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April 30, 2008

Microwave Popcorn — The Next Big HR Issue?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , 7:24 am

HR managers can never rest. It’s just one crisis after another. Apparently the next looming crisis could come from the snack aisle. The culprit is popcorn…burned popcorn. Reports of triggered fire alarms, dispatching of fire crews, evacuated buildings, destroyed microwaves, and complaints regarding “noxious lingering smells” resulting from inattentive or improper popping seem to be circulating. The Associated Press reports that Seattle officials have distributed memos to employees outlining the serious costs and impacts of wayward popping. While a popping ban has yet to be implemented, city officials have indicated it is possible if popping behavior doesn’t improve. Can a popping policy be far behind?


April 29, 2008

Planning the Company Summer Picnic: Prepare To Be Unprepared

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:41 am

You would think it a fairly simple task to select a day during the next 90-120 days to hold the annual company summer picnic. Let’s see  . . . ideally it would be held on a Friday. That narrows it down to 16 potential days. Take away holiday weekends, factor in school graduations, the boss’s vacation, other scheduled staff vacations, etc. and you now have a short list of no more or less than 5 potential Friday’s.

Next you need to select a location, check availabililty (you are now down to 3 potential Friday’s) and make the reservation.

I’ve only selected the date and sent out a ‘save the date’ email to the company staff and I’m already wondering what I got myself into. There’s still food, snacks, drinks, activities, prizes, communication, scheduling, ice, decorating, shade, foul weather contingencies, and of course the obligatory speeches and employee recognition. But the thought that keeps the party planner up at night is the casual comment by the company president to “make it better than last years.” Inevitably the thought enters the mind of the most stalwart employee volunteer, “I’m screwed. Why did I ever volunteer for this and how can I get out of it?”



April 25, 2008

HR Fact Friday: OSHA Releases Annual Enforcement Statistics

Filed under: OSHA7:17 am

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released its annual enforcement statistics.

In fiscal 2007, OSHA conducted 39,324 total inspections, a 4.3 percent increase over its stated goal of 37,700.  Total violations of OSHA’s standards and regulations were 88,846, a 6 percent increase from fiscal 2006.  The agency cited 67,176 serious violations, a 9 percent increase from the previous year and a more than 12 percent increase over the past four years.  The number of cited repeat violations also rose, from 2,551 in FY 2006 to 2,714 in FY 2007.    

Fatality and injury and illness rates have continued to decline to record lows.  The injury and illness incidence rate of 4.4 per 100 employees for calendar year 2006 was the lowest that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has ever recorded.  Workplace fatality rates hit an all-time low in calendar 2006 with 3.9 fatalities per 100,000 employees.



April 24, 2008

15 Signs Your Performance Appraisal System Isn’t Working

Filed under: Performance Management7:05 am

Most organizations use some form of employee performance evaluation tool in their workplaces. They are critical communication devices, important pieces of documentation, and may be integral to compensation systems. However, many times appraisals or related processes are poorly designed or implemented. A few signs that an evaluation program isn’t working are discussed below. If you recognize any of these signs it may be time to consider a new solution. State-of-the-art, Internet-based automated programs, such as HRN’s Performance Pro, solve many of the problems that have haunted company employee performance management programs in the past.
Some Signs of Problems Include:

1. All employees are evaluated on the same factors or competencies. Should a receptionist and a CFO really be appraised on the same criteria?

2. The differences between poor, average, and outstanding performance aren’t defined. Shouldn’t an employee and his appraiser be able to objectively determine what constitutes great vs. mediocre performance?

3. Evaluations are very inconsistent among appraisers. A good program should promote consistent evaluations across appraisers and departments.

4. Terminated employees have received good or even great ratings. Your appraisals should support not undercut your corrective action decisions.

5. Your best employees’ ratings aren’t much better than everyone else’s. Most organizations have a few incredible employees whose contributions far exceed their numbers. For your appraisals to be meaningful there should be “daylight” between their scores and the others.

6. Everybody is above average. Appraisal “inflation” is a common problem. If everybody is above average then some employees may wonder why they should work hard and try to distinguish themselves. Or why should a mediocre performer try to improve?

7. Appraisals are not completed on time. Failing to complete evaluations on time may mean that they aren’t considered important or are just too time consuming.

8. Appraisers consistently evaluate employees the same (e.g., all very high or low). Such a manager either: needs training, doesn’t take the time to individualize appraisals, or isn’t taking the process seriously.

9. “Like situated” employees are treated differently. Consistent treatment is a key to avoiding discrimination claims and creating a climate of fairness and credibility.

10. Appraisals are historical only. A good performance management system should not only be able to effectively evaluate past performance but be used to develop employees.

11. Employees have no input. How can an employee be expected to “buy into” the appraisal system if he or she has no input? Using self appraisals can be especially useful to promote communication.

12. Not customized to the individual. Cookie cutter comments and generic goals that aren’t tailored to an individual employee’s position, strengths, weaknesses, or career path aren’t particularly useful.

13. High performers receive about the same pay increases as above average performers. If your appraisal system doesn’t effectively distinguish your employees’ performances then pay may be viewed more as an entitlement than as a reward to distinguish top performance. Some employees will be paid more than they deserve and truly outstanding employees will be paid less than they should.

14. Promotions are viewed as unfair or arbitrary. Unless promotion decisions are seen as based on objective criteria and documented they may not be viewed as being given to the most deserving staff members.

15. Morale is low. Most people compare themselves to what others do and receive. A less than meaningful appraisal system, or one that is perceived as unfair, can leave people unmotivated and resentful.


April 23, 2008

HRN New Service Announcement: HR Audit

Filed under: HRN News6:39 am

HRN is now providing a new service called HR Audit. This service reviews your current HR programs and policies to ensure compliance with state and Federal HR law requirements. Due to the ever increasing number of employment laws, and concerns over stiff and often-times oppressive fines that can be levied for infractions, it is vital to keep your HR policies and practices in compliance.

Over the years HRN has partnered with the Law Firm of Jones, Waldo, Holbrook and McDonough in the development of a cost-effective and comprehensive human resource audit format. As part of the audit we review the following areas:



April 22, 2008

Reminders About Common Manager Goofs

Filed under: General HR Buzz10:53 am

The HR Daily Advisor recently included a very useful reminder about the most common manager “goofs” that lead to employment lawsuits.



April 21, 2008

Shhhh: Performance Pro “Single Sign-On” Pre Launch Announcement

Filed under: Performance Pro11:03 am

Leave it to the marketing guy to leak out a week and a half early that there is going to be an exciting Performance Pro new feature announcement on May 1, 2008.

My informed sources have it that HRN has been busy working on a ‘Single Sign-on’ enhancement to Performance Pro. Single Sign-on will enable Performance Pro clients, with a secure internal company intranet, to allow employees direct access to Performance Pro without the need to input a separate user name and password.

In other words, once an employee is securely logged onto their company intranet, they can access Performance Pro directly without the need to enter another password.

The time-saving and convenient functionality of Performance Pro Single Sign-on will be available beginning on 5/1/2008 for a one time cost of $399.

But if anyone asks, don’t tell ‘em you heard this from me.


April 18, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Pro-Rating Minimum Salary for Part-time Exempt Employee Not Allowed

Filed under: Legal Issues1:56 pm

A U.S. Department of Labor Opinion Letter (FLSA2008-1NA) has addressed the issue of whether the minimum salary of $23,660/year ($455/week), generally required to meet the exemptions tests under the Fair Labor Standards Act, can be prorated.  For example, could a full time exempt employee who was making $30,000/year whose hours were reduced to 20/week and pay cut to $15,000 remain exempt?  (The employee’s duties continued to fall within the exemption.)  The DOL says no.   Such proration is not allowed.  To qualify for the exemption the employee would have to receive at least $455/ week regardless of the number of days or hours worked.  Remember that to qualify for most exemptions (and not be subject to overtime) both pay and duties tests must be met.   Additionally, some states impose even stricter requirements.

So there, you did learn something new today.


April 15, 2008

Performance Pro Open Enrollment Training 5/21

Filed under: Performance Pro7:39 am

On Wednesday, May 21, 2008 HRN will be offering its popular Performance Pro open enrollment online training. Two opportunities for Performance Pro users to receive ”appraiser” level training are being offered at 11am and 3pm Eastern Daylight Time.  This is a great, and cost effective opportunity for new Performance Pro users, or those simply needing a refresher, to learn how to complete an appraisal and utilize many of Performance Pro’s tools and resources. Each training session lasts approximately 1 hour. The cost is $55 per person or $45 per person if two or more individuals from the same organization enroll in the same session. Space is limited.

To enroll:

1. Call our customer support dept. at 801-747-1170 or,

2. Send HRN an email at or,

3. Enroll and pay online with a credit card by going to: and clicking on the “Buy Online” link at the top of the right hand column and select the session you would like to attend.


April 14, 2008

Ten Commandments of Performance Appraisals

Filed under: Performance Management6:58 am

A recent article in the New York Law Journal outlined the following interesting ten commandments of employee performance evaluations:

1.  Don’t let the time slip, if it is an annual review, do it on an annual basis.

2.  Tell the truth.

3.  Remember the audience and be accurate but professional…now is not the time to “Donald Trump” someone.

4.  Do not over-praise, give the highest grades only to those who deserve them.

5.  Do not be afraid to be candid.

6.  Do not speak in code or corporate jargon.

7.  Avoid meaningless buzzwords like “bad attitude” or “not a team player” and instead give specific examples of problem behavior.

8.  Don’t let a good or bad evaluation be a surprise, communicate on issues throughout the year too.

9.  Get rid of non-performers after they have had notice of problems and a fair chance to improve performance.

10.  Word gets out, and you will be judged in the recruiting market by what your former employees say about your review system, so do it well and professionally.

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