What’s trending in human resources approaches, policies and good management practices.

Is hugging in the workplace considered appropriate?

When is it appropriate to hug a colleague or a client? Do you enthusiastically open your arms and move in for a hug, assuming it is alright? Do you wait awkwardly for a colleague or customer to initiate it? Some people are determined huggers and other definitely don’t want to be touched.

Personal interactions in the workplace have taken on a new focus based on recent workplace harassment allegations. First and foremost: Always treat your colleagues and clients with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated, or have your close friends and family treated.

The following are some tips from “Poised for Success” author Jacqueline Whitmore that can help you decide if or when such an action is appropriate.

Pay close attention to body language.
Another person’s body language will tell you whether he or she is willing to accept a hug or not. Pay attention to the person’s stance, body movement, and facial expression. Are the feet pointed toward you or away? Is the person leaning in, or distancing him or herself? Follow your gut feeling about what this person wants and, if there is any doubt, do the following.

Ask permission.
If you want to hug someone and you think it’s welcome, but you aren’t positive, just ask the person “May I give you a hug?” That question indicates both affection and respect for the other person’s feelings and will likely be appreciated.

The only down side to this is that some people may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable saying “no.” So if you’re getting a negative or uncertain vibe before asking, don’t even ask the question. If a person seems uncertain after you ask, distance yourself from the situation either by stepping away or moving on to another subject.

Consider the balance of power — always.
A boss hugging an employee is a very different matter from two business associates hugging at the conclusion of a meeting. Managers should be extremely cautious about hugging.  Because of your status in the office, you may be perceived as using your power to disrespect another person’s boundaries or personal space. A subordinate may feel obligated to reciprocate, even if they feel uncomfortable. For a manager, the safe bet is to not hug an employee under any circumstance.

Consider the occasion.
If you haven’t seen a colleague in a long time, or you’ve just gone through a powerful training or other experience together, or you’re at a celebration, then hugging might be appropriate. The same may apply if the person in question has just had a piece of very good, or very bad, news or is struggling to deal with a difficult situation. If you routinely see this person and nothing our-of-the-ordinary has occurred, then a hug probably isn’t warranted.

Keep it short.
A hug can go from natural to awkward if you keep it going for too long. So make your hugs brief. A duration of no more than three seconds is acceptable.

Most importantly: Err on the side of not hugging.
If you’re not sure whether a hug would be welcome and you don’t think it’s a good idea to ask, then don’t hug. You’ll almost never offend someone with a handshake.

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Lisandra Garrow, Partnership Manager

Office lottery pools can be great fun … as long as rules are followed

As big-game lotteries more frequently have hundreds of millions of dollars in the weekly pot, office lottery pools are becoming commonplace. They can be great fun as employees build camaraderie and add excitement to the work day. Chipping in a few dollars buys a short-term fantasy of winning big with your coworkers. But there are pitfalls to consider before the pool is established and considering what would happen if the pool wins.

Employees should check with Human Resources or Executive staff member to be sure they are agreeable to the use of company email and company time for a pool. Also, if the pool organizers need advice with such an agreement, they may wish to consult with an attorney.

If there’s not too much disruption to the workday, most employers agree that this is a good way to build team spirit and stir up excitement.

When organizing the pool, consider that not everyone will want to play, for a variety of reasons. Their religion may frown upon gambling, they may already be in a pool among family or friends, they may not have the financial freedom to participate, or they may just want to buy their own tickets individually. Be sensitive to these reasons.

When forming a lottery pool, have a trusted, designated person lead the pool. That person, or persons, will be responsible for collecting pool funds and tracking contributions as they come in. There should be rules set for how the money is collected and how tickets will be bought and any winnings distributed. A simple agreement can cover how this would be handled and there are free templates available online. Once an agreement has been written, that can be used as a master template for all pools going forward.

Here are some additional tips for starting the pool and in creating the agreement:

  1. Designate the leader for the pool. That person will oversee collecting the money from individuals and tracking contributions as they come in. If you’re the leader, have an open spreadsheet on your desktop or smart phone to document who contributed. You want to assure participants that their money and any tickets purchased will be kept in a safe place.
  2. As the leader, establish the rules for the game. Write these rules into a written agreement for players to sign as they contribute the funds. The agreement should include:
    1. When the tickets will be bought and for which game and drawing date.
    2. If there are small winnings, how will the winnings be distributed? Will they roll over to the next drawing if there is no big winner, or will the smaller winnings be divided up and distributed. There needs to be 100 percent agreement on this.
    3. If a large jackpot is won, how will the money be taken? Will it be taken in a lump sum or taken in annuities over a defined number of years according to the game rules? Will it be collected by each individual in the game or would there be a trust established? The leader, or any other person in the pool should never agree to taking the winning wholly by themselves, then distributing the money. There are tax implications that can be avoided.
    4. How would media coverage work in the case of a large win? Would you be interviewed as a team or take the winnings individually and try to avoid any media coverage?
    5. To ease an employer’s fears, would employees agree to stay in their positions until sufficient notice can be given and other remaining staff members be trained to take over the winners’ responsibilities?
    6. The agreement should state how the if the numbers will be “easy picks” or some/all selected by the leader and/or participants.
  3. If the leader is buying individual tickets for themselves, they should disclose it. They should be sure to copy the tickets purchased for the pool and distribute copies to each participant before the drawing.

In the amazing event that the office lottery pool hits it big, you’ll want it to be a positive event since everyone’s lives will most likely change, hopefully for the better. It would be unfortunate if the winnings were hung up in court for years because simple rules were not followed. The odds are certainly against this happening, but the fun is real and can be enjoyed by many.

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Frank Lewandowski, Benefits Program Manager

Employers walk a fine line when personal life interferes with work

Because employees spend so much time together, it is sometimes difficult to keep their personal and work lives separate. It isn’t uncommon for co-workers to become friends and to spend time together outside of work. These relationships sometimes invite gossip and workplace drama, so what can an employer do when personal relationships affect the performance and culture within a company?

Here are a few examples of situations that may prompt concern or cause employees to focus on things other than their work tasks:

  • Jim and Betty, coworkers, have dated in the past and then parted amicably. However, now that Jim is dating another co-worker, things don’t seem quite so agreeable between them.
  • Amy and Cara became friends at work and decided to move in together to share expenses. Their personal squabbles about dishes in the sink, overnight guests and splitting expenses are affecting the workplace as colleagues are asked for opinions and are taking sides.
  • Jessica called in sick for her shift on Wednesday, but posted pictures from a concert on Facebook. Her coworker, Robin, saw the post and let Jessica’s supervisor know about it. Now Jessica’s supervisor isn’t sure what action she can take.

What can an employer do in these situations?

Action needed only if workplace performance is involved

First of all, an employer needs to make sure action is taken only on matters that pertain to workplace performance. In the first case, the employer may want to evaluate Jim’s ability as a manager and have Betty report to someone else within the company, if their relationship is becoming a problem or conflict of interest. Gossip itself can be actionable if it becomes harassment.

Another thing to consider is involving a third party in coaching counseling and discipline. Even when addressing performance only, it can be hard for a manager or supervisor to completely separate from workplace gossip and personal feelings.

Another way to help facilitate a change in the workplace environment is to let employees know when their hard work is appreciated and offer incentives for good performance. An encouraging and uplifting policy may remove the focus from the gossip and drama to something more meaningful. This may also be a good time to evaluate the employee goal-setting process and give the employees something to focus on, other than each other. Also, create workplace policies that discourage gossip.

Educate employees about a healthy environment

Educate employees on how harmful workplace drama can be, and confront employees that appear to be “stirring the pot” or creating an uncomfortable work environment for others.

Workplace friendships and other connections are unavoidable, but drama and gossip is not a necessary part of running a business. By encouraging professional behavior and minimizing conflicts of interest, employees are better able to blend their personal and work lives.

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Kari Stanley, Human Resources Customer Care Supervisor

Still Room For Improvement In Americans’ Saving Habits

Saving For RetirementMany financial advisers recommend carrying 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund, but only 39 percent of Americans would be able to cover an unexpected $1,000 outlay with their short-term savings, according to a recent Bankrate survey. Another new poll conducted by Bankrate similarly found that only around half (58 percent) of consumers currently have more emergency savings than what they owe in credit card debt. At the same time, 12 percent of respondents reported having no credit card debt but no savings either.

That agrees with an earlier study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which asked U.S. adults to list their biggest barriers to retirement saving and found that one of most frequent responses was “I prioritize(d) paying down debt.” As for generational differences, Millennials in the Bankrate survey as expected are more likely to have greater credit card debt than savings, but these young adults also appear determined to improve their financial standing. In fact, 61 percent of Gen-Y respondents said that boosting their emergency fund is a top financial priority, including 63 percent of younger Millennials (18-27).

Such statistics are encouraging because the earlier a person can learn the importance of setting money aside for the future the better. Further, having an adequate emergency fund helps decrease the likelihood of being forced to dip into one’s retirement savings early. That is especially important since many Americans are at risk of retiring broke, according to a new report from GoBankingRates. Specifically, 42 percent of surveyed U.S. adults said that they currently have less than $10,000 set aside for retirement, including 14 percent of respondents with absolutely no long-term savings.

On the bright side, those figures are marked improvements from prior surveys, and the percentage of Americans with large savings account balances has grown. Moreover, 57 percent of surveyed Millennials said that they have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, down from 71 percent in 2017, and the percentage of Gen-Y respondents with $300,000 or more set aside has increased from 5 percent to 9 percent. For those whose savings are still lacking, the report’s authors suggest reviewing your spending to see what nonessential expenses can be cut and increasing 401(k) contributions with each pay raise.

 

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Copyright @ 2018 Slavic Investments (http://blog.slavic401k.com/still-room-for-improvement-in-americans-saving-habits)Republished with permission.

Do workplace gender pay disparities really still exist?

The “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” movements have prompted discussions and brought to the forefront all aspects of sexual harassment and treatment of women in the workplace.  Part of this focus has put light on a subject that may have improved some over the last several decades, but is still not where is needs to be: Gender pay discrepancies.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2014, on average, women earned 79 percent of men’s median annual income.  The National Committee on Pay Equity, which reports a comparable statistic for 2014, 78.6 percent, has been documenting pay inequality since 1960.  If we look back 50 years prior to the 79 percent statistic, we can see that the gap has shrunk significantly.  In 1964, women earned only 59.1 percent of what men earned.  However, if you compare 2009 and 2014, the 5-year span saw an increase of only 1.6 percent.  There’s quite a way to go to bridge the gap completely.

A recent Hollywood scenario put into perspective how everyone, no matter what your job is, can fall into this statistical gap.  In reshoots for the movie “All the Money in the World,” Mark Wahlberg was paid an additional $1.5 million, while his co-star, Michelle Williams was paid $80 per day for a total of less than $1,000.  An open letter published by the “Time’s Up” movement stated that “the systematic gender equality and imbalance of power” in the workplace “fosters an environment that is ripe for abuse and harassment against women.”

Now is the time to reflect on your own company’s pay practices to bring gender pay in line and protect your company against future claims.  It’s not only good practice, it’s the law.  The Equal Opportunities Commission (EEOC) requires that equal pay for men and women be established under the Equal Pay Act of 1963.  The Equal Pay Act restricts employers from paying unequal wages “to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.”

The EEOC looks at the following criteria to establish equal pay: Skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions, and establishment location (for example, when a company has several locations in different geographical areas, those can be considered separate establishments due to the area’s median income).  Differences in pay are only permitted based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or other factors not related to gender.  The EEOC also states that “It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on compensation or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII, ADEA, ADA or the Equal Pay Act.”

If pay differences do exist for similar positions regardless of whether women are paid less than men, or men paid less than women, it is best practice to establish from the hire date how the salary decision was made.  Be prepared to back up how your wage determination was made based on the criteria previously mentioned.  Encourage open dialogue with your employees if they have a perception that a gender pay gap exists.  BCN Services staff are prepared to guide you through this process.  Please contact your Partnership Manager with any questions or concerns regarding your employees’ wages.

 

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Frank Lewandowski, Benefits Program Manager

It’s all about the employee and a focus on tech and digital trends

In 2017, organizations focused on the well-being and satisfaction of their employees. Business leaders looked to build a better environment for their workforce and invested in strategies to help recruit and retain top talent. Buzzwords like ‘culture’ and ‘engagement’ were in the forefront of business discussions.

The year 2018 will bring a fresh set of trends that may significantly impact the way businesses operate. Leaders will look for ways to provide employees with the tools they need to thrive and develop.  Key trends will focus on technology and digital integration, collaboration and the employee experience.

There will be a focus on collaboration, including the use of social networks. Another popular prediction includes innovative work arrangements allowing work to become more adaptive and less formal. Interested? Read on for more.

Digital Integration and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Alexa. Siri… Hey Google…

Technology continues to transform the way employees go about their daily activities. Digital tools have become more user-friendly than ever before. With these advances, investment in digital tools and strategies is expected to reach an all-time high in 2018.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is seeping into every industry and profession. While AI can take many forms, in 2018 we will most likely see a sharp increase in recruitment using the AI-enabled ‘chatbots’ to match candidates with jobs.

Cisco forecasts that by the end of 2018, 82 percent of all consumer Internet traffic will be video. Live and recorded video, as well as video ads, increasingly dominate our feeds across Facebook and Snapchat and even on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. It’s estimated that nearly half of businesses are implementing social videos, with another 25-30 percent planning to implement them in 2018.

The Employee Experience

Culture and employee engagement were top priorities in 2017.  The ‘employee experience’ is quickly becoming the new focus for 2018. Susan Peters, Senior Vice President of HR at General Electric, defines this as, “seeing the world through the eyes of our employees, staying connected, and being aware of their major milestones.”

With the growing influence of younger generations and the increasing transparency of the digitalization age, employees are expecting a more engaging and enjoyable work experience.  This will be a year where leaders develop the ‘employee experience’ to include engagement, culture and performance management.

We can expect to see more businesses move away from traditional, structured training programs leaning towards more self-directed, social, informal learning platforms. Social connectivity will also help create an environment of user-generated content and shared ideas, making learning more digestible and engaging. In place of fixed, formal content, this will lead to a more organic workplace learning environment with a viral-like impact.

In 2018, companies will increasingly turn to existing employees to fill open positions, offering training and encouraging employees to seek promotions. With fewer new employees expected to enter the workforce in the coming years, employers are seeing the advantage of investing in people that are already familiar with, and loyal to, their company.  Businesses can no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to talent management if they want to attract and retain top talent. Tailored and personalized learning opportunities for employees of all types will become the norm. Continuous learning will be a hot trend this year. Digital training is an increasingly attractive option because it gives employers the ability to measure employee productivity through user data. It also allows for a more collaborative experience between departments. As a result, work-from-home and other flexible workplace options are expected to become more and more common place.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Pet perks becoming more popular with employers and their staffs

The idea of pets in the workplace is gaining in popularity, particularly with the younger generation entering the workforce.  Millennials value non-traditional benefits and perks and, for many of them, the lines are blurred between their personal and professional lives.  According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), although many companies do not allow pets in the workplace, eight percent of companies now do, and even more are offering related benefits acknowledging pets as an important part of employees’ lives.

Studies show that many employees will choose a pet-friendly company over one that is not when comparing similar job offers.  Workers are more apt to stay with a company that allows them to bring their best friend to work, than to move to a company where it is not allowed.  This employee loyalty is an added perk for employers.

Of course there are many factors for employers to consider before tackling such a program.  Be sure you are taking into account the feelings of non-pet lovers in your work environment as well as those that are all for it.  Employees with allergies or a fear of dogs need to be considered.  Is your work place large enough for a pet free zone, perhaps part of the building or on another floor?

If you decide to allow pets in your workplace, take the time to set ground rules.  For example, are pets allowed only on specific days?  What type of pets are allowed?  Dogs?  Cats?  What about a tarantula in a small aquarium?  Be clear, and be sure employees understand their responsibilities in the care of their pet and how entertaining visitors or attending meetings will be handled as it relates to pets.

If you choose not to allow pets in the work place, consider alternatives such as pet health insurance, doggy day care vouchers, or volunteer work day opportunities at a local shelter.  Recognizing and caring about what is important to your employees translates into employees recognizing and caring about what is important to your business.

Can BCN Services help you craft a pet policy for your workplace or do you want to talk it over with one of our HR professional? Give us a call!

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

How is social media affecting your workplace? Put a policy in place

By now you have probably heard about the infamous 2017 Oscars flub in which the movie “La La Land” was incorrectly announced as the Best Picture winner.  It has been speculated that this mishap could have happened because the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) employee responsible for handing the correct envelope to the presenters was distracted due to posting on the microblogging website Twitter.

This has caused many to question the quality of of the firm’s work, despite their longstanding reputation and name recognition.  Perhaps, it left you wondering how social media could be impacting your business.  There are several reasons to implement a social media policy if you have not already done so:

  • Establishes Rules: A social media policy allows you to define what is considered confidential information that cannot be shared.  The policy should also make it clear to employees what you consider appropriate or inappropriate behavior and the consequences for not following the guidelines.
  • Manages Employee Distractions and Productivity: Social media can be a distraction for employees; in a recent study, 30 percent of employees admitted that they spend one hour or more visiting social media sites. A social media policy would explain whether or not employees are permitted to use company property to access social media, when this is allowed and for what length of time.  Finally, the policy should also describe if and when employees can use personal devices throughout the day.
  • Protects Your Firm: Allowing employees to use social media on company issued computers and other devices puts the firm at risk for malware.  Malware could allow hackers to enter the company network and place viruses in it.

As a reminder, the National Labor Relations Board says that your social media policy cannot prohibit employees from discussing their working conditions.  BCN Services can assist you in drafting and implementing a strong and legally compliant social media policy that reflects your company values and goals.  If you need assistance in creating a policy, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

From carbon paper to Net Promotor Scores: The continued evolution of business

Like my own dad did for me, I often try to share some historical perspective with my children when it comes to why things are the way they are, or where they come from.

So when I asked my daughter this week to “CC me on an email”, I quickly added “You know, CC is short for carbon copy … you know, when you used to type a letter, to keep a copy you would put a sheet of carbon between…”  Before I could finish the sentence, I heard: “I know, Dad, we do that in Lab at school!  I really like that copy!”

As the old saying goes, some things never change.

But mostly they do.  What’s great about history is being able to put it in perspective, and learn and grow from it.   In the next 24 months, our company will celebrate looking back while forging aggressively into the future.  The year 2017 marks the celebration of 25 years of operation for BCN Services, our flagship Professional Employer Organization.  I am proud of our growth. We started in one small office in the corner of our building taking over the entire space within 7 years and expanding our service to clients with worksite employees in 47 states in 2015.

Recognizing 90 years in business

Our next milestone, one that I am equally proud of, is the recognition of 90 years for the BCN brand here in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The Bradley, Chesbrough, Niswonger Agency began serving the business community as a commercial insurance agency in 1928, and it was no mistake that BCN was part of our name when we expanded into employment outsourcing arena in 1992.  We are proud to be associated with the BCN name and work every day to live up to its stellar reputation.

It is our clients that deserve the recognition for our success.  They have helped us create our Commitment to Quality Service approach, originally developed in 1996, so BCN staff can deliver consistent, professional, and timely service. It is a Service Protocol we modernized to a Net Promotor Score (NPS) system in 2016 using our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.   We are pleased to have received an average NPS Score of 91.1 from our clients in December.  Thank you for your feedback!

We look forward to celebrating these anniversaries through our clients’ continued successes, and plan to share some of the history that shapes our future in the months ahead.

We appreciate your business! Please contact us if you have questions about any of your human resources policies or needs.

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Andy Hans, President/CEO

November was National Flu Awareness Month: 5 Steps to Prevention

As National Flu Awareness month comes to a close, it’s not too late for flu shots and promoting flu prevention in your workplace. Experts agree when the flu season invades the workplace, it can have a ripple effect on employees, co-workers and their families and, depending on your workplace, customers and vendors as well.
The flu season peaks in January and February so taking steps now can make a huge difference in staff productivity and well-being in the months ahead. Following are some basic rules of thumb:

No. 1 – Get your flu shot today

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates flu shots for everyone over the age of 6 months. Studies have shown that the best course of prevention is to get a flu shot every year. And while getting a shot earlier in the season may be preferred, it is still not too late to protect you and your family against this year’s flu bug. Check with your medical insurance provider to learn how and where to get vaccinated. If you don’t have medical coverage, contact your local health department or other community resources for the best, most cost-effective options in your area.

No. 2 – Wash your hands throughout the workday

We hear it all of the time and it’s true: Washing your hands frequently, using soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds each time, makes a difference. This is especially the case when you continually touch workplace items such as keyboards, door handles, phones, point-of-sale registers, and other work-related surfaces. Try to avoid touching your mouth, eyes, and nose whenever possible and if your position requires you to travel, be sure to pack hand-sanitizers.

No. 3 – Use tissues to cover a sneeze or a cough

It’s important to not only take care of yourself, but also to care about co-workers. If you feel the need to sneeze or cough, grab a tissue to cover your mouth and nose. You’ll feel better knowing that you’re looking out for your co-workers and your they will appreciate your efforts. And, as always, don’t forget to wash your hands after sneezing or coughing whenever possible.

No. 4 – Keep work surfaces clean

When was the last time you cleaned your keyboard or the handset on your phone? Take a few minutes to clean surfaces around you and everyone will benefit. Cleanliness does matter.

No. 5 – Make good health habits a priority and stay home if sick

This may sound like more than one tip, but it’s really good advice to practice year-round. Techniques such as getting enough sleep, keeping active, managing stress and maintaining a healthy diet are proven steps to improve your overall well-being. If you experience flu symptoms, try to stay home when possible. If you’re a manager or supervisor, encourage team members to stay home if that’s an option. And managers or supervisors should follow the same advice if they become ill.

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Susan Price, Strategic Service Manager