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Two Ways to Revamp Traditional Incentives

Two Ways to Revamp Traditional Incentives

Many companies have approached employee incentives the exact same way for decades—sick leave, overtime pay and annual salary reviews. While these ideas are important and generous, companies must take cues from today’s market to broaden their perception of incentives.

Employee engagement is now a financial strategy for businesses and high engagement is commonly driven by recognition and reward. Two key factors have been identified in the creation of modern incentives that actually engage and produce real, bottom-line benefits:

1. Personalization

Consumer demand for personalization is up. Why would employee demand be any different?

Still, a recent Deloitte survey reported that only 8% of companies say their systems of incentives are very effective at creating a personalized, flexible solution.

Personal and frequent engagement with employees can lead to the discovery of unique incentives that work well for each individual. Incentives then become the tangible evidence that employees are truly known and cared for within their organization.

Personalization of incentives often looks like project or target-based bonuses. For some, the ability to create their own benefits packages may be most rewarding. For others, the freedom to do more independent or remote work can motivate and establish trust. Other ideas include creating company-wide recognition with company-wide games—meeting specific performance targets on a points-based system.

By personalizing incentives, employees feel known and uniquely valued within an organization. Oftentimes, being heard is a powerful incentive in and of itself.

2. Purpose-Oriented

An employee’s interpretation of the work he or she does for a company is a critical part of employee engagement. If the brightest minds feels their work is worthless, work ethic will inevitably decline.

This requires employers to give employees a well-defined and visible mission that can inspire and motivate even the most tedious work. Those from the lowest level to the top should be able to see their contributions and value in day-to-day operations.

Sometimes creating purpose-oriented incentives doesn’t even mean creating new ones—it may mean just presenting incentives in a more thoughtful way.

For example, let’s say a travel marketing agency traditionally gives an extended PTO incentive. That’s nice. But if the extended PTO is given with the intent that employees go out, travel, experience the world and bring fresh ideas back with them… that’s a purpose-oriented incentive.

A carefully developed reason for longer vacation time actually gives employees a sense of belonging, purpose and importance. Traditionally, people take vacations to escape from work. But how might organizational culture and engagement shift if even on vacation, employees felt purposeful and helpful?

Another purpose-oriented incentive could involve linking employee rewards to social causes or community issues that matter to them. This incentive is both purposeful and personalized, as it caters to an individual’s passion. Win-win.

Time to Reevaluate

Still not sure you need to revamp your traditional incentives? Try walking by some desks. Do your employees perk up at the sight of you, trying to look busy? Or are they already driven and motivated? Do you find yourself struggling to know what to say, or do you know your employees on a personal level?

Servant HR is a human resource service provider that gives business leaders freedom to focus on the parts they love about their business. Give us a call and see how a PEO can help you today! We take care of your business’s administrative tasks, so that you can take care of your employees—and we think that’s a pretty good incentive.

Five Ways to Prevent FMLA Abuse

Five Ways to Prevent FMLA Abuse

The sun is out, temperatures are up, and employee attendance is… down. There’s a reason cynics in the HR world nickname The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the “Friday Monday Leave Act.

FMLA allows up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave each year, as a means for employees to balance their work and family responsibilities. The specific intent as stated by the Department of Labor, is “to promote the stability and economic security of families, as well as the nation’s interest in preserving the integrity of families.”

FMLA is required of employers that have over fifty employees on twenty or more weeks in the prior or current year. To be eligible, employees must have worked at an organization for at least twelve months and logged at least 1,250 hours of service during that time. Qualified employees are permitted FMLA leave for any of the following reasons:

  1. To care for their child after birth, adoption or foster care.
  2. To care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a “serious” health condition.
  3. The employee’s own “serious” health condition makes him or her unable to perform the job.

FMLA is over twenty years old, but surveys show the act still ranks as one of the most confusing and frustrating employment laws for companies to administer. Along with understanding the specifics of the act as it relates to each state and circumstance, employers must also be aware of FMLA abuse tactics.

FMLA expert Jeff Nowak suggests companies take the following measures to ensure fair leave and accountability to the intent of FMLA.

