine appropriate pay ranges for all levels of employees. In 2015, we have seen a dramatic increase in clients requesting help in validating pay levels for executives. Some clients are asking because they want to be sure they are paying enough to retain key people. Others are asking because they are recruiting executives and are feeling the pressure to offer more money. Without question, we are in an employee market.

In a presentation on executive pay I recently delivered to HR professionals at a credit union, I was curious to know if they were feeling the employee market pressure that we were feeling. I started the presentation by showing a slide illustrating how the unemployment rate had changed since 2010. In 2010, it was 9.7% nationally, now it is 5.5%, with some states, like Nebraska, at or under 3%. I also pointed out that, according to the Department of Labor, 2014 was the best hiring year in 15 years. After presenting this data to the audience, I asked them if they were feeling the talent attraction and retention pinch. Everyone raised his or her hand, some even blurted out “absolutely.” I was not particularly surprised by the show of hands. But, I was surprised by how vigorously they raised their hands and by the commentary. They clearly validated what we are experiencing as a consulting company.

The decrease of unemployment numbers and the record rate of hiring do not tell the whole story. There is another dynamic in play that creates even more pressure for employers. The stock market has had a 16% return in the last four years, making it possible for a wave of executives, who previously wanted to delay retirement because of market losses, to reconsider retirement. Those who delayed retirement are now more likely to retire.

With more executives retiring (we are currently experiencing a six-year low in unemployment), there are more executive job openings and fewer unemployed people to fill these jobs. As a result, credit unions looking for talent are being forced to recruit from the pool of the currently-employed. This is compelling these credit unions to pay more to lure executives away from other employers, so those who want to keep their executives are forced to pay more to keep them.

So, how can you prevent your key executives from leaving?

1. Have a clear compensation philosophy. In these times, you may have to shift from a philosophy of “paying at market” to “paying above market” to defend against having your talent poached.

2. Be sure you have the most up-to-date base and incentive compensation data so you know what the market is offering and can pay people what they are worth. This is especially important if you have experienced high levels of asset growth over the last few years.

3. Calculate the costs of replacing an executive. Below are some hard cost estimates of losing an executive making $200,000.

  • Search fee ………………………… $40,000 (20% of pay)
  • Signing bonus ……………………  $20,000 (10%)
  • Relocation costs …………………. $25,000
  • Six month “ramp up” costs ……… $100,000 (50% of 1st year pay)
  • Total ……………………………….. $185,000

4. Recalibrate your merit structure for executives to ensure that executives can earn increases that will enable their base pay to keep pace with the market.

5. Last but not least, show appreciation for your key employees, especially your high performers. Pay being relatively equal, employees who feel valued and appreciated will stay with the credit union.

HR Performance Solutions, a division of CU Solutions Group serves over 1,400 clients in the areas of performance management and compensation. For more information, please e-mail us anytime at


July 13, 2015

DOL Releases Long Awaited FLSA Proposed Changes

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:00 am


by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant


On Tuesday June 30th, 2015, the DOL released its long anticipated changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act. If enacted, the new law proposes to raise the current exempt status salary threshold from the current $455 per week to $970 per week ($50,440 annually). It is estimated that this change will impact nearly 5 million white collar workers, making them eligible for overtime compensation for hours exceeding 40 in week.

Additional proposed changes include increasing the salary level for an employee to be considered highly compensated to the 90th percentile of weekly earnings, bringing the level to $122,148 annually. Most interesting in the proposal is to add a mechanism to ensure that the salary and compensation levels going forward will continue to provide a useful and effective test for measuring exemption status. This will allow for the minimum salary threshold to be updated in line with changes in averages salaries for white collar employees nationally.

What does this mean for employers?

Employers should begin to evaluate which exempt employees will be impacted by this proposed change and begin to create strategies for implementing and communicating the change to staff. This does not mean that all salary employees must be paid on an hourly basis, however it does mean that salaried employee must be paid at one-and-a-half times their base rate for any hours worked over 40 in a single week.

This proposed regulation will not take effect immediately, and the DOL is seeking comment on the proposed regulation. Employers will be notified of when the change is in effect and will most likely be given a reasonable window in which to implement the new regulation.



July 6, 2015

Stop Dangling That Carrot: Other Ways to Motivate Your Employees

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:18 am

dangle carrot

In last week’s blog post, we took a look at employee engagement, and how management’s approach to engagement can effect job performance. In a perfect world, all of your credit union’s employees would be firing on all cylinders, all the time. But how realistic is that? Some people will be consistent top-performers, while others show up just for the paycheck. The trick is to take the paycheck people, and inspire them; inspire them on their own terms. This isn’t done by setting an all or nothing standard of excellence, but by individual goal-setting and creating a method of achievement.

Here are some key elements of goal-setting, and creating a means of success in any situation:

    • Motivation – The work that a person performs is a direct reflection of who they are as an individual – this is the psychological component of achievement. Motivation can be the hardest, or the easiest part, but is certainly the most foundational. Communicating a person’s role, why it is important and how it contributes to the larger picture can instill a sense of ownership over a process or procedure. If the situation allows, consider getting your employees involved in the decision-making process or, at the very least, allow them to voice their input.
    • SMART Goals – This was first developed by George Duran in the early ‘80s, and focuses on setting the right goals. According to the acronym, goals should be Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic and Time-related. While the motivation component focuses primarily on the employee, this component is more driven by management. It’s important to allow the employee to contribute to the definition of achievement, but management has to make certain that the end product leads to a healthy bottom line.
    • Consistency – Anything worth doing, is worth doing right; and consistently! Upkeep is the duty of all parties involved and encompasses nearly all facets at your company. Motivation is a spark that needs to be maintained and fanned until it becomes a fire, and then fanned some more. Situations and projects need to be reassessed and readdressed to make sure that they are consistently on track. None of these things matter if they are introduced and executed only once. Engagement is an ongoing and dynamic process that needs to be sustained in order for it to translate into performance.
    • Leading It’s not always about where you are, but where you are going. Trajectory and momentum are crucial to the process, especially when goals are near completion. We should always keep an eye on the obstacles ahead so that when our goals are met, we’re ready to meet the next challenge.

It all boils down to the classic negative versus positive reinforcement argument. Negative reinforcement leads to avoidance – employees will typically do as much as necessary to avoid reproach, and stop right there. When your employees are driven by achievement, they are much more likely to go above and beyond. While simple recognition of good work can certainly help, the effects are often fleeting. For lasting performance and production, a true driving force, we need to engage and tap into something more constant. A structured means of achievement can be just that.

HR Performance Solutions is dedicated to providing human resource solutions that help businesses thrive. Click here to learn more about our performance driven products and services.


June 29, 2015

Employee Engagement – How Do You Measure Up?

Filed under: General HR Buzz5:10 am

bored employee

Okay, I have three numbers for you – or percentages I should say – 30, 13 and 70. According to a recent study conducted by Gallup, 30 percent of U.S. employees are actively engaged in their job. Mull that over for a moment. That means seven out of ten folks around you will probably do enough to earn their paycheck, and nothing more. Sure, they’ll get the job done, but are by no means driven to go above and beyond in their work.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Well that’s actually quite better than employee engagement worldwide, which sits at a dismal 13 percent. Thirty is starting to sound good … Don’t fret though, there’s still one more number: 70. Management is shown to account for 70 percent of variance in employee engagement.

The tone set by leadership is shown to systematically carry throughout the company and directly influences engagement. If you can manage to get the right person in the role, that 30 percent engagement can be driven considerably higher. Management is the key.

Focus and approach

I’ve witnessed the effect that management has on engagement firsthand. In a former life (or so it feels), I was a sales manager for a big box electronics retailer. The biggest driver of profitability, by and large, was television sales. The TV by itself has a high profit margin, but when you add accessories, cables, surge protectors, Blu-ray players and audio, profits can soar. These stores live and die by the success of their TV department.

As you can probably guess, sales managers place a great deal of focus and investment on their salespeople – developing their talents, honing their skills and teaching them how to educate and connect with customers. While the underlying focus is often the same from manager to manager, approach can vary wildly.

Inaction in action

I recall one manager in particular and his method of “talent development.” Employees would regularly approach him after a sale, proud of their accomplishment, and looking for a little approval and encouragement. His response was typically a back-handed compliment: “Nice, I see that you sold an HDMI cable, you should have sold the surge protector too,” or, “Great, they purchased home theater surround-sound with the TV, why didn’t you sell professional installation?” No praise went without criticism; no good deed went unpunished.

