Tips for keeping employees motivated, engaged and productive.

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.



Jeff Walsh (200x190)

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

Amanda Cline (200x184)

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.




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.



Kate Douglass (200x174)

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.


Jeff Walsh (200x190)

Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager

Learn symptoms of heat illness and how to treat or avoid it

When the temperature rises, your body and car have a lot in common: If you push either one too hard, they can overheat! This safety edition of the BCN HR Blog discusses how you can avoid heat illness, recognize its symptoms, and how to treat it whether on the job, working in the yard, or even relaxing by a pool or lake:

Follow the suggestions below and learn how to stay cool in hot weather:

  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing and a hat.
  • Adapt to hot conditions gradually and avoid overexerting yourself during peak temperature periods.
  • Drink water frequently—at least eight ounces every 20 to 30 minutes. Stay away from liquids containing caffeine; they tend to increase urination, which causes rapid depletion of body liquids.

The signs and symptoms of heat illness

Watch out for these signs:

  • Heat Cramps – severe muscle spasms in the back, stomach, arms, and legs, which are attributed to the loss of body salt and water during periods of heavy perspiration.
  • Heat Exhaustion – heavy sweating, cool or pale skin, nausea, headache, weakness, vomiting, and fast pulse.
  • Heat Stroke – high body temperature, no sweating, red and often dry skin, rapid breathing and pulse, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, confusion, or unconsciousness.

First-aid suggestions for employees

Treating heat illness as soon as possible is very important. Follow these suggestions:

  • Heat Cramps – move to a cooler area and allow the person to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
  • Heat Exhaustion – move  to a cooler area and keep the person lying down with their legs slightly elevated. Cool their body by fanning and applying cool, wet towels, and allow a conscious victim to drink approximately six ounces of water every 15 minutes. Follow up with a medical examination.
  • Heat Stroke – instruct a bystander (if present) to call an ambulance. Meanwhile, move the person to a cooler area, remove outer clothing, immersing the person in cool water or apply cool, wet towels or cloths to the body. Do NOT give liquid, and treat for shock until professional help arrives. Heat stroke is life-threatening, so move fast!

Safety Reminder for all

The risk of heat illness increases with age, poor diet, being overweight, insufficient liquid intake, poor physical condition, and/or when taking medication. Never take salt tablets without your doctor’s approval.

Do you need help or safety materials for your workplace? Contact us for assistance.


Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager

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

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

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

Advantages: Productivity and job satisfaction

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

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

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

Disadvantages: Problems in team-centered offices

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

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

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

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

Weigh risks and rewards for telecommuting

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

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

BCN 25-year logo

Health and safety Tips for Baby Boomers in the Workplace

Some basics about Baby Boomers in today’s workplace:

Q:  What’s a Baby Boomer?

A:  A person born between 1946 and 1964.

Q:  What percentage of Boomers make up the American work force?

A:  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it will soon be about 25 percent and that will continue to grow through 2020.  Boomers can expect to be working 4-5 years longer than their parents.

Q:  What advantages do Boomers bring to the work environment when it comes to risk?

A:  According to the National Research Council, they:

  • Are safer, having fewer work-related lost-time injuries that younger workers.
  • Have significantly lower incidences of short-term disability claims.

That said, Baby Boomers do bring some risk to the work environment that employers should be aware of.  Knowing what these risks are can help control business costs.  Improving health and safety initiatives will reduce claims.

Older workers (age 35 and above) are more susceptible to rotator cuff and knee injuries than younger workers as a result of lifting, carrying, slipping and falling.  To minimize these risks, common strategies could include: increased lighting, installing skid-resistant matting for floors, rugs and stair treads.  Whenever possible rotating light-duty tasks for manual-labor jobs helps to reduce fatigue, a leading cause of accidents.

The next time you need to “re-arrange the furniture” consider placing popular items and stock on shelves designed to minimize bending and reaching.

Instead of those two 15-minute breaks, what about three 10-minute breaks?  More frequent rest breaks help sustain employees in more physically demanding work, according to studies performed by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) Holdings, Inc.

Make sure there’s a good match between each worker’s capabilities and job demands.  Another study by NCCI Holdings shows that job rotation or job accommodation, particularly in more physically demanding work, minimizes accidents and injuries. It is best to do this before a disability has occurred.

As we age, our vision may slip a bit.  Poor vision can also lead to accidents.  What to do?  In addition to providing adequate lighting, promote eye screenings.  And when purchasing sings, consider text size and color contrast.

Certain health risk factors such as smoking, obesity and lack of sleep have a strong correlation with injury rates at work and home, contributing to longer return-to-work times.  Include components in your wellness programs that address these concerns to improve your bottom line.

Whether a Boomer, Millennial, Gen X or the up-and-coming Gen Z, everyone will benefit from health and safety efforts to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents and injuries at work and at home.

If you need help with this topic or other employment matters, call BCN at 1-800-891-9911 or visit us here.  Let BCN handle that!


Patrick Boeheim, Risk Manager