Win Trust & Influence: 6 Tips for Improving Employee Relations

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In HR, how you approach everyday employee relations can make a difference in whether or not your employees and managers view you as a trusted advisor. Here are ways that you can improve your relationships with managers and employees at your organization to win their trust, respect, and confidence.

Interact and communicate with employees on a daily basis

Make regular interaction a priority and it will help you do your job better. Walk the plant floor or the office. You’ll get to know employees personally, understand their concerns, and better identify work problems that you can fix. Meet with employees regularly, either one-on-one or in small groups. The best HR professionals have won the respect and trust of their employees by taking an interest in their day-to-day lives and creating an open dialogue.

Maintain their trust and confidentiality

Be a trusted resource that employees can turn to discuss problems, conflicts, or other issues. Handle employees’ concerns with integrity and professionalism. Refrain from discussing confidential issues with other members of your team or outside your department, or gossiping about employee matters. If you gather employees’ feedback on any topic, always protect their confidentiality and anonymity. Don’t try to pinpoint who said what.

Advocate for your employees

Know what drives retention and engagement for your employees. Advocate for and champion programs that enhance employees’ work experience and those that are important to your workforce.  Over time, these improvements will be noticed by your employees and they will value your contributions. We have seen many HR professionals gain the respect of the employees’ and leadership teams by creating great places to work.

Gain the respect of your managers

Develop strong relationships with your supervisors and managers. Learn about them and their departments and ask them how you can be of better assistance to their needs. Understand their demands and make their jobs easier, not harder. Create tools and systems and offer training to help them do their jobs better and more efficiently.  In doing so, you will have more luck collaborating with them to manage employees.

Make an impression from the start

Use on-boarding as a way to build your reputation with employees as a trusted advisor. Build a positive rapport prior to them coming on-board by staying in contact, being responsive and accessible, and providing them with all of the information they need for their first day. In addition to facilitating orientation, describe your role to employees in ways that you want to be perceived. Reach out to new-hires multiple times within the first 6 months to gather feedback, provide support, and solidify a positive relationship.

Be objective and balance interests

Execute and enforce policies and procedures consistently and fairly, with no exceptions. Additionally, balance serving all of your internal customers – leaders, managers, and employees. Learn to look at issues objectively from all sides of your business and balance these three interests. Be collaborative in developing and implementing policies. Don’t develop policies without considering their perspectives. 

 If you want to broaden your influence, achieve better results, and improve relationships with your internal customers, consider using these approaches. We have witnessed many HR professionals win the trust and confidence of their managers and employees by adopting these positive employee relations practices.

20 Tips for Managing Young Employees

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We hire them for their fresh knowledge, strong technical skills, and growth potential, but managing young people effectively requires a different strategy than some of your other employees, given their lack of business and work experience. Here are 20 tips for managing young workers.

   1.  Help them transition from college to work. Transitioning from student to employee can be a time of confusion, anxiety, exploration, and excitement. Recognize that each employee handles this transition differently and requires a different level of support from your organization. Think of ways that you can support your new employee in this time of change, whether that’s help with relocation or financial support for continuing education.

2.    Assign them to the right manager.  A young employee needs the right type of manager – one that enjoys teaching, mentoring, developing, and spending time interacting with their employees, since this is the focus of their interests. They also need a manager who is a strong communicator, isn’t afraid to provide frequent feedback, and values employee ideas and suggestions. Your traditional or untrained managers may not be the right fit for a young employee.

3.    Create a good on-boarding program. While it may be tempting to drop your young employee into an assignment right away with limited training, young employees usually need a more detailed and lengthy on-boarding experience to get started on the right foot. Spend the time up-front to make sure they are well-trained to carry out their job responsibilities, understand the business and its products/services, and are comfortable with your operating procedures.

4.    Fill the experience gap by providing just that: experiences. Job experiences should be many and varied and the employee needs to be involved in actually doing the work. Some managers are resistant to putting a younger employee on a more challenging project because of their lack of experience; however, recognize that the employee will only be as valuable to your organization as you let them be. With the right amount of task structure and supervision, potential risks can be minimized.

5.    Invest in them early. Make sacrifices in productivity early on to develop skill gaps in your young employees. Top organizations invest in young employees early in their career – and oftentimes right from the day one. They assess skill gaps right away, lay out structured development plans, and focus heavily on training and development in their first few years – sometimes even in lieu of a full workload. Once the right foundation has been laid, these organizations find that young workers are better equipped to contribute at a higher level later in their careers.  

6.    Give them attention. Young workers know that they have a lot to learn from others and expect more attention from their boss as a result. They don’t necessarily want autonomy, especially if they aren’t skilled yet at their job tasks. Once they become skilled, autonomy may become more valuable to them. They do expect to be heard and want their employers to listen to and value their input.

7.    Provide constant feedback. An annual performance review is not enough performance feedback for your young employees. They like and will need constant feedback as they navigate their tasks and responsibilities. They will also need affirmation as they progress. Managers should meet with young employees often for these purposes.

8.    Re-think how work is done. Younger employees don’t always approach work and life separately and may see these as blended and integrated. This may result in use of work time for personal affairs and use of personal time for work. As a result, they may be more productive working at home or using a flexible schedule.

9.    Provide variety. Young workers typically have a short attention span. They thrive on variety and change and may be your strongest change-agents.  They are usually most productive when working on short-term projects and quick tasks, or longer projects that are broken down into smaller tasks or phases.

10.  Use them for their strengths. They may not be your most perfect assets from the start. They’ll make mistakes and you’ll see the effects of their inexperience over time, but their energy, fresh knowledge, willingness to learn, growth potential, and creativity are all valuable to your organization and likely reasons for which you hired them. Use them with these strengths in mind, and over time with good direction and development, the rest with usually come.

11.  Offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities. Growing research shows that many young people want to be entrepreneurs. To keep their fresh, new, and great ideas inside your organization, allow or offer “intrapraneurship” opportunities – projects or opportunities that allow them to create or be involved in the creation of a new product, service, or start-up scenarios. Use their entrepreneurial spirit for your benefit.

12.  Be or give them a mentor. An experienced mentor can help young employees learn from experiences that they haven’t had and provide an objective sounding board for career discussions and work problems. They can also suggest or help facilitate developmental activities. A mentor could be another individual in the organization (perhaps a top performer), a leader, or the employee’s supervisor. Typically a mentor is 1-2 levels above the employee.

13.  Show them clear, defined career paths. Young employees are focused on advancement. They want to know their career options and work towards a specific career goal. If your organization doesn’t have clear career paths, discuss alternative career and developmental opportunities in the organization and show examples of how other young people have advanced.

14.  Monitor workload. Young workers don’t know what their limits are yet and are eager to take on new projects and responsibilities. They also don’t feel as safe saying no to additional responsibilities because they lack experience. Similarly, keep in mind that young people are not always skilled at managing their time and prioritizing work.

15.  Emphasize professionalism. Young employees may not be educated on the right ways to conduct themselves in a workplace setting. Expect that they may not know the basics like how to lead a conference call, create a meeting agenda, network, manage a project, general business/email etiquette, or more touchy subjects like handling emotions, hygiene, and dress in the workplace.

16.  Choose and monitor work events carefully especially if there is alcohol involved. After-work outings, happy-hour events, and other social gatherings are a great way to attract and engage young employees, but consider limiting alcohol consumption, choosing locations that minimize risk, setting ground rules, and dealing with inappropriate behavior on-the-spot to avoid liabilities.

17.  Differentiate between friends and coworkers. It’s not that friendships in the workplace are bad (in fact, they can be very positive), but young workers have a tendency to view their coworkers as friends more than other employees. These relationships can get too personal and may be inappropriate (i.e. dating relationships), depending on your policies. Plus, when friends start getting promoted and managing one another, these relationships can pose problems.

18.  Explain key policies. Hone in on certain policies with young people such as dress code, attendance, harassment, substance abuse, and social media/internet usage, and specifically what actions are unacceptable in the workplace and the consequences of those behaviors.  What was acceptable in college isn’t always acceptable in the workplace, and some young employees miss these differences.

19.  Provide benefits education. Young workers usually lack knowledge about their benefits – how health and dental insurance works, how much to contribute to their 401K, if they should use a flexible spending account, what an employee assistance program provides, etc. They may also need some help with financial planning such as paying off student loans, saving for a house, budgeting, to name a few. Spend additional time discussing benefits with your younger employees and provide financial planning resources.

20.  Be an example. Young people will emulate who you are. They will view you as a model for their behavior, copying your actions and words. In their first days and months, they are attuned to the norms of workplace behavior and will take on positive and negative behaviors they observe in their work environment. Recognize their malleable nature and use this time to mold them in positive ways.

Additional Resources

 Training for Your Young Professionals

This can’t-miss, two-part series for your organization’s young professionals, covers communication skills, professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, and the traits of a strong leader.

Mid-Level Manager Training

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

6 Causes of Employee Problems

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Are employee problems festering at your organization or has a good employee “gone bad”?  Recognizing whether certain controllable factors in the workplace are playing a role is key. Here are six (6) common causes of employee problems and ways you can manage these.

1. Stale job responsibilities

One of the major reasons that employees’ performance suffers is lack of self-motivation, which is usually most influenced by the work they do. An employee may become bored or disinterested in their work, especially if they’ve been doing the same job for awhile. To keep their jobs from becoming stale, consider ways to challenge all of your employees and keep their jobs interesting. Involve them on a new project. Create new goals. Cross-train them on a coworker’s responsibilities or give them a new responsibility. Add a new duty to each employee’s job description each year. Make professional development a requirement so that they keep developing new skills. Let them take initiative and lead a new project. We’re often quick to give these opportunities to managers, but extend the same invitation to your non-management staff.

2. Scarce rewards

Many employees are motivated by rewards, but consider whether the rewards you offer are meaningful enough to motivate high performance. For example, do employees feel that they have a good shot at receiving an incentive? If funds for incentives or pay increases are traditionally low and reserved for a small percentage of employees (and typically at the manager or leadership level), employees may believe that the rewards are not worth the extra effort. Additionally, how long has it been since you advanced an employee? Do employees believe that they have the opportunity to advance and develop in your organization? If your organization doesn’t share how people can advance or provide tangible steps and strategies to help your people advance, and makes advancement decisions in a vacuum without any transparency, you may be creating a host of motivational issues. Plus, scarce rewards can lend themselves to other issues like conflict, lack of teamwork, and unhealthy competition.

3. Inadequate training

Sometimes employees just haven’t had the right training or skills to do their job effectively and this gets overlooked in the hiring process. We may find that they don’t know how to do their job or parts of their job. They may have gaps in experience or knowledge that prevent them from performing well, or they may be scared or ashamed to admit that they need guidance to do certain tasks. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest performance problems to fix, because skills are usually trainable or coachable. Your job is to figure out what those gaps are and find ways to close them by recommending and coordinating training, coaching them through issues, and encouraging and making it safe for employees to ask questions if they don’t understand something. Similarly, employees may be in the wrong job for their skill set and need a better fit. Recognize the unique talents of each employee and put them where they will excel, if possible. As often as we work on employees’ weaknesses, it’s important to notice their strengths and how they can add value to our organizations. When employees are using their best skills and abilities, we encounter far fewer performance problems.

4. Not enough resources

Resources don’t just include supplies, equipment, and technology, but also time, people, and money. Lack of resources and increasing demands over an extended period of time can drain the energy and motivation out of your employees, leading to mistakes, errors, and missed deadlines and opportunities. If you suspect that lack of resources are preventing your employees from being successful, invest time in re-evaluating your (and their) priorities, re-distributing workloads, adding staff, and making efforts to ensure that they have all the right resources and support to do their job efficiently.

5. Personal problems

Many workplaces have the philosophy that employees should leave their personal problems at the door, but we all know that they seep into the workplace and affect performance. Child care issues, marital problems, grief and bereavement, illness or injury, and life changes may unavoidably lead to performance and attendance problems for our employees. Our workplace policies and management styles may not allow employees to take the appropriate time to deal with their issues or provide the support that our employees need. If we give our employees the tools and resources to manage their personal lives more flexibly via generous leave, flexible schedules, employee assistance programs, and supportive management, we generally find that employees can better manage their personal life and work results. You can still expect great results and hold employees accountable for high performance while treating them like the adults they are.

6. Missing the basics

Finally, be sure your organization excels at the basics. When the basics are missing, motivation and performance can really suffer. The basics include making sure that employees are treated respectfully, managed well, appreciated, compensated fairly, and provided with appropriate direction and communication. If any of these are lacking, the workplace culture can become a minefield of negative emotions created by employees who feel that they’ve been treated wrongly and undervalued. This undermines your efforts to create a high performance and productive work environment.

When we start exploring the nature and cause of our problems with employees, we usually find that one of these reasons is contributing to the issues and that there are effective ways to manage and fix them without jumping immediately to termination or disciplinary actions. As employers, we need to recognize how our workplaces contribute to problems with our employees and fix those core issues for the betterment of our organizations.

Additional Resources

Learn more about our Supervisory & Leadership Training programs and courses here.

5 Costly HR Mistakes

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These common HR mistakes have very costly consequences for many businesses. Find out the symptoms of these mistakes and their warning signs and how to avoid them.

1. The one-person HR department.

Symptoms: HR functions are managed by individuals with no HR experience such as an Operations Manager, Office Manager, or a Controller. HR responsibilities are delegated to line managers.

Results: When the HR function is managed by individuals with other responsibilities, or those that haven’t been properly trained in HR, important tasks tend to fall through the cracks – like meeting compliance deadlines and keeping up with changing legal requirements and trends. The basics may be accomplished, but more strategic issues are overlooked.

Solutions: Training anyone involved in an HR function or responsibility on the basics of HR, outsourcing HR projects (i.e. compensation, benefits analysis, performance management process overhaul, training and development), and using experienced consultants to help with strategic issues are ways to support the one-person HR department.

2. Losing control of hiring and recruiting.

Symptoms: Your organization receives an unmanageable number of resumes, has hiring managers that ask their own interview questions or use biases to make selection decisions, is frequently rushed to hire anyone to fill a position – which oftentimes is not the best hire, or lacks a consistent method of selection (different candidates are evaluated on different criteria). Or, your hiring process may be so lengthy and inefficient and require so many individuals’ involvement, that candidates lose interest and patience.

Results: Your organization experiences new-hire turnover, turned down job offers, vacant positions, lost productivity, and low hiring manager and new-hire satisfaction. You may experience difficulty managing applications and resumes and overlook potential top talent. You put your organization at legal risk because selection is not based on objective and consistent criteria. You rush the process and end up with a poor hire which affects your bottom line and that you inevitably terminate.

Solutions: Investing in an applicant tracking system, training hiring managers in the basics of interviewing and selection, and developing standard hiring policies and processes are all ways to make your hiring process more efficient, consistent, and productive. Also, establish reasonable timelines for the hiring process and only include those that need to be involved. Lastly, make sure that you believe the person you are hiring is the best candidate for the job and will be a top performer. Don’t just hire to fill a spot – it is far more costly in the long run.

3. Not reviewing performance.

Symptoms: In light of not providing pay increases the past few years, your organization may have skipped its annual performance review. Or, your performance review process may be lackadaisical – reviews aren’t completed on time and supervisors don’t take them seriously. Your organization may not even have a formal method of reviewing performance.

Results: In turn, either a portion of your workforce or many of your employees don’t receive feedback about their progress, leading to disengagement and less productivity. Documentation about performance is lacking, so when you need to terminate someone, you’re at a loss. Measurement of performance may be questionable, especially if supervisors don’t take the process seriously, and this could affect other programs like variable pay. Employees are dissatisfied with how their performance is measured and consider the tool invalid.

Solutions: Reviewing performance annually (at a minimum) is important. Develop either a standard review form or goal setting process, and consider employees’ feedback in the development of the system for buy-in. Additionally, train your supervisors in performance management (especially conducting a performance review) and hold them accountable for performance management duties in their own reviews. Make the performance management process mandatory, but not cumbersome (i.e. too many reviews to do at once, too lengthy form, etc.).

4. Failing to know your competitors.

Symptoms: Your organization doesn’t invest any time in learning about or benchmarking other organizations’ pay, benefits, or workplace practices. It doesn’t track HR data or metrics. It doesn’t know who its competitors are in terms of talent.

Results: Job candidates turn down offers or provide direct feedback that pay or benefits are below that of other organizations. Voluntary turnover of employees is prevalent in certain pockets of your workforce or throughout the organization. You receive consistent complaints about pay, benefits, and development opportunities.

Solutions: Identify the organizations in which you compete for similar types of talent and define their industry, size, and location. Select a few sources of data that are most relevant to these organizations. Compare your internal data with the information in these sources. Use the data to make adjustments to your pay, benefits, and workplace practices.

5. Not protecting your business.

Symptoms: Your employee handbook hasn’t been updated in a few years. Compliance changes have been neglected, as have risk management and disaster recovery plans. You haven’t created succession, development, and staffing plans to assure that you have the right talent in place to meet short and long term business objectives. You don’t look at demographic trends that will impact your business – like retirements or family needs.

Results: Your organization finds that it can’t make termination or disciplinary decisions without legal risk because it lacks certain policies. You realize that you don’t have the right skills or competencies to meet your organizational objectives. One of your key leaders leaves and you don’t have anyone prepared to fill the missing role. An employee goes out on FMLA and no one has been cross-trained to fill their shoes.

Solutions: Create succession plans for key roles and create plans (with timelines) to develop individuals in your organization to take on these roles, such as leadership development training or preparation. Conduct an annual “skills inventory” each year of your employees and compare the results to your strategic objectives. Do you have the skills you need? For what skills do you need to develop or hire? Do you have back-ups cross-trained? Coordinate training and staffing plans with this inventory. Finally, update your employee handbook at least annually (and always after a change in employment law) and obtain an outsider’s perspective – such as a consultant or legal counsel. These individuals will be able to notice gaps or deficiencies in your policies and make recommendations to protect your business.

Additional Resources

HR Consulting & Project Support
ERC is a leading provider of quality, affordable HR consulting and project support services in Ohio. Our HR consulting services provide the crucial strategic and technical expertise needed to support your HR goals and workplace initiatives. Contact consulting@yourerc.com for more information.

Compensation & Benefits Surveys
ERC publishes many compensation and benefits surveys to help Northeast Ohio employers benchmark their pay and benefits practices.Our ERC Salary Survey, Wage Survey, and Executive Compensation Survey provide local pay information for over 300 positions.

Elements of an Incentive Program

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Looking for a way to motivate or incentivize employees to meet a goal or objective? Whether it’s sales, productivity, service, quality, teamwork, or just a change in behavior, incentive programs can be an effective tool to meet your organization’s needs and objectives. Here are the most important elements of an incentive program.

 

Clarify the objective of the incentive program.

What is the purpose of providing the incentive? Will it be designed to improve the productivity of your production staff, increase sales, improve customer service, and enhance management? Usually, the objective of an incentive plan is tied to meeting some organizational or departmental goal or objective or motivating/changing a specific behavior. This may be general or specific to a certain work group or department.

Define the incentive.

Define the type of incentive you will provide and make sure that it aligns with the objective. Individual incentives should be tied to individual goals and performance, team incentives should be tied to team goals and performance, and so on. Also, will it be offered in addition to a salary increase or instead of one, and will it be considered part of the total compensation package? Below are three (3) types of incentives to consider.


Type of Incentive

Description

Individual incentives

  • Tied to the achievement of individual and/or organizational goals
  • Typically only distributed to specific individuals
  • Differentiates top, average, and bottom performers

Gain-sharing

  • Tied to the margin of profit or savings attained through a group or team’s performance
  • Typically only distributed to certain groups or teams
  • Rewards and encourages teamwork

Profit-sharing

  • Tied to the margin of profit attained by entire organization
  • Typically distributed to all employees or certain executives/managers
  • Provides employees with “line of sight” – how their contributions impact the organization’s success

 

Create a measure for the incentive.

Having a clear objective will make measurement easy. Measurement could be as simple as determining whether the goal was achieved or not achieved. You may also weight what percent of an objective was met (i.e. 75% of goal achieved or 110% of goal achieved). One key question your organization will need to consider is if you will payout for not reaching goals completely or if you will payout extra for exceeding goals.

Determine who is eligible to receive the incentive.

If the objective of the incentive plan is specific to a certain work group or department, eligibility should be constrained to only employees in those areas. If the objective is general, eligibility may be widespread, applicable to nearly all of the workforce. We find that incentive plans typically follow one of these two tracks.

Establish the size of the incentive.

This is, first and foremost, dependent on what your organization can afford to pay – which may vary from year to year and depend on cash flow, revenue, and profitability. The size of the reward may be a fixed dollar amount or a percentage of salary. On average, we find that variable pay costs account for 3% of revenue (variable compensation divided by total revenue) – compared to compensation costs which typically account for 25% of revenue. Below are average target percentages, maximum threshold percentages, and percentages of total cash pay that incentive/bonus pay represents.


Type of Employee

Average Target %

Max. Threshold %

% of Total Cash Pay

Production, Maintenance, Service

4.4%

6.6%

4.1%

Clerical, Technical

4.0%

7.7%

4.3%

Supervisory, Managerial, Professional

8.1%

12.1%

6.6%

Source: 2011 ERC Pay Adjustment & Incentive Practices Survey

Identify the form of payment.

Some incentive/bonus payments are paid out in lump sums annually, while others may be distributed across paychecks throughout the year. Annually is by far the most common frequency of payout, but quarterly is a close second. Monthly and semi-annual payments are extremely rare.

Incentive programs can be effective in promoting the behavior and results we want in our organizations, but in order to do that, they need to constructed effectively. This starts with clearly identifying the objective of the program and then aligning all of its pieces and parts (type, work groups eligible, size, form of payment, etc.) with that purpose.

Additional Resources

Pay Adjustment & Incentive Practices
Benchmark your organization’s pay adjustment and incentive plan practices with our ERC Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey. For more information about this survey (including pricing information), please click here.

Consulting & Project Support
For assistance in developing incentive/variable pay plans and compensation systems or benchmarking compensation practices, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

HR Guide to Summer in the Workplace

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It’s that time of year again. Memorial Day signals the return of warm weather, summer activities, and plenty of HR and workplace issues from enforcing dress code and attendance policies to planning a company outing or event. This is your guide to managing summer in the workplace.

Spell out specifics in your dress code policy.

Dress code tends to become more open to interpretation during the summer (sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, capris, skirts, etc.), so be sure to specify exactly what you mean by “business casual” attire instead of leaving it to the employee’s discretion.  Spell out acceptable and unacceptable types of clothing and shoes (and examples), colors and styles (depending on your industry or type of organization), and specific days or situations that require different attire (such as formal or casual) that the usual. Also, be sure that you apply the dress code policy uniformly and consistently.

Provide flexible scheduling.

Now is an ideal time to remind employees of your attendance policy as issues of consistently coming into work early or late or “calling off” tend to become more of a problem during the summer months. Another way to address this issue is by introducing flexible scheduling options to allow employees to better self-manage their work/life throughout the summer. In the summer, employees are typically faced with greater work/life constraints such as more activities, family obligations, and children home from school. Seasonal perks like flex-time, shorter hours on Fridays, compressed work weeks, and revised work schedules are all offered by some employers during the summer to help employees achieve better balance.

Hire an intern or new graduate.

Another useful way organizations provide relief to their employees during the summer months is by hiring an intern or new graduate. Interns offer a variety of workforce support and assistance with special projects at an affordable cost. They also bring fresh ideas and perspectives, technical knowledge, and a desire to learn. New graduates offer similar capabilities. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of hiring and compensating an intern or new graduate, check out our Intern & Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey for detailed information about recruiting, hiring, training, engaging, and paying interns and new graduates.

Offer time off from work.

Time off is a common request during the summer with three major holidays (Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day). Be sure to communicate the paid time off your organization intends to provide for these holidays. Consult our Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey for information about which paid holidays employers plan to offer this year.
Additionally, scheduling and coordinating summer vacations requires an efficient and fair process to ensure that employees are able to take time off when desired, but also that the business is able to meet its demands. Here are some common ways organizations effectively coordinate vacations and paid time off:

  • Use a vacation planner or vacation planning system.
  • Create a method for employees to request or “bid” on preferred dates of vacation – such as a vacation request form. Build in supervisory approval.
  • Require employees to schedule time off in advance, but be reasonable about how far in advance they need to schedule.
  • Have employees coordinate vacation time with their coworkers and/or self-manage vacation time.  This helps ensure that “back-ups” exist.
  • Develop policies that specify what criteria will be used to approve vacations (first come, first served, seniority, rotation, etc.).
  • Specify the limits of taking vacation (i.e. people with the same skill set can’t be out at the same time, maximum number of days, etc.).
  • Monitor and take into account other leaves (FMLA, maternity/paternity, sick, disability, etc.).
  • Remind employees that the business’ needs need to come first when scheduling vacations. As an employer, you do have the right to require an employee to postpone a vacation or require advanced notice. If you do promise vacation, however, you may be legally bound to it, according to Ohio law.

Start (or re-energize) your wellness program.

There’s no better time to start or re-energize a wellness program than at the beginning of summer. Summer is an ideal time for employees to get into shape and improve their well-being and the workplace can help them do that. Employees also tend to be more interested in wellness at this time of the year given the nice weather, outdoor activities, and greater availability of fresh and healthy foods. This can boost participation rates which help you keep your workforce healthier and manage the sting of rising health insurance costs. Here are some ideas for your summer wellness program:

  • Introduce a walking program
  • Hold company-wide wellness/fitness competitions, challenges, or team-building functions
  • Coordinate informal pick-up sports at lunch-time or after work
  • Provide fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Hold seminars on nutrition-related topics
  • Encourage employees to go outside during their lunch break, or even hold meetings outside

Plan a company outing or event.

The summer is a great time to plan a company outing or event and many businesses take advantage of the nice weather to spend time informally socializing with their employees.  Outings and events are great opportunities to get to know your staff, show appreciation, and do some team-building. Here are some tips for planning a summer event, provided by ERC’s own event experts:

  • Form a committee. Don’t plan your event alone. Get other employees involved in planning the outing and event and delegate responsibilities.
  • Define the event or outing’s purpose. Is the outing intended to be a social or networking event? Or is it an event that celebrates or recognizes something?
  • Determine the location. Outdoor locations are ideal for summer events, but make sure that the venue fits your audience and the type of event you are creating. A formal event will need a formal setting.
  • Set a date. Identify a couple potential dates and confirm the availability of the location as well as those that need to attend the event. Provide confirmations.
  • Create an agenda or timeline for the event. Lay out the entire event in terms of breaks, activities, meals, etc. and the times that they should take place. Assign roles to people on your committee and have them “own” certain tasks.
  • Communicate details. Be sure that your guests have all the information they need about the event or outing (i.e. location, directions, timing, attire, meals provided, response directions, and contact information).
  • Select food and activities. Make sure these are relevant to the type of event and the people attending, and also consider any dietary restrictions ahead of time. For example, if children will be attending the event, activities and food selections should be fitting.
  • Test-drive the event. Test equipment, walk through the venue, and get familiar with the things you’ll need during the outing. Pretend like you’re the guest.
  • Make it unique. Traditions are great, but try to build an element of surprise into your outing or event to make each year exciting. This could be a new location or venue, different entertainment, or a new giveaway.

Continue to train and guide performance.

Engagement can often become stale in the summer months. That’s why performance management, training, and development should not wane during the summer months. It’s important to keep investing in these practices so employees stay engaged and productive. For example, the summer signals mid-year, which is an ideal time for employees to meet with supervisors to discuss their performance and progress towards goals and objectives set at the beginning of the year. This discussion can help refocus employees on their goals, help establish new projects and objectives, and identify what additional support is needed. Additionally, while many employers refrain from scheduling training during the summer due to vacations, this actually can be an ideal time for training and development – especially if business is slower than normal during this season. 

Have a contingency plan for severe weather.

More severe weather is being predicted for this summer. Be sure that your organization has contingency and disaster recovery plans in place to deal with unexpected power outages, damages, and other issues that severe weather (such as thunderstorms, tornados, flooding, etc.) could cause for your business and its employees.

Prepare for budgeting. 

The summer passes quickly and budgeting will be just around the corner. With most employers planning to provide salary increases this year, it may be worthwhile for your organization to benchmark your employees’ compensation so that you are prepared to make good decisions about market adjustments and compensation increases when budgeting time approaches. Keep a compensation project on your agenda this summer and use our recently published 2011 compensation surveys as resources. Similar to compensation, use the slower summer months to catch up on major HR projects that have been on your to-do list.

The key to managing summer in the workplace is to acknowledge employees’ work/life needs, balance work with fun, and continue to engage.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here

Emerging Leaders
This two-part series covers professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, communication skills, and the traits of a strong leader. It is an ideal course for younger professionals, such as new graduates. Participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization. Click here.

Compensation Surveys
Get a jump-start on budgeting this summer by benchmarking compensation with our Salary Surveys which provide pay information on nearly 300 jobs that are relevant to all organizations and industries. Click here

Growing Your Rising Stars

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Your organization may have some rising stars – high achieving employees with the ability to move up in your organization and carry the demands of your organization’s most challenging and promising opportunities. You may love their work, think highly of their potential, but notice a few skills or abilities that need some development before promoting them to the next level. Here are a few ways to grow and engage your rising stars.

Uncover their (and your) objectives.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council, 1 in 5 emerging leaders believe their personal aspirations are different than the plans of their organizations. Obviously, there’s a strong disconnect between what emerging leaders want from a career and what they think their organization wants from them in the future. Before your organization pours resources and time into the process of developing these employees, be sure that both of your objectives match. Similarly, in order to know how to develop your rising stars, your organization needs to determine its long-term objectives and the talent it will need to achieve those. For example, will your business be expanding? Will its product/service line change? What skills will it need? How will technology affect your workplace? When will leaders retire or move on? Growing your best people often requires good workforce and succession planning.

Place on intense assignments and in challenging roles.

Research shows that intense, challenging, and risky assignments are the best learning experiences for growing leadership capabilities – and more meaningful than traditional job rotation programs. These developmental assignments not only engage the rising star, but also allow your organization to evaluate how well the employee performs on new challenges they have not experienced and where further development is needed. Similarly, rising stars should be placed in challenging roles and positions – perhaps an undeveloped area of the business, a department that is underperforming, or a potential business opportunity that has not yet been ceased. It’s important not to shield rising stars from the realities and stressful situations they will face in future roles. Rather, throw them into the fire, but build in support.

Provide formal training and development opportunities.

While job experiences are one of the best ways to grow rising stars, there’s no replacement for the classroom. Seminars, activities, and instruction are a necessary supplement to leadership development initiatives and frequently are used to grow capabilities in key leadership topics like change management, presentation, communication, influence, and negotiation. Other formal development opportunities such as attendance at conferences, certification programs, advanced degrees, participation on boards, and involvement in professional associations can all be helpful in growing capabilities. Rising stars will need to acquire knowledge not only in their organizations and through experiences, but also externally from facilitators, coaches, and peers.

Engage in regular feedback and dialogue.

A conversation once or twice a year isn’t going to grow your best employees. Development done right requires frequent conversations and dialogue. This dialogue can address how the employee is performing and provide direction, guidance, and coaching on new stretch tasks and development opportunities. It can also help gauge their engagement and satisfaction with the initiative and how they are progressing in their development plan. These conversations often can help avoid derailment – failure or underperformance at the next level – a common problem many leadership development programs experience.

Beyond one-on-one dialogue, 360 feedback is another common leadership development tool that can help your rising star determine how their style and competencies are perceived by others in the workplace such as managers, coworkers, and customers. The results can be used for follow-up coaching and training.

Use your current leaders as resources.

While most development responsibilities fall on HR or line managers, seasoned leaders and top managers can (and should) be actively involved in mentoring and developing rising stars – not just evaluating and selecting who these leaders will be.  Oftentimes, exposure to current leaders and tapping into their perspectives, knowledge, and experiences can be very effective in growing future leaders if they want to be engaged in the developmental process. It can also engage your rising stars, providing them with opportunities to interact and build relationships with your senior staff. Plus, your organization may save on other developmental costs such as use of an external coach or mentor that is not as ‘in tune’ with the workings of your company.

A range of work experiences, developmental activities, dialogue and feedback, and use of current leaders is a simple recipe for growing your rising stars into higher levels of your organization and engaging them.

Additional Resources

The Emerging Leaders Series
Have the emerging leaders within your organization been identified? Do they have the skills and knowledge needed to best represent your organization? This two-part series covers professional etiquette in and out of the workplace, communication skills, and the traits of a strong leader. Participants will learn tools to present themselves more effectively and enhance their contribution to the organization. 

Leadership Development Training
Developing your leaders or managers? Check out the range of courses we offer to help you grow talent of all levels and especially managers and leaders. Click here

Coaching, 360s, & Talent Management
ERC offers several developmental services including employee, manager, and leadership coaching, 360 feedback initiatives, as well as assistance with talent management projects including workforce and succession planning to support your leadership development initiatives. For more information, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

Three-Quarters of Employers Offer Supervisory/Management Training

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According to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, most employers in Northeast Ohio provide supervisors and managers with training in supervisory and managerial skills. Most commonly, 75% of local employers say that they use employers association supervisory/management development courses to train employees compared to only 32% of employers that use college supervisory development courses.

“The survey’s results suggest that local organizations find value in the supervisory/management training provided by employers associations like ERC. Within the training we provide, participants learn how to apply a variety of managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a manager and also receive a variety of resources to support them in their managerial roles,” says Chris Kutsko, Director of Learning and Development at ERC.

She adds, “Many of our clients find tremendous value in the quality, delivery, support, and affordability of our supervisory and managerial training beyond what other providers offer.”

Additional Resources

More information about this survey: click here
Upcoming training and programs on this topic: click here

5 Common Management Challenges

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Communication, management of conflict and performance, and management of potential liabilities are all challenges managers experience. Here are some practical ways to deal with these common management challenges and support and develop your managers.

Communicate.

Managers are frequently not aware of the quality of their communication about expectations, changes, procedures, and other work-related issues, or how their communication or interpersonal style is perceived by their employees. Help managers understand their unique communication and interpersonal style and how to “flex” this style in different situations. Provide managers with communication templates, scripts, tips, or checklists. Engage in role-play or dialogue with the manager to help them practice their skills and identify opportunities for improvement. Additionally, educate managers on common communication breakdowns and how to avoid them and encourage managers to notice signs of communication problems (misunderstandings, consistent performance problems, etc.). When all else fails, provide a personal coach if communication problems persist

Resolve conflict.

Many managers ignore problems and do not address conflicts with their employees or work team directly. Whether these are performance problems, conflicts among team members, issues of trust, or personality clashes, managers are challenged to confront and address problems head-on and as they emerge, diffuse employees’ feelings and emotions about the problem, listen to both parties’ needs and desires, derive win-win solutions that lead to more productive and positive work relations, and prevent conflict in the future by nurturing positive coworker relationships and recognizing potential for conflict or problems early.

Manage performance.

Managers must balance meeting goals, managing workloads, and motivating employees. These issues coupled with the fact that many managers are ill-equipped to provide regular and constructive feedback and may not understand the importance of documenting performance can make managing performance challenging. To support them, build on-going performance feedback into the performance management process to ensure accountability. Create an easy method for managers to document performance like a database, log, or diary. Provide support tools for managers such as rewards, recognition, training, and development to recognize and build performance. Most importantly, train managers in topics such as performance management, coaching, and feedback since many will have had no experience with these.

Handle protected employees.

Most managers are not well-versed in administering ADA, FMLA, and other laws that protect certain groups of employees, but unknowingly find themselves managing an employee that requires an accommodation, leave of absence, or falls into a protected class. These situations need to be handled delicately due to their legal nature, so make managers aware of:

  • Legal basics such as conditions or disabilities that are protected
  • How to determine essential functions and reasonable accommodations
  • Requirements associated with FMLA (eligibility, length of time, etc.)
  • Types of employees that are protected under law (gender, race, national origin, etc.)
  • Hiring and interviewing liabilities (questions to ask/not ask, etc.)

Administer policies fairly and consistently.

One of the most common challenges for managers is treating employees fairly and consistently. A manager may allow policies and rules to be disregarded by some employees and not others – or may disregard employment policies altogether. “Stretching” the rules for some employees can open up a range of potential liabilities and perceptions of bias and favoritism that have negative far-reaching affects in the workplace. Be sure to write clear policies and let managers know when changes have been made. Set clear criteria for making employment decisions, particularly where managers need to distinguish between employees (recognition, reward, development, etc.). Also, clearly differentiate between the policies in which managers have discretion to implement and those in which they do not.

Addressing these management challenges sooner then later can prevent your organization from experiencing many problems and liabilities. It’s never too early to ensure that your supervisors and managers have the skills, tools, and support to do their jobs effectively, so if your supervisor is just starting out, consider developing these important skills as soon as possible.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In the series, participants will gain an understanding of their role as a supervisor as well as employment law as it relates to common supervisory issues. They will also learn how to apply basic managerial and interpersonal skills including dealing with the everyday challenges of being a supervisor, communicating effectively with others, resolving workplace conflict, managing performance, and coaching. Click here to register or click here to learn how we can bring this training on-site to your organization.

Strategic Legal Update
Stay up to date on all of the most recent law and policy news with our blog

Coaching & Performance Management Services
ERC offers a full range of services to support your organization’s performance management activities. We also offer one-on-one coaching services to help your build and develop your manager’s skills. For more information about these services, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.