1. Require (and question) employee leave requests

This is an effective strategy for cutting down on all types of absences. An employer cannot deny FMLA leave to a worker who puts in a notice, but simply requiring a written request can deter employees from taking unnecessary leave. It is also helpful for employers to have a list of questions ready when an employee requests time off. Ask about the job functions they are unable to perform, if they will see a health care provider, and when they expect to return to work. Employers have the right to know why an employee can’t come to work and a little probing can help determine if the FMLA request is legitimate.

2. Enforce a daily call-in policy

Requiring employees to call in one hour before their shift to report an absence is another inconvenience that may prevent abuse altogether. An extended vacation may not sound as appealing if you know you have to call into work every single day. As long as a policy is in place and there are no unusual circumstances, it is okay to deny FMLA leave to an employee who fails to call in before their absence.

3. Certify, and then certify again

According to Novak, one of the best tools employers can use to fight FMLA abuse is the medical certification form. Upon the first absence in a new FMLA year, require medical certification to verify the serious health condition. If circumstances change and an employee needs an extra day or week of intermittent leave, require recertification at the earliest opportunity. Employees typically have fifteen days to get a certification returned to their employer.

4. Follow up on patterns

Noticing a lot of sunny Monday and Friday absences? Is holiday time off frequently extended? These are common patterns of FMLA abuse. If a series of weeks or back-to-back months indicates a regular pattern of absences, employers can follow FMLA regulations to consult the employee’s physician. This can simply confirm whether the pattern is consistent with the employee’s health condition and need for leave.

5. Conduct an audit

FMLA policy and forms must be up to date in order to ensure compliance and the best strategies to combat abuse. Be proactive with your employment counsel or PEO to ensure that loopholes are minimized and your FMLA administration is running smoothly.

By partnering with Servant HR as your PEO, you get a fully integrated human resources team working for your protection. Worried about legal compliance? Not sure if your FMLA policy is at it’s best? That’s where we come in. Contact us today!

Q + A:  Social media and the workplace

Q + A: Social media and the workplace

When it comes to legal situations around social media and the workplace, the best defense is a good offense. You may not be asking these exact questions today, but someday you might. Keep reading to learn how to avoid legal traps as an employer, and how to formulate a stronger social media policy as an HR professional.


Q: “My employee is making comments about me on his/her personal Facebook account. What can I do?”

A: Perhaps nothing has emboldened people more than the rise of social media. Comments one wouldn’t dare make in person can now be expressed quickly and frequently behind the perceived safety of the internet.

But as inappropriate or insulting as a post may be, employers do not always have the right to take action against an employee for social media behavior. The National Labor Relations Act enforces the right of employees to engage in “protected concerted activity.” This law allows employees, with or without a union, to act together to improve their pay and working conditions.

 

Q: “What exactly qualifies as protected concerted activity?”

A: According to the National Labor Relations Board, an employee simply griping about their job is not concerted activity. Whatever an employee says or posts on social media must have “some relation to group action, or seek to initiate, induce or prepare for group action or bring a group complaint to the attention of management.”

However, the NLRB decides what actions deserve protection, and because every situation is different, the law is intentionally vague. Sometimes comments made on social media are interpreted as protected concerted activity because they are supported by other coworkers or simply directed at management.

In one case, an employee of a New York catering company was fired for profane Facebook comments directed at his boss and his boss’s family. Still, the NLRB found this employee protected, since the comments were made during a work break, expressed the employee’s concern about management and ended with an all caps call to join the union. The NLRB ordered reinstatement and back pay for the employee.

Less extreme examples of concerted activity include talking with coworkers about wages and benefits, circulating a petition for better hours, participating in refusal to work in unsafe conditions or joining with coworkers to address issues directly with an employer, government agency or media outlet.

The law does not protect spreading maliciously false information, or bashing an employer’s products or services without linking back to a labor controversy. However, the still-vague terms have caught many employers in legal traps.

 

Q: “So employers can never terminate employees for online behavior?”

A: Not exactly. Off duty conduct laws vary state to state, but employers do have the right to regulate online activity. For example, an employer can discipline employees for online behavior during work hours. However, they must be consistent in enforcing this policy. Discipline must be enforced for all online activity during work hours, not just when negative comments about the company are made.

Employers must also take action when an employee’s online actions place the employer at legal risk. Examples of this include betraying confidential information, violating rules about company product endorsements or harassing a coworker.

Employers should intervene when an employee acts disloyally online as well. Complaining about a manager or pay rate on Twitter isn’t considered disloyal, but if an employee claims online that the hospital where they work is unsafe, this is considered disloyal. However, if employees address legitimate safety concerns with an employer or government agency, this activity is protected.

 

Q: “What other ways can I prevent legal situations around social media in the workplace?”

A: Employers must welcome feedback. Many attacks on social media happen out of pent up frustration. If frustration can be expressed early on when everyone is still rational, the extreme cases can be avoided.

Consistent communication about social media policy is also essential. Along with routine education and training, it is important for company handbooks to have compliant social media policy in order for interceding action to take place fairly and consistently. Any employer action in response to employee behavior on social media must be in line with previous action and easily traceable to a clear handbook policy.

However, even “airtight” social media guidelines leave employers susceptible to accusations and lawsuits. Focusing on prevention is first, but staying up to date on labor relations laws is a close second.

 

Still have questions? We have answers and experience. Contact us today to see how Servant HR can serve your administrative and consulting needs.

Preboarding as priority: Intentional hospitality as an HR function

Preboarding as priority: Intentional hospitality as an HR function

For some employers, “onboarding” is defined as that first paperwork meeting with a new hire — shaking hands, filling out tax forms and practicing signatures. For others, onboarding is simply any learning that takes place from day one on the job. Either way, both interpretations of onboarding are necessary parts of the hiring process, as employees work to acclimate to a new employer.

Even after you’ve sealed the deal, there is still a small gap of critical time between job acceptance and an employee’s first day. Usually a few weeks are given for employees to transition out of their current job and take a breath before their new one begins. But a lot can happen during that gap. Job offers are often used to bargain in other interviews or leverage a promotion with a current employer.

Some employers combat this risk by starting the onboarding process earlier. “If we can get them in the door faster and have them start completing insurance forms, they’ll be less likely to quit!” But research shows retention comes less from eager paperwork meetings and more from relationship and exceptional hospitality.

 

Guarding the Gap

 

Creative initiatives to welcome and engage new hires, from the time of offer acceptance to day one, are called preboarding. While ultimately beneficial for employers and a company’s bottom line, preboarding is most effective when genuinely focused on the employee.

Whether it’s that first meeting or the first few weeks of work, employees begin learning everything about their new employer during onboarding.

Preboarding offers an extra-mile opportunity for the employer to learn about the employee.

Taking time and honest interest in a new hire demonstrates the value a company places on its people. This helps new hires make the jump to a new workplace and feel at home faster (while inadvertently encouraging their best work).

 

Thinking Ahead

 

Attention to hospitality details may seem like a waste of time, but ignoring preboarding can prove costly. Consistent communication with new hires before their first day prevents ambivalence and makes employees less likely to continue communication with other potential employers. Lack of engagement before starting work allows new hires to feel that nothing is yet final and continue pursuing other offers.

Employers may use up some time on the front end, but preboarding also saves time on day one. Since a new employee has already become familiar with the team, culture and business operations in the weeks after acceptance, day one can be a work day rather than a day of introductions and tours.

So how is it done? Is it really just muffin baskets and welcome emails? Sometimes!

To put it a simpler way, preboarding has been called, “onboarding that’s more fun.”

Different ideas work better for different companies, but these small things can help new hires feel welcomed, valued and excited to stick around:

 

  • Before an employee’s first day, schedule a tour followed by a lunch with immediate team members or their managers. This helps the employee to feel more confident on their first day instead of walking in blind.

 

  • Send the employee a questionnaire after acceptance to outline things they like and dislike. When figuring out where to go/what to cater during a welcome lunch, the employee’s favorite place can be chosen without putting them on the spot. This questionnaire can be used throughout an employee’s time, as a way to intentionally thank them for good work. (Employers can also post employee questionnaires for everyone to see, fostering intentional relationships between coworkers.)

 

  • Pay attention in interviews and follow up with specifics. If a new hire mentions their family in the interview, send a gift basket including treats for their kids. If they just moved to the area, gift them with favorite local goods and a list of restaurant recommendations from their coworkers.

 

  • Keep checking in. Consistent emailing shows an employer is available. Sending a schedule of the first week, creating their email account and telling them when their desk is set up lets a new hire know you’re anticipating their arrival and keeps them in the loop.

 

  • Some companies offer “show up bonuses” on an employee’s first day or at the end of their first month. Of course this isn’t feasible for every company, but this bold gesture is an unexpected way to show appreciation.

 

  • Follow through. Hospitality attempts can seem insincere if new employees are left to fend for themselves after day one. In the initial learning stage at a new job, consistent check-ins are necessary to ensure confident acclimation specific to each new hire. This care and attention will not go unnoticed and can help ensure best fit for both employees and employer.

 

You may not be able to give your employees a million bucks, but you can make them feel like it! These small gestures help to guard that gap of critical time, and keep your employees excited about their new position with you.

Want to spend less time with the HR hassle and more time with your people? We want that for you too. Contact us today and see how Servant HR can give you the freedom to focus on what’s most important.

Trick or treat?: Three tips to avoid panicky performance reviews

Trick or treat?: Three tips to avoid panicky performance reviews

Halloween is just around the corner, and yet… few things spook employees more than those looming, end-of-year reviews.

A recent survey of 1,000 full-time employees found that one in four have called in sick because they were anxious to face an appraisal. Almost 75% felt “in the dark” about how their managers viewed their performance leading up to review, and 62% felt blindsided afterward. In the aftermath, 15% have cursed, 15% have cried and 28% have started looking for other jobs.

If employees are ghosting, impending performance reviews should spook employers as well. But the review process doesn’t have to be so scary! Here are three tips for making performance reviews more of a treat than a trick:

 

1. Start Early

Feedback should be established as routine upon hire. Performance reviews don’t have to be once a year, doomsday meetings—they can be monthly or weekly touchpoints that start as early as an employee’s first day. Early reviews are a chance to develop trust and relationship between manager and employee and to get employees comfortable with talking about their performance.

Consistent communication and feedback from the start helps employees understand the purpose of appraisals and develop confidence in the review process.

Employers can also provide new hires with their performance review format so there are no surprises. This gives employers leverage and prevents employees from getting blindsided.

 

2. Converse

The first tip makes this second tip a lot easier. If relationship is not established, it’s common for managers in performance reviews to talk… a lot. However, a performance review is most effective as a discussion, not a lecture. Lectures can make employees feel like they’re just being yelled at, but intentional, back-and-forth conversation allows employees to experience trust and respect from their manager. Managers encourage this kind of conversation simply by asking questions. Good performance reviews offer space for employees to consider their goals, preferences, set-backs, achievements and failures. Rather than listing off highs and lows, employees are best motivated by analyzing individual potential and growth. A review should prioritize gaining insight into the performance of both employee and employer, which means feedback about management should be prompted as well.

 

3. Be Positive

Healthy organizations don’t sweep issues under rugs. Problems are dealt with right away and any necessary critique or discipline happens in real time—not months later at a performance review. Honest confrontation and consistent communication should be practiced daily in order to ensure positive performance reviews. Spending the majority of time on the positive aspects of an employee’s performance is almost always more effective than spending the majority of time on the negative. Don’t neglect areas that need improvement, but no employee’s performance is completely negative—make sure that is not being reflected in the review. Acknowledge failures by asking questions, exploring options and landing conversations on upbeats. People are best motivated when specific actions are recognized and appreciated. Providing direct encouragement and ways for improvement keeps performance reviews constructive and cultivates healthy work relationships.

 

Trust and relationship is at the core of effective reviewing. If done early and often, performance reviews don’t have to be daunting, vague meetings that hang over the holidays. Asking good questions and seeking the best for employees develops respect—enabling managers to humbly accept feedback and constructively analyze ways for employee improvement.

Need ideas for review formats? Still feeling a little spooked? We’re here to help. Contact us today!

