Effective & Inexpensive Ways to Motivate Your Staff

After the holidays, there seems to be a dull roar in the office, a sense of apathy and melancholy can sometimes prevail as the weather gets colder, and the holiday cheer has been blown out of everyone’s sails. Motivating your staff is a yearlong predicament, and one that can be approached from different strategies. Do you offer performance bonuses? Commission for your sales team? Incentives for high-achieving employees each month? #motivate #employees #bonus

While all of these are great ways to motivate your staff, we’d like to offer a few simple solutions as well. These will be easy on your bank account and effective when implemented correctly. Employees are appreciative of recognition and acknowledgement of a job well done, so as long as you keep that at the front of your mind, you will be an effective and motivating leader with these helpful hints.

According to a Gallup poll, almost 70% of Americans are actively disengaged with their work. How depressing! Let’s turn those numbers around with a few simple strategies.

1. E-Learning: online webinars, training, and cost effective strategies for employee engagement.

2. Employee Acknowledgement Programs: reward employees for a job well done with a simple certificate or a low-cost gift card to Starbucks. Have monthly team meetings to recognize high-achieving employees that month!

3. Sunshine Programs: Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries, and to make sure you don’t forget, create a “Sunshine Team” each year who runs the program.

4. Empower your employees to come up with innovative ideas (i.e. like that one employee at 3M who came up with Post-It Notes!)

5. Challenge your employees each time they reach a new goal. Set the bar higher each time, and see how it affects your team’s potential and growth!

There are millions of other ways that you can motivate employees to succeed, get creative and have team leadership meetings once a month to collaborate with your managers as well. The more ideas that are out on the drawing board, the more successful your efforts will be.


Don’t Tip the Scales: Creating a Work/Life Balance

It seems like an elusive idea that people work toward but very rarely ever find! Perhaps the problem is that the idea of it is so simple and people expect that having it will be just as simple. In reality, work/life balance is something that must be worked at continuously. Just because you have it one week doesn’t mean it is going to be there next week!

So how do we take steps to start balancing our time better? First, define what that balance looks like. This is going to be different for every person. If you have a target in your mind, it is going to be much more achievable than if you are firing blind!

Alright, have you got your definition of balance in your mind now? Good. Now it’s time to schedule it. Are you expecting spontaneity to make this happen – has it worked yet? I’m guessing not, or you wouldn’t be reading this article.  Just like you put important client meetings on your calendar at work, do the same for non-work activities. That dinner date with your significant other? Schedule it. Coffee with your best friend? Schedule it! That Yoga class you’ve been meaning to take but never seem to have the time? …You guessed it! Schedule it! If it is on your calendar it is accounted for and then when it comes time to move things around, for that deadline that suddenly got moved up a week, those important non-work related activities are part of the planning process, instead of getting the backburner.

Feeling the time crunch? Time to limit your distractions. Ever add up how many minutes here or there that you lose by checking your phone or social media or having that conversation with your coworker that went just a little longer than planned? Those few minutes here and there add up! Imagine if you shut out distractions and set your mind on plowing through your to do list, then you could go home feeling like you DID accomplish your tasks that day. We’re all guilty of wasting time here and there, but in order to enjoy the bliss of balance, sacrifices must be made! (And I’m guessing your Facebook wall will still be there if you aren’t checking it 5 times throughout the day).

Simplify your life. Think about those things in your life that are draining you of your energy. Whether it’s a coworker that is continuously gossiping or the friend that always NEEDS your support – if it’s draining you and not benefitting you, then it’s time to rethink the amount of time you spend on it. It may be disappointing to your coworker that you don’t join in on the bashing of so and so or it may be shocking for that friend the first time you don’t answer the phone when they call, but we’re committed to finding this balance right? Simplifying is a good way to do it. Also think about this with your task list. Instead of running to the post-office, can you order the stamps online? Maybe you and your neighbor can check in with each other before running to the store for that carton of milk you forgot to pick up yesterday.

Be deliberate in the choices you make. Work/life balance is not found, it is achieved. If you are clear about what your balance looks like, you will be able to make it happen. “If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.”

Shiny New Toys: Attracting Your Next Millennial Stars

Like moths to the flame, millennials are attracted to shiny new objects. Right? Isn’t that the perception for our younger generation in today’s workplace? But shockingly, the one thing that attracts millennials to your organization more than a new cell phone, a company car or the latest in Apple technology on their desktop, is something that used to be much more prevalent. It has since fallen to the wayside as priorities seem to have shifted for many companies, and budgets become more constrained for those “extra benefits” that used to be more present.

What is it that millennials are searching for in their next company? Are you ready for it? Money! Shocked? I know I was. But more specifically than money, millennials are actually looking for repayment assistance for student loans when considering their next employer. A recent survey conducted by SHRM found that less than 1% of employers plan to offer this benefit to new hires, but it is the foremost thing on fresh grads’ minds as they struggle to pay off their student loans while starting out in a new career.

One company that has decided to jump in with both feet is Price Waterhouse Coopers (@PWCareer) where employees are offered $1200 to pay back student loans each year. For someone fresh out of college, this is a huge benefit because their actual paycheck is being spent on adult things that they may be brand new to dealing with: rent, electricity, groceries, gas, even the dreaded laundromat visits. As more employers get on board with this benefit, it may have a huge payoff for them as well, when new college grads seek out companies that will help them pay off their student loan debt. New hires may also be more inclined to be productive and stick around if their needs are being met.

Let’s be honest here, friends, a brand new cell phone or a shiny tablet probably won’t hurt either! To really make a difference, you have to get to the core of what the millennials need. And student loan repayment assistance is certainly on the top of the list!


Unlimited Vacation – Moving Away from Attendance and Towards Production

In recent years, several companies have moved to “unlimited” or “flexible” vacation plans. The old way of earning vacation time based off of hours worked has gone by the wayside. Employers are embracing the idea of having better work-life balance and fostering the trust-relationship between employer and employee. When these plans first started surfacing, there were several skeptics and many people assumed that the policy would be abused. The reality, however, has shown that this simply isn’t true. There’s something to be said for allowing employees to act professionally and make sound decisions on when they take vacation and how much they take. In fact in one article I read, the onus is on the employees to educate themselves on the expectation of usage. Employers have also done a good job of shifting the focus away from attendance and on to production.

For companies (specifically in California), unlimited vacation plans eliminate the financial burden on employers to pay out mass amounts of accrued vacation at the end of employment. In fact, it entirely eliminates that line item on financial statements of vacation liability. Companies like Zen Payroll, Netflix, even GE and Virgin are adopting these policies!

So if it seems like such great idea – why did some employers find that the policy didn’t work. The answer to this question varies with each organization. Tribune Publishing, owner of the Los Angeles Times, tried to roll out a “discretionary time off” policy and the workforce was so unhappy about it, the policy was rescinded less than a week later.  Culturally there was a trust issue with management and the employees believed they wouldn’t be granted the time they had “earned.” They also probably erred in the naming of the policy – “flexible” is a lot more friendly in connotation than “discretionary.”

At Kickstarter, the company tried the policy for a year and ultimately decided to go back to a more “traditional” vacation policy. What they discovered is their employees actually took less time off than when they had a set number of days. The employees suffered from lack of clarity on the policy so work-life balance suffered. They have now gone back to a maximum of 25 vacation days per year.

Like many issues in HR, deciding if an unlimited vacation policy is right for your company is mostly about knowing and understanding the culture of your company. Industries that are heavily reliant on hourly workers or have periods where giving time off would significantly impact business productivity, like retail may not be good candidates for this type of benefit. If there is a culture of mistrust of management, like Tribune Publishing, this may actually worsen that view. In policy making and change – Always consider your people and culture first!

For more insight on unlimited vacation policies, check out this article from our friends over at SHRM.

Time Off During the Holidays

It can be an employer’s nightmare – how do you manage all these vacation requests and deliver on business needs? Some industries like hotels and retail have no choice, they MUST be open for the holiday season while other industries have the option of shutting down or offering work-from-home options. No matter where you fall in that spectrum, you will still be faced with a slew of time off requests. What do you do?

Set the expectation early
If you’re in an industry that is open during the holidays, you may consider a blackout policy or a ‘this or that ‘ policy. A blackout policy is where all vacation requests are denied for a set period of time (i.e. in some Retail Stores no vacation requests are granted from Thanksgiving through New Years Day). These policies should be communicated as soon as they are made and with any new hires that come on board. You DO NOT want to surprise your employees with this policy! If that seems a little too stringent for your employee population, consider a policy where employees can submit their preference of having either Christmas or New Years off. Make it clear that you will do your best to match their request, but it is not a guarantee. This could also be done by offering the days off before Christmas vs. after Christmas – whichever makes most sense for your organization.

Encourage employees to work it out together
Sometimes when everyone in a single department asks for the same days (or overlapping days) off, it’s better to let them figure it out. You may also help your employees by sharing expectations. For example, we will need 12 workers in the office on Christmas Eve and we will need 15 workers in the office on New Years Eve. This way they may be able to work out a plan amongst themselves to meet these coverage levels rather than have them dictated by ‘management.’

Set deadlines or windows for requests.
Some employers go for the “first come/First serve” approach. Personally, I’m not a fan of this approach because some employees may put in their requests extremely early to guarantee they are granted – Seriously, I’ve gotten Christmas requests in February before. What I recommend is to set a window during which holiday requests will be accepted and reviewed. For example, requests will be accepted no earlier than August 1st and no later than October 1st.  This gives you, the employer, ample time to review all requests and necessary staffing levels, and identify areas
where there may be a problem.

Have a plan for managing requests
If you have opted for the first come/first serve option, make sure you stick to it without fail. Some employers also use a seniority system for granting requests. If multiple requests from one department are received, the person with the most seniority will be granted the vacation time. In this scenario make sure you consider the turnover rate of your most senior staff, if this is an area of low turnover, the same people may receive time off year after year, while others do not. I’ve heard of some employers who do a raffle system, where employees in the same department each get a raffle ticket and a certain number of tickets are drawn from a hat.  Determining the system you use is going to be based on knowing your employees and what makes sense for the business. My advice, don’t wait until you have a problem to develop the plan. Have that plan in place before hand so there’s no chance of someone seeing the policy as showing favoritism.

Schedule as early as possible
The sooner employees know what their calendar is going to look like the better! If you are able to post it well in advance, then employees can make travel arrangements. Of course, I’d make a note on there that it is subject to change due to business needs – just in case you have unexpected turnover or a deadline is suddenly moved up, etc.

Consider alternative options
Are there other options to cover the holiday needs? Perhaps you can offer a holiday pay differential for those employees who do work the holiday. Are your business needs something that could be filled by seasonal or temp help? These may be options to allow extra flexibility to your full time regular employees!

No matter how you handle time off requests, unless you are shutting down completely, expect that some people may have to work during the holiday season. Do your best to do something special for these employees. Consider buying
everyone lunch or handing out prizes. Lastly, make sure your senior leadership is setting an example. If all of the managers are taking time off and the hourly employees are stuck working, it could be a big blow to company morale. My recommendation: Make sure you set similar expectations with those in leadership positions as you do with employees.

‘Tis the Season!

How Not to Present During Open Enrollment

Presentations may not be your favorite thing, but as an HR professional or a business executive, you’ll have to put on your fair share of presentations in the workplace. As the close of 2015 comes closer, we wanted to give you a few tips on how NOT to present during open enrollment for benefits this coming year. However, these tips can be applied for any business presentation – all of which we happen to be experts at doing! Contact us today to schedule your new hire orientation, sexual harassment training, yearly company training, open enrollment planning, managerial training and much more!

Ten things to avoid when presenting!

1. Turning your back to the audience – don’t turn completely around, even if using a powerpoint or other presentation materials on a screen/board behind you. Turn partially, never completely! It can come off as rude or unprofessional.

2. Staring at one spot throughout the entire presentation. Be engaging!

3. Avoiding eye contact – Be confident, engage the audience, and show emotions/concern. Being a real person during your presentation, not a robot, is highly beneficial to the entire room.

4. Crossing your arms or placing your hands on your hips – this never gives a good impression. Do you know an angst-ridden  teenager? Have you seen him or her do this? Then don’t do it (trust us!)

5. Don’t stand in one spot the entire time – move around, be animated and your audience will be more engaged as well.

6. Stand up and use good posture – professionalism is key during open enrollment and other meetings/presentations when you are the expert!

7. Please don’t fidget or play with your hair or clothes – nerves are expected during a presentation, but don’t let that be seen in your movements. Stand tall and proud, and play the part of the expert, and it will come through to your audience.

8. Don’t complain – even if you’re having technical difficulties, keep it positive.

9. Don’t exaggerate the facts – be honest and upfront about the subject matter, and don’t try to pass off your opinions as facts. Employees always appreciate honesty from their organization.

10. Please do not forget this last one….SMILE!!!! Try to have fun with it, and the more you practice your presentation skills, the easier it will be.

What do the Proposed New Overtime Rules Mean?

It’s been talked about in the news a lot lately. The Labor Department has made recommendations to raise the threshold on the salary rate that would makes employees exempt from being paid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Currently under the FLSA, employers are not generally required to pay employees overtime premiums (time and a half) if they earn more than $23,660 per year. (NOTE: In California the Minimum Wage is higher than the federal rate) The proposed change is to raise that threshold to $50,440 per year. This plan also proposes raising the rate each year to follow inflation amounts and ensure salary rates do not fall below the cost of living again. What’s worse? This change could happen as early as 2016! That means an estimated 4.9 million white-collar, salaried workers would become overtime eligible NEXT YEAR! Overtime

So what are employers going to do? Some suggestions have been to make several of the employees affected hourly employees. While this is a practical response, the blow to morale and engagement could be devastating. Whether we want it to be or not, some individuals view salary as a “status thing”, so making employees hourly again could feel like a step backward to them. It will also be a stretch for employers to suddenly raise everyone’s salary to above the proposed threshold.

This proposed policy was put up for public comments and has since closed. Now employers anxiously await the ruling on these proposed new rules.

