1) a clear company policy,
2) careful documentation of absences and their reasons, and
3) consistent application/enforcement of that policy.
It’s not the latest corporate “fad” or a substitute for performance raises. Wellness Programs truly are a tool for companies to use to increase productivity among their employees and decrease health care costs…and more should be embracing it!
Baseline Magazine did a recent study with the following facts (and the numbers might surprise you!): 70% of employers are currently offering some sort of Wellness Program
85% of employers are offering Flu Shots at no cost to their employees
79.9% of employers pay for employee Health Screenings
52.5% of employers offer a Weight Management Program
67.5% of employers offer a Smoking Cessation Program
58.6% of employers have walking/fitness challenges (including company-sponsored teams for 5K walks and marathons)
36.4% of employers have an on-site fitness center
So you’re first reaction is going to be: “Sure, the big corporations can afford to spend that kind of money on their employees…not the small businesses.” Well, hate to break it to you – but you would be wrong.
Will it mean some upfront costs by the employer? Sometimes…
Will the company reap the benefits of this “wellness program” right away? No…but it WILL in time.
The biggest challenge in benefits every year is tackling the always rising insurance costs. How do we keep them down? Maybe change insurance companies, maybe raise the deductibles, maybe switch to a lower plan….always a headache coming up with different options to look at just to keep the cost of offering insurance to our employees (regardless of whether the company pays for it or the employee does) at a managing amount.
Insurance companies look at various factors during your renewal and compare them to the “national average” that they have set up: # of office visits, # of urgent care visits, # of ER visits, pharmacy costs, etc. When employees aren’t taking care of their health, they are visiting the doctor more and getting more prescriptions. So…if a company helps an employee pay attention to their health, the assumption is the number of visits and costs will go down – hence, keeping your annual renewal from skyrocketing!
Now – back to the “cost to the company” argument: Did you know that many of the insurance carriers are now offering some of these programs FREE to your employees?? That’s right – call them right now and ask. Health Screenings, Weight Management Programs, Smoking Cessation…yep, that knocks 3 of the 6 off the list. Flu Shots are generally offered at a discount for groups of 20 or more by local clinics and even the pharmacy chains…some will even come on-site to do them! By starting these now, by next renewal you will see a drop in visits and claims…which will help your renewal cost.
And of course there’s the “employee morale” angle – especially with the Walk/Run fitness challenges. There are so many of these that go on in every city, why not get your employees involved – works towards strengthening their teamwork skills and gives them pride.
No more excuses…add a Wellness Program to your company’s portfolio of benefits.
As much as I hate to admit this – yes, there are managers out there who believe this to be true! After hearing these words come out a manager’s mouth when I asked when he was going to get the performance reviews for his department completed, I decided to sit down all the managers at my company to explain to them what performance reviews are and why they are important.
While many employees have come to expect a raise to be rewarded at the time of their performance review, managers need to realize that this isn’t the purpose behind them. Performance Management is a more than just a “review” – its best when used as a check-and-balance method of communication. Employees today, more than ever, want to know what they are doing right, what they are doing wrong and what they can do to advance in the company.
The worst mistake a company can make is to avoid giving a performance review because they expect the employee to be looking for a raise. Not communicating with the employee shows them that the company doesn’t care about them or their career path…and before long, their performance will start to drop. A negative attitude will develop…employees will begin missing work or coming in late as dedication to the job begins to slide. By the time their manager finally does come around to giving them a review, all they will focus on is the employee’s poor performance – taking no ownership in the fact that they themselves contributed to the problem.
Performance reviews are basically feedback we give our employees. While many managers claim it takes too much time and limit it to once a year, it actually should take place more often during the year. Few goals take an entire year to complete so why wait so long to discuss them? Keep in mind – feedback sessions do not have to be formal reviews. Call it a “strategy meeting” or “career planning” if it makes it easier for you not to label it a “performance review.” You will sit down your entire department to talk about a goal and strategize how to accomplish it. Well, why not do the same with your employees?
Actually, if you conduct these performance review sessions more often throughout the year (my suggestion is to conduct them quarterly), they will take less time to complete as you will be updating and modifying the goals and expectations you have of your employees as you go along…tweeking it if you will. These sessions should be two-way feedback sessions with your employees also sharing their observations, expectations and suggestions for both personal and company improvement. Remember – while you are focused on managing these employees, they are the ones carry out the tasks and will have more insight into the effectiveness of the plans you have put into place.
Tie goals to a performance matrix so they know what they have to do before they can earn a raise and at what level. Think back to school – you knew what score you had to get in order to receive an A versus a B…put the same concept in place in the workplace. For revenue-generating positions, this can be tied to profit but even non-revenue positions can have “levels” of success for the employees to strive for. Talk about what additional training the employee should also look into and whether or not the company would be willing to absorb the cost. Let them research training and classes on their own to show you how serious they are about improving themselves.
And remember than performance management doesn’t have to be limited to a one-on-one discussion with the employee. Turn it into a true recognition program! Have your goal setting session with the employee and once they achieve them, make an announcement to the entire company. Not only will the employee enjoy the attention paid to their accomplishment, but it will (hopefully) motivate other employees to want to do the same.
In the end, communcation will increase throughout all levels at the company which will in turn boost employee morale and increase performance levels…all of which will lead to an increase in company profit. Now – doesn’t it seem worth the time to have these “pow wow” sessions with your employees? And if you feel compelled to award a raise as a result – I would say go with that feeling!
Whether you are a brand new manager or have worked your way up the ranks into a management position, don’t fall into the trap of being your employees’ friend. Remember – you all are at work to complete a job. You can be friends off the clock, but while you are on the clock – they need to know you are the one in charge…and respect you for it.
No one likes confrontation with their employees, especially if they have more tenure than you, and everyone wants their employees to “like” them in hopes that they will be more inclined to be a team player. But enforcing the rules and making the tough decisions is part of being a manager – whether or not is will inevitably ruffle feathers with the employees under your control.
The quickest way to loose control of your employees is to loose their respect for you. Think of your employees like kids: they will tempt and push to see how far you will let them get away with things, so you have to know when and how to put your foot down. Does this mean you have to be Attila the Hun at the office? No…but you will have to be able to put your foot down without fear of “ruining a friendship.” Without it, you run the risk of creating a dysfunctional department where you days are spent putting out fires instead of focusing on performance.
Unlike the workplace of 30 years ago, managers today are taught to use a more positive leadership approach. This is where “performance evaluations” hold even more important meaning. Where employees used to fear their managers and always expected the “talk” with management to mean that they were going to be disciplined or criticized, today’s employee are actually hungry for guidance and feedback. They want to know exactly where they stand and how they can improve their job. This now comes less from an “improving performance” stance and more “personal growth and satisfaction.” If you were to ask your employees, the biggest complaint they would probably offer is “lack of communication” with you and other managers. Ask one employee once told me, “hearing nothing is worse than hearing something critical.” Be direct – don’t use generalities. Tell employees exactly what they are doing incorrectly and also be sure to offer steps to correct it. Remember – you are more a “coach” than an iron-fisted manager.
Don’t avoid these types of talks either…you are not doing yourself or your employee any good using this approach. Eventually, the issues will have to come out. By addressing them as they occur, you build a trust with the employee that you are honest and truly trying to help them. Worst thing you can do is never bring up the problem until it comes time for their annual performance review. Waiting until its time to review the employee, especially if its going to be tied to a potential raise, will only create resentment in your employee. And they will know how to toe the line…doing exactly what is needed to complete their job and nothing more. How can you discipline an employee for doing their job simply because you expect them to do more?
So what is the best way to take on a new management role when you are a newbie?
Set the tone from Day One.
Hold a meeting with your employees to introduce yourself (if you are new), share your manager’s expectations of the department (instilling that you want to be a “group effort” and not a dictator) and tell them directly – “I want us to work as a team but know that it is my responsibility to keep everyone on track.” I would even go so far as to sit down with each employee individually and ask them about their job, their struggles with it and any ideas they have for improvement. Open the door – build the bridge between yourself and the employee. ..and then keep that door open, knowing it swings both ways.
Avoid “special treatment” for those employees you bond with or were friends with you before you rise to management. Will there be special situations that may warrant some sort of concession? Yes – but make sure it isn’t permanent or too different from the norm or your other employees will begin to resent not only you but the employee receiving the special treatment. This will lead to a breakdown in teamwork, scheming and back-stabbing – again forcing you to spend your time managing the situation rather than focuses on goals or performance.
Hold regular “team meetings.” Yes – meetings are the last thing managers have time for with all their other duties, but you need monthly or weekly meeting to keep those lines of communication open. Spend the first half of the meeting recapping what has occurred or changed since the last meeting (goals, progress, policy changes, etc) and then use the second half of the meeting to ask for ideas and suggestions. Especially if you have worked your way up through the ranks, you will know that most ideas for performance improvement and customer satisfaction come from your employees – not management. Listen to what they have to say and challenge them to come to the meeting with solutions. Empowering them with their own success will add to their personal job satisfaction…and make you look good in the process.
Bottom line – being a manager means walking a fine line.
Focus less on making everyone like you and more on building a relationship with your employees based on mutual understanding and trust. It will make things much easier to address when those tough situations come along.
For the small businesses that have continued to struggle in order to survive in this market, there has been a focus on providing new and various “benefits” in place of the annual raises that many can’t afford. They are realizing that many of their employees are either already looking for higher paying positions or soon will be as the job market continues to improve. Some are looking to extend formerly “management only” perks to all their employees, such as: flexible hours, telecommuting, additional paid time off, etc. In most cases, companies have seen higher morale, lower stress levels and better physical health as a result of these slight changes. But, when does making these new accommodations for employees lean too far?
Managers need to remember that even changes seen as positive need to be fully thought out before being implemented to think of the long-term consequences. How could these changes turn negative? Unfortunately, easier than we might first think.
Telecommuting, for example, has become a hot option for many companies to not only save on overhead but to offer to unique work-life balance to their employees. Who wouldn’t want the option of working from home on a cold winter day? This is an especially attractive option for employees with young children who can then work babysitting, doctor appointments and sick days around their work schedule.
But now, let’s fast forward 10 years when the employee’s children are now out of school and the benefit of working from home is less of a necessity. And what if the needs of the company now change and the position requires that they work in the office. How do you take back the telecommuting agreement? Now it has become an “expectation” in the eyes of the employee and even an explanation of the required change for the good of the company will still be met with hard feelings.
Many small businesses operate from the “we are a family” standpoint…and “family always helps each other.” This can lead to quick decisions to keep everyone happy without thought into the long-term affect it will have on the company as a whole. Employees are coming up with creative options for additional benefits these days as well. I had one employee ask to sell “gift cards” for her daughter’s high school. For every gift card bought, a certain percentage of the profits would be applied to her daughter’s tuition. Her manager saw this as an easy decision – wanting to make it part of her “compensation package” without any idea of how that would be tracked or managed. His only argument, “She has been a long-term employee and we want to keep her happy. This doesn’t cost us at all.” What he didn’t take into account was how it would be viewed by the other employees. Word of this “simple benefit” spread quickly throughout her department and took less than an hour for the complaints to start coming in about how unfair it was to the others than she was the only one getting this.
Creativity and change is necessary in today’s ever-changing economy and employment market. There is greater pressure on companies to adopt more worker-friendly policies and new benefits to retain their skilled employees. Build employee satisfaction and it will increase loyalty while decreasing turnover. The key to remember is that we still have to think long-term while we are coming up with creative short-term solutions. Start accommodating a select few or making too many “exceptions” will create more problems than the company is trying to solve.
One of the hardest things for a HR professional to track is vacation time, especially when it comes to salaried employees. There’s always the argument that because salaried employees aren’t require to track their working time that we can’t really track their vacation time…so why do we “award” them a specific block of vacation time from year to year. When do we list a day as a “vacation day?”
The whole idea behind a person being labeled a “salary employee” (aside from the legal testing of the definition) is because these are individuals that a company needs to be able to depend on outside of the regular 9 to 5 grind. We need them to be available for emergency phone call after hours or adjusting their schedule to be available to a client in a different time zone. They don’t simply stop working because the physical office has closed for the day. We know if we send them an email at 8pm regarding an issue that they will likely read it and respond right away rather than waiting until the next day during “normal business hours.”
A survey from 2008 showed that the average salaried employee works 54 hours a week. In some industries, this may be a consistent number from week to week. In others that are more seasonal, these hours may peak higher in certain months and drop considerably in the “slow season.” Then there are the employees who travel to other cities as part of their job – leaving or returning on the weekend. All these extra hours without extra time off as compensation. A true fail in the “work/life” balance that many companies strive to provide for their employees.
Companies have traditionally compensated employees with higher salaries, but the state of the market since 2008 has caused most companies to lower starting salaries or skip annual raises to help keep the company afloat…while still requiring the same (if not more) amount of hours to be put in by salaried employees. How do companies compensate salaried employees when additional monies aren’t an option? How about unlimited vacation time?
We expect salaried employees to balance their work loads without the restraints of punching a clock. While hourly employees are expected to put in their 40 hours a week, salaried employees actually have leeway and control over their schedules. If I can complete a job in 30 hours that week, then I have managed my time and completed my job…no expectation that I have to complete 40 hours – just that I complete my task. However, if it takes me 50 hours to complete my job that week, then the company views it as I am doing what I need to do to accomplish my job. There is no “take an extra day off” to compensate. The next week just starts all over again.
Unlimited vacation time seems to be a concept being explored by some companies as an option to the traditional compensation package and can be a benefit in the recruiting process. If you are hired as a salaried employee, then we expect you to work the number of hours needed to complete your task. That includes being able to take time off whenever you want without tracking how much time you take off. You manage your time. As long as your job is complete, you can leave early or take time off whenever you want.
So – positives and negatives…
Positives: Employees will enjoy this new “perk” – not being limited to a certain number of weeks off per year. The additional time off they will be able to now take will also aid in reducing work-related stress from constant long hours and boost employee morale as they will now see themselves being treated as a valuable asset by their employer and no longer being taken for granted. Employers will no longer have to have a discussion between HR and management as to which days count as a vacation day and which days are considered working “off-site” or available by phone/email.
Negatives: Without proper oversight by management, some employees may abuse this new option and take excessive amounts of days off – eventually leading to a decline in performance. There is also the perception this new perk will have on the hourly employees – who won’t see that these individuals are working more than the standard 40 hours for the same amount of pay. All they will see is these individuals getting more vacation time than them.
Unlimited vacation time may have been a perk reserved for only top executives, but I think we are going to see more and more companies exploring this idea as they look for creative ways to reward their employees and become more competitive as the market improves in the coming months.
Do I agree with it? Honestly, I’m still on the fence about it. I think companies will see a more positive attitude and improved performance come out of salaried employees as a result but I worry about the impact it will have on the day-to-day running of a company. Even if “they are still available by phone or email,” too much time away will reclassify a position to more of a “telecommuting” job and can negatively impact a company on many levels: availability to the customer, subordinate employees and even management.
This new employment market has already caused many companies to review their recruiting and employee benefits packages. As the market stabilizes and companies begin to hire more employees again, this will definitely be a benefit that can sway a candidate to join.
Question now is: As a company, do you set the new standard or follow the pack after the fact?
You conducted the phone interview.
You were equally impressed with them during an in-person interview.
Could they be the perfect candidate?
Aside from the typical background checks HR professional do these days: reference checks, Google searches, LinkedIn/Twitter/Facebook searches, criminal background checks…are there other signs that can point to a problematic employee before you spend all your time researching them?
Don’t loose sight of the importance of the traditional “Application for Employment.”
Candidates will typically stretch the truth on their resumes with the expectation that it will be the only document the potential employer will use in evaluating them. Remember: resumes are not always complete or clear. Last thing an employer wants to deal with is having to terminate an employee after-the-fact and risking a lawsuit.
So how can the Application for Employment serve as a measurement of an applicant’s candidacy?
1) Beware the applicant that doesn’t sign the employment application. Most companies use the same standard line on the application near the signature block – “all information is truthful and accurate to the best of my knowledge.” Not signing is less of an omission and more a sign that the candidate is purposefully not signing the application for fear that it would be used against them later when its discovered that the information they provided was false.
2) The applicant does not sign the consent for a background screening. Most online resume submissions are programmed to not allow a candidate to advance to the submission stage without agreeing to a background check, but if you are having them complete the application in person – pay attention to this box. Employers who do not enforce this, especially small businesses, run the risk of being labeled the “preferred employer” for those with past actions to hide because they know the employer doesn’t really perform this step.
3) An applicant fails to explain gaps in employment. In today’s market, many applicants are afraid or ashamed to report that they were laid off for fear that they will be judged by that. If this is the case, it can be gauged during an interview by simply asking the applicant about the gaps. However, another reason for tracking gaps in employment is for criminal background checks. Contrary to popular belief (or what you see on TV), there isn’t a national database for criminal records. These have to be run separately by state.
4) The applicant fails to give sufficient information on past employers for reference checks. While many applicants won’t keep track of phone numbers for HR to call, location and supervisor’s name is usually enough to track down a phone number or email address. Don’t bypass a past employer because you don’t have enough information to contact them. Many applicants will not give enough information because they don’t want you to contact their previous employer – which means there may be valuable insight you are missing. Beware especially when an applicant states they can’t remember their previous supervisor’s name. I can still remember my first manager’s name when I started working at 17 and I’m sure you can too! Past employment reference checks may only yield title and dates of employment, but the applicant doesn’t know that.
5) The applicant fails to give a reason for leaving a past job. That’s usually a red flag that they were terminated or asked to resign due to some performance issue. While this can be addressed during the interview, the omission should put you on alert to watch for how the applicant answers when asked in person. Do they fidget? Do they look like they are struggling to come up with an answer? Do they simply say “it was just time for me to move on?” All are reasons to be skeptical.
6) Simple as it sounds – lots of cross-outs and changes on the resume. That could be a sign that they are making things up as they go along and trying to cover up real reasons/information with what you will want to read.
While technology has greatly improved the recruiting process, making it easier for candidates to apply and recruiter s to screen, don’t loose sight of the “old school” tactics that can protect your company from future liability.
Some practices should never be replaced.
Talk to anyone who has lost a loved one and they will tell you the author of this definition has no idea what they are talking about. There is no timeframe on “getting over” the loss of a loved one, regardless of whether it was sudden or a terminal illness. In fact, from my personal experience, the actual death isn’t what is hardest to deal with – it is the whole first year as you and your family go through the “firsts”: first birthday, first holiday, first family gathering without them.
And if you are the family member tasked with handling the “business” associated with the death (paperwork, life insurance, funeral arrangements, financial issues, selling the house, etc.), you don’t have the time to start grieving when your loved one has passed – you have too many details to attend to. For you, that probably doesn’t start until at least 3 months later when the tasks have been handled and your own shock over their death has finally settled in.
While grief itself isn’t a stage, there are five steps in the process according to WebMD which show that your employee will need time to recover from their loss:
Is bereavement leave a required of private-sector employers?
In the past, the answer would have been a quick “no.” Bereavement Leave is not a requirement and not mandated by Federal law so employers don’t “have” to do it. However, in 2014, Oregon became the first state to amend its state Family Leave Act to require that Oregon employers with more than 25 employees provide bereavement leave and allowing qualified employees to take up to 2 weeks leave.
There was a bill was introduced to Congress in 2013 – called the Parental Bereavement Act – which would have amended the Family Medical Leave Act to include up to 12 weeks time off, however it never made it out of committee.
Check you Employee Handbook to see if your company has a policy addressing bereavement leave or not. Many employees just assume their company will because it is so commonplace. While many larger corporations will have some sort of formalized policy, smaller businesses may not.
In most workplaces, Bereavement Leave typically allows a full-time employee to receive paid leave (normally up to only 3 days) due to of the death of a close relative – usually immediate family. In some cases, the leave will include close friends and associates as well.
Here’s a sample “policy” most employers have in their handbooks from SHRM.org:
Paid bereavement leave will be granted according to the following schedule:
Does an employer’s “bereavement policy” only have to cover paid days off?
No – there are other ways that an employer can help or accommodate an employee who has lost a loved one and is either still grieving or still dealing with the stress of the paperwork involved.
If your workplace doesn’t have a bereavement policy, well….why not?
A Bereavement Policy is one of those benefits that your employees don’t look for until it comes a time when they need it. By putting together a formal policy, it helps give individual managers some guidelines to use when one of their employees is faced with this situation and helps ensure that all your employees will be treated the same. Will there be some special exceptions made from time to time? Probably, but having a policy (a.k.a “game plan”) will help minimize those situations when they arise.