Archive for July, 2011

Ways to Monitor and Manage Declining Employee Performance

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Do you have a problem employee whose productivity and attitude have noticeably soured?

Donald Trump would just yell, “You’re fired!” But there are other ways to handle the situation.

Confronting an employee whose performance is declining is not something you can put off until tomorrow, because poor performance in the workplace can be contagious and negatively affect the morale and productivity of other employees. No matter how unpleasant or difficult it is, you must talk with the problem employee right away.  Find out what’s impacting his or her personal and/or workplace life.

The personal reasons for an employee’s declining performance can run the gamut, and may include:

  • employee is dealing with a health issue
  • marital or family problems
  • alcohol or drug dependency

Workplace-related reasons for declining employee performance can be just as varied. A few examples are:

  • employee is overworked
  • problems with a manager or coworkers
  • boredom

If the reasons are personal, you must not attempt to counsel the employee unless you are certified in that area as a counselor. You can help the employee gain access to a psychologist or other professional counselor, however.

Have Written, Explicitly Defined Performance Standards

As the typical manager or HR professional, you are qualified to counsel the employee strictly about work-related performance. But before you can establish the fact of poor performance, you must have written, explicitly defined performance standards against which you can effectively measure an employee’s work history. Once both employer and the employee agree that there has indeed been recently unsatisfactory job performance, you can begin to monitor and manage the situation.

Be Ready To Change Your Management Approach To the Problem Employee

A troubled employee may require a different management approach from you than he or she required previously. For instance, an employee who previously exhibited a confident, self-reliant work ethic may need closer supervision and direction for a while, until his or her performance issues become resolved. You will find that problem employees will require more of your support, time and attention.

In an emotionally charged situation with an angry, frustrated employee, you will have to listen carefully, display empathy or at least unbiased understanding, and be ready to help the employee seek a solution to the problem.

If the employee has a true grievance, such as sexual harassment, you must be prepared to take immediate steps to protect the individual and address the legal issues.

It is important to obtain a commitment from the problem employee to agree to partner with you (and others) to correct his or her poor performance. Establish a written plan of action, and set up a series of meetings that will occur regularly until the problem is resolved.

Many good employees may go through periods of poor performance due to a number of factors beyond either your control or theirs. Dealing with declining productivity and poor morale is among the biggest challenges a manager or HR pro will ever face, but if you meet the challenge squarely, objectively and with compassion, it can turn into a win-win-win situation for the employee, you and the company.

For additional information about how you can manage an employee’s declining performance, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo source: frozenchipmunk

E-Monitoring in the Workplace: Do’s and Do Not’s

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

The e-monitoring of what employees do in the workplace may include the use of video surveillance, keystroke logger software, email filters, phone logs, phone call recordings, Global Positioning Systems, and logs of website visits, among other methods.

Although courts have tended to reject infringement of privacy claims based on employer e-monitoring, the best course of action is to have a company policy that clearly states which communications are subject to monitoring—including when, where and why. Most employees believe that it is okay for their employer to monitor them only if they are made aware of the fact that they are being monitored. The company that monitors employees secretly is only asking for trouble.

Here are the do’s and do not’s of e-monitoring in the workplace.

DO:

  • Create and distribute a company policy that lets employees know what is being monitored, when it is monitored, where it is monitored, and why monitoring is necessary.
  • Be sure to state what benefits monitoring will bring to the company as a whole.
  • Monitor only what is absolutely necessary. Company management should not be perceived as an intrusive or abusive “Big Brother.”
  • Ensure that the personnel who have access to the monitored information have a “need to know.” Access must be limited to only certain highly trusted individuals.
  • Securely store the data collected, particularly when it includes sensitive information, and let employees know that this data is not available for internal or external public disclosure.
  • Address employee use of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook or blogging during work hours. Company policy should provide guidelines for blogging or tweeting about the company, its personnel and its products and services.

DO NOT:

  • Do not make employees feel paranoid or uncomfortable.
  • Do not place severe restrictions on employees’ use of cell phone and text message communications. Granted, you do not want drivers sending text messages or being distracted by cell phone calls while on the job, but in most workplaces, the safe and occasional use of personal cell phones rarely disrupts work processes.
  • Do not implement technologies such as webcams, location tracking devices or keyloggers on company laptops or other resources without a thorough understanding of the technology’s capabilities and rigorous legal review.
  • Do not neglect to address employees’ use of their personal Internet-based email accounts using company resources such as computers or company-issued cell phones. Any restrictions should be clearly stated in your company policy on e-monitoring.
  • Do not try to completely restrict employees’ use of the Internet in a prohibitive manner. You will create goodwill when employees are allowed to surf the Web during lunch hours or breaks to quickly look up the address of a restaurant or to order products online.

Breaches of employee privacy can result in litigation or employee retention issues at the very least. Approach e-monitoring with a healthy respect for privacy laws and today’s complex regulatory environment, as well as sensitivity to ordinary human behavior, and you will be successful.

For additional information about e-monitoring in the workplace, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo source: Ed Yourdon

4 Keys To Success as an HR Professional

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Regardless of company size, an effective HR function is an essential factor in business success. As a strategic management partner and an employee advocate and mentor, the HR professional is in a position to help promote the business, the opportunities for employees and his or her own success by implementing the following:

1.  Positive Two-Way Communication

Excellent communication with employees can make a company great—or break the company when communication is poor. People like to work for management teams who are open and transparent, and the more potential there is for that communication to be a two-way street, the better. Sharing information and business goals with employees builds trust and cooperation among the ranks.

Suggestion boxes, email, company newsletters and open meetings between management and employees are all time-tested communication strategies that work. Make yourself accessible and be involved, and you will be a more successful communicator.

2.  Fair and Objective Performance Reviews

Implementing an objective employee performance review system will go a long ways toward establishing a foundation for career paths, raises and pay structure. To motivate employees, link top performance with bonuses or raises on a merit basis. Often a gift or public recognition of an employee’s accomplishments is as effective as money.

To ensure fairness for performance reviews, alert people ahead of the actual scheduled review if their performance is below par, and give them opportunities to correct the situation. Periodic feedback meetings also help, as does a cross-functional review by more than one manager. Satisfied employees who trust that they are being managed fairly are more productive than unhappy, resentful employees.

3.  Non-Monetary Benefits and Perks

Sweeten the pot with non-monetary benefits and perks, such as tuition reimbursement, flexible schedules, free parking or health club memberships. Perks and unusual benefits are an area where you can come up with creative ideas that will help attract and retain employees. (This topic is discussed more thoroughly in our previous blog.)

4. Improving The Bottom Line

You will become a company hero if you can use your knowledge as an HR professional to come up with ways to:

  • Reduce expenses for employee benefits such as medical plans or 401K
  • Improve recruiting, hiring and training practices and save costs
  • Increase employee productivity
  • Streamline and ensure compliance processes with federal or other regulatory agencies, such as OSHA

For additional information about how you can ensure your success as an HR pro, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo source: (UB) Sean R

Use Effective Measures to Engage Your Workforce and Reduce Turnover

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

A key factor in reducing employee turnover and retaining top talent is ensuring that your staff members are engaged in their work and the company. Employees who are engaged are not only satisfied in their positions, but they often go above and beyond to help themselves and their organizations succeed. However, recent statistics show that the majority of American workers are currently disengaged with their jobs.

There are many factors that turn employees who were once top achievers into those who only complete their work to get it done. Some engagement drainers include lack of individual recognition, inadequate feedback or poor managerial practices. Organizations that do not take the necessary steps to connect their workforce with the company’s overall mission will have a hard time keeping their staff around. Companies that have a high level of employee engagement achieve better business results.

The following are measures your company can take to increase employee engagement and reduce workforce turnover:

  1. Why are People Leaving? Before rolling out an employee engagement plan, company leaders should actively research why people leave their organization. Knowing your turnover rate and the areas in which people leave the most will help you uncover issues that are affecting employee engagement.
  2. Find the Culprit Before the Exit Interview. Exit Interviews are beneficial because they reveal a number of reasons for why employees choose to resign. Unfortunately, supervisors and managers only get this information when the employee has put in his or her last-day notice. To keep staff members satisfied before they decide to depart, implement Stay Interviews at least once per year. This meeting allows employees to discuss with their supervisor the factors that could potentially cause them to search for a new job.
  3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate! A lack of communication is often cited as a reason for why employees quit. Provide multiple communication channels for workers at all levels to utilize. Managers and supervisors should meet with their employees multiple times per year to provide and receive feedback. These meetings should encourage staff members to speak freely about their goals and concerns.
  4. Manage Job Expectations. Losing employees within the first year of their hire date is an incredible loss in time and money for an organization. Many times the reasons for a worker’s short tenure are inaccurate job descriptions and unrealistic expectations and goals. Clearly define positions and their accompanying responsibilities when soliciting new hires. Additionally, when interviewing candidates, make them well aware of the position’s potential unfavorable aspects. Do not sugar coat.

CAI’s 2011 Compensation and Benefits Conference will provide additional tips and information for retaining top employees and creating a more engaged work environment through a well-thought-out, total rewards strategy.  Register today at www.capital.org/compconf.

Photo source: Woodley wonderworks

Wellness Incentives – Trading in Carrots for Sticks?

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

The post below is a guest blog from Twyla Hutchins, RN, BSN, COHN-S, Medical Management Officer for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

In 2010, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimated that 59 percent of U.S. employers offered a wellness program, while 28 percent offered a monetary incentive for weight loss, smoking cessation or achievement of health goals, and 10 percent gave discounted insurance premiums to non-smoking employees as well as those that took a health risk assessment or joined a weight loss program.

According to a benefits consultant at Towers Watson, smoking cessation programs, having a high rate of success, can be a very effective wellness tactic for employers trying to gain control over their health care spending. Depending on the employee population, smoking can be a major cause of insurance rate increases. On the individual level, a smoker costs his or her employer $1,300 more per year than a nonsmoker.

There are many bold companies that have started trading in their wellness incentive tactics, or “carrots,” for sticks. Take Macy’s, for instance, who as of July 1, 2011 requires all employees who admit to tobacco use to pay a monthly $35 or yearly $420 surcharge for health coverage. Of course if those employees enroll in a free tobacco-cessation course, these fees will be waived and their progress reviewed in six months.

Think this is too bold?  Check out some of the other companies following suit:

  • PepsiCo – $600 per year surcharge for tobacco users
  • Gannett Publishing – $60 per month surcharge for tobacco users
  • Union Pacific – will not employ smokers
  • Scotts Miracle-Gro – will not employ smokers
  • Cleveland Clinic – will not employ smokers

While some find these tactics to be discriminatory against low-income, less-educated workers, many employers are feeling forced to give up their carrots for sticks in light of health care reform provisions. Seven years from now, companies with high health care spending will pay additional federal taxes. Essentially, these bold employers are trying to battle the root of the problem before they are adversly affected by the health care reform provisions.

So what is your take on this? How would a stick over a carrot impact your workforce? We’d love to hear from you!

CAI’s June 2011 Training Showcase

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

On Friday, June 24, more than 45 HR professionals and company executives visited CAI’s Raleigh location to attend its June 2011 Training Showcase. CAI’s Training Showcases are free events, held three times a year at the company’s Raleigh and Greensboro offices, and they offer opportunities for company decision makers to gather information on CAI’s diverse training options.

The June event began with CAI’s Director of Learning Services, Colleen Cunningham, asking participants why they decided to attend. Several enthusiastic audience members interjected various reasons, such as seeing the event in CAI’s management newsletter and wanting to help employees improve in their positions.

“Our company is growing, and we need to expand our training, so we wanted to see which programs were best,” said Bonnie Wooten, HR Generalist at Implus Footcare.

Following a brief introduction of CAI’s staff and principal training facilitators, Colleen shared with the audience some of the training services that CAI provides, as well as the organization’s overall education philosophy. The Learning and Development Team members base each of their courses on CAI’s learning model, which includes items to measure learning results, such as self-assessments; defined learning objectives; and interactive exercises, role-plays and case studies. After guests learned how CAI strives to maximize training results, they were free to attend sessions that offered snapshots of what potential participants would expect to experience. Some of the sessions included:

CAI facilitators work to ensure that all of their programs are interactive to keep participants alert and engaged in the information they receive and the activities that they perform. The June 2011 Training Showcase facilitators, Brad Geiger, Maureen Bertolo and Kelly Barefoot, also added passion and expertise to their sessions.

For example, in Maureen’s session Fundamentals of Management Certification Program, she asked all participants to stand up and walk around the classroom to introduce themselves, which involved saying their name, title and company they represented. This activity helped them become familiar with each other while also teaching them that getting to know staff members is an important part of being in management.

Brad and Kelly utilized real-world examples to relate to audience members in their sessions.  Kelly asked her participants in Developing Others Through Coaching to think of great coaches—job, school or sports related—and the qualities that made them effective teachers. This exercise helped attendees discover strategies to grow successful employees.

“Their use of interactive role playing is very effective,” said Janice Willmott, Chief Administrative Officer at Disability Rights NC, when describing the facilitators’ teaching methods.

The following are additional descriptions participants used to characterize the teaching styles of Brad, Maureen and Kelly: energetic, dynamic, knowledgeable, well-informed and efficient. Their teaching approach encouraged participants to interject frequently, ask thought-provoking questions and cooperate in problem solving.

Not only did participants get to sample programs that generally run for two days, but also they received binders full of each program’s key objectives, learning deliverables and main points of discussion.

The evaluations from CAI’s June 2011 Training Showcase revealed that participants obtained a good sense of each session’s layout, and several participants commented that the event exceeded their expectations, making the experience great.

If you’d like to learn more about CAI’s training programs, please visit our website at www.capital.org or contact a member of CAI’s Learning and Development Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Make Generational Differences Work for Your Company

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Four different generations now make up the United States’ workforce. Organizations should know and understand the characteristics and workplace preferences that make each of the groups unique. Being equipped with this knowledge will assist companies in keeping employees happy and engaged, which in turn will help reduce turnover, attract top talent and achieve business success.

Companies should identify the various generations that currently exist at their workplaces. This information will help target the business practices and employee engagement tools that will be most effective for their staff. Below are some of the traits that distinguish each generation:

Matures (Born before 1946):

Typical characteristics of this age group include: disciplined, loyal, team players, rule followers and putting work before fun. They respect authority and rarely question instructions from their managers. Matures prefer formal and personal communication, such as memos and one-on-one meetings, when interacting with colleagues. They tend to struggle with new technology, but they are valuable resources for company knowledge. Matures are also extremely loyal to their organizations.

Baby Boomers (Born between 1946 -1964):

Typical characteristics of this generation include: workaholics, inquisitive to authority, focus on personal accomplishments and competitive. Baby Boomers are hard workers that will do whatever it takes to finish an assignment, including working nights and weekends and missing family time. This group respects power and accomplishment and prefers public recognition and career advancement opportunities when being rewarded. When interacting with coworkers, they favor a combination of electronic and personal communications. Additionally, they remain loyal to their profession.

Generation X (Born between 1965-1980):

Typical characteristics of this group include: skeptical, self-reliant, efficient and desires structure and fun. Gen Xers choose to work at organizations that will help them attain useful and marketable experiences. They prefer efficiency rather than a set method for getting work done, and they require a strong work-life balance. Competitive pay and time off work make great rewards for them. Giving them greater responsibility makes Gen Xers feel successful. Unlike the generations before them, Gen Xers are loyal to their specific career goals.

Millennials (Born between 1981-1999):

Typical characteristics of this generation include: multitasker, entrepreneurial, goal oriented, tenacious and tolerant. Millennials prefer to work by deadlines and goals instead of a rigid schedule, and constant feedback keeps them satisfied. They like to be recognized both individually andpublicly, and are eager for opportunities that broaden their skill set. They enjoy combining personal life with work life, and they are highly proficient in technology. They become loyal to the people they work closely with.

The descriptions above indicate that each generation values and expects something different from their workplace. Here are a few approaches to use when managing multiple generations:

  • Matures and Baby Boomers have spent many years working. Use them as resources for company questions that Gen Xers or Millennials might have. Matures and Baby Boomers make great mentors to younger staff members, and they can be very helpful when training new staff on company policies, procedures and history.
  • Gen Xers appreciate autonomy and independence in the workplace. Work-life balance is also important to this group. Similar to Gen Xers, Millennials enjoy their free time outside of work. Because Millennials are multitaskers with entrepreneurial spirits, a traditional schedule is not always best for them. Offer schedule flexibility, such as telecommuting, to please both groups.
  • Frequent training opportunities will keep each generation engaged. Encourage Matures and Baby Boomers to offer their younger colleagues career advice through company training or mentorship programs. Have Gen Xers organize training sessions as more responsibility pleases them.
  • Gen Xers and Millennials love receiving feedback. To help all employees succeed, make sure positive and constructive feedback is given consistently through the methods of communication that work best for each generation.
  • Praise and recognition are appreciated by all. Know how each group likes to be rewarded and proceed appropriately. For example, a Baby Boomer would enjoy a company-wide email highlighting their success, while a personalized email about their hard work will please Millennials.
  • No matter the age or length of employment at an organization, all employees should be viewed as valuable staff members. Creating an environment that promotes open communications will help all generations feel appreciated, respected and engaged in their organization.

For more information on how to manage various generations at your organization, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-688-7746.

Photo source: xflickrx

Perks and Benefits That Attract Hires and Increase Retention

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

What are the top perks and benefits that attract new hires and increase employee retention?

Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies, says, “On the heels of the recession, perks are a cost-effective way employers can reward and retain staff and attract new employees. The most popular incentives are those that aid in career development and give employees some control over their work schedules.”

As a strategic partner of the business owner and an employee advocate and mentor, the HR professional is in a position to help promote both the business and the opportunities for employees by suggesting perks and benefits. While benefits such as pensions, profit-sharing plans, health insurance plans, vacations and sick days are often fairly cut and dried, perks and ancillary benefits are an area where you can come up with creative ideas that will help attract and retain employees.

Here are some suggestions about how you can sweeten the pot with non-monetary benefits and perks.

1. Tuition Reimbursement

Since incentives that aid in career development are among the most popular, consider providing employees with a tuition reimbursement plan. The IRS lets companies contribute up to several thousand dollars per student tax free, and you can also set up a benefit that pays a percentage of tuition or training costs, rather than the full amount.

2. Flexible Schedules

Employees are empowered by being able to set their own work schedule and having an option to telecommute. Flexible schedules are among the top ways an employer can attract and retain employees.

3. In-Office Daycare

If there are a considerable number of parents of tots at your company, this kind of perk could be a huge draw.

4. Free Parking

Parking can be a big expense in many large cities, and offering to subsidize your employees’ parking expenses is a great way to encourage retention and build morale.

5. Health Club Memberships

Consider paying for the initial membership fee and all or a portion of your employees’ monthly fees to a nearby health club. You may be able to negotiate a substantial discount for your company, and the health club memberships may have an effect on the overall health of your employees, reducing costs in other areas such as sick days.

6. Onsite Massage Therapy and/or Ergonomics

Office chair massage is popular due to its portability and capacity to reduce stress.  And ergonomic benefits such as ergonomic chairs and workstations can contribute to high employee productivity, as well as the avoidance of illness and injury risks.

When considering ancillary incentives to offer employees, be creative and have fun with your ideas, and do not neglect to advertise these new benefits after you set them up. Almost everyone admits to the desire to work in a comfortable, casual environment with lots of added perks and benefits.

For additional information, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo source: Nieve44/La Luz