Are your job posts designed to recruit the best talent?

Did you know: There are some 7.6 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Poorly written job postings may be one of the reasons employers are having trouble filling open jobs. Read this blog post for more on job post design.


With job postings, it’s not what you say, but how you say it, which makes all the difference.

There are some 7.6 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor, and poorly written job postings are the reason many employers are having trouble filling those open jobs, according to Katrina Kibben, CEO of Three Ears Media, a company that teaches recruiters how to become better writers.

“Most job postings are filled with clichés and B.S.,” Kibben said Thursday at the Greenhouse Open Conference, a gathering of HR professionals in New York City. “The most successful job postings have a heartbeat, and they spell out what’s expected from the candidate.”

Kibben said traditional job postings rely on the same tactics — all of which are ineffective. She said the majority of posts start out with “brand-first tone and jargon” in an attempt to attract talent. For example: “ABC seeks a collaborative, responsive, and dynamic non-profit development professional to lead the RCS community as our Chief Development Officer.” Kibben said this job description won’t engage potential applicants.

“It’s lame, and it doesn’t tell them why they should want to work for you,” Kibben said. “Some companies rely on brand recognizability, like Fortune 500 status, but that’s not enough to get the passionate candidates you want.”

Kibben provided a better example of an engaging job post: “Raising money isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. We’re looking for someone who’s ready to boil the water, sweeten the pot, and share the love of raising money with an enthusiastic team supporting an important cause.”

Bullet points were another typical job post feature Kibben recommended recruiters kill. While they make organizing information simple, Kibben said they don’t provide candidates with enough information about the job, and why they should apply.

“Your competitor likely has the exact same bullet points, so you need to find a way to tell candidates why you’re different from them,” Kibben said.

The way a job title is worded impacts how many applicants will see job postings online; employers who want the best visibility need to use search analytics to decide on a title, Kibben said. She recommended Google Trends because it shows searchers how often people in different regions searched for specific keywords. Sometimes, employers will find that the words they’re using are turning up searches for something entirely different.

“The phrase ‘customer service,’ for example, tends to bring up complaints, not job listings,” Kibben said. “You’ll want to adjust the wording so the candidates with the skills you want can find you.”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (17 June 2019) "Are your job posts designed to recruit the best talent?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/are-your-job-posts-hiring-the-best-employees


Was Your Company Trashed Online? What to Do with Workers’ Negative Reviews

How does a company react after being trashed online by negative employee reviews? A survey from Bayt.com revealed that 76 percent of professionals research a company online before considering a job there. Read this blog post from SHRM to find out how your company should react to workers' negative reviews.


Online reviews proliferate for everything from rent shares to restaurants, and corporate cultures are hardly immune: Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and Vault give disgruntled employees a platform to expose the underbelly of their organizations' managers and practices--whether fairly or not.

"Job candidates and employees are now empowered to provide instant feedback on employers, at any time, and they can rate a company's culture and management just as they rate a hotel, restaurant or movie," said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, a New York City-based HR executive network and research firm.

And these reviews can potentially be seen by untold numbers of job candidates.

A survey from Bayt.com—a job board for positions in the Middle East—found that 76 percent of professionals research a company online before considering a job there. An Indeed survey shows that 83 percent of job seekers will probably rely on company reviews to decide if they should apply to a job.

If negative reviews threaten a business's brand, reputation and future hiring prospects, what's a company's recourse? And what if the review is accurate about a negative aspect of working for your company?

What If a Reviewer Lies?

Robin Richards, co-founder of CareerArc, an HR technology company based in Burbank, Calif., suggests two options if a company spots a fraudulent review:

1. Flag it. On its website, Glassdoor says that employers "can flag [a review] directly and our Content team will give it a second look. If we find that we missed something the first time, we'll take it down."

Typically, Glassdoor removes a post if it violates the company's guidelines or terms of use. For instance, if a poster:

  • Misrepresents his or her current or former affiliation with an employer.
  • Posts content that's defamatory, libelous or fraudulent; that the poster knows to be false or misleading; or that does not reflect the poster's honest opinion and experience.
  • Discloses information that violates legally enforceable confidentiality; nondisclosure or other contractual restrictions; or rights of any third party, including any current or former employers or potential employers.

2. Respond to it. "This may be the most effective course of action," Richards said. "Simply being aware of negative comments is not enough. Today, [potential job] candidates expect a reply. Sixty-two percent say reading a response improved their perception of an employer, according to one Glassdoor survey."

The response should be prompt. To that end, companies should create alerts that notify them immediately when they're mentioned publicly in a post or on social media. Leaders should also ask workers to notify them, or HR, if they spot posts that could harm the company.

What If the Review Has Merit?

Responding too swiftly might not be the best course of action, however, if a review makes an allegation that has merit. If reviewers can provide evidence supporting a negative posting, an employer's defensiveness will only reflect poorly on the business.

"Make sure to not be combative and to consult with your legal team before responding to any serious claims, such as harassment or discrimination," Richards said.

Do show appreciation for the feedback.

"Listen to what the review has to say," Richards said. "The worst thing to do is ignore a bad review simply because it's negative. Keep an open mind and investigate if there are merits to the claims. They may represent real opportunities for change that could genuinely improve your company culture."

And if companies do make improvements, he said, share those actions on the site where the bad review appeared.

Finally, companies may want to ask current employees to respond to a critical review by posting positive reviews.

"Encourage employees to share why they love working at your company," Richards said.

But, Glassdoor warns, "we do not allow employers to incentivize or coerce employees to leave positive reviews."

If a review is especially nasty, or is starting to receive media attention, consider issuing a press statement to address and, if applicable, refute the issues that the post raised.

Legal Considerations

If a company isn't satisfied with how a review website responds to its complaints, it may want to pursue legal action, such as a cease-and-desist order.

But be aware that the courts have ruled that employees' complaining about their company to try to improve working conditions is protected speech. And posting personnel file details about a current or former worker could violate privacy.

Also, many websites allow reviewers to discuss companies' senior leaders by name, though not anyone below that level.

Glassdoor notes that the law protects such websites from responsibility for the content that users submit, and "If you sue our users and ask us to tell you who they are, we object and often fight in court to protect their anonymity."

Richards also recommends that employers:

  • Analyze comments on employer rating sites to inform HR strategy.
  • Listen carefully to current employees so you know what makes them happy and what doesn't.
  • Assign a team to analyze and respond to positive and negative feedback on employee satisfaction surveys.

"In much the same way that marketing departments have become customer-centric, human resource departments must treat their employees as customers and continuously use listening platforms to better understand employees needs and wants," Meister said.

"This means ending the once-a-year employee survey and replacing it with continuous, monthly or weekly surveys. It means a relentless focus on transparency and responsiveness in the workplace. As more employees use an expanding set of these employer rating sites," she said, "power is shifting from the employer to the employee."

SOURCE: Wilkie, D. (13 June 2019) "Was Your Company Trashed Online? What to Do with Workers’ Negative Reviews" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/negative-workplace-reviews-.aspx


What HR can do about the measles — and what it can't

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that measles has been confirmed in 26 states since the beginning of 2019. This affects not only schools, medical facilities and public areas, but also the workplace. Read on to learn what HR can do and cannot do about the measles.


After decades of near-eradication in the U.S., measles is making a comeback. Its return affects not only schools, medical facilities and public areas, but also the workplace.

As of May 24th, there were 535 confirmed cases of measles in Brooklyn and Queens since September, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times recently reported a confirmed case of measles linked to Google's Mountain View campus.

Measles has been confirmed in 26 states since the start of 2019, as of May 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the greatest number of cases reported in the U.S. since 1994; measles was actually declared eliminated in 2000.

Given that measles is "very contagious" and can lead to serious health complications, HR needs to know how to keep employees safe while at the same time remaining in compliance with all applicable health privacy and anti-discrimination laws.

Measles transmission and symptoms

"Measles spreads when a person infected with the measles virus breathes, coughs, or sneezes," said Martha Sharan, Public Affairs Specialist at the CDC, speaking to HR Dive via email. "It is very contagious. You can catch measles just by being in a room where a person with measles has been, up to two hours after that person is gone. And you can catch measles from an infected person even before they have a measles rash."

In addition to a fever that can get high, Sharan said, other possible symptoms include cough, runny nose, and red eyes; a rash of tiny red spots that starts at the head and spreads to the rest of the body; diarrhea; and an ear infection.

Can employers require vaccinations?

In general, requiring employees to get vaccinated is a legally risky proposition for employers; there are some limited exceptions for employers in the healthcare field.

