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June 9, 2015

Going to Bat for Your Employees

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 9:41 am

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by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant

Both of my sons are Little League baseball players. This year, they are on different teams, which got me thinking about the two teams and how differently they are coached. At the start of every inning, one coach yells “what is this inning good for… hits and runs!” Or, as the players take their places on the field the coach encourages them to play good “D.” The other coach starts each inning with a simple announcement of who is playing what position or the batting lineup for the inning. When a player gets a hit, one coach is jumping up and down on the sideline cheering the kids on, while the other is stoically tracking statistics.

From an outsider looking in, it may appear that the one shouting about hits and runs is the better coach, while the other cares only about winning and losing. The reality is both are great coaches, leading the teams to victories – but they have very different styles of managing their team. One leads through overt excitement for the team, while the other tracks each individual player and works on the areas that require improvement. Is one style better than the other? The answer is it depends on the player.

Coaching Skills at Work

This got me thinking about what makes a great manager. This is a question that I often pose to new managers in training. I get answers like walk the walk, lead by example or be good communicator. Once in a while an attendee will tell a story about a manager who truly made a difference in the person’s career. In interviews I’ve always asked “Under what kind of management style do you work best?” The typical answer is one that is a good communicator or sets clear expectations.

What makes a great manager? There are many factors, but most importantly it’s the ability to coach the team. It’s the manager who knows how to correct a mistake without being discouraging. It’s also a manager who encourages team members to take risks and stretch themselves, but also allows the employee to practice before putting them in the game. Great managers identify areas for improvement and give them opportunities to improve on these deficiencies. Most importantly, a great manager doesn’t just say “go,” but instead says “let’s go!”

So, although outward management styles may be very different, the underlying skill set for successful managers is the ability to coach, show how to succeed and generate a love for the game.

 

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June 4, 2015

Emotional Intelligence and Company Culture

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:29 am

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by Megan Mohr, CCP and Compensation Consultant

Emotional intelligence – the term alone sounds a little “touchy feely,” but anyone who’s worked in HR can attest to onslaught of issues that arise from hurt feelings and bruised egos. A little understanding and objectivity can go a long way, and social psychologist Daniel Goleman contributed a considerable amount towards developing a way of quantifying these qualities.

A person’s emotional intelligence (EI) is defined by his or her ability to recognize and understand his or her own emotions, as well as the emotions displayed by others. Furthermore, it is the ability to use this knowledge to guide his or her approach to social interactions.

Nature and Nurture

Individuals with a higher emotional intelligence function better in social situations, perform more proficiently in leadership roles and have improved overall mental health. Golesman’s model approaches EI as a mixture of a person’s abilities and traits; in other words, a combination of both nature and nurture. He outlines five main components:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to know one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values and goals and recognize their impact on others while using gut feelings to guide decisions
  2. Self-regulation – involves controlling or redirecting one’s disruptive emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances
  3. Social skill – managing relationships to move people in the desired direction
  4. Empathy – considering other people’s feelings especially when making decision
  5. Motivation – being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement

In the world of human resources, we can use this knowledge to help raise awareness, guide behavior and establish a culture of understanding and cooperation. Realistically, employees don’t expect their executives to always agree with proposed strategies or tactics. Teammates don’t always expect things to be split-down-the-middle fair and balanced. What they do expect is that others will act in a sensible and respectful manner, and have a little self-awareness and decency.

Common Ground

Things are always easier when we can find a common ground. While we have many differences, many of our motivations are the same: financial well-being, a sense of belonging and professional competence. Where we tend to differ, and where conflict can arise, is in our differing ways of achieving these goals. This is where a culture of reason and understanding can guide collaboration and performance.

While it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll always agree and approve of each other’s actions or behaviors, working towards raising emotional intelligence can help create a path for understanding and cooperation.

 

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May 28, 2015

Coming Together

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , 2:45 pm

come together

by Nancy Norman, HR Product Manager

I recently moved. In the process, a few new items were needed as the old items were too big for the new space. As was the case with my office space. In looking for the right fit, we found something at IKEA. I liked it and it was the right size. We promptly purchased the desk and file storage unit and returned home eager to see it all come together.

“Coming together” turned out to be pivotal. Have you ever put IKEA furniture together? Well, I had before, but never something this complex with drawers that pull in and out and hinges that open and shut. Needless to say, it was quite a project. But, it reminded me of important principles when working on projects anywhere – home or work.

  • The End Goal: In any project, it is critical that individuals know what the expected result or needed outcome is. When working on the project, many decisions will be made along the way. If the end goal is not understood, costly and time consuming mistakes may be made. With my desk, we were able to see the final project finished before we started providing us with clear direction.
  • Clear Instructions: When opening our packages from IKEA, we discovered hundreds of pieces including the units frames, all the hardware and the tools to put it all together. Fortunately, amidst all of the pieces, an instruction booklet was also included. The instructions outlined all of the resources we would need to complete the project, step-by-step instructions and pictures showing us how to do it all along the way. In any successful project, it is important to make sure instructions are clear and individuals and teams have a good understanding of how they are to proceed and what they have to work with.
  • Tools & Resources: No project can be successful, without the right tools and resources. I could not have put my desk together without the provided Allen wrench or if any of the pieces had been missing. Even with an Allen wrench, if it was not the exact size needed, it would have been ineffective. With any project, make sure to provide the rights tools and resources. Often those resources are people. Be sure to assign the right fit and don’t leave out any needed pieces.
  • Executive Sponsorship: Many projects fail because they do not have leadership backing it up. This is key. All projects need time, money and resources to be successful. If there is a conflict preventing you from getting the necessary support, leadership can step in with their influence and allocate what is needed to be successful. I can assure you, if both of the executives of our household (me and my husband) had not equally signed up for this project, it would have been doomed.

If your organization needs some help putting things today, HR Performance Solutions’ HR consultants can help you assemble something worthwhile.  

 

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May 21, 2015

Inspiring a Civil Workplace

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:30 am

civil workplace

by Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Sr. HR Consultant

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone said and did the right thing all the time and no one’s feelings ever got hurt? That would be a perfect world – which, of course, we know we don’t live in. But we can wish, can’t we?!

Ensuring that employees practice civility in the workplace is a progressive activity. Civility being courteous and polite. It doesn’t sound that difficult to be nice, but because of various negative factors, we sometimes digress. Following are some tips for resisting bad manners and encouraging civility in the workplace. Remember, it starts with you:

  • Personality conflicts – Empathetically putting oneself in the other person’s “shoes” can help you see the conflict in a completely different light.
  • Holding your tongue – Think before speaking. Look for the good in others and focus on their strengths.
  • Lead by example – Random acts of kindness and sincere compliments of a “job well done” are always encouraging. And they’re much better than speeches that tear someone down.

The Cost of Incivility

Incivility is degrading to all who are affected by it, regardless of whether it is directed at them or if they’re a witness to its hurtfulness. When incivility reigns, it can quickly turn into a claim of harassment or a hostile work environment.

Train your employees to be respectful of others, and to look for positive qualities in them too.

Someday, they themselves, could be the victim, and what a lonely place that would be! Teaching employees to be aware of, and think about, the effects of what they say or do can help them be more thoughtful and considerate workmates. Civility leads to less turnover, better productivity and a happier staff.

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May 11, 2015

Is Lack of Employee Engagement Costing You?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , 9:24 am

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by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant

At a recent conference, the keynote speaker stated that employees are NOT an employer’s greatest asset. Imagine, a room full of human resources professionals who suddenly set down their iPhones, sit up a little straighter and pay attention to this statement! Imagine, a conference for HR professionals by HR professionals, and the keynote speaker states that employees are not a company’s greatest asset! This is HR interrupted!

A recent Gallup surveys show that employee engagement hovers at around 30%. With this staggering statistic, it begs the question: What’s happening with the other 70% of the workforce? According to the study, 20% are actively disengaged and the other 50% are indifferent or simply unengaged toward their work. This means that they are present, but not making innovative contributions and may not be working to their full potential. The Gallup study also shows that engaged employees are the ones that are most likely to drive innovation, growth and revenue for their companies, so it is in the best interest of companies to increase the level of employee engagement in their organization.

Where to Start?

Employee engagement is the topic at the forefront of many organizational leaders and HR professionals. What can HR do to impact employee engagement? It starts with the talent acquisition process and continues through the employee lifecycle. In the talent acquisition process, it is critical to hire not only for skill set, but also for good cultural fit. This doesn’t mean that a hiring manager should hire someone just like them, but they should consciously vet the candidate for competencies like teamwork and communication and other core values that are critical for organizational success.

The next step is the onboarding and orientation process. How is the employee introduced to the organization? Are they shown to their desk and provided a pile of paperwork to complete or is the first day engaging where the new employee is introduced to her team and maybe even taken to lunch? Ensure that the new employee has all the resources available to him or her to get the job done. Is there anything that will create a negative first impression other than being the new guy who can’t find a stapler or is seated at a desk full of their predecessor’s 5-year-old take out menus? HR and the management team have no better opportunity to create engagement than in the first year of an employee’s tenure with an organization.

What Next?

The next phase, career development or career planning, is the most critical time to ensure that employees remain engaged. During this phase of the employee life cycle, it’s easy to get sidetracked by routine and fail to recognize that employees are slowly becoming disengaged. During this time, management must consciously engage employees by soliciting new ideas, providing meaningful work and above all, continuing to coach and mentor their staff. Ensure that employees are appropriately rewarded for a job well done. Managers must work hard to seek to understand how their employees are best rewarded and ensure communication in a way that is meaningful to the employee.

By creating an engaged staff, managers will find that employees are their greatest asset. Without engagement, companies simply have a team of apathetic workers and, at worst, a team of people who may be costing the organization money.

 

 

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May 4, 2015

Is Lack of Appreciation Costing You?

Filed under: General HR Buzz11:26 am

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by Megan Mohr, CCP, Compensation Consultant

What causes you stress at work? Crazy workload? Long hours? If you’re like the employees questioned in a work-life balance survey from InLoox, the major stress factors at work are people-based. InLoox, a project management software company, surveyed 200 employees and discovered that lack of appreciation ranks high as a stressor for those at the entry- or mid-level at work.

There a lesson here for business owners and upper management – you need to help make your staff feel valued if you want to retain great employees. On the flip side, employees should be more willing to seek out acknowledgement for their work-related accomplishments.

Survey Results

The study uncovered other information that could help keep your staff feeling less stress and more fulfilled:

  • 80% of those surveyed felt their not feeling valued at work had a negative impact on their personal lives.
  • When it comes to multitasking: only 5% worked on a single project at a time, 21% worked on five projects and 73% juggled 10 projects at a time.
  • 36% of those surveyed said they need up to two hours a day to manage email.
  • Nearly 70% of supervisors stated they’ve reached strong professional goals while only 45% of employees could say the same.
  • 20% of employees felt exhausted by the end of the work day, but only 3% of supervisors said they were.

In summation, feeling appreciated pays. You’ll have harder working, happier employees with a better work-life balance. Working hard to recognize employees for the work they do and providing development and promotional opportunities as often as possible are essential. So, find those employees that work hard and produce great results. Make extra efforts to ensure they’re appreciated and have a manageable work-life balance. You’ll be more successful at retaining that valuable talent. And those are the employees you want to keep.

 

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April 27, 2015

Managing Goals through Change

Filed under: Communication,Engagement11:02 am

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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.

 

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April 21, 2015

Avoid Dress Code Discrimination Issues

Filed under: Discrimination,Training12:12 pm

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This is the second of a two-part series of blogs regarding dress codes. Today’s post deals with discrimination, which can be a major item of consideration for many organizations. Here are some of the areas you want to think about when drafting your policy.

1. Disability Discrimination

a) Dress and Appearance

Dress or appearance standards that adversely affect or otherwise screen out qualified disabled applicants or employees have been found to be discriminatory.

Examples:

  • Excluding applicants or discriminating against employees because of obesity may be illegal.  Severe obesity may be a disability under the ADA.  Such cases would be examined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Regarding an individual as disabled because of obesity may also be discriminatory.  For example: an ADA violation was found where an obese applicant for a bus driver position was regarded as disabled because it was believed she could not move appropriately in case of an accident.  She was otherwise qualified for the position based on her driving record, experience, and references.

Failing to hire an applicant due to his facial disfigurement can constitute disability discrimination.

2. Religious Discrimination

Title VII requires that organizations must accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practices unless an undue hardship is created.

Examples:

The following practices have generally been upheld:

  • An employee was transferred to a janitorial position after refusing to shave his beard for religious reasons.  The company contended that the issue was safety, as the beard did not permit a proper fit of a respirator.

Discrimination has been found where:

a) A nurse had been required to wear a nurse’s cap without a tight fitting scarf underneath (her religion required that her head be covered).

b) A hair salon had refused to allow an employee to wear a yarmulke to work (Jewish skullcap).

c) An airport had refused to allow security workers to wear headscarves (as required by their religion).

3. Racial Discrimination

Charges by employees alleging that dress and grooming standards violated their freedom of expression have generally been upheld.  Expressions of cultural heritage are typically not protected by Title VII.

Examples:

a) African-American employee charges that the company dress code infringed on their black pride and culture were not upheld.

b) Title VII did not protect an employee’s wearing of nose jewelry, which she contended was an expression of her Mexican Indian heritage.

4. What about state and local laws?

Employers must also ensure that dress and appearance policies meet state and local legal requirements.

Examples:

a) California does not allow employers to prohibit employees from wearing pants in the workplace;

b) Wisconsin requires organizations to state their dress and grooming requirements at the time of hire;

c) The District of Columbia (as well as numerous localities) prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s appearance, including style of dress or hair.

We’d love to hear if you’ve face any dress code issues and how you dealt with them!

 

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April 13, 2015

Spring Flowers Lead to Summer Dress Codes

Filed under: Discrimination,General HR Buzz8:25 am

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by Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Senior HR Consultant

If yours is like many companies, these two items may be part of your current discussion regarding summer dress code. Yes, it’s rapidly approaching, and it seems the discussion erupts after the first warm, unexpected day when an employee shows up to work in something that is, perhaps, questionable. Then the whole can of worms opens up. Is it appropriate to wear sleeveless tops? What about collarless shirts?

Many of these answers depend on your business, your customers and the overall philosophy of appropriate “dress” within your culture. Whatever the point of view, an understanding of the issues and legal concerns surrounding dress and appearance standards is necessary to ensure that you can implement an effective code that meets the needs for professionalism and safety in your organization. Our next two blogs will explore some items for consideration when drafting your dress code policy.

  1. How much freedom does an employer have in setting appearance standards for its employees?
    Typically, a lot. Organizations may generally impose standards based on “social norms.” Appearance and dress requirements that are based on legitimate business needs (e.g., safety needs, industry norms, management philosophy, types of jobs involved and common business standards) are more likely to be upheld should a discrimination charge be filed. Workplace rules based on “personal taste” are typically difficult to defend.
  2. What are the discrimination issues?
    Dress and appearance standards may violate federal or state anti-discrimination statutes if they are applied inconsistently or create a disparate impact on a protected group. Sex and religious discrimination are most commonly alleged.
  3. Sex Discrimination

a) Dress and Appearance
Dress code differences for men and women do not inherently create sex bias. Different dress standards for men and women that reflect common social norms have generally been upheld. Therefore, employers do not have to apply identical dress standards for men and women. However, dress codes not based on societal norms that impose a greater impact or burden on one sex, that are antiquated or based on sex stereotypes, or that are significantly different for men and women typically cannot be upheld.

Examples:

The following practices have generally been upheld:

  • Requiring men, but not women, to wear ties.
  • Allowing women, but not men, to wear earrings.
  • Terminating a female juvenile center employee for wearing too much makeup (after repeated warnings).
  • Prohibiting men from wearing long hair.
  • Because of safety reasons, requiring employees to wear hair a certain way or to use a hair net.
  • Requiring facial hair to be neatly groomed; however, completely prohibiting facial hair may be discriminatory on the basis of religion, disability or race.

Discrimination has been found where:

  • Female employees, but not males, were required to wear uniforms.
  • Female employees, but not males, were forced to wear smocks.
  • A manager required a female employee to wear makeup within days of being notified that the employee was pregnant. The manager had also asserted that pregnant women were less attractive.
  • Maximum weight requirements were established for female airline employees where none were established for males.
  • Only women were required to wear contact lenses.
  • A convenience store fired a black employee who had a skin disease aggravated by shaving and who refused to shave. (Black males are most likely to have this condition, known as PFB.) Company concerns regarding “image” generally don’t justify a “no beard rule.” PFB may also be a disability under the ADA.
  • Male employees were required to wear jackets and ties, but females could wear jeans, sweaters, and other informal apparel.

b) Harassment
Employers have been held liable for sexual harassment because they had required female employees to wear provocative clothing.

Discrimination has been found where:

  • A female lobby attendant was required to wear sexually revealing and provocative clothing that subjected her to derogatory comments and harassment from the public.
  • A female cocktail waitress was required to wear a revealing costume while male servers wore tuxedos.

Part two of this blog will focus on avoiding potential discrimination issues when concerning disabilities, religion and racial items. So, don’t miss next week’s blog!

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April 6, 2015

FMLA Updates Redefine Spouse

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:29 am

same sex

by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling it unconstitutional. As a result of this ruling, many federal statutes have been reviewed to determine if this ruling has any implication on the interpretation of the act. The most recently updated law is the Family Medical Leave Act. Under the new law, the definition of spouse has been changed to reflect all legally married same sex spouses, regardless of the state in which they currently reside. This is referred to as the “place of celebration” rule, rather than the previously used “state of residence” rule.

In practice, this enables all same sex spouses, who were legally married in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, to take Family Medical Leave to care for their spouse or family member regardless of the state in which they currently reside. This final rule’s definition of spouse includes lawfully recognized same sex and common law marriages and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the United States, if the marriage could have been entered into in at least one state.

What does this mean in practice for administrators of the FMLA?

  1. Lawfully married same sex partners will be able to take leave under the FMLA to care for their own or their spouse’s serious health condition.
  2. Lawfully married same sex partners will be permitted up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a partner injured or suffering an illness as result of a military action.
  3. Eligible employees will also be able to take leave to care for their step-child (natural or adopted child of the employee’s same sex spouse)
  4. Eligible employees will be able to take leave to care for a step-parent who is the same sex spouse of the employee’s parent.

In order to be considered a covered employer under the Family Medical Leave Act, the employer must meet the following criteria:

  • private sector employer with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year;
  • public agency, including a local, state, or federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period:

  • for the birth of the employee’s child and for bonding with the newborn;
  • for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care and for bonding with the newly-placed child;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition; or
  • When the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job due to the employee’s own serious health condition.

If your company is required to follow the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act, it is highly recommended that human resource practitioners update their handbooks and policy manuals to reflect the updates to the statute.

For more information or to read the Department of Labor fact sheet, click on http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/factsheet.htm

 

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