6 Must-Have Traits for Your Managers

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Research continues to show that good employees leave bad managers, not necessarily bad roles or bad companies. Unfortunately, however, bad managers are prevalent across organizations and entire industries. In fact, only a select few (about 10%) demonstrate that they have the right characteristics or traits to effectively lead. 

Six of those characteristics are outlined below.

1. Accountability

Effective managers “practice what they preach” and are highly accountable. They don’t expect their employees to be extremely punctual, for instance, if they are not also punctual. They don’t reprimand employees for poor performance without holding themselves to high performance standards. And they don’t give feedback without also asking for feedback.

Essentially, effective managers will have high levels of integrity and demonstrate fairness and trustworthiness. Even before they are managers, they will have teams that follow their lead and look to them as an example.

2. Empathy

Employees—especially managers—who are empathetic toward others tend to be more effective communicators and collaborators. They listen and practice fairness, and they are highly emotionally intelligent.

They’re also especially adept at mitigating conflicts, lessening levels of workplace stress, and generally fostering practices of positive and productive communications with their clients, partners, bosses, peers, and subordinates.

3. Transparency

Managers who are transparent with their employees are more likely to have their employees’ trust. Their employees trust they will notify them of any important news, feedback, projects, etc., and know they will receive important feedback and information that’s relevant to their performance and everyday work.

Employees who have transparent managers don’t worry about being terminated at a moment’s notice due to office politics or knowing where they stand at work.

4. Authenticity

Authentic managers earn their employees’ trust. They also tend to be more emotionally intelligent and inclusive and can significantly mitigate workplace stress, harassment, and bullying.

5. Ability to Trust and Connect with Others

Good managers will respect their employees’ autonomy and won’t micromanage them. They know how to delegate effectively and how to build highly effective and productive teams.

They also show their employees appreciation and know each of them on an individual level, encourage their employees to take time off, and recognize their employees in positive ways.

6. Willingness to Learn

Highly effective managers always show a willingness to learn, especially in the modern world, where rapid change and technological innovation are inevitable. They always seek out new soft skills and hard skills to learn as they become available and important.

Managers are the backbone of any successful organization, especially because they foster high levels of employee retention and engagement. So, make sure your organizations’ managers have the six traits and characteristics highlighted here if you want them to be effective.


How to Deal with Workplace Attendance Problems

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Employee attendance problems are probably the most common reason for disciplinary action and discharge. Yet many employers pay surprisingly little attention to their attendance policies.

Often we see policies consisting of generic, vaguely worded language that looks like it has been cut and pasted without much thought to the content. That’s too bad because careful messaging regarding your attendance expectations and requirements can really help curb attendance issues as well as give you solid grounds for discipline and termination if those expectations and requirements aren’t met. This will put you in a better position to contest unemployment claims and defend wrongful termination claims.

Attendance Matters

First, you should make a statement about the importance of reliable attendance. Explain why it’s so important. Reliable attendance ensures you can provide excellent customer service. It ensures all of your colleagues will have the help and support they need to do their jobs. There are lots of different reasons you need to be able to count on your employees to show up for work, and some may be specific to your particular business. Tell them why you need them to be there.

For almost all jobs, reliable attendance will be an essential job function. You should say this in your policy as well, keeping in mind that your attendance policy may be relevant later in determining what types of accommodations you may be required to make for employees covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Notice Is Key

Of course there will be reasons employees will need to miss work, so you need to let them know your expectations in that regard. First and foremost, you need to lay out very clearly your notice requirements.

A lot of policies that simply say employees must call in prior to their shift, but I don’t think that is clear enough guidance for employees or good enough protection for employers. A basic rule of thumb is, employees should be required to give as much notice of absences as they possibly can.

If they have a doctor’s appointment 2 months from now on a Tuesday, or their niece is graduating from college next May, they shouldn’t wait until the day of the event to let you know they won’t be coming to work. They should tell you as soon as they know for sure about a future absence. Your policy should tell them that and let them know last-minute notice of long-planned absences may result in the absence being unexcused.

Of course, some absences truly are unpredictable and last-minute, such as waking up to a child with the flu or a car that won’t start. In those instances, telling employees they should call in as soon as they can before their shift or at the beginning of their workday is fine. Let them know that unless they are in some truly dire situation in which they can’t call in before or at the beginning of their workday—and this will be rare—waiting to tell you the deal after they arrive late to the office isn’t going to cut it.

However you decide to handle notice for unforeseeable absences, be specific about when and how employees are supposed to let you know. Can they leave a voicemail or send an e-mail or text, or do they need to get someone on the phone? That will likely depend on the nature of your business and the nature of their job—for instance, are you going to need to call someone in to replace them for the day?

Make sure you have provided them with appropriate contact information for whatever method you designate. You also should state that failure to provide appropriate notice may lead to disciplinary action, even if the absence would otherwise be excused or even protected by law. If you require a doctor’s note or other verification of the reasons for an absence or a doctor’s return-to-work note for employees who have been absent because of illness or injury, you should state that in your attendance policy.

Coordinate Your Policies

Your attendance policy also should mention how it interacts with your paid leave policies. Too often, employees—and some employers—think that if they have paid leave available, they can come and go as they wish with no ramifications. But that isn’t the case.

You can require employees to abide by your attendance policy when using paid leave, including providing an appropriate amount of notice for the absence. Also, if they tend to take their paid leave in a problematic way—such as taking sick leave every Friday before a long weekend, failing to give advance notice of a requested day off, or missing every meeting or call leading up to an important event—that may be grounds for disciplinary action. These issues should be addressed in both your attendance policy and your paid leave policies.

You also should explain the ramifications of missing work when no paid leave is available. As far as how many attendance “strikes” an employee should be allowed, that will be specific to your business, your preferences, and, perhaps, to the specific job.

Keep in mind that some absences may be protected by law. That would include, for instance, absences covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the ADA, military leave, or jury duty leave. You should state that such absences won’t be considered attendance policy violations, and encourage employees to let you know if they think their absences may be covered by one of those policies.

Even if you can’t count the job-protected absence itself against an employee for disciplinary purposes, failure to give notice is a different story. For instance, if an employee has an FMLA intermittent leave certification for migraines, she can and should be required to give appropriate notice under your attendance policy if she needs to miss work.

Be careful, however, because other aspects of your attendance policy may not apply to an FMLA-covered situation. For instance, even if you typically require doctor’s notes for absences, you can’t require a doctor’s note for each absence under an FMLA certification.

Don’t Play Favorites

Finally, remember that it’s critical to enforce your policy in a consistent and nondiscriminatory fashion. You can set the rules, but be sure you are applying them to everyone and aren’t making exceptions for favored employees, and make sure your supervisors get that message loud and clear.

If in doubt when drafting or implementing an attendance policy that is right for your organization, it’s always best to consult with an experienced employment attorney.


Why Does Work Harassment Go Unreported?

The majority of harassment cases in the workplace actually don’t get reported and dealt with. Whether it’s sexual harassment or some other form, workplace harassment is much more pervasive than the statistics show. So, why is it that workplace harassment often goes unreported? 

 
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Common Reasons Workplace Harassment Is Not Reported

  • The person who was harassed may feel he or she should have done something to stop it. This feeling of guilt—and not wanting to have to explain his or her side—can be enough to keep someone from speaking up, even if there’s no reason to feel this way.

  • The individual may think he or she won’t be believed, so there’s no point, or that, even if he or she is believed, nothing will be done, so there’s still no point. There may be a culture of sweeping things under the rug, or there may be hints that this type of behavior is tolerated or a history of improper investigation. This may be an incorrect assumption but one that keeps a person from reporting a problem.

  • The person may not know who to report it to. Or, the person the victim would report it to is the person causing the problem. (Employers should remember to give employees multiple outlets to report problems to hopefully avoid this issue.) Another similar situation may occur in organizations where there is no HR department because there is no one to escalate it to.

  • The workplace culture may not support the victim. Instead, the culture may even seem to support the harassment, and the behavior may seem to be normal—which would discourage anyone from saying anything.

  • The individual may have a fear of retaliation. Despite retaliation being illegal, it happens frequently. Perhaps the victim has seen it happen to others and doesn’t think reporting is worthwhile. Or, perhaps the fear is a strong enough motivator even if he or she hasn’t seen it happen. Loss of income is also a big motivator. In some cases of harassment, retaliation or other harm may even be threatened specifically.

  • Reporting a problem means reliving the problem—which is in itself a reason to not report. It could also bring up past issues, making confronting it too difficult. There could also be a situation in which the individual simply does not want to go through the whole process of interrogation and investigation.

  • The individual may assume there won’t be confidentiality. In that case, he or she may be afraid of creating other problems as a result, even if it does not escalate to formal retaliation. Fear of making the situation worse is a big roadblock.

  • The individual may not be sure who to report, especially in a situation in which there’s a hostile work environment and multiple people are involved.

  • The individual may not want to rock the boat and not be seen as a team player.

  • It’s possible that the person may not be sure if what he or she experienced is actually considered harassment and therefore may not feel he or she has any right to report it. It’s not clear to everyone what actually constitutes either harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace.

Remember that a harassment complaint may first surface in the form of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation or lawsuit. As such, it’s in an employer’s best interest not only to take steps to keep all forms of harassment from occurring but also to be able to address them and put a stop to them if they do happen. Just because the person didn’t inform the employer doesn’t mean the employer is not legally liable for the harassment if it could have known about it and did nothing to stop or prevent it.


5 Warning Signs That an Employee is Disengaged

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Employee engagement inside the workplace is one of the hottest topics in HR and learning and development (L&D) these days because engaged employees save their organizations money, as well as earn them more money. Yet according to one poll, only 34% of employees in the United States are engaged at work.

As you’re trying to improve your organization’s employee engagement rates, pay attention to the warning signs that an employee may be actively disengaged at work. Here are five of them.

  1. He or She Is the First Person to Leave and the Last to Arrive

    If an employee is always the first person to leave at the end of his or her shift or at the end of the workday and the last person to arrive every morning or shift, this person’s engagement levels could be waning. Sure, some employees have home-related responsibilities outside of work, but if all of a sudden, they don’t stay at work longer than they absolutely must, they are probably starting to become more disengaged.

  2. They Start to Call Out More

    When employees start to take multiple days off in a row for no apparent reason or stay home sick more often, they are probably disengaged, especially if they start using all their paid time off in a short burst of time. Absenteeism rates are the highest for employees who are disengaged because they don’t want to be at work.

  3. They Stop Participating in Meetings and Become Silent

    If an employee who was once talkative during meetings or, at the very least, chimed in every so often suddenly never has anything to say, he or she may be disengaged.

    Disengaged employees will not want to participate in meetings or talk about the work they’re doing because they’re beginning to care less; some might even become more cynical and lash out at others.

  4. They Begin to Avoid Others at Work

    Disengaged employees may also start to avoid others at work. They don’t want to socialize with others as much, and they probably stay at their desks most of the time. On the other hand, they might start to hang out in the break room more often to socialize and avoid doing the work that isn’t engaging to them.

  5. Their Work Quality Begins to Change for the Worse

    Employees who are disengaged will also cease to care about the work they are producing and whether it’s high quality. So, expect to see work quality and performance decline rapidly and suddenly among those employees who are actively disengaged.

Be sure to watch out for the warning signs detailed above if you want to manage or improve your organization’s employee engagement rates.


News Regarding Sexual Harassment Training Deadline

Important Update Below

 
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As you know, on January 1, 2019 a new law, SB 1343 (Sexual Harassment Training) went into effect that required employers with 5 or more employees to provide Sexual Harassment training to all employees by January 1, 2020 and once every two years thereafter.  

On August 15, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Bill SB 778, which extends the deadline to complete this training to January 1, 2021 and thereafter once every 2 years. Employers are still required to train new nonsupervisory employees within 6 months of hire, and new supervisory employees within 6 months of the assumption of a supervisory position. The bill also specifies that an employer who has provided this training and education in 2019 is not required to provide it again for another 2 years.

Seasonal and temporary workers must receive training with 30 calendar days or within 100 hours worked, whichever is first.

What does this mean for you?

The deadline to have all managers and employees trained has been extended for one year. 

We are happy to answer any questions that you may have or schedule your training today!

Too Many Jobs, Not Enough Workers

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According to the June 2019 JOLTS report, not only is the candidate supply down and labor demand increasing, but the quit rate is up, as well—and this should come as no surprise given the favorable position the job market puts jobseekers in. 

To put the lack of candidates into perspective, even if you were to place all unemployed people back to work (felons, criminal records, no educational degree, no industry experience, etc.), you still couldn’t fill all of the job openings in this country!

As the candidate-driven market shows no end in sight, we wanted to share best practices for hiring in these difficult times, which are outlined below.

Best Practice #1: Discover Candidates’ Motivations

Recruiters must understand that candidates are looking to improve their situation. This can look different, depending on the person. Some people want more money. Others may want a stronger/better culture and to work for a company they have greater faith in. Work/life balance is also a huge driver these days. And finally, shrinking or eliminating a big commute could help to sway a person to a new assignment.

Recruiters and hiring managers should be digging deeper into what it is that drives candidates to make a decision and focus on that piece of the puzzle. The game is no longer just about how much money people make, and that should be remembered when candidate discussions take place.

Best Practice #2: Pay Fairly

Seeing as the market demand is overwhelming the candidate supply, we should see a corresponding increase in wage growth, but that’s not the case. Wage growth is rising but still underperforming, and companies should be aware of the trap of not paying candidates appropriately. If a candidate has multiple offers and yours is the lowest-paying one, or not even rivaling the other offers, you’re going to lose the candidate.


Best Practice #3: Work with a Trusted Recruiter

Finally, partnering with a trusted recruiter or staffing firm. Recruiters educate their clients to help them understand the full scope of the employment landscape. While the unemployment rate is important, the difficulties businesses are feeling in the space are due to a massive increase in competition.

Businesses need to understand who and what they are up against and why this is driving candidate expectations so high. Luckily, it is a recruiter’s job to know this and keep a pulse on the job landscape and latest trends, which, in turn, provides businesses with a deeper and more clear insight that can help inform their recruiting strategy.

As employers across the country continue to struggle to fill the void, we’ve got to ask: What talent attraction strategies are working well for your company? Did you know we offer recruiting services? Please ask us how we can help!


Do You Understand the Most Common Employee Learning Styles?

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One obstacle that many instructors—whether they’re in primary schooling, advanced graduate education, or training in the workplace— run into is getting through to an audience with a variety of learning styles.

Not everyone learns the same way. Tools that are extremely effective with some students may have minimal impact on others. Here, we take a quick look at the seven learning styles:

Visual (Spatial)

Visual learners absorb information best when using pictures, images, and spatial understanding. Trainers may be able to effectively reach these individuals through illustrative diagrams, videos, animations, or demonstrations.

Aural (Auditory-Musical)

Aural learners like to listen and prefer to receive information from live presenters, while listening to podcasts, etc., to help them best capture and retain knowledge. The use of sound and/or music also appeals to these learners.

Verbal (Linguistic)

Verbal learners learn best using words in both speech and writing. Relaying what they’ve just been taught to others, for example, could aid these types of learners in absorbing information.

Physical (Kinesthetic)

Physical learners learn by using their bodies, hands, and sense of touch—for example, learning how to assemble a cabinet by actually assembling one.

Logical (Mathematical)

Logical learners prefer to use logic, reasoning, and systems. These learners could benefit from an explanation of why a process exists and why it exists the way it does. Understanding the context in which it logically addresses needs can help them retain that information.

Social (Interpersonal)

Social learners crave interactions with others to help them learn. They prefer being in groups or with other people.

Solitary (Intrapersonal)

Finally, some learners prefer to be on their own and alone. Solitary learners prefer to work by themselves and are more likely to take advantage of self-study opportunities.

It’s important to note that these are broad categories meant to help instructors better understand their audiences rather than precise definitions that can be accurately attributed to individuals.

Actual learners may exist on a spectrum between social and solitary, for example. Additionally, these categories can overlap—there may be visual learners who also learn well by using logic and in groups.

Understanding that not everyone absorbs knowledge the same way is key to effectively training a broad audience with different learning styles. The first step is to simply understand the different learning styles that are out there.

An Employee Volunteer Program Comes With Some Real Benefits

 
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Does your organization offer some type of employee volunteering program? Some employers allow employees to take extra paid-time-off (PTO) days—beyond the standard allotment—when those days are used in a volunteer or community involvement capacity. Other organizations create entire volunteering programs—often partnered with specific nonprofits or local community organizations—for their employees to participate in. Although there are costs involved, these employers have found that there are many benefits that offset those costs. Let’s take a look at a few.

Benefits of an Employee Volunteer Program

Here are some of the many benefits of administering an employee volunteer program:

  • Employee engagement, satisfaction, and morale can all be positively impacted. Helping others through volunteering can actually improve employee satisfaction levels—which then helps productivity and retention.

  • These programs can improve employee interpersonal relationships.

  • Promoting volunteerism can showcase the organization’s commitment to a particular cause (assuming the volunteer program is centered on that cause).

  • It can also improve the employer’s image for potential employees (the employment brand), which can improve recruiting efforts and make it easier to find employees who are a good cultural fit.

  • Volunteer programs can also improve the organization’s public image, showcasing it as an organization that does things for the greater social good. Customers like to do business with organizations they feel are doing good for the community, and employee volunteerism can improve this reputation and make organizations’ efforts more publicly visible, thus impacting the bottom line.

  • It can positively impact organizational culture by unifying people around shared goals.

  • It can encourage people who are interested in a cause (if a particular one is promoted) to apply to the organization.

  • Volunteering events can actually help employees improve their skills. Things like teamwork, problem solving, communication, and leadership skills can be enhanced through these types of programs.

  • Employees are more likely to speak highly of their employer to others, which also boosts the employment brand.

  • This type of program can pave the way for other organizational partnerships to happen.

Looking to Start an Employee Volunteer Program? Here Are Some Tips

If you don’t already have an employee volunteer program in place and want to start one, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Decide up front what types of programs you’re going to promote. For example, will you sponsor a specific volunteer program and pay for all associated costs for chosen employees? Or will you offer extra PTO (or unpaid leave) specifically for employees to use to volunteer in a capacity of their choosing? These are just two of many options.

  • Be sure to thoroughly communicate about the volunteer program, no matter how it is set up. It’s critical that employees understand what is on offer so they’re more likely to participate.

As with any new initiative, it needs to have organizational support. In other words, employees need to feel they truly can take the volunteer time without it negatively impacting their work—and steps will need to be taken to make that a reality.


What Are Commuter Benefits?

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Commuter benefits, as the name implies, are benefits offered to employees that have some relation to the costs and hassle of commuting to the workplace.They’re also known as transportation benefits or transit benefits. 

There are many reasons employers may want to offer commuter benefits for employees. These types of benefits can offset a frustrating commute and make it easier for employees to afford the costs associated with coming to a central location.

It can also show that the employer recognizes many employees’ preference not to have to commute and be a consolation when remote work isn’t an option. Many commuter benefits can be offered on a pretax basis, so they can also reduce the employee and employer tax burden. Encouraging employees to utilize public transportation can result in less road congestion and pollution, benefiting everyone.

Pretax Commuter Benefits

As noted above, some types of commuter benefits can be offered to employees on a pretax basis. This means the cost or reimbursement is not considered taxable income. Here are the types of commuter benefits that can be offered on a pretax basis per Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations:

-Bus passes (or passes for other local transportation options, such as ferries, trains, trams, etc.)

-Reimbursed parking fees or employer-paid parking for employees, which would include things like paid   

 parking lots/garages, parking meters, etc.

-Vanpooling (as long as specific criteria are met)

Of course, for these to qualify under the IRS rules, the costs incurred must be primarily for work. There are also limits on the total amount of expenses that can be reimbursed in any given month for a single employee.

After-Tax Commuter Benefits

Beyond the options noted above, there are other ways employers can help employees offset commuting costs. Though these options won’t have the same pretax benefit, they’re still useful for employers to consider. Here are a few examples:

-Help organize carpooling groups.

-Allow employees to work remotely some or all of the time (eliminating commuting costs).

-Provide company cars when appropriate.

-Distribute taxi vouchers or ride-sharing credits, especially for nonregular work functions or to/from the 

 airport for work travel.

-Provide toll cards or toll reimbursement.

-Give employees fuel cards or fuel discount programs.

-Offer reimbursement for bicycle maintenance/repair when used for work.

(Note: This item was previously allowed as a pretax benefit, but it was removed as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017; this item is scheduled to return to pretax in 2026, unless legislation changes again between now and then.

-Offer incentive programs that promote things like carpooling and use of public transit, giving employees rewards for doing so.

-Create free shuttle services to pick employees up from a central location, which can reduce parking problems for those without on-site parking and can reduce commuting costs for employees who can reduce the total mileage on personal vehicles.

Note that some of these benefits (both pretax and taxed options) can be arranged via third-party providers, which can be useful for employers that do not wish to take on additional administrative responsibilities but would still like to offer these benefits for employees.

What New Hires Want from the Onboarding Experience

 
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Onboarding can make or break any new hire. If you aren’t properly onboarding your new staff, these workers may become a flight risk. New research reveals that 64% of new employees are less likely to stay at a job after a negative onboarding experience.

We’ll break down what employees want from their onboarding experiences a little later, but first, we want to highlight more findings from the research because we feel that the data provides important clues as to why employees are leaving. Back to the research!

Millennials Most Likely to Leave

The fact that 64% of employees are leaving after a negative onboarding experience is especially important to consider as the hiring market continues to be competitive. Research also found that 40% of employees are expected to quit their jobs this year. Of these employees, some of the most important to consider are those in the Millennial age range, as they are the true future of the workplace.
Research found that 60% of Millennials say they are open to a different job opportunity, which likely has to do with the fact that the majority of Millennials (55%) feel like they are not engaged at work. In other words, if businesses want to retain young talent, they need to ensure an engaging, positive workplace experience from the first day of employment.

Three things to consider when reviewing your onboarding experience:

Employees often feel mislead by job descriptions. 

More than 25% of employees say that they didn’t receive enough information about their job before accepting the offer. Meanwhile, only 40% of employees say that their current job completely reflects how the position was described during the interview process.


New hires prefer an organic onboarding process. 

Of the new hires surveyed, more people (33%) dread adapting to office politics and personalities more than learning protocol or filing onboarding paperwork. However, not all new personalities are bad. About half (49%) of employees believe the best way to get acclimated to a new job is by making friends in the workplace, and would rather make friends with coworkers than have a designated new-hire buddy.


Interactive onboarding would make new employees feel more comfortable. 

New hires don’t want to be singled out. A majority of employees surveyed (38%) report they feel most welcome during onboarding when included in a group of other new hires. Additionally, new hires prefer intro meetings and interactive onboarding groups (31%) more than happy hours with colleagues. This is important for businesses to consider, especially when over half (52%) of employees state they spend up to 5 hours being onboarded at their new job.

In order to retain your talent longer be sure to keep these three insights in mind when onboarding new hires.


What Training Skills Do Your Managers Need?

 
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Managers are often expected to have some role in the training and development of their employees. After all, it’s the manager who oversees the work of his or her staff members. In addition, as the person responsible for the team’s performance, managers have a strong incentive to mold the performance of the individuals who compose that team. Unfortunately, managers aren’t necessarily the best trainers. Oftentimes, they are put in a management role because of their technical aptitude, charisma, or ability to lead. If companies want their managers to also be able to train staff effectively, they need to make sure their managers have the requisite skills. Let’s look at the critical skills necessary to position managers as effective trainers.

Communication

This may sound obvious, but communication is a more complex skill than many people appreciate. Effective communication is the ability to convey information—and the significance of that information—from one person or group to another. It’s more than just telling someone that “we always send a thank-you to sales prospects after we’ve given them a demo.” It means conveying the significance of that activity and explaining how and why it fits in with the company’s broader mission.

Identifying Learning Styles

Not everyone learns the same way. There are numerous learning styles, with some people learning more effectively by listening, some by doing, some by individual study, etc. To be effective at training staff members, a manager needs to understand these different styles and to adapt messages if some team members don’t seem to be picking up on the message the first time around.

Passion

Passion might not necessarily sound like a skill, but it is. Passion, in the sense we’re using it, doesn’t necessarily mean genuine passion in every aspect of every bit of information being presented. It means the ability to convey a sense of passion to those being trained. A manager who comes across as apathetic or who is simply going through the motions when training staff isn’t going to encourage a high level of retention and commitment from his or her employees. Not all managers are natural teachers and trainers, and they don’t need to be experts. But they should, at least, be somewhat well-versed in the three key skills mentioned above that can help them be more effective at assisting in the training and development of their staff.


Top 10 Employee Handbook Mistakes

 
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Although most employers at least have an employment handbook, few companies treat it as a priority item. That’s a shame because a handbook presents a wonderful opportunity to communicate with your workforce about your organization’s philosophy, mission, and culture. Companies like Netflix and Nordstrom have demonstrated that handbooks can be effective without being dry and tedious legal documents. But make no mistake, your handbook does have legal ramifications.

A good handbook informs your employees about workplace rules and policies and sets expectations for performance and conduct, which prevents misunderstandings that may lead to disputes. Thoughtful and properly worded policies also may help you with your legal defense if a dispute does arise. On the other hand, a problematic or deficient handbook can hurt your cause more than it helps you. Here are the 10 biggest problems I see with employment handbooks.

WHAT NOT TO DO:

Failing to keep it up to date. I recently reviewed a handbook that contained a policy requiring smokeless ashtrays for employees who want to smoke in the office. I’m not sure in which decade somebody last reviewed the handbook, but I’m guessing hairstyles were a lot bigger then. Laws change. Policies and practices change. The very nature of your workforce and mission may change. Your handbook should reflect your current policies and be compliant with current law. Ideally, you should take a look at your handbook every couple of years.

Believing that one size fits all. I’ve seen a lot of handbooks that look like they’re basically a form downloaded from the Internet or borrowed from another source, such as someone’s former employer. I’m not necessarily knocking forms. You have to start somewhere, and handbooks do have a lot of common elements, so you don’t need to create each one as a unique work of art. But a handbook form that you borrow from somewhere else is almost never going to be exactly right for your situation.

How many employees you have, whether you’re a government contractor, whether you’re a public or private-sector employer, and whether you have a unionized workforce are all things to consider when you’re determining what to include in your handbook. Your particular industry may have workplace issues that don’t arise in other industries. For instance, manufacturers may want to address certain safety issues that wouldn’t be relevant for other employers. Banks may want to include cash-handling protocols. Hospitals may want to address vaccination requirements for employees. Professional groups may want to address licensure requirements.

In addition, your discretionary benefits and attendance policies should be tailored to reflect the practices that make sense for your workplace. You may have an insurance policy that requires certain information to be in your handbook. The list goes on and on. So, sure, start with a form if you like, but don’t think that it will get you all the way to where you need to be.

Failing to include required policies. A lot of what’s in a handbook is discretionary or, at most, recommended. But some policies are required. For instance, if you are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and you have a handbook, you have to include an FMLA policy in your handbook.

Being internally inconsistent. A lot of handbooks I’ve seen have a “Frankenstein” quality, meaning they seem to be sort of patched together from various revisions and addendums over the years. It’s great to update your handbook periodically. But when you do, read through the entire thing to make sure the updates are consistent with and don’t contradict, other policies that are already in the handbook. For instance, I’ve seen handbooks with an FMLA policy, an attendance policy, and a paid leave policy that all say different things about how employees should provide notice of absences.

Disregarding state law. Most “form” handbooks you get from the Internet focus on federal law requirements, which is great because compliance with federal law is important. But don’t forget about state and local laws, which may affect the wording of policies on topics ranging from weapons in the workplace, to drug testing, to jury duty, to parental leave—and much more. And if you have employees in more than one state, you may need to have separate versions of your handbook or at least state-specific addendums.

Trying to make a handbook a contract. A handbook is for guidance only. You don’t want your handbook to be a binding agreement, on your company or your employees. Your handbook should expressly state that it isn’t a contract and you may unilaterally revise it at any time. Unfortunately, I’ve seen situations in which employers correctly include such a disclaimer in their handbook but also include things that purport to be binding on employees, such as confidentiality, noncompete, or arbitration agreements. If you want to have a binding agreement with an employee—in other words, a document you can enforce posttermination, outside the employment relationship, through a court or an arbitrator—you should create a separate document that will be executed by the employee apart from the handbook.

Policies not matching practices. I’ve seen some good-looking handbook policies on topics ranging from moonlighting, to accrual of paid leave benefits, to progressive discipline. On paper, the policies are legally compliant and sound awesome. But the problem is, once I begin talking with the employer as we go over the handbook, I realize the company isn’t actually doing what the handbook states it will do. That’s a recipe for disaster.

The main purpose of your handbook is to inform your employees about your policies and procedures and set their expectations. If your practices don’t match your policies, neither purpose is satisfied, your credibility is undermined, and you open yourself up to employment claims.

The reasons an employer’s policies don’t match its practices may vary. Maybe you used to do things that way, but you’ve changed your methods or rules. That’s fine—but you need to change your policies to reflect what you’re actually doing. Or maybe you need to be doing things the way the handbook states you’ll do them for purposes of legal compliance, but some of your supervisors haven’t gotten the message. More on that in a minute.

Failing to get an outside perspective. In addition to periodically conducting an internal review, you should consider getting an outside expert to take a look at your handbook. Experts may provide guidance on legal compliance as well as trending topics that you haven’t previously addressed in your handbook. An outsider may also spot ambiguities or inconsistencies that you’ve failed to see because you’re too close to the verbiage you’ve been working with for years.

Failing to distribute the handbook. A handbook is worthless as a resource for employees unless they have access to it. And a handbook is worthless to mitigate your risks unless you can prove your employees have access to it. Be sure to distribute a revised or new edition of your handbook to all employees, not just to new employees during orientation. And make sure you require employees to acknowledge, in writing or electronically, that they have received or have access to the current version of your handbook.

Failing to train supervisors. Your supervisors should have a good working knowledge of the contents of your handbook. For one thing, your handbook probably repeatedly tells employees to go to their supervisors with questions about policies. That suggestion won’t work out so well if your supervisors have no clue what your policies say. Your handbook can also be a great tool to ensure consistent decision making and treatment of employees by supervisors, which reduces your risk for employment claims. You really need to conduct comprehensive supervisory training at least every couple of years, and reviewing your handbook should always be part of that training.

Bottom Line

I hope this list will inspire some thoughts about handbook review. And of course, if you have questions about your handbook, it’s always best to consult us.


How to Avoid Misclassifying Unpaid Interns This Summer — and All Year Long

 
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The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) revised test for determining whether interns are employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) just turned one, and the summer hiring season is fast approaching. Misclassification can be costly for employers. Let’s make sure you understand and are correctly applying the DOL’s revised test for unpaid internships.

DOL Identifies 7 Factors for Determining ‘Primary Beneficiary’

A year ago, the DOL announced a new primary beneficiary test for determining whether interns are employees under the FLSA. The Act requires for-profit employers to pay employees for their work. Under the Act, “employ” means to “suffer or permit to work.” Based on that vague definition, interns and students may qualify as employees to whom compensation must be paid.

Under the primary beneficiary test, the DOL uses seven factors to determine whether the employer or the intern is the primary beneficiary of the relationship. The test is intended to be flexible and dependent on the unique circumstances of each case, and no single factor is determinative. In its statement announcing the adoption of the primary beneficiary test, the DOL noted the change would “eliminate unnecessary confusion among the regulated community” and give the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) “increased flexibility to holistically analyze internships on a case-by-case basis.”

The Primary Beneficiary Test Includes an Examination Of:

  • The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand there is no expectation of compensation (any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests the intern is an employee—and vice versa);

  • The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to training provided in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training offered by educational institutions;

  • The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal educational program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit;

  • The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar;

  • The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which it provides the intern with beneficial learning;

  • The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern; and

  • The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at its conclusion.

If the intern is found to be the primary beneficiary of the parties’ relationship, he wouldn’t be considered an employee under the FLSA, and he would therefore be exempt from the Act’s payment requirements for employees.

What This Means for You

The DOL has increasingly scrutinized internships and cracked down on the misclassification of workers and interns. As a result, you should take steps to ensure your interns meet the primary beneficiary test. Evaluate each internship on a case-by-case basis, and carefully consider the structure of your internship program and the program run by the schools with which you affiliate, as well as any compensation you offer and your method of payment. Merely labeling a summer position an “internship” doesn’t mean you won’t have to pay the intern—compensability depends on whether the intern receives the primary benefit of your arrangement with him.

Additionally, you must take care that all written communications and materials related to your internship program are carefully worded to avoid any inference of an employment relationship. Double-check the wording on your webpages and downloadable information and any mailers, marketing materials, internship agreements, and other relevant documentation that you provide to interns and their schools.

 

10 Tips for Hiring Minors This Summer

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It’s that time again, when employers are considering hiring minors for the summer—in camps, restaurants, resorts, swimming pools, and anywhere else business picks up in the warm weather months. There are strict laws pertaining to hiring minors.

The child labor provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibit employers from hiring minors (individuals under the age of 18) to work at dangerous occupations, for an excessive number of hours, and at unsuitable times of the day or night. States also have child labor laws and when state and federal laws differ, the stricter law applies.

Child Labor Laws Are Strict and Detailed

There are separate rules for minors under 18, under 16, and under 14 years of age, both on the number of hours and times of the day and year they may work, as well as the types of work that they are allowed to perform. In addition, there are rules on proof of age, minors driving motor vehicles, minimum wage rates, children working in agriculture, and work under federal contracts.

Severe penalties may be imposed on employers that violate child labor laws. In addition, employers are prohibited from retaliating or otherwise discriminating against an employee who files a complaint or participates in a legal proceeding under the Act.

Do You Need to Pay Your Summer Employees — Or Are They Interns?

Springtime every year, employers begin thinking about hiring summer interns. And the question arises—do we have to pay our interns? Particularly in times when employers have decreased their hiring numbers, summer interns are an attractive option at little or no pay.

Interns cost much less than new hires and employers don’t have to provide interns with benefits. But, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) intern test is strict and hard to pass. If you don’t pass it, then your interns are actually employees and you have to pay them.

According to the DOL, if all of the following six factors are met, an employment relationship does not exist between an intern and the company that sponsors the participant. In such a case, it may be considered an unpaid internship:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;

  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern, and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If no employment relationship exists, the participants are not subject to the FLSA, and no intern pay is due.

10 Tips to Remember When Hiring Minors This Summer:

Here are some tips for handling your summer hires:

  1. Understand and comply with both federal and state child labor laws and occupational safety and health regulations that apply to your business. Employers must check state law and federal law and comply with the more restrictive law.

  2. Stress safety, particularly among first-line supervisors who have the greatest opportunity to influence teens and their work habits. Work with supervisors and experienced workers to develop an injury and illness prevention program. Train adolescent workers to recognize hazards and use safe work practices.

  3. Assess and eliminate hazards for adolescent workers, such as:

    1. Driving a car or truck

    2. Operating tractors or other heavy equipment

    3. Using power tools

  4. Employers are responsible for verifying the age of their minor employees. Age certificates do not give employers authority to violate any child labor laws. Employers must determine a minor’s age and set his or her job duties and work schedules accordingly and carefully. Also, employers must file the minor employee’s age certificate, keeping it for as long as the minor is employed.

  5. Unless employers are absolutely certain that they are not engaged in interstate commerce, they should assume that they are.

  6. Internships in the for-profit, private sector will most often be viewed as employment by the federal DOL, unless the test described above is met. Interns who qualify as employees rather than trainees typically must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

  7. Remember, the federal child labor laws limit the hours and the times of day that minors age 14 and 15 may work. Minors 14 and 15 years of age may be employed outside school hours in a variety of nonmanufacturing and nonhazardous jobs for limited periods of time and under specified conditions. Minors aged 16 and 17 may be employed for unlimited hours in any occupation other than those declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor.

  8. Child labor regulations limit the hours and the times of day that minors age 14 and 15 may work to:

    • Outside school hours;

    • No more than 3 hours on a school day, including Fridays;

    • No more than 8 hours on a nonschool day;

    • No more than 18 hours during a week when school is in session;

    • No more than 40 hours during a week when school is not in session;

    • Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.—except between June 1 and Labor day when the evening hour is extended to 9 p.m.

  9. Children under age 14 may not be employed in nonagricultural occupations covered by the FLSA. Permissible employment for such children is limited to work that is exempt from the FLSA, such as delivering newspapers to the consumer and acting. Children may also perform work not covered by the FLSA such as completing minor chores around private homes or casual baby-sitting.

  10. Minors age 15 may work as lifeguards at traditional swimming pools and water amusement parks when such youth have been trained and certified by the American Red Cross, or a similar certifying organization, in aquatics and water safety. The federal child labor provisions require that a 15-year-old must acquire additional certification if he or she is to be employed as a swim instructor.

Is Your Work Air Conditioning Sexist?

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Some like it hot, while others like it cold. For most offices, this is a real workplace battle. But is it one that is also based on gender? A recent NPR article suggests office air conditioning standards are based on outdated research, created in an era when the majority of workers were male.

According to the article, at some point in the 1930’s the scientific community defined “metabolic equivalents.” This is how much energy a body requires while sitting, walking, and running in order to keep its vital organs at a cozy 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The body has to work harder if the temperature isn’t quite right. Interestingly enough, while the data hasn’t really been updated, it is still used for many calculations, including the standard for air conditioning an office. The problem, according to the article, is that these numbers may be biased toward men.

Apparently, women generally feel colder than men do in the same air temperature. They prefer rooms at 77 degrees Fahrenheit, while men prefer 72. This is mostly because of body size and fat-to-muscle ratios. According to science, women’s bodies need higher temperatures to be comfortable. However, when the metabolic equivalent research was initially conducted, most offices were staffed by men who wore suits all day. Therefore, the generally recommended office temperature may be a bit “off.” The article also suggests that in addition to that research, it is usually the case that the person who makes decisions about the office temperature, such as the building manager, is a male.

Obviously, there is a lot more to this issue than just a squabble about “hot air.” Temperature influences a worker’s productivity. Uncomfortably chilly or hot offices can affect concentration and increase errors in basic tasks like typing. Plus, keeping the office a lot colder can just be expensive. While the solution may not necessarily be to change the temperature just yet, it does raise some issues for employers to explore, such as rethinking that summer dress code.


4 Ways to Take the Bias Out of Performance Reviews

 
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Researchers at Stanford University have recently found that despite a lack of gender differences in objective performance metrics (e.g., grades, fitness scores, or class standing) and decades of equal opportunity efforts, the language used to describe women hurts their advancement opportunities.

It’s not just that women are more often ascribed negative attributes—it’s the words themselves that are also unsettling. The most occurring positive characteristic applied to women is “compassionate.” But it’s followed by a long list of negatives: “inept,” “selfish,” “frivolous,” “passive,” “gossipy,” “vain,” and “temperamental,” to name a few.

The most common attribute for men—“analytical”—reflects a sharp mind and the potential to intelligently lead an organization in the most effective direction. There were only two negatives most commonly attributed to men: “arrogant” and “irresponsible.” The researchers concluded that when people are asked to envision leaders, they still picture men.

Language Is Not Neutral

The words in performance reviews hold power in concrete results, influencing both promotions and layoffs when performance numbers are comparable. Even an “arrogant” leader can still be effective, but an “inept” person is unlikely to be promoted.

Assertiveness is an especially tricky area for women to navigate. The same behaviors tend to be perceived differently depending on whom they come from. Research from Stanford University revealed that aggressive communication styles led to more than twice the amount of negative feedback for women than men. Women were told, “your speaking style is off-putting,” while men received compliments like “tackle” or “drive.” What is positively seen as “assertive” or “confident” in men is perceived as “abrasive” or “aggressive” in women.

Women are often described as “supportive” and “collaborative,” but these gendered skills are less valued in a leader. A collaborative success, even a major one, can still make a woman seem incompetent and can undermine her chances of promotion. While women are also known to show biases in performance evaluation language, the shortage of women in executive positions certainly doesn’t help. Consider that men with the name John alone outnumber all women in the top levels of Fortune 500 companies.

How to Reduce Bias in Your Company

To expand their views of leadership, men and women both need more personal experiences with women as peers and bosses. Begin with these four action steps to reduce gender bias in your company:

Train and educate HR.

According to McKinsey & Co.’s 2015 Women in the Workplace study, 70% of men view gender diversity as important, but only 12% believe women have fewer opportunities for advancement. And 13% believe their own chances are hindered when these programs are in place.

It takes more than a PowerPoint® presentation to unpack these biases because managers will assume that they aren’t guilty of them. They have to consciously learn how to correct these unconscious biases. Ongoing training ensures that new hires don’t fall through the gaps and that established employees continue to build understanding.

Pay close attention to what training strategies are most effective with your teams, and make adjustments depending on your people’s awareness and willingness to change viewpoints. Even when biases are deliberate, training can still work to adjust behavior, which can lead to changing attitudes.

Use concrete, consistent performance metrics.

Review your performance evaluation metrics to make sure they exclude personality judgments that don’t directly correlate with a job. Someone’s “approachability” or “humor” is difficult to tie to job performance. Focus on verbs instead of adjectives. If you can’t provide concrete examples of how a trait affected someone’s work, it doesn’t belong on a performance review.

Shifting away from subjective review methods to fact-based feedback can reduce opportunities for negative perceptions. If someone in HR conducts the review, make sure he or she understands which skills are most important for the job and that all criteria are tied to concrete performance metrics.

Adopt 360-degree reviews.

Even in a perfect world, a single manager can’t be expected to provide a complete picture of an employee’s performance. Getting feedback from more than one source helps identify biases by including more objective data in the review process. A diversity of opinions minimizes the power of an individual’s comments and elicits the most relevant information.

These 360-degree reviews may also give women the opportunity to get feedback from other women, which can be vital to their ability to thrive in a given role and improve their skills and work habits in order to move up in a company.

These reviews should include chances for anonymous feedback. With the opportunity to submit feedback anonymously, women—and other protected groups—can point out inequalities so managers can identify them (if they are unintentional) and correct them. Keeping feedback anonymous makes sure every voice is equally heard without the fear of repercussions.

Track and share feedback or data.

Employees should be able to access their performance data. When workers know how they’re perceived, they can identify and report their concerns to management. Transparency combined with data builds trust that managers will be held accountable for feedback—and that any who block women (or any other demographic) from advancing will be identified so the behavior can be stopped.

The catch-22 that women experience is troublesome not only for them but also for companies; holding women back in their careers holds companies back, too, because they miss out on half the population’s potential. Correcting this bias requires awareness and action at all levels.

-HRDA


Creating a Bereavement Leave Policy for Your Company

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What type of bereavement leave should you offer and how much? Who will be eligible for leave? How should employees notify you of their need for leave? Answering those types of questions in a comprehensive bereavement leave policy helps you manage employees’ expectations and respond to leave requests when the time arises. So, what should you include in your bereavement leave policy?

Define the Relationship Necessary to be Eligible for Leave

Bereavement leave policies should explain which relatives the leave covers. You might limit bereavement leave to immediate family members (e.g., parents, siblings, spouses, and children). Or the leave could be expanded to include extended family (e.g., aunts, uncles, and grandparents).

Designate the amount of Available Leave

The amount of time off you offer for bereavement leave can be the same for all employees regardless of the circumstances, or your policy can provide varying amounts of time off depending on the employee’s relationship to the deceased family member. You may allow more time off when an immediate family dies (e.g., three days) while providing for a shorter period of leave for the death of an extended family member (e.g., one day to attend the funeral). You also may want to address whether more leave is offered based on out-of-state travel being involved (e.g., five days).

The trend is to move toward offering longer leave periods, but of course, employees don’t have to take all of the available leave. If your policy is to offer different amounts of leave under different circumstances, you should document the amount of leave employees are granted and the reason behind your decision to approve the length of their leave.

Will the Leave Be Paid?

Your policy also should address whether bereavement leave will be paid or unpaid. If it’s unpaid, you should state whether employees can elect to use their available paid leave (e.g., vacation time) in lieu of unpaid leave.

In our February article, we reported that 94% of U.S. employers offer paid bereavement leave. Of those, approximately 83% offer a separate plan for paid leave (i.e., bereavement leave isn’t part of employees’ paid vacation or sick time). The trend is moving toward offering paid bereavement leave, with the most recent statistics showing an 11 percent increase in paid leave policies over the past year. Employers that want to offer longer leave but can’t afford extended paid leave may choose to offer paid leave for a few days, followed by extended unpaid leave.

Miscellaneous Policy Considerations

You should outline your expectations for how employees will notify you that they want to use bereavement leave. It can be as simple as following your other leave or attendance policy procedures. If you require proof of the need for leave, your policy should spell out the acceptable forms of proof (e.g., an obituary or a funeral program). Or, instead of requiring documentary proof, you may ask the employee for details (e.g., the relative’s name, the date of death, where it occurred, and the employee’s relationship to the decedent) and verify the information.

If your company is willing to grant special leave requests depending on the circumstances, your policy should explain how an employee can go about making a special request. If you decide bereavement leave isn’t flexible, your policy should be clear that the company will not make exceptions for special or unique circumstances. Having a clear policy will help you manage employee expectations and avoid requests that will inevitably be denied.

Get Drafting

We hope this column has motivated you to take the next steps toward drafting or revising your bereavement leave policy so that it fits your company’s needs. Remember, people grieve differently, so a flexible policy may be the way to go to address your employees’ various coping needs. Employees should be allowed to choose whether to take extended bereavement leave to mourn the loss of a loved one or return to work quickly and get back to their routine.


Women Excelling in the Workplace

 
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We are living in an era where women’s workplace concerns can no longer be ignored. While many companies have diversity and inclusion initiatives in place to help address some of the issues their workers may face, women still confront a number of hurdles that affect their career trajectory. HR departments able to create strategies to help address these issues will undoubtedly make an impact on the future of work for all women.

Where Are All the Leaders?

First, businesses must immediately address the lack of women in top leadership positions, especially women who have proven their abilities throughout their career. Unfortunately, the C-suite in the majority of companies still lacks female leaders. In the U.S., women hold only 10% of top leadership positions, and only 5.1% of CEO positions are women. This is unnatural, as women are, indeed, capable of successfully leading companies.

Addressing this issue will create a major positive shift for the business world and for future generations. Just imagine how a young girl’s mind is opened to a whole new world of possibilities simply by seeing what other women have achieved!

Societal Constraints Can Hold Women Back

Both men and women deal with societal constraints, but women tend to face those that prevent them from succeeding in their careers. Women may feel that owning their successes is equivalent to bragging and fear this may cause unnecessary tension with others on their team. Unfortunately, by not owning their wins, others may never know what they’ve accomplished.

Imposter syndrome can also be problematic for women. Imposter syndrome is the phenomenon in which people do not believe their accomplishments are due to talent or skills. Many women may feel that they aren’t qualified or knowledgeable enough to hold their current positions. A study by Hewlett-Packard found that women only applied to positions if they fulfilled 100% of the qualifications. Men felt they only needed 60% to feel confident enough to apply. This self-doubt and lack of confidence may prevent women from applying to positions they may be perfect for. It can also damper their ability to shine in their current positions or hold them back from advancing to managerial or leadership roles.

In addition to these internalized issues, women also face larger societal issues that force them to choose between excelling in their career and focusing on their family/home life. Career interruptions such as a birth, adoption, or the need to take care of an aging parent affect women more often than men. In a survey conducted by Pew Research, 4 out of 10 women had taken significant time off to attend to these roles. While these issues can also affect men, women tend to be impacted by them more often. According to a recent UN Women report on gender equality, women still carry three times the amount of unpaid housework and child care than their male counterparts. This household labor can divert their energy and focus away from work, preventing them from taking on larger tasks or more responsibilities at their jobs.

Women and girls may not feel they can achieve their dreams because of the glass ceiling. This can cause them to aim low. When my daughter was young, I noticed that most of the girls in her class, when asked what they wanted to be, tended to choose support positions, such as dental assistant instead of dentist. While support positions are important and valuable, these roles are more often filled by women. The Department of Labor shows that the most common occupations for women are secretaries/administrative assistants, nurses, and teachers. This is a historical trend that has not been challenged enough. Whether this has to do with a lack of female leadership role models or unconscious bias that hinders girls and women from sensing that they should aim high, it must be addressed. Women should not feel they cannot hold professional positions, and society should not assume support positions are naturally women’s work.

Shifting the Culture

What can HR do to help shift the workplace culture?

  • Acknowledge that women still struggle with a lack of role models in leadership positions. If your workplace does not have women in roles at all levels, then there is a problem. There are qualified women out there who are capable of leading their divisions and their companies.

  • Mentor others. Mentorship is crucial for women, especially in historically male-dominated industries. Women benefit from building supportive networks that allow them to offer either formal or informal mentoring. HR can help cultivate a work culture that supports women helping one another succeed in the workplace. Building a culture of mentorship, whether formal or informal, should be a priority.

  • HR departments must encourage leaders and managers to empower women to take the ball and run with it. Some women enjoy a challenge that proves their capabilities to you, but some will not. Those who aim high will excel. Give them the chance to do so!

  • Acknowledge that “having it all” is very difficult for both women and men to achieve but even more so for women. This is a much larger societal issue, but women should be allowed to feel that focusing on their career is not detrimental to their families. According to Pew Research, 95% of married men with children under 5 are currently in the workforce, while only 62% of married women with children under 5 are. I predict this pain point to be a major factor that changes the way businesses address policies related to child care, parental leave, flexibility, and work/life harmony.

  • Treat women and men equally in the hiring process and in the workplace. This should go without saying, but we need to acknowledge that this is still an issue.

Human Resources has the ability to create the culture of your workplace. By focusing on and addressing these issues, both your business and society in general will benefit from the positive changes they bring. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “the future depends on what you do today.” If we want to build a better future, one that is more gender balanced, we need to start now.


The Misplaced Fear of Training a Replacement

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In organizations in any country across all industries, there has been a fear of teaching a subordinate or a junior staff member the ins and outs of one’s job. This apprehension is based predominantly on a fear that the person being trained will take the job of the person doing the training.

“Why should I train my replacement?” the logic goes. It’s an understandable concern, especially when the dynamic involves a senior staff member training someone younger and who is paid less. But it is logic that is often flawed. Here we take a look at why this may be.

The Threat Is Overblown

Even if you train someone new on how to do your job, it’s not likely that he or she would be able to replace you after a short onboarding period. One reason is that this new hire would simply lack your hands-on experience. And if you truly believe that your company’s motivation is to continually cycle out existing staff in favor of younger, cheaper replacements, that might not be the best company to work for anyway.

The Downside of Being Irreplaceable

Being “irreplaceable” gives employees a feeling of intense job security, and that’s comforting. But what many people in this position fail to realize is that being irreplaceable can act as a huge anchor on one’s career. If your boss thinks that there is nobody who can step into your shoes and do what you’re doing today, how can he or she promote you to a new position?

Help Your Manager Promote You

“Too many leaders don’t get it, but their own growth depends on helping others grow,” says Executive Coach and Consultant Michael Pollock. “Just as you have your own personal strategy for career advancement, you should be training your successors so that your move upwards can be supported by a loyal and well-trained replacement, fully equipped to step into your shoes.”

Rather than seeing someone training to do one’s job as a potential threat, employees should consider this a possible opportunity. A big challenge for many managers when making staffing and promotion decisions is how to fill the role and responsibilities of the person being promoted. Moreover, successfully training someone to be competent to take on your job is a sign to managers that you have management potential.

Many employees are overly protective of their knowledge and are resistant to training new employees they may perceive as potential threats. This not only harms the organization but can hinder an employee’s own chances for career advancement.


How to Offer Child Care as a Workplace Perk

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According to research, 85% of parents say they wish their employer offered childcare benefits; almost two-thirds of parents—and 83% of Millennials—say they’d leave one job for another if it offered better family-care benefits; and two-thirds of parents said childcare costs have influenced their overall career decisions.

What’s more, the lack of access to affordable child care and paid leave costs the United States at least $28.9 billion in wages, and American businesses lose tens of billions of dollars annually in care-related costs—costs associated with loss of productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover.

If you’re interested in offering or enhancing your childcare benefits for your employees, you should consider taking the actions listed below.

Provide Flexible Paid Time Off

Parents often need to take unexpected time off to care for a sick child or make last-minute arrangements to pick up a child from day care or school when emergencies arise. Sometimes, a child’s usual after-school arrangements suddenly change because of a bus or car malfunction, and new parents need time off to care for a newborn until the child is old enough for day care. So, be sure to offer parents plenty of paid time off to handle these situations and more if and when they occur.

Work With and Around School and Daycare Schedules

When blizzards hit and school is suddenly canceled or classes are dismissed early, parents need to be able to adapt to these schedules. By aligning work and meeting schedules with those of school and daycare and allowing parents to have schedules that coincide with their children’s, parents wouldn’t have to call out or leave work early.

Offer Flexible Spending Accounts

If you provide flexible spending accounts for medical reasons, offer them for childcare reasons, too, and contribute a small portion of funds to these accounts.

Make Backup and Summer Child Care Available

Provide employees with reliable emergency child care, such as in-home nanny services, if they need to travel last minute for work. During summer vacations, offer employees summertime child care and discounts or prepaid vouchers for summer camps while children are out of school.

Extend Discount Programs

If you can’t offer your employees on-site child care or day care, provide discounts or prepaid vouchers to local daycare providers. Also offer discounts or vouchers for things like maternity apparel, diapers, bottles, clothes, toys, etc.

Give Childcare Benefits To All

Mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents should all be extended the same childcare benefits. As you work on offering child care as a workplace perk, consider doing one more of the things listed above if you want your efforts to be effective.