Tips for keeping employees motivated, engaged and productive.

Take steps to ensure that reviews are positive and beneficial

Employee performance reviews are traditionally a part of the workplace that almost everyone fears. But if utilized as a tool and an interactive process, both employee and employer will benefit.

Evaluations are important for the company, management and employees. They can be an opportunity to collaborate and foster a healthier and happier relationship. We suggest having performance reviews that focus on areas in which employees are both competent and interested. Employers then can consider adjusting the employee’s assignments to those areas of interest.

Supervisors should focus on forward progression rather than last year’s struggles. When it is necessary, offering criticism shouldn’t be avoided. However, approaching the conversation with employees as an interactive discussion that focuses on progress is more beneficial. The discussion of what an employee does well, versus what the employee needs to work on, will help shift employees’ perspectives of performance reviews so they feel encouraged and supported.

In addition, when employees are held accountable, they are more likely to perform better. Performance reviews reiterate this accountability, as well as the goals and vision of the company.

Some basic guidelines supervisors should follow:

  • The evaluation should take place in a location that is private and away from interruption
  • Employees should have a clear understanding of their responsibilities
  • Start by being positive and acknowledging accomplishments
  • Highlight what you value and appreciate about the employee
  • Move to discussion of areas that require improvement
  • If you are going to criticize, make sure to have specific suggestions for improvement that are measurable
  • Encourage the employee’s feedback, such as asking if there is something you can do to help them be successful
  • End with a plan including action steps to be taken towards the goals discussed in the session

Fewer than half of workers find performance reviews to be useful. The key to changing this perspective is for employers to approach the review positively and focused on progress.

Excellent work from employees will result from constructive feedback and a support system that offers encouragement. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about performance reviews, please contact your BCN Partnership Manager at 800-891-9911or or contact us here.

 

 

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Kateyln Walzbecker, Partnership Manager

Resources:
Society for Human Resource Management: http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/employeerelations/articles/pages/annua…
Boomer Consulting: http://www.boomer.com/blogpost/765921/145881/Look-Forward-to-Your-Perfor…
HRMorning.comhttp://www.hrmorning.com/dos-and-donts-to-make-performance-reviews-actua…

The nose knows: Dealing with workplace odors, scents and smells

Who hasn’t needed help in finding just the right words when talking to an employee about their stink?  Stinky breath, stinky body, stinky clothes, stinky food.  And those are just a few of the easier to discuss matters.

But what about employees that smell … good? And who’s to say what smells good? It’s a subjective thing.

Body odor, food smells and perfume/fragrance can all cause issues for employees that are particularly sensitive to smells and have to work in proximity to those causing the smells.

Here are a number of tips for managers when approaching an employee who needs to tone down the use of perfumed products:

  1. Communicate the sensitivities that some people have to artificially scented products. Perfumes can cause sniffling, dizziness, headaches, nausea and breathing problems. Some reactions, like shortness of breath, are particularly severe for people with pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. You may want to consider setting a general workplace policy relating to the topic of workplace smells.
  2. Make it clear to your employees that perfumes aren’t necessarily the only offender. Heavily scented soaps, shampoos, makeup and even laundry detergents can also cause problems for some people.
  3. Set an example at the level of management. Don’t wear scented products yourself, and avoid using air fresheners, scented candles and scented sprays in the office. Instead, turn on fans and open a few windows to freshen the air.
  4. Encourage employees to talk to each other about scent sensitivities. Explain that it’s OK to ask a teammate to tone down her perfume, as long as it’s done politely. Give examples of how to courteously ask someone to avoid fragrance use. Say, for instance, “I’m really sensitive to scents, and I think I’m reacting to something you’re wearing. I’d really appreciate it if you could avoid using that perfume at work.” If an employee continues to have problems, a manager may need to intervene.
  5. Meet one-on-one with individual workers if excessive scents remain a problem a week after issuing a general workplace policy. Explain why you are calling the person into your office, express that you understand that she or he didn’t mean to offend anyone, and then ask the employee to avoid wearing the scent. For example: “As you know, we have some people in the office who are very sensitive to scents. You may not be aware of it and I’m sure you didn’t mean any harm, but a few people have come to me with concerns about a scent they’ve noticed you’re wearing. From now on, I’d like to ask that you avoid wearing that perfume to work.”