However, many employers — particularly those in the healthcare field — are "starting to be a little more aggressive in terms of asking employees whether they have been vaccinated as the [measles] outbreak continues and in some cases continues to grow," according to attorney Bradford T. Hammock, a shareholder at Littler Mendelson P.C.

"Employers must be very careful about these types of inquiries, but some healthcare employers have made the determination that this is permissible under the [Americans with Disabilities Act] as job-related and consistent with business necessity," Hammock said. He added that employers must also be aware of state and local considerations.

Steve Wojcik, VP of public policy at the National Business Group on Health, said the current concern about measles provides employers with an excellent opportunity to communicate the importance of vaccines and immunizations generally. "Remind employees that the measles vaccine is free, essentially, with no cost-sharing as it is one of the preventive services under the Affordable Care Act. It's a good reminder about preventive services in general."

Wojcik added that employers should encourage employees to check their specific vaccination records to confirm not only that they have received the measles vaccine, but that they have been effectively vaccinated. "Depending on age and when you were vaccinated, some early vaccines may not have been as effective as once thought," he said. Wojcik said that employees born in or before 1956 are assumed to have been exposed to the measles at some point and have some natural immunity, but in the early 1960s, the measles vaccine was "not so good," he said. "It's not as simple as flu or other vaccines."

If your workplace has been exposed

Whatever you do, "be incredibly careful about privacy," said attorney Carolyn D. Richmond, a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP. "Don't go announcing that 'Joe Smith has measles!'" Instead, Richmond advised, "call the local department of health first and find out what they have to say. Every jurisdiction has little tweaks that may affect reporting."

While you can send out a notice to employees stating they may have been exposed to measles, "again, be super careful and don't hint who it might be," she cautioned. "Your local health department will be able to tell you what you can say."

Get your leave policies in order

"Those sick with measles should stay at home for at least four days after developing the rash," said Sharan. "Staying home is an important way to not spread measles to other people. They should talk to their doctor to discuss when it is safe to resume contact with other people."

Wojcik recommended working from home and flexible work arrangements for employees who may have been exposed, particularly those who live in (or have traveled to) areas with known outbreaks. Richmond also suggested providing PTO or work-from-home arrangements for employees who have not been vaccinated or who are immunocompromised.

"We assume that those with measles will absent themselves from the workplace, and an employee with measles may be out for a number of days or longer. Follow your policies and practices with return to work," Richmond told HR Dive in an interview.

Stay in touch with your local health department and the CDC

"Continue to be in contact with your local health department, and follow along with the CDC in terms of guidance," advised Hammock. "Depending on the status of the measles outbreak in your particular area, the analysis may be different."

Richmond concurred. "Contact your local health department and your local counsel — and contact your local health department first. The bottom line is privacy, privacy, privacy."

SOURCE: Carsen, J. (29 May 2019) "What HR can do about the measles — and what it can't" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/what-hr-can-do-about-the-measles-and-what-it-cant/555219/


7 HR technologies for managing the employee lifecycle

What do you consider your company’s most valuable resource? While employees are often considered an organization’s most valuable resource, the best results often come when great workforces are provided with great technology. Continue reading this blog post for seven HR technologies that help manage the employee lifecycle.


It’s no secret employees are the foundation of any company: Without them, products can’t be made, services can’t be provided and customers can’t be satisfied.

That’s why an organization’s workforce is often considered its most valuable resource — because while great people can overcome a lack of process or technology, it’s much harder to forego having great people in place. Still, the best results come when great people are provided great technology and supported by great processes.

But the constant flow of employees in and out of an organization can make effectively and efficiently managing the support needed at each stage of the employee lifecycle a difficult task for employers and human resources teams. Luckily, these HR technologies can help with managing the employee lifecycle.

Applicant tracking system

An applicant tracking system is an online platform that simplifies and streamlines the entire recruitment process — from sourcing to selection — by allowing recruiters and hiring managers to seamlessly direct every stage of the process all from one electronic system, eliminating the never-ending paper chase of traditional recruiting. Every ATS is different, but most will include access to an online resume database, automated hiring workflows, communication capabilities and reporting tools.

Onboarding

Half of all new workers leave their jobs within the first 90 days of employment. Organizations with successful onboarding programs, however, have significantly better new hire retention rates.

A big component of a successful onboarding program is removing the hassle of all that tedious paperwork employees have to complete. The first day on the job is already stressful enough for a new hire without the added inconvenience of required employment paperwork. Investing in an online employee onboarding technology platform allows employees to complete the majority of this paperwork (like W-4s, direct deposit authorizations, I-9 forms and other consent forms) well before their first day. Electronic employee onboarding programs also reduce paper costs while minimizing the possibility of errors by providing new hires online access to all necessary employment forms so they can easily review, complete, sign and submit their forms within minutes.

Benefits enrollment

Switching from a paper-based benefits enrollment process to an online enrollment process comes with a wide array of advantages. Not only does an online benefits enrollment process save time, but it also gives employees the time and independence to make their own elections, and helps reduce costly mistakes and errors.

Time and attendance

Online time and attendance platforms not only reduce errors and help managers keep track of days of requests, they also are vastly more efficient for employees to use than paper-based timekeeping systems. (Along with some other really great advantages.)

Payroll processing

Payroll is one of the biggest line items in an organization’s budget. Processing payroll also can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of an organization’s HR functions, and when it’s not done right it can also be the source of some serious employee complaints.

Payroll technology platforms help minimize the potential for errors, and can greatly reduce the time it takes to process a payroll.

eLearning/learning management systems

With the “skills gap” widening as older employees exit the workforce faster than new employees can fill their shoes, employee development initiatives and corporate training programs have become a priority not only amongst large employers, but small and mid-size businesses as well.

Online learning management systems provide employers with convenient options to help train and develop their workforce’s skills and abilities.

Performance management

As with many employee management functions, employers are now taking advantage of online HR technology platforms that allow them to more efficiently streamline the performance management process. In many cases, an online performance management tool allows employers to more effectively evaluate and record employee performance, as well as providing a place for managers and employees alike to keep track of organizational and personal performance goals, record journal entries and maintain an ongoing performance record. These platforms tend to be more popular among larger organizations, mostly because small and medium-sized businesses often feel the price is prohibitive unless they can access discounted rates through an HR outsourcing provider.

SOURCE: Grijalva, A. (5 June 2019) "7 HR technologies for managing the employee lifecycle" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/hr-technology-for-managing-the-employee-lifecycle


Talent test-drive: Micro-internships may benefit students and employers alike

Are you looking to hire interns this summer? Micro-internships are project-based internships that are emerging as a way for students to get a foot in the door and for employers to test talent before hiring someone on. Continue reading to learn more.


"Micro-internships," or project-based internships, are emerging as a way for students to get a foot in the door and for employers to test talent before making a commitment.

Lasting just days or weeks, micro-internships can create a more meaningful experience, too, according to Jeffrey Moss, CEO of Parker Dewey, a platform that enables such arrangements. Rather than longer programs that involve a fair bit of busy work, micro-internships often focus on one, substantive project.

This could have an intern writing a blog post or compiling research, for example, he said. For many companies, these are tasks that are important, but don't always get done. "It gives the career professional or student early insight into what the job is really about," said Moss, "and manager buy-in is high. Rather than a department head trying to create an interesting day or weeks full of intern work, micro-interns get specific projects done for the manager."

Testing talent before you hire

For employers looking to test drive talent, Moss said, micro-internships offer insight into the way a person works. Projects are tangible and can demonstrate how someone executes instructions. For students or career re-launchers, they offer a chance to showcase their talents as they grow. "They develop an authentic relationship with someone who may be their manager down the road," said Moss. "They're paid for their work and get real-world experience for their resume, typically in a few days or weeks, and generally done remotely."

The ability to work remotely creates a more democratic system for interns, as well. Students who don't have access to large markets or businesses can still get a foot in the door. For underserved populations, that access could be a key factor in their career trajectory.

Immediate gratification

Adam Rekkbie was an undergraduate at Bentley University when he learned about the opportunity to do project work through Parker Dewey. He emailed HR Dive from Peru to talk about his experience: "I figured this would be a good way for me to earn a little extra money while also expanding on my skills and learning more about different industries," he said.

Generally, employers choose students to work on a project, building a relationship with them and offering help along the way, Moss said.

Rekkbie has completed nine projects to date, and they run the gamut: market research, creating a business plan for a doctor, migrating and cleaning up data, product research and more.

Everybody wins

Rekkbie said the arrangement was a win-win for him and the employers. As a full-time student, he enjoyed the flexibility of working around his schedule. He also said he gained insight into a broad range of industries while still making money.

And employers say the fast access to high-quality talent is invaluable. Ryan Sarti, director of marketing and sales operations at Sturtevant Richmont, is a convert. In a one-person department, he told HR Dive, there are lots of projects that are high priority, but bandwidth is limited. With micro-internships, he can spell out what he needs and when and then choose among candidates; "I can organize a project quickly, hand it off with minimal time and feedback, and get really good high quality work done."

Larger companies are using these as a way to test potential employees, Moss said. Microsoft, for example, is using micro-internships for immediate support and early access to talent.

Growing the talent pool

Feedback throughout the project is open-ended. Sarti said he likes to give and get detailed comments. Interns ask good questions, he said, and the more feedback you give, the more they grow. That's critical because, after all, they may be working with you one day, he said.

Rekkbie noted the networking opportunities, too: "I have had a couple clients I did work for come back to me and ask for help on additional projects because of how satisfied they were with my initial work," he said. "These clients also provide me with valuable insights related to careers."

And while students may not snag a job directly from the internship, Moss said, they'll be better able to articulate to other employers the direct experience they have.

SOURCE: O'Donnell, R. (28 May 2019) "Talent test-drive: Micro-internships may benefit students and employers alike" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/talent-test-drive-micro-internships-may-benefit-students-and-employers-ali/555487/


How to Respond to the Spread of Measles in the Workplace

How are you responding to the spread of measles? With measles now at its highest number of cases in one year since 1994, employers are having to cooperate with health departments to fight the spread. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Employers and educators are cooperating with health departments to fight the spread of measles, now at its highest number of cases in one year since 1994: 764.

Two California universities—California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)—recently quarantined staff and students at the request of local health departments.

In April at Cal State LA, the health department told more than 600 students and employees to stay home after a student with measles entered a university library.

Also last month, UCLA identified and notified more than 500 students, faculty and staff who may have crossed paths with a student who attended class when contagious. The county health department quarantined 119 students and eight faculty members until their immunity was established.

The quarantines ended April 30 at UCLA and May 2 at Cal State LA.

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses; one measles-infected person can give the virus to 18 others. In fact, 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes.

Action Steps for Employers

Once an employer learns someone in the workplace has measles, it should immediately send the worker home and tell him or her not to return until cleared by a physician or other qualified health care provider, said Robin Shea, an attorney with Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The employer should then notify the local health department and follow its recommended actions, said Howard Mavity, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta. The company may want to inform workers where and when employees might have been exposed. If employees were possibly exposed, the employer may wish to encourage them to verify vaccination or past-exposure status, directing those who are pregnant or immunocompromised to consult with their physicians, he said.

Do not name the person who has measles, cautioned Katherine Dudley Helms, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Columbia, S.C. "Even if it is not a disability—and we cannot assume that, as a general rule, it is not—I believe the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] confidentiality provisions cover these medical situations, or there are situations where individuals would be covered by HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act]."

The employer shouldn't identify the person even if he or she has self-identified as having measles, Mavity noted.

Shea said that once the person is at home, the employer should:

  • Inform workers about measles, such as symptoms (e.g., dry cough, inflamed eyes, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background in the mouth, and a skin rash) and incubation period—usually 10 to 12 days, but sometimes as short as seven days or as long as 21 days, according to the CDC.
  • Inform employees about how and where to get vaccinations.
  • Remind workers that relatives may have been indirectly exposed.
  • Explain that measles exposure to employees who are pregnant or who might be pregnant can be harmful or even fatal to an unborn child.
  • Explain that anyone born before 1957 is not at risk. The measles vaccine first became available in 1963, so those who were children before the late 1950s are presumed to have been exposed to measles and be immune.

Employers may also want to bring a health care provider onsite to administer vaccines to employees who want or need them, Shea said.

"Be compassionate to the sick employee by offering FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] leave and paid-leave benefit options as applicable," she said.

When a Sick Employee Comes to Work Anyway

What if an employee insists on returning to work despite still having the measles?

Mavity said an employer should inform the worker as soon as it learns he or she has the measles to not return until cleared by a physician, and violating this directive could result in discipline, including discharge. A business nevertheless may be reluctant to discipline someone who is overly conscientious, he said. It may opt instead to send the employee home if he or she returns before being given a medical clearance.

