Blog Posts

Hiring Hourly Workers Ahead of the Holiday Rush


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If the current, candidate-driven market has you worried about filling vacant positions, may we suggest one talent pool that may help? Students. While some employers might be skeptical at first, there are quite a few benefits to hiring students for seasonal work.

Benefits of Hiring Students for Seasonal Work

  • Students will appreciate abbreviated work arrangements, and they’re probably less likely to get upset if their role doesn’t turn into a full-time arrangement because they’ll have to worry about going back to school and other commitments.

  • Students will be eager to learn and do a good job, especially if it’s their very first job. They will want to put something positive on their résumés.

  • Students will bring new skills to the table. The youngest generation in the workforce—Generation Z—comprises the most tech-savvy workers in history, so they might be able to help with many tech-related and mobile-device hiccups, among many other things.

  • Extra workers help improve employee morale. If your current employees won’t be asked to work extra hours or pick up extra slack during your busier seasons due to understaffed shifts, they will welcome the extra help.

  • “Hourly employers that hire students can expect that their desire and need for flexible schedules and other accommodating employment terms will only increase as the workers who typically fill these roles .


How to Attract Students for Seasonal Work

Here are a few tips for attracting student talent for your open, hourly positions:

  • Start recruiting early. Don’t wait until the week before you need seasonal help to start recruiting students. Plan to recruit them a month or so before your busy season starts so they can balance a job with their other commitments.

  • And if you’ve hired students in the past for seasonal work, reach out to them first to see if they want to rejoin the team during your busy season, especially if they were reliable and worked hard. Also, make sure you clearly advertise that your seasonal positions are available to teens under 18, if applicable.

  • Use mobile platforms for recruiting. As mentioned above, Gen Zs are tech-savvy, which means you should be using mobile apps and mobile-optimized sites and platforms to recruit them. They may not know your seasonal positions exist otherwise.

  • Offer more than minimum wage or other incentives. While you don’t have to offer a lot more than minimum wage, consider offering 50 cents to a dollar more than the minimum wage to attract the best candidates. And consider offering things like free lunch on Fridays or other small incentives and perks to keep them happy, working hard, and engaged while working for your organization.

Make it fun, but also represent roles as valuable learning opportunities. Yes, students like to have fun. But most of them also want to be valuable members of the workforce when they get a job. So, although you will want to advertise your organization as being a fun place to work with great perks, don’t overdo it—students still want to become professionals one day and learn the ropes so they can be successful in the future.



Want to Make Smarter Hiring Decisions? Stop Ghosting Candidates

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When dealing with a labor shortage, employers will pull out all the stops to attract and retain top talent. Yet, some employers are treating the hiring market like it’s the pre-2008 recession era and continuing to use outdated hiring practices like having a long hiring process, non-mobile-friendly job applications, and more—and then they wonder why they can’t fill the void.


Ghosting Is the New Norm for Both Parties

When it comes to ghosting, most recruiters and employers are usually the ones being ghosted, as candidates have the upper hand and can pick and choose which employer they want to work for. However, ghosting seems to go both ways.

While ghosting candidates isn’t a new concept, there have been changes in hiring practices that have enabled this culture to become the new normal.  Employers are taking longer to hire new people than in the past.

As talent acquisition (TA) teams become burdened with administrative tasks—such as coordinating and scheduling interviews—more candidates become lost in their inboxes. To alleviate this, TA teams should integrate interviewing technology that will remove these time-intensive, administrative burdens and allow them to focus on building relationships with their candidates.

In fact, additional data shows that candidates who were interviewed and given job-related feedback by end of the same day were 52% more likely to deepen their relationship with the employer—meaning even if they didn’t get hired, they would still express interest in applying again and/or referring the company to friends.

Those who were not given feedback (or ghosted), said they were more than twice as likely to disregard the relationship (8% vs. 2.6. As we know, the current hiring climate makes the candidate experience even more important, and when candidates feel like they aren’t being treated fairly, they’re more likely to tell their friends and family not to do business with your company. 

So, what can recruiters and employers do to help improve this experience?

Implement Recruiting Technology

One method for improving the candidate experience is using technology candidates know and love. Are your candidates applying from their mobile devices? If so, you should offer mobile-friendly applications so candidates can apply right from their smartphones.

Take it one step further by offering a unique interviewing experience. Integrating interviewing technology, like on-demand text, can also allow the candidate to take interviews outside of traditional 9-5 business hours and ask common questions about interview logistics without having to await an e-mail response from a recruiter.

Comprehensive Job Descriptions

Prioritize smarter hiring in the second half of the year, TA teams should make job descriptions as comprehensive as possible and ensure the key responsibilities of the role are defined. Misleading job descriptions lead to an influx of job applicants that do not possess the skill sets for the open position and simply aren’t a good fit. The beginning of the candidate interviewing experience begins with the job listing. Ensuring a positive and clear start will enhance your candidate experience by giving today’s modern candidates what they want—a quick, easy, and transparent hiring process.

Here are a few tips for making your job descriptions more comprehensive:

  • Get the job title right. Your keywords are going to make or break it for you. Therefore, you should be specific about the actual job title. Include what the actual job is, not just the company name or sector. Be concise, as well—a long title will turn people off. Also, avoid gimmicky titles, like Marketing Ninja—nobody outside of your organization knows what that means, so stick with a title jobseekers have heard before.

  • Leave out the daily, mundane tasks. Jobseekers probably don’t want to know the everyday tasks they’ll need to do, which might end up changing or being handled by artificial intelligence (AI) eventually anyway, so it’s wise to stick to the major tasks that a candidate will be responsible for.

  • List the compensation. Be sure to list the compensation you’re offering for the position in the job description; this way, jobseekers know what they’ll be making before you select them for a final interview. Nothing is worse than thinking you found the perfect candidate only for him or her to decline your offer because you aren’t paying enough.

  • Mention long-term career opportunities. Most jobseekers what to know what’s in it for them through the long haul—other than your compensation and benefits offerings—which means you’ll need to explain how they will grow and develop in their role and how that role will evolve over time.

Eventually, the candidate-driven market will be a thing of the past—hopefully not due to a recession; nobody wants that—but until then, use the advice outlined above to help improve your candidate experience. And ultimately, stop ghosting candidates! You’re giving your company a bad rap.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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


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.

How to Stimulate Ethical Behavior in the Workplace

 
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Unethical behavior in the workplace costs businesses a lot of money, integrity, and marketable clout.

According to research, unethical business practices were on the rise a few years ago and might have gotten worse, but 56% of Americans will stop buying goods and services from brands they think are unethical, and many will actively support brands they view as ethical. Additionally, 48% of consumers consider employee treatment when determining whether a company is ethical.

So, if you want to stimulate ethical behavior in your workplace, you should consider doing the following.

Develop and Document Standards and Policies

Put clear, ethical standards and policies employees and leaders should abide by in writing, and have the employees and leaders sign the guideline documents to ensure they read and understand the information. Also, include how violations of the guidelines will be handled, including repercussions, and how employees can report them.

Foster and Enforce Standards and Policies

Continue to enforce your ethical standards and policies once they are documented and implemented to ensure they are followed and taken seriously, and be clear and specific about how these policies will be enforced and what may happen if an employee violates one of the standards, such as being handed a written warning or getting suspended.

Start at the Top

Begin with your leaders and executives to stimulate ethical behavior across the workplace, and make sure they are on board with developing, implementing, and enforcing your ethical standards and policies. These same leaders should also be held accountable for their ethical behavior, just as their subordinates are. Leaders and managers need to lead by example in following ethical practices if the policies are to be fully effective.

Provide Ethics Training

Because some common business practices are technically unethical, all employees should receive ethics training so they know how to confidently identify and avoid unethical behavior, as well as are empowered with knowledge on how to handle inappropriate interactions.

Support and Protect Employees

Make sure that you provide an anonymous means of reporting unethical behaviors and that those who do report such actions will be protected from retaliation that would prevent them from speaking up.

Consider taking the steps above to stimulate a more ethical and profitable workplace.


Helping Employees Deal with Toxic Customers

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Anyone who has worked in customer service knows that some customers can be extremely difficult, demanding, and even toxic. These customers can be abusive to customer service staff.

They aren’t necessarily bad people, but such customers may take advantage of their relative power over your employees to bully or vent frustration where it isn’t necessarily deserved. Or they may simply be unaware that their behavior toward your staff is inappropriate.

Whatever the reason, these interactions can wear down your customer service staff, whether it’s a one-off situation or a consistent experience. It’s important as a manager to help your employees cope with toxic customers to avoid burnout, high turnover, and poor morale.

Make Sure They Don’t Take It Personally

First and foremost, it’s crucial to help your staff separate the professional from the personal. Customers may complain about your company’s product or service, but employees need to know that this feedback isn’t a reflection on them personally.Even if customers do make personal attacks, employees need to know how to transition from personal to professional and shrug off attempts by customers to make the issue all about them.

Let Them Vent

In an article for Inc. on toxic cultures generally, Shane Atchison offers some advice applicable to dealing with toxic customers: “Managers have to make a safe zone where people can speak their minds,” Atchison writes. “Above all, don’t fake it and pretend the situation is normal. That’s the surest road to allowing a bad culture to erode yours.”Sometimes simply talking about problems with customers can be extremely therapeutic.

Empathize

Beyond simply letting employees vent, take the time to really hear and understand their concerns. That’s important not only to ensure that employees feel their concerns have been heard but also to the organization—there are valuable lessons to be gleaned from any feedback received, however negative or misplaced.

Have Their Back

The adage that “the customer is always right” only holds true to a point. If a customer is being truly abusive and unreasonable, having your employees’ back is essential. Make it clear to employees and customers that a certain level of respect is expected when dealing with your customer service staff.

Customer service positions can be extremely stressful, and they are often filled by relatively low-paid staff in entry-level positions. These employees are particularly susceptible to turnover.

Even if they don’t leave the company, employees dealing with toxic customers can bring down morale—their own and that of their coworkers—and start to burn out, leading to lower productivity. A good manager should take steps to alleviate this stress as much as possible.


Should You Implement a 4-Day Workweek?

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Modern-day employees claim they want a better work/life balance and more flexible work schedules; one such flexible schedule is a 4-day workweek, during which employees work 35 to 40 hours in 4 days instead of the traditional 5 day workweek. Recently, 66% of workers polled stated that they want a compressed 4-day workweek to fulfill this work/life balance, but only 17% of their employers offered one. Why aren’t employers offering a 4-day workweek, and should they?

You’ll want to consider the following pros and cons in determining whether to offer a 4-day workweek to your employees.

Pros

Improves employee productivity. Sometimes, employees hang around at work simply because they have a certain schedule, though they may not necessarily be productive or accomplishing much, which costs organizations money. However, when employees work a compressed schedule, they learn to effectively manage their time and get more done in a shorter time frame.

Increases employee satisfaction. Employees who have compressed schedules are more satisfied with their jobs and employers because they are more capable of achieving work/life balance and, therefore, are less stressed, tired, and preoccupied when they come to work.

Lessens environmental impacts. If employers didn’t have to stay open 5 days a week, they could save on costs related to their buildings’ electricity, occupancy, maintenance, heating and cooling, office supplies, etc.

Cons

Employers might lose overtime hours. Most employees are already putting in well over 40 hours a week and want to put in extra hours to remain competitive in their fields. With a compressed workweek, employers might miss out on hours that salaried employees are already currently putting in or hours that they want to put in in the future.

Not all industries can participate. Not all employers would be able to implement a 4-day workweek without hiring more employees, as some industries must be open 24/7 for emergencies or around-the- clock business (i.e., emergency rooms, hotels, etc.).

There are costly risks. Employers might end up having to spend money on a new schedule implementation that doesn’t work and is more expensive, and they won’t know if their employees will be able to handle current workloads in fewer days or if they’ll need to hire additional staff until they actually begin the new 4-day workweek.

The Wild-Card Factor: Customer Satisfaction

In some cases, a compressed workweek could offer a business’s customers extended contact hours 4 days a week, but some customers might not like being able to contact a company only 4 days a week. So, an organization must evaluate its industry and whether it has enough staff to ensure customer- related concerns are always covered to determine whether a 4-day work schedule is the right fit. In summary, if you’re considering implementing a 4-day workweek, weigh the pros and cons listed above, as well as your organization’s staffing requirements and industry.

15 Easy Ways To Recognize & Reward Your Employees

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Now more than ever, employers are seeing how important it is to keep their staff happy and motivated at work. It just makes good business sense – satisfied, engaged employees work harder, produce better work and stick around longer. 

Not to mention, in this tight labor market, companies are having to go the extra mile to hang on to their best employees. With unemployment at a near record low and more open positions than candidates to fill them, replacing departing employees can be an overwhelming challenge.

Getting Them To Stay

Instead of taking their chances in the war for talent, many companies are opting to focus on ways to convince their best employees to stay put. And the keys to that endeavor? Rewards and recognition.

Now, we’re not talking about the occasional “good job” or free donuts in the breakroom – workers today want much more than that. To really feel connected to their companies, employees need constant feedback and specific recognition for their hard work. They want enjoyable, well thought out rewards programs that show they’re valued – anything less could push them right out the door.

Survey after survey has shown that while raises and bonuses are good motivators, recognition and rewards are even more powerful. Money only goes so far if employees are miserable at work every day. It’s a revamp of company culture that’ll really make employees feel appreciated and get them to stay.

Recognition The Right Way

The great thing about recognition is it costs nothing and takes very little time to let employees know they’re doing excellent work. When used appropriately, praise allows staff to know what exactly they’re doing right – so they can keep doing it — and that management has noticed and appreciated all their effort.

But believe it or not, there are some common mistakes that can make recognition ineffective. Praising employees too much or being nonspecific won’t be helpful.

Here are some key strategies for managers who want to boost their recognition efforts.

  1. Thank employees after completing a particularly difficult or tedious assignment. It may seem insignificant, but a “thank you” can really go a long way. Employees aren’t often thanked in the workplace, because the effort they put in can just seem like part of their job. Turn this around and show your appreciation when you notice someone working longer days to finish a tough project or going out of their way to help a team member.

  2. Be specific in your praise. While the sentiment behind “good job” is nice, it won’t be that useful to your employees. It’s important to let them know specifically what they did that made you happy with their work, so they can do it again. For example, if they always turn in quality work on time, praise them for being reliable and always hitting deadlines.

  3. Recognize your people in the moment. Praise loses some of its meaning if you wait a while to let an employee know they performed well. Immediate feedback is always the most effective. When you see workers going above and beyond, let them know right then and there you appreciate what they’re doing. This way, they’re more likely to remember exactly what they did and repeat the performance.

  4. Don’t use praise too frequently. The effect of recognition will wear off quickly if you start complimenting employees on everything they do. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to save your praise for truly excellent work. This could also inspire good employees to become even better.

  5. Use trust to recognize employees. Nothing tells employees you’re pleased with their performance like trusting them with more responsibility. This is a very tangible way to show your employees they’ve done excellent work and they’re valued members of the team.

  6. Encourage employees to recognize each other. Praise from managers isn’t the only thing employees crave. Compliments from co-workers can also go a long way. By encouraging your staff to recognize each other, camaraderie and trust will naturally start to form.

  7. Host an awards ceremony. Here’s a more fun spin on employee recognition: make it into an event. Giving out personalized awards will highlight everyone’s strengths and let employees know what their colleagues have accomplished.

  8. Recognize accomplishments outside of work. A great touch to any recognition program is celebrating employees’ achievements outside of the workplace. By congratulating your people on milestones like birthdays, getting married or having a baby, you’ll create a caring and supportive work environment.

Rewards People Want

While employee recognition is a big part of boosting engagement and motivation, rewards are just as important. Encouraging and organizing fun activities for your employees can drastically reduce burnout and boredom at work.

Better yet, rewards programs don’t have to be expensive or flashy to be effective. Little perks or quick activities can be enough to give employees some much needed time to relax and recharge.

Here are some simple, effective rewards any employer can implement:

  1. Flex time. This is one of the hottest perks right now and can cost employers little to no money to implement. If your employees’ jobs can be done remotely, letting them work from home occasionally will be much appreciated. If workers have to be in the office to do their jobs, consider allowing flexible hours. Letting people have control over their work schedules will make things like personal appointments and childcare a lot easier.

  2. Added vacation time. Another much appreciated reward is more PTO. If a flex time benefit isn’t an option, giving employees an extra vacation day or two can help when they need to take time off for errands and appointments, allowing more time for an actual vacation. It’s important that with added PTO comes encouragement from management to use it, as many employees are reluctant to actually take time off. Some companies get creative with vacation time, too. Jade Palmieri, HR generalist at Millington Bank, started a program which gives employees extra PTO specifically to use for volunteering. This allows employees to be excused from work in order to help a cause they feel passionate about.

  3. Organized social events. What employee wouldn’t love to take a break for an hour or so and chit chat with co-workers? Putting together a party, lunch or happy hour is a great, simple way to get people out of the office and socializing with each other. Events like these will give employees some time to recharge and strengthen relationships between team members.

  4. On-site relaxation. Getting employees out of the office for a break isn’t something you can do every day, so it’s a good idea to have a designated space for unwinding. It can be as simple as a room with some couches and snacks, as long as it’s a place employees can go when they need to get away from their desks for a few minutes. Employers willing to spend more might consider bringing yoga instructors or masseuses into the office to really help employees relax.

  5. Bring your dog to work day. Another popular, low-cost perk right now is pet-friendly workplaces. Allowing employees to bring their furry friends into the office can help everyone de-stress. This can also be helpful to workers who can’t find a pet sitter.

  6. Wellness activities. Physically active, healthy employees are usually happier ones. While there are a lot of fancy, costly wellness programs out there, it doesn’t take much to get people moving. Doing quick exercises every day or encouraging walks around the building can be enough to get your employees feeling better, both mentally and physically.

  7. Fun and games. Another go-to stress reliever is in-office games. It can be something simple like busting out Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit on a Friday afternoon, or something more complex, like a company field day.

Three Golden Rules for Millennials in the Workplace

 
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Leadership

I have never seen leaders struggle more than they do with Millennials. The Millennial generation, with its oldest members now well into their thirties, is still seen as entitled, fickle, and hard to retain. That perception is wrong, and I encourage leaders and senior staff to adopt a different view.

To start, here are three rules to live by:

Manage People, Not Positions

Baby Boomers grew up learning that “children should be seen and not heard.” To compensate for their own silence, they urged their Millennial offspring to speak up. From their first words, Millennials have learned that their voice matters. If they see a problem, they roll up their sleeves and solve it. They want a job that comes with purpose, not just a paycheck.

One study found that 76% of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work, and 88% say their job is more fulfilling when there are opportunities to make a difference. Millennials want to raise their voice (and they want to use it for good)!

Many organizations say they like when Millennials speak up, but I’ve rarely found an organization built to the strengths of this generation. I’m here to tell you that any organization that embraces this approach will see its staff rise and grow to meet the challenge.

Innovation to Retain Top Talent

A company’s tax status is no excuse for poor innovation. Failure to innovate makes it hard to recruit and retain employees.

