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

Add humor to motivate, encourage teamwork and boost morale

We’ve all heard that “laughter is the best medicine.” Did you know that it’s easier to smile than to frown? Scientists have discovered that your body has to work harder and use more muscles to frown than it does to smile.

Why not add a little humor to your workday and reap the benefits?

Research has shown there are many benefits to using humor in the workplace and here are just a few from the experts:

Ten Benefits of Humor in the Workplace

  1. Humor gets people to listen.  In a Harvard Management update “Let the Good Times Toll – Building a Fun Culture,” David Stauffer says: “Consistent use of appropriate humor makes people want to read and hear what you say.”
  2. Humor connects us with others. “Positive sounds such as laughter or a triumphant ‘woo hoo!’ can trigger a response in the listener’s brain,” says Jane E. Warren in a December 2006 article in The Journal of Neuroscience. “The response is automatic and helps us interact socially by priming us to smile or laugh, and thereby connecting us with the other person.”
  3. Humor encourages people to work together. “A growing body of research shows that when you share a laugh with someone, you’re mirroring not only one another’s body language, but also the hormonal and neuronal activity, prompting a mutual investment in each other’s well-being,” Drake Baer writes for Fast Company in “Why Humor Makes You More Creative,” May 2013.
  4. Humor improves decision-making. “Positive moods prompt more flexible decision-making and wider search behavior and greater analytic precision,” says Lydia Dishman in January 2013 for Fast Company,“Secrets of America’s Happiest Companies.”
  5. Humor boosts overall brainpower. “A dose of humor releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which improves focus, increases objectivity and improves overall brainpower,” according to Robyn McMaster in a September article for Brain Based Biz.
  6. Humor provides motivation. In a 1999 Academy of Management Journal article, B.J. Avolio advocates humor for boosting morale. “The use of humor in organizations has been associated with improving morale among workers, creating a more positive organizational culture, … and increasing motivation,” Avolio says.
  7. Humor reduces absenteeism. “Humor is associated with enhanced work performance, satisfaction, workgroup cohesion, health, and coping effectiveness, as well as decreased burnout, stress, and work withdrawal,” says Jessica Mesmer-Magnus in a 1986 meta-analysis of humor in the Journal of Managerial Psychology.
  8.  Humor improves productivity. Employees buy into it. “In one study of more than 2,500 employees, 81 percent said they believe a fun working environment would make them more productive,” according to Lauren Breeze, in a 2014 article in Perspectives in Business.
  9.  Humor burns calories. In an article “Give Your Body a Boost with Laughter” in WebMD in June 2012, R. Morgan Griffin writes: “Laughing 100 times can burn as many calories as 10-minutes on a stationary bicycle.”
  10. Humor improves blood flow. “Watching 15 minutes of funny video can improve blood flow to your heart by 50 percent,” Denny Watkins writes in 50 Ways to Beat the Reaper” in Men’s Health in October 2007

Do you need more tips for making your workplace more productive and efficient? Let the HR experts at BCN Services assist you. Contact us at 800-891-9911 or contact us here.

 

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Lisandra Quinones, Human Resources Administrator

 

Employers have options for tattoo policies in the workplace

Do you have to hire the person with a dragon tattoo on their neck? What about a rose?

In 2009, the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 36 percent of Americans age 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo. Those 29-year-olds are now 34 and approaching the middle of their careers! Even more revealing, a Harris poll taken in 2012 indicates that one in five adults has at least one tattoo.

How does your business deal with employees with visible tattoos? Do you allow employees to show those tattoos at work? What about facial piercings that are becoming more and more popular?

As tattoos and piercings become more commonplace, you may be concerned about your hiring practices regarding visible tattoos or whether to institute a policy for existing employees that arrive at work with one.

Be consistent with your policy

If you deal with the public and are concerned that employees with visible tattoos would cause a concern or be uncomfortable for your clients or customers, you have the right to set an appearance policy and require employees to follow it. You also have the right to not hire someone that has visible tattoos provided yours is not discriminatory.

Making certain you consistently enforce your policy is key. Also, be aware that you may need to accommodate an employee whose tattoo or piercing is a statement of a sincerely held religious belief. Keep in mind that some religions use tattoos or other body adornment items as a religious expression.

Caution is the order of the day when dealing with a claim of religious accommodation. Should an employee claim that a tattoo, piercing or other adornment (such as certain clothing garments) is a sincere religious belief, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that the employee does not have to provide proof from an organized religion to support claim of a sincerely held religious belief. This is a bit of a slippery slope for many employers. Religious accommodation does not require an affiliation with any organization or group.

So to review: You have the right to establish a dress code/personal appearance policy and, as long as it is published, is not discriminatory and you have a reasonable business reason for the policy, you can refuse to hire someone with visible tattoos or require employees to cover visible tattoos or remove visible piercings.

You have a right to expect your employees have a professional and business-like appearance.

How about employees who don’t deal with the public?

While a policy for employees that deal directly with customers or the public is reasonable, what if an employee does not deal with customers or interact with the public? Do you need or want to prohibit visible tattoos? What impact does it have on fellow employees? Is there a need to address tattoos in a warehouse setting, manufacturing environment or an office setting where there is no customer or public contact? In those cases such a policy may simply limit your recruiting, hiring or retention.

If you have employees that work in both public and non-public settings, you can differentiate and maintain separate policies if you can show a legitimate business reason for doing so.

Perhaps you decide to stop fighting an uphill battle and only ban or require employees to cover offensive tattoos or those that, for example, might scare children. As an employer, you can set a reasonable standard and review this on a case-by-case basis. A flower or heart  may be deemed acceptable, for example, while a dragon or sexually themed image could be prohibited or required to be covered.

The best practice for employers is to base dress codes on objective criteria such as workplace safety and professional image and make reasonable accommodations for employees with body adornment, dress and/or grooming-related requirements that do not adhere to the dress code, but do not present health or safety concerns.

If you need to establish a policy, revise a policy or discuss the situation further, your BCN Services Human Resources Department or your BCN Partnership Manager are available to help guide you through the options and provide you with best practice advice. Call us at 800-891-9911 or email us at hr@www.bcnservices.com.

 

 

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Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager

Independence Day: A holiday to celebrate

Today we pause to remember our Country’s roots, fly our flags, have our barbeques, and consider how lucky we all are to live in this great country, the U.S.A.   Celebrate your freedom while respecting others’ rights and remember the fight that the Colonists made to free themselves from tyranny.

Our country is successful because each of its citizens make contributions to its success.  May we think of ways to better contribute, and if we know those that are not contributing, may we help them to their feet, and let them take their own walk to success.

Be safe, and enjoy the holiday.  Happy Fourth of July!

 

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Andrew (Andy) C. Hans, CEO

Tips for all: Respect fellow employees’ time and workspace

Does it seem sometimes that tempers are short in your office?  Are people not as patient as they could be?

Working in close proximity – particularly with people that have differing habits – can be stressful.  It’s important for everyone to be respectful of each other and it never hurts to remind people to do that.  Most people want to get along and do the job that they were hired to do.

Whether you just want to send an email reminder or adopt a policy and update your handbook, here are some ideas that many employees can rally around:

  • Be aware of how loud you speak on the telephone.
  • Don’t hold meetings in shared work areas. For conversations with three or more people, go to a conference room or a break area.
  • Don’t hold interoffice conversations on a speaker phone.  Pick up the phone when calling others.  If several people need to be included on a call, consider a conference call, or move a speaker phone conversation to a walled office or conference room.
  • Always show up on time for meetings and be respectful of other people’s time.
  • Keep meetings to the time scheduled. Don’t force the next group to stand in the hallway outside of the conference room waiting for you and your group to finish.
  • Pay attention during meetings and avoid multi-tasking, such as scrolling through emails on your smart phone or computer.
  • Don’t take your bad mood out on others.  Everyone has stresses at work.
  • Eat lunch in the cafeteria or break room. Avoid eating smelly food at your desk.
  • Stay at home when you’re sick to avoid passing germs to others.
  • Put your personal cell phone on “vibrate” mode to prevent disturbing others.
  • Avoid wearing perfume or cologne at work.
  • Ladies – don’t wear revealing clothing. Let others see your skills, not private body parts.
  • Respect your co-worker’s property (and company property).
  • Don’t take things from others without asking. Refrigerator lunch and coffee cream stealers – that means you!

When troubles do arise, don’t let your employees put you in the middle.  Employees may look to a supervisor to address issues that they don’t want to confront themselves.  Express your support for all your employees by encouraging them to try to work out their differences among themselves first.  If they would feel more comfortable with you – as the supervisor – to be there, that’s okay, but avoid taking sides.

Use these tips to help employees work through problems:

  • Don’t reciprocate bad office behavior.
  • Stay calm and don’t get emotional or angry.
  • Meet with the person in a private location and explain how his or her bad manners or behavior are affecting you.
  • If the problem continues or worsens after you’ve spoken with the offender, seek help from your manager or a representative from HR.

If you need help developing a policy for your business or need help with a specific employee situation, contact BCN Services for assistance.

 

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Employee gender-identity matters must be considered in company policy and procedures

The topic of gender identity can be a new, and sometimes uncomfortable, area for employers.

It is widely considered sex discrimination when someone is treated differently for failing to conform to sex stereotypes or for changing their sex. Consider these matters as you look at your business policies:

  • How do you handle coworkers that feel uncomfortable around a transgender employee?
  • What about your dress code as it relates to gender identity?
  • What about use of public restrooms?

Be aware that there are no federal laws protecting gender identity, but more and more states are adopting them.

Don’t put restrictions on transgender employees

Take care not to address coworker concerns by putting restrictions on the transgender employee.  All employees must be treated with dignity and respect, so reasoning that you were trying to appease all employees won’t protect from an unlawful discrimination claim.

Transgender or gender-transitioning employees live and work full-time in the clothes of their target gender. A dress code should be applied to gender-transitioning employees in the same way they are applied to other employees of that gender. Dress codes should never prevent transgender employees from living full-time in their gender identity.

Consider how you handle public restrooms

Multiple-occupant, gender-segregated restroom facilities are most commonly seen in the workplace. But employers may want to consider a single-occupant, gender-neutral restroom, much like the “family restrooms” that are becoming common in public places.  But be cautious: You cannot require a transgender employee to use a unisex bathroom if gender-specific bathrooms are available.

As always, the BCN Human Resources team is available to discuss specific situations in your workplace and help guide you with any and all employee matters. Contact us here.

 

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Take steps to curtail workplace gossip and the problems it causes

Gossip means different thing to different people. To some, it refers only to malicious or actionable talk about someone beyond the person’s hearing while others believe that gossip involves just untrue tales and still others think it can include truthful remarks. Another belief considers gossip to be any talk of a person’s or institution’s affairs — whether personal or professional, harmless or slanderous.

Unfortunately, gossip is rampant in most workplaces. Sometimes, it may seem as if employees have nothing better to do than gossip about each other. They talk about the company, their coworkers and their managers.

The dangers of workplace gossip

Some negative consequences of workplace gossip include:

  • Erosion of trust and morale
  • Lost productivity and wasted time
  • Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without clear information as to what is and isn’t fact
  • Divisiveness among employees as people take sides
  • Hurt feelings and reputations
  • Attrition due to good employees leaving the company because of an unhealthy work environment

How and when do you manage workplace gossip?

The key is to know when the gossip has gotten out of hand. You need to act if the gossip is:

  • disrupting the workplace and the business of work,
  • hurting employees’ feelings,
  • damaging interpersonal relationships, or
  • Injuring employee motivation and morale.

Gossip should be managed exactly as you would manage any other negative behavior from an employee in your workplace. Use a coaching approach, when possible, to help the employee improve his or her behavior.

But, when needed, gossip management starts with a serious talk between the employee and the manager or supervisor. If this discussion of the negative impacts of the employee’s gossip has no effect on subsequent behavior, begin the process of progressive discipline with a verbal warning, then a formal written verbal warning for the employee’s personnel file.

If you decisively deal with gossip, you will create a work culture and environment that does not support gossip.

Do you need help managing a workplace issue such as excessive gossip or other bad behavior? BCN Services can help you assess your situation and develop an action plan and set appropriate policies to avoid future problems. Contact us for assistance by calling 800-891-9911.

 

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Lisandra Quinones, Human Resource Administrator

A lesson in customer service: Analyze what works for your company

A coworker gave me a book on tape to listen to a few weeks ago.  I had heard of the company, Zappos, but didn’t know much about them or their core values.  This online retailer started very small and grew quickly beyond anyone’s expectations.

There were setbacks along the way, but they learned and are now a leading company in customer service.

What was their path to success?

They developed a set of Core Values, polling their employees to ask their opinions and from this exercise developed the following:

Deliver WOW through Service:  Zappos is known for their service.  They will go above and beyond to serve their customers. One of the things they do during the holiday season when their customer call center is extremely busy, is to have every employee from EVERY department help with phones for a few hours.  Even CEO Tony Hsieh participates.

Embrace and Drive Change: So many of us fear change, but not at Zappos. They never want anyone who works for them to be content with the status quo.  This is what keeps them ahead of their competition.

Create Fun and A Little Weirdness: They started an internal blog that highlights the fun and goofy things they do within each department.  This adds humor to the work day which makes employees enjoy their work environment even more.

Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded: Do not be afraid to take risks and make mistakes; this is how their company learns and grows

Pursue Growth and Learning:  An office library has the top books that CEO Hsieh finds inspirational.  This library is free to all employees and visitors.

Open and Honest Relationships with Communication: The company works hard to have strong relationships in all areas, both internal and external.

Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit: Employees that work here care for each other.  Many interact outside of the office and this creates a desire to do the best they can at their jobs.

Do More with Less: There is always room for improvement and Zappos is always looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their operation.

Passionate and Determined: Zappos believes in what they do and they never take “no” or “that won’t work” for an answer.

Be Humble: Being respectful of everyone is a key value to the company.

Each employer should find its own values

I think that every company has their own set of core values.  While these work for Zappos, they may not work for you or others.  It’s important to evaluate your mission and your core values, write them down and implement them throughout your organization.

We strive to be a trusted adviser to our clients, provide solutions to problems, and service our clients with respect and excellence.  What are your core values?  Can we help you discover yours? Contact us today.

 

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Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

Love in the air? Take care to develop a solid policy for workplace romances

Even though the number of romances blooming in the workplace may not have increased much in the past eight years, polices addressing them have according to a new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

According to the same survey, 43 percent of human resource professionals reported romance in the workplaces and more than half of HR professionals reported employees getting married or becoming long-term partners as a result of workplace romances. Another survey conducted by Careerbuilders.com indicated that 34 percent of employees have dated a more senior-ranking person within the company (among which 42 percent have dated their direct supervisor).

Take care your policies don’t lead to harassment claims

Although some office romances do lead to marriage, others can lead to claims for sexual harassment. Because workplace romances are so common, companies should take proactive measures to avoid love turning into litigation.

One suggestion would be to draft and enforce realistic office romance policies. Employers should first have a sexual harassment policy that includes a complaint reporting procedure, conduct training on the policy and should ensure that it is enforced. In addition, employers should consider executing a formal office romance policy.

An effective office romance policy should include the following guidelines:

  • Limitations or prohibitions regarding supervisor/subordinate romantic relationships, internal department romantic relationships or any kind of on-the-job romantic relationships;
  • Disclosure of the relationship to human resources;
  • Proper behavior expected from employees
  • Potential consequences for violating the policy

All employees should receive a copy and sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understood the policy. Supervisors and managers should avoid workplace romances with subordinates and should understand the need to immediately report any inappropriate behavior to human resources.

Consider consensual contracts

Another suggestion would be to consider a love contract. These are basically agreements signed by both parties engaged in the relationship to disclose it as consensual.  An effective love contract should include the following guidelines:

  • Mutual consent of the participants;
  • Acknowledgement of related company polices;
  • Appropriate conduct in the workplace;
  • No favoritism or preferred treatment; and
  • Retaliation will not result if the relationship is terminated

Although love contracts do not necessarily release the employer of liability, some employers are using them in an effort to reduce liability should a lawsuit arise later.

Employers would be prudent and take proactive steps to help prevent possible litigation in the event that an office romance doesn’t end in a “happily ever after.”

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Lisandra Quinones, Human Resources Administrator

Business branding: Follow the gridiron ad approach on a smaller scale

This year a record-setting 162.9 million tuned in to watch the big game on Sunday night, making the NFL Super Bowl the most watched television event ever, according to Twitter.  Most people say they watch the Super Bowl for the ads instead of the actual game.

What, as a business can we learn from these Super Bowl ads?  Most companies do not have the resources to pay for a Super Bowl ad, which costs upwards of $4 million but as  business owners, we can learn some interesting strategies from these ads. PR consultant, Darcy Grabenstein noted the following strategies:

  1. Branding.  Super Bowl ads are about branding.  Over time these companies see the value in their exposure but not necessarily in their bottom line.  Branding is a crucial part of a company’s marketing plan.
  2. Humor.  People remember something funny.  A little humor can go a long way.  Humor can help with your branding.  Too much humor can turn off consumer, as well.
  3. Exposure.  This year with a record viewing of the Super Bowl, exposure is definitely what companies are going for when purchasing an ad.
  4. Emotion.  These ads tend to tug at our emotions.  They bring in puppies, babies, and, love to connect with us the viewer in hopes to capture us.

Although these ads cost millions of dollars, we can learn from them and tailor our advertising to fit whatever level we advertise.  Incorporating these strategies into  your own marketing plan can help bring awareness to your business.

But,  that said, who was the big winner of the Super Bowl and what can we learn from this big winner?  Hashtags!  According to Marketing Land’s Danny Sullivan, more than half of the 53 ads in the Superbowl used hashtags, up 50 percent from last year’s Super bowl.  Commercials are using hashtags as a way to incorporate social media and it’s working.  Simply incorporating a hashtag in their message gets the word out on Facebook and Twitter without choosing one social media tool over the other.

Even though the game between the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks is over for this year, with quite the win for the Seahawks, the competition for social media and your attention will go on and on.

Can we help you review your social media policies and your approach?  Contact the team at BCN Services for this and all your HR needs.

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Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

Take precautions: Keep the flu from infecting your workplace productivity

Flu season is upon us and according to a recent survey this illness costs businesses $76.7 million dollars per year through employee absenteeism, employee presenteeism (when an employee attends work while sick) and other indirect costs.  A typical employee has flu symptoms for 5-6 days causing them to miss anywhere from between half a day to 5 days of work.

The flu is most commonly spread from person-to-person within about six feet so it is very common to see the flu virus spread through a workplace quickly affecting many employees.  Following are some steps that employers can take to prevent the spread of the flu in the workplace:

  • Offer a flu vaccination clinic at the worksite or educate employees on where they can obtain the flu vaccination and if/how much of the vaccination is covered by their employer-sponsored health plan.
  • Stock vending machines and cafeterias with immunity boosting foods such as oranges, veggie slices, whole-grain-fortified cereals, nuts and water.
  • Clean shared items such as phones, keyboards, handles and door knobs with alcohol wipes or other sanitizing wipes.
  • Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick.
  • Emphasize hand hygiene and cough etiquette in the workplace An employee should:
    • Wash hands after blowing his or her nose, coughing, sneezing or coming into contact with contaminated objects or surfaces by applying soap and water and rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds.  Use a paper towel to turn off the water faucet and open any doors.  Dispose of the paper towel in a wastebasket.
    • Cough and sneeze into a tissue or upper sleeve.

BCN Services has Human Resources and Safety experts who can offer tips about keeping the workplace free of illness and injury.  Contact us for more information or if your business needs help managing HR needs.

 

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Alicia Jester, Manager Benefits and Payroll