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April 27, 2015

Managing Goals through Change

Filed under: Communication,Engagement11:02 am


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.



December 22, 2014

Seeing Both Sides of the Compensation Story

win win sm

by Megan Mohr, CCP

As they say, there’s two sides to every coin – especially when it comes to compensation and pay perception. Employees usually feel underpaid and undervalued while the organization as a whole is trying its best to be fair and equitable. How can these two sides meet in the middle? By improving pay perception.

Improving pay perception may seem like an insurmountable task, but it’s not if your organization focuses on three things: communication, resources and management.

  • Communication
    Instead of sending out various emails or intranet articles about compensation, build a comprehensive plan with consistent and strategic messaging for your staff. Make a connection on how their individual performance affects the overall success of your organization. Plus, use instructive communications that inform staff how to think about the information they read.
  • Resources
    Instead of overloading your employees with compensation information and resources, remember that each employee probably needs different information – and delivered in different ways. Give them a library of information to choose from in different formats such as articles, videos, podcasts, charts, etc.
  • Management
    The majority of pay messages employees receive is through their managers. Take an active part in directing what that information is and how it should be delivered. The Pay Communication Benchmarking Study from the member-based advisory company CEB shows that less than a quarter of employees feel their manager is effective at communicating pay. More telling, only 41% of the managers surveyed say they’re effective at these communications.

The Whole Story

Research from the Kenexa High Performance Institute shows that employees who believe their pay is fair are more engaged, are less likely to quit, are less stressed at work, feel more physically and mentally fit, and are more satisfied with their personal life. CEB’s study also discovered that improving employees’ pay perception translates into a revenue gain of $27 million and $5 million in profit gains for the average Fortune 500 company.

So, obviously it pays to improve pay perceptions in more ways than one. The messaging needed to accomplish this is fairly straightforward. Your staff needs to understand three basic factors to believe they’re being paid fairly:

  • How pay is determined
  • How to maximize pay
  • The correlation between performance and pay

Just keep in mind that even if your organization’s pay is fair and equitable, what really matters is if your staff sees it that way. Focusing on pay perception not only leads to happier employees, it can add to your company’s bottom line. It pays to see both sides of the compensation coin.

If your organization needs a little help with compensation, contact HR Performance Solutions. Compease, our dynamic compensation administration and salary planning program, is a powerful tool. Plus, our HR Consultants are always here to lend a hand. 



October 23, 2014

Employee Handbook – A Tool You Shouldn’t Be Without

Employee handbooks serve many purposes in an organization.  They can be considered tools for risk management, communication of expectations, and a guidebook of general rules for the workplace.  Employees are not the only ones to benefit from handbooks, but managers and employers also gain an advantage from a well-written and professional-looking handbook.  Here is how:

  • Employees – The handbook should outline how employees are to behave and what the consequences are if they don’t.  It will teach them what needs to be done in their job to be successful in the company.  The handbook should serve as a protection to employees by outlining a process for complaining about possible harassment, reporting an on-the-job injury, and promoting awareness of workplace violence.  Other areas that should be covered are the absence reporting process, how to request time off from work, what dress is appropriate, and how the company feels about complying with all employment laws.
  • Managers – Consistency is key for managers.  They must have a set of standards for how to handle organizational issues.  This should not be step-by-step instructions they must follow, but should consist of principles they can apply consistently in employee relations, performance management, and other areas within their scope of responsibility.
  • Employers – The handbook is a mouthpiece for employers to openly communicate their behavioral expectations for employees and managers alike.  It gives clearly defined parameters for personal conduct, acceptable behaviors, and company expectations.  It is also an effective tool for communicating a summary of the benefits of employment with their organization, (e.g. paid time off, medical and other insurance coverages offered, tuition reimbursement, retirement planning, etc.).  

Ensuring employees have easy access to the employee handbook and have acknowledged its receipt can go a long way to protect an employer in a lawsuit.  Sometimes copies of the policy violated and the acknowledgement of the handbook receipt are all that is needed to dispute an unemployment claim.  Now is the time to minimize your risk by having an up-to-date, legally compliant, and tailored to your company handbook.  It conveys to your employees you care about them and their success!


Source:  Brannen, D. Albert.  “Why Your Company Needs a Handbook.” Fisher & Phillips Attorneys at Law.  Available here.


October 9, 2014

“I Trust You”

Filed under: Communication,Management Practices4:08 pm

I was part of an HR department of four.  Our HR Manager had just been asked to resign.  So, without a leader in the department, our executive vice president quickly organized the remaining three of us to run the department and perform “management tasks” for the next few weeks ahead.  It was a great learning experience, and we kept everything going very smoothly right up to when we recruited, hired, and onboarded our new boss, Mary.

I learned more about myself in the time I worked with Mary than I ever knew before.  I learned the difference between a leader and a manager.  In the first week of her arrival, she wasn’t barking orders, changing processes, or micromanaging anything.  Rather, she calmly acknowledged the situation that we had thrust upon us and commended us for carrying the load absent a department manager.  She didn’t know us yet as individuals, she didn’t know how we worked, our personal moral codes, or our competencies, but she encouraged us to continue doing what we had been doing.  Then, she said three words that still ring in my ears today, “I trust you.”

That was a leap of faith on her part to trust three people she didn’t yet know.  Those three words were the biggest motivator I have ever experienced in the workplace.  By her saying, “I trust you,” it was like her reaffirming to us that we were professionals, adults, and we were experts in our area of human resources and capable of anything that we wanted to do.  It was powerful!  As time went by, she continued to demonstrate her trust, not just saying it, but in the way she led us as a team and as individuals.  She was a great coach and always asked the right questions, to move us to reach the proper conclusions.  She fostered autonomy by letting us do the jobs we had been hired to do, only she made us better!  Have you told your employees lately, “I trust you”?


July 24, 2014

Setting Expectations for Success

Have you ever tried to put a 500-piece puzzle together using only 386 pieces?  That is what it can feel like to an employee who has not be given straightforward expectations to accomplish their goals.  An important part of performance management is to set clear expectations for employees so there is no question as to how their work should get done.

When employees feel their goals and your expectations are undefined or ambiguous, they become frustrated, productivity declines, and you risk losing them.  To keep them committed to you as their manager and to the organization, you cannot leave anything to chance.  By including employees in the goal-setting process and then developing action plans with timelines, your expectations are clear and you are setting them up to succeed; the rest is up to them.

Learn more about HR Performance Solutions Performance Pro and manage your employees performance with ease.  Start your 30 day FREE trial today!



March 27, 2014

Uninsured? Are You Prepared to Pay the Penalty?

The deadline is quickly approaching to sign up for health care insurance using the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) federal website – March 31, 2014, to be exact.  The ACA made provision for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect fees for those individuals not insured by their employer, the government, or directly through an independent insurer.  The fee/penalty sounds fairly reasonable for the tax year 2014, $95, per adult or 1% of income, whichever is greater.  However, did you know the penalties increase over the next couple of years?


Per Adult OR Percentage of Family Income

(whichever is greater)





2016 and beyond


The penalties are pro-rated if an individual, their spouse, and children* have partial-year coverage.  If they lack coverage for less than three months in the year, they will have no penalty.  The fees for the uninsured were to encourage and motivate individuals to seek health care insurance coverage, but the law does include a provision to exempt some.

Employers need to stay abreast of the new health care law and its provisions, because they are very detailed and being clarified often.  Communicating regularly with employees about the current status of the law will help employees be prepared to meet the requirements on an individual basis as well.


*A child’s penalty is one-half of the adult dollar amount, e.g. $95 per adult is $47.50 per child.

Source:  Luhby, Tami.  “Uninsured next year?  Here’s your Obamacare penalty.” See article here.