Millennials have a strong tendency to job hop, averaging nearly 3 jobs in their first 5 years after graduation. By comparison, Millennials’ predecessors, Generation X, averaged 2 jobs in their first 10 years after college.

Where innovation thrives, so do Millennials. These employees are “entrepreneurial,” which means they are attracted to fast-paced, changing cultures that take risks. But they are also immersed in lifestyle culture and aim to build their own personal brands.

Millennials want more than just “tech frills,” like catered snacks and an in-house barista. They prioritize authenticity, flexibility, and opportunities to travel.

I learned that it offers employees the opportunity to travel to Kenya, India, or Ecuador on group staff trips to see firsthand the organization’s work in communities around the world. Not every employer can offer this, but connecting Millennials to your work’s global impact can be essential.

And, it’s important to recognize how connecting your employees to their work in a meaningful way can help lend itself to the success of your business.

Millennials Are Leaders, Too

Success begins with leadership. Millennial CEOs encourage their employees to go beyond earning a living and live their personal purpose through their work. We all need workplaces to embrace Millennials for who they are and for what they bring to the organization.

Too many leaders are throwing in the towel and doing as little as possible when it comes to managing Millennials. Leaders need to fundamentally alter this mind-set and see Millennials as an asset.

Why is this so important? Believe it or not, there is a generation after the Millennials: Gen Z. These are the interns at your office right now. Typically, the ones on the front lines of managing a new generation are members of the generation right above them.

Managing Different Generations in the Workplace

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As the economy continues to grow and the job market becomes increasingly robust, many employers around the country are probably starting to get antsy, wondering how they can entice their best employees to stick around instead of looking for a bump in pay or responsibilities elsewhere. Building employee loyalty can be a tough task for managers, but it’s something they can’t afford to ignore, as competition for skilled talent grows fiercer every day.

Today’s changing work environment is only making things more complicated, particularly when it comes to trying to satisfy and meet the expectations of employees across several generations. In 2016, Millennials became the largest generation in the labor force, and as of 2017, there were more than 56 million Millennials either working or looking for work. Following close behind are the nation’s 53 million Gen X’s and 41 million Baby Boomers. All this makes for a crowded workplace where managers need to keep things running smoothly while also exploring new ways to make their employees feel fulfilled and ensure they have a clear vision of their future with the firm.

What Are Some of the Best Strategies for Pursuing This Goal?

 First of all, make everyone feel appreciated. It might seem like the easy answer here is more compensation but cash bonuses aren’t the only way to say “thank you” anymore. As the survey reveals, for Millennials, loyalty is closely tied to a sense of opportunities for career growth. Eighty-six percent of Millennials surveyed said that their company providing career training and development would keep them from leaving their current position. But if that position is lacking in growth opportunities and the potential for leadership development, 67% of Millennials said they would be more likely to leave instead.

Next, employers need to prioritize flexibility when it comes to learning and advancement. This can go a long way toward creating a culture of continuous, lifelong learning, which is only going to become more essential in the workplace as key skills and competencies change and evolve faster every year. Giving employees the freedom to pursue professional development in whatever format and on whatever schedule is most convenient to them is a great approach.

 It’s also in tune with Millennial expectations, given that they consistently rank training and development even higher than cash bonuses on their list of priorities in the workplace. It’s a great way to keep Gen X employees—many of whom are a few decades into their career and likely in management roles at this point from feeling like they’re hitting mid-career plateaus or stagnation.

 Last but certainly not least, encouraging better communication is key. Employees across generations want feedback, but they differ in how they want to receive it. Millennials prefer to get feedback almost constantly while 60% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers want a less frequent approach and prefer annual or biannual, formalized performance reviews.

Employers also need to make sure that feedback itself is constructive and helpful. With 78% of Gen Xers responding that performance reviews do not yield meaningful growth opportunities and 42% of all employees saying they would grade their employers at a C or below, it’s clear that many managers have work to do to make the review process productive for employees and not just an exercise.

It’s helpful to study this and other data to gain insight into what each specific generation values most so that needs and expectations can be balanced effectively across the workplace. In the end, however, there’s more that unites us than separates us, and every manager would do well to remember that all generations want:

  • To be treated fairly

  • Work that provides personal satisfaction

  • Employers that understand personal lives are important

  • Work that is valued by employers and customers

  • A clear sense of purpose from employers

Keep these tenets—and that focus on employee growth and professional development—in mind and employee loyalty is likely to disappear from your list of management concerns.

 

-MB

Is the Annual Company Holiday Party Still a Thing?

 
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In recent years, many companies have downsized their holiday parties to less lavish affairs or hosted other types of events that replaced the traditional after-hours holiday soiree. The decision whether to host a holiday party may come down to cost or employee interest.

 Moving away from the traditional party "seemed to come along with businesses becoming more budget-conscious in the aftermath of the recession, but it is also consistent with the business trend of focusing on company culture," said Catherine Wragg, senior vice president for human resources at TriNet, headquartered in Dublin, California. "Using that holiday budget to have more meaningful team-building activities throughout the year helps employees engage with the company on a more consistent basis and contribute their time and skills in a way that is focused on building community."

Could a Holiday Party Become A Liability?

One reason companies may choose events other than the traditional party to celebrate the holidays could be the desire to avoid potential liability. An employer could be held responsible for any activities that happen during the party, and some companies have decided the risk may not be worth it.

Employment attorneys agree that holiday parties can be risky for employers. "More bad behavior occurs at company holiday parties than at any other time of year," said Mark F. Kluger, attorney and partner at Kluger Healey LLC in Fairfield, N.J. "The combination of the holiday season, pent-up feelings about co-workers and, most importantly, alcohol often lead to uninhibited behavior ranging from sexual harassment to expressions of intolerance." 

Community Service Projects, Team-Building Trips Might Be Preferable

One way to celebrate the holiday season is to have employees participate in a service project together.

One idea is to distribute toys to underprivileged and needy children in the community. Choosing a local organization to collaborate with to have an impact where employees live and work. When employees end their workday at noon and spend the rest of the day together having a light lunch and wrapping presents for others, it becomes a team-building activity while increasing the holiday spirit. Other community service projects, such as collecting items for a local food pantry or running a mitten and hat drive for a homeless shelter, can also be strong team-building activities during the holiday season.

 Another idea would be to do a "mystery trip" as an alternative to the standard holiday party. Doing a mystery trip opens the door to encourage team building and building relationships among people in the different teams of the company; doing this leads to experiences and memories that will last longer than a cocktail party will.

Employers might want to consider not doing an event at all. According to a TriNet survey, 73 percent of employees would prefer a cash bonus during holiday time, while 51 percent favor having extra paid time off between Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Because December can be a busy time for many people, a traditional holiday party could feel like an obligation to employees.

Politics & The Workplace

 
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While the midterm elections have passed, there are still a wide number of people strongly debating what current policy and events will mean to people’s futures. Passions are running high, and not every discussion ends up being civil. Managers must make sure that the discussion doesn’t divide staff members into angry, tribal camps, while at the same time make sure not to simply silence everyone’s views or attempt to force employees to take on management’s views. Employees need to be able to discuss how to handle the issues the best possible way.

1. Hold Transparent Discussions Between Staff and Management

Company leaders should allow employees the freedom to have discussions; banning all political conversations just causes further divide. Cultivate a culture where everyone feels welcome whether they are liberal, conservative or anywhere in-between. Don't force the political view of the executive team on the rest of the organization either.

2. Tell People to Keep It Lighthearted

Management should communicate to all employees that it is perfectly OK to engage in political discussion, as long as they keep it as lighthearted as possible. Encourage non-confrontational questions, rather than discussions about hot-button issues where there is little to no middle ground. Develop a culture that is respectful to others’ views and fosters an open mindedness.

3. Encourage A Culture of Respect

Whether the topic is politics or pay, employers should focus on promoting the organizational expectation of a respectful workplace. It is important that company leaders model this expectation in how they communicate and interact with employees. It's also important that the leadership team is trained on key actions and talk points when those discussions pop up in the workplace.

4. Redirect Conversations About Non-Work-Related Topics

Political opinions about non-work-related topics should not be discussed at work for the same reason personal matters should be left at the door: they have the potential to create a hostile work environment. However, a healthy dialogue about political matters that impact the business is important. Train managers to redirect to the issues that impact work life, not personal life.

5. Help People Gain Perspective

Reasonable people can disagree on movies, child rearing, sports, personal financial management strategies, educational institutions and so much more. When a disagreement becomes emotional, managers should help employees step back and try to recognize and appreciate diversity, the commonality of good intentions, and the work that diverse individuals can accomplish together.

6. Foster an Inclusive Environment

Educate your employees on the value and importance of having a diverse and inclusive environment. Let them know that dialogue is encouraged, but the office is not the environment for debates. If employees aren't open to hearing different points of view, they should refrain from starting and/or joining the conversation.

3 Ways to Provide Actionable, Helpful Feedback That Improves Performance

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Giving helpful, constructive feedback can be surprisingly difficult. While it’s easy for most people to work out how a behavior or process doesn’t work, turning this into a piece of advice that’s actionable and helpful is rarely an easy process.

Despite this, giving feedback is one of the most important aspects of building a great team. Without feedback, it’s impossible to know where and how to improve and put the changes into place that required to develop and get better.

Luckily, it’s possible to provide actionable, helpful feedback to colleagues and team members using a few simple techniques. Apply the three tactics below to give your colleagues and employees helpful feedback that they can use to improve.

Make sure your feedback is relevant, timely and specific. 

The best feedback ticks three boxes: it’s highly relevant to the task or situation that’s at hand, it’s delivered at the right moment to help the recipient, and it’s very specific and directly applicable.

Does your feedback meet all three criteria? Many people give great advice that’s not relevant to the situation, or they deliver the right advice at the wrong moment. Lots of great advice is given that’s also too general to put into practice.

Giving relevant, timely and specific advice makes your feedback more valuable than any other messages your team members or employees receive. It gives an employee the chance to directly implement your advice and improve a specific situation.

Before you give advice, make sure that it ticks all of the three boxes above: it’s highly specific, timely and relevant. When all three conditions are met, your feedback is far more likely to have a positive effect on your employees or team members.

Be positive, and ensure your feedback has a constructive tone. 

It’s easy to sound overly negative when you give feedback. Because of tone, it’s quite common for people to interpret positive, constructive feedback as an insult or mean, negative statement about their job performance.

Because of this, it’s important to make sure that your feedback is always built to be positive and constructive. Great feedback should give people valuable help, and not feel like it detracts from their abilities or belittles them.

Before you give feedback, think about how you would react if you were the recipient instead of the giver. Would you view it as a helpful piece of actionable advice or as a personal insult or complaint?

Phrasing, tone and word choice can have a huge impact on the way your feedback is received, even if it doesn’t change its content much. Before you give any advice, use the above test to make sure the recipient isn’t likely to misinterpret your feedback.

Be consistent, or else your feedback is largely meaningless. 

One of the most common complaints of disgruntled or frustrated employees is that their bosses simply don’t listen to them. When you give inconsistent feedback, it’s extremely difficult for your employees or team members to know what to do.

As written above, great feedback is relevant, timely and specific. It’s also consistent, with great feedback maintaining the same message no matter how or when it ends up being delivered.

If you deliver inconsistent feedback to an employee, it becomes difficult for them to know how to improve. This is particularly true if several people each provide their own contradictory feedback on how a person, task or project could be made better.

When you’re part of a team, ensure you all have the same goals and can deliver the same key messages in your feedback. As an individual, make sure you stick to one message and remain consistent when you offer feedback to your team members.