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Susan M. Heathfield

Human Resources


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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

Stop Destroying Motivation

Sunday April 6, 2014

Looking for ways to keep work from destroying motivation? It's so easy to puncture an employee's balloon. Yet, the consequences are devastating for your workplace.

It's true that employees are primarily responsible for their own motivation. It's not something you do to them or for them. But, the person they report to, their manager, has a profound effect on whether an employee is motivated at work.

I've identified ten of the motivation busters that are frequently found in workplaces. They sap employee enthusiasm and guarantee that employees lose their zest for work. They also guarantee that the employee is unable to contribute at the level that your organization needs.

You want to avoid these ten motivation busters at all costs for a productive, engaging, employee-oriented workplace. Your employees will love you. And, as a consequence, so will your customers who are served by excited employees.

Image Copyright Sean Fel

More About Effective Management of Motivation

Write Thank You Letters to Magnify Recognition

Saturday April 5, 2014

Want to thank an employee or a coworker for a job well done? April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, so it's an appropriate time to make employee recognition a priority.

Writing a letter or a note to thank or congratulate an employee for a job well done magnifies the recognition that the employee experiences. Don't ever underestimate the positive, powerful impact of a written thank you.

These sample thank you letters give you guides for thanking employees, coworkers, managers, and friends for their contributions in the workplace.

These sample thank you letters provide a wide range of examples about how to thank and recognize people at work.

Image Copyright Sheer Photo Inc. / Getty Images

More Related to Sample Employee Letters

How to Deal With Everyday People

Saturday April 5, 2014

I write a lot about how to deal with difficult people at work. The website also overflows with information about how to deal with bad bosses. Readers make more comments about their bad bosses than any other topic on the site. Other than why many readers hate HR, dealing with difficult people at work tops your list of interests: ten more tips for dealing with difficult people.

But, except for an unlucky few, most people spend most of their time with everyday, normal, ordinary people at work. Not to say that any person is ordinary, because each of us is extraordinary in our own special way. But, common sense, everyday advice for dealing with the day-to-day interactions at work is front and center in my newest article.

No matter your job or your workplace, dealing with people effectively is a must for success. Dealing with everyday people successfully will make work more fun and inspiring. Dealing with people is both a joy and a challenge. But, dealing with people successfully is the most significant factor determining whether you will have the impact and influence you need to accomplish your mission and vision at work.

Find out more about how to most successfully deal with the everyday people in your work life. And, while you're there, do you have a tip about dealing with everyday people that you'd be willing to share? If you've worked for any time at all, your knowledge is priceless. Share your tips for dealing with everyday people at work.

Image Copyright David Lee / Getty Images

Want Powerful On-the-Job Training?

Friday April 4, 2014

Explore the power of on-the-job training to enhance employee development in your organization. Use job shadowing as a significant component in on-the-job training, too.

Probably because I was a jointly-appointed training coordinator and OD consultant for a GM plant earlier in my career, both training and OD have always remained dear to my heart. An early memory that has always stayed close, too, is the day that the tool and die guys invited me to their training meeting and asked me to be their training coordinator.

In those days, you could be assigned a job, but you couldn't do the job, if the employees didn't accept or seek your services. As I write this, I find myself laughing. In those days, I say, but isn't it still the way - in all coordinating or managing roles? Someone has to decide to follow you. Hence my sense of pride and accomplishment when first, the skilled trades employees, then the tool and die guys, invited me to their party.

As a result of these experiences, I learned that on-the-job training is the most powerful form of job training. Employees who aspired to these skilled positions attended classes and apprenticeship programs, but the bulk of their training was working side-by-side with experienced employees in a job shadowing situation. And, the power of job shadowing should not be limited to hands-on skilled trades either.

Job shadowing is significant for employee development in any on-the-job training approach. Even employees who aspire to management roles benefit from on-the-job training in job shadowing opportunities. Learning to lead a meeting, taking responsibility for a team's product development results, and participating in coaching and mentoring for a management role is just as significant for an employee who aspires to an office job.

Do take a look at my 12 possibilities for on-the-job successful training: Provide Job Training - On the Job.

Image Copyright Catherine Yeulet

Think Multitasking Is Productive?

Friday April 4, 2014

Want tips about how you can increase your ability to focus on tasks and stay productive at work? Employees who are multitasking may think that they're doing more work.

The problem with multitasking though, is that they may, in fact, be accomplishing less.

"As professionals are expected to do more on the job, many are actually doing less, less effectively due to an inability to focus on key priorities," according to Joelle K. Jay, PhD. (pictured), noted executive coach and author.

What can employees do about this? Dr. Jay recommends these three actions.

Do you have thoughts about focus, prioritizing, and accomplishing tasks and goals at work? Please share your secrets.

Image Copyright Joelle K. Jay

More Related to Multitasking and Productivity

How to Expand Your Career in HR?

Thursday April 3, 2014

A frequent reader question involves either how to transition into the Human Resources field or how to expand career opportunities in HR. The reader often feels stymied in their current job and wants to know how to move into a different or more general area of HR. This career change can be difficult especially if the reader doesn't know what to do.

People can spend years pursuing a degree or quit their current job without an alternative in hand - both mistakes if they won't result in the desired career change. So, I answered this reader's question because I receive similar questions almost daily. Please add your voice if you have additional alternatives to offer this reader and the many more that I don't feature.

Reader Question: I have been pigeonholed as the disabilities guy by my employer. I want to move into a broader Human Resources role and I don't know exactly how to do that. Do you think that getting my PHR would make me more employable as an HR Generalist or other? I have always worked with disabilities and worker comp.

Here is my response.

Image Copyright iStockphoto / Pali Rao

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Are You Hiring Superior Employees?

Thursday April 3, 2014

Probably not. And, if not, why not? You win some, you lose some, and some days, it rains, or snows, as the case may be. Most organizations are not hiring superior talent and it is likely your hiring process that is letting you down. Do you know that organizations are still hiring employees after one manager interviews several candidates?

No potential coworkers meet the candidate and no assessment is made of the candidate's cultural fit. What? Culture? What's that? Oh my goodness. While some organizations have made progress in hiring superior employees, others have not - to their severe detriment.

Hiring superior employees ensures that your organization has the talent onboard that it needs to succeed in accomplishing your mission and vision, and attaining long term profitability. Hiring fundamentals that include a systematic process for hiring and consistent execution of the hiring process result in superior employee wins for your organization.

Dan Erling (pictured), author of the book, MATCH: A Systematic, Sane Process for Hiring the Right Person Every Time (Wiley) (compare prices) asks, "Why is it that so many companies accept mediocre hiring results as the norm? The answer is simple. It doesn't occur to them that, in fact, there is a process that virtually guarantees hiring the right person every time."

You and your organization can do better than this. I promise. If you develop a systematic hiring process and execute the process faithfully, your proportion of superior employees will skyrocket. Take a look at my interview with Dan about hiring to find out how to implement a process for hiring superior employees.

Then, check out these additional hiring resources for more ideas and support.

Hiring Superior Employees

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Release of Claims May Not Protect You

Wednesday April 2, 2014

No matter how ethical you are in your efforts to fire employees legally and for legitimate performance causes, I don't know of an employer who doesn't experience a sigh of relief, no matter how fleeting, when the signed release of claims shows up on your doorstep. I've experienced that quick sigh of relief on many occasions - just one less, potentially seriously time consuming, issue off my plate.

But, recent litigation, primarily brought forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) leaves employers in a quandry.

You supply severance to the individual whose employment is terminated for a number of reasons. You seek to limit the potential for litigation. You want to formalize the ending of the employment relationship.

You want to lay to rest any potential disputes the former employee may have. And, in the best of worlds, you want to give the former employee a bit of assistance during the time he or she will be job searching.

I know many employers who don't fight the person's ability to collect unemployment. Even when they could legitimately object, they decide to provide the employee with an extra financial cushion so that he or she can move on with life.

Release of Claims and Litigation

But, recent court decisions jeopardize these assumptions.

How would you feel about providing severance, if you knew that the former employee could then decide to sue you anyway? Not very good, I expect. The possibility has always existed. It just appears to be one more issue for employers to ponder about their use of a release of claims these days.

How you fire an employee has never been more convoluted. Fire an employee with compassion and class. But, also fire an employee with the conviction that retaining the underperforming employee is bad for your business, undermines your performing employees, and in the long term, causes the departure of long suffering coworkers.

Image Copyright Pail Rao

Need Phrases for Performance Reviews and Other Difficult Conversations?

Wednesday April 2, 2014

Does it seem sometimes that you need a whole different language for talking with employees during a less-than-outstanding performance review? The myriad conversations that you participate in during the course of your day-to-day work are not always positive and often require tactful suggestions for improvement, too.

If you are like many of us, you seek effective ways to approach difficult conversations. I've written before about how to approach difficult conversations and how to tackle annoying employee habits and issues, but talking about performance and the need for improvement is the most challenging.

The way a manager approaches performance appraisal and the words that he or she uses to describe performance, are critical to effective performance improvement. Find out more about how to approach performance reviews and other difficult conversations.

You can speak so that employees listen, comprehend and improve. Here are ten approaches.

Image Copyright Pinnacle Pictures / Getty Images

What Makes a Manager a Bad Boss?

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Bad bosses are a perennially popular topic on this site. I think that the topic of a bad boss resonates with everyone because we've all had one at one time or another during our working lives.

I ran a poll in the past that asked what you would do if you had a bad boss. The majority of readers said they would talk with their boss. I lauded everyone's courage, but your responses also made me think. Here are my thoughts about how to deal with a bad boss.

Polling Center: See how site readers voted on recent polls.

Poll: What Makes a Manager a Bad Boss?

You may only vote for one, so you might want to start by reviewing the list.

Readers share more thoughts about what makes a boss - bad. What makes a manager or supervisor a bad boss, in your opinion?

Related to Bad Boss

Dear Readers: Comments that defame an individual by name and company name will be deleted. We're just looking for the characteristics of a bad boss and your experiences with them, not names. Also, please no more submissions in all CAPS. I won't be publishing them in the future because readers tell me that they are too hard to read. Thank you for your participation and cooperation. Susan

Image Copyright John Foxx / Getty Images

Think Alcohol Use Is Not a Problem?

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Think that alcohol use is not a significant factor in your workplace? If so, think again. Among 55.3 million adult binge drinkers in the United States, 44.0 million, or 79.4% are employed. Of 16.4 million persons reporting heavy alcohol use, 13.1 million, or 79.6% are employed.

According to the US Department of Labor website, while the prevalence of substance use among employed people is lower than among the unemployed, a large number of employed people use drugs and alcohol. In 2007, 8.4% of those employed full-time were current illicit drug users. 8.8% reported heavy alcohol use.

The impact of social drinkers with hangovers, in addition to the impact of employees with alcohol addiction problems, cannot be overestimated. Social drinkers impact your productivity, absenteeism, employee morale, attendance, and employee turnover rates more than employees who are alcoholics. While alcoholism is protected under the ADA, and worthy of attention, social drinking and its work impact needs more of your concern.

Here's how employers might want to address alcohol use-related problems in the workplace.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a time to consider whether you need a drug and alcohol management program in your workplace that would include employee and supervisor training, a drug and alcohol use policy, and increased awareness of the impact of alcohol and drug use on your employees and your workplace.

Want to know more about alcoholism? About.com's Buddy T offers everything you need to know about alcohol use and abuse.

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Great Managers Avoid Dumb Mistakes

Monday March 31, 2014

Would you like to be a great manager? One of the paths to great management is avoiding common mistakes that managers make when they lead employees. Mistakes by managers are so common that it's tough to identify all of them. But, I'm trying.

You have the potential to be a great manager. These mistakes will derail you and destroy your relationship with the employees who report to you. If your motivation is to be a great manager, these mistakes are easy to avoid.

If your motivation is power, control, self-promotion, or self-aggrandizement, you will fall into these traps every time. With the wrong motivation, you won't put employees first and you'll end up compromising your work success, too.

Employees are not the only people affected by dumb things managers do. Colleagues observe and withdraw their trust and faith, too. Committing these 10 dumb mistakes is a recipe for career failure. Don't go there. You can do better than that.

In earlier articles, I reviewed 10 mistakes managers make managing people. I also offered 5 dumb things managers do. You'll want to take a look at these pieces for additional insight into dumb things managers do.

Image Copyright Antonio M. Rosario / Getty Images

Getting Into HR?

Monday March 31, 2014

Periodically, a reader's question has universal appeal and application so I am sharing both the question and my response. This particular question comes to me a lot, particularly from people who want to transition into the field of HR. With little to no formal education in HR and little job experience, what can the individual do to quickly impact their ability to work in our field? How would you respond to Ann's question?

Reader's Question: let me introduce myself. My name is Ann and I am a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration) graduate. I have several years' experience working as an accounts assistant, administration assistant, data entry operator and so on. I am 30 years old now and I wish to make an upward progress in my career and Human Resources interests me. But all the HR vacancies (even HR assistants) require HR experience. So I thought of studying further to increase my chances of getting an HR position.

I am planning to do a Graduate Certificate course in Australia and there are two options:

  • Graduate Certificate in Human Resources
  • Graduate Certificate in Humanities and Social Science

Which one do you think might give me a chance to put a foot in the door in HR? I would be most obliged if you could provide advice in this matter. Thank you for your time and thoughts.

My Response: I am unfamiliar with many graduate certificates, so it is difficult to comment on specific ones, but I would think that one that allowed HR study, if that is your goal, would be better. However, I have several additional ideas.

Preparing to Work in HR

  • Why not interview some successful HR managers in your community to seek out their advice about getting into the field of HR and how you can prepare. Many HR people are willing to do these informational interviews and it is also a way to get your name, as interested in HR, out into your community.
  • Is there any way that you can take on additional tasks in your current job that take you in the HR direction? Many people started in HR by doing payroll as an example. Talk to your boss and your company's HR person about your goal and get advice. Maybe there are ways the departments can share you.
  • Work with a decent resume writer or your college career services office to take your accounting experience and make it sound useful in an HR department. Numbers people are always needed in HR, so perhaps this experience can provide a bridge into an HR career.
  • Can you take a brief leave to do an HR internship?
  • If you have no grad degree in HR or business, consider that they are becoming more important in HR and might make you more employable.

Apply for HR Jobs Without Experience

I would apply for the positions that require experience. Work with your resume and cover letter to make your current skills and tasks relevant to HR, and apply.

Here are some thoughts on getting into HR. Thoughts on transitioning to HR from another field. Readers share their thoughts about how they made their transition into HR. Readers share their more detailed stories about how they transitioned to a position in the field of HR.

Best wishes and good luck. May you make all of your dreams come true.

Okay, readers. Your thought are welcome for this reader and all of the others who write to me with similar questions. Share the brain trust of the people who read this site. It's spectacular.

Image Copyright Bobbieo

Make Gen Y Employees Successful

Sunday March 30, 2014

Speaking on a business talk radio show with an affable host, we discussed Generation Y, the employees who were born since 1980 and are joining your organizations now. In my own company, TechSmith, we have a large number of these employees because we are a software development company. On top of that, my husband and I have nineteen nieces and nephews who all qualify as members of Gen Y.

The host asked me: with all of the downsides this group brings to the workplace and all of the responsibilities an employer has for training and development when he or she hires a Gen Y employee, why would anyone would hire them. I got a kick out of the question which I had not been prepared to answer.

The reality is that by 2025, 75% of employees world-wide will come from this age group. So you can't not hire them. Even though you know you will have to:

  • teach them how to be employees,
  • help them grow up,
  • provide bosses that truly mentor them so you ensure their loyalty,
  • train them,
  • provide flexible schedules, and
  • keep them excited about work, and not bored.

they are worth the trouble. Smart, can-do, enthusiastic, challenging, demanding, verbal, vocal young men and women who are:

  • mostly technology savvy,
  • oriented to working in teams,
  • fiercely loyal if you earn their trust and respect,
  • quick learners,
  • positive about themselves and their capabilities,
  • Hard working,
  • Full of ideas, and
  • Multi-taskers on a level that you've never experienced before.

The most important fact that you need to remember is that Gen Y members are not you. And, it's you who must make adjustments for them, not the opposite.

Want to learn more about Gen Y? Here are the resources you need.

Image Copyright Jacom Stevens / iStockphoto.com

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