 

Sexual harassment training isn’t enough: Three ways to better prevention

Sexual harassment training isn’t enough: Three ways to better prevention

Since 2006, the #MeToo sexual harassment movement has been asking American workplaces some tough questions.

Increased exposure and media coverage have prompted all the right things—98% of organizations have sexual harassment policies in place, and according to the Los Angeles Times, requests for harassment training offered by corporate HR resources have multiplied 8 times since January 2017.

So, update policy and increase training. Easy enough.

However, ongoing headlines regarding sexual harassment at corporations such as Fox News and Uber, prove the still broad gap between good-intentioned rules and workplace reality. 

Cultures of Harassment

Defining terms and outlining reporting protocol is fundamental, but too often sexual harassment has deeper roots in an organizational culture. “The way things are,” can serve important cultural functions, making paper policies irrelevant—even laughable.

Strong lines can be drawn from organizational cultures to the larger historical narrative—a male-centric one, with many women still at pay disadvantages, despite education or qualification. This history can serve to legitimize cultures of sexual harassment, as female targets are often blamed for exaggeration and sensitivity. The non-essential nature of low status positions, combined with need for a good recommendation, means a quiet resignation is often considered the best solution.

The Opposite Effect

But of course, not all corporations wield power through a culture of harassment. Still, headlines keep coming, revealing the wide reach of corporate sexual harassment—so what else is wrong?

Two 1998 Supreme Court cases determined that to avoid liability in a sexual harassment case, a company must be able to provide proof of training. However, quality of training is more difficult to measure.

Research shows typical policy language and training techniques make employees uncomfortable and defensive, often actually reinforcing gender stereotypes.

Ineffective and unprofessional, these techniques do little to meet the ultimate goal:  preventing sexual harassment in the first place.

Sexual harassment policies and trainings are essential, but not enough. Practicing the following as values, rather than checking them off as tasks, may lead to higher engagement and mutual respect within a company.

 

1. Care for your culture. Routinely ask yourself uncomfortable questions. Are women in the lowest positions in every department? How accessible am I to my employees? What is my relationship like with my Human Resources professionals? Caring for your culture means not only calling out clear offenses, but habitually seeking to ensure equal opportunity, respect and civility between all workplace members. Give credit where credit is due. Encourage reporting through both words and actions. Robert Eckstein, lead trainer at the University of New Hampshire research group for sexual violence prevention, says sexual harassment training should be a regular work conversation topic. “We’re talking about generations of people getting away with abusing power,” Eckstein quoted for the New York Times. “Thinking you can change that in a one-hour session is absurd. You’re not going to just order some bagels and hope it goes away.

 

2. Educate bystanders.   In effort to encourage sexual harassment reporting, many policies unknowingly place sole responsibility on the target. Unfortunately, reporting can put targets in a vulnerable position. If harassment is reported, targets may be viewed with skepticism, disbelief or suffer from isolation. However, unreported harassment is likely to continue and spread. It’s important for policies and trainings to include specific actions bystanders can take to disrupt, distract and confront harassing behavior. It’s also important for bystanders to care well for targets through validating experiences, reinforcing that targets are not to blame and offering witness in an HR report.

Relieving responsibility from the target puts responsibility on the whole culture, creating a healthier work environment for all employees.

 

3. Give attention to language. While you may wonder if people are awake during training or if anyone is reading the sexual harassment policy, the language used here shapes workplace culture. Typical policies tend to be all business, but a sexual harassment policy done well should be personal and emotional.  If protocol is thoughtfully curated in an effort to truly care for employees, training becomes less about HR box checking and more about serving your people. It’s important to consider possible perceptions of your language as well. People react strongly to labels and quickly reject any categorizations they believe do not apply to them. It is unlikely one would admit to being a “harasser,” but one might admit to “predatory behavior.” Similarly, using the word “target” instead of “victim,” is less exploitive and more empowering. These small changes in language counter the portrayal of men as powerful and women as vulnerable, enabling women to feel confident and credible in the workplace. Actively opposing male/female stereotypes also serves to legitimize all types of harassment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

 

Building relationships and supporting employees is a critical part of preventing and recovering from an incident of sexual harassment. Need help? Interested in outsourcing a human resources team? Contact us!

 

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