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October 30, 2013

Performance Feedback – A Necessary Evil

Filed under: Performance Pro11:01 am

During one of my previous employment experiences, I encountered a group of managers, CEO included, that were unwilling to engage in the performance evaluation process because the company had placed a freeze on wage increases due to the economy’s frightening effect on the business.  Even though, there is a vast difference of opinion on increasing wages in conjunction with the performance appraisal process or not, one thing is certain:  the performance appraisal process cannot be set aside, because it is an essential part of your organization’s health.

Employees need and deserve to know three things:

  • 1) What are my employer’s expectations of me?  These are the job responsibilities and goals that are initially communicated to an applicant and new employee.
  • 2) Am I meeting those expectations?  This is a communication process to explain how well the employee is producing with the objective of meeting those job requirements.
  • 3) What’s next?  This clarifies to the employee what specific steps must be taken to meet the next performance level.

Each of these require performance feedback. defines feedback as “knowledge of the results of any behavior, considered as influencing or modifying further performance.”  Feedback isn’t always pleasant, but how a manager delivers it can determine how well the employee benefits from it.  Here are a few tips for how to deliver beneficial feedback:

  • Keep feedback job related, specific, and objective.  Avoid offering opinions or comments about the employee personally.  It’s all about behaviors and job performance, not the person.  Remember that comments can easily be misinterpreted; avoid careless comments by thinking them through before delivering.
  • Be aware of your facial expressions and body language.  It is estimated that 95% of all communication is nonverbal.  You may “say” one thing, but your facial expressions and body language may be “screaming” something else.
  • Avoid providing feedback when the employee is tired, stressed, or busy.  The same goes for the appraiser!
  • Provide your comments in a professional and courteous manner.  Respect your employee by providing a private setting to avoid interruption from others.
  • Set aside a regular time monthly for ongoing feedback and communication.  This reduces the employee’s dread of the annual performance meeting.  Remember the goal of providing performance feedback is to develop the employee and build on their future with your organization.  It emphasizes the impact their performance has on the organization and on their own success.

Remember, too, what you say, “can and will be held against you.”  Managers should have a basic knowledge of HR law and understand the ramifications of discrimination or even the appearance of it, when providing performance feedback.  It is a skill managers should work to acquire and refine.  Feedback is a very powerful tool when used properly to encourage an employee to be their very best and reach for the next level.


October 25, 2013

HR Fact Friday: New DOL Rule Gives FLSA Protections to Home Care Workers

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

DOL has published a new rule that provides the protections (e.g. minimum wage and overtime pay) of the FLSA to home care workers such as home health aides, certified nursing assistants, and personal care aides. DOL accomplished this by redefining and narrowing the “companionship” FLSA exemption to largely exclude these types of employees and by only allowing the “live-in” exemption to be claimed by the individual or household and not by third party employer, such as home care agencies.


October 24, 2013

HRN to Exhibit at CUPA-HR – Booth 402

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:49 pm

Representatives from HRN Performance Solutions will be exhibiting at the 2013 National CUPA-HR Conference taking place 10/27-29 at the Caesars Palace Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV. CUPA-HR is an association specifically for higher education human resources professionals. HRN serves dozens of clients in the higher education  marketplace with our employee performance (Performance Pro) and compensation administration (Compease) solutions. Stop by and visit with Russell Gerrard, HRN Compensation Consultant, at booth 402 to view a demo of Compease and learn about HRN services and solutions.


October 23, 2013

When an Employee Sues a Customer

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , 11:11 am

Anyone who has worked with customers regularly knows it can be a real challenge.  We put many hours into training our employees to maintain a professional demeanor and keep their emotions in check while assisting an unhappy or just plain irate customer.  But, what if . . . . one time, our employee just can’t deal with a particular customer’s actions?  Where do they draw the line between mild-mannered customer service representative and standing up for themselves?

Well, an interesting case came out of the Tennessee Court of Appeals where an employee of Southwest Airlines sued a customer over the rants she made on Twitter and Facebook about her customer service experience with the employee, Jennifer Patterson.  The accused, Natalie Grant-Herms, was complaining about not being able to board the plane at the same time as her two young children.  Instead of waiting until they could all board together, she went to the ever-so-public forums.  Patterson, who is an operations agent for the airline, sued Grant-Herms for posting false and defamatory comments.  The court dismissed the defamation of character, but felt the invasion of privacy claim could proceed.

This case brings to mind that employers need to make some serious decisions on how they will handle such a situation.  An employer’s first reaction may be to formally discipline the employee, however, they could run the risk of facing discrimination or retaliation charges themselves.  Does the employer have a policy in place to address this topic?  We know, as employers, we can’t treat everyone the same, but we must treat them fairly.  No two situations are alike and each must be viewed on its own merits.  This is definitely an area to seek legal expertise.

Even though at times, customers may test employees’ ability to remain composed, we don’t want our employees feeling ill-equipped.  Following are some proactive measures an employer can take to help employees be confident and equipped to provide superior customer experiences:

  • Reiterate often the importance of customers to the business.  Customers make everything possible – new products, new jobs, profit, and growth.
  • Train employees on acceptable customer service interaction.  Include practice sessions that simulate assisting a challenging customer.
  • Empower employees to make reasonable autonomous decisions for the benefit of the customer, e.g. waiving a fee, awarding the customer a gift card of de minimus value for a long wait, etc.

Help your employees deliver customer service experiences that stand out from the crowd.  Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


October 18, 2013

HR Fact Friday: Employer Liable for Sales Reps Using Own Cars

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 6:00 am

A California court has ruled that an employer may possibly be liable for injuries caused by one of its sales representatives who was driving after hours. The case involved an employee who got into a car accident and caused injuries after work while driving to get yogurt and go to a yoga class. The person injured sued both the employee and the employer. The court held that the employer might be liable because it required the sales rep to use her own personal car for work and commuting and gave her a car allowance. The court acknowledged the “coming and going” rule which says that an employee’s normal commuting to work is not within the scope of employment for purposes of imposing liability on an employer. However, the court said this rule is overcome by the “required vehicle” rule when “the use of a personally owned vehicle is either an express or implied condition of employment…, or if the employee has agreed, expressly or implicitly, to make the vehicle available as an accommodation to the employer and the employer has reasonably come to rely upon its use and to expect that employee to make the vehicle available on a regular basis while still not requiring it as a condition of employment.”

As a result, employers who regularly have their employees use a personal vehicle for work purposes should note that they may be held liable, in certain circumstances, for injuries caused by those employees in their personal car.


October 16, 2013

Please, Don’t Email Me!

Filed under: Wellness10:30 am

What would you do if your employer told you it was okay to unplug your company email?  Well, in so many words, that is just what the CEO, Dan Calista, of Vynamic, a healthcare consulting firm, did.  In response to their annual employee engagement survey, where employees reported high stress, the company implemented a new email policy.  The policy reads in part:  “To promote better balance, employees are to refrain from sending non-urgent emails to other employees between 10pm and 6am Monday through Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday, and all Vynamic holidays.  In urgent matters, call or text is preferred over email.”

Wow!  Drastic?  At first glance, it is a curious strategy.  To ensure it would work as designed, though, the company had their managers test the new ‘zmail’ policy.  After a month of successful testing, the managers seemed to like it; so, they introduced the idea to employees.  More than six months into zmail, employees report it has been helpful in reducing some of their stress.   Obviously, no one will be fired for violating this policy, but for their own benefit, it is pretty well self-regulated.  Of course, clients do not suffer from this organizational decision, because Vynamic personnel tell their clients to call if they have urgent matters that need attention.

Generally speaking, technology is in everyone’s hands.  It makes work from anywhere, anytime possible and deceptively productive.  Unplugging can be good for our mental and physical well-being.  We come back to the table feeling refreshed, better focused, and able to meet challenges with a positive outlook.  Calista stated, “Just knowing that your employer is not expecting you to be online between those hours is liberating.  It allows you to mentally disconnect for a few hours.”  What do you think?  Could this be your next wellness initiative?


Vanderkam, Laura, “Should Your Company Use “Zmail”?  The Case for Inbox Curfews.” Fast Company, October, 9, 2013.  Available online here.

Lucas, Suzanne, “Wellness Programs that Work for Small Businesses.”  Inc., May 6, 2013.  Available online here.


October 11, 2013

HR Fact Friday: E-Verify and The Shutdown

Filed under: Legal Issues — Tags: , , , 6:00 am

With the federal government shutdown now in its second week, some employers are starting to wonder how it will impact their operations. A number of federal agencies, including the Department of Labor (DOL), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Labor Relations Board are operating only minimally and with significantly reduced staff. In the United States Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office has announced that E-Verify employer accounts will not be available to use during the shutdown.

According to an article by the national Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the agency also has announced that the “three-day rule” for E-Verify cases is suspended for cases affected by the shutdown and that USCIS will provide additional guidance once it reopens. Employers must still complete the Form I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee starts work for pay.

The SHRM article also notes that the time period during which employees may resolve tentative non-confirmations (TNCs) will be extended. “Days the federal government is closed will not count towards the eight federal government workdays the employee has to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),” the agency has said. Employers may not take any adverse action against an employee while the employee’s case is in an extended interim case status due to the federal government shutdown, USCIS also has said.
You can read the full SHRM article about E-Verify here:


October 9, 2013

Don’t Let Your Resume Cost You the Job!

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs8:49 am

The month of August closed with a national unemployment rate of 7.3%.  This tells us that many people are still unemployed and seeking jobs.  Sadly, some have given up.  There are, however, those hearty souls that are still searching!  We want to share with you some important data from a recent survey that illustrates just how important a resume is in the job hunt.

One of the biggest complaints of applicants is the lack of communication from the companies to which they have applied.  Over time, this becomes discouraging because chances to interview are few and far between.  Why is that?  One reason could be what Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder said, “Your resume is the primary deciding factor for whether you will land a job interview.  It’s important to project a professional image.  Keep it succinct, personalize it to feature only skills and experience relevant to the position you’re applying for . . .”  Good advice!  When all the recruiter has to evaluate you is a piece of paper, you want it to be memorable, after all, your resume is your first impression to the recruiter.

CareerBuilder having polled 2,076 hiring managers and HR professionals and some 2,999 workers, cites some of the common mistakes made on resumes that may lead to automatically dismissing a candidate.  To name a few:

  • Resumes that have typos, 58 percent
  • Resumes that have inappropriate email addresses, 31 percent
  • Resumes that include a photo, 13 percent

Some of the most outrageous and most memorable mistakes made on resumes were:

  • Resume’s “Skills” section was spelled “Skelze”
  • Resume included pictures of the candidate from baby photos to adulthood
  • On the job application, where it asks for your job title with a previous employer, the applicant wrote “Mr.”
  • Resume included time spent in jail for assaulting a former boss

We would encourage you to check out the survey for yourself to read all the other mistakes you should try to avoid!

And, it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t share with you one of my funniest, most memorable, resume blunders that I received from a job applicant.  The applicant’s job history included having worked the night shift for a grocery store stocking shelves.  He listed his job title as “night stalker.”


October 4, 2013

HR Fact Friday: Staffing Agency Workers Not Your Employees? Think Again!

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs6:00 am

For various economic and other business reasons, many companies utilize the services of staffing agencies to help meet the personnel needs of the organization. Such staffing arrangements make sense in many ways, but companies using them should remember that they may be deemed to be a joint employer – along with the staffing company itself – of the involved person. A recent decision from a federal court in New York illustrates the point. The court concluded that because the defendant company directed and controlled the working conditions of the plaintiff staffing agency employee, the company was a joint employer and thus possibly liable for the discrimination and harassment allegedly suffered by the staffing employee when she worked at the company. The same could be true in another common circumstance – leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA regulations state, “Where two or more businesses exercise some control over the work or working conditions of the employee, the businesses may be joint employers under FMLA. Joint employers may be separate and distinct entities with separate owners, managers, and facilities. Where the employee performs work which simultaneously benefits two or more employers, or works for two or more employers at different times during the workweek, a joint employment relationship generally will be considered to exist…” In such circumstances, the regulations state that the primary employer must ensure FMLA compliance. Thus, when using staffing employees, a company must consider and resolve with the staffing company such issues as who pays for the defense of any lawsuit that emerges, etc.


October 2, 2013

“Interpreting” ADA Requirements

Filed under: HR Consulting9:11 am

Bank of America Corporation may need an interpreter to explain the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements to them.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) apparently has volunteered!  The EEOC recently filed suit against the banking giant for allegedly violating federal law when it denied a deaf worker’s repeated reasonable accommodation requests for a sign language interpreter and then fired her due to her disability.

The deaf employee had worked in the Las Vegas facility of Bank of America since 1998.  Her former supervisor could communicate with her in American Sign Language (ASL).  However, new management in 2003 could not communicate with her in ASL.  The deaf worker made multiple requests for a sign language interpreter so she could better understand the content of meetings, job-related training, and personnel actions.  The Bank allegedly cited the high cost to accommodate as the justification for denial of the requests.  In 2010, she was discharged from her duties.  Even this final disciplinary action was also communicated to her without the use of a sign language interpreter.

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with disabilities, unless such a provision is an undue hardship on the employer.  The term ‘undue hardship’ indicates a significant difficulty or expense.  Amy Burkholder, a director in the Las Vegas Local Office of the EEOC, said, “Denying basic accommodations to employees with disabilities diminishes their productivity.  On the other hand, the cost of accommodations, which is typically very minimal, is often offset by the gains in productivity.”

Also required by the ADA is an “interactive process” by which the employer (usually the frontline supervisor) and the individual with the disability have an open dialogue regarding any type of reasonable accommodation the employee needs to perform the essential functions of their job.  Employers should make this communication a priority.

To assist you in your compliance efforts with this and other Human Resource concerns, HRN has provided a list of Informative HR
.  We invite you to check them out!