Tis the Season for 5 Holiday HR Issues

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Tis the Season for 5 Holiday HR Issues

Tis the season for several HR and compliance issues associated with the holidays. Here are five (5) holiday HR issues that you should revisit as the holidays ensue.

1. Holiday decorations

Holiday decorations tend to make their way into the workplace and employees' workspaces this time of year. What an employer allows in terms of decorations in the workplace is up them, but they should not discriminate and should be consistent and reasonable with their policies. 

Organizations need to be particularly careful with religious decorations, however. Refusal to accommodate an employee who wants to display a religious holiday symbol or decoration to commemorate a holiday should be considered very carefully as these can be minor religious accommodations that are protected under law and generally acceptable.

Additionally, according to the EEOC, holiday decorations should not be avoided just because someone objects to them, but organizations should ensure that all holiday decoration displays are reasonable and non-disruptive.
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Why Workplace Traditions Matter

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Why Workplace Traditions Matter

The holiday season calls to mind the importance of traditions in our organizations. Unfortunately, many companies fail to recognize the significance of traditions in the workplace, yet they are just as important in our companies as they are in our families.

If your organization wants to leave a mark on its employees and create a captivating culture, establish strong traditions—including rituals, celebrations, and routines specific to your company. Traditions may be one of your most important legacies as a company and the key to a great culture.

Not only will they be talked about for years, but they:

  • Create something timeless to hold onto, honor, and continue
  • Build meaningful connections between employees and with your organization
  • Create a shared history, rich with stories and experiences
  • Bind people together, forge bonds, and foster a sense of belonging
  • Strengthen your organization's identity
  • Bring energy to the workplace; heighten morale; and create a positive work environment

For these reasons, look for opportunities to create meaningful traditions in your workplace.

While the best workplace traditions often emerge naturally, here are some ideas that you could use:

  • Host an annual all staff event or celebration, such as a company banquet, retreat, or outing.
  • Celebrate certain holidays together, such as an annual holiday party or Thanksgiving luncheon.
  • Bring employees together for quarterly team-building.
  • Establish a tradition that connects your organization's mission to a bigger purpose.
  • Develop a monthly or quarterly recognition and rewards practice.
  • Create traditions for on-boarding new employees.
  • Establish a tradition for recognizing staff anniversaries.
  • Create traditions for recognizing employees' birthdays and other personal milestones.
  • Do something special to commemorate your organization's founding date anniversary.
  • Establish a weekly tradition (i.e. bring your pet to work day, dress down day Fridays, breakfast-on-the-company Mondays, etc.)

In addition, know what current traditions in your organization are important to your employees. Retain the valuable ones, retool others, and over time, discard the less meaningful traditions.

At times, we may be tempted to let go of our long-standing company traditions to save money, reduce time, and/or just change things for the sake of change and doing something new and different. But, if possible, resist dropping your tried and true workplace traditions...because that annual staff event you're considering canceling or overhauling may be a lot more important to your culture and employees than you think it is.

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What HR Needs to Keep Confidential

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What HR Needs to Keep Confidential

HR is not only entrusted with maintaining sensitive information about employee and management issues, but also must protect this information under laws governing confidentiality.

To protect employees’ privacy and avoid unnecessary litigation or fines, it is critical for HR to identify which processes or documents are supposed to be kept confidential, safeguard this information, keep it in secure locations, and discard it in proper ways. This also includes restricting access to sensitive data online and in various applications, databases, and servers; and creating privacy policies in collaboration with their IT department.

Not keeping certain information confidential can result in lawsuits, identify theft, data breach, or defamation lawsuits. It can also undermine an HR department's credibility and integrity. Here are four (4) types of information that HR needs to keep confidential.
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Common E-Verify and I-9 Mistakes

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e verify i9 Common E-Verify and I-9 Mistakes

The I-9 and E-Verify are used to help employers in determining an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. A number of errors and mistakes can occur with E-Verify and the I-9 form that employers should avoid in order to stay compliant. Here is a summary of some common mistakes employers make with the I-9 form and E-Verify.

I-9 Mistakes

Using an outdated I-9 form.

Be sure that your organization isn’t using the old version of the I-9 form. After May 7, 2013, all employers were required to use the most current version of the I-9 with new hires.
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The 15 Attributes of a Great Workplace

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The 15 Attributes of a Great Workplace

ERC's NorthCoast 99 program recognizes great workplaces that excel at the attraction, retention, and motivation of top performers. ERC is proud to have recognized great workplaces in Northeast Ohio, and has accumulated a great deal of insight into what makes a workplace truly great through the research we conduct as part of the program.

What makes a great workplace that draws extraordinary employees to love coming to work every day? What makes a great workplace that attracts, retains, and motivates the very best talent?

Here are 15 attributes that we believe are characteristic of great workplaces for top talent, based on our research over the last 15 years.

1. Offer Challenging and Meaningful Work

Great workplaces understand the importance of keeping employees' work interesting, exciting, challenging and meaningful, because consistently, top performers say that challenging and meaningful work is the number one attribute they seek in a job.

2. Hire and Retain Great People

Great workplaces are made up of great people. Within great workplaces, top performers work alongside other top performers who are positive, hardworking, committed and loyal, believe in what the organization does, and participate in making the workplace great.

3. Provide Competitive Compensation

Great workplaces offer competitive and fair compensation, above-average pay increases, and opportunities to earn more pay based on performance, such as bonuses, profit sharing, and other incentives to keep and reward top performing talent as well as attract new talent.

4. Value and Reward Employee Contributions

Great workplaces show they appreciate and value employees and their contributions. They celebrate success often, and praise, recognize, and reward employees in a variety of formal and informal ways. They never miss an opportunity to say 'thanks' for employees' hard work.

5. Invest in Training and Development

Great workplaces invest in training and development for their workforce to grow their talents and capabilities. They make time for learning and support it by paying for employees to participate in various opportunities and offering/delivering a variety of training and career development programs.

6. Guide, Support, and Develop Top Performers

Through performance management practices that help guide, support, and develop exceptional performance, great workplaces provide clarity on how to be a top performer, help other employees become top performers, and assist existing top performers in sustaining top performance. Reaching for excellence each and every day is what makes great workplaces successful.

7. Encourage Work/Life Balance

Great workplaces are flexible to employees' work/life needs and encourage work/life balance by offering flexible schedules, providing generous paid time off, accommodating individual requests and needs, and creating a supportive work environment that is understanding of personal and family obligations.

8. Invest in Employees' Health and Wellness

Great workplaces genuinely care about their employees' well-being. They offer wellness options that help employees develop healthy lifestyle behaviors as well as provide an array of benefits which support their employees' health and personal welfare.

9. Involve and Empower Employees

Great workplaces involve and empower employees by listening to their input, involving them in moving the organization forward, and giving them opportunities to lead initiatives, collaborate with one another, participate in decision-making, and make a meaningful difference at work. At great workplaces, employees believe that their opinions matter and that they can positively impact their organizations.

10. Share Information About the Organization's Performance

Leaders frequently share information about the organization's performance, its financials, the vision and direction of the organization, and other critical information and updates at great workplaces. In addition, leaders regularly interact with and communicate with employees one-on-one, in small groups, and as an entire staff. Additionally, great workplaces help everyone understand the mission and purpose of the organization, and how their work connects to the big picture.

11. Are Led by Exceptional Leaders

Great workplaces are led by exceptional and inspiring leaders. Leaders set the example from the top and lead the organization well. They genuinely care about and value employees. Relationships between leaders and employees are characterized by mutual respect, trust,  honesty, and support.

12. Encourage Innovation and Growth

Great workplaces are successful, growing, and innovative. They hold themselves to high standards, are focused on delivering exceptional customer service and quality, and strive to innovate and continuously improve their organizations. They are always raising the bar in their businesses and in their workplaces.

13. Hire the Best of the Best

Great workplaces hire the best—and only the best. They recognize that a great workplace and culture results from great people. They define the talent they need, strategically recruit it, and put into place selection practices that identify top performers, as well as on-boarding practices that engage top performers and set them up for success from the start.

14. Create and Sustain a Unique Culture

Great workplaces have a unique culture that is their own, often described as fun, congenial, collaborative, positive, passionate, and creative. Their work environments, people, and workplace practices all help create a vibrant, positive, magnetic, and infectious culture.

15. Serve the Community

And last but not least, great workplaces make an impact on and give back to their local community. Not only do they generously donate their company resources to the community, but they also serve their communities by helping others in need and offering their staff's time and talents.

There is no magic formula for achieving a great workplace, and these are just some common attributes of many that great workplaces seem to have. While no workplace is perfect, many organizations strive to become a truly great workplace and come close. The NorthCoast 99 winners are among these organizations, and they, as well as all other organizations that strive everyday to be great workplaces, should be applauded for their efforts to become employers of choice in Northeast Ohio. They are truly making a difference.

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Building Community and Great Workplaces through Service

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When building better workplaces, employers typically focus on making internal improvements that can range from renovating the physical office space housing the organization to developing employees to build the talent pool. However, if the 2013 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report is any indication, employers would do well to look beyond their four walls and reach-out to build their surrounding community.

Among these employers of choice, virtually all winners (99%) sponsor some type of charitable event, fundraiser and/or scholarship and a strong majority of this year’s winners (81%) coordinate an organization-wide community service activity.  Clearly, these great places to work have successfully made a concerted effort to integrate community service into their culture by taking a highly active role in serving their community.
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An Introduction to Background Checks for Employers

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For the new HR professional, and perhaps even for more seasoned HR managers, the process of conducting background checks can be a difficult one to manage. Corporate Screening, one of ERC's Preferred Partners, has provided us with some background knowledge to help us answer our key questions.

What is a background check? Why should my company conduct them?

Background checks help employers minimize risk for their company and their employees. They provide varying levels of information, depending on the type of position and job duties. Job applicants, current employees, and volunteers may all be asked to submit background checks... and for some positions, screening is required by federal or state law.
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4 Guidelines for Managing Pregnancy & Maternity in the Workplace

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Before your organization doesn't hire, promote, or accommodate your next pregnant employee—beware—because pregnancy-related lawsuits are increasing and you could be putting yourself at risk.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), pregnancy discrimination claims have been steadily rising over the past 15 years. In addition, the EEOC has said that one of its six national priorities is to address issues involving pregnancy-related limitations. In light of these trends, here are 4 essential guidelines employers must follow when managing pregnancy and maternity in the workplace.

Managing Pregnancy and Maternity in the Workplace

1. Don't let pregnancy affect employment decisions.

If you are considering not hiring, promoting, or providing certain job assignments to a pregnant employee or job candidate, or someone you think is trying to get pregnant, watch your steps closely.
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Local Wellness Programs and the ACA

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Based on the results of the 2013-2014 ERC Policies & Benefits survey, Northeast Ohio employers are well positioned to take advantage of the recently released Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations increasing the maximum rewards employers may offer employees for participation in wellness programs. Local employers have consistently outpaced the national averages in terms of their wellness initiatives, with specific programs illustrated in Figure 1 below.

One key program that is particularly relevant to Northeast Ohio employers within the context of the ACA regulations is smoking cessation classes. More and more local organizations are placing restrictions on tobacco use as part of their hiring policy and 31.1% of local employers do not allow smoking anywhere on the premises of their organization. In comparison, the national average is 10% lower at 23.1%.
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