Tips for keeping employees motivated, engaged and productive.

Why appreciation is important in the workplace

Have you ever felt unappreciated at work? Then you understand how important recognition in the workplace can be. Workplace recognition motivates, provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work.

Gallup research finds that “only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days.” Employees often feel that their best efforts are routinely ignored. Those who do not feel adequately recognized say they are twice as likely to quit in the next year, research found. Read more

Morale may get a boost during March brackets, but try to minimize distractions

It’s here! March Madness is upon us and the bustle around your office involves which teams made the tournament, selecting brackets and game start times. While you may dread this time of year as a manager, this annual sporting event may not be as detrimental to office productivity as was once thought.

An OfficeTeam survey of 1,000 managers and 400 workers in office environments found that 11 percent of managers find March Madness activities to be a welcome diversion. Those managers believe the activity can increase teamwork and boost morale. Read more

Be ready when employees wonder ‘Should I stay, or should I go?’

If you talk to any business owner today and ask them what their biggest challenge is, they will likely say finding and keeping good people. They would engage you in a long conversation about the challenges they face when losing their good ones and how they have a very difficult time recruiting or finding replacements. This is a time and money drain for any organization.

Don’t wait until your good people leave to learn what it takes to keep employees or why they stayed as long as they did? Conducting “stay” interviews is an easy way to take the pulse of what is happening in your business. If you want more great people, simply ask your current great employees for their input. Stay interviews will help build employee engagement and foster a good culture as you build trust with employees.

How to get started

  • Select a few of your key employees and ask them to participate. You want more of these engaged and honest individuals on your team.
  • Explain why you are asking them to take part: that they are a valued member of the staff and that this is to help you retain and recruit more employees with their gifts and skills.
  • Conduct these stay interviews once or twice each year and do them within the same timeframe. Do not wait until employees become disengaged, or even worse, leave, to understand what’s going on.
  • Make it known you desire their honest feedback. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Employees must feel safe to express their opinions and that the manager will have an open mind and not get defensive. They should never feel there will be retribution for any of their comments.
  • Focus on the positives/wins that they express. Create and share your action plan from the results of the stay interviews. People want to know they have been heard and are making an impact.

Following is a list of the best questions to get the stay interview process started. They are open-ended, easy to ask, get the conversation energized questions, and the response will contain valuable insight and make a difference in keeping your employees.

  • What do you look forward to when you come to work?
  • Why do you stay working here?
  • Do you feel that we fully use your talents in your current role? Are their additional talents/interests/experiences that you could offer?
  • What are the frustrations or less desirable parts of your role that you would like to do less of?
  • What is an example of any recent recognition or acknowledgement that you received that increased your engagement to the company?

Make the process a win-win

Stay interviews are an inexpensive and effective way to drive your business improvements forward quickly. The management team receives honest feedback and the employee feels valued and empowered to help make the business better.

Take the feedback and put it into action. Communicate your actions with your company and recognize the impact the feedback has provided. It will be a win-win for both employer and employee.

Do you need additional help and tips for employee retention? Contact your BCN Services representative, your partner for all of your company’s HR needs.

Corey Decker, Sales Manger

FMLA, parental leave and medical leave can all be options for life events

Starting and growing your family is an exciting time, and the last thing an employee should worry about is how to take time away from work for life events such as this. Employers should develop a policy before these questions arise.

It is common for employees to assume they will get a certain amount of time, either paid or unpaid, away from work. What a business is required to offer is typically dependent on its size. As an employer, you should be prepared to share this information when an employee announces they are adding another member to the family. The options include: FMLA, parental leave, medical leave or a combination.

FMLA is the federal Family Medical Leave Act, which applies to employers of 50 or more. FMLA requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of time off for the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care. FMLA protects the employee’s job and benefits but does not require an employer to pay the employee for the time they are away. If unpaid, employees may be able to use vacation/PTO time or collect from their short-term disability benefit (if applicable). FMLA applies to both parents for the purpose of bonding with the child as well as giving a mother time to recuperate from labor and delivery. FMLA is clearly outlined for employers and can be found online here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.

The term “maternity leave” was commonly used to describe the time a mother needed off after the birth of a child. The term is outdated, as an employer cannot discriminate against the other parent for the purposes of taking time off. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also requires pregnancy to be handled as if it were like any other medical leave.

The compromise and appropriate nomenclature is “parental leave,” which is a set period of time an employer allows an employee to be off work for the birth or placement of a child. It is simply describing a period of time, not the medical needs for a woman to be off following labor and delivery. A parental leave may include wage replacement, such as paying part or all of the employee’s wages while off work, or it may be unpaid. Just like FMLA, a parental leave is not required to be paid, but some employers may choose to do so.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently ruled in favor of a new father in a case of parental leave discrimination. This new dad received a $1.1M settlement, and not giving new fathers the same type of leave as new mothers to bond with a child can result in a claim such as this.

Medical leave allows for an employee to be off work for a medical condition. This includes time off after childbirth for a woman who had a baby. Labor and delivery would fall under a medical leave policy, but bonding time is not. The woman’s doctor provides information about the length of time a patient needs to be off of work and this would be handled in the same fashion as an employee undergoing major surgery who is off due to a doctor’s order. Employers may choose to have a medical leave policy instead of offering parental leave, or they may have both.

FMLA is the set of federal regulations, but an employer can always choose to be more generous. If your Medical Leave Policy goes above and beyond FMLA, then your handbook can include just the Medical Leave Policy on its own and not include a separate FMLA policy.

It is surprisingly more complicated when an employer isn’t required to follow a federal regulation and if they also don’t have a policy in place. In these cases, employees in similar situations may, unintentionally, be treated differently. That is considered discriminatory, which is why it is imperative to create a policy and follow it. Having a policy also avoids an awkward conversation when an employee approaches an employer with a leave request.

BCN handles all types of employee leaves for its clients and can assist in policy creation. Please talk to your Human Resources representative and let them know if you have any questions about the types of leaves listed above or any other type of employment leave.

 

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Kari Stanley, HR Customer Call Center Supervisor

 

 

Employee burnout can cause high turnover and increased business costs

A recent poll of more than 600 HR professionals from companies and industries of varying sizes found that employee burnout affects 95 percent of all organizations. This same study found that the three main factors affecting employee burnout are: unfair compensation, unreasonable workloads and too much required overtime or after-hours work.
Further analysis showed that poor management, employees not clearly seeing the connection between their role and the business’s strategy, as well as negative workforce culture, are key factors that continue to fuel this issue. These are also factors that HR can control.

Burnout is a situation in which an employee feels extreme exhaustion that can be physical, emotional or mental in nature. Some signs of burnout include: An inability to concentrate or remember important things resulting in mistakes, increased absenteeism and accidents, disengagement or lack of interest, lower productivity, irritability and lack of patience with coworkers and clients and excessive cynicism.

All of these symptoms can translate into a negative impact for your business. Additionally, businesses affected by employee burnout suffer a higher turnover rate, lower employee engagement and increased spending on healthcare costs to cover psychological and physical problems related to employee burnout.
Some strategies for combating employee burnout include:

  • Allow and encourage your employees to take their full lunch break as well as short breaks throughout the day.  Additionally, add activities during business hours that give employees a reason to leave their desks.
  • Encourage employees to use their allotted vacation time.
  • Give your team a treat when there has been a stressful week or a big goal has been met. This could be food, gift cards, a jeans or casual dress day, or allowing employees to leave early.
  • Define an employee’s role by ensuring that they have an up-to-date job description and understand the expectations of their performance in that role.
  • Keep work hours reasonable and be realistic when assigning tasks and deadlines.
  • Maintain an open door policy. Members of your team should feel comfortable sharing if they feel burned out or being offered the opportunity to share ideas that contribute to success of their role and the organization.

Contact the experts at BCN Services if you need help developing incentives, policies and ways to help keep your employees motivated and productive.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations 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

How to keep your employees engaged and making a difference

So how do the Self-Actualization Needs from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid from that first-year college course fit into corporate America today?

The top portion of the pyramid relates to spontaneity and problem solving, among other things, which can tie directly to the workplace. Employees want to know they are making a difference in the world around them, including with their customers, peers and communities.

Without having the confidence that they are making a difference, employees become disengaged. This behavior becomes contagious and impacts the bottom line of an organization. Signs of this could be high turnover, low morale, uninspired teams, absenteeism, burnout, poor time management, lack of accountability, and flat profitability. Who wants all of that in their company?

Here are a few strategies for increasing employee engagement that leadership can embrace to create that desirable and engaged organization:

  • Communicate the company goals & direction: Educate employees about how individual roles impact and advance the company. Keep teams in the know about the company’s direction, goals, successes and challenges with regular communications. Use meetings, emails, videos, blogs and other methods so teams are “in the know.” Create incentive goals or gamification programs with prizes and recognition for achievement of established goals.
  • Performance Feedback: Managers and leaders must commit to more frequent and informal feedback. Constant coaching and training (both formal and informal) should be a regular part of the business culture. Break away from the annual performance evaluation as the only time you give feedback to your employees.
  • Celebrate the team and WINS: Have fun at work. You spend a lot of time there so why not enjoy and celebrate the wins of your team and people? Recognize hard work, creativity and new ideas by sharing and celebrating the success. Create an environment where individuals enjoy what they are doing.

Commit to making employee engagement a priority. Creating a survey or a method for honest feedback is a great start, but sincere ownership and accountability from leadership teams is a must. Have fun and be creative with ideas.

Most importantly, take action to gain back the benefits of an engaged workforce with low turnover, increasing profitability and having a staff that is firing on all cylinders.

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” – Simon Sinek

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Corey Decker, Sales Manager

Documenting employee performance is a valuable management tool

How many times are we asked to recall a specific situation from a month or two ago, and just can’t remember the details?  It seemed so significant at the time and we thought, “I’ll remember this.”  If only we had jotted down some notes…

Most of the time, you can just say, “Oh well,” and move on.  But what if it’s related to an employment situation and the information is important?

I think most managers can relate to this:  You think the discussion you had with an employee last week won’t become an ongoing issue, so you walk away without documenting the discussion.  When the employee shows a lack of improvement, you talk with them again thinking, perhaps, they didn’t understand you the first time.  Another couple of weeks goes by and the situation still hasn’t improved.  You don’t have time to address the issue beyond a quick discussion, so you talk to the employee, yet again.

You have talked to this employee three times now and things are getting worse.  You’ve given the employee plenty of opportunity to improve and now you want to terminate them for poor performance.

If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen

But there is nothing in writing. And without that documentation, regulatory agencies and unemployment judges often decide that the employer hasn’t done due diligence and rule in favor of the employee.  The perception of objective decision-makers is this: If it’s not in writing, it didn’t happen.

Documentation is a valuable tool for managers in a variety of situations. It can be notes a manager keeps about specific situations, positive or negative, including details about actions, dates, times and outcomes.  This is a great way to prepare for regular performance reviews or to establish a written basis for a decision about which employee is best qualified for a promotion.  Documentation over a long time period is especially helpful in those situations, as a manager can look back at trends showing whether or not each candidate would be a good fit for the new position.

In a situation where an employee isn’t meeting behavior or performance standards required for the position, those notes may become documentation of verbal warnings, written warnings, suspensions or terminations, typically in that order.  That stepped process is designed to guide the employee in maintaining their employment or advancing their career.  When the employee doesn’t embrace that guidance, the written documentation is in place to be the basis (and later, a company’s defense) for an employment decision.

Burden of proof is on the employee, so details help

That said, as a manager you probably know that even the best-documented situation may not deter an employee from claiming unemployment or filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Specifics of times and dates for behaviors that lead to employment decisions, along with appropriate, progressive disciplining are keys to defending employment decisions in those situations as well.  Most of the time, the burden of proof is on the employer and all of those details help.

Consistent documentation helps managers to remember what has happened and attach times, dates and other details to a situation that you might not remember accurately.  Whether it’s time to make an employment decision (such as a raise, a promotion, or a disciplinary action) or to defend it, documentation can help you remember the important details that need to be included to help others understand the reason for the employment action.

If you need help documenting your workplace situations or suggestions for your managers, contact the experts at BCN Services. We are here to help.

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Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist

Be prepared to manage both introverts and extroverts in the workplace

All employers have a primary goal of keeping employees operating at their peak level of energy, efficiency and motivation.  This can become a challenge when leading and managing a team mixed with introverts and extroverts.

Introverts and extroverts can take vastly different approaches when it interacting and communicating with others. Understanding the differences and preferences will provide valuable insight to the people around you.

Introverts generally recharge and draw their energy by being alone. Introverts prefer to concentrate on a single task at a given time and tend to work with more deliberateness and at a slower rate.

Common traits associated with introverts:

  • Often prefer to work in solitude
  • Acknowledge others, but won’t participate in social discussions
  • Will wait until an assignment is refused by others before stepping up to accept it
  • Can possess impressive powers of concentration and problem solving
  • Can provide detailed and well-thought-out plans
  • Are great observers and can act as a buffer or diplomat

An introvert generally prefers to start their workday by sorting and planning alone. When possible, allow introverts to schedule time alone or to use the “do not disturb” signal when necessary. An introvert may not be comfortable speaking up in a group setting. Ask directly for suggestions from this employee either before or after the meeting. Be straightforward with introverts and use objective, logical reasoning for decisions and feedback.

Introverts prefer measurable, tangible achievements and like to work independently with minimal supervision. Give them autonomy and the time/space to work alone.  Allow them time to independently problem solve. When giving feedback, keep your pace slow to allow them time to reflect and develop their response. They respond well to concrete tasks and problems with clear accountability.

Extroverts generally recharge by being with people – this is how they get their energy. Extroverts will usually tackle assignments promptly. They are comfortable with risk-taking, good at multitasking, and can be quick to act. Extroverts gravitate toward groups and tend to think out loud.

Common traits associated with extroverts:

  • Comfortable with risk-taking and multi-tasking
  • Friendly and social with everyone
  • Often volunteer for committees, etc.
  • Instigate personal discussions
  • Can come across as emotionally overpowering at times
  • Can burn out quickly by overcommitting themselves

An extrovert generally prefers to work collaboratively and likes to start the workday by meeting with people right away.  Extroverts tend to be more productive when they can bounce ideas off others during the workday. Schedule regular meetings to encourage extroverts to engage with other people as needed. Acknowledge their ideas in front of peers without allowing their enthusiasm to take over the meeting. Motivate them with challenges to develop new skills and opportunities for advancement. Be gentle with feedback and help them develop supportive relationships with coworkers. When you are giving feedback, leave lots of time for discussion and input.

To conclude, these are only a few of the common traits found in introverts and extroverts. All traits can be seen in both personality types. In fact, many introverts have learned to act like extroverts in certain situations and vice versa.  Encourage introverts and extroverts to work together, as each has strengths that will greatly contribute to the overall success of your company.

 

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Employers bear the burden of proof in unemployment court cases

“How can a fired employee be awarded unemployment benefits that he did not deserve to get?” This is perhaps one of the most asked questions I hear from employers after they receive an unfavorable hearing decision.

Three of the top reasons employers lose unemployment compensation discharge cases are:

1. Discharge was for incompetence, but not misconduct.
2. The final incident of a series was not misconduct
3. No documents and/or first-hand witnesses were present at the hearing.

The employer often believes they had a valid business reason to fire the person and, therefore, the claimant did not deserve the benefits. Although employers have a valid business need to terminate in most of the cases involving discharge, they sometimes fail to understand what the administrative law judge is listening for in the hearing. In every case, the judge considers whether the party with the burden of proof met that burden with credible testimony. In a discharge case, that means showing “misconduct” and “connection with work”. In the case of a discharge, the burden of proof is always on the employer.

So what is the definition of misconduct? An explanation is offered in a decision by Michigan Employment Security Act, which explains that misconduct is not defined by the statute, but defined in several court cases, including Carter v Michigan Employment Security Commission, 364 Mich 538 (1961), where the state Supreme Court used a definition from Boyton Cab Company v Newubeck, 296 NW 636, 640 (Wis 1941).

The Boyton case defines misconduct as a “wanton disregard of an employer’s interest” and when an employee has a “deliberate violation or disregard of standards” that an employer has a right to expect. It can also be a high degree of carelessness or negligence by the employee or when he/she shows “an intentional and substantial disregard” of the employer’s interests and the obligations the employee has. The case also notes that inefficiency on the job, simply unsatisfactory conduct or the inability to do a job or good-faith errors made on the job are not misconduct.

Examples of cases that failed to show misconduct:

Case 1: At the hearing, the employer’s witness testifies claimant was discharged for “poor performance.” Previous discussions about multiple, past poor work quality was presented but no documentation or write-up were provided. Final event was a failure to complete a job that did not meet the employer’s standards. Claimant stated that he exerted his best efforts at work and followed the instructions given to him.

The decision: The employer may have had a good business reason for discharging the claimant. However, the claimant’s denials of wrongdoing were, at least, as believable as the employer’s evidence against him. Burden of proof to establish discharge for work-connected misconduct was not met by the employer. No disqualification. Redetermination affirmed.

Case 2: At the hearing the employer testified that the claimant was discharged for violation of the company attendance policy. The claimant had been given several disciplinary writeups which the claimant acknowledged receiving. The claimant was given a final writeup stating that the next attendance infraction would result in termination. The claimant called in sick no less than one week later due to hurting his foot over the weekend and was subsequently discharged. The claimant testified that had he been able to come to work he would have and was also able to provide a doctor’s note for his injury.

The decision: The administrative law judge concluded that although the claimant had been given proper warnings prior to the final incident, the employer had not carried its burden of showing misconduct. The judge found that, based upon the testimony, the last incident showed no wrongdoing by the claimant and was, in fact, a situation that was out of his control. No disqualification. Redetermination affirmed.

Understanding what the judge is listening for is critical for preparing for unemployment hearings. If you have any questions about the unemployment hearing process, contact the experts at BCN Services to assist.
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Lisandra Garrow, HR Generalist