9 Common (and Avoidable) FMLA Mistakes

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There is probably no law that gives HR more headaches than the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Even the most adept and experienced HR professionals make errors when administering FMLA. It’s hard not to make mistakes, given the emergence of new case law as well as state and federal regulations that are constantly expanding the scope of employee leave and employer’s obligations in administering that leave.

One small mistake with FMLA, however, can cause big consequences for your organization. Here are 9 of the most common (and avoidable) FMLA mistakes.

  1. Not counting leave as FMLA. If your organization does not run FMLA concurrently with other paid time off, sick leave, disability, or worker’s compensation, it may incur lost work time which can lead to significant costs. Also, some employers may not track time that should be qualified as FMLA leave, especially when reasons for employees’ leave or time off are not known by HR.
  2. Disciplining employees for FMLA-protected absences. It’s not uncommon for employers to penalize employees for absences, but when FMLA factors into the absence, tread carefully. If employees are eligible for FMLA and are qualified to take leave, they are protected, even though your attendance policy may be very specific. Disciplining or terminating an employee for taking leave may not be an appropriate or legal measure to take.
  3. Taking adverse action after denying leave. Denying an employee’s request for FMLA and then taking a series of adverse actions following that request can be a fatal mistake. While these actions may be warranted, employers need to watch their timing. If you deny an employee’s request for FMLA, then immediately follow-up with a termination, it could suggest that the employee’s FMLA request was linked to the termination. Plus, the courts have been especially mindful of retaliation charges lately.
  4. Failing to communicate your FMLA policy and procedure. As an employer, you must let employees know about their rights under FMLA. A 2012 ruling suggests that you must also communicate the procedure by which leave needs to be taken and how you are tracking employees’ time (i.e. rolling calendar year measured forward/measured backward etc.). Even misinforming employees of the time in which they are eligible for FMLA can be a liability.
  5. Allowing your supervisors to manage FMLA. Supervisors are usually the first people employees turn to when they need to take leave. Sometimes, however, supervisors don’t realize that they must direct the employee to HR and not handle FMLA cases on their own. Be sure that your supervisors know how to respond when employees ask for leave. Otherwise they could face personal liability for FMLA violations.
  6. Making assumptions about an employee’s health condition. Making judgments about whether employees have a serious health condition or not without the necessary information can be disadvantageous. Employees may present clear signs of a serious health problem or the condition may be less visible. Take each employee’s request for FMLA seriously and ask for appropriate documentation if you question its validity.
  7. Not verifying or clarifying FMLA documentation with health care providers. Employers may clarify any documentation they receive from health care providers, ask for second and third opinions, and make sure that the employee who is requesting leave does in fact have a serious health condition. Also, know that requiring too much or too little medical documentation could result in liability. Don’t ask for too much, but don’t accept too little.
  8. Removing an employee from their prior job. An employee goes out on leave, perhaps you find that another employee can perform the person’s job better, and then you consider terminating the returning employee or moving them into a lower position. Be aware that unless you have adequate performance documentation to demote or terminate the individual, FMLA regulations say that the returning employee is entitled to their same job or one of equal pay, responsibility, and benefits.
  9. Not providing a reasonable accommodation. Although FMLA only allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave, your organization may need to explore other reasonable accommodations following FMLA leave if employees have a disability or medical condition that is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under ADA, an extension of unpaid leave could be a reasonable accommodation in some circumstances. Oftentimes, both FMLA and ADA apply, especially when serious health conditions are present.

Employers unfortunately can pay a steep price for their mistakes in administering FMLA—whether they are honest or intentional. Our best advice for avoiding FMLA mistakes is to maintain open lines of communication with employees and managers, stay up to date on FMLA case law, don’t make assumptions, keep excellent documentation, and be conscious of the timing of your decisions.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application. 

Tips to Successfully On-Board Your New Hire

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A new job is an important decision in an employee's life and can elicit a number of emotions ranging from nervousness to excitement prior to the first day. HR can play an important role in capitalizing on these positive feelings and engaging new-hires throughout their first days. Here are some tips for successfully on-boarding your new-hire.

Make the pre-employment experience memorable.

Consider sending your new-hire a simple welcome package, calling them prior to their first day to welcome them, inviting them to a company event, and/or  sending a hand-written note or card. These unexpected, small gestures show that you are looking forward to working with the new-hire and reinforces their decision to come work for your organization. It also sends a positive message to their families.

Eliminate your probationary or introductory period.

Not only are these 90-day periods less common than they were several years ago, but there is no place for them in the workplace if you are confident that you have selected a great employee for the job. Requiring these periods in order for employees to continue employment and/or receive certain benefits tends to send the message that your new-hire "has to pass the test" to be a true employee of your organization and that you don't trust their potential. Is that the message you want to send to your new employee, and haven't they already passed the test if you made a good hiring decision?

Be prepared on day one.

Be ready for the new-hire when they arrive on their first day. Treat them like a guest by being ready at the front door, giving a guided tour, making introductions to staff members, providing lunch, and helping them at every step throughout the day. Ensure that their workspace is clean, stocked, and ready for work and that they have all the tools necessary to do the job, including proper equipment and computer programs. Make their first day as pleasant and as organized as possible and limit time spent on paperwork.

Cover the big picture.

Sometimes employers are so eager to get their new-hires working that they don't spend time educating them on the big picture, such as what the company does; it's history, mission, and vision for the future; its values and culture; its product and service offerings; industry; the markets and communities it serves; and the organization's structure. Spending time covering all of the core aspects of your organization's business is critical to helping the new-hire understand how their role fits into the organization.

Encourage relationship-building.

Provide time for your new-hire to build relationships with their supervisor and fellow team members by coordinating team events, social outings, one-on-one meetings, retreats, or other activities to help them learn about their fellow coworkers and build relationships with them. In addition, consider including your leadership team in the on-boarding process. Introducing new employees to senior management and allowing time to get to know them can build a sense of comfort, trust, and security in the leadership team.

Spend enough time on training and provide a mentor.

Surprisingly, many organizations don't spend enough time training their new-hires upfront, which can lead to a host of issues later. While you may want to get your new-hire started on tasks and projects, it's important to recognize that every new-hire (regardless of experience) will need training. Don't assume that they can just jump into the work with little direction or knowledge of your internal processes. If possible, also assign a "buddy" or mentor to help the employee learn and assimilate into the organization.

Ask for their feedback.

Throughout the first few months, it's important to establish checkpoints with your new-hire. If your organization doesn't have a formal feedback or survey process, ask new-hires a few simple questions - if the job is what they expected, what challenges they are experiencing, and if they are being provided with the right amount of training and support. Keep the lines of communication open with your new-hire to ensure that when a problem or misunderstanding arises, it is dealt with quickly.

On-boarding is about investing in employee retention, engagement, and productivity, so if you want to make sure your new-hire stays and thrives, consider these on-boarding practices. They are best practices from employers of choice in the region - NorthCoast 99 winners (www.northcoast99.org) - and will ensure that your new-hires are engaged and productive from the start.

5 Myths About Workplace Communication

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5 Myths About Workplace Communication

Employers constantly find themselves battling communication issues between employees and managers in the workplace. These issues commonly stem from not understanding the basics of good communication, mistaking frequency for quality, and making inaccurate assumptions about how much information others want and need to know. Here are 5 myths about workplace communication that your organization should consider "debunking" to improve communication.

1. If your employees are talking to you frequently, you have good communication.

Regular one-on-one "catch up" meetings between your employees and supervisors do not guarantee that quality communication is taking place. Despite these meetings, misunderstandings and communication breakdowns can still happen. Frequency of communication, while important, has little to do with how effective the communication between your supervisors and employees actually is. Focus instead of what is actually being discussed in those meetings and how it's being said.

2. Line employees are the main reason that communication suffers in the workplace.

Sometimes...but not usually. Effective communication is important at all levels of the organization, but is most important and more commonly expected at the manager level. After all, managers spend the majority of their time communicating with all levels of the organization, including other departments, employees, managers, and leaders. Their job is to make sure people have the information they need to do their jobs well and that they have the information necessary to manage their departments and employees. This involves sharing lots of information and asking lots of questions. As a result, when there is a communication problem, it usually falls on the manager.

3. An open-door policy is enough to encourage employees to share their concerns and ideas.

If you think that your organization's open-door policy is enough to encourage employees' sharing of opinions, ideas, and concerns, you're probably placing too much faith in your policy. Simply saying that your organization has an open-door policy does not necessarily ensure that employees will actually take advantage of this policy and voice their concerns to management. You will probably need to make more proactive attempts to gather employees' ideas and encourage their input if you value two-way communication with your staff.

4. Employees aren't interested in, privy to, or already know information.

This may be true for some of your employees, but not of all of them. Many employees desire more information about the organization and what it's trying to achieve, and your organization has a responsibility to share it with them. When employees are treated as partners in the business and given access to sensitive information, they are more likely to engage in their work and create greater value for your business. Additionally, never assume that employees already know something that is important for them to do their job. A good deal of communication problems result from assuming that people already know information they actually don't know.

5. Information is the foundation of good workplace communication.

Information is important, but trust and communication skills are the true foundations of good communication in the workplace, and both need to be developed over time. Trust is also one of the major reasons communication fails in the workplace. When departments don't trust other departments, employees don't trust their managers, and leaders don't trust employees, information gets withheld, decisions are made without consulting others, conflicts emerge, and everyone starts choosing their words less wisely and thoughtfully. Similarly, communication skills need to be built and fostered among all levels of your employees, and especially your managers, through training, coaching, and practice.

Communication issues affect every organization, but "debunking" common myths and assumptions about communication can be a good first step to improve communication in your organization and especially between your managers and employees.

Additional Resources

Supervisory Series
In this series, participants will gain an understanding of how to communicate effectively with others in the workplace, in addition to dealing with everyday challenges of being a supervisor, resolving workplace conflict, and managing performance and coaching. This series is offered in AM sessions and PM sessions and begins February 7th.

Communication & Interpersonal Skills TrainingERC specializes in communication, interpersonal, and soft-skills training for all levels of the organization. Click here to view the many training courses we offer. These courses can also be customized to meet the needs of your organization.  For more information, please contact ckutsko@yourerc.com.

Communication Skills Training

Just Promoted to Supervisor? Here's What to Know About New Manager Training

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training for new managers supervisors New Supervisor New Manager Training

Every organization faces the challenge of new manager training: transitioning an employee from team player to team leader. This transition from employee to supervisor is one of the hardest an employee must make in their career. After the promotion occurs, what should you do to make sure the transition goes smoothly and that your new supervisor is successful in their new role?

One best practice is to approach the transition like you would on-board a new employee. Would you expect your new employee to learn by trial and error? Probably not. Like a new employee, anticipate that new supervisors need both initial and on-going training and support to perform their new role and responsibilities. Similar to on-boarding, the more you develop your employee upfront, the less redirection is needed later. Here are some suggestions.

1. Clarify expectations and priorities.

Most new supervisors have little clarity regarding what their priorities and expectations should be in their new role and aren't prepared to be effective in their new role. As a first step, spend time discussing their new responsibilities and performance expectations and how these have changed from their previous role.

2. Discuss your organization's management philosophy.

Every organization has management norms and a certain style of leadership that supports its culture, so it's important to discuss with your new supervisor how your organization expects employees to be managed. This helps ensure that employees are supervised consistently throughout the organization.

3. Schedule them for new manager training sooner than later.

Schedule employees for supervisory training as close to the time of promotion as possible or even prior to the transition, particularly for softer skills (i.e. communication, conflict management, etc.). Make sure new supervisors are set-up with the most critical baseline skills they need to be successful on the job. This will minimize common new supervisor mistakes.

4. Brief them on managerial procedures.

Administering a performance review, conducting a write-up, handling employee leave, or dealing with a grievance are just a few of many complicated issues in which your new supervisor has never been exposed. Make sure supervisors are knowledgeable about correct procedures to handle these issues and can access the proper paperwork and guidance.

5. Coach them on critical conversations.

Your supervisor will soon find themselves in tricky situations such as dealing with an underperforming employee, high-performing but dissatisfied employee, employee who comes to work late, or a team that isn't working together. These situations require difficult conversations and often require new manger training. Consider counseling and role-playing with them on the right and wrong things to say in these conversations and how to handle and mitigate common employee problems.

6. Provide time to interact with other managers.

One of the best ways for your new supervisor to learn the ropes of management is to spend time with other experienced managers and excellent leadership role models who can encourage and guide them, listen to their challenges and frustrations, and help them learn through their own experiences.

7. Encourage self-awareness.

It's unlikely that your newly promoted employee has ever considered how their interpersonal style helps or impedes their effectiveness. As soon as they start managing people, however, the quirks of their interpersonal styles (how they deal with conflict, their communication preferences, their personality, etc.) become apparent. Provide tools to help them become more aware of their style and behavior and flex it to meet others' needs and become a more effective manager.

8. Redirect their natural reflexes.

Every new supervisor experiences some natural reflexes—including the urge to do the work themselves and impose their ways of doing things on others without building consensus or asking for input. New supervisors will need to be encouraged to fight their natural reflexes to go back to the tactics that made them successful in their prior role.

9. Suggest resources.

Recommend books, tools, articles, blogs, job aids, and other tools for your new supervisor to access in order to become a better manager. Better yet, create a library of these resources at your organization. This will also help your other managers in their on-going management development.

10. Observe their transition to identify additional areas of development.

In their first few weeks and months on the job, observe how their transition is going. Specific issues to observe may include how much (or little) they are delegating, how they are interacting with their employees, and their team's performance. Talk to the new supervisor and employees on the supervisor's team to gather additional feedback. If you notice issues early on and correct them, it's unlikely that they will escalate.

You can never fully prepare managers for all of the challenges they will face, but by providing training, guidance, and support to supervisors before they hit the front-lines you can set them up to succeed as new leaders.

Interested in learning more about training your supervisors?

Submit your contact information and receive instant access to a video highlighting our process and a brochure featuring our courses, delivery methods, and success stories.

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1 in 2 Employers Will Give Employees Holiday Gifts This Year

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According to the 2011 ERC Holiday Practices Survey, half of Northeast Ohio employers say that they plan on giving employees holiday gifts in 2011. Of the organizations that intend to provide gifts, the majority are budgeting the same amount as 2010, while only a few employers are spending more or less on holiday gifts.

Gift cards and cash remain the gifts of choice among employers. In 2011, around 60% of employee holiday gifts will be gift cards and approximately 16% will be cash, based on the survey’s findings. Other gifts employers plan to offer include hams or turkeys, gift baskets, candy/chocolates, clothing, logo items, additional PTO,  entertainment books, and electronics.

How to Create a Positive, Engaging Performance Review Experience

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It’s the end of the year and for most employers, time for performance review conversations.

Have you ever left a performance review discussion feeling more engaged, inspired, and motivated? If you have, you understand that performance reviews can drive positive change and feelings, if done right. The trouble is that most managers don’t know how to facilitate these positive changes within the context of a performance review discussion.

All too often, performance reviews can be a negative experience for employees and managers alike, dreaded by some, avoided by others, and feared by even the best of performers. Managers often dislike providing performance feedback to their employees, and employees don’t like receiving it. Who can blame them? When the process is focused on judging, rating, and criticizing, as it is traditionally, it can lose its purpose and become a negative experience for everyone involved.

The performance review process doesn’t need to be perceived this way. It can be a time of re-engaging and re-directing employees towards greater success in the next year and affirming your support for their performance and development, while still meeting your administrative needs (i.e. merit increases, performance documentation, etc.).

Changing the perceptions of the process starts with changing the experience. Here are a few suggestions for your managers to create a more positive performance review experience.

Prepare and be objective.

Throughout the year, it’s important to collect information about your employees, including their specific accomplishments, performance problems, progress in their development, and current skills. This information will help you form a more objective evaluation of your employee. For example, every time your employee does something well, goes to a training, develops a new skill, has a performance issue, or goes above and beyond their duties, log the behavior, result, and cause (if known) in a diary for future reference. This will make completing your employee’s performance review much easier and accurate. Nothing is more frustrating to an employee than a manager who doesn’t have all of his/her facts straight or evaluates them too subjectively.

Deemphasize ratings.

Ratings can serve a purpose in the performance review process, but the focus of a performance review discussion should not be where the employee fell on the Likert scale or how the employee ranks compared to other employees. Employees can often get caught up in how they were rated and miss the bigger picture of the conversation. The performance discussion can quickly become an argument about differing opinions on ratings and this isn’t productive for either party. Additionally, remember that a manager’s core purpose in the performance management process isn’t to judge, but rather coach to improve performance.

Uncover causes of high performance.

A fair performance review should uncover an employee’s areas of high performance throughout the year and the causes of why the employee performed well on those tasks or projects. By identifying an employee’s successes and reasons for their success, you can better understand the factors that lead an employee to perform well, and maximize these factors in the future by recreating conditions that facilitate great performance.

Focus on improvement.

Another core purpose of a performance review is to improve performance. This rarely happens just by criticizing the employee and telling them what they need to improve. In fact, you’ll often find that employees don’t know where to start to improve, so there needs to be additional work, help, coaching, and development to close the performance gap that exists and to enhance and broaden skills. The performance review discussion should explore ways to close those gaps and expand skill sets, and discuss barriers to employees’ success as well as how those can be bridged or alleviated.

Suggest ways employees can learn and develop.

Explore learning and training opportunities and look for ways to align development with employees’ preferred learning styles. For example, some employees respond better to reading material, attending workshops, mentoring, or on-the-job training. The key is to find and suggest effective ways that employees like to learn and use these to encourage skill development. Map out a few learning objectives to ensure that employees are held accountable for building their skills.

Set goals and objectives.

A final step that’s beneficial at the end of a performance review discussion is goal setting. Setting goals towards the end of the conversation helps close the conversation on a motivational note, and get employees excited about new objectives and projects. Goals can strengthen performance and improve skills, and can be helpful in motivating employees to work towards new objectives. Ideally, employees should have input into what these goals are, versus just being arbitrarily assigned objectives.

Close with support.

Finally, it’s important to end a performance review discussion supportively. Express confidence in the employee’s abilities and let them know that you are there to support their success throughout the next year as they work towards their goals. Emphasize what they are doing right, what they can improve upon, and how you’ll help them. Cite specific ways that you will do this, and if possible, create a written action plan. Then, be sure to deliver on those promises. Even when an employee has much to work on, having the support and confidence of their manager can make all the difference between a negative or positive reaction to the discussion and feeling motivated to change their behavior.

In the coming years, make it a goal to have each and every one of your employees leave their performance review discussion motivated and inspired. You may discover that these discussions aren’t so bad after all, and create a more engaged team that’s ready to deliver great results in your organization.

Performance Management Training Courses

Performance Management Training Courses

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More Northeast Ohio Employers Planning Holiday Parties This Year

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The 2011 ERC Holiday Practices Survey, which surveyed 152 Northeast Ohio organizations, shows that more employers in Northeast Ohio (73%) are coordinating holiday parties when compared to 2009 and 2010, with most respondents budgeting the same as the preceding year.

Additionally, more organizations are having their holiday parties at an external location and are catering them this year. More employers are also providing alcohol and entertainment at their holiday parties, and inviting employees’ significant others and spouses to the events compared to the past few years.

The percentage of organizations serving alcohol at their holiday parties has significantly increased from 25% in 2009 to 40% in 2011. In this same time period, 29% more Northeast Ohio employers are having their holiday party catered, 32% more organizations plan to hold their party at an external location, and 14% more employers are inviting employees’ significant others or spouses to the parties.

Ways to Thank Employees This Holiday

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For many employers, 2011 culminated in greater success than the preceding years and the holidays are an ideal time to show appreciation to your employees for that success.

Think back on 2011 and hopefully a great deal of achievements, accomplishments, and successes happened at your organization. Many of those would not have been possible without the efforts of your employees, those in the front lines every day servicing your customers and building your products. Each of your employees played a critical role in how your financials play out on December 31.

So whether you hold a celebration or offer time off work, gifts, or other gestures of thanks, it’s critically important to make the time and regard each your employee’s efforts and accomplishments. They are the people who made your success happen in 2011. Here are some ideas.

Coordinate a holiday party or event.

Providing a holiday party or gathering for your employees is a special way to show appreciation to your staff around the holidays. Nearly three-quarters of local employers coordinate a holiday party for their employees. These events are usually luncheons or evening parties held on a Thursday or Friday, and typically use external locations and caterers to host the parties – such as local restaurants, country clubs, or hotels. Some employers even invite employees’ spouses, significant others, and/or children.

Host a pre-holiday team-building activity.

This could be a departmental or team luncheon, fun activity, retreat, or a community service event. The end of the year is a great time to bring departments and teams together to discuss the past year, celebrate accomplishments, and/or continue to build the team. Encourage each of your managers to spend time with their team as a whole. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, but should strengthen team dynamics and relationships to get the New Year started on the right foot.

Start a holiday tradition.

Traditions are an important part of your organization’s culture that makes your organization unique. If your organization doesn’t already have a holiday tradition, it may consider starting one. Perhaps it’s a family holiday party, a Secret Santa exchange, an annual breakfast, or an office decorating day.

Recognize and reward this year’s best.

There’s no question that some of your employees contributed in greater ways to your organization’s success than others, and if your organization hasn’t done so already, it should plan to recognize and reward those top performers. Perhaps these individuals include employees who have worked especially hard on a strategic project, those that exceeded their goals or contributed most to the organization’s profitability, or those that introduced a new innovation or initiative to the organization. Make a short list of your top contributors and provide them a special reward this holiday, preferably publicly.

Provide an extra day off (or two).

One of the best gifts you can give your employees is extra time with family and friends and a bit more work/life balance. Provide the opportunity for some time off work, either through extra paid holidays provided by the company, additional paid time off, early-releases, holiday breaks, reduced schedules, or more flexible work. Also keep in mind that the majority of employers plan to provide paid days off for the days surrounding the holidays.

Make a personal gesture of thanks.

Encourage managers (and ideally your CEO or top management team) to write notes to employees, provide personalized telephone calls, or meet with them individually to thank them for their contributions. These personal gestures can go a long way in showing gratitude to employees for their efforts and accomplishments.

Give a gift.

Small gifts or cash/gift cards are a great way to show you appreciate employees. About half of employers provide holiday gifts to their employees. The most common gift given to employees is a general gift card. Some employers, however, provide hams/turkeys, gift baskets, logo items, clothing items, and candy. You may choose to get even more creative with your gifts and vary them from year to year. Be sure that immediate supervisors or top managers distribute these gifts.

…or gifts that keep giving.

By these we mean the things that many employees are looking for this year – beyond just a gift card. Perhaps it’s a new opportunity, a raise, or a promotion. Survey after survey shows that compensation, advancement, and career development rank high on employees’ “wish lists” this year. You’ll find that these “gifts” truly will keep on giving when they improve your employees’ motivation, engagement, and happiness at work in the new year.

Provide a few perks to help save them money.

Finally, the holidays can stretch employees’ wallets, so any way your organization can save its employees money will be appreciated. Discount programs, convenience services, and free benefits are all perks you can introduce to your employees this holiday season. Plus, ERC offers several employee discounts that are available to your employees through your membership. Click here to learn more.

This holiday, remember to thank the people that made your organization successful this past year by showing a few gestures of appreciation.

Additional Resources

Holiday Benchmarking Surveys 

Benchmark your holiday practices and paid holidays your organization offers by downloading our holidays surveys: the ERC Holiday Practices Survey and ERC Paid Holiday Survey.

Discounts on Catering
Need a caterer for your upcoming holiday party? Consider using ERC’s Preferred Partner, Food for Thought, which provides discounted delivery fees on catering services to ERC members within certain geographical areas.

Team-Building
Build your team this holiday season! The end of the year or beginning of the next is a common and great time to gather your team together for a team-building event, activity, or training to ensure that your team is ready to execute for the New Year.

100+ Workplace Ideas: Celebrations, Parties, & Gatherings

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100+ Workplace Ideas: Celebrations, Parties, & Gatherings

There are many ways to celebrate and gather in the workplace, not limited to just the holidays. Many workplaces come together to celebrate retirements, birthdays, anniversaries or tenure, office changes, employee or organizational accomplishments, among others.

Workplace celebrations and gatherings are important for many reasons. For one, they bring your staff together, allow them to socialize with one another more informally, and often help build and strengthen relationships. Second, they enhance the culture of a workplace, making it fun and enjoyable. Third, celebrations and gatherings provide a means of recognizing personal and workplace achievements and milestones and showing appreciation for them in a public manner.

We’ve compiled a robust collection of 100+ ideas for reasons to celebrate, ways to celebrate, and local places to celebrate with your employees throughout the year.

Ideas for reasons to celebrate or gather with employees

  • Holidays
  • Retirements
  • Birthdays
  • Graduations
  • Promotions
  • Anniversaries or tenure
  • New babies or adoptions
  • New year or end-of-year
  • Major project kick-offs, milestones, or completions
  • Office changes (new office, renovations, major improvements, etc.)
  • Beginning of or end of a busy season
  • Employee appreciation/recognition
  • Employee, team, and/or organizational achievements
  • Company anniversary
  • Team-building
  • Charitable causes
  • Break from work

Ideas for ways to celebrate and gather with employees

  • “75” days of celebration to celebrate “75” years in business
  • Annual employee appreciation day
  • Apple picking
  • Baby showers
  • Beach parties
  • Black-tie galas
  • Boating or cruise events
  • Bonfires
  • Bowling nights
  • Breakfast with Santa
  • Breakfasts or luncheons with the President
  • Bus trips or excursions
  • Busy-season kick-off and/or wrap-up parties
  • Cake parties
  • Carnivals
  • Casino, card, or poker nights
  • Charitable walks or runs
  • Chili cook-offs
  • Christmas in July
  • Cinco-de-Mayo parties
  • Clam bakes
  • College logo days
  • Comedy clubs
  • Company picnics
  • Company-paid staff vacations
  • Cook-offs
  • Cookouts
  • Corn-hole tournaments
  • Coworker trivia
  • Crazy hat or shirt days
  • Cultural/ethnic celebrations
  • Day at the spa
  • Day at the zoo, park, or amusement park
  • Desert decorating contests
  • Desk decorating parties (holidays, birthdays, etc.)
  • Dessert parties
  • Dinner at the President’s house
  • Dinner with live band or DJ and dancing
  • Dinner-dances
  • Easter egg hunts
  • Employee talent shows
  • Fall fests
  • Family fests with activities, contests, and entertainment
  • Field days
  • Fundraisers
  • Gift exchanges or white elephant parties
  • Gifts or celebrations for Mothers Day and Fathers Day
  • Golf outings and scrambles
  • Halloween costume contests
  • Halloween decorating contests
  • Hayrides
  • Ice cream socials and ice cream truck visits
  • Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers opening day celebrations
  • Internal happy hours
  • Karaoke events
  • Laser tag
  • Limo service to luncheons/dinners
  • Local sporting events
  • Local theatre or plays
  • Luaus
  • March Madness events
  • Mid-winter slump events
  • Monthly potluck birthday parties
  • Movie nights
  • National food days
  • Night at the races
  • Nintendo Wii contests or tournaments
  • Office putt-putt
  • Office Thanksgiving luncheons or potlucks
  • Office trick-or-treating for employees’ children
  • Open-houses
  • Paintball
  • Paper airplane contests
  • Pinewood derby
  • Pizza parties
  • Potlucks
  • Raffles
  • Retirement parties
  • Salad bar lunches
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Scrapbooking parties
  • Service award parties
  • Shopping days for the holidays
  • Silent auctions
  • Skits
  • Snow days (tobogganing, sledding, skiing, and/or ice skating)
  • Soup sampler days
  • Special employee weeks or days (administrative professionals, nurse’s week, maintenance day, etc.)
  • Sports tournaments (flag football, softball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, etc.)
  • St. Patrick’s Day festivities (catered corned beef lunch, parade watching, etc.)
  • Staff off-site retreats
  • Surprise fun days (go to the movies, etc.)
  • Tailgates
  • Take your children to work days
  • Take your parents to work days
  • Theme parties
  • Ugly sweater holiday parties
  • Visits from Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny
  • Wear your sweats to work day
  • Wedding showers
  • Weekend trips to Kalihari or Put-in-Bay
  • Whirleyball
  • Wine and cheese tasting

Ideas for local venues for your celebrations

  • Akron Aeros Canal Park
  • Akron Zoo
  • Blossom Music Center
  • Cadillac Ranch
  • Cedar Point
  • Cleveland Botanical Gardens
  • Cleveland Browns Stadium
  • Cleveland Metroparks Zoo
  • Country Clubs
  • Dave and Busters
  • Edgewater Park
  • Goodtime III
  • Hale Farm
  • Hilarities Comedy Club
  • Hotels
  • House of Blues
  • Kalahari
  • Kennywood
  • Lake County Captains Classic Park
  • Nautica Queen
  • Playhouse Square
  • President of the Company’s Home
  • Progressive Field                                                   
  • Put-in-Bay
  • Quail Hallow
  • Renaissance Hotel
  • Restaurants
  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Seven Springs
  • Shorby Club
  • Swings N Things
  • The Q
  • Waldameer Water World
  • Whisky Island
  • Windows on the River

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What to Do When Violence Comes to Work

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An estimated 2 million employees each year are victims of workplace or domestic violence, according to OSHA. Employers have a responsibility to prevent and mitigate issues of workplace violence, which also include domestic violence. These issues can cause problems that organizations can’t afford to ignore if not prevented or managed.

Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as any physical assault, threatening behavior, or verbal abuse that occurs in a work setting. Violence can also include intimidation, harassment, or damaging acts to an organization’s resources or capabilities. The majority of workplace violence (85%) occurs by criminal intent by individuals that have no affiliation with the business, according to the NIOSH. Under 15% of incidents are perpetrated by other employees, clients/customers, or individuals with a relationship to an employee in the business. This suggests that many incidents of workplace violence are caused by individuals outside of the business. In light of these facts, here are a few ways you can mitigate and manage the effects of workplace violence:

1. Create and enforce a policy.

Combating workplace violence begins with making it a priority for your business to keep employees and your resources safe, expressing zero-tolerance for violent words and acts, and having a plan and procedure in place when violent acts do happen. Employees and supervisors also need to be trained and educated on how to deal with potentially violent situations as part of enforcing your policy.

2. Respond to threats.

Take reasonable steps to protect your workforce and respond to threats, reports of threats, and suspicious activity whether these come in the form of actual observable behaviors or oral/written remarks made to the target or indirectly made to another individual.  Evaluate every threat seriously and investigate it.

3. Assess your outside risks.

Evaluate your external risks, such as public access to your building, how visitors are screened, lighting in parking lots, entry-systems, and emergency procedures. Consider offering escort service to the parking lot, providing video surveillance, hiring security guards, or using metal detectors to catch suspicious risks before they enter your workplace.

4. Address internal conflicts.

You may not be able to always control violent acts that come from outside of your workplace, but you do have the means to control what happens in your workplace. Ensure that conflicts between employees do not get out of hand and are promptly addressed and mediated if necessary. Don’t take assaults or harassment lightly. Train employees on how to control hostile and aggressive behavior if you have had incidents in the past. Teach supervisors how to remain calm in emotional situations and regain control of the environment.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence can also hurt your workplace when violence at home spills over into work. This form of violence is often a hidden workplace threat which affects mostly women. In fact, nearly 1 in 3 females are physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at least one time in their lives according to the Commonwealth Fund, suggesting that domestic violence is likely affecting or has affected at least one of your employees. Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence are frequently afraid to reveal these issues to their employers, but by not doing so can pose serious threats to the organization. Here are some ways you can mitigate and manage the effects of domestic violence on your workplace:

1. Recognize the signs.

If the situation is not disclosed to you, it’s important to recognize the signs of a problem, especially if it is impeding performance, productivity, or the employee’s well-being. Watch for signs of withdrawal behavior, low self esteem, oversensitivity, performance or attitude shifts, unusually fearful or anxious responses to situations, and frequent injuries or scars as possible signs of a problem at home. There may also be more overt signs of abuse, such as indications of unhealthy possessiveness or harassment by a significant other.

2. Respond to the employee.

Express concern about your observations in private with the employee, but don’t directly assume that there is a problem. Rather, keep your dialogue open-ended and unassuming (i.e. “I’ve noticed a change in your behavior lately…”). Reassure the employee that the conversation will be confidential and that you are there to help and support them and ensure their safety and well-being. You may also consider working out a temporary flexible work arrangement with the employee to help her cope with her situation.

3. Redirect the employee to people that can help.

Referring employees to proper resources is essential. These resources may include employee assistance programs, personal or medical leave, counselors and medical providers, shelters, or legal resources (such as law enforcement) to help employees get the assistance they need. If the situation poses immediate risks to your employee or organization, you may consider centralizing their phone calls or changing their phone number, moving the employee’s desk or workspace, providing temporary housing, or creating a contingency plan in the event of an emergency. Employers can find other information here to help them deal with domestic violence’s effects on their workplace.

4. Prevent it from happening.

Like workplace violence, the best way to stop domestic violence is to prevent it in the first place by educating employees on ways to protect themselves in violent situations and keep themselves safe either through training, educational literature, or other means. Creating a domestic violence policy is also another way you can proactively ensure employees’ safety. Such a policy may include:

    • A definition of domestic violence
    • Promise of confidentiality
    • Who employees should tell if they are being abused
    • How absences and/or temporary relocation will be handled
    • If and when employees can use leave for domestic violence
    • Certification process for leave (if needed or required)
    • Process by which employees can obtain services or assistance via the company

Like it or not and as uncomfortable as these issues may be, workplace and domestic violence are key issues that could or may already be affecting your workforce, their productivity, performance, and safety. The best way to stop workplace or domestic violence is to prevent it in the first place. This starts with identifying risks, implementing policies and procedures, and providing education and the resources that your employees can access to help themselves stay safe.  There’s no greater gift you can provide your employees than the ability to keep themselves safe this holiday season. You may just save a life.

Additional Resources

Preferred Partner: Ease@Work

ERC’s Preferred Partner, Ease@Work, provides employee assistance services to companies throughout Ohio with employees throughout the United States. Their services provide counseling and critical incident support to your employees in times of need. Any ERC member is offered one free management consultation regarding how to handle a sensitive employee issue.