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Susan M. Heathfield

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Does Everybody Hate HR?

Thursday April 24, 2014

One of my current clients is a non-profit, religious organization. They are thinking about making the transition from being a group of employees who consider themselves to be a "family" to an organization that recognizes that they are now big enough and sophisticated enough to - maybe - identify themselves as a business.

With over forty full-time employees and a hundred plus part-timers in schools and religious education, I think it's time. This is a tough transition and I have participated in it with several organizations in the past.

When a company is small, and feels more like family, employees know each other fairly intimately. They are a small group who work closely together and sit closely together.

So, issues like communication and the goals of coworkers rarely come into question. A particular camaraderie and trust develops and people help each other out.

As Organizations Grow

The goal, as the organization transforms itself for the good of its employees and members, is not to lose the good as you usher in the new.

And, long term people who savored the "family" environment have a tough time transitioning to the new business environment, for all of the right reasons: desire to serve members, wanting to trust their coworkers, and the desire to keep the long term community they love.

And, some wrong reasons exist such as fear of change and the unknown.

As I talked with employees this week, I found a few common threads in the discussion. One was the need for an HR manager or director to organize hiring employees, administer the offices, create consistent policies, and implement organization development initiatives and training.

You know the drill, they want a person to do everything an HR Director does to add value in an organization including being a person to whom employees can bring concerns and woes.

Driving to lunch with a manager, I supported the employee view about the need for HR support. The response was interesting: "Do they 'really' want an HR Director? They should be careful what they wish for. After all, everybody hates HR."

The comment reminded me that I had blogged an earlier article from Fast Company about why people hate HR. I've heard this view before, in fact, many times. Isn't this amazing? Why do you think so many people hate HR?

Image © Nicholas Monu/iStockphoto

Poll: About Trust

Thursday April 24, 2014

This poll covers the subject of trust. Please read the articles below to learn how to maximize trust in your organization. Trust is a fragile element of relationships.

Speaking at a Precision Metalforming Association's annual meeting in Bermuda a few years ago, I started my presentation by asking several questions. One was, "How many of you still have fear in your organizations?" Every hand in the room went up - about 400.

Then, I asked how many needed to improve the level of trust and every hand was raised again. I don't think this has changed in the intervening years based on my interaction with readers.

Your organization can be so much more effective if you have built trust and eliminated fear. Fearless, trusting employees can make the world rock.

If you have thoughts about trust, please share them in comments.

Poll: How Much Trust Exists in Your Organization?
Take more polls. Find out how others voted. Some votes may surprise you.

Read more about how to build effective work relationships.

More About a Culture of Trust

How You Treat Employees Really Matters

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Employers have had to make some tough choices over the past few years - and more tough times continue. Employees are generally forgiving of cost cuts when they are completely and honestly informed of the what and the why.

They also like to see cuts applied to everyone. A client company cut every employee's salary by 5% as a cost savings measure. They informed employees at a company meeting, asked for forgiveness, and promised to make it up to employees when the tough times passed. I remember thinking, great job of communicating. Bravo.

Then, the word leaked out of accounting that executives had not applied the cuts to their own salaries. Bad and sad, in and of itself, but imagine the uproar that occurred (and completely undermined any banked employee good will or positive feelings) when the CEO explained why at the next company meeting.

He told the employees that the company couldn't afford to lose any of their executives so he had not felt that it was a wise decision to cut their pay.

Decisions such as this are costly - more than I think he ever understood. Anything that affects employee morale, while seldom directly measurable in dollars, is a huge hit to your bottom line. Anything that affects employee good will, understanding, and support creates an immeasurable, possibly irreparable, loss to your organization - in more than just dollars.

One of the casualties of these tough times is likely to be the relationship of many employees with their companies. This is especially true if the employees feel as if they were mistreated for the wrong reasons.

I received an email from an HR person who was seeking some support as her company CEO planned to give employees a 2% increase in pay. An increase of any kind sounds good - right? Nope. Not when the company was soaring with profitability due to the employees' work. The CEO wanted to give that increase because, with the economic downturn - he could. He didn't believe that he would lose any employees; they would not be able to find work elsewhere.

I'll bet I know where his employees will be when the economy improves, sooner if they have market needed skills. Furthermore, I'll bet I know where they are spending part of their work day now. How about you? Ready to leave your employer? Why or why not?

Is It My Job to Fire Employees?

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Nothing is as confusing to many readers than the parameters and responsibilities of the role of HR staff. I receive frequent questions that tell me that the HR person's organization thinks that she or he should fire employees, discipline employees, write employees up, and hire employees.

Nothing is farther from the reality of how these employment actions should occur. These roles are not in the HR job description.

These responsibilities are in the job descriptions of managers and supervisors for many reasons. The most important reason is that the HR person wasn't there - for any of it. She or he has only hearsay evidence about what occurred from the manager or supervisor.

So, too, with hiring employees. The new employee will not report to the HR staff person who has only second hand knowledge about the job's requirements and the supervisor's needs. The key interaction during interviews is the interaction of the candidate with the hiring manager and his or potential coworkers.

The Role of HR Staff

The HR professional's role is to provide support to the manager or supervisor as she or he performs these tasks that are integral in their jobs supervising and leading employees. The HR staff person specifically should provide these kinds of support.

  • Training for managers and supervisors in all aspects of employment including interviewing, selection, discipline, and how to legally and ethically fire an employee,
  • Guidance, written policies, and procedures to give direction and consistency in employment actions,
  • Counsel and coaching to assist managers to do their jobs effectively,
  • Presence to witness the employment action and to help steer a meeting that heads awry,
  • Documentation assistance so the records are accurate, legal, and will withstand scrutiny in a court of law,
  • Feedback during employee selection about potential cultural fit and effectiveness of the candidate, and
  • Background checking to ensure that you are hiring the employee who you think you are hiring.

The list goes on and on, and I have written extensively about the role of HR staff in an organization. I am interested to know what you think. Am I crazy or is this the way it's supposed to work?

Image Copyright peepo

More About the HR Role

See Sample Applicant Rejection Letters

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Want a compilation of all of the applicant rejection letter samples on the site? Here's a resource that links all of my sample applicant rejection letters for every occasion and many recruitment circumstances.

Here are highlights about the resource.

  • In the first sample applicant rejection letter, you found the person both qualified and a good potential cultural fit within your company culture, but you hired an even more qualified person.

  • In the second sample applicant rejection letter, you found the applicant neither among the most qualified nor a good cultural fit.

  • In the third sample applicant rejection letter, you hired a more qualified person, but you'd like the applicant to interview for another open position within your company.

  • In this final letter, you reject the applicant without scheduling an interview or a phone screen. The individual is underqualified compared to your other applicants.

Are there any other scenarios for which you could use a sample applicant rejection letter? As always, please share your thoughts.

Image Copyright Phil Date

Related to Sample Applicant Rejection Letters

Commemorate Earth Day at Work

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Today is Earth Day. In honor of this year's celebration of Earth Day, form a green team at work. While debate exists about recycling and other aspects of environmentalism - try to get an answer to whether paper bags or plastic in the grocery stores are better for the environment, for example - a green team is motivational for employees who want to make a difference in their work environment.

And, the team may even save energy and time, keep trash out of landfills, opt for reuseable dishes, share books in a library, and more. A team is a great way to brainstorm and develop ideas, develop employee leadership and planning skills, and involve employees who might not be engaged by other team topics.

20 Tips: Get Your Work Green Team Started

In honor of Earth Day, here are 20 tips to get a green team started in your workplace. Your green team can use these 20 ideas to get started as they brainstorm and implement their own ideas for a green team and an Earth Day celebration.

Image © Malcolm Romain

Share Your Workplace "Green" Ideas

At About.com, green is a common theme. Lately, I've seen lots of helpful resources.

Teams and Employee Motivation

How to Implement Job Expectations and Career Development Plans

Monday April 21, 2014

Interested in ideas about how to improve employee performance and professional development? Our company is transitioning into a new way to communicate expectations, encourage employee professional and career development, and improve employee performance. I read with some interest the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study about employee satisfaction and employee engagement, as a result. Respondents cited career development as one of the weaknesses at the majority of companies. (Take a look at this blog post for more about that.)

Our performance management plan involves a twice a year review of job expectations and a second twice a year discussion about career development. Since we are just starting, this process is underway now with managers and staff reviewing their job plans. Discussion about progress on the expectations will take place at weekly meetings with the manager. A formal review of progress then will occur every six months.

Additionally, we are introducing a career development planning process to supplement the job expectations review. In the career planning discussions, employees will have the opportunity to talk about what they'd like to do next in the company, developmental opportunities that will supplement their current skills, and long term career growth plans. These discussions will also take place formally twice a year separate from the review of job expectations.

Manage Change When Needed

In the past, we had introduced a performance development planning process that was unevenly implemented. Managers found that it was difficult to separate the developmental discussion from employee performance expectations, so we scrapped it where it wasn't working.

It's okay to scrap something that's not bringing you the results you'd like to see, by the way. You just need to take responsibility, identify the problems, communicate until you can't communicate anymore, and involve employees in planning and rolling out the next chapter. And, you must learn and you must make the new better. Otherwise, employees grow change weary and complain about flavor of the month programs.

Image Copyright Pinnacle Pictures / Getty Images

Color Me Purple Team Building Icebreaker

Monday April 21, 2014

Need an always successful, interesting, yet personality revealing, icebreaker for teambuilding sessions? In a team building exercise I have used for years, participants are asked to name their favorite color. Then, they are asked to list words that describe their favorite color.

The consistently most popular color selected has been blue. The second most popular color has been red. Blue words have included sky, serene, and calming. Red words have included exciting, daring, bright, and noticeable.

My poll below is showing different results than I have experienced in my team building activities.

My personal favorite color is purple. Words that I use to describe purple are: twilight, richness, splendor, wisdom, and stillness. Purple seems to be one of your favorites, too.

About.com's Psychology expert, Kendra Cherry, has written about The Psychology of Color and describes the meanings of colors. Scroll all the way down her article to find links to the meanings of the various colors. (You may want to change the shade of your office or car to better fit your personality or mood.)

What is your favorite color and what are words you would use to describe it? Please respond in my poll and share your views in comments below.

Image © Lise Gagne

Poll: What Is Your Favorite Color? Please share the words you'd use to describe your color in Comments.

Take more polls. Find out how others voted. Some votes may surprise you.

More Team Building Resources

Are Your Paid Holidays Competitive?

Sunday April 20, 2014

Scheduling for holidays when many employees use paid vacation time or PTO is a challenge for most employers. So many people are off work that, even the employees who want to work, are challenged to have the team members they need to make progress.

I've put together several new resources that you may find valuable. Have you ever thought about adding a floating holiday or two to your normal set of paid holidays? It's an opportunity for diverse employees to use a paid holiday, rather than PTO, for one of their special days. Our employees enjoy taking their birthday off each year, too. My new article about floating holidays is a guide to the decisions an employer needs to make to offer this employee benefit.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics states that for the category "all full time employees," 7.6 is the average number of paid holidays for employees in the United States, I work most frequently these days in a professional environment where 8.5 is the norm.

Want to see how your paid holidays compare with those of other employers? Here's a standard paid holiday schedule for U.S. employers in the public and private sector.

If you're thinking about paid time off for your next year's benefits package, these cited resources give you standard practices and norms in the U.S.

Image Copyright Catherine Yeulet

More Related to Paid Time Off

Happy Easter

Sunday April 20, 2014

Today is Easter and I'd like to wish you and yours a happy day. Something about decorated eggs, family dinners, and bunnies always gets to me. It's nothing like being a child, however.

My Dad used to hide jelly beans all over the house for the seven brothers and sisters to find. We colored eggs the night before and always found them in our baskets in the morning. About the only thing I don't like about Easter is marshmallow chicks - don't like them - never did. How about you?

In the grocery store Saturday, I passed a woman who had twelve boxes of eggs in her cart. I did not envy her the workload she was obviously pursuing last evening. I hope she had lots of help. That's the important part about teams. The best teams share the workload, the responsibility, and the successes and failures. On a good team, you never stand alone. I certainly hope she was not decorating those eggs alone.

With spring here, it's time, too, to think about how you will celebrate the spring and summer holidays in your workplace.

Image © MMN Network

Do You Ask Odd Interview Questions?

Saturday April 19, 2014

Do you ask your candidates unusual interview questions? If you do, you'd be among a growing number of organizations that have developed surprising interview questions to ask their applicants. You're not alone.

But, do the answers to odd interview questions tell you anything? Employers who seek unusual interview questions to ask need to specifically decide what information they are trying to obtain by asking their prospective employees unusual questions.

To see how the candidate responds is not the right answer. To assess the candidate's ability to think quickly, react quickly and land on their feet or to assess their potential creativity is heading in the right direction. It is even better when the employer saves the answers and sees patterns over time in the eventual success or failure of the employees who are hired after responding in particular ways to unusual interview questions.

Since few employers do the follow-up and put in the thought necessary to track whether the unusual interview questions they asked prospects actually told them anything, I'm not totally a fan.

Kris Dunn at the HRCapitalist had several interesting comments to make on the topic of puzzles, riddles and other trendy tricks during interviews. I agree totally that the factors that tell me the most about a candidate's capabilities are examples of work products, manuals created, teams led, and facts about accomplishments and achievements.

In the IT world, my best developers sit with a candidate and do white board exercises to see how the individual approaches problems and creates solutions. A customer service phone rep must answer problem emails appropriately and with some exhibited care and concern for the customer.

Glassdoor.com collects the most unusual interview questions to ask from their thousands of readers. This list of unusual questions to ask is a hoot. A couple include, "How many cows are in Canada?" and, "What song best describes your work ethic?" Don't miss it.

Image Copyright Dean Sanderson

More About Interview Questions to Ask

Promote Both Formal and Informal Recognition

Saturday April 19, 2014

Employers approach employee recognition both formally and informally. And, each type of recognition serves a purpose in your organization. They both help to create an environment in which employees will thrive.

Employers are most successful when they implement both approaches to recognizing employee contributions. Both the formal and informal recognition will help you reinforce specific behaviors and actions that you'd like to see more of in your organization.

There are key components of a formal recognition program that you need to follow, though, for success. Because formal recognition normally involves a large number of employees, it must be perceived as fair.

In a client organization, the activity committee implemented a formal recognition program in which coworkers could nominate each other for a going above and beyond reward.They were met with more nominations than they could handle or afford. So, the first week, they paid out 37 awards of $50.00 and determined that they would blow the whole year's budget (that they had hoped to spend on many forms of recognition and other employee activities) in just a few weeks.

As you can imagine, the group set some fairly rigid criteria and changed the award to one person a week. They wanted to maintain employee interest in participating so they set up a drawing. Each employee nominated was placed in the drawing. If they were nominated by a coworker more than once, they had additional entries in the drawing.

Employee recognition is tricky because you don't want to demoralize some employees while rewarding others. Here are seven tips for effective employee recognition.

More Resources for Employee Recognition

Image Copyright Stockbyte / Getty Images

Never Blind-Side the Boss

Friday April 18, 2014

Questions about how much autonomy a team should have in implementing its ideas come up with every team you form. This is one of the toughest questions to answer which is why it always comes up. Knowing the limits and boundaries is key for successful teams. The answer? It depends.

Image Copyright Phil Date

In my popular Twelve Tips for Team Building article, I emphasize the need for the team to understand its limitations and areas of control. This direction generally comes from the team's manager or management sponsor/participant. But, here's the problem.

Often, a manager is monitoring or participating in multiple teams so is unavailable to regularly participate in every team meeting. Teams vary in their experience, their expertise, their understanding of the goals of the organization, and their knowledge of other key organization initiatives.

Consequently, the team may become significantly invested in the solutions it creates that may not match the direction of the organization...

In other cases, the solution may require resources that are committed to other projects or cross over into the mission and action plans of another team. There are hundreds of reasons a team's solution may not be viable - that team members may not know.

So, what's the solution? Part of it lies in giving the team clear direction and defining carefully the critical path at which the team's sponsors need feedback and participation. This keeps the team from heading too far in a direction that won't be supported. But, part of the solution is that the team needs to recognize that their management sponsor or manager does not like surprises or being blind-sided.

The team needs to communicate at all of the critical decision points. The team is responsible to bring their manager along and to make their manager aware of their thought progression as it is happening. A perennial complaint I hear in organizations is that employees' jobs are changed without their input. The same is true for managers. They want to be involved in decisions that affect their jobs or about which they will need to communicate or justify decisions with their executive leadership. No surprises.

The manager also needs the opportunity to influence the project's direction and the team's decisions. It is far more effective to involve the manager or team sponsor from the beginning. Secretive teams are doomed to failure or worst of all, they persistently feel their decisions are shot down. It doesn't have to be this way. Communicate often and with full details - managers and teams.

More Tips for Successful Teams

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Try Learning at a Brown Bag Lunch

Friday April 18, 2014

Do you take advantage of inexpensive, team building and morale boosting opportunities to help your employees adopt a continuous learning mindset? One of the hallmarks of learning organizations, employers can use brown bag lunches to enhance continuous learning.

A brown bag lunch is an informal opportunity for employees to learn at work. A brown bag lunch is used to convey work information occasionally, but mostly serves to enhance employee knowledge about non-work or job specific issues and ideas.

Brown bag lunches or lunch and learns provide an opportunity to develop employees' knowledge, pique their interest about opportunities, and demonstrate the company's commitment to providing a healthy, value-based, motivational work environment.

Topics for a brown bag lunch range from viewing slides of a coworker's vacation trip to a visit from a local banker to discuss maximizing the potential return that employees can earn by saving.

Here's more about why you might want to offer brown bag lunches or lunch and learns in your workplace. Suggested topics, too...

More About Continuous Learning and Learning Organizations

Image Copyright Aleksandar Petrovic

Do You Anticipate Your Organization's Needs?

Thursday April 17, 2014

Teambuilding remains a tough topic in most organizations. You want team mates comfortably interacting. But, you also want the teamwork and teams supporting your organization's desired culture and team norms - not necessarily the culture that you have developed and that your teams mirror.

If your goals are creativity, customer-centric service, product offerings that anticipate customer needs, and agility, your goals for teams will be different from organizations that focus on customer service and improvement of current services. The best organizations expand their services to fulfill, and even anticipate and project, customer needs.

I've received a lot of questions lately from people who are new to Human Resources or who want to know what to do next in their HR departments. These comments about teams are appropriate because the HR department is on the company team.

As much as any other department, HR needs to be driven by company needs. If HR does not understand and anticipate the needs of their internal customer teams, their services may satisfy customers, but never delight. To delight, you must offer what the employes didn't even know they needed, until there it was.

And, suddenly, meeting that unpredicted need becomes the most important aspect of your service for customer happiness. Have you looked at your HR business plan and services lately? Are they anticipating customer needs - or just fulfilling - lagging behind in administrivia and rules?

Start by talking with your managers to see what they need from you. The HR team can lead the way to identify and anticipate their internal customer needs - to help the rest of the company teams identify and anticipate their customer needs, too.

More About HR Teams and Plans

Image Copyright Jack Hollingsworth / Getty Images

Why Goal Setting Fails

Thursday April 17, 2014

Have goals? Still sticking with your New Year's resolutions? You'd be one of very few people if you answered yes to either of these questions.

Indeed, how is your organization doing with its goals so far this year? Goals are a powerful force for good when set appropriately and shared with all of the right people.

When practiced poorly, however, goal setting also has a serious downside which can undermine your success. Poor goal setting makes people cynical, wastes their time, and fosters confusion about where to concentrate actions and energy. How does such a potentially successful practice as goal setting, go wrong, so often?

In the darker side of goal setting, I enumerate some of the problems with goal setting as a result of interviewing several executive managers. You'll be happy that you took a look because you may find the root causes of why your organization or personal goal setting objectives generally fail.

What causes you or your organization to fail to achieve your goals? Seriously.

More About Goal Setting

Image Copyright Kyu Oh / Getty Images

The Best Perks Are Free

Wednesday April 16, 2014

What employee benefits do employees really value? The best perks do not have to cost the employer any money at all.

For example, the newest generation of employees, the millennials, in particular, and employees in every generation, actually, value flexible work schedules. Sure, providing flexible schedules might take a bit more work, especially in departments that have to have coverage at all times. But, the payback in employee morale is enormous.

Employees can better manage their work and life balance when they don't have to miss work to take junior to the doctor. Or, an employee can stay at home long enough to see the kids onto their school bus, if the employee can start work at 9 a.m.

I predict that teleworking will continue to grow as employers save the cost of providing workplace facilities and employees are enabled to work productively from home. Not right for every employee, or every job, teleworking provides the employee with quiet, uninterrupted time for work. As technology continues to advance, so will telecommuting.

The fun part is that teleworking will require employers to find a whole new way to manage employees, measure employee performance, and promote team interaction. And, oh my, for telecommuting to really work, we're going to have to learn to trust employees. This is an area that I am working on this year, so we will continue to revisit it. Have a terrific week.

Image Copyright Catherine Yeulet

Your Worst Job - Ever?

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Some of you said that what didn't kill you, made you strong or a better person. Others said, "Despite the fact that this was no doubt a character-building experience, if I had it to do over again, I'd leave after the first day, without giving notice." And, some of you did leave, as fast as you could get out of there on your first break - if there was a break. No break? You escaped when you visited the restroom.

Little was I prepared for the life time of bad job experiences readers would share when I asked this question: What Was Your Worst Job - Ever?

Think about it. What do you do when a chef throws a hot iron pan at your head? How would you manage to work with crass, crude owners who demeaned your customers? How about working in an environment in which the customer was always wrong?

How would you handle a job that required you to clean new born chickens, ID the sex of nasty-looking dung beatles, or collect cattle ticks? How did you manage when your job required you to work knee deep in blood all day? Or, you worked in a trim shop clipping plastic from pieces with requirements so exacting, that they created 100% employee turnover - a week?

In reminiscing about your worst job ever, some of you shared your laughter and many of you shared your tears and even, your anger. Take a look as readers share their worst jobs - ever.

Worst jobs either killed us or made us better people. For sure, they played a serious role in determinimg our future occupations, aspirations, goals, education, and dreams.

What was your worst job - ever?

In Contrast, Some Bests

Image Copyright Creative Photography

Write a Meaningful Recommendation Letter

Tuesday April 15, 2014

I'm not a big fan of employer-provided recommendation letters for employees. As a prospective employer, I would much rather talk with the applicant's manager than read a letter. Maybe it's just me, but a recommendation letter is always my second choice.

However, at times, circumstances require a recommendation letter: companies close, supervisors retire, employees relocate across the country, and companies merge. Having a recommendation letter, in unusual circumstances, beats having nothing at all.

Specific contents in a recommendation letter will serve your employees and former employees the best. My guidelines for the contents of a recommendation letter will showcase the employee's talents and potential contribution while making a case for your qualifications to write the recommendation letter.

Although many use the reference letter interchangeably with the recommendation letter, it has always helped me to differentiate them slightly. You can, however use either term.

Image Copyright Catherine Yeulet

More Employer Sample Letters

Are You Lost?

Are you lost on my website? Here's the bookmark to all content organized by category.

See a New Twist on Job Descriptions

Monday April 14, 2014

Readers ask frequently whether employees need job descriptions or if they have become such a legal mine field that we are best off forgetting about them. I am a firm believer in the necessity of providing clear direction to employees.

So I do recommend job descriptions, but one of the readers of this site sent me a unique idea that I liked. I tried it this year in my own company. Although the implementation team modified my original idea, it still removes the onus for the job description from HR and gives it to the employee who owns it.

In conjunction with his or her manager, the employee updates the job plan twice a year. Find out more about how you can make job descriptions easier for the employer.

Image © Tom McNemar

More About Job Descriptions

Make Conscious Choices About Your Culture

Monday April 14, 2014

In a client company, we talked about maintaining the best aspects of the company culture as the company continues to grow. It's a good conversation to have - no matter where you are in your life cycle.

The former business and money channel editor here at About.com commented to me once upon a time that in her experience, many small businesses struggle with the concept of culture. She's been a business and finance writer for a number of years and has spoken with many different small businesses.

Her experience echoes my own. Your organization will form a culture even if you give it no conscious thought. But, what a lost opportunity to actually meld and shape an organizational culture that will truly support your business goals.

No matter the age of your company, it is never too late to consciously choose your culture. Admittedly, your existing culture formed for a reason, so the further along you are, the more likely you will have to deal with resistance to change. But, you can consciously choose your culture by starting here.

How Do You Stay in Touch With the Environment Your Employees Experience at Work? (Check all that apply in the poll.)

You Can Establish Your HR Authority

Sunday April 13, 2014

As an HR professional, building your HR career should be a priority. You'll never know when you'll need to rely on your professional reputation to obtain your next job, your desired promotion, or the recognition of your professional association.

A roadmap exists that can help you build and brand your professional authority. Here's how I look at it. You're going to work for 30 or 40 years anyway, so why not have the most fun, the most recognition, and the most impact while you're putting in the time? When you build your HR authority, another plus is the number of people you can reach to share your philosophy and points of view.

This impact turns into making a difference in lives and workplaces internationally. So, I encourage you to pursue becoming an HR authority figure in your own right. It will magnify your experience of your career and relationships.

Written by guest author, Erin Palmer (pictured), who writes for a number of HR publications, it's a thoughtful look at several of the ways in which you can build your brand.

More About Your HR Brand

Image Copyright Erin Palmer

Ensure Great Hires

Sunday April 13, 2014

If you've read this site for any time at all, you know that I am a big fan of identifying the characteristics, traits, skills, and experience necessary to perform the job before the hiring process begins. With this information identified, you can do a much better job of:

  • posting the opening with the most important requirements;
  • reviewing resumes for the appropriate skills, traits, and experience;
  • developing the appropriate interview questions; and
  • selecting your best candidate.

With the short list of characteristics, traits, and experience, and a behavioral interview, you can zero right in on what you believe you most need from the employee you hire for your open job.

More About Hiring Employees

Image © Stock_IMG Business

What's Key to Improve Employee Satisfaction and Engagement?

Saturday April 12, 2014

Think your employees are satisfied with their jobs and their career development opportunities? According to the 2011 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Research Report, published by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), they are and they aren't.

SHRM reports, from the results of their employee satisfaction survey, that 83% of employees are satisfied with their jobs but only 43% of them are happy with their career development opportunities: "SHRM's new research showed that 83 percent of U.S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their current jobs. Although declining slightly since 2009, the percent of satisfied employees hasn't changed significantly in the last 10 years," Schmit [Mark Schmit, SHRM's vice president for research] noted. "In general, people find ways to be satisfied at work."

I've consolidated for you the SHRM survey results and their implications for the workplace. Most importantly, this data defines the factors that are most important to employees as you continue to seek to provide a workplace that emphasizes employee satisfaction and employee engagement as recruiting, motivation, and retention tools. Use the SHRM data to your best advantage. It tells you what's important to employees to increase their job satisfaction and engagement.

Image Copyright Nancy Louie

Interested in how your organization can improve your employee engagement and employee satisfaction? Take a look at these additional resources.

Make a New Employee Announcement

Saturday April 12, 2014

How you announce a new employee's arrival sets the tone for his or her experience of your workplace. Your new employee announcement also sets the stage for the new employee's success with his or her new coworkers.

Sample letters for employers are sought by site readers. My new employee welcome letters have been popular, with reason. (Remember, you have just one chance to create a positive new employee experience.)

Today's new employee announcement continues the tradition of civility, warmth, and grace with which you want to welcome new employees. It is a sample new employee announcement that tells your current employees that a new employee is starting work at your company.

The new employee announcement gives your staff some information about your new employee's background and experiences so they support your chosen employee. Telling current staff broadly what the new employee will do helps them see how their job or function aligns with that of the new employee. Here's a second sample employee introduction.

The new employee announcement is one of the key steps that I recommend in my recent article about how to welcome a new employee.

More Employee Announcements

Setting up a time to meet the new employee is an extra special touch that I'd like to see happen regularly. What do you think?

Image Copyright Andres Rodriguez

About Employee Onboarding and Integration

How to Resign From Your Job

Friday April 11, 2014

Think resigning from your job is easy? Just drop that resignation letter off on the boss's desk, and you're home free. Sure, you can resign from your job that way, but why not use your resignation as an opportunity to cement your relationship with a former employer?

You never know in your professional career when that positive professional relationship will help you. Or, it can haunt you if you leave your former employer feeling negatively about your exit. You don't control all factors when you resign from your job, but you can make an effort to position yourself as the consummate professional. Barring some petty wishes you may have to yank some chains and leave melodrama in your wake, don't do it. Flawless professional is your best exit strategy.

You can resign from your job in a way that reinforces your professional image and keeps current employer relationships positive. You can resign and keep doors open for future opportunities by building, not destroying, relationships with colleagues and customers. Use a professional resignation letter when you resign from your job.

Professional Resignation Letters

Use these tips to effectively resign from your job.

Image Copyright Martin Novak

Ready to Resign From Your Job?

Do Your Job - Despite the Threat of Lawsuits

Thursday April 10, 2014

The Wall Street Journal made several key points I'd like to share. Fear of losing costly lawsuits is making employers hesitant to fire employees who are underperforming.

And, human resources professionals, who must monitor and lead the process, yet don't have to work directly with an underperforming employee, are often blamed for not letting non-performing employees go sooner. Indeed, some of these fears and concerns are well-founded.

Laws about retaliation by employers fill the books these days. Passed to protect workers, these laws are now protecting underperforming employees and making firing an employee much more difficult, but doable if you follow the appropriate steps.

Retaliation lawsuits make up thirty percent of the cases reviewed by the EEOC. Age-related lawsuits are recently up eighteen percent and, in a layoff situation, employers are responsible for proving no disparate impact on employees over age 40.

This becomes especially important now when some Boomers are retiring, others are scared to death to retire with their savings and 401(k)s in a shambles, and a rising unemployment level. Many businesses have frozen hiring due to economic uncertainty which leaves even fewer openings for the job searchers.

Don't be afraid of being sued. Despite the fact that it may seem some days that lawyers are conspiring to sue employers for the smallest offense, and, believe me, some are. This is how they make their living. Just do your homework. Make sure your managers are well-trained about documenting performance for each employee. Note that I did not say just underperforming employees, I said, each employee.

Then, follow up with employees who are not performing. Coach and counsel, try to help the employee improve, and document each of these steps. If all else fails, document a formal improvement plan (PIP) with the goal of really effective communication with the employee. (Do the PIP step only when you have confidence that the employee can improve and that your confidence in the employee is not eroded beyond repair.) Do these steps correctly, over a period of time, and you will know, both legally and ethically, that you did your best to help the employee succeed.

Will you never be sued? Undoubtedly, if you are in business long enough, you will be sued. In the United States, particularly, anyone can sue anyone for just about anything, any time. But, you can mitigate the potential and the damage. Identify early that an employee is not performing. And, do something about it - quickly.

Image Copyright Stockbyte / Getty Images

Satisfied Employees Emulate Hummingbirds

Thursday April 10, 2014

Employees should be more like hummingbirds. They are visible and clearly communicate what they need.

I feed birds and especially enjoy ruby throated hummingbirds, the only hummingbirds in my area. They have an uncanny ability to tell me what they need from me.

Hummingbirds announce their arrival by humming outside the window closest to where I am working if I don't yet have their feeder out to greet their arrival each year. When their feeder is empty, once again, they appear at my window letting me know they are displeased. Maybe I place too much emphasis on their communication, but they don't appear at my window unless they have something to tell me.

I'd like employees to be the same way. I really want to know what they need from me and few speak up. So, I spend a lot of time asking and also mind reading. But, mind reading is dangerous; what I may think employees want vis' a vis' what they think they want can radically differ. And, not all employees need the same things from their manager. There are commonalities in what employees want from work, but there are differences, too. As with most interactions, the devil is in the details.

But, employees who speak up and tell their manager what they need are much more likely to get their needs met. The occasional employee satisfaction survey provides overall trends, but the one-to-one communication of needs or desired interactions is best to get needs met. "I'd like to meet with you weekly; can we set a regular time?" "I'd like feedback on this project. How do you think it went?" These are approaches employees can use to tell their boss what they need.

Help employees tell you what they need for a satisfying work environment. If you're not hearing regularly from employees, ask yourself whether you are creating an environment in which they are comfortable expressing their needs.

Tell the Boss What You Need

I have mentioned in the past that each employee will be most successful if he or she takes 100% responsibility for managing their relationship with their boss. Be like the hummingbird. Tell your boss what you need. And then, increase your visibility at work via this effective communication. The good boss will appreciate knowing what you need and that you took the time to communicate those needs.

Image Copyright Patty Jenks / Getty Images

More About Visible Communication

Does Wearing Panty Hose Matter?

Wednesday April 9, 2014

On the subject of attire for work, here's another issue that goes around, comes around, every year - panty hose - or the lack thereof. So, every year, I resurrect my polls.

While we're talking about what employees ought to wear to work in a variety of settings, I'd like to bring up hose or panty hose. Let's start with an eighteen year old's perspective.

As a college student, my colleague's daughter has declared that never in her life will she wear hose or panty hose - never. Bare legs with dresses or pants rule the day. As a result of her insistence, I began to notice at professional business meetings whether women wore hose - or not, any more.

I figured it was a generational thing and that the non-hose wearers would all be young. But, I attended a state Chamber of Commerce professional dinner where many women wore dresses; it was a fancy affair. No one I saw under age thirty-five or so had hose on - bare legs ruled the evening.

A couple of lessons for me here: hosiery companies better plan to diversify or they will go the same route as buggy whip companies. A second question arose. Can company dress codes specify hose? Should they? I almost think of it as discrimination in 2014.

In a business casual or casual work environment, almost no one wears dresses or skirts, but in a formal dress code workplace, is the no hose look going to fly? With the next generations of women, the answer is yes.

But, will the no hose look work for men and women currently working and hiring new employees? I'd like to find out. Please take a moment to respond to my quick polls. If you have thoughts on the subject, please share them in comments.

You might also be interested to see what job searchers think about panty hose. Alison Doyle ran a poll to find out that produced some interesting comments and opinions.

Vote in more polls. Share opinions.

More About Dress Codes

Effective Conflict Resolution Facilitates Teamwork

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Interested in more tips about how to create a successful organization? You need to build a team work environment in which employees have each made the commitment to play well with others.

Employees who like each other, work well together, and support each other serve customers well and deliver market worthy products. In addition, Gallup's research indicates that having friends at work is a hallmark of a culture in which employees are motivated and satisfied.

What serves you well as you develop this teamwork culture? Conflict resolution skills help employees work effectively together. In honor of April, which is Workplace Conflict Awareness Month, here are thoughts on conflict resolution.

Tips for Conflict Resolution

You never want to allow an employee squabble to get out of hand. Employees need conflict resolution skills and managers need to know how to moderate conflicts in ways that preserve relationships.

In one of my client settings, two women work in the same office and have barely spoken to each other for twenty years. Fortunately, they don't have to work together, but can you imagine how uncomfortable that work environment must be for coworkers? And, I'd hazard a guess that neither of them remembers what caused the breach in the first place anymore.

So, solving bad employee conflicts is a priority. At the same time, you want to enable healthy conflict over ideas, product features, and direction. Balancing the two kinds of conflict adds up to a healthy work environment.

What's your conflict resolution style?

Image ©Monika Wisniewska

Sample Interview Checklist

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Are you interested in involving a team of employees to interview and select your next candidate? One of my readers wrote and asked about an interview checklist. I realized that I had developed a checklist for hiring employees, but I had never highlighted the interview portions of recruitment with its own checklist.

Problem solved as a result of my reader's request. This interview checklist should help you and your team perform effective interviews that garner you qualified employees who fit your culture.

The more systematic that you are about how you recruit, screen, interview, and hire employees, the more likely you are to avoid discrimination.

With consistent hiring practices, you are also more likely to be giving every candidate a fair chance to impress your team with his knowledge, problem solving skills, and experience.

A consistent approach also enables you to analyze your interviewing practices over time to see what works. The most comprehensive checklist on the planet is useless if the process fails to identify employees who contribute and succeed.

Take the time to do a retrospective on your interviewing practices periodically to determine whether your process needs to change. You need to look at all HR processes periodically to make sure that they haven't become dinosaurs. HR processes and policies must support the success of employees and your business, not add layers of bureaucracy and steps.

Take a look at my interview checklist. I'd appreciate, as always, your feedback. What would you add or subtract?

Image Copyright Dean Sanderson

More Related to an Interview Checklist

Create Value With Human Resource Measures

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Are you interested in how to measure the impact of Human Resources leadership, management, actions, policies, and assistance in your organization? You should be so that your organization understands your value.

A significant component of your Human Resource business planning is identifying what Human Resources measures to collect. One of the topics I'd like to spend more time on this year is Human Resource measures.

Once upon a time, standing in my kitchen - yes, I work from home - four vice presidents called me, out of the clear blue, from a client company. They were meeting to assess the effectiveness of my training and consulting activities and they made the age old mistake of measuring actions, not results.

They proposed that my accountability would be the number of training sessions I presented, the number of employees who attended the training sessions, and the number of improvements employees made in their work areas. I told them I could begin to work with them on the last one, but the first two had nothing to do with the results we wanted to achieve.

What Impacts Human Resource Measures?

This story has played out in workplaces perpetually, it seems. And, part of the problem is that HR staff members get so busy just providing services, that collecting data and measuring success and contribution, in addition, is a stretch. At least in the small and mid-sized companies where I have spent much of my time, this is true.

One of the measurements that HR has collected data on is cost-per-hire. The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) has spearheaded an effort to develop a human resources standard for measuring cost-per-hire. Here are their cost-per-hire benchmarking results for 2011-2012.

Additionally, find out more about what Human Resource measures might work in your organization and why.

What do you currently measure in HR?

Image Copyright Jeffrey Smith

What Causes Employee Negativity?

Monday April 7, 2014

Recently, I received an IM from a friend. He has found a new job and was ushered out of his former workplace when he gave his two week's notice. He wanted to tell me just how bad his workplace had been. And, I was truly amazed. The workplace he described took every article on this website and did the exact opposite.

Employees were required to account for every minute of their time and a doctor's note was required if they missed one day of work. They were required to sign pages and pages of rules and laws including a policy that described what was considered to be an assault. Buried in a basement, the employees were treated as if they were criminals or repeat offenders just waiting to screw up again; the rules covered every possible screw up, too.

I could tell you much more, but some of you who work in negative workplaces don't need to hear any more of the gruesome details. I told my friend to run - not walk - away from this workplace. It would sap his spirit and steal his soul.

The typical workplace has its ups and downs in terms of employee negativity. Many workplaces are trying to be employee oriented. But, even the most employee oriented workplace can shudder under the weight of negative thinking. When employers understand the causes of employee negativity and put in place measures to prevent employee negativity, negativity fails to gain a foothold in the work environment. Learn the five key causes of employee negativity.

You may also be interested in Tips for Minimizing Workplace Negativity and Cures for Negativity, assuming you are experiencing negativity in your workplace.

Image Copyright Alan Crawford/iStockphoto

Poll About Workplace Negativity

This week's poll focuses on identifying the most common causes of negativity in your workplace. I have suggested several from a recent employee survey I saw, but would be interested in your comments about workplace negativity, too.

Poll: What Is the Primary Cause of Negativity in Your Workplace? (You can only vote for one.)

Are You Weary?

Monday April 7, 2014

Feeling weary? No matter how much you love your job, love your employer, or love your life - or not - you may sometimes feel weary. It's okay to feel weary and it's okay to do something about weary. When I'm home, I just switch activities: go for a walk, organize paper, read, start a fire, cook or bake something wonderful, or turn on music or the TV. The choices are limited only by my imagination.

At work, feeling weary is a bit more interdependent and it may be all of those wonderful coworkers who are helping make you feel weary. I've come up with ten ways to bust weary at work. These ten tips lead to more resources, too. If you're feeling weary, why not take a look?

And, while you're visiting, share what makes you feel weary and how you combat weary.

More Related to Job Satisfaction

Image Copyright Joshua Blake

Interview Questions for Employers to Ask Candidates

Sunday April 6, 2014

Have you ever wanted sample job interview questions that you can ask prospective employees? These sample interview questions for employers to ask candidates focus on various skills and attributes that you want to identify in your potential employees.

I've continued to add additional interview questions to these samples and seek feedback about what other topics I should cover. I'd like to continue to write sample interview questions, but I can use some feedback about the topics you need.

On each group of questions, I have also made suggestions about what you are looking for in your job candidate's answers. It is difficult to give you an exact set of criteria because, as in all other things in Human Resources, the candidate's favorable answers are situational. The best responses depend on your job requirements, your organization's culture, and your knowledge about what kind of person successfully performs the job in your company.

I have begun to flesh out positive and desirable responses from prospective employees for you. So far, I've covered motivation, cultural fit, and management. Stay tuned for more tips about interpreting your candidates' answers to interview questions.

Image Copyright Steve Cole

More Related to Employer Interview Questions

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