January 28, 2014

The Dentist, The Doctor and The Appraiser

How many of you look forward to your annual checkup with your doctor or your semi-annual visit with your dentist?   Some of you may, but a majority of us certainly don’t jump up and down when it comes time for these visits.

When I am visiting with my doctor and he says, “Megan, your cholesterol is high. If you continue to make the choices you are, your cholesterol may lead to heart disease or a stroke.”  I can stomp my foot and argue with him, or I can listen to his advice.

The same thing is true for the dentist. If my dentist tells me that I need to floss more or I will increase my chances for gum disease, I can listen to her advice or not.

Not many of us may like these visits or enjoy hearing this kind of feedback.  Why do we do it?  We go because that’s what responsible adults do to maintain our health.

The same thing is true for the appraisal process.  It may not be something we all get excited about but as responsible employees, we need to participate in this process in order to maintain the health of our organization.

And just like a doctor, it is the role of the appraiser to enter into the conversation with our employee with tact and a good bedside manner.  Doctors have to deliver bad news all the time. While there may be emotional outbursts from the patient, the doctor remains unemotional and unbiased.  They don’t judge and they use empathy to convey the factual information their patient needs to hear.  As appraisers, our role is to remain unemotional but relay information in a tactful manner to our employees about the behaviors that may be hazardous to their health or employment within the organization.

So, I have a dentist appointment and she tells me I need to floss more.  If I walk away from that appointment and don’t floss until 3 days leading up my next appointment – will it likely make any difference? Probably not.   The same thing is true for other things in our life. Not many of us enjoy budgeting, but we pay attention to our budget all year round to make sure we don’t get ourselves into trouble.  Even with things we enjoy, like learning a new musical instrument, we wouldn’t be very successful if we only practiced once a year.

Performance management works the same way. If we just pay attention to it once a year, during the appraisal process, we won’t be very successful.  Just like our health, it’s a daily discipline.  Forming relationships with our employees, meeting with them on a regular basis, paying attention, asking questions, and communicating – these are all things that should be happening often, not just when it comes time to do the appraisal.

As appraisers, we are the doctors. Our job is to keep our employees, our team, and our company healthy.  We do this by practicing performance management throughout the year. In addition, when we work with our employees, it is essential to rely on the facts, remove emotions, and have a good bedside manner.  Through these steps, we can improve the overall health of our employees and our organization.





August 7, 2013

BTW Texting May Not Be Your Best Option!

Filed under: Communication,FMLA,General HR Buzz9:06 am

Remember when picking up the phone and having a two-way conversation with your boss was the norm?  In our quest to keep up with the constantly evolving technology, texting has become a more frequent and accepted method of communication, that is unless you are requesting leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Recently an appellate court ruled that a text message is not sufficient notice to an employer of an employee’s need for FMLA.  Chrisanne Lanier brought suit against the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UTSW) alleging various theories of recovery, including FMLA.

On an evening Lanier was scheduled to be on-call, she sent a text message to her supervisor, Leary, to inform him that her father was in the emergency room and that she would be unable to perform her duties that night.  Leary made other arrangements for coverage for the evening.

When she failed to respond to an operator’s call on her make-up week, Leary was notified.  The following morning Leary confronted Lanier about her having abandoned her duties by not responding.  Lanier expressed (explicitly, but not in a text message!) how upset she was with Leary in regard to her father’s heart attack.  She turned in all her equipment and stormed out.  She went directly to the UTSW Employee Assistance Program office on campus, unbeknownst to Leary and other management.  Because of her actions, Lanier was told the university accepted her resignation.

Regarding her claims of interference and retaliation, the court focused on whether Lanier had given proper notice of her intention to take FMLA leave.  Although an employee need not use the phrase “FMLA leave,” she must give notice that was sufficient to reasonably apprise her employer that her request to take time off could fall under the FMLA.  An employer may have a duty to inquire further if statements made by the employee warrant it, but “the employer is not required to be clairvoyant.”  Based on the facts and circumstances in this case, the court found that it would be unreasonable to expect Leary to know that Lanier meant to request FMLA based on her single text message request to be relieved of on-call duty for one night.  Summary judgment was awarded to UTSW.

Employers do well to have proper reporting procedures, including the desired method of communication, in place for FMLA.  Each individual employee’s circumstances will differ, but with knowledgeable Human Resources and well-trained supervisors that consider the facts of each case on its own merit, your chances for avoiding this type of litigation will be much improved!


December 5, 2012

Email’s Indelible Print

Filed under: Communication6:00 am

In the last few weeks the news reports have been abuzz with the story of the CIA director, a retired general, who through an investigation had email discovered that exposed an affair with his biographer.  He is now the former CIA director after his prompt resignation.  Next, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan has also had an email dress-down with a socialite from Florida.  Though the socialite and the military commander were not engaged in an affair, per se, they did exchange words that might be described by some as suggestive.  All this came about because the biographer sent what was perceived to be threatening and harassing emails to the socialite regarding the top U.S. military commander.  Since things like that are not taken lightly, the socialite felt the obligation to report this to her FBI friend, a lengthy investigation ensued, and the rest is history! carried an article from the Kansas Employment Law Letter by attorney, Boyd Byers, which gives us food for thought.  He began by quipping, “Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want to see published on the front page of the newspaper.”  He later stated, “If the CIA director and a four-star general – who should be keenly aware that email lasts forever and can be harvested by forensic experts – aren’t smart or disciplined enough to refrain from saying things in email that they don’t like seeing in the newspaper, how can you expect your organization’s employees to exercise such restraint?”

There are numerous things an employer can do to protect their company’s good name and keep their employees from abusing email privileges.  Frequent communication to employees, both verbal and written, is necessary to impress upon them the importance of proper email use, which translates into mentioning the subject regularly and often.  It would be wise to include the following in your communications policy:

  • Be specific when addressing proper and improper company email usage.
  • Remind employees that the email system is the property of the company and can be accessed or searched at any time.
  • Employees should have no expectation of privacy.
  • Employees are responsible for all communications they send over the company’s email system.
  • Prohibit harassment and other offensive behaviors.
  • Explain using examples, the proper use of the company email, including when to use it and when a conversation is better to be had in-person, especially when it is sensitive or confidential.
  • Clarify why email should be fact-based; it cannot convey emotion or tone and therefore, is easily misinterpreted.
  • Inform employees that improper use of the company’s email system may subject them to corrective action, up to and including termination.

This reminder and the policy tips will hopefully protect you and your employees from expensive court battles and embarrassing newspaper headlines.  And, always remember the adage, “Nothing lasts forever except email!”


November 26, 2012

The Tricky Task of "Titling"

Filed under: Communication,Compensation — Tags: 9:27 am

One of the challenges in writing and reviewing job descriptions appears in something that, on the surface, seems so simple – assigning a job title.  For many people, however, it seems to weigh higher in importance than the content of the job responsibilities!  When writing job descriptions I often thought functions such as “clean toilets daily” could be incorporated into the job description as long as the title was to the liking of the incumbents in the position.

So why are titles so important?  There are probably a number of reasons, such as:

      • Identification of an individual – what’s the first question someone asks when they meet you?  Generally “what do you do?” which you respond with your job title.
      • Identification within the organization – a title often identifies your level of hierarchy in the organization.  Unfortunately, people tend to place importance on an individual’s ranking based on title.

From a compensation perspective, titles are important when looking at external market.  It’s important that job titles assigned to your positions match or are very similar in nature to those of your peers.  For market competitiveness, a title may indicate a certain level of responsibility which in turn results in a range of pay for someone typically performing the job functions of someone in that “job title”.

Although an external market survey cannot be simply matching job title to job title, if titles are assigned correctly and not over- or under-inflated, it makes the compensation process a lot easier to implement and communicate to employees.

So don’t let the assignment of job titles over complicate the process of writing job descriptions.  Simply stick to one of my favorite mottos:  “if it talks like a duck, walks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.”

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