Why Y? Working with Gen Y and Surviving

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As generational research steams ahead and more and more gigabytes are collected, we are fast looking for answers to an age-old question.  “Why are these young people so weird?” Wait! Did I say that?  Yes, but just so you know, there are young people among us that have tattoos, pierced lips and tongues that are bright, multi-talented —and they don’t wear button down shirts!

Working productively with the Millennial’s, the Nintendo Generation, the Echo Boomers or whichever label we put on these 12-25 year olds is critically important today, since there are 60 million in the United States that are entering the job market. Let me give those of you that struggle some ideas, three to be exact, to working in harmony with the young men and women with iPods in their ears and cell phones strapped to their back-packs.

Tip Number One.  Keep them engaged and challenged.  This generation has been multi-tasking since they were born; talking on a cell phone while playing Nintendo is common for these bright young people. Their parents have involved them in soccer, gymnastics and playgroups, and by doing so have built a generation that is comfortable doing something different all of the time. Having meaningful work was less important to their Grandparents because they were happy to be working. The expectations of the Gen-Y'ers are much different.  They’ve been busy most of their lives doing many different activities and flourish in that environment. Give them something important to do and get out of the way, they will astound you!

Tip Number Two.  Keep your technology current.  Any investment in your technology is perceived as an investment in them. For the older generation, growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, the first color television was a big deal. Today the Y Generation sees a better picture on their iPod. They can download a half hour sitcom for a couple of bucks and watch it at their leisure. The Gen-Y’er expectation is clearly, “How can I do my job with the equipment we have here?” Their Baby Boomer manager doesn’t get it.  “Hey, we only had three channels on our television,” is not an acceptable response.

Tip Number Three.  Don’t expect respect simply because you are more senior. Not that these super-high achievers are disrespectful. They are not! Authority just doesn’t intimidate them. That’s a good thing! Some executives over the last 20 years have asked for honest feedback (not that they’ve always done anything with it) from their staff and associates. These young professionals will certainly give us feedback. We need to be careful how we respond to it. A much more open and accepting leadership style is critical. These young people respect success and want to be part of it. They don’t really get excited about more conventional forms of recognition such as preferential parking. What gets them fired up is working on something meaningful and being part of a winning effort.

Things change, and as quickly as we adapt to one, the next is upon us. Each generation has lamented about the next and worried that they won’t be able to take the hand-off.  We are optimists and tend to see the glass half-full. This is generation could be the greatest of all time.

One more thing, just when you get this group figured out, then comes Generation Z!  Egad!

Few Local Employers Have Succession Plans

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Only 15% of Northeast Ohio employers have a formal succession plan in place for supervisors, managers, and professional-level staff, according to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey. The survey reports policy, benefit, and practices information from 173 Northeast Ohio employers.

This figure is down from 20% in 2007. The drop may be related to several factors.

“Many employers were likely not focused on strategic workforce planning initiatives such as succession planning during the recession,” says an ERC Survey Manager, “Some were focused on just staying in business and keeping as many people employed as possible.”

Stock market conditions may have indirectly impacted the drop in succession plans as well, they add. “After seeing their retirement savings shrink, many employees decided to postpone retirements and other career movements. The sense of urgency to find replacements for these employees may have dropped, giving employers less reason to put a priority on initiatives like developing successors.”

To access more ERC Surveys, click here.

Additional Resources

ERC can support your succession planning initiative by helping with the design and execution of your plan or simply providing expert guidance and best practices on an as needed basis. Contact ERC at 440/947-1283 or consulting@yourerc.com for more info.

How to Get Sued (In 3 Easy Steps)

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The stock market and economic indicators such as the unemployment rate, hiring projects, and consumer confidence have shown some consistent modest improvements over the years, causing many employers to consider doing something they haven’t done en masse in years: hire more people. Keeping in mind that your organization and the managers and other staff members responsible for hiring those people may be a little rusty in this area, we present you with an easy three-step guide to how you can significantly increase the likelihood your business gets sued.

Please note that ERC actually strongly encourages you to do the exact OPPOSITE of the steps outlined below.

