The HR tech disconnect: Are there too many digital tools?

Eighty-seven percent of HR professionals reported that having tools that integrate with existing technology is key, according to a new survey of more than 500 HR employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


Investing in new technology that combines with current systems looks to be a priority for HR departments.

That’s according to a new survey of more than 500 HR employees from Reward Gateway, which found that 87% of HR professionals say having tools that integrate into their existing technology is key.

That priority is likely due to the fact that HR technology is siloed, the employee engagement technology company found. Many employers use separate platforms for tasks relating to employee communication, recognition, applicant tracking, onboarding and performance management.

More than a fifth of companies use 10 or more different systems and applications at work, and roughly 60% are using more than five systems every day. In addition, HR professionals spent 512 hours a year, nearly two hours a day, manually checking, responding to and keeping up with multiple HR applications, Reward Gateway says.

“Many companies have systems-of-record in place with up-to-date details on their employees,” says Will Tracz, chief technology officer at Reward Gateway. “Creating and maintaining data in other systems, outside of this, often takes time and is prone to error, particularly in fast-moving businesses.”

The new survey echoes similar findings, which indicate that while employers may be increasingly using HR tech, they may not be doing so efficiently. For instance, research from the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants found that HR departments could be dropping the ball when it comes to using HR technology.

Karen Greenbaum, president and CEO of AESC told Employee Benefit News in November that total digital transformation is about more than just implementing new tech in the office.

“It’s not just, ‘Do they understand what artificial intelligence means,’ or what augmented reality means,” she says. “[It’s] ‘Do you really have an organization that can adapt to a new world?’”

Still, HR leaders are turning to tech solutions. Data from global talent acquisition and management firm Randstad Sourceright found that HR departments are going on a tech “buying spree.” The vast majority (92%) of those in the Randstad survey of more than 800 C-suite and HR leaders and 1,700 professionals believe that technology enhances the attraction, engagement and retention of talent.

Reward Gateway received similar responses. HR teams are hoping new tech will not only integrate with existing systems, but also help them achieve their goals, which include higher employee engagement, increased productivity and attracting talent.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (29 March 2019) "The HR tech disconnect: Are there too many digital tools?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/hr-tech-disconnect-are-there-too-many-digital-tools?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


7 ways employers can support employee caregivers

Research from Harvard Business School revealed that 73 percent of employees in the United States act as caregivers for a child, parent or friend. Read this blog post from Employee Benefit News for seven ways employers can support employee caregivers.


The number of caregiving adults in the U.S. has reached a tipping point.

As the baby boomer generation gets older, an increasing number of people in the workforce are taking on the role of unpaid caregiver for a family member or friend. Many also are in the midst of raising their own children, which means they’re pulled in many different directions, trying to keep up with work commitments and family responsibilities. In fact, according to researchers at Harvard Business School, 73% of employees in the U.S. are caring for a child, parent or friend.

What do all these statistics point to? They mean that employers have an opportunity to play a role in helping employees balance these often competing priorities.

The Harvard study highlights the impact of employee caregiving responsibilities on the workplace. While only 24% of employers surveyed believed employee caregiving influenced their employees’ performance at work, 80% of the employees who were surveyed admitted that caregiving had an effect on their productivity at work and interfered with their ability to do their best work.

The survey also found that caregiving can affect employee retention, with 32% of the employees surveyed saying they had left a job because of their caregiving responsibilities. In addition, employees who are caregivers are more likely to miss work, arrive late or leave early, which affects not only productivity, but also the employees’ ability to progress in their careers.

Employers can take a proactive role in supporting employees who are caregivers. That support, in turn, can have a positive effect on productivity, morale and employee retention. Here are seven strategies employers should consider.

Create an organization-wide understanding of the challenges caregivers face.

Employees who aren’t sure that their managers and leaders would understand the juggling they’re doing and the stresses they face are more likely to not only have problems at work, but — because they face high stress levels trying to get everything done at home and work — they also are at higher risk for a number of health problems such as depression and heart disease. By creating a culture that allows employees to openly express their challenges and ask for support, employers can not only keep employees healthy and productive, they also can reduce secondary costs associated with decreased productivity and chronic health problems.

Know what challenges employees face.

Regular employee surveys can help employers assess employees’ needs in terms of caregiving and tailor the benefits the organization offers to help meet those needs.

Communicate the benefits that are available.

In many cases, employers already offer programs and benefits that can help employees who are caregivers such as an employee assistance program and referral services for finding caregivers who can help when the employee isn’t able to. However, many employees aren’t aware these programs are available, so it’s important to continuously share information about them in company newsletters, emails and at meetings.

Consider flex time and remote work options.

Depending on the employees’ work responsibilities, employers can offer flexible work arrangements that allow employees to work different hours or to telecommute for a certain number of days per week.

Change the approach to paid time off.

Rather than dividing paid time off into vacation days, sick days and personal days, consider grouping all time off into one category. That allows employees to take time off for caregiving as needed. A growing number of companies, including Adobe, Deloitte, Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Coca-Cola, are also offering paid family leave benefits so that employees can take time off to provide care.

Connect employees with resources.

Beyond an EAP and referral services, employers can offer programs that connect caregivers with resources for both their caregiving role and for the self-care they need to remain healthy and able to handle both job and caregiving roles better. Those resources can include:

Beyond an EAP and referral services, employers can offer programs that connect caregivers with resources for both their caregiving role and for the self-care they need to remain healthy and able to handle both job and caregiving roles better. Those resources can include:

  • Advisory services that help employees connect with healthcare providers for their parents, children and themselves
  • Nurse managers, case managers and geriatric care managers who can help employees who are managing the care of a family member who’s living with a serious health condition or disability
  • Advocates who can help employees who are dealing with complex insurance claims for the person they care for, planning for long-term care, or managing the legal and financial complexities that can arise when a parent or spouse dies

Internal caregiver resources groups that bring together employees who are dealing with the issues surrounding caregiving so that they can share ideas and experiences

Measure how well your support is working.

The first step to supporting caregivers in the workforce is to implement policies, programs and benefits that offer them the tools they need to balance work and caregiving. An equally important second step is to regularly review what is offered, how much the offerings are used, and by which employees. Ask employees for feedback on how effectively what the organization provides is in helping them with issues they face as working caregivers and solicit ideas for new approaches and tools they’d like to have.

SOURCE: Varn, M. (25 March 2019) "7 ways employers can support employee caregivers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/7-ways-employers-can-support-employee-caregivers


Making the Case for Pay Transparency

Are you making the case for increasing pay transparency? Pay transparency is a strategic move that delivers measurable business benefits, according to this article from SHRM. Continue reading to learn more.


Recommending to senior leadership that your organization increase pay transparency can be a difficult sell for HR professionals. However, pay transparency is a strategic move that delivers measurable business benefits – and it’s an issue on which HR should lead.

It is important to understand that most executives in America today rose through organizational ranks that viewed compensation as a private matter. Few within organizations had access to salary information, and even fewer talked about it. As a result, many leaders still believe it is appropriate to dissuade or prohibit employees from discussing their own compensation with other employees.

Yet we now understand these outdated cultural norms have contributed to the wage gap for women and minorities, among other negative outcomes. Pay transparency can help close those gaps and produce benefits for both employers and employees.

For example, providing employees with pay ranges for their current position and those positions in their career path sets realistic expectations. This is crucial, as many employees hold unrealistic expectations based on internet salary searches for job titles that often do not account for or accurately reflect important factors such as experience level, geography, company size, actual tasks and responsibilities, or other types of compensation. These unrealistic salary expectations create serious challenges, including employee disengagement, low morale and retention problems.

Clearly communicating your company’s pay ranges facilitates an open dialogue about how those ranges are set, when and why they change, and how employees can move up within them. These discussions in turn increase mutual trust and engagement and foster productive compensation communication — all of which help retain employees, which is especially important in today’s tight labor market.

Increasing pay transparency also helps businesses attract and retain a more diverse workforce, which numerous studies have demonstrated translates into better business results. Sharing compensation data advances this effort by ensuring women and minorities have a clearer picture of the going rate for their skill sets, education, experience and performance. While many factors contribute to pay gaps, women and minority groups may have accepted lower compensation in the past because they could not access the information necessary to determine what they should be making based on what they bring to the table.

While recommending greater pay transparency to senior leadership in your organization may seem daunting, it is an important discussion to have and a compelling case for HR professionals to make. In a highly competitive labor market, businesses that make the right strategic move of increasing pay transparency will ultimately attract and retain the best talent and come out ahead of those that do not.

SOURCE: Ponder, L. (4 April 2019) "Making the Case for Pay Transparency" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/making-the-case-for-pay-transparency-0


The future is freelancing

Are you hiring freelance workers? In the past, freelance work was an option for workers who were between jobs but today, it's shifting into a lifestyle choice. Continue reading this blog post from UBA to learn more about freelancing.


The freelance revolution is here, and it’s here to stay. In the past, freelancing was an option for workers between jobs with the likely goal eventually getting back into a full-time position. Today, it’s shifted into a lifestyle choice individuals make for a host of reasons, and something they may do for the long-term. Some research points to more than half of all workers identifying as part of the contingent economy, with those numbers trending upward.

Freelance includes the gig economy, jobs like driving for Uber, but it also includes a growing number of highly qualified people who provide needed services to businesses. Forbes points to these individuals as possessing expert skills and talents that are in high demand, especially in today’s tight labor market. While these services may sometimes fill a temporary seasonal surge, more and more business are looking at building long-term relationships with freelancers who serve as integral and trusted member of in-house teams.

Before you need this specific kind of talent is the best time to assess if you are ready to work with today’s population of freelancers. Your HR and legal departments can proactively create contracts, processes and systems that make a freelance relationship one that benefits everyone and operates smoothly.

Get your tools straight. HR Technologist recommends adjusting tools beyond just considering payroll. This may mean new solutions and apps for workforce management, time tracking, and even looking toward freelance hiring apps. Staying current with available technology for both hiring and managing will help companies compete for and keep top freelance talent.

Kick off smart. Helping freelancers succeed certainly starts with on-boarding them successfully, according to Entrepreneur. It’s essential to help a freelancer understand both the culture of your company and the context of a project. Giving a freelancer a dump of information is better than nothing, but smart transfer of applicable knowledge critical. What is the goal of the project? What resources are at their disposal? Which people are their main points of contact?

Set expectations about communications. It’s essential to not just discuss how often a freelancer should check in, but to also delineate what format is most acceptable. Knowing if an in-person meeting, phone call, or email update is sufficient helps keep everyone on track. With an ever-growing remote workforce, consider the benefit of the occasional face-to-face meeting, even for freelancers.

Talk to the internal team. Buy-in from your in-house employees is essential to helping a freelancer succeed. There may be anxiety that the freelancer is competing for their job or being brought in because of a perceived skill deficit. Help your employees feel like a resource and see the freelancer as a valuable addition to the team.

Include them. While a freelancer brought in on one short project may not make the office holiday party list, work to integrate freelancers into company life in ways that make sense. If you’re hosting a lunch-and-learn on a relevant topic, extend an invite. If the team is meeting up for lunch and the freelancer is in the same city, see if they are free. Don’t be offended if they opt out, and be sure to clarify if they should track this time as billable.

Provide feedback. This, of course, helps a freelancer improve their services for your organization. It also helps them improve as professionals. It’s also worth considering giving freelancers an opportunity to give you feedback, too. Their outside perspective may help you identify opportunities for improvement within your organization.

Offer support. Another idea is to keep a list of portable benefits, such as those described in Employee Benefit News, to help support your freelance team. Whether an individual is new to freelancing or not, access to an ongoing list of insurance options and other resources available to improve their quality of freelance life and work is something they’d definitely appreciate.

For busy HR professionals looking to fill full-time openings, the addition of navigating freelancers may seem to be another duty on an already long to-do list. Why bother investing in someone who won’t be a full-time addition? Forbes points out that freelancers are a way to fast track top, diverse talent and potentially save money on salary and benefits. With many new employees leaving in less than a year, investing in long-term freelancers may just be a smart long-term cost and effort-saving measure.

Plus, HR is the heart of talent management! As the most likely group to help a more traditional organization see the future of work, you help find a vision and path for incorporating freelancers into a company culture. Ensuring your company can successfully attract and integrate contingent workers into your workforce is likely to become a more and more essential skill for you, as well. Keep your freelance-related skills sharp in case you’re asked about it in your next interview

In a tight labor market, one where Forbes shows nearly half of global companies struggling to hire for full time roles, these freelancers are not only a smart option, but they are likely to have other options. If it’s not already happening in your industry, top freelance talent is likely to become a hot commodity in the same way top full-time job seekers have.

Consider, too, if things do change, your intentional efforts with a freelancer build a solid working relationship with someone who has insight and experience working with your company. Should these freelancers decide to shift to a full-time position, and you’re hiring? They’ll be more likely to opt in with your company if their past experience was positive. Set the stage now, and see what happens!

 

Read more:

7 Workforce Management Trends for 2019

Portable Benefits: Perks for the Gig Economy

Onboarding Freelancers Is Tough — Here's How to Do It Right the First Time

HR, Time to Embrace the Freelance Revolution: Your Career Depends on It

The Agile Talent Wave: The Contingent Workforce is Taking Over

SOURCE: Olson, B. (4 April 2019) "The future is freelancing" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/the-future-is-freelancing


OSHA Cornerstones - Second Quarter 2019

OSHA Signals Updates to Powered Industrial Truck Standards as It Requests Information From Employers

OSHA recently requested information on powered industrial trucks in the workplace, a sign that the agency will likely update its standards on these vehicles. Although the American National Standards Institute and the National Fire Protection Association updated their own standards last year, OSHA’s regulations have only been changed once since they were adopted in 1971.

Powered industrial trucks are one of the most frequently cited OSHA standards, with 2,294 violations in 2018. The agency’s current regulations don’t include language on common risk exposures, such as carbon monoxide buildup from engines, noise hazards and stopping distances on descending grades. And, although updates may require employers to implement new safety procedures, OSHA stated that a major goal is to remove regulatory burden while improving safety.

As a part of the request for information, OSHA specified that it wants data on these specific topics:

  • The types, age and usage of powered industrial trucks
  • Maintenance and retrofitting procedures for each type of powered industrial truck
  • Suggestions for regulating older vehicle models
  • The types of accidents and injuries associated with the use of these vehicles
  • The advantages and drawbacks of retrofitting machines with new safety features
  • Any relevant components of powered industrial truck safety programs

OSHA will accept public comments on powered industrial trucks until June 10. For more information, see the full notice on the Federal Register’s website.

Increased OSHA Penalties for 2019

Federal law requires OSHA to increase its maximum penalties every year to account for inflation. Here’s a list of the maximum penalties for 2019:

  • Other-than-serious violation: $13,260 per violation
  • Serious violation: $13,260 per violation
  • Failure to comply with posting requirements: $13,260 per violation
  • Failure to correct a violation: $13,260 per day until corrected
  • Repeated violation: $132,598 per violation
  • Willful violation: $132,598 per violation, and a minimum penalty of $9,472 per violation

OSHA Issues Final Rule to Roll Back Electronic Reporting Requirements After Concerns About Employee Privacy

Earlier this year, OSHA updated its electronic reporting rule after concerns that reports on workplace injuries and illnesses contain employees’ personal information. The agency also explained that under the original rule, it was possible for this information to be disclosed publicly through a Freedom of Information Act request or OSHA’s Injury Tracking Application.

The new final rule only requires certain establishments to submit data from OSHA Form 300A, and became effective on Feb. 25. Previously, establishments with 250 or more employees were also required to submit forms 300 and 301. While this requirement was removed before the March 2 deadline to submit data, OSHA stated that it’s likely that many employers automatically submitted data from all three forms, and using software to remove personal details won’t be 100 percent effective.

Some organizations believe the final rule will negatively affect workplace safety, and six states filed a lawsuit against OSHA in an attempt to reinstate the original electronic reporting requirements. However, others believe that the final rule still allows the agency to collect a summary of workplace injuries and illnesses without revealing potentially harmful personal information.

New and Updated OSHA Resources to Help Prevent Falls

Falls are one of the most common and dangerous injuries in the workplace, and OSHA recently released a number of resources to help employers stay aware of common fall hazards and train their workforces.

Here’s a summary of the new and updated resources:

For more resources on preventing falls at your organization, call 920-921-5921 today or visit www.hierl.com.

According to the National Employment Law Project, the Trump administration's focus on deregulation has caused OSHA enforcement activity to fall and fatality investigations to rise.

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The Building Blocks of a Safe Workplace

The Building Blocks of a Safe Workplace

Building a comprehensive safety culture is the best way to reduce illnesses and injuries, and their associated costs. But creating such a culture is not an overnight process or “flavor of the month” program. Instead, it is a multi-year, top management commitment that results in an organization with low accident rates, low turnover, low absenteeism and high productivity. This is a big-picture, long-term project.

A robust safety culture has the following characteristics:

  • At the highest organizational level, there is a well-articulated commitment to safety. This translates into organization-wide values, beliefs, and behavioral norms.
  • Employees’ base compensation ties directly to their commitment to the safety culture. This commitment is assessed in regular performance reviews.
  • Safety takes precedence over everything else, even production and efficiency. Employees who err on the side of safety should be rewarded, even if a later review suggests that the additional safety measures or concerns were unnecessary.
  • Communication about safety occurs across all levels of the organization in a consistently open, unedited, and honest manner. If problems or errors are identified, they are eagerly communicated, recorded, and analyzed without anyone being “persecuted.”
  • Unsafe acts—the main cause of accidents—are rare.
  • Employees continuously learn and identify opportunities for process improvements that will decrease the likelihood of an accident.

The following sections explore in more detail some of the key components of a successful safety culture.

Benchmarking

It is difficult to just guess the quality of your safety culture. Therefore, it is important to benchmark where you are now, both in subjective terms and in objective, analytical measurements. By combining an analytical tracking system with a periodic, subjective culture survey, you can better understand the impact your efforts to improve the safety culture are having over time.

Hiring to Avoid Workplace Injuries

Due to preexisting medical conditions or limitations, some potential job candidates may be more prone to workplace injury.

It is a common misconception that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents you from asking any medical questions during the hiring process. However, according to the Department of Labor, there are actually three stages of employment: pre-employment, post-offer, but pre-placement (after the conditional offer of employment) and finally, employment. During the first and third stages, it is true that you cannot ask any medical questions. However, during the second phase (after a conditional offer of employment is extended) you can ask the applicant to fill out a medical questionnaire and/or take a medical exam. If, in medical opinion, the applicant is unfit for the job, you can withdraw the offer. It’s that simple. To avoid hiring your next workers’ compensation claim, there are two key processes you need to implement.

A true safety culture requires continual support and impacts all parts of your organization’s operations—from hiring processes to training to daily reinforcement.

The Conditional Offer of Employment

The ADA says that employers cannot require a job applicant to provide medical information or undergo a medical exam until a conditional offer of employment is made. When a conditional offer is made you are essentially hiring the candidate. The only way an offer may be withdrawn prior to the effective date of employment is if, in medical opinion, the candidate will be unable to perform the job duties safely with reasonable accommodations.

The Medical Questionnaire/Exam

After you extend a conditional offer of employment, it is time to perform a medical screening of the candidate. If information emerges from the screening that indicates that the candidate will not be able to perform the job duties safely even with reasonable accommodations, then and only then can you withdraw the offer of employment.

Stay Out of Trouble with OSHA

OSHA most often shows up at your workplace in response to an employee complaint or serious accident. The best way to be prepared is to be in compliance. Not only does OSHA compliance help you avoid costly fines, it also ensures that safe work practices are being encouraged. Fortunately, some of the most common OSHA violations are also the easiest to address.

Postings

OSHA requires that employers display certain posters and notices in the workplace. Not all employers need to post every notice—some apply only to very specific industries or situations—but you need to know which notices you are required to post and do so.

Recordkeeping

OSHA also requires certain employers to track workplace injuries and illnesses, and report them periodically.

HAZCOM

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard states that employees must be made aware of all chemicals used in

OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard states that employees must be made aware of all chemicals used in their workplace, the hazards they present and instruction for safe handling. This is accomplished with labels, safety data sheets (SDS), and employee information and training.

In addition to the three key areas of frequent OSHA violations, there is an easy way for you to identify the top violations in your specific industry. OSHA provides a searchable database of the most frequent OSHA violations by company size and Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code.

Promoting the Health of Your Workers

As an employer, you bear many of the direct costs (such as medical claims) and the indirect costs (such as absenteeism and lowered productivity) of diseases, disorders and conditions that afflict your employees.

Research shows that you can avoid or reduce many of these costs by providing early behavioral and/or clinical interventions for your employees. Clinical preventive services include screenings and immunizations, as well as follow-up care. Behavioral interventions can include counseling and health promotion programs such as smoking cessation, weight management and physical activity initiatives.

Beyond what it does for them in their personal lives, improving your employees’ health has two fundamental and practical benefits for the health of your business.

Increased productivity

It is a simple fact that employees in good health are much more likely to be performing at optimal levels than employees in poor health.

Reduced health care costs

Employees with poor health use more health care resources and generate more claim costs than their healthy peers. Overall, you can expect to save about $3.50 in health care costs for every dollar you invest in effective health promotion.

Implementing a wellness program does not have to be an overwhelming task. In fact, you are more likely to have a successful program if you focus on a few key areas that are of interest to most employees and where results can be significant.

A true safety culture requires continual support and impacts all parts of your organization’s operations—from hiring processes to training to daily reinforcement.

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Playing in the workplace

Gamification helps motivate employees to stick with otherwise mundane tasks by engaging them in fun ways. According to an article from SHRM, gamification can help employees with skill development and education. Continue reading this blog post from UBA to learn more.


Have you heard of gamification? To gamify an everyday activity, you add the best fun or competitive elements associated with games to help boost engagement, according to G2 Crowd. Why bother and not just slog through your paperwork? The idea behind gamification is that feeling accomplished or engaged in fun ways, whether by earning points, badges, or accolades, can help people stay motivated to stick with tasks they might otherwise abandon.

At the workplace, gamification can boost productivity — such as boosting sales calls or conversions — or help employees commit to a wellness plan through a bit of healthy competition. The approach can also be used before an individual ever joins your company or organization, according to Workforce. Recruiters say using tools with simulations or gamified components can provide insight into how a candidate might perform in new or challenging situations. For current employees, gamification can help with learning or improving skills, according to an article in Society for Human Resource Management. Gamified activities where winning is an all-team effort instead of a competition can help build cohesiveness, camaraderie and improve collaboration within business units or departments.

This all sounds great, right? Be mindful that jumping on any new trend without a plan is rarely a good idea. Gamification has its critics and requires thoughtfully designed programs. When gamification works, it works. When it doesn’t, it can actually decrease productivity and diminish engagement and morale, according to a second article in Society for Human Resource Management.

If the competition is too fierce or the game too difficult, you risk unintentionally demotivating people. Be mindful, too, of individual circumstances, like an employee who is disabled, pregnant, dealing with stress at home, or tackling a new challenging role. In those cases, what may seem like a fun competition may feel like a task now made impossible. The added stress of even the friendliest competition can negatively impact some workers.

To make gamification work, tailor the program to your team and their work. Remind everyone it’s about better overall performance measure through small goals, not about one person winning and “beating” everyone else. Include potential participants in the design process to ensure your gamified activity hits its mark. Offering more than one winner, avoiding publicly shaming an employee for participation or results, and regularly changing what winning is (improvement in an area to closing sales to skill gains). Bear in mind no game can fix a systemic problem or company culture failure. You can expect small gains in some areas, but a game won’t radically or magically rewire your company.

If the caveats have you concerned, it may be a good idea to also bring in experts on learning and behavior to ensure the design will elicit the goals you seek and motivate in the ways you want. And while we may be a more and more online, app-driven culture, not every game has to be a digital experience, according to CEOWorld Magazine. Consider analog activities, as well, that can give individuals opportunities to shine or teams a chance to cooperate in new ways.

While you may be eager to attract Millennial and even Gen Z workers, most of whom are digital natives raised on apps that track and reward, game systems in their pockets, and gamification at school even including university, gut check that you are moving forward with an authentic and well-considered plan. Better to be a bit behind on a trend than dive in and do more harm than good!

Read more:

What is Gamification?

Reskilling: The New Trend in Recruiting

Be Careful: Gamification at Work Can Go Very Wrong

Viewpoint: Is Gamification Good for HR?

Gamification: 5 Surefire Ways to Skyrocket Your Team Productivity

SOURCE: Olson, B. (28 March 2019) "Playing in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/playing-in-the-workplace


A 16-Year-Old Explains 10 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z

Generation Z, a cohort that represents one of the most diverse generations in U.S. history, is beginning to graduate and join the workforce. Continue reading this article from SHRM for 10 things the world should know about Gen Z.


Think about what life was like when you were 16. The clothes you wore, the places you shopped. What was most important to you then?

Whenever I speak to an organization eager to learn about Generation Z, I always ask that question. I get responses that include everything from the fleeting fashion trends of the day (bell-bottom jeans, anyone?) to the time-honored tradition of getting a driver’s license.

What I hope to achieve as a 16-year-old in 2018 is probably not all that different from what anyone else wanted when they were my age. It’s the way people go about reaching their goals that evolves over time—and that’s what also forms the basis of most generational clashes.

For the past several years, the world has been focused on understanding and adapting to Millennials, the largest and most-educated generation in history. Born between 1981 and the mid-1990s, this group has inspired important dialogues about generational differences and challenged all industries to evolve to meet their needs. In the workplace, Millennials have helped drive a greater focus on flexibility and collaboration and a rethinking of traditional hierarchies.

Of course, any analysis of generations relies on generalities that can’t possibly describe every person or situation. It’s important to remember that generations exist on a continuum—and that there is a large degree of individual variation within them. The point of this type of research is to identify macro trends among age groups that can help foster workplace harmony. Essentially, it’s a way of attempting to understand people better by getting a sense of their formative life experiences. The generation to which one belongs is among the many factors, such as race, religion and socioeconomic background, that can shape how a person sees the world.

But there’s little doubt that gaps among the U.S. generations have widened dramatically. For example, an 8-year-old boy in the United States who grew up with a tablet will likely have more in common with an 8-year-old in China who used a similar mobile device than he will with his 70-year-old U.S. grandparents.

In thinking about the generations, a key thing to understand is that these groups are typically categorized by events rather than arbitrary dates. Generation Z’s birth years are generally recognized as 1996 to 2009. The start year was chosen so that the cohort would include only those who do not remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The belief is that if you were born in 1996 or later, you simply cannot process what the world was like before those attacks. For Generation Z, the War on Terror has always been the norm.

Like all other generations, mine has been shaped by the circumstances we were born into, such as terrorism, school shootings and the Great Recession. These dark events have had profound effects on the behavioral traits of the members of Generation Z, but they have also inspired us to change the world.

Earlier this year, XYZ University, a generations research and management consulting firm where I act as the director of Gen Z studies, surveyed more than 1,800 members of Generation Z globally and released a study titled “Ready or Not, Here Comes Z.” The results were fascinating.

We discovered key characteristics about Generation Z and what the arrival of my generation will mean for the future of work. At 57 million strong and representing the most diverse generation in U.S. history, we are just starting to graduate from college and will account for 36 percent of the workforce by 2020.

Needless to say, Generation Z matters. And it is more important than ever for HR professionals to become familiar with the following 10 characteristics so that they know how to engage with my generation.

1. Gen Z Always Knows the Score

Members of this generation will put everything on the line to win. We grew up with sports woven into the fabric of our lives and culture. To us, the NFL truly does own a day of the week. But it’s more than just professional, college or even high school teams that have shaped us; it’s the youth sports that we played or watched throughout our childhoods. This is the generation of elite young teams and the stereotypical baseball mom or dad yelling at the umpire from the bleachers.

Our competitive nature applies to almost everything, from robotics to debates that test mental fortitude. We carry the mindset that we are not necessarily at school just to learn but to get good grades that will secure our place in the best colleges. Generation Z has been thrown into perhaps the most competitive educational environment in history. Right or wrong, we sometimes view someone else’s success as our own failure or their failure as our success.

We are also accustomed to getting immediate feedback. A great example is the online grading portals where we can get frequent updates on our academic performance. In the past, students sometimes had to wait weeks or longer to receive a test grade. Now, we get frustrated if we can’t access our scores within hours of finishing an exam—and sometimes our parents do, too.

2. Gen Z Adopted Gen X’s Skepticism and Individuality

Generations are shaped by the behavioral characteristics of their parents, which is why clumping Millennials and Generation Z together is a mistake. In fact, when it comes to each generation’s behavioral traits, Millennials are most similar to their parents—the Baby Boomers. Both are large, idealistic cohorts with influences that will shape consumer and workplace behavior for decades.

Members of Generation Z, on the other hand, are more akin to their parents from Generation X—a smaller group with a skeptical, individualistic focus—than they are to Millennials. That’s why many generational traits are cyclical. Just because Millennials and members of Generation Z are closer in age does not necessarily mean they share the same belief systems.

3. Gen Z Is Financially Focused

Over the past 15 to 20 years, HR professionals have been hyper-focused on employee engagement and figuring out what makes their workers tick. What drives someone to want to get up in the morning and come to work for your organization?

As it turns out, workplace engagement matters less to Generation Z than it did to previous generations. What’s most important to us is compensation and benefits. We are realists and pragmatists who view work primarily as a way to make a living rather than as the main source of meaning and purpose in our lives.

Obviously, we’d prefer to operate in an enjoyable environment, but financial stability takes precedence. XYZ University discovered that 2 in 3 Generation Zers would rather have a job that offers financial stability than one that they enjoy. That’s the opposite of Millennials, who generally prioritize finding a job that is more fulfilling over one that simply pays the bills.

That financial focus likely stems in part from witnessing the struggles our parents faced. According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trust, “Retirement Security Across Generations: Are Americans Prepared for Their Golden Years?,” members of Generation X lost 45 percent of their wealth during the Great Recession of 2008.

“Gen X is the first generation that’s unlikely to exceed the wealth of the group that came before it,” says Erin Currier, former project manager of Pew’s Economic Mobility Project in Washington, D.C. “They have lower financial net worth than previous groups had at this same age, and they lost nearly half of their wealth in the recession.”

Before Generation Z was decreed the ‘official’ name for my generation, there were a few other candidates, including the ‘Selfie Generation’ and ‘iGen.’

Employers will also need to recognize that members of Generation Z crave structure, goals, challenges and a way to measure their progress. After all, the perceived road to success has been mapped out for us our entire lives.

At the same time, it’s important to be aware of the potential for burnout among young overachievers—and to incorporate fun and breaks into the work environment and provide access to healthy escapes focused on relaxation and stress relief.

4. Gen Z Is Entrepreneurial

Even though they witnessed their parents grapple with financial challenges and felt the impact of the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression, members of Generation Z believe there is a lot of money to be made in today’s economy. Shows like “Shark Tank” have inspired us to look favorably on entrepreneurship, and we’ve also seen how technology can be leveraged to create exciting—and lucrative—business opportunities with relatively low overhead. Fifty-eight percent of the members of my generation want to own a business one day and 14 percent of us already do, according to XYZ University.

Organizations that emphasize Generation Z’s desire for entrepreneurship and allow us space to contribute ideas will see higher engagement because we’ll feel a sense of personal ownership. We are motivated to win and determined to make it happen.

5. Gen Z Is Connected

Before Generation Z was decreed the “official” name for my generation, there were a few other candidates, including the “Selfie Generation” and “iGen.”

I find those proposed names both condescending and misleading. While it’s often assumed that Generation Z is focused solely on technology, talking face to face is our preferred method of communication. Sure, social media is important and has undoubtedly affected who we are as a generation, but when we’re communicating about something that matters to us, we seek authenticity and honesty, which are best achieved in person.

“Gen Z has the power of technology in their hands, which allows them to communicate faster, more often and with many colleagues at one time; but it also brings a danger when it’s used as a crutch for messages that are better delivered face to face,” says Jill Katz, CHRO at New York City-based Assemble HR. “As humans in the workplace, they will continue to seek empathy, interest and care, which are always best received face to face.”

XYZ University’s research found that cellphones and other electronic devices are primarily used for the purpose of entertainment and are tapped for communication only when the face-to-face option isn’t available.

However, successfully engaging with Generation Z requires striking a balance between conversing directly and engaging online. Both are important, and we need to feel connected in both ways to be fully satisfied.

6. Gen Z Craves Human Interaction

Given that members of Generation Z gravitate toward in-person interactions, HR leaders should re-evaluate how to best put the “human” aspect back into business. For example, hiring processes should emphasize in-person interviews more than online applications.

A great way to engage us is to hold weekly team meetings that gather everyone together to recap their achievements. Although members of Generation Z don’t necessarily need a pat on the back, it’s human nature to want to feel appreciated. This small gesture will give us something to look forward to and keep us feeling optimistic about our work. In addition, we tend to work best up against a deadline—for example, needing to have a project done by the team meeting—due to our experience facing time-sensitive projects at school.

7. Gen Z Prefers to Work Independently

Millennials generally prefer collaborative work environments, which has posed a challenge to conventional workplace cultures and structures. In fact, many workplaces have eliminated offices and lowered cubicle walls to promote more interaction. Yet recent studies indicate that totally open offices may actually discourage people from working together. The noise and lack of privacy could prompt more people to work at home or tune others out with headphones. Since different types of work require varying levels of collaboration, focus and quiet reflection, ideal workplaces incorporate room for both togetherness and alone time.

It’s important to be aware of the potential for burnout among young overachievers—and to incorporate fun and breaks into the work environment and provide access to healthy escapes focused on relaxation and stress relief.

The emphasis on privacy will likely only intensify under Generation Z. Unlike Millennials, we have been raised to have individualistic and competitive natures. For that reason—along with growing research into optimal office design—we may see the trend shift away from collaborative workplaces toward more individualistic and competitive environments.

8. Gen Z Is So Diverse That We Don’t Even Recognize Diversity

Generation Z marks the last generation in U.S. history where a majority of the population is white. Given the shifting demographics of the country, we don’t focus as much on someone’s color, religion or sexual orientation as some of our older counterparts might. To us, a diverse population is simply the norm. What we care about most in other people is honesty, sincerity and—perhaps most important—competence.

Indeed, we have been shaped by a society that celebrates diversity and openness. A black man occupied the White House for most of our lives, and we view gay marriage as a common and accepted aspect of society.

9. Gen Z Embraces Change

Compared to teenagers of other generations, Generation Z ranks as the most informed. We worry about our future and are much less concerned about typical teen problems, such as dating or cliques, than we are about becoming successful in the world.

The chaos and unrest in our political system have inspired us to want to get involved and make a difference. Regardless of which side of the aisle we are on, most of us are informed and passionate about the issues facing our society today. Witness, for example, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who organized a political movement around gun control in the wake of a mass shooting at their school.

Social media allows us to have a voice in our political system even before we can vote. This opportunity has forced us to develop critical-thinking and reasoning skills as we engage in sophisticated debates about important issues that might not even affect us yet.

“Gen Z has a strong ability to adapt to change,” says Paul Carney, an author and speaker on HR trends and a former HR manager with the Navy Federal Credit Union. “For those of us who have spanned many decades in the workplace, we have seen the rate of change increase and it makes most of us uncomfortable. Gen Z are the people who will help all of us adapt better.”

According to numerous polls, the political views of Generation Z trend fiscally conservative (stemming from our need for financial stability) and socially liberal (fueled by diverse demographics and society).

10. Gen Z Wants a Voice

Given how socially aware and concerned its members are, Generation Z seeks jobs that provide opportunities to contribute, create, lead and learn.

“One of the best ways I have seen leaders engage with Gen Z is to ask them how they would build a product or service or design a process,” Carney says. “Gen Z has some amazing abilities to bring together information, process it and take action. When we do allow them to share ideas, great things happen.”

We’re also an exceptionally creative bunch. Managers will need to give members of this generation the time and freedom to come up with innovative ideas and accept that, despite our young age, we have valuable insights and skills to offer—just like the generations that came before us and those that will follow.

Josh Miller is a speaker, researcher and thought leader on all things Generation Z. He is the director of Gen Z studies at management consulting firm XYZ University and a high school junior in suburban Minneapolis.
Illustration by Tim McDonagh
SOURCE: Miller, J. (30 October 2018) "A 16-Year-Old Explains 10 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1118/pages/a-16-year-old-explains-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-generation-z.aspx