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

Landmark decisions affect social media in the workplace

Because use of social media in the workplace is not going away anytime soon, it is an employer’s responsibility to ensure distribution of an up-to-date Social Networking Policy in an employee handbook.

Clients of BCN Services have access to the most up-to-date policies based on recent litigation involving discipline for social media postings that are affecting this ever-changing landscape. Below are two of the most recent landmark decisions that are shaping what is an appropriate employer response.

NLRB decisions address personal social media

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an independent federal agency that enforces the Act, first began receiving complaints in its regional offices related to employer social media policies and specific instances of discipline for Facebook postings in 2010.  More recently, in the fall of 2012, the board began to issue decisions in cases involving discipline for social media postings. Board decisions are significant because they establish precedent in novel cases such as these.

In the first such decision, issued on Sept. 28, 2012, the NLRB found that the firing of a BMW salesman for photos and comments posted to his Facebook page did not violate federal labor law. The question involved whether the salesman was fired exclusively for posting photos of an embarrassing accident at an adjacent Land Rover dealership (which did not involve fellow employees), or for posting mocking comments and photos with co-workers about serving hot dogs at a luxury BMW car event. Both sets of photos were posted to Facebook on the same day; one week later, the salesman was fired.

The board agreed with the administrative law judge hearing the case that the salesman was fired solely for the photos he posted of the Land Rover incident, which was not a planned (concerted) activity and so was not protected.

In the second decision, issued on Dec. 14, 2012,  the board found that it was unlawful for a non-profit organization to fire five employees who participated in Facebook postings about a co-worker who intended to complain to management about their work performance. In its analysis, the board majority applied settled law to the social media case and found that the Facebook conversation was concerted activity and was protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

Be cautious not to use social media websites in hiring

BCN cautions managers responsible for hiring to not use social networking web sites to assist you in making any employment decisions, specifically in hiring.

Employers viewing their employees’ or job candidates’ social-networking web sites may open the Company to claims under the employment-discrimination statutes or your state. This is the case especially if a decision not to hire is made immediately following such viewings that the employee or job candidate claims was because of a legally protected status or activity.

If you have a current employee handbook without an updated Social Networking Policy, please notify BCN’s Human Resources Department to include that in your next handbook order. If you do not have an employee handbook, contact us to develop one for you. Lastly, please contact BCN’s Human Resources Department with any inquiries regarding social media use in the workplace.

 

 

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Kate Douglass, Senior HR Generalist

7 Great Tips to Marketing in a Social Networking Age:

The world we live in is constantly changing, and how people access information is changing even faster.

People now access information on computers, tablets and phones in bite-sized chunks. And businesses need to develop content with these new media preferences and consumption platforms in mind.

Here are seven tips to creating this type of content:

  1. Simple. Using big words and unintelligible acronyms only confuses people, so don’t try to be too clever and leave your audience behind. One-syllable words can be much more effective than those of three or four.
  2. Headlines. Seconds count when reaching people on the Web, so grab attention—with the headline to ensure readers will want to view or read the rest. Google searches bring up the headline and then the description, so don’t neglect the description either. This also applies to videos, images, and tweets.
  3. Structure. Use short paragraphs of two to three sentences and subtitles to draw readers in—avoid walls of text. Keep it “snack size” and use bullet points and lists.
  4. Conversational. Writing, as well as society, is moving from formal to informal. Write the way you speak-conversational writing is seen as authentic and real.
  5. Stories. Telling a story touches readers’ emotions and remember that a story in the introduction can be very effective.
  6. Multi-media. Because everyone has different media preferences, create your content and develop it into a variety of media. You can repurpose an article into a video, slide presentation, podcast, transcript, or info graphic. This will help you reach a wider audience.
  7. Responsive. Make your content adaptable to the different screen sizes for computers, tablets, and phones. Use templates that “respond” so people can easily view or read your content no matter the device.

BCN Services is working to develop both sales and service content that is easily accessed and available to fit today’s appetite for bite sized content.  Hopefully, you can apply some or all of these tips to improve your company’s marketing efforts.  If we can help, contact us here.

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Boomers and employees of all ages benefit from solid technology training

Are older workers resistant to using technology tools to do their jobs?  Do they not want to learn something new?  Is the adage about old dogs and new tricks true?

It’s easy to blame older workers’ unwillingness to learn new things when they don’t use the technology you invested in, but that may not be the cause of the problem.  Make sure they’ve been effectively trained, know why the new approach is needed and how they will personally benefit from using the new tool.  This is true for everyone, not just your older workers.

Consider this about Baby Boomers:  They are the second largest group of bloggers (after moms).  Two out of three of them take photos with their cell phones.  Sixty percent of them text.  They’ve invaded Facebook, Twitter, Skype and YouTube.   It’s not that they can’t learn how to do things on the computer. The work place problem could stem from ineffective instruction, poor communication about the relevant goals, and/or the failure to tie the change to personal effectiveness.

Consider these things when  trying to teach new technology to employees, regardless of their age:

Are you using the right instructor?

When there is a failure to learn, look at the quality of the teacher. Most often, IT resources are the ones who design and offer the training needed to learn new hardware and software applications. Unless your company is remarkably unique, these people are probably not even speaking the same language as some of your workers. Those who are comfortable with computers tend to rattle off jargon and terms in quick succession, “demonstrate” with a series of rapid key strokes, and assume everybody gets it. That is not teaching. It’s geeks sharing with geeks. If you’re not a geek, you have no idea what just happened.

Those who didn’t use computers during their formative years may need a different training approach than those who did.  Offer the class in a way they can understand.  You need a trainer who understands that students learn in different ways and who creates examples, analogies, and practice exercises that are class specific.

Clearly explain the reason for the change

Don’t jump into implementation without effectively explaining why it’s needed to those who have to live with it. Talk about why the company needs this change, how important it is for everyone to make the change, and what you are doing to help people understand and use the new technology so employees don’t make wrong assumptions. Make these employees partners and they are more likely to step up to the challenge. (Conversely, “do it because I said so” stops working with most people before they are out of elementary school.) Debunk the falsehoods coming out of the rumor mill at the same time. And do all of this before training so they are ready to learn.

Tie the change to improved personal effectiveness

There’s an old saying in training: “They gotta wanna.” The first piece of any successful training effort-is helping trainees see the value of performing differently themselves. This isn’t a case of telling someone to learn it “or else.” And it’s not usually a case of “you can make more money if you learn this.”

When you need employees to learn new technology, focus on the fact that their contribution is valuable and needs to be fully integrated with what the rest of the company is doing. Virtually every tech improvement is meant to achieve better integration in some way.

Most people want to be good at what they do. Helping them understand that their work becomes more valuable if they use the new system increases the value of the change in personal terms.

For more about training and other human resources help, contact the experts at BCN Services by calling 1-800-891-9911 or contact us here.

 

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Telecommuting can give productivity a bump, but collaboration and face-to-face time can be a concern

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer recently announced that Yahoo employees working remotely from home will be required to start working in the office by June.  Mayer cites the need to focus on teamwork and collaboration and she feels this can best be accomplished by physically working side-by-side in an office environment.

Yahoo’s recent announcement has caused some companies that allow their employees to work from home to review their policies.  If you allow employees to work from home or are considering implementing a new policy, you should consider the following advantages and disadvantages of a telecommuting workforce.

Advantages: Productivity and job satisfaction

Several studies have shown that employees working from home are more productive than those working  in an office environment because they face fewer distractions.

Studies have also shown that employees that work from home tend to work longer hours than office based employees.

Employees also tend to shown slightly increased job satisfaction and better work-life balance.

Disadvantages: Problems in team-centered offices

Managers in various studies agree with the advantages,  but many still prefer to see the employees in the office “just to be sure.”

Team-centered cultures show increased benefits of face-to-face contact and collaboration.

Remote workers also tend to miss out on promotions, often due to the lack of manager observation, even when the same manager recognizes the remote worker’s increase in production.

Several companies are experiencing success with combination schedules where employees are splitting time in the office (for team meetings, assignments, etc.) and working from home for a set number of days per week.

Weigh risks and rewards for telecommuting

The work culture is changing, and telecommuting can be a tool your company can use to its advantages long as all parties know the potential risks and rewards.  A best practice is to outline clear objectives for both parties, host frequent collaboration events and review the program regularly where employer and employee share progress toward the outlined goals.

If you need help with this topic or other employment matters, contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us here.

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March brackets may boost office morale, but consider how to minimize distractions

March Madness is upon us and you may have noticed the bustle around your office involving which teams made the tournament, filling out brackets and what time the games start.

While you may dread this time of year as a manager, you should know that a recent survey by OfficeTeam shows that this annual event may not be as detrimental to office productivity as we have traditionally thought.  The survey of 1,000 managers and 400 workers employed in office environments found that eleven percent of the managers said they find March Madness activities to be a welcome diversion stating that it can increase teamwork and boost morale.

Fifty-seven percent of the managers admitted that while they do not encourage March Madness activities in the workplace, they find said activities to be okay in moderation. The survey also found that only 1-in-5 employees are distracted at work by the inherent excitement that forms from watching major sports competitions.

While this is good news for employers, there can still be legal and human resources related issues surrounding the activities of the tournament.  Consider the following tips to help you capitalize on team building and minimize distractions:

  • Establish an office pool with no entry fee; this sends a clear message that the company does not encourage employee gambling but still allows them to participate in the fun.
  • Place a television or computer with Internet access in the lunch room to allow workers to catch up on scores during break times rather than at their desks.
  • Make sure your Internet-use policy is up-to-date; if your policy states that Internet access is for work-related purposes only, it may not hurt to remind employees of the policy before the tournament begins.
  • Offer a casual dress day in the office where employees are encouraged to wear T-shirts and sweatshirts to show the support of their favorite team.

Do you need help developing an Internet-use policy or are you looking for someone to handle your Human Resources questions and needs? Call BCN Services  at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us here.

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Alicia Jester, Manager-Benefits and Payroll

Employers may send an employee home for minor illness or other reason

In all 50 states in the U.S., an employer has the right to ask a sick employee to go home.

Employers are under no obligation to allow a sick employee to stay on the job and infect their co-workers. In fact, an employer can send an employee home at any time for any reason, or without reason.  However, the employer must be careful that they do not engage in illegal discrimination against an employee based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, religion, national ancestry, or violate any written contracts.

A few examples or reasons an employer may send a worker home include:

  • There is little work for him or her to do.
  • The employee seems too ill to be productive.
  • The employer fears that the employee is contagious.
  • The employer has reason to believe that the employee is not physically fit for duty. In this case the employer may require a doctor’s release for the employee to return to work.

When an employer sends an hourly employee home, the employee must be paid for any time worked. There is no federal or state law requiring that the employee be paid for time not worked. An exempt employee who works a portion of the day must be paid his or her usual salary for the entire day, regardless of whether they have, or do not have sick leave or paid-time-off benefits.

Finally, employers must be aware that different rules apply if the employee has a permanent disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) or a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), rather than a minor illness.

The experts at BCN Services can offer guidance in specific employment situations.  Contact us at 734-994-4100 or toll free at 800-891-9911 or visit our website at www.www.bcnservices.com.

Lisandra Garrow, Partnership Manager

 

Employers should tread carefully when addressing social media use

Amazing advances in technology are allowing business owners and employees to become more efficient and productive. But these advances bring more and challenging employee issues that impact our businesses.

One of the newest and more complicated aspects that employers must consider is the ever-changing case law surrounding the growing phenomena of social media. Agencies that enact and enforce employment laws are scrambling to keep up and the courts are interpreting, creating laws and adjusting the way we handle these issues in our businesses.

Use of social media is continuing at an exponential rate, increasing not only with employees under the age of 30 but with employees over 50 as well. Social media use for those 50 and older increased from 22 percent in April 2009 to 42 percent in May of 2010 according to the Pew Research Center’s 2010 Report on Older Adults and Social Media.

As business owners and managers, there are ways to limit your liability surrounding this issue. Some examples of things you should consider:

  • Avoid using social media to investigate potential employees. Information discovered about potential employees from social media can leave you open to claims of discrimination for race, religion, national origin, disabilities and other protected class items as well as factors such as arrest records (which are being increasingly scrutinized under the current federal administration). Recently it has been reported that some employers or prospective employers have asked for or demanded access to potential employees’ Facebook passwords in order to view their activities online. Government intervention in this matter has been swift, with legislation introduced and passed to prohibit this practice.
  • Avoid disciplining or terminating employees for complaining about the company or their manager on social media sites.Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the legal right to discuss (or complain about) their wages, hours and working conditions publicly. Disciplining or terminating employees for these activities can result in unfair labor practice charges for you even if you are a non-union employer! Additionally, if you terminate an employee for expressing an opinion, you could be required to return the employee to work with full back pay. As always, it is important to keep an open-door policy to allow your employees to share concerns with you rather than posting them online.
  • Don’t allow managers to respond to requests for employee or professional references via LinkedIn or other social media sites. References should always go through the formal request process under company policy.
  • Be proactive and put a social media policy in place if you do not already have one. There are a number of items that you can include in your policy. A sampling would include:
    • Prohibit employees from using company computers to post to social media.
    • Inform the employees that they are not allowed to speak for or represent the company on social media sites without written approval of the company.
    • Prohibit comments that threaten demean, discriminate or harass any employee, associate, or customers of the company.
    • Don’t allow employees to use the company name, logo, photos of company products, photos of employees or customers or photos of company property in social media postings.
    • Don’t allow employees to link to the company website from their social media postings.
    • Train employees on the social media policy.

BCN Services is diligent in monitoring the ever-changing employment law landscape in order to keep our clients compliant. As always, we are here to answer your questions or assist you with any questions, concerns or issues you may have. Call or contact us here.

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Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager