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September 30, 2011

More Common Mistakes Managers Make When Appraising Employees

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Performance Management6:26 pm

Last month, I shared 3 common errors managers make when appraising employees.  You may find it “surprising” to discover there are actually 15.  Here are another 3, including the most widespread– Lenient or Inflated Appraisals.

Overemphasis on Isolated Events
A particularly recent or significant event may skew overall judgment of an employee. Take informal notes about employees (both good and bad things) throughout the year to ensure your evaluation is based on the entire appraisal period – not just what happened last week.

This is similar to the Halo effect, but instead of basing an appraisal on a single characteristic or behavior, this is based on one or several events that stick in an appraiser’s mind. These events may have happened right before the appraisal or possibly really upset the appraiser at some time during the year. Perhaps the appraiser had one particularly ugly confrontation during the year or received a complaint about the employee from upper management or a key client. That may impact the appraisal more than it should. The appraisal should be based on what happened during the entire appraisal period.

Lenient or Inflated Appraisals
It’s difficult for most managers to give employees poor ratings. However, not doing it simply avoids the problem and doesn’t give the employee the opportunity to correct it. It’s also awfully difficult to later discipline or terminate an employee whose appraisals have always been good. It opens up risks of discrimination charges.

Appraisers are lenient or inflate scores for a number of different reasons.  Regardless, this mistake has the potential to create large problems for your organization. It is important to educate appraisers about the potential problems that can result from this practice.  Identify the reasons your managers are falling into this trap and take the necessary steps to eliminate the problem.

Appraisal of Potential Worth
When managing a new or inexperienced employee make sure you rate her on actual job performance, not on what she might become. Evaluate the employee based on current results and action. You can use comments to address her potential

Don’t be too generous on an appraisal because you believe that an employee has incredible managerial potential or could be outstanding “some day.” Rate an employee on what he/she can do today. In the comments, a manager can always add that the employee is doing very well given his/her experience.


HR Fact Friday: Communication is Key to Effective Management

Filed under: Benefits — Tags: , , , 6:00 am

How would it feel if you knew business was slow and your boss was in closed door meetings all day and didn’t make eye contact much less say hello, good night or anything in between to you all day long, day after day? Would you feel secure, appreciated and valued as an employee? Of course not.

Simple, sincere and brief acknowledgement from managers asking employees about this or that project or how their six year old is doing in kindergarten goes a long way to improving staff morale and productivity. Effective communication is what causes employees to feel valued and respected as a professional and as an individual on a daily basis.

The worst thing senior management can do when sales are down and the economy is challenging is to bury their heads in the sand and not engage with the staff. This is the fastest way to get the rumor mill going and cause employees to feel edgy and insecure.



September 29, 2011

Visit HRN at Booth 952 at HR Technology Conference & Expo

Filed under: HRN News — Tags: , , 9:17 am

HRN is pleased to be an exhibitor at the upcoming HR Technology Conference Oct. 3-5 in Las Vegas, NV at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. If you are attending this premier HR technology showcase event please stop by Booth 952 to visit HRN staff and receive information on Performance Pro, Compease, Incentease and a wide variety of HR consulting services.


Change Management: Avoid Meltdown Mode

“Mornin’, Mama!” My two-year-old daughter says to me brightly.  “Milk?” she asks.  At this moment, I steel myself for her reaction when I have to explain that the milk is “all gone.”  She collapses on the floor and in about 1.5 seconds, is in complete meltdown mode.  This continues for an eternity (or about a minute – I can’t remember because I’ve blocked it out).  Fast forward to five minutes later, and she is happily engrossed in putting her baby dolls “night, night,” and all is right with the world again.

Most adults have matured enough to react in a slightly more reserved manner when changes occur.  At least, that’s what I thought before last week.  If you use Facebook – and you probably do, just like 800 million others worldwide – then you know all about the updated profile and news feed changes last week.  Likely spurred by the immediacy of posting status updates (an individual’s stream of consciousness in some cases), I got to read exactly what everyone thought of those changes.

TLNT’s Lance Haun wrote a great blog this week demonstrating that the reactions to Facebook’s changes highlight universal concerns that are applicable to the workplace.  Following is a great quote:

“Large swaths of people will initially hate all change. While something changing on Facebook should be inconsequential to life in general, we know that large groups of people will react negatively to this. Think about that when we add in the fact that work is how we make our livelihood, and changes at work can be much more traumatic. Even if politics or culture won’t let them openly express it at work, you should know that any change is going to be hated by many folks.”

Suggestions for a change management strategy:

  1. Create a Vision.  What are goals that must be achieved?  Draft goals that can be completed within three years, then break them down into smaller, one year goals.
  2. Communication.  Not enough, unclear, or inconsistent communication will hinder any change in the organization.  Utilize multiple avenues to communicate the change effort.
  3. Empowerment.  Sometimes, managers themselves are a hindrance to the change strategy.  Employees and leaders must be empowered to make the changes
  4. Short-term Wins.  Improvements and completed objectives along the way create and maintain a sense of momentum and urgency for employees.  Make sure some of the goals are short-term.
  5. Planning for More Change.  The momentum gained from short-term wins will give employees and leaders incentive to address bigger projects and problems that are not in line with the change strategy.

On my news feed at least, upset over the Facebook changes has largely gone away.  At home, my two-year-old has long forgotten about milk.  We adjust to change because it is inevitable.  However, we can make life easier for everyone – including ourselves – if we take a proactive approach to change.

How do you handle change?  Comment below and share it with us!

Read This!  Think People Have a Tough Time with Change?  Just Ask Facebook

 Facebook Changes: Is Everyone Really Happy to Accept it?


September 28, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym: Correcting Misclassifications through the VCSP – What’s this all About?

Independent contractor or employee.  It is a decision that many employers have to make when setting up new hires.  Sometimes it is a fine line to determine which side of the fence your “worker” is on, and there are certainly financial benefits of classifying workers as independent contractors.

Evidently the IRS believes this is a widespread problem and last week announced a new “Voluntary Classification Settlement Program” (VCSP).  As defined by the IRS:

“The VCSP is a new program developed by the IRS that allows taxpayers to voluntarily reclassify their workers as employees for future tax periods for employment tax purposes. Under the VCSP, a taxpayer will pay 10 percent of the amount of employment taxes calculated under the reduced rates of section 3509(a) of the Internal Revenue Code for the compensation paid for the most recent tax year to the workers being reclassified under the VCSP. In addition, the taxpayer will not be liable for any interest and penalties on the payment under the VCSP, and will not be audited for employment tax purposes for prior years with respect to the worker classification of the workers. “

If that sounds like a good deal, hold on.  Some analysts believe there are many other factors which should be considered before signing up for the VCSP.  According to Steven Dunn, Contributor for Forbes, “Employers should avoid the program, as the relief promised by it is illusory.”  One factor to consider is that an employer who participates in the VCSP agree to extending by three years the period of limitations on assessment of employment taxes for the first three calendar years.  This begins after the date as of which workers were treated as employees.

Additionally, although this is to be treated confidential, if the information becomes public does that open the door for a wage hour class action?  After all, by participating in the VCSP, the employer is “admitting” to misclassifying workers.

Another item to be considered is that the VCSP is aimed at employment tax compliance.  This does not relieve any non-compliance or liability under state tax laws, workers’ compensation laws, federal or state wage and hour laws, ERISA, or other employment laws.  These are other areas that may need to be addressed, after dealing with the IRS through the VCSP program.

So is this a bad program?  No.  In some cases, this may provide some relief for inadvertent misclassifications and allow a fresh start.  Best practice is to properly classify employees from the get-go and eliminate the need for “clean-up” as much as possible.  What do you think?



Form 8952:,,id=242970,00.html

Steven Dunn, Forbes:

Fact Sheet IRS – Employment Taxes and Classifying Workers:,,id=177092,00.html

Fact Sheet DOL – Employment Relationship Under the Fair Labor Standards Act:


September 27, 2011

Could You Make it for a Month at $9 an Hour?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 12:04 pm

Two years ago, my husband and I had two daughters, two jobs, and one very small (less than 800 square feet) home.  We were expecting our third daughter within a couple of months, so we decided to begin looking for a larger home.  Right before we were set to close on the home, my husband was temporarily laid off from his job.

We were able to close on our home as the layoff was expected to be short-term.  Our third daughter was born and we managed on one income (plus unemployment) for that time until he went back to work.  I know how lucky we were.

So many are not nearly as fortunate and many college-educated, formerly middle-class men and women find themselves on the other side of the charities they once supported.  So, what if it were you?  You just lost your job and your home; you’re a single parent; and you have $1,000 to your name.  Can you make it through the month working in a low-paying job?  That’s the question behind the online game Spent, created by Jenny Nicholson for Urban Ministries of Durham, North Carolina.

First, you decide between three jobs, none of which pay more than $9 per hour: a server, a warehouse worker, or a temporary administrative clerk.  Do you want to opt-in to employer-provided health insurance, or risk having no coverage?  Will you choose to live further from work to pay lower rent (but higher transportation costs)?  Do you have $15 to send your child on a school field trip?

As of Friday, the game had been played over a million times.  Nicholson is challenging every member of Congress to play the game as well.  She has a petition going that you can find here to challenge your representatives.

I have played the game several times myself, and although I did make it through the month once or twice, there were a few times the challenge was too great.  for yourself, and let me know how you did.


September 23, 2011

HR Fact Friday: 25% of Credit Unions Do Not Have Succession Plan

Filed under: Retirement,Succession Planning11:30 am

Succession planning at its very essence is a process to ensure that the right people are in the right places at the right time. A main goal of succession planning is to, as much as possible, fill vacancies with internal candidates that know and understand the culture of the organization and whom the board has a true understanding of character, performance history and work ethics.

CUNA’s 2010-2011 Complete Credit Union Staff Salary Survey Report shows 58% of Credit Union’s have a CEO succession plan, 16% plan to by year’s end, but 25% don’t have one at all. 25%! Add to this another sobering statistic—by 2016, 60% of the credit union CEOs will be retiring and the supply of leadership candidates will not meet the demand.

And this is just an example of one small vertical industry. The trends are the same in many industries as baby boomers reach retirement age.  

At the risk of oversimplification, the five steps in developing a meaningful succession plan are:

  1. Identify positions and estimate timeframe of projected transitions
  2. Identify succession candidates
  3. Implement development plans for candidates to acquire and enhance required skill sets
  4. Assign mentors and periodically evaluate readiness of candidates
  5. Continually review plan with CEO and Board

It’s no wonder talent management vendors are hopping on the bandwagon and scrambling to provide succession planning services. HRN has been providing succession planning consulting and plan development services for over 10 years.


September 22, 2011

The X Factor: Are We the Forgotten Generation?

Filed under: Communication,General HR Buzz — Tags: 10:53 am

By now, we all know that in the workplace, we are faced with multiple generations trying to get along.  Each time a new article or blog appears telling me how I can relate to Generation Y, I become just a bit more apathetic.  But wait, that’s a defining characteristic of our generation, right?  We didn’t have helicopter parents; most of us lived in households where both our parents worked or single-parent homes.

Generation X could be regarded as the forgotten “middle child:” sandwiched between the firstborn achievers, the Baby Boomers and the gold-star loving Generation Y babies of the family.  Our generation is the smallest in the workforce today: a mere 46 million compared to the 78 million Baby Boomers and 70 million Generation Y employees.  In spite of that fact, a new report lends some credence to the assertion that Generation X may be the most critical generation of all.  The non-profit Center for Work-Life Study released a report this week entitled The X Factor: Tapping Into the Strength of the 33- to 46-Year Old Generation.

Key Findings:

  • 43 percent of women are delaying or opting out of having children.
  • Ambition is gender-neutral: 75 percent of women and 72 percent of men consider themselves ambitious.
  • Debt determines many Generation Xers’ career choices.
  • 41 percent of Xers say they are unhappy with their level of advancement, having been thwarted by Baby Boomers that have not retired and threatened by Generation Y.
  • The “slacker” generation enrolled and graduated college in record numbers: over a third hold bachelor’s degrees and 11 percent hold graduate degrees.

According to the press release, the study was “comprised of virtual strategy sessions, ten focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and a survey of 2,952 U.S. college-educated men and women in white collar occupations.”

“Xers may have become accustomed to being invisible but ‘the X Factor’ proves that no company can afford to ignore them now.”

Where were you the first time you heard this?

To quote Kurt: “Here we are now, entertain us.”

In case you missed them:

What Managers Need to Know About Generation X

When – and Whether – to Have a Family


September 21, 2011

Are You Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck with Your Benefit Offerings?

Filed under: Benefits,General HR Buzz,Insurance,Total Rewards12:52 pm

As we near the typical time for health benefit renewals – January 1 – we may be thinking “Are we really spending our money in the right places”?  If creating happiness in the workplace is one of your goals, then yes, you are.  A 2011 analysis conducted by CareerBliss, a career development website and online community, revealed that a comprehensive benefit mix was a top factor in worker’s happiness outpacing even salary.   Key factors of organizations were reviewed and values assigned to determine how important those factor were to the employee’s overall happiness.  Benefits, along with career advancement opportunities and work/life factors, were the top three factors influencing employee satisfaction.

Competitive benefit packages of the 250,000 organizations surveyed included the following:

  • Above-average health insurance coverage
  • Dollar-for-dollar 401(k) match,
  • Free financial planning services
  • Life and disability insurance
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Commuter benefits
  • Legal benefits
  • Adoption benefits
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Pet Insurance

So as you analyze your annual benefit renewal, keep in mind that the expense may result in happy employees which creates a positive workplace.  Something to make you smile.



September 20, 2011

The 10 Most Unwanted at Work: Are You one of Them?

Filed under: Communication,General HR Buzz3:22 pm

We all encounter difficult people, sometimes it seems that is all we come across. Most of the difficult people we come into contact with are in the place we spend most of our time – work. Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner are authors of Dealing With People You Can’t Stand. They identify 10 types of difficult people:

1.       The Tank. She rolls right over you, or anyone else who gets in her way. This person bullies and attacks others and their ideas.

2.       The Grenade. Silent one moment, exploding the next – that is this guy’s modus operandi. The explosion itself is all-encompassing and he rants about issues that are rarely the immediate concern.

3.       The Sniper. A not-so-subtle roll of the eyes, biting sarcasm, or talking behind your back are tactics this person uses – all designed to make herself look better than you do.

4.       The Know-It-All. Don’t even think about contradicting this person! He knows everything, just ask him. Rest assured he’ll blame you when things go wrong.

5.       The Think-They-Know-It-All. A legend in her own mind, she can fool some of the people all of the time. She is great at pretending she knows it all to get attention.

6.       The No Person. Imagine spending all your working hours with a two-year-old, and you’ll have a good idea what dealing with him is like. He has ONE word in his vocabulary, “NO!”

7.       The Yes Person. She is always swamped, because all she says is “Yes.” This person is so overcommitted that it is sometimes impossible to get her to actually complete a project.

8.       The Maybe Person. You can never get him to commit to anything. He waits so long to make a decision, the decision makes itself.

9.       The Nothing Person. This person’s response is not yes, no, or maybe. You get nothing from her.

10.     The Whiner. Misery loves company, and there is plenty to share when this person is around. Everyone is out to get this person, and he is constantly overwhelmed.

By this point, if you are past the denial point of believing that you do not fit into any of these categories yourself, come back next week for some tips to deal with these personalities – even if it’s you!

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