It’s never fun to deal with the “stink” issue, whether good or bad, but it may be helpful to keep two things in mind before broaching the subject:  No one wants to be embarrassed and most people want to be team players.

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Lisandra Quinones, HR Administrator

 

Inclement weather policy can keep your business humming this winter

Does your company have an inclement weather policy?  Many employers choose to deal with individual situations as they arise, but planning ahead of time can ensure peace of mind for both employer and employees.

You may wish to consider how to address these top three matters:

Will you maintain regular hours of operation or close?

Some employers may choose to close their business when the weather reaches a certain threshold.

Others may stay open and encourage employees to exercise caution when reporting to work. Some employers, such as hospitals or emergency workers, may not have the luxury of choosing to stop operations due to bad weather.

In any case, make sure your employees know your policy and how any changes and decisions will be communicated to them.

How will you handle pay issues?

Whether the company closes or an employee is unable to report to work, non-exempt (hourly) employees are not required to be paid for this time.  However, if the employee is entitled to paid time off (PTO) or vacation time, your policy should indicate whether that would be applied.

Employers are not required to pay exempt (salary) employees if they do not report to work, although PTO or vacation time may be applied to cover this time.

However, in today’s age of technology when many exempt employees are “connected” to the office by email, voice mail and other means, if an exempt employee works any part of a day – regardless of whether they are physically at work – they should be paid a full day’s wage and vacation or PTO time should not be applied.

Can employees work from home or make up their time?

As stated above, you may want to consider whether to let exempt employees work from home.  That may not be possible with some positions, but making up the time off may be an option to consider.

Having an inclement weather policy that stands on its own, or as part of an Emergency Action Plan, can reduce confusion and ensure that your employees know how to respond accordingly.

The BCN Services Human Resources Department can assist you in customizing a plan that’s right for your business. Give us a call.

 

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Sue Kester, Human Resource Manager

Their work is never done: Tips for helping your employees reduce stress

In the U.S., white-collar employees work 50 hours or more each week.  That doesn’t include the hours people hang around the office so their boss can’t see when they are checking e-mail or social media.

Additionally, American workers don’t take as much vacation time as some other countries.  Surprisingly, one quarter of American workers are employed at companies that don’t offer vacation time.  Those offering vacations provide an average of 10 to 14 days per year, but many employees don’t use it all or they take work with them.  As a result, it feels like work is never done.

Employees more productive after vacations

Employees return from vacation more productive and happier.  And companies that measure performance, rather than counting long hours of face time, say they see the benefits of vacation time.

Surveys of manager and CEOs and compensation studies, show that employers reward employees who come in early, eat lunch at their desk, stay late and have no life outside of the office.  The same survey also indicates that American workers are burned out, disengaged and getting sick from so much work.

In addition, modern workers are interrupted seven times every hour and are distracted up to 2.1 hours a day.  And four of 10 people working at large companies are experiencing a major corporate restructuring and, therefore, facing uncertainly about the future.  This may be why more than 40 percent of adults say they lie awake at night plagued by stressful events of the day.

What can your organization do to help workers feel less stress?

The best approach to reducing job stress is asking managers to lead by example.  Managers should encourage and lead employees in stress-relief activities, such as walking, healthy eating and laughing.

Conduct employee satisfaction surveys on a regular basis.  Find out exactly what is stressing your employees.

Many ideas never bubble up because of a silo approach to work and corporate hierarchies.  Some fixes are simple:  flexibility, considering alternate work hours and creating a culture that rewards efficiency.  Others have to do with helping workers handle stress.

Companies have to be willing to deal with the source of the stress workplace culture, rigid work hours or the expectation of long hours in the office.

Tips employees can embrace to eliminate or reduce stress

  • Act rather than react – Identify the aspects of a situation you can control and aspects you can’t.  Typically, you are in control of your actions and responses, but not in control of outside forces or someone else’s tone.
  • Take a deep breath – If you feel overwhelmed or are coming from a tense meeting and need to clear your head, a few minutes of deep breathing will restore balance.
  • Eliminate interruptions – Most of us are bombarded during the day.  Emails, phone calls, pop in’s, instant messages and sudden, urgent deadlines which make today’s workers more distracted than ever.  While you may not have control over the interrupters, you can control your response.  Respond in one of three ways:  Accept the interruption, cut it off, or diagnosis its importance and make a plan.  Many interruptions are recurring and can be anticipated.  You can also train those around you by answering email during certain windows, setting up office hours to talk in person or closing the door when you need to focus.
  • Schedule your day for energy and focus – Schedule breaks throughout the day to walk, stretch at your desk or do a breathing exercise.  Try to work in pulses – 90 minute periods of focused work without the distractions of e-mail or telephone – and be mindful about what your priorities are.
  • Eat right and sleep well – Eating badly will stress your system and when you’re not sleeping well, you’re not rejuvenating.  Eat a low-sugar, high-protein diet.  If you have trouble falling asleep, or you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, try a simple breathing technique:  Cover your right nostril and breathe through your left for three to five minutes.
  • Positive thinking – This has been shown to increase a person’s life span, lower rates of depression, improve coping skills during hardship and even provide greater resistance to the common cold.

Sources:   SHRM.org and Forbes

 

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Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager

Consider its purpose before using an employee severance agreement

The use of severance agreements has increased over the past several years, particularly with the recent economic downturn.

In some cases of involuntary separation, employers choose to enter into severance agreements with employees to avoid potential litigation.  The idea behind the severance agreement is that an employee receives something of value to them which they would not otherwise be entitled to (usually additional compensation or benefits). In return, the employee makes a written agreement not to sue his/her employer.

Severance agreements not right in every case

While the premise of a severance agreement may sound like a viable option if you have an employee you are considering terminating, they are not right in every situation. There are legal considerations you should review before using such an agreement:

  • The employee must receive something in exchange for the release (typically, a sum of money) and that offering must be included in the release.  Keep in mind that if you normally offer a severance package to employees that do not sign a release, you must offer something additional to employees that do sign.
  • An employee cannot be forced to sign a severance agreement.  As an employer, all you can do is offer the agreement.  A court will not enforce the release if they find that the employee was coerced.
  • You must be clear about the rights the employee is waiving in the agreement.

EEOC warns that it may interfere with rights

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has argued that, in some cases, a severance agreement unlawfully interferes with the employee’s ability to communicate with the EEOC regarding potential discrimination.

Also, the age of the employee can impact the content and potential risk of using the severance agreement.  If the employee is age 40 or older, they receive special protections under the Older Workers’ Benefits Protection Act. This agreement must contain specific language regarding legal counsel and there is a mandatory allotment of time for the agreement to be signed and revoked by the employee.

BCN Services can assist you in determining whether or not a severance agreement should be used for your particular employee situation as well as drafting and execution of the agreement.  If you have questions, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us here.

 

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Alicia Jester, Manager Benefits and Payroll

5 ways to help your employees beat the winter blues

Once the holiday season is over, you may notice a drop in company cheer that was felt just a few weeks earlier.  We start to feel the burden of several more, long, sometimes unbearable, months of winter looming ahead.  Personally, you struggle to keep up your own spirits.

How can you lift your staff’s spirits when you’ve got the winter blues yourself?  Here are a few ideas to help create some energy in your office/workplace, and to drive away some of the winter humdrums that are trying to settle in:

Sunlight!  Lack of this precious commodity during the winter is a major factor leading to the winter blues.  Most jobs have standard business hours which means your employees leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark. Try to make daylight more accessible to them.  Encourage group lunches where employees can get outside and bond on nice days or arrange more official luncheons out.  If the whole department can’t go together, mix it up from week to week.

When weather permits, hold your morning “touch base” meetings outside.  Tell everyone to bundle up as you head outside to breathe in some fresh air before the workday begins.  Or have a mid-day stretch outside by taking 15 minutes to walk around the building and talk about what’s going on that day.  And on those few-and-far-between sunny days, get them outside to feel the sun on their faces, if even for 5 minutes.

Vacations!  Pass around the company calendar and ask staff to start thinking about vacations they will take during the year whether traveling to the Caribbean, to another continent, or staying at home listening to music.  Try to get your staff excited about better days (and better weather!) to come.  Everyone likes to dream about the days when the dark and snow don’t engulf their lives.  Get their minds, if not their bodies, into warmer environments!

Coffee!  It’s no secret that employees, whether in an office or manufacturing environment, love their coffee.  Also, coffee gets people motivated!  If you’ve still got that old coffee maker in the break room, buy your employees a Keurig machine (or a comparable one-cup maker) to get some excitement brewing. Host coffee swaps in the break room every week or two.  Those who don’t drink coffee can brew tea or make hot chocolate with a one-cup maker.

Clean your work area!  There’s a belief that employee performance improves when they keep their work area clean and organized.  Have a contest to see who can create the most improved work environment.  Then have employees vote for their favorite and give away a nominal prize to the winner.  Employees that are already neat and organized can team up with others to help them in their quest for the most-improved work station.

Make them aware of local classes!  Have a representative from a local community college visit to talk about class offerings.  Your employees may discover a new hobby, opt to start/finish a degree, or learn a new craft.  Instead of going home, getting into their pajamas and sinking further into the blues, motivate them to enroll in a class to keep them busy through the winter.

We all suffer through winter every year, and we all come out winners.  It’s the rough road in between that can get us down.  Hopefully some of these ideas will help you shake things up at your workplace.

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Frank Lewandowski, Partnership Manager

Resolve to improve productivity in the new year with 5 simple strategies

Now is the time of the year where every website, magazine or television show has their annual take on resolutions for the New Year.  BCN Services has compiled its own list from various sources around the web and what has worked for us, as well.

The key to successful resolutions is threefold: having a plan, reviewing the plan and making necessary adjustments to the plan throughout the year.  The suggestions listed below are simple and cost-effective things to implement and, hopefully, will have a positive impact on your business success in the new year.

  1. Plan out each day.  There is an ongoing debate in business coaching about whether it is better to plan your day the night before or first thing in the morning.  Either way, the important thing is to make a plan.  A great way to get started is to identify the top five things that will make the day a success and outline when and what needs to be accomplished.  Another key tip, is to be specific.  Research shows that the more specific you are with plans and goals the more often you will them.
  2. Get control of your email.  We hear complaints about managing email from clients all the time.  Everyone has increased access to email, texting, and data in general with the proliferation of smartphones, and tablets. Several studies have shown people who schedule email management time with beginning and end times are more productive and less stressed than those who reach for their email constantly or whenever they hear an email notification.  Another great tip: Code your emails based on urgency, action needed and/or if others needs to be involved.
  3. Meeting management.   Employees everywhere complain about too many meetings, nonproductive meetings and meetings that last too long.  Here are some tips to alleviate meeting madness:
    • Always have an agenda and distribute it ahead of time.
    • Set a specific time limit and stick to it.  Several Fortune 1000 companies have started limiting meetings to 15 minutes.
    • A more radical idea that has become popular is to only have meetings where everyone stands to energize and shorten meetings.  Research has shown that this keeps employees focused and on point.
  4. Motivate employees.  A motivated workforce can move mountains and improve overall morale.  Employees are more motivated when they have clear goals, when collaboration is welcome and when they are not micromanaged.  Work with employees to set clear goals they understand and allow them to have a say in the goal, why it is important and plan for rewards or consequences goal if a goal is not achieved.
  5. Recharge.  Americans waste more vacation and paid time off than any other country.  Everyone, including owners, managers and employees need to time to recharge their batteries, sharpen the saw and reflect.  Encourage employees to take time and make sure that you do as well.

All of us at BCN Services wish you and your staff a safe and successful new year!

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The Magic of Christmas is an inspiration for us all

I am truly humbled.

For 22 years, I’ve been in the people business. I am privileged to serve great business people. They work with our company to effectively support manage their most important asset:  Their people.

Magic of Christmas

How do we do it?

Modern-day cloud software, professional expertise, and processes and efficiencies all help, but our most important tool is the people of BCN Services who are well-trained and certified and are  specialists in human resources, benefits, payroll, risk management, accounting and technology integration.

Day in and day out, our clients and their employees need our BCN specialists to go to the wall for them — and they do — which is what makes BCN so different.

A special volunteer brings magic to Christmas

A couple of years back, I attended a charity golf outing and was introduced to Debbie Williams-Hoak, who works throughout the year to provide for children in our local communities who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas.

Her program is called “The Magic of Christmas” and it works like this: Families list the clothing they need and the toys they want.  Donors shop, buy and wrap each child’s gifts.  Local law enforcement officers become Santa Claus and deliver the gifts. This gift-giving and bond-building encourages trust by engaging the community’s children in a positive way.

I introduced Debbie to my staff last Christmas.  They responded generously with both their time and gifts.

BCN staff gives from the heart

This year, I brought Debbie back to retell her story because we have added a few new members to our team. My staff responded again by more than doubling their donations and we collectively provided a Christmas for 30 children in need in our community!

So this week’s blog is about my friend Debbie and the amazing people of BCN, and how they make a difference.  I am honored by all that you do. Thank you!

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Andrew C. Hans, President and CEO

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

 

Can sunshine hurt employee productivity??

With summer in full swing, the kids are out of school and our daylight hours are longer, employees should be able to get more done, yes?  School schedules aren’t in the way, there’s more time to do things after work in daylight, and we are getting more exercise.

But employees are also taking more vacation time which can hinder productivity.  Replicon, a software company which focuses on time and expense, noted that more than 52 percent of employees will take a vacation during June and August.  This can potentially hurt productivity, especially if you are a small business or a company with specialized skills.

So how does an employer keep productivity up during summer?  Below are some tips to consider:

  1. Friendly competition ­­ Consider having contests that challenge and reward employees and at the same time increase productivity.  See who can complete the most tasks in a given week or day then reward the winner(s) with a prize such as tickets to an event or an extra hour at lunch.
  2. Fun Fridays  ­­Here at BCN Services, we celebrate Fridays during the summer months with recognizing a current event or “holiday” such as National Ice Cream day where we have ice cream sundaes served in the break room or take 20 minutes and play a “minute to win it” challenge with a prize for the winning team or person.  Sometimes a break from the daily grind can help an employee refocus and actually produce more.
  3. Recognize hard work­­  If you notice an employee going the extra mile or completing a task before its deadline, reward them with a Starbucks gift card, or buy their lunch one day.  This not only encourages this hard work but will motivate other employees to step up their game as well.  This can do wonders for employee morale.
  4. Share vacation pictures  Put up a board in an area or create an internal web page where people can share photos from their vacations.  This encourages employees to communicate with each other and can boost attitudes and keep people engaged.

While these ideas seem basic enough, sometimes you just have to take the first step and implement ideas like those suggested above.  If you would like help in creating an environment in your office that promotes more productivity and better morale, please contact us and we will be happy to assist.

Enjoy your summer and BE Productive!

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Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager