Healthy Living Ideas: Stress

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Stress. The word is used so much these days. Is it real? Can it hurt you? What is it? What can be done about it?

Stress can cause us significant problems. Stress releases powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action (to fight or flee). If we don’t take action, the stress response can lead to health problems.

One way stress is thought to affect the body is by causing digestive dysfunction which can affect Vitamin B production and absorption. Since B Vitamins are required to produce dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, and other brain chemicals, it is important to take a good multi-vitamin, an EFA supplement, and possibly a mineral as well.

Oddly, stress seems too often be caused by a lack of epinephrine, also called adrenaline. This is a hormone released by the body into the bloodstream in response to physical or mental stress. Some of the best stress supplements include tyrosine and GABA, necessary for the adequate production of epinephrine.

Minerals are known as calming supplements -- particularly calcium and magnesium. When selecting a multi-vitamin, it is important to choose one containing a good amount of minerals, or ensure that minerals are taken in another supplement. Many find that taking their calcium before bed relaxes them and it has been said that it is better absorbed during sleep.

Exercise stimulates production of another class of hormones which fights stress called endorphins. These are morphine-like chemicals which block pain and improve mood. It is important to exercise 3-4 times per week to produce adequate amounts.

Studies suggest the best-known single herb to combat both mental and physical stress is Ginseng Root. It has been shown to improve mental activity and it helps the body adjust to stress, as well as providing numerous other benefits (including improving immune system function). Other herbs helpful in combating

Adequate nutrition is very important when the body is under stress. A good way to combat stress is by taking a daily multi-vitamin. Also effective are herbal and mineral supplements and Omega 3/EFA’s. But it is as equally important that your customers understand the importance of following a smart diet plan and eating well (eating correctly portioned proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy oils). Exercise 3-4 times a week is another factor that will combat stress as exercising stimulates the production of endorphins. It is important to avoid hydrogenated oils (in margarine and many processed foods) and Trans fats (fried foods). Following this type of diet and avoiding too many starches and sugars provides excellent mental focus and balance.

4 Ways to Develop and Retain Leaders

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4 Ways to Develop and Retain Leaders

Do you have some people in your organization who you might label as “high potential” or perhaps an “emerging leader”? If so, what are you doing to develop and retain those employees? If the answer is “nothing” or you’re not sure what you can or should do, here are a few ideas to consider.

Assess Your Talent.

So your gut tells you that the new college grad that’s been interning for the last year who just accepted your offer to come on full time could be on the fast track to a very successful career. Before you sign her up for every leadership course in town or name her the successor to your CEO, you may want to consider assessing her leadership skills or at least getting some kind of a baseline in terms of her personality, skills, and abilities that you can compare against some benchmarks to see if your gut matches up with actual data. This can help you help your emerging leader understand what her strengths and weaknesses are, how she “ranks” compared to other leaders in your organization or based on whatever benchmarks you use, and can help set a nice baseline on which you can build an individual development plan to help her move forward on that fast track to success.

Assign a Mentor.

The benefits of mentorship programs are well documented, and the benefits to an individual you have labeled as a high potential leader are equally as, if not more, attractive. It’s not only a great way to enhance the development of an employee and more quickly get him familiar with how the organization works and how to make things happen, it can also be a wonderful retention tool.

Invest in Your Talent.

Just because you put seeds in the ground doesn’t mean your garden will grow. It takes a lot of time, care, and feeding to make sure the roots take hold and the flowers blossom. The same is true for your emerging leaders. Just because you’ve identified them as having a lot of potential for growth doesn’t mean they’re going to get there on their own. It takes an ongoing investment of time, training, and resources to make sure their roots take hold in your organization and their leadership skills blossom in the future.

Let Them Know.

Maybe. Depending on the culture of your organization and the maturity of those you’ve identified as high potentials, you may want to consider letting them know you think they have potential. On one hand it can be a great confidence booster and great way to increase the chances you’ll retain that person. On the other hand, if he or she already possesses a great deal of confidence (and doesn’t hesitate to let everyone else know about it) then you may want to take a different approach.


The bottom line is that when you have identified talent that you believe will help your organization long term, it makes a lot of sense to invest some time and thought into how you can increase the probability that talent develops in a positive way and that person stays with your organization for the long term.

Emerging Leader Training Series

Emerging Leader Training Series

Have the emerging leaders within your organization been identified? Do they have the skills and knowledge needed to best represent your organization? In this 3-part series, participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization.

Learn More about Emerging Leader Training

Why Y? Working with Gen Y and Surviving

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As generational research steams ahead and more and more gigabytes are collected, we are fast looking for answers to an age-old question.  “Why are these young people so weird?” Wait! Did I say that?  Yes, but just so you know, there are young people among us that have tattoos, pierced lips and tongues that are bright, multi-talented —and they don’t wear button down shirts!

Working productively with the Millennial’s, the Nintendo Generation, the Echo Boomers or whichever label we put on these 12-25 year olds is critically important today, since there are 60 million in the United States that are entering the job market. Let me give those of you that struggle some ideas, three to be exact, to working in harmony with the young men and women with iPods in their ears and cell phones strapped to their back-packs.

Tip Number One.  Keep them engaged and challenged.  This generation has been multi-tasking since they were born; talking on a cell phone while playing Nintendo is common for these bright young people. Their parents have involved them in soccer, gymnastics and playgroups, and by doing so have built a generation that is comfortable doing something different all of the time. Having meaningful work was less important to their Grandparents because they were happy to be working. The expectations of the Gen-Y'ers are much different.  They’ve been busy most of their lives doing many different activities and flourish in that environment. Give them something important to do and get out of the way, they will astound you!

Tip Number Two.  Keep your technology current.  Any investment in your technology is perceived as an investment in them. For the older generation, growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, the first color television was a big deal. Today the Y Generation sees a better picture on their iPod. They can download a half hour sitcom for a couple of bucks and watch it at their leisure. The Gen-Y’er expectation is clearly, “How can I do my job with the equipment we have here?” Their Baby Boomer manager doesn’t get it.  “Hey, we only had three channels on our television,” is not an acceptable response.

Tip Number Three.  Don’t expect respect simply because you are more senior. Not that these super-high achievers are disrespectful. They are not! Authority just doesn’t intimidate them. That’s a good thing! Some executives over the last 20 years have asked for honest feedback (not that they’ve always done anything with it) from their staff and associates. These young professionals will certainly give us feedback. We need to be careful how we respond to it. A much more open and accepting leadership style is critical. These young people respect success and want to be part of it. They don’t really get excited about more conventional forms of recognition such as preferential parking. What gets them fired up is working on something meaningful and being part of a winning effort.

Things change, and as quickly as we adapt to one, the next is upon us. Each generation has lamented about the next and worried that they won’t be able to take the hand-off.  We are optimists and tend to see the glass half-full. This is generation could be the greatest of all time.

One more thing, just when you get this group figured out, then comes Generation Z!  Egad!

Few Local Employers Have Succession Plans

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Only 15% of Northeast Ohio employers have a formal succession plan in place for supervisors, managers, and professional-level staff, according to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey. The survey reports policy, benefit, and practices information from 173 Northeast Ohio employers.

This figure is down from 20% in 2007. The drop may be related to several factors.

“Many employers were likely not focused on strategic workforce planning initiatives such as succession planning during the recession,” says an ERC Survey Manager, “Some were focused on just staying in business and keeping as many people employed as possible.”

Stock market conditions may have indirectly impacted the drop in succession plans as well, they add. “After seeing their retirement savings shrink, many employees decided to postpone retirements and other career movements. The sense of urgency to find replacements for these employees may have dropped, giving employers less reason to put a priority on initiatives like developing successors.”

To access more ERC Surveys, click here.

Additional Resources

ERC can support your succession planning initiative by helping with the design and execution of your plan or simply providing expert guidance and best practices on an as needed basis. Contact ERC at 440/947-1283 or consulting@yourerc.com for more info.

How to Get Sued (In 3 Easy Steps)

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The stock market and economic indicators such as the unemployment rate, hiring projects, and consumer confidence have shown some consistent modest improvements over the years, causing many employers to consider doing something they haven’t done en masse in years: hire more people. Keeping in mind that your organization and the managers and other staff members responsible for hiring those people may be a little rusty in this area, we present you with an easy three-step guide to how you can significantly increase the likelihood your business gets sued.

Please note that ERC actually strongly encourages you to do the exact OPPOSITE of the steps outlined below.

1. Ask inappropriate and illegal questions during interviews.

Follow the lead of fellow employers highlighted in case studies and articles like this article published in Fortune Magazine, and make sure those involved in the interview process have absolutely no idea what kind of questions they can and should ask job candidates. Ensure the questions are vague and have little (if any) connection to providing you relevant information to help you determine if the person is the right fit for the job. Also, encourage your staff to ask lots of questions about the personal background of candidates including their age, number of kids, religious beliefs, national origin, genetic history, disability status, and race. Actually, don’t encourage your staff to do anything at all. Better to leave them to their own devices and let them figure this stuff out themselves.

2. Conduct your own Internet background check.

Make sure that every candidate undergoes a thorough background check during which all those involved in the hiring process “Google” the person’s name and search the Internet for any blog postings, images, tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook wall posts, LinkedIn groups, or affiliations that would render that candidate as being a “less than ideal” fit for the culture of your organization. While you’re at it, make sure that everyone on your hiring team views at least one picture of each candidate that can clearly identify him or her as a part of a protected class, and just to have all your bases covered, be sure to read some kind of profile that provides personal information about each candidate such as age, race, and marital status. Finally, base your hiring decision solely on the information you find during this background check.

3. Rely on your gut. Always.

Spend as little time as possible collecting and analyzing empirical data about job candidates that can aide you in selecting the best person for the job. Never use tools like behavioral interviewing techniques or assessments that measure personality, cognitive abilities, or skills. Base all your decisions on hunches: the look in a candidate’s eyes…the color suit he or she did or didn’t wear…the way in which he or she grabbed his or her water glass and placed it back on the coaster on the table. These are the tried-and-true, time-tested, fail-safe techniques that you and all your staff involved in the hiring process should rely on explicitly.

If you’re venturing into the unfamiliar world of recruiting and hiring for the first time in a long time, and you’re committed to doing everything you can to land your employer in court, just follow the three easy steps outlined above and we can almost guarantee that you’ll increase the risk of litigation for your organization exponentially.

However, if you’re not so crazy about the idea of getting sued by job candidates, PLEASE do the exact opposite.

Additional Resources

Interviewing Skills for Managers & Supervisors
This interactive program will review the employment process, including: legal issues facing interviewers; effective questions that provide the interviewer with information relevant to the position; and strategies to effectively plan, conduct, evaluate and follow up on an interview. For more information about this workshop click here.

Over a Third of Local Employers Allow Social Media Use at Work

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According to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, more than a third of local employers allow at least some groups of employees to access social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn during regular work hours.

These results may suggest that many employers still don’t have their arms around the impact of social media in the workplace. With the potential risks of liability and the negative impact these sites can have on workplace productivity, it may surprise some to see that so many employers allow employees to access these sites during the workday.

However, the question did not refer specifically to employees accessing the sites on an employer’s network, meaning that employees may be able to access the sites via their own personal mobile phones and devices as well, which could explain why the percentages could appear higher than some might expect.

Additional Resources

Visit our ERC Survey Page to access more information on our conducted surveys.

10 Ways to Manage Pay & Performance

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10 Ways to Manage Pay & Performance

Most employees want the opportunity to earn more pay based on performance, but such initiatives can be difficult for employers to create and administer. Here are 10 things to consider when managing pay and performance.

1. Does your culture align with a pay for performance program?

To be effective, your organization’s culture should align with a pay for performance program. This means that your organization should be committed to rewarding, recognizing, and promoting top performance, and employees should be aware of this commitment. It’s also important that your culture conveys an atmosphere of fairness and objectivity. Otherwise, pay for performance programs will fall prey to perceptions of subjectivity and bias, limiting their effectiveness.

2. What are the goals of the pay for performance program?

A pay for performance program can have many types of goals such as to improve productivity; increase customer satisfaction; enhance product quality; generate more innovation; boost revenues and profits; or reward top performers. Most goals for a pay for performance program focus on improving individual, team, and/or organizational performance. Be sure that the goals of this program are relevant to the business’s goals and needs.

3. What types of performance criteria will be rewarded?

The goals you define for the pay for performance program help determine what types of performance criteria will be rewarded. For example, if your goal is to increase customer satisfaction, the performance criteria may be customer satisfaction scores, number of customer complaints, or general customer feedback. If your goal is to improve productivity, the performance criteria might be quantity of products created, number of processes streamlined, or behaviors that enhance efficiencies. You may also consider making the performance criteria number of goals achieved or the impact of goals reached.

4. How will performance criteria be measured?

Often employers rely solely on performance reviews to measure criteria for a pay for performance program (i.e. a rating of “5” gets the highest incentive). While performance reviews can be a helpful measure, more objective measures of performance that aren’t as susceptible to rating error, supervisory perceptions and biases, or an ineffective form, should also be considered and used to measure performance criteria. Examples of such measures include goal setting, observable behaviors, and actual results (financial, quantity, or quality measurements).

5. Who will measure the performance and make pay decisions?

Sometimes performance can be measured without an individual, but other times, especially in the case of goal setting, observation, and performance reviews, an individual will need to measure performance , typically a supervisor, manager, or leader. Because these measurements are subject to human error, it’s critical that individuals are trained appropriately. Additionally, your organization will need to determine who will make pay decisions. Will you leave this discretion to your managers, providing them a fund to distribute these rewards?  Will HR or senior leaders be involved in the process, and to what degree? Most organizations involve all three groups at some level.

6. What type of pay for performance will you offer for meeting this performance criteria?

Not surprisingly, the most common types of pay for performance are merit pay, individual incentives, and bonuses. These programs tend to be easiest to administer and focus on individual performance. Increasingly, however, we are seeing some employers offer profit sharing, gain sharing, and employee stock ownership programs. While more complicated to administer, these programs have tremendous value, providing greater transparency and line of sight into organizational performance, reinforcing teamwork and collaboration, and offering employees a greater stake in the organization – giving them a true sense of autonomy and ownership. We find that organizations are offering multiple types of pay for performance for different segments of their workforce. This is ideal when different behaviors or results are desired that don’t necessarily fit one reward approach.

7. How much pay will be based on performance?

The trick to determining how much pay will be based on performance is determining what percent or portion of pay will have an impact on employee motivation or specific results you are seeking. Generally, studies find that when only 2-3% of pay is tied to performance, this is not enough to motivate desired behaviors or results. We have seen organizations reserve 2-4% for salary increases (i.e. cost of living, across-the-board, or merit) and 5-15% for incentive/bonus payout (with 15% typically targeted for executives). For example, NorthCoast 99 winners, provide an average of 10.3% incentive/bonus payout to top performers, 5.6% to average performers, and 7.3% overall.

8. What is the timing of payout for the rewards?

Most employers pay out rewards annually, but depending on the type of program a monthly, quarterly, or biannual payout may be more beneficial. Annual payouts may help your organization better manage costs and ensure that you have the funds to pay incentives to employees; however, there are advantages to paying out more frequently. When rewards are distributed closer to the time they were achieved, employees are more likely to view them as objective and relevant to their performance. In addition, paying out more often reinforces an on-going performance culture in which performance matters all year – not just at year-end – and makes supervisors manage performance on an on-going basis.

9. How will the program be funded and what are you willing to pay (the budget)?

Most pay for performance programs are funded using organizational profits or revenues. In this way, organizations frequently make pay for performance dependent on at least two factors: individual or team performance and organizational performance. Each year, you may budget for a percentage of revenues or profits that will be used to pay for performance. Organizational performance would dictate whether payout can occur.

10. How will the program reinforce other HR programs?

Pay for performance, at its best, reinforces and complements other HR programs and total rewards initiatives. What you reward in a pay for performance program should be similar to what you reward in a recognition program and how you promote people. Be sure to send your employees consistent messages about the results and behaviors you’re looking for, otherwise, your message will be lost.

Variable Pay Plans and Incentive Programs

Variable Pay Plans and Incentive Programs

Variable pay plans can be used as a motivation and retention tool for top performing employees.

Learn More to Get Started

Local Trends in Compensation Policies & Strategies

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According to a research study conducted by ERC, the majority of employers (58%) have no written compensation policy. Twenty-percent of respondents indicate having a compensation policy that is confidential, and 21% have a written or published policy that is made available or distributed to employees.

Despite not having a compensation policy, 62% of employers report having a strategy to stay even with the area labor market and 49% have a strategy to stay even with industry competitors.

ERC's HR Help Desk notes that “the foundation of an effective compensation system is a philosophy, policy, and strategy for how your organization will pay employees relative to the market – whether that is above, at, or below market rates. This helps HR make decisions about pay and guides an organization’s compensation practices."

Additional Resources

6 New Ways to Contribute to Your Company

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Strategic thinking means focusing on the desired plans and results of your organization and integrating this focus into the overall goals of your job and team. Increasingly, this type of thinking is necessary at all levels of the organization – not just at the top – and can greatly enhance your career. Here are some easy ways that any employee can become more strategic in their role.

1. Gain a broad understanding of your business.

Obtaining a broader understanding of all of the major business areas of your organization and how they operate helps you understand the needs and demands of other departments. There are several ways you can accomplish this. You may seek out opportunities for cross-training, lateral career development, or job rotation; shadow a strategic thinker or seek one out as a mentor or coach; and develop relationships and connections across business units, divisions, and departments. With more knowledge of other departments, you increase your ability to make good decisions, solve problems more effectively, and become a more valued contributor.

2. Recognize the priorities of your business.

Strive to understand the short and long-term strategy of the business as well as its vision for the future. Where is it headed now and in the future? What is it trying to accomplish? What is the big picture? Continue to ask questions about the direction of the organization, even when leaders to not explicitly communicate it. You may consider keeping a list of these priorities handy so that you are constantly reminded of the organization’s objectives.

3. Link your activities and goals to the business objectives.

Your business’s priorities should guide the goals you set and your day-to-day activities and tasks. When creating your own goals (or department’s), choose objectives that align with your organization’s objectives and priorities. This means that they should link to the bigger picture. For example, if your organization is focused on improving revenue or improving efficiency, your goals should line up with this objective. Oftentimes, we may create our own personal and professional goals in a vacuum, not considering the implications or priorities of the business. This hurts the business and ourselves, limiting our strategic potential and derailing us from the organization’s direction.

4. Expose yourself to different business challenges and demands.

Exercise your mind and career. By working on challenging business projects outside of your area of expertise, you become exposed to new problems, people, and experiences – all of which can help deepen your strategic thinking skills. Additionally, find ways to work on cross-functional teams and initiatives that expose you to different perspectives on business problems. Also, it’s important to find ways to reduce tactical components of your job so that you have more time for planning and strategic activities that will enrich your career. Become comfortable with new technology, processes, and efficiencies. Finally, volunteer experience within committees, boards, and leadership roles can all help strengthen your strategic mindset.

5. Focus on strategic tasks.

The main difference between strategic and non-strategic tasks and activities are the reasons for doing the tasks and the outcomes. For example, non-strategic actions are not driven by an identified and measurable business need, while strategic actions are. With strategic tasks, some data, observation, or information suggests a business need to take a certain action. In addition, strategic actions tend to be driven by or result in a measurable business outcome – such as better performance, improved retention, enhanced productivity, and achievement of an organizational objective. Non-strategic tasks do not have as much value to the business and are generally more reactive than proactive. Examples of such tasks are below:

6. Anticipate problems, trends, and needs.

A final tip for enhancing your strategic thinking skills is to improve your anticipation of changes, potential problems, and trends in the market, economy, and the needs of your customers. For example, if you are a manager, you may anticipate changes in staff, workload, and performance requirements. If you are an HR professional, you may anticipate new benefit, compensation, or other rewards trends; the need to hire additional staff or obtain needed skills through training and development initiatives; or plan leadership development initiative to support succession in the organization.

Strategic thinkers are needed at all levels of the organization – not just the top level - including HR, managers, and professionals. By improving your skills you can be more valued and achieve greater accomplishments within your organization.

For help with strategic HR initiatives such as performance management, workforce planning, succession planning, or employee engagement, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

Preliminary Findings: Intern & Recent Grad Survey

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The preliminary findings of the 2011 ERC/NOCHE Intern/Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey show several trends in intern and recent grad employment and compensation practices.

  • Over 70% of employers plan to increase or maintain the number of interns they employ, consistent with trends seen over the past three years.
  • 68% of employers are in the process of hiring or have plans to hire new college graduates this year.
  • Organizations are increasingly using interns and new graduates to develop their talent pipeline rather than using them for simply workforce support and special projects.
  • Nearly three-quarters of employers say that they offer at least some of their interns employment after the internship.
  • Work experience is becoming an even more crucial criterion for employers when hiring interns, rising in importance from years past.

View the Intern & Recent Graduate Pay Rates & Practices Survey

This survey reports data from Northeast Ohio employers about their internship and recent graduate employment and pay practices.

View the Results