1. Ask inappropriate and illegal questions during interviews.

Follow the lead of fellow employers highlighted in case studies and articles like this article published in Fortune Magazine, and make sure those involved in the interview process have absolutely no idea what kind of questions they can and should ask job candidates. Ensure the questions are vague and have little (if any) connection to providing you relevant information to help you determine if the person is the right fit for the job. Also, encourage your staff to ask lots of questions about the personal background of candidates including their age, number of kids, religious beliefs, national origin, genetic history, disability status, and race. Actually, don’t encourage your staff to do anything at all. Better to leave them to their own devices and let them figure this stuff out themselves.

2. Conduct your own Internet background check.

Make sure that every candidate undergoes a thorough background check during which all those involved in the hiring process “Google” the person’s name and search the Internet for any blog postings, images, tweets, YouTube videos, Facebook wall posts, LinkedIn groups, or affiliations that would render that candidate as being a “less than ideal” fit for the culture of your organization. While you’re at it, make sure that everyone on your hiring team views at least one picture of each candidate that can clearly identify him or her as a part of a protected class, and just to have all your bases covered, be sure to read some kind of profile that provides personal information about each candidate such as age, race, and marital status. Finally, base your hiring decision solely on the information you find during this background check.

3. Rely on your gut. Always.

Spend as little time as possible collecting and analyzing empirical data about job candidates that can aide you in selecting the best person for the job. Never use tools like behavioral interviewing techniques or assessments that measure personality, cognitive abilities, or skills. Base all your decisions on hunches: the look in a candidate’s eyes…the color suit he or she did or didn’t wear…the way in which he or she grabbed his or her water glass and placed it back on the coaster on the table. These are the tried-and-true, time-tested, fail-safe techniques that you and all your staff involved in the hiring process should rely on explicitly.

If you’re venturing into the unfamiliar world of recruiting and hiring for the first time in a long time, and you’re committed to doing everything you can to land your employer in court, just follow the three easy steps outlined above and we can almost guarantee that you’ll increase the risk of litigation for your organization exponentially.

However, if you’re not so crazy about the idea of getting sued by job candidates, PLEASE do the exact opposite.

Additional Resources

Interviewing Skills for Managers & Supervisors
This interactive program will review the employment process, including: legal issues facing interviewers; effective questions that provide the interviewer with information relevant to the position; and strategies to effectively plan, conduct, evaluate and follow up on an interview. For more information about this workshop click here.

Over a Third of Local Employers Allow Social Media Use at Work

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According to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, more than a third of local employers allow at least some groups of employees to access social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn during regular work hours.

These results may suggest that many employers still don’t have their arms around the impact of social media in the workplace. With the potential risks of liability and the negative impact these sites can have on workplace productivity, it may surprise some to see that so many employers allow employees to access these sites during the workday.

However, the question did not refer specifically to employees accessing the sites on an employer’s network, meaning that employees may be able to access the sites via their own personal mobile phones and devices as well, which could explain why the percentages could appear higher than some might expect.

Additional Resources

Visit our ERC Survey Page to access more information on our conducted surveys.

10 Ways to Manage Pay & Performance

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10 Ways to Manage Pay & Performance

Most employees want the opportunity to earn more pay based on performance, but such initiatives can be difficult for employers to create and administer. Here are 10 things to consider when managing pay and performance.

1. Does your culture align with a pay for performance program?

To be effective, your organization’s culture should align with a pay for performance program. This means that your organization should be committed to rewarding, recognizing, and promoting top performance, and employees should be aware of this commitment. It’s also important that your culture conveys an atmosphere of fairness and objectivity. Otherwise, pay for performance programs will fall prey to perceptions of subjectivity and bias, limiting their effectiveness.

2. What are the goals of the pay for performance program?

A pay for performance program can have many types of goals such as to improve productivity; increase customer satisfaction; enhance product quality; generate more innovation; boost revenues and profits; or reward top performers. Most goals for a pay for performance program focus on improving individual, team, and/or organizational performance. Be sure that the goals of this program are relevant to the business’s goals and needs.

3. What types of performance criteria will be rewarded?

The goals you define for the pay for performance program help determine what types of performance criteria will be rewarded. For example, if your goal is to increase customer satisfaction, the performance criteria may be customer satisfaction scores, number of customer complaints, or general customer feedback. If your goal is to improve productivity, the performance criteria might be quantity of products created, number of processes streamlined, or behaviors that enhance efficiencies. You may also consider making the performance criteria number of goals achieved or the impact of goals reached.

4. How will performance criteria be measured?

Often employers rely solely on performance reviews to measure criteria for a pay for performance program (i.e. a rating of “5” gets the highest incentive). While performance reviews can be a helpful measure, more objective measures of performance that aren’t as susceptible to rating error, supervisory perceptions and biases, or an ineffective form, should also be considered and used to measure performance criteria. Examples of such measures include goal setting, observable behaviors, and actual results (financial, quantity, or quality measurements).

5. Who will measure the performance and make pay decisions?

Sometimes performance can be measured without an individual, but other times, especially in the case of goal setting, observation, and performance reviews, an individual will need to measure performance , typically a supervisor, manager, or leader. Because these measurements are subject to human error, it’s critical that individuals are trained appropriately. Additionally, your organization will need to determine who will make pay decisions. Will you leave this discretion to your managers, providing them a fund to distribute these rewards?  Will HR or senior leaders be involved in the process, and to what degree? Most organizations involve all three groups at some level.

6. What type of pay for performance will you offer for meeting this performance criteria?

Not surprisingly, the most common types of pay for performance are merit pay, individual incentives, and bonuses. These programs tend to be easiest to administer and focus on individual performance. Increasingly, however, we are seeing some employers offer profit sharing, gain sharing, and employee stock ownership programs. While more complicated to administer, these programs have tremendous value, providing greater transparency and line of sight into organizational performance, reinforcing teamwork and collaboration, and offering employees a greater stake in the organization – giving them a true sense of autonomy and ownership. We find that organizations are offering multiple types of pay for performance for different segments of their workforce. This is ideal when different behaviors or results are desired that don’t necessarily fit one reward approach.

7. How much pay will be based on performance?

The trick to determining how much pay will be based on performance is determining what percent or portion of pay will have an impact on employee motivation or specific results you are seeking. Generally, studies find that when only 2-3% of pay is tied to performance, this is not enough to motivate desired behaviors or results. We have seen organizations reserve 2-4% for salary increases (i.e. cost of living, across-the-board, or merit) and 5-15% for incentive/bonus payout (with 15% typically targeted for executives). For example, NorthCoast 99 winners, provide an average of 10.3% incentive/bonus payout to top performers, 5.6% to average performers, and 7.3% overall.

8. What is the timing of payout for the rewards?

Most employers pay out rewards annually, but depending on the type of program a monthly, quarterly, or biannual payout may be more beneficial. Annual payouts may help your organization better manage costs and ensure that you have the funds to pay incentives to employees; however, there are advantages to paying out more frequently. When rewards are distributed closer to the time they were achieved, employees are more likely to view them as objective and relevant to their performance. In addition, paying out more often reinforces an on-going performance culture in which performance matters all year – not just at year-end – and makes supervisors manage performance on an on-going basis.

9. How will the program be funded and what are you willing to pay (the budget)?

Most pay for performance programs are funded using organizational profits or revenues. In this way, organizations frequently make pay for performance dependent on at least two factors: individual or team performance and organizational performance. Each year, you may budget for a percentage of revenues or profits that will be used to pay for performance. Organizational performance would dictate whether payout can occur.

10. How will the program reinforce other HR programs?

Pay for performance, at its best, reinforces and complements other HR programs and total rewards initiatives. What you reward in a pay for performance program should be similar to what you reward in a recognition program and how you promote people. Be sure to send your employees consistent messages about the results and behaviors you’re looking for, otherwise, your message will be lost.

Variable Pay Plans and Incentive Programs

Variable Pay Plans and Incentive Programs

Variable pay plans can be used as a motivation and retention tool for top performing employees.

Learn More to Get Started

Local Trends in Compensation Policies & Strategies

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According to a research study conducted by ERC, the majority of employers (58%) have no written compensation policy. Twenty-percent of respondents indicate having a compensation policy that is confidential, and 21% have a written or published policy that is made available or distributed to employees.

Despite not having a compensation policy, 62% of employers report having a strategy to stay even with the area labor market and 49% have a strategy to stay even with industry competitors.

ERC's HR Help Desk notes that “the foundation of an effective compensation system is a philosophy, policy, and strategy for how your organization will pay employees relative to the market – whether that is above, at, or below market rates. This helps HR make decisions about pay and guides an organization’s compensation practices."

Additional Resources

6 New Ways to Contribute to Your Company

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Strategic thinking means focusing on the desired plans and results of your organization and integrating this focus into the overall goals of your job and team. Increasingly, this type of thinking is necessary at all levels of the organization – not just at the top – and can greatly enhance your career. Here are some easy ways that any employee can become more strategic in their role.

1. Gain a broad understanding of your business.

Obtaining a broader understanding of all of the major business areas of your organization and how they operate helps you understand the needs and demands of other departments. There are several ways you can accomplish this. You may seek out opportunities for cross-training, lateral career development, or job rotation; shadow a strategic thinker or seek one out as a mentor or coach; and develop relationships and connections across business units, divisions, and departments. With more knowledge of other departments, you increase your ability to make good decisions, solve problems more effectively, and become a more valued contributor.

2. Recognize the priorities of your business.

Strive to understand the short and long-term strategy of the business as well as its vision for the future. Where is it headed now and in the future? What is it trying to accomplish? What is the big picture? Continue to ask questions about the direction of the organization, even when leaders to not explicitly communicate it. You may consider keeping a list of these priorities handy so that you are constantly reminded of the organization’s objectives.

3. Link your activities and goals to the business objectives.

Your business’s priorities should guide the goals you set and your day-to-day activities and tasks. When creating your own goals (or department’s), choose objectives that align with your organization’s objectives and priorities. This means that they should link to the bigger picture. For example, if your organization is focused on improving revenue or improving efficiency, your goals should line up with this objective. Oftentimes, we may create our own personal and professional goals in a vacuum, not considering the implications or priorities of the business. This hurts the business and ourselves, limiting our strategic potential and derailing us from the organization’s direction.

4. Expose yourself to different business challenges and demands.

Exercise your mind and career. By working on challenging business projects outside of your area of expertise, you become exposed to new problems, people, and experiences – all of which can help deepen your strategic thinking skills. Additionally, find ways to work on cross-functional teams and initiatives that expose you to different perspectives on business problems. Also, it’s important to find ways to reduce tactical components of your job so that you have more time for planning and strategic activities that will enrich your career. Become comfortable with new technology, processes, and efficiencies. Finally, volunteer experience within committees, boards, and leadership roles can all help strengthen your strategic mindset.

5. Focus on strategic tasks.

The main difference between strategic and non-strategic tasks and activities are the reasons for doing the tasks and the outcomes. For example, non-strategic actions are not driven by an identified and measurable business need, while strategic actions are. With strategic tasks, some data, observation, or information suggests a business need to take a certain action. In addition, strategic actions tend to be driven by or result in a measurable business outcome – such as better performance, improved retention, enhanced productivity, and achievement of an organizational objective. Non-strategic tasks do not have as much value to the business and are generally more reactive than proactive. Examples of such tasks are below:

6. Anticipate problems, trends, and needs.

A final tip for enhancing your strategic thinking skills is to improve your anticipation of changes, potential problems, and trends in the market, economy, and the needs of your customers. For example, if you are a manager, you may anticipate changes in staff, workload, and performance requirements. If you are an HR professional, you may anticipate new benefit, compensation, or other rewards trends; the need to hire additional staff or obtain needed skills through training and development initiatives; or plan leadership development initiative to support succession in the organization.

Strategic thinkers are needed at all levels of the organization – not just the top level - including HR, managers, and professionals. By improving your skills you can be more valued and achieve greater accomplishments within your organization.

For help with strategic HR initiatives such as performance management, workforce planning, succession planning, or employee engagement, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

Preliminary Findings: Intern & Recent Grad Survey

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The preliminary findings of the 2011 ERC/NOCHE Intern/Recent Grad Pay Rates & Practices Survey show several trends in intern and recent grad employment and compensation practices.

  • Over 70% of employers plan to increase or maintain the number of interns they employ, consistent with trends seen over the past three years.
  • 68% of employers are in the process of hiring or have plans to hire new college graduates this year.
  • Organizations are increasingly using interns and new graduates to develop their talent pipeline rather than using them for simply workforce support and special projects.
  • Nearly three-quarters of employers say that they offer at least some of their interns employment after the internship.
  • Work experience is becoming an even more crucial criterion for employers when hiring interns, rising in importance from years past.

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

Survey Shows Trends in Local Hiring Metrics

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The 2011 ERC Hiring & Selection Practices Survey shows several trends in hiring metrics such as time to fill, time to start, cost of hire, offer acceptance rates, and vacancy rates that help employers benchmark their hiring practices against other local organizations.

The survey’s results show that the average time to fill an open position is 52 days. Positions with the highest average time to fill were executive, engineering, and management positions, while positions with the lowest time to fill were production, maintenance, customer service, and administrative/clerical jobs.

Additionally, the 2011 survey reports that the average time to start is 14 days for employers. This timeframe was consistent across most employers. This reflects the average number of days between offer acceptance and the employee’s first day on the job. Lower vacancy rates were reported by employers of 11 days on average.

The 2011 survey’s results also indicate the average cost of hire for respondent, which is $2,233.

5 Ways to Know Your Training Dollars Paid Off

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As a business leader, you foot the bill for training, but how do you know you’re getting your money’s worth? You can, and should, rely on your in-house trainers and external suppliers to provide quality, meaningful training. But as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water…

The good news is…you, as a business leader, are in the ideal position to increase the likelihood that the skills learned in class will transfer to the job. In fact, research suggests 2 of the 3 most important roles related to training are #1 – Manager Before and #3 – Manager After. In other words, what the manager does before and after training contributes most to whether or not the training is ‘transferred’ (a.k.a. applied).

Here are five pretty painless ways to make that happen…

  1. Participate. Ask for an executive overview of the training – for yourself and/or the managers of those being trained. The supplier, for example, would spend 30 minutes or so walking you through the program, including key learning points, models or techniques taught, application exercises used to help participants experience and retain the concepts, etc. You would receive a participant workbook and any job aides or handouts. Ideally, the executive overview precedes the training. This gives you the opportunity to request that certain points be emphasized or aligned with current business priorities. It also positions you to reinforce the new behaviors after the training.  
  2. Model. Select one aspect of the training that resonates with you, apply it to your role, and start practicing it. It could be anything from using the Situation-Behavior-Impact feedback model, to documenting performance expectations for your direct reports, to starting every company-wide meeting by publicly recognizing a handful of employees who have exceeded goals, to authoring a blog to keep employees ‘in the know’.
  3. Reward. Allocate a small sum of money to be used to reinforce the demonstration of behaviors and skills learned in training for 90 days following. Have managers of the participants partner with the facilitators to generate a short list of behaviors/skills to be rewarded. Publicize to participants that managers will be on the lookout to ‘catch’ them doing things ‘right’ and distributing rewards accordingly.
  4. Ask. ‘Walk the floor’, asking employees about the training…what they learned, what was most valuable, what they applied, how it worked, etc. Once employees learn they will be held accountable, they will be more likely to put the training to use.
  5. Connect. Tie the training to related initiatives, facilitating immediate application. For example, train employees on writing and delivering performance reviews just before they are due, train employees on goal setting at the beginning of the year, train employees on communication and team building at the start of a large organization-wide project, etc. Time the training and ‘tee it up’ by communicating why it’s being offered, why it’s important, and what related activity will immediately follow that calls for those skills. Having a senior leader endorse the training at the beginning of class is a great strategy too.

Leaders are like the media…they ‘tell’ us what to pay attention to and talk about. Take advantage of your role; try out these five easy steps. You will be amazed at how much more value you will get out of your training investment. And, who knows, you may even find a new technique that produces returns for you, too!