The Top 3 Benefits Trends You Need to Know

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Three types of benefits have seen the most significant changes in 2012 trends, based on our research nationally, locally, and among employers of choice. Find out what they are and how these trends impact your organization as it plans and budgets for 2013.

Health Insurance & Wellness

Survey data released by Towers Watson and Aon Hewitt show that the widespread majority of employers plan to offer health care benefits to their employees in the future. Most employers, according to their surveys, do not foresee eliminating health plans, even in light of health care reform.
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Using ERC to Hire for a New Position

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Hiring a new employee can be challenging and time-consuming. ERC members have access to resources at every step to make the process efficient and effective:

  1. Writing the Job Description
  2. Determining the Right Compensation
  3. Posting the Job
  4. The Hiring Process
  5. The On-Boarding Process

Writing the Job Description

When creating a job description for a new job, using secondary sources of job information can help you better understand a position and the typical duties a person would perform in that role. ERC members have free access to Bloomberg BNA's Custom Job Description tool, which allows you to search a huge database of job titles and customize a description that fits your job.
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$30 Million in Training Dollars to be Made Available

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The new Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher program is scheduled to be announced in the next 30 days. It is expected that $30 million in training dollars will be dispersed between now and the end of June, 2013. It is also expected that the grant will deplete very quickly - grants are awarded on a first come, first serve basis.

ERC's Pete Bednar recently met with the Ohio Department of Development to learn more about the program. In order to secure the funding, an application must be filled out and include course title, the training date(s), and training provider.

If you would like more information or need assistance with your application process, please contact Pete Bednar at 440-947-1293 or pbednar@yourerc.com.

Training is Key for Hourly Maintenance Workers

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According to the 2012 ERC Wage Survey, with the exception of entry level workers, wages for Machine Maintenance Mechanics in Northeast Ohio fall largely in line with the national dollar figures reported by the 2012-2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook. The national median wage for this job category averaged $21.23 per hour.
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Employers Attempt to Identify Retention Challenges

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When asked “What is the biggest challenge your company faces today?” the most common response by participants in the 2012 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey was, “hiring & retaining employees.” To address the first half of this challenge, employers report using recruiting and hiring practices at rates that are fairly consistent with past years. Most organizations check an applicant’s references (90%) and more than half (57%) use some type of psychological testing as part of their selection process. Unsurprisingly, there was a noticeable uptick in the use of technology as a recruiting tool overall, with more employers routinely using tools such as internet job boards (85%) and social networking (52%) to match the right candidate with their organization’s needs.

Determining how these same employers are then “retaining employees” requires a slightly more complex explanation. From compensation and benefits, to employee engagement and communication, to work-life balance and rewards/recognition, each element of an employee’s overall experience at work plays some role in their decision to stay-on with their current employer. One specific factor that contributes to employee retention that is addressed in the 2012 Smart Business Survey is “Training & Development.” 
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3 Keys to Good Customer Service

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3 Keys to Good Customer Service

Good customer service is the heart of every business. It flows from employees who engage internal and external customers, meet their needs, and exceed their expectations. Good customer service creates a "wow" experience for your customers, leaves a positive impression, encourages repeat business, and ideally refers other customers to your organization. So how do you get your employees on-board? Here are 3 critical elements of good customer service.

1. Good customer service starts with the right attitude and mindset.

Customer service starts with having the right underlying attitudes and motivations. This means not only hiring people with the right customer service mentality and who want to help and satisfy their customers, but also encouraging the right focus and attitudes by talking positively about customers in the organization, repeatedly communicating the importance of customer service to your business' success, training employees on the customer service practices your organization has decided to emphasize, and recognizing employees who serve the customer extraordinarily well.

Key employee attitudes that drive good customer service include viewing customers positively, understanding that customer service is important to the organization's success, feeling motivated and accountable for providing good customer service, having the information and tools needed to provide good customer service, viewing leaders as enthusiastic and supportive of good customer service, and believing that they can take initiative to do what is best for the customer.

2. Good customer service requires effective communication.

Exceptional customer service requires mastering communication with internal customers (other employees) and external customers (those outside of your organization) as well as with difficult customers. Without both quality communication through a variety of channels such as face-to-face, over the phone, or via email, as well as effective communication in a diverse range of situations both internal, within the organization, and external, outside the organization with a diverse group of customers, service can suffer.

Customer service issues almost always arise from a failure to communicate properly.

For example, customers may not know what to expect or may not be accurately informed of changes and schedules. Customers also could perceive a lack of responsiveness or courtesy. A customer's tone may unleash an emotional reaction from your representative. The underlying problem in all of these issues (and most customer service dilemmas) is a failure to communicate well.

Effective communication with customers involves listening and understanding your customer's viewpoint or problem, handling emotions, organizing and preparing one's thoughts, speaking clearly and succinctly, responding to or following up on questions directly and in a timely manner, watching non-verbal cues like tone and body language, problem solving, and closing conversations or interactions to keep the door open for an ongoing positive relationship with the customer.

Communication is as much an art as a science and takes practice. Building self-awareness of communication strengths and weaknesses and teaching skills through training, role-playing, scripts, and conversation coaching are just a few methods to use to drive better customer service. But beware: not all customer service training and skill-building is created equal. Traditional lectures or "guides" simply won't cut it. Employees must practice, engage in the changed behaviors, and obtain feedback as they are doing so by a trained professional.

3. Good customer service is practiced on your internal customers.

Practice good service with your internal customers. Employees generally don't provide good customer service to their customers if they aren't serving one another in a consistent, reliable, friendly, and timely manner.

Good customer service is the result of positive, supportive interactions between staff members who are interdependent on one another for information, especially when multiple people and departments are involved in the process of delivering a product or service to the customer.

Organizations that provide good internal customer service:

  • Have collaborative cultures that recognize and reward teamwork
  • Freely and efficiently share information with one another; create processes that enable free-flow of information
  • Respect each others' time; respond and resolve internal inquiries in a timely manner
  • Listen and try to understand the concerns and demands of one another
  • Have clear communication channels for communicating product and business process information
  • Speak to one another courteously and respectfully

If you expect and want good customer service from your employees, the best way to achieve it is by modeling the attitudes, behaviors, and communication practices you seek inside your organization and creating a workplace that lives, breathes, and teaches what it means to put the customer first.

Customer Service Skills Training

Customer Service Skills Training

This training helps you build better relationships with your customers.

Train Your Employees

3 Reasons You Need to be on LinkedIn

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We've all been there. You're at a meeting or a networking event and you meet another professional. Within the next couple days you search for that person through Google or directly through LinkedIn to learn more about them and possibly even connect. And odds are if you don't do that, the other person does.

Social networks have become engrained in the fabric of contemporary networking, and LinkedIn is the network of choice for the business crowd. Having a LinkedIn profile is a necessity for every working professional. Here's why:

1. Control of Your "Personal Brand"

Businesspeople are expected to be on LinkedIn, and a lack of a profile can be an indication of an out-of-date or inaccessible professional. Your profile acts an extension of your business card, showcasing who you are, where you work and what your expertise is.

Quick tip: Don't use Facebook for business networking.*
*unless you feel 100% comfortable with your peers seeing that picture of you from the Bahamas two years ago

Here are three things you can do right away to make sure you're controlling your personal brand on LinkedIn:

  • Get a profile - This is a no-brainer. If you're not on LinkedIn, plan to set up a profile. LinkedIn offers several great tutorials on how to do this.
  • The basics - If you do nothing else, add your contact information and your current employer. This will drastically increase the ability for other people to find you on LinkedIn.
  • Keep adding - Once you've completed the basics:
    • add former employers (to connect with past colleagues)
    • add education (to connect with former classmates)
    • add a summary of your job and expertise (so people can learn more about you).

2. Organize Relationships

Increasing the size of your professional network, whether offline or online, should be an important component of any business professional's career. Having an extensive network comes in handy not only in career transition and advancement, but can be a great resource for sharing ideas and seeking support for issues related to your specific job function.

  • Staying in touch - Remember that person you met at the networking event mentioned above? Build that relationship by connecting with them on LinkedIn.
  • Staying current - LinkedIn provides you with constant updates about people you're connected to, including job transitions, promotions, shared content and more.
  • Staying in the loop - LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to pose questions to your network and receive nearly instant feedback, making it a powerful tool for getting answers to your job-specific questions.

3. Finding Information & Answers

While LinkedIn is primarily a networking tool, it's become a great research tool for crowdsourcing ideas and information among similar groups of people. Here's how:

  • Your own audience - LinkedIn gives you the ability to ask your own audience a question and receive answers quickly, either through your status message or through a group discussion board.
  • The power of the Group - If you're not using Groups in LinkedIn, you're missing out on an opportunity to listen in on many of the discussions that your peers are having right now. Join a group or two to start, and simply read some of the discussion topics. You're bound to gain something insightful within the first week.

Checklist to Select Employees for Promotions & Leadership Training

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leadership training select employees

Whether you are determining who to promote at the end of the year or creating a leadership development/training program or strategy, the most critical task is selecting the right employees. Your organization wants to be sure that it trains, develops, and promotes employees that are the most likely to succeed in leadership roles. We’ve developed a short checklist you can use to select employees for promotions or participation in a leadership development program.

1. Are they a top performer?

Participants in your leadership development program should be your top performers. If employees can’t perform well in their current role, they likely won’t perform well at the next level. That being said, know the attributes and characteristics of your top performers throughout the organization and at every level.

Understanding what defines a top performer at the entry, mid, manager, and leadership levels will help make selecting the right employees that much easier.

Keep in mind, however, that just because the individual may be a top performer, doesn’t automatically mean they have potential for a leadership position.

2. Do they have potential…and for what?

Next you should ask yourself if this employee has potential for a position besides their current role and for what specifically. There are several different types of potential and classifying employees into different levels of potential helps determine the level of potential the employee has – such as the ability to move laterally, one level up, or multiple levels up.

It also helps prioritize who your organization should develop, into what roles, and the promotions for which they should be considered. Consider these levels as an example:

  • No potential: The employee performs well in their current role, but does not have potential to move laterally or upward.
  • Lateral potential: The employee is able to move into other positions at same level.
  • Potential: The employee could be promoted within 2-3 years to the next level, such as a manager or supervisor.
  • High potential: The employee could be promoted within less than 1 year or make multiple moves upward in the next 5 years. The employee has the level of potential to be promoted at least two levels beyond their current level to a leadership or top management role.

3. Do they have the requisite knowledge and ability?

In order to create a leadership development program, you need to determine what employees already know. Make a list of the required knowledge and abilities. Evaluate employees’ education level, training history, experience, and job knowledge as well as the knowledge requirements of the role for which they are being considered.

Compare the abilities they have already demonstrated on the job and the abilities they need to perform in a different or higher role in the organization.

If employees have too many knowledge and ability gaps, they may not be the right candidates for leadership development unless they have tremendous learning agility.

4. Do they have the desire and ability to learn?

Ideal candidates for leadership development show an openness to learn and change their behavior over time. They also are able to receive constructive feedback and coaching and use it to grow their skills.

They seek opportunities to develop their knowledge and abilities, often without being encouraged or told to do so and use challenges and setbacks as learning tools.

Finally, they have the capacity to learn concepts quickly, fit those concepts together, and apply them to their work.

5. Are their motives and interests aligned?

Not all employees want higher positions. Some of your top performers may have already reached their potential and are satisfied with their current positions and achievements. Likewise, some employees may want to advance their career for the wrong reasons.

Those that desire merely status, authority, and more compensation generally don’t have the right motives for leadership, whereas those that seek to develop others and serve the mission of the organization may be better candidates. Be mindful of both employees’ motives and interests when selecting them for leadership development.

6. Are they well-respected by others and considered team-players?

Consider how respected and liked the employees are within the organization by their coworkers, supervisor, and other individuals.

Employees need not be everyone’s best-friend, but they must be individuals that can develop positive relationships with other employees and are team-players that others respect and trust. If they aren’t, they may have difficulties in a future leadership role when relationship building and maintenance is crucial to their success.

7. Do they have courage?

Lastly, the best employees for promotions and leadership development have courage – to take risks, think outside the box, overcome obstacles, and challenge their fellow employees to push and develop themselves. These employees have a “do whatever it takes” mindset and are committed to taking the organization to new levels.

By not spending adequate time evaluating your candidates for promotions or leadership development initiatives at least by these basic criteria, you may be wasting resources on the wrong people. Before your organization decides to send your employee to leadership development or promote them to a new role, be sure to use this checklist.

Leadership Development Training Programs

Leadership Development Training

ERC offers a variety of leadership development training programs at all levels of the organization, from senior leadership teams to mid-level managers to first time managers and supervisors.

Train Your Employees

More Employers Invest in Training, Survey Says

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According to the results of the 2011 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, the percentage of organizations providing employees with financial assistance for employees to upgrade their skills increased from 2008. In 2011, 91% of organizations report providing such assistance – the highest it has been since 2007. 2010 showed that the percentage of employers paying for training and development decreased, but now appears to be rising again.

While employers continue to use classroom training, tuition assistance, and other traditional avenues to develop their employees’ skills, they are increasingly leveraging web-based methods and e-learning for training. Specifically, 71% of respondents indicated that they used web-based training for employee development, a significant increase of 39% from 2007 and 43% since 2004.

“This survey shows that a growing number of organizations recognize the value of providing financial assistance for employees to upgrade their skills. Employee training programs are a vital part of developing and retaining top talent at all levels of an organization,” says Kelly Keefe, Vice President, Training, and Consulting & Coaching Services at ERC.

For more information about ERC’s training offerings, please click here. To download the free results of this survey, please click here.

Employers Develop Younger Workers

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Cleveland– According to the 2011 ERC/NOCHE Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey, most Northeast Ohio employers invest resources in training, development, and performance management activities for younger workers, particularly new graduates.

The survey shows that over 70% of employers provide new graduates with an orientation during their first week (72%), conduct performance evaluations (71%), and provide regular feedback and coaching (71%). Additionally, more than half of employers provide formal training (56%) and access to a mentor (52%). Fewer (20%) offer management in training programs for new graduates, however.  All of these developmental activities were more commonly offered by non-manufacturers than manufacturers. Similarly, larger organizations tended to be most likely to provide these, although they were still commonly used by small and mid-sized organizations.

Specific training and development opportunities provided to their new graduates as cited by respondents included: on-the-job training, corporate culture training, product/industry/market training, mentoring, shadowing, and targeted leadership development programs.

The results of the survey show that organizations are making investments in training and development for their younger professionals and emerging leaders. These organizations understand the benefits of on-boarding and developing younger employees early in their careers for their businesses and in developing a pipeline of talent.

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