Tips for keeping employees motivated, engaged and productive.

Take steps to curtail workplace gossip and the problems it causes

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

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

The dangers of workplace gossip

Some negative consequences of workplace gossip include:

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

How and when do you manage workplace gossip?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Lisandra Quinones, Human Resource Administrator

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

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

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

What was their path to success?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each employer should find its own values

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

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

 

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Wendy Allen, Marketing Manager

Walking the talk: The benefit of engaging your employees

Getting employees to feel connected and enthusiastic about their job is vital to the productivity of any organization.  The most important thing you can do as manager is to walk the talk.  How you behave says more about the truth of the company than what you say.

Engagement should begin at the interview process.  Emphasize how the company conducts business and why it matters. This helps interviewees understand what they are getting into if they are offered a position, or allow them to decide if the company’s culture is not a good fit.

When joining a company, employees should arrive with expectations that match the company’s and be able to engage in the company culture immediately.

Prospective employees will spot non-verbal cues

No matter what a manager says during the recruitment process, the interviewee will notice if there are non-verbal cues that don’t match up.  For example, if the culture is informal and collaborative, make sure the recruitment process reflects that.  Does your recruitment strategy reflect the kind of person the organization wants to attract?

If you are recruiting for an office position, make sure an office tour is part of the interview process.  This gives applicants the opportunity to experience the environment and the way in which workers interact with each other.  Additionally, create opportunities for candidates to speak with employees as well as managers so they can see for themselves your company is a great place to work.

Make sure you welcome them!  Think about what happens when you meet new people.  The experience of being introduced into a tight-knit group can be alienating.  The close bond and inside jokes can make you feel excluded.

An engaging workplace will help new staffers settle in

The same can happen within your organization.  The more engaging your workplace is, the more satisfying it will be for all employees.  New employees are more likely to feel left out, so be sure you help them settle in, join social outings and help them learn the culture as well as the practicalities of your company.

Make sure you personalize things and make connections.  Go to lunch.  Find out what matters to the employee and use that information to tailor how you manage and reward your employee.

Engagement can shift with workload, season and time of day, so don’t assume the way you managed and rewarded an employee when they start will work a year or two later.  Stay engaged with the process, and constantly looking for ways to update your approach.

Engaging employees can be time consuming.  As a manager, you will need to find the right balance.  What you will get back will be productive positive employee who sticks with you.

Also, an engaged employee is the most successful tool to retention and recruitment.  Employees who are fully engaged in your business are likely to work harder and to act as ambassadors for you.  This will become vital as the economy picks up.

Source:   SHRM.org

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Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager

Investigating troublesome behaviors and considering the options

When managers call the BCN Human Resources Customer Service Center asking for help with an employee exhibiting troublesome behavior, most want the same thing: To be rid of the problem.

Each situation is different. Our representatives must ask many questions in order to assess and make a plan to either terminate the employee, or rehabilitate the employee. If an employee is exhibiting behavior that is truly troubling, termination may be the only responsible course of action.

When seeking helps as to whether termination is appropriate or not, be prepared to share the following information:

  • Has the employee been placed on suspension pending an investigation?
  • What is the most recent incident that led you to seek assistance in handling the problem?
  • What previous disciplinary action has this employee received?
  • When was the onset of the troubling behavior?
  • Were any other employees involved?
  • Did any employees witness specific behavior(s)? Can you provide us with their contact information?
  • Is there any surveillance footage or other documentation that will help us assess the situation?

When appropriate, our Human Resources Department will begin an investigation to determine what action is appropriate for a positive outcome. Our Human Resources Department will work with you to ensure that the appropriate response to troublesome behavior is handled in a timely, efficiently and legally appropriate manner.

To reach BCN’s Human Resources Customer Service Center, call (800) 891-9911 ext. 4, or email us at hr@www.bcnservices.com.

 

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Kate Douglass, Senior HR Generalist

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

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

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

Take care your policies don’t lead to harassment claims

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

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

An effective office romance policy should include the following guidelines:

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

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

Consider consensual contracts

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

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

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

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

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Lisandra Quinones, Human Resources Administrator

Document employee performance issues to avoid problems down the road

Employee performance issue can create multiple problems if managers don’t document the problem.

A recent court case in Northern Iowa shows, once more, the importance of addressing and documenting performance issues with employees. In this case the defendant was Eric Holder Jr., the Attorney General of the United States.

The case revolved around an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Iowa. This Assistant U.S. Attorney sent a memo suggesting that her supervisor, the U.S. Attorney in the office, made statements that might be discriminatory relating to age discrimination and that were hostile to workers in the office over the age of 40.

The 53-year-old employee complained that after sending the memo she was subjected to surveillance, her work was scrutinized, she was reprimanded, threated with suspensions and was subject to a proposed involuntary transfer to an office 250 miles away. Her employment was eventually terminated and filed an age discrimination lawsuit as a result.

The U.S District Court reviewed the employee’s complaint and found that her performance issues might have been sufficient to support termination, but because of lack of action by the supervisor, there was a question as to whether the reasons for discipline or termination were a pretext to these actions. The court allowed the case to go to trial.

While this case may ultimately end up in the favor of the employer, the problem here is that the poor performance of the employee was not previously addressed. If the court agreed that her performance was weak enough to support termination, the employer could, and should have, dealt with those issues long ago and either helped the employee to improve her performance or disciplined and terminated her.

Failure to promptly address and document performance issues ultimately allowed this age discrimination claim to be filed and moved forward through the courts. The defense costs, inconvenience to the management team and potential for damages should be a good wake-up call to all business owners.

The costs of poor performance, both operational and financial, along with potential issues as seen in this case, far outweigh the time and effort to address performance issues promptly and effectively.

If you have an employee that is not performing to your expectations, contact BCN Service’s HR department to discuss the best way(s) to address the issue. Actions could include coaching, performance improvement plans (PIP’s), discipline or other options specific to the situation.

 

 

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Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager

Supporting a work-life balance is good for employees and the company

Balancing the responsibilities of work and home is an ongoing battle for most employees who  are busier than ever and trying to coordinate work and personal schedules can be a struggle.  Employees will respect an employer that allows more flexibility in dealing  with the everyday demands of life. An organization that supports a healthy work-life balance can benefit not only the employee, but the employer as well.

Many professionals identify work-life balance as a top contributor to their job satisfaction. Supporting employees in their efforts to achieve this balance will help to boost productivity and loyalty. Allowing more flexible work schedules can result in employees that are more engaged and motivated. This allows employees more time to address personal life matters outside of work so they are not preoccupied during work.

Work-life balance helps reduce staff turnover

Achieving a work-life balance for employees can also help reduce turnover.  According to a recent survey by Hay Group, 17 percent of employees in organizations that support work-life balance plan to leave their jobs within the next 2 years, compared with 27 percent of employees in organizations where work-life balance is not supported.  The survey also found that supporting a work-life balance also increases the employer’s ability to recruit top talent and there is greater satisfaction with compensation.

Mangers can use the following tips to help achieve a work-life balance that will result in a more productive and efficient staff:

  1. Be flexible. If practical, allow alternative work arrangements such as modified schedules or job sharing.
  2. Offer paid time off (PTO) in lieu of sick days and vacation. Let the employee decide why, how and when they want to use their paid days off.  Also, only allow limited carry-over of PTO to encourage employees to actually use it.
  3. Reduce employees’ need to commute. Can an employee’s job be performed just as well at home? If so, allow them the option to do so.
  4. Be a model for the balance. If a manager is responding to email while on vacation it sends a message to the employee that they’re expected to do the same.
  5. Avoid contacting employees outside of work hours. Respect their personal time and only reach out to them if it’s crucial.
  6. Encourage employees to seek help when they feel overwhelmed. Bring in outside help if necessary.

Reach out to your employees and Identify ways that can help them achieve the balance of work and life.  If you need additional help with employee matters or tips for creating policies in your business, contact BCN Services at 1-800 891-9911 or visit us at www.www.bcnservices.comhr@www.bcnservices.com.

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Amanda Cline, HR Generalist

Allowing emotions at work may lead to better decisions

Today, employers spend a lot of time and money training employees to make better decisions.  Generally employees are taught to be more rational and less emotional.

Recent research by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) questions this type of training style and shows how certain moods or emotional states can actually lead to more accurate and effective decisions.

Researchers found evidence that when people were emotionally uncertain, they felt positive and negative simultaneously.  Their emotional state was conflicted, making them more open to considering conflicting information, which can be critical to making good decisions.   For example, think of your dependent child leaving home to attend college.  You are excited about their future; however, you may feel nervous about them leaving home.  That is simultaneously feeling positive and negative.

Subjects were asked to write about a life experience or watch a movie.  Researchers recorded the participants’ accuracy in making predictions and forecasts.  Those who showed mixed emotions in the study were consistently more accurate.

Today’s business leaders can discard the idea that employees should be emotionless.  Resist the urge to try and alter the moods and emotions of employees and teams when you need them to make important decisions.

Allowing employees to take the natural course with their emotions will increase the chance that people will not be solidly positive or negative, but make good, solid decisions.

 

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Debbie Strahle, Partnership Manager

Managers: Be prepared when handling employee demotions

Demotions may be proposed for a number of different reasons, including poor employee performance, disciplinary actions, position elimination or organizational restructuring, and even, at times, an employee-desired reduction in responsibility.

Demotions for simple performance-related issues may be both the easiest and most challenging to deal with. If the employee is a long-term employee who was successful in his or her previous role and simply lacked the skill set to be successful in the new position, returning the employee to the previous role may seem logical. However, this choice may face challenges such as:

  • The previous position may have been filled, or the position may have been eliminated,
  • A demotion in most circumstances will result in a pay reduction, which may be difficult depending on the length of time in the previous role,
  • If the position had supervisory responsibilities, complications may arise when the employee is back among those he or she previously managed.

Demotions that occur due to misconduct, issues of ethics or other disciplinary matters can be risky to the company. A demotion is not likely to correct the problem, and it could send the wrong message to other employees that the employer does not take misconduct seriously. If you are having difficulties determining the best course of action to take in a particular situation, please call BCN’s Human Resources Department for expert advice.

When a demotion is appropriate, following these steps can help make the discussion and the transition smoother and less disruptive:

1. Be respectful of the employee, keeping in mind that the organization is taking this step because of the desire to retain the employee and the expectation that he or she will be successful.

2. Clearly and honestly communicate the performance-related reasons for the demotion or the reasons why the organization is taking this action as opposed to termination. This second point could be instrumental in helping the employee respond positively to the transition.

3. Clearly outline the new position and the transition plan (e.g., last date in the old role, first day in the new role, to whom the employee will report). If a pay reduction will occur, do not avoid this point. Address it in a straightforward manner.

4. Be ready to respond to questions and requests such as:

  • “Can I have a little more time in the position to improve?”
  • “Can I move to a different position/department/location?”
  • “Can I have a few days to think about it?”
  • “What if I don’t want to take the position?”

5. Be prepared should the employee have a very emotional and perhaps negative response.

6. If the employee is accepting of the demotion, you may want to use this meeting to work out a communication plan answering who will be told, when the demotion will be communicated and what information will be shared. Ensuring that the employee retains his or her dignity through the process will increase the likelihood of a smooth and successful transition.

In the end, demotions that occur within the right circumstances can provide an employer with the opportunity to retain a valuable employee while allowing the person to be successful in a new role that better fits the knowledge, skills or abilities he or she has.

Effectively managing the risks and preparing for all contingencies can result in a win for both employee and employer.

BCN Services has the professional team to help you make the tough decisions about restructuring or changing roles in your organization.  Call us to discuss your individual situation.

 

 

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Kate Douglass, Senior Human Resource Generalist

Take steps to engage your workplace team and boost their performance

A recent Gallup poll on the “State of the American Workplace” indicates that employees are increasingly stating that they are not engaged in their work.

What exactly is employee engagement? It is defined as: “A heightened emotional and intellectual connection that an employee has for his/her job, organization, manager, or coworkers that, in turn, influences him/her to apply additional discretionary effort to his/her work.”

At BCN we hear from business owners that their biggest concern is related to their employees. Are you working with your team to engage your employees? Are you getting the level of productivity you want and, more importantly, need?

“Leaders get paid for achieving results or getting things done through the combined effort of their team,” said human resources consultant Chris Ruisi in a recent article. Ruisi is an executive coach and author of “Step Up and Play Big.”

“Unfortunately, you cannot will or order improved team performance,” he said. “Yet, some would-be leaders think that they can because of their title, size, or office location. To boost your team’s performance requires work, and sometimes it’s hard and frustrating work. It becomes easier when you have a plan or path to follow.”

Ruisi’s five steps will help you get on the path to boost your team’s performance:

  1. Always set a minimum level of performance and refuse to accept anything below it. Make certain everyone knows and understands what this minimum is, and set expectations and hold people accountable to meet them. This can be a positive and motivating experience for your team if you do it right. People on your team, really  want some structure, and want to be led and not managed. Setting expectations and accountability standards allows you to do just that–lead.
  2. Invest the time needed to train your team properly so that they have a clear understanding of what needs to be done, how it needs to be done, when it needs to be done, and why it needs to be done. When people understand the “why” of their role and how it fits in, it gives them a sense of purpose. When people have a clear sense of purpose, they perform at a higher level on a more consistent basis. Make sure that your training includes educating your team on the standards for being proficient in their job.
  3. Make certain that your team understand the consequences of their performance when they meet or exceed your expectations, as well as when performance falls below your standards. This will also help them understand the “why” better.
  4. Recognize good performance as soon as possible after it occurs. We spend too much time pointing out errors and mistakes. While corrections need to be made, spend the same amount of time acknowledging a job well done.  When you do this, you are encouraging the team member to do the right thing again. Why? We all like positive reinforcement and recognition.
  5. Spend the time getting to know each of your team members and listen to both their concerns and suggestions. This will again demonstrate to them who you are and how you lead—adding to the level of trust. It’s important that you be sincere and genuine in this effort. If you just go through the motions, people will see through it and lose trust in you. Without the trust of your team, you cannot be an effective leader.”

To review Ruisi’s 5 steps let’s identify some things you can do to strengthen your team through a collaborative effort with BCN Service (BCN suggestions are in bold font):

  • “Set minimum levels of performance and refuse to accept anything below it…” – Contact your partnership manager to discuss developing job descriptions and performance reviews to help establish minimum levels of performance.
  • “Invest the time needed to to train your team properly…” Review with the BCN HR department the BCN Learning Management System (LMS) online training courses to strengthen your management team’s skill sets and capabilities.
  • “Make certain your team understands the consequences of their performance…” This is an area where BCN can assist you in developing and executing performance reviews. We can assist in both managerial reviews and training your managers to do reviews of their team members.
  • “Recognize good performance as soon as possible after it occurs…” This should be a goal for every management level. BCN’s LMS online training modules can help you train your managers develop this culture.
  • “Spend time getting to know each of your team members…” Some things only you can do, but as your business partner, BCN’s experts will share our observations of, and experiences with, your staff. It may be helpful for you to get an outside perspective.

BCN has many resources that can assist you in developing your leadership team and creating opportunities for improving your staff’s productivity. There is no simple plan to automatically accomplish this;  it will be a process for improvement for long-term gains.

Contact your partnership manager at BCN’s Human Resource Department at 1-800-891-9911 to discuss coaching and training opportunities, visit our Contact Us page.  We’re here to help you.

 

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Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager