Tips for keeping employees motivated, engaged and productive.

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.


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


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.


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.

Lisandra Garrow, HR Generalist

Why so many employees call it quits and what you can do about it

Do you ever wonder how much it costs when an employee quits their job? The Society for Human Resources (SRHM) predicts that “employers will need to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee’s wages in order to find and train their replacement.”

So employee retention is really about being financially responsible. With this in mind, we share the 4 biggest reasons employees quit their jobs and offer recommendations for reducing turnover.

Lack of training

Remember the last time you started a new job? The feeling can be terrifying! Employees appreciate knowing what is expected of them and how to be successful at their jobs. Oftentimes, employees are hired and thrown straight into work where they must “sink or swim.” A lack of training can also fester into other issues, quickly provoking employees to quit their jobs.

Recommendation: Review your strategies for training with simple questions such as “Do my employees exhibit the skills necessary to successfully fulfill their job duties?” or “Can employees successfully complete their job duties without seeming confused or lost?” (The larger goal is to strategize for future training techniques.)

Feeling underappreciated

Showing simple appreciation for employees is one of the most underestimated strategies for retaining a strong workforce. Employees of all levels are often hungry to know they are appreciated by their employer. More often than not, underappreciated employees feel disconnected from the work they achieve because they feel it goes unnoticed. This disconnect results in employees who go through the motions of their jobs rather than caring for the success of the organization. It also signifies a ticking clock: It is only a matter of time before this employee burns out and quits.

Recommendation: Host a lunch for employees dedicated solely to acknowledging their hard work. When you take time to show admiration and encouragement, employees will feel valued and proud of their organization.

Feeling of constant, meaningless work

Employees need to know how and why they contribute to the success of your organization. American author and business consultant James C. Collins once said “it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.” Employees who like their work is meaningless will have no loyalty to their position or the organization. Every job holds a certain value and though not every job can hold immense importance, employees who feel like their job lacks value tend to be in high-turnover positions.

Recommendation: Find a simple way to show employees that their work is not meaningless (which is different from showing them they are appreciated!). Several things to try: call a meeting focused on explaining job importance, hang a poster showing the outcome of employees’ work within the organization’s model, or put employees in contact with people they help so they see the impact of their work.

Lack of workplace community

A workforce is only strong when a healthy community exists. Too often, organizational leadership teams produce important goals but do not create a workforce culture to successfully carry them out. In return, culture and positivity diminishes over time and can lead to unhealthy community among coworkers. Sadly, many work spaces provide atmospheres akin to a nasty episode of “Gossip Girl.” When the atmosphere turns poisonous, employees have no regret or remorse after quitting their job.

Recommendation: Strive for organization citizenship behavior (“a person’s voluntary commitment within an organization or company that is not part of his or her contractual tasks”). Organizational citizenship behavior is becoming a golden standard for companies who want to reduce retention while creating a sense of pride among employees. Take time to host group initiative sessions geared towards building community within your organization.

If you would like to further discuss different methods for focusing on increasing retention within your organization, please reach out to BCN Services. We pride ourselves in helping organizations maximize on their potential through building strategies to increase retention.

Sources and more information: Allen, David. “Retaining Talent.” Society for Human Resource Management, Sept. & Oct. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2017. Bateman, T. S., & Organ, D. W. (1983). Job satisfaction and the good soldier: The relationship between affect and employee “citizenship.” Academy of Management Journal, 26(4), 587-595.


Alex Pattenaude, HR Administrator

Workplace-appropriate Valentine-themed events can boost morale

Although we typically think of Valentine’s Day as a romantic holiday, it can be one of camaraderie and team-building in the workplace.  This week we expound on some fun facts and offer ideas for you to create a celebration of your own.

Fun Fact #1: 220,000 is the average number of wedding proposals on Valentine’s Day each year.

Even though Valentine’s Day is typically celebrated between sweethearts, why not bring this sweet celebration into the workplace to boost morale and show employees your appreciation during that mid-February Winter funk.

Fun Fact #2: Did you know that about 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged each year?  This makes it the second-largest seasonal card sending time of the year.

Remember the excitement you felt when exchanging Valentine’s day cards at school?  Why not consider an old-fashioned card exchange in the workplace?  Ask everyone to bring a work-appropriate Valentine’s Day card for each of their teammates and you can even create mailboxes for your employees out of paper bags or shoe boxes to put them in.

Fun Fact #3: Although perhaps old-fashioned y today’s standards, girls in medieval times ate bizarre foods on Saint Valentine’s Day to make them dream of their future spouses.

How about hosting a Valentine’s day potluck (no bizarre food allowed)? Ask employees to bring Valentine’s Day themed dishes such as heart-shaped casseroles, cakes, cookies, pizza, etc. Use red decorations and encourage attendees to wear red clothing and accessories. Get creative and award prizes for the most festive red outfit, most unexpected red food, the tastiest dish, etc.

Fun Fact #4:  More than $1 billion worth of chocolate is purchased for Valentine’s Day in the U.S.

Who doesn’t like free chocolate? Fill a large glass vase or candy jar with foil wrapped Hershey’s kisses or other small candies.  During the week, ask employees to submit their guess for the number of kisses in the jar (post contest rules on the front of the jar).  The employee who gets closest to the actual number wins.  Movie theater tickets, a box of Godiva or other specialty chocolates, dinner for two at a great restaurant, or a bouquet of red roses could be prizes awarded.

Fun Fact #5:  More than 35 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day.

Since February is American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day is a great reminder to focus on heart health for employees. Get active: take the team roller skating, hiking or just be silly and have a hula hoop contest and see who can hula hoop for the longest time. Start a healthy recipe exchange or invite a local nutritionist to come into the workplace and provide a seminar on cooking healthy foods. Hire a massage therapist to come on-site for a few hours each week for an afternoon to give free 10-minute shoulder, back and neck massages.

Using these ideas may just make this Valentine’s Day a day to remember!

Fun Facts provided by


Lisandra Garrow, HR Generalist

Halloween: Workplace events can boost morale, build teamwork

Halloween has fast become a favorite holiday for employees to celebrate in the workplace. Not only is it a fun, morale-boosting celebration, it can also be used to encourage and build teamwork.

As with any office celebration, form a small committee to plan and execute any festivities. Instead of this being coordinated by the Human Resources staff, you may want to rotate primary responsibility for holidays from department to department to get more staff members involved.

This rotation is important and allows for team building and leadership development across the company, since planning and executing holiday celebrations builds staff skills.

Next, come up with new fun and creative ways to celebrate. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Costume party or parade: Keep the event simple and encourage employees to wear their costume to work for the day. Alternatively, you can make the celebration more elaborate and hold a party or a parade of costumed employees around the company.

Costume contest: Have multiple categories such as best costume, funniest costume, the most sophisticated costume, the costume that took the most work to make, the scariest costume, and the most creative costume.  Advertise awards in advance and provide a nice gift to the winners such as a gift or catalog certificate.

Halloween breakfast: It’s the perfect time of the year to serve cider and doughnuts. Other options include pumpkin and apple bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee cake, or pumpkin-and-apple muffins. For those who prefer healthier options, provide assorted fruits. Use this opportunity and make the breakfast a team-building celebration. Encourage employees to spend time together rather than retreating with their breakfast to their office or cubicle.

Halloween luncheon or potluck: You can as easily make a Halloween luncheon or potluck as a seasonal breakfast. For the potluck, suggest employees bring a fall-themed soup or chili. Or, order pizza, sandwich wraps, submarines or any other popular luncheon menu.

Halloween decorations: Offer prizes for best and most festively decorated work area and give out awards similar to those mentioned above for costumes. Encouraging teams to work together to decorate a shared work area will enhance the team-building aspects of this competition

Pumpkin carving contests: Make the pumpkin carving a contest between individual employees, or between departments. Either option is a fun, creative team-building opportunity.

Halloween appeals to the child in many of us and workplace events are a favored way to celebrate this increasingly popular holiday.

One word of caution: Not all employees celebrate all holidays and Halloween can be one that carries some connotations that may not sit well with everyone. Be sensitive to this and never force an employee to participate in something that makes them uncomfortable. Consider an alternative way for these employees to stay involved without compromising their feelings. Perhaps consider, instead, a more generic Fall-themed event for your staff.

Happy  Fall!

If you have questions about morale-building or other staff efforts and special events in your workplace, contact your specialists at BCN Services to discuss your individual situation.



Lisandra Garrow, HR Generalist

Office politics at a new level: Managing the political season in the workplace

Election Day is right around the corner and as the big day approaches, chatter in the office can get louder and louder.  This year, in particular, people seem to be more divided than ever on the outcome of the upcoming national election.

How should this be handled in the workplace?  Is it OK to debate politics in the office?  Is it OK to try and persuade a fellow coworker?

While many are eager to share their political views with coworkers, other staff members may feel very private about their opinions and can feel bullied by the ones that are more vocal.  Things can get heated quickly and it’s important for staff to feel they are working in a nonvolatile environment.

Below are some simple guidelines that may be helpful in your work environment.  No matter what side of the political aisle you are on (or maybe you are taking no position), these helpful tips may help make the environment at work comfortable for all:

  • It’s important that managers or staff in leadership positions be careful in sharing their political views. Be sure that your views are not perceived as a representation of the Company as a whole.
  • Do not allow political signs/banners to be displayed in the workplace. Banners, posters, signs can all be a source of contention for fellow employees that don’t share the same views.
  • Managers or staff in leadership roles should refrain from asking employees what their political views are.   You would not want an employee to question whether they had missed out on an advancement opportunity.
  • Nip it, quick. If you hear about chatter among coworkers that could raise tension, don’t let it linger. If a complaint is made to a manager, it should be dealt with as quickly as possible to avoid bigger issues down the road.
  • Respect each other. You may want to address such rules of respect in your employee handbook.
  • As Election Day approaches, prepare: Tension can rise quickly on and shortly after Election Day. Make sure your staff understands that while they may feel strongly about the outcome, coworkers may feel very differently.

BCN is here to help you with your HR needs and if you would like assistance in establishing Code of Conduct rules in your employee handbook, we are here to help.


Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

PokémonGO in the workplace: Concerns and benefits

By now, you have undoubtedly heard about the “Pokémon GO” craze that is sweeping the world.  That would be the free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game where players use a mobile device’s GPS to locate, capture, battle and train virtual creatures called Pokémon.  With more than 7.5 million users, it has surpassed Twitter as the most popular mobile app.  With that kind of recognition, you are probably wondering what kind of impact its having on your employees’ productivity.

When it comes to employee cell phone usage at work and mobile apps and games, we suggest the following general guidelines:

  • Review your handbook policies to ensure they have statements regarding acceptable and unacceptable employee social media networking and gaming during work hours.
  • Additionally, if employees operate vehicles while on company time, make sure you have a policy on distracted driving and offer training on safe driving practices.  Recently in  Japan, a 39-year-old farmer driving a truck struck and killed one pedestrian and severely injured another while he was playing the game.
  • Finally, if employees have company issued cell phones, work with your IT professionals to limit the download and data usage capabilities and reinforce your definition of acceptable personal use of these devices.
  • Train managers on how to handle the situation if they catch an employee violating work rules while playing the game.  As always, stress the importance of consistency in reprimands for this sort of issue.

This particular game phenomenon does have benefits.  Used in moderation, it can foster a culture of teamwork, motivation and social interaction as players can select a color to play for and, once selected, players with the same color can team up to conquer a Pokémon  Gym together.  In addition, the game requires players to be active; it even rewards players for walking certain distances.  This is good not only for physical health, but mental health as well.

If you think “PokémonGO” may be a problem in your workplace or if you’re looking for a creative way to incorporate the game into daily teamwork activities; give BCN Services a call at 1-800-891-9911.


Alicia Freeman, New Product and Payroll Manager