Top 4 Critical Skills Employees Need to Develop

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Top 4 Critical Skills Employees Need to Develop

In its Critical Skills Survey, the American Management Association (AMA) unveiled the four most critical workforce skills that need to be developed. Many of these skill gaps are also extremely common among the organizations we serve at ERC. Here’s an overview of the top four critical skills as well as recommendations on how to close these gaps through training and development in your organization.

1. Communication

Communication refers to the ability to convey one’s ideas orally and in writing. In surveys conducted by the Center for Creative Leadership and AMA, communication is cited as not only a critical skill needed by the workforce, and also as a critical skill needed among leaders. It was also identified as a skill in which younger workers are most likely to need development. Effective communication is expected to grow in importance over the next 10 years.

Growing employees’ communication skills involves helping them build rapport with others, practice listening strategies, use both effective verbal and non-verbal communication, give and receive feedback, orally present information to others, and write clearly.

Communication is most effectively developed through classroom training, one-on-one coaching, and on-the-job practice.
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Demand for Technical Skill Sets Help Deliver Strong IT Salaries

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Information Technology (IT) continues to be an area of exceptional growth in the job market, both nationally and locally. Using data from the 2013 ERC Salary Survey, the average median salary growth of various occupational categories within IT, as set by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, can be seen below. The positive salary growth this figure illustrates is unsurprising when two key factors are considered.

Job Growth

Nationally, the field of “computers and mathematics” is predicted to see job growth as high as 22% between 2010 and 2020. Locally, the MSA (metropolitan statistical area) encompassing Northeast Ohio falls just short of those job numbers, projecting 16.1% job growth during the same time period. When compared to the overall job growth projections encompassing all occupations, nationally (14.3%) and locally (1.7%), it becomes clear that IT is seeing much more positive job growth than other industries in Northeast Ohio.
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The Female Golfer: Playing for Success

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An Interview with Jamie Taylor

Jamie Taylor, a Cleveland Metroparks LPGA golf pro, is teaming up with ERC to provide female golfers some insight on leveraging business (and fun!) out on the golf course this summer.

Just as golf is a great sport for weekend outings with friends, it is equally fit for helping businesswomen build relationships with their customers and clients. Jamie comments that since golf is played in 2.5 to 4.5 hour games, players are able to spend a great deal of quality time getting to know one another. In this sense, golfing is an ideal time to pitch an idea, obtain a new client, or make a sale. As Jamie puts it,

"Golf etiquette imitates business etiquette. Knowing basic golf etiquette will help you impress any potential business partner."
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The Ultimate Summer Workplace Checklist

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Sweet summertime is right around the corner. Bring on the company picnics, vacation schedules, and little league games!

The HR department is presented with plenty of opportunities and challenges when it comes to the summertime workplace. It can be hard at times to keep employees attention and focus when the sunshine is calling their name.

Here’s the ultimate summer workplace list for organizations working to make their workplace great:

1. Solidify Holiday Schedule

There are 3 national holidays U.S. employers recognize during the summer, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Make sure your employees know what days they will have off due to the holidays, especially the 4th of July. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, be sure to clarify and communicate to employees what day the office will be closed. Also be sure to communicate that to customers as well.

2. Manage Vacation Schedules

Summer is the ideal time for many people to take a vacation. Unfortunately for the HR department and management team, that means many employees wanting to schedule time off at the same time. This can lead to a shortage of workers or disappointed employees if not handled properly. Require employees to schedule time off in advance, receive approval for time off, coordinate with the their coworkers and implement a fair system specifying criteria of the process and spell out whatever limits your organization may have around taking vacation.

3. Implement a Summer Dress Code

With the weather being warmer, it may be beneficial to implement and communicate a summer dress code throughout the organization.

Be sure to effectively communicate the new summer dress code, preferably in writing. Clarify what summer attire is and what it isn’t. Determine what is allowed in terms of apparel and shoes while providing examples (i.e. sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, shorts, capris, etc.) It may also be beneficial to let employees know to be mindful of their daily agendas and not dress inappropriately when meeting with customers or pitching an idea to corporate, depending on policy.

Also apply your dress code uniformly to all employees, and not to a specific gender or demographic.

4. Plan a Company Outing

Summer is an ideal time to organize a company outing or picnic to show appreciation. Hosting a company outing not only shows appreciation for employees but recognizes their efforts and gives them a time to interact and bond with one another outside of the office.

Many organizations host outings at a local attraction, golf course or park.

If the budget is right, it may be nice to include spouses, significant others, or children too.

5. Wellness Program

The summertime weather also allows for more creative outdoor activities and programs to support and promote wellness throughout the organization. Try setting up a bike-to-work program, walking program, fitness activity, or pick-up game.

In addition, the summer is a great time to emphasize nutrition and healthy eating habits with the increased availability of fruits and vegetables. Several organizations have begun to provide fresh produce whenever possible to their workforce.

6. Flexible Scheduling

Many families tend to need more flexibility in the summer. Kids are out of school with little league games and sick babysitters.

Great workplaces tend to provide a bit more flexibility, such as opportunities to leave early on Fridays, revised or shorter work schedules, compressed work weeks, and longer holiday weekends.

Flexibility options allow employees extra time with their families and help them achieve better work/life balance over the summer.

7. Address Attendance Issues

Having a more flexible schedule may lead to a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Attendance can become more of an issue in the summertime when employees may call off, take unapproved time off, or be tardy/leave work early more often.

Make sure to have an attendance policy that is clearly communicated to employees and enforce the policy consistently.

Being flexible to employees’ needs to keep attendance issues to a minimum and keep in mind that results are what counts the most at work.

8. Take Advantage of Slow-Time Opportunities

Depending on the industry, summer time can be less busy and employees have a more relaxed workload. This is the perfect time to implement development initiatives that may have been pushed to the side the rest of the year in preference of other obligations.

Training, development, programs, and other HR projects are perfect opportunities to take advantage of in the summer months.

9. Have More Fun

The summer is a great time to have more fun at work, relax, build relationships between team members, and focus on collaboration and team-building.

Team-building activities, contests, socials, and philanthropic events help employees build camaraderie and foster open communication.

Consider setting up a volunteering day in which employees spend the morning or afternoon, as a team, helping out at a local nonprofit organization.

Planting and tending to a garden throughout the summer is another fun (and delicious) activity for the workplace.

10. Mid-Year Meeting

Encourage management to have a mid-year meeting with each of their employees to talk about their progress towards their goals and their performance thus far into the year.

Employees should not be surprised by the feedback they receive or the results of their end of year performance review.

Take steps to change performance now with employees who are not performing up to standard. Conversely, with great performers, let them know they are doing a great job and encourage them to keep up the good work.

It may also be beneficial to hold a company-wide mid-year staff meeting to bring everyone up-to-date on the year’s progress, where things are thriving, where things are falling short, and to boost morale.

5 Easy Ways to Boost Summer Productivity

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Summer can drain workplace productivity. Employees generally feel more sapped of work energy and motivation during the summer. In fact, studies have found that organizations can experience a lull in productivity during the summer, with one 2011 study finding that one-in-four employers think employees are less productive in the summer.

What are some easy ways that your organization can help ensure that productivity doesn't suffer this summer? Here are a couple strategies.
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Paid Summer Holidays in Northeast Ohio Consistent with National Numbers

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With Memorial Day unofficially kicking off “summertime” in Northeast Ohio for 2013, vacations, time-off and holidays for the upcoming summer months are top of mind for employees and employers alike. While official paid-time-off and vacation policies have a different look and feel based on each employer’s organizational culture, paid holidays are more consistent across the board.

In 2012 the ERC Paid Holiday Survey found that on average, most employers were planning to offer between 9 and 10 paid holidays to their workforce in 2013, an average that has remained steady for a number of years. The range of total holidays offered also remains fairly consistent from past years with one employer reporting as few as 3 and one reporting as many as 16 days.

As the chart below demonstrates, the region is very much in line with the national standards in terms of which holidays employers choose to offer to their employees as paid holidays. All three major “summer” holidays are nearly universally part of this holiday time-off plan.

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ADA Compliance: How Much Is Enough?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. But how much accommodation is enough? When does an accommodation become unreasonable? How reasonable is reasonable?

Reasonable Accommodations Defined

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), reasonable accommodations are any effective changes or adjustments to a job or work environment that allow a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.
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Pay Trends Emerge in Northeast Ohio

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The 2013 ERC Salary & Wage Surveys report salary data for 9,000+ individual employees from 200+ participating organizations and hourly wage data for 7,500+ individuals from 150+ organizations respectively. This unique local market data is a key resource for employers in the local business community looking to attract and retain top talent in to their organizations in Northeast Ohio.

While pay rates from these annual surveys remained fairly stable overall, certain industries did see more positive patterns of growth than others. Industry specific growth was strong in IT, Science/Research & Development, Customer Service/Sales, Purchasing/Distribution, and Business & Administrative Support. Each of these areas saw their average median salary grow by 4% or more overall from 2012 to 2013.
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Rarely Performed Duties Can Be Essential Functions Under ADA

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The outcome of a recent court case reminds employers that when determining the essential functions of the job, how frequently they are performed is just one factor that should be considered.

Case Overview

In the 2013 case Knutson v. Schwan Food Company, Knutson was a general manager for one of the organization's depots whose job description stated that a manager must meet federal Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements to be eligible to periodically drive a delivery truck.
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Congrats to the 2013 Manny Award Winners

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Congratulations to the 2013 Manny Award Winners! ERC is proud to have many members that were honored with this award, including:

  • ABS Materials
  • Checkpoint Surgical
  • Cryothermic Systems
  • Mesocoat
  • Nordson Corporation
  • Myers Industries Inc.
  • Olympic Steel Inc.
  • PartSource Inc.

The Manny Awards honor companies making Northeast Ohio stronger by developing new products, keeping workers safe and giving back to the community.