In his mind, he was placing the bar higher and higher – helping his salespeople strive to be the best and reach a standard of excellence. It worked in a few cases. More often than not however, employees disengaged, confident that they could never do enough to satisfy. They could never reach their goals, because they were always reestablished right before they were met.

It’s all relative

I always did my best to encourage performance through individual achievement rather than a single standard of excellence. The biggest difference between these two methods is the approach towards goal setting. The first method establishes a measure for greatness, and produces an all or nothing mentality. In the words of Jedi Master Yoda, “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Maybe this works in the Marine Corps boot camp, professional sports and the Jedi Academy, but it’s not a prudent approach for an every-day Middle America workforce.

The other method takes a little longer, but is much more productive. We have to first take stock of an employee’s skill set and potential, and then work with them to establish a “next level.” Something that they can own; something on their terms. If we view performance as falling somewhere on a continuum, focus moves to direction and momentum. Not just good or bad, but getting better or getting worse. As long as we can keep consistently ticking along upwards, slow and steady will often win the race.

In part two of this post, we’ll look at some tangible methods of engaging employees. In the meantime, if your organization would benefit from more streamlined and simplified performance management, click here to learn more about Performance Pro!


June 22, 2015

Creating the Right Employee Rewards Program

Filed under: General HR Buzz12:36 pm


by Megan Mohr, CCP, Compensation Consultant

Does your organization have an employee rewards program? If so, how long has it been since it’s been reviewed and/or revised? Or, if you haven’t implemented one yet, it may be time to do so. Having a solid, flexible and forward-thinking employee rewards program not only helps you retain your top performers, it can also attract top new talent.

The Right Approach

A major mistake that many businesses make when developing a rewards program is establishing it based on what they think their staff wants. A better, more productive approach is to find out what your employees’ rewards preferences are and then work the plan from there.

Employers need to start from a place of data and knowledge. However, while 83% of executives agree that employee preference data is valuable, only 43% actually have to this information. Corporate Executive Board, a leading member-based advisory company, recently gathered rewards preference data from nearly 9,000 employees. Study results show that: employee preferences have changed during the past three years; employees are thinking shorter term; and more personalized rewards are seen as more valuable.

The biggest change the study uncovered was an increased preference for a better work-life balance. Benefits in this area have moved up in rank in the past few years while advancement, raises, pay equity, medical benefits and retirement benefits have all moved down. While your employee preferences may vary, the important this is to find out what those preferences are before crafting your rewards program.

Other Variables

While employee preference should be a major consideration in a rewards program, it’s not the only variable to consider. Organizations should also factor in performance, alignment, strategy and costs when piecing together the rewards puzzle. But you don’t want to waste time, energy and money focusing on ineffective rewards. Unfortunately, only 24% of employees said their company’s current rewards package matched their needs.

Meeting your employees’ rewards needs, especially on a personalized level, can have a major impact on your organization’s bottom line. Truly and accurately meeting your employees’ needs in this area can significantly increase employee retention and employee performance. And face it, the happier the employees the happier the company.


June 15, 2015

New and Improved Data and Statistics

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , , 5:52 am


The Department of Labor has enhanced its Data & Stats portion of its website by adding a new “Earnings” section. This section features a series of charts and graphs showing the most recent annual earnings averages by selected topics and demographic characteristics. Covered areas include Educational Attainment, Age and Occupations.

Highlights include:

  • Women with an advanced degree earn less than men with bachelor’s degrees.
  • Women with an associate’s degree or some college earn less than male high school graduates.
  • The gender wage gap is greatest between men and women with advanced degrees.
  • Men’s earnings increase with age until 55-64 years of age, while women’s earnings reach their peak at 35-44, and then remain stagnant until dropping for those age 65 and older.
  • Almost 4 in 5 occupations had a wage gap of at least 10%.

They have also updated their “Latest Annual Data” section with the 2014 numbers released by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. This data includes labor force participation rates, unemployment rates, employment by industry, and educational attainment.

Check it out and let us know what you think!

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