Stay Tuned! When there’s an update, we’ll share with you!!!

Nickels & Dimes: Examining Your Wage Practices

“There has been a 77% rise in lawsuits tied to wage-and-hour disputes since 2004.” – Replicon.com

Wage and hour lawsuits continue to be the hot ticket for employment related litigation. It is critical for employers to provide specific and concise guidelines for overtime, clocking in and out, and meal and rest periods to name a few! Without these policies in place, employers open themselves up to liability and potential for astronomical amounts of money and time lost due to costly legislation. Conducting a self-audit and analyzing the “nickels and dimes” of it within your organization can really help to beef up your policies and defense against claims of unfair wage and hour practices. Here’s how to prepare for a self-audit in your organization. And if this all seems too daunting, time-consuming, or otherwise out of your wheelhouse, give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss our human resources audit services with our qualified team of HR professionals who know exactly what to look for and what to avoid.

Key Steps for Self-Audit:

  1. Decide if you need an attorney or 3rd party expert
  2. Define the scope of your audit – what does this audit include? Wage and hour only or a full-scale HR audit?
  3. Identify the laws and regulations that apply to your specific workplace
  4. Get your toolkit ready – how will you go about conducting this audit? What tools will you use (and do you have them, need them, and know where to find them)?
  5. Get your team together – who’s on board for this project and who will conduct business as usual (because trust us, this will take up a LOT of the time of those involved!!)
  6. Execute the audit – easier said than done, but this step is critical to actually getting the work done!!! The other steps are useless without follow-through here.
  7. Summarize the results of your audit

Implement the changes needed as a result of your audit and results summary

Latest Trends in Telecommuting

As you can see, many of our posts revolve around social media and digital natives and technology. Why is this the case? Well, to be honest, technology is what makes the world go ‘round in the 21st century. So in order to stay present and relevant in our world, human resources professionals must adopt these strategies and skills in order to successfully provide services to our clients and ensure that our presence in the industry is known. According to the HR Daily Advisor online, business analysts predict that up to 30% of workers in industrialized countries will be telecommuting within just a few years. (http://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/current-trends-of-telecommuting/) What does this look like for your business? Do you currently offer telecommuting as an option? Why or why not?

Telecommuting does have its benefits for companies as well as employees. Here are a few:

Business Perks

  • Decreased costs in utilities and building maintenance for office
  • Money saved on increased productivity and decreased absences
  • Reduced turnover due to higher employee morale and flexibility

Employee Perks

  • Elimination of commute time
  • Flexibility
  • Higher standards of productivity to prove that telecommuting is worth it for the employer

So what are the latest trends in telecommuting? Here’s what that looks like!

1. Employees are willing to sacrifice other benefits in favor of telecommuting as an option

2. Increase in telecommuting for government employees

3. More common in various fields – i.e. science and engineering (not just human resources consulting and customer service call centers and tech geeks)

4. Many employers and employees view telecommuting as a way to benefit the environment – less fuel emission, less wear and tear on roads/highways, etc.

5. Employers that embrace telecommuting are acknowledging the value in technology – after all, technology enables telecommuting to be an option!

6. Shared workspaces in the office are becoming more common (and acceptable) as many employees are not in the office 40 hours a week as they were in a traditional workforce.

7. In less than 10 years, telecommuting has moved from an unusual perk to a common benefit offered by many employers.

“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.” – Gordon B. Hinckley

7 Things Great Employers Do

How do you get your workforce engaged in the work they are doing? This is a question that comes up quite a bit, as employers are attempting to get their employees involved, productive, and enthusiastic about their work. There are 7 things great employers do that creates a “feel good” approach to getting your employees engaged and creating a work culture that others will envy!

[tweetthis]There are 7 things great employers do that creates a work culture others will envy![/tweetthis]

1. Start with your leaders – Choose involved, creative leaders who want to make a difference and get others excited about your business.

2. Build a strong HR team – HR influences managers to make business decisions – use the HR team to create positive changes throughout your organization.

3. Get down to the basics – Tell employees what is expected of them. Don’t think that employees will connect with an abstract mission or vision if they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing day-to-day. Be clear and direct.

4. Don’t use the economy as an excuse – Make changes, give (realistic) hope to the employees, be upfront with them. This will go a long way in reassuring employees that your business is around for the long haul!

5. Hold your managers accountable, but trust them too! – Be supportive of your managers, but also make sure that you are holding them accountable and keeping your standards high for your management team as well as their employees.

6. Have a straightforward approach to performance management – Fairness is key in performance management – keep the same standards across the board and treat everyone equally. Streamline your processes so that everyone in the company goes through the same performance management evaluations.

7. Don’t manage to the metric – Yes, utilize tools at your disposal for gauging employee engagement. But do NOT make the actual engagement less important than the measuring of it.