The employer shouldn't make someone stay out longer than is required, Helms said. Rely instead on the health care provider's release.

SOURCE: Smith, A. (9 May 2019) "How to Respond to the Spread of Measles in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/how-to-respond-spread-measles-workplace.aspx


Extended reality promises a holistic training experience, experts say

Employers are beginning to embrace the use of virtual environments for employee training and development programs. Are you? Read this blog post from HR Dive to learn more.


As more employers embrace virtual environments for training, tech gurus are fine-tuning the technology to be more accessible to employers. Some organizations have developed apps to take employees through soft skills training; others customized VR experiences to suit their specific training needs.

As the potential of AR and VR technology continues to unfold, and workforces reap benefits from using it, employers will need to decide how to best implement the tech in their own learning and development initiatives.

Why merge AR, VR and L&D?

When it comes to virtual training, XR (extended reality, which includes VR and AR) may the best option for employers with tricky needs, according to Toshi Anders Hoo, emerging media lab director at the Institute for the Future. "XR training is valuable in situations when the experience is too expensive, too far away, too infrequent or too dangerous," he told HR Dive. "It allows users to experience pretty close to what it's like, and that includes the physical and psychological experience."

XR isn't just for standard operating procedures, Anders Hoo added; it creates a holistic understanding, providing emotional preparedness for difficult situations. He cited Walmart's well-known VR training, which prepped employees for Black Friday shopping, but noted that the applications can be even more varied. XR can acquaint learners with the emotional experience of public speaking, uncover hiring biases or replicate the pressure of a surgical operating theater, he said.

AR and VR can also help employers better understand workers' strengths and weaknesses, Amy Vinson, associate director, safety analytics, health and safety at Tyson Foods told HR Dive in an email. It can also enforce better, safer working habits. "[Trainees] can put on goggles and virtually practice operating our plant's robotic arm to safely stack heavy boxes in high areas," she said. "It helps team leaders better understand training areas that may require extra attention."

XR can also be "an empathy engine," Anders Hoo noted, by providing anyone with a perspective on an unfamiliar challenge. "Consider a medical emergency: the learner can be the doctor, watching a patient bleed, or a loved one, helpless to assist. These scenarios have major implications for critical thinking and to help learners expand their points of view."

How does it work for learners?

The biggest challenge for classroom learning is retention, according to Shawn Gentile, training content development and delivery leader at Vitalyst, because the majority of knowledge is lost over time. Simulation-based learning, however, can be done continuously, said Gentile; "Learners can go right back into the simulation and continue to build on their competence.

And when L&D pros are examining why training is or isn't working, the tech can eliminate some of the guesswork, he said. "With simulation-based training, you can see where they're not learning and why, targeting learning points to increase retention." Accessing this data removes deviation points and allows training to focus on the organization's objectives, he added. Uniformity is another consideration: Different instructors may perform training differently, but the consistency of AR and VR training provides better knowledge, higher retention rates and a better ability track failures and update training to meet objectives, according to Gentile.

Anders Hoo said that XR, unlike video-based training, is more than the mere "illusion of learning." Videos can give learners the false perception the task they're learning will be as easy in real life as it looks, which can create performance gaps and discourage some, Anders Hoo said. However: "If you show someone a video of someone juggling," he said, "but they're holding the juggling club, they're much less likely to be discouraged when trying to learn the skill."

Forecasting the future

One concern to consider, according to Anders Hoo, is data privacy. XR captures biometric data that can identify a person by how they move their hands and head. In a one-hour VR session, he said, thousands of data points are captured that can potentially be used to later identify someone in, for example, a surveillance camera. Next-generation XR will have eye tracking capabilities and may even be able to track your heart rate and emotional state, he said. "The same systems that allow us to have more immersive experience are the same that make for very sophisticated surveillance systems," he said. As with all new HR tech, L&D pros will have to remember to ask the right questions.

For Anders Hoo, one of the most interesting things about this futuristic tech is that it's really not new at all. It was adopted in the early twentieth century for flight simulations. Almost 100 years later, it's still seen as the newest thing because developers have begun to iterate on it more. "People overestimate the impact of tech in the short term," he said, "and underestimate its impact long term."

SOURCE: O'Donnell, R. (21 May 2019) "Extended reality promises a holistic training experience, experts say" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/extended-reality-promises-a-holistic-training-experience-experts-say/554872/


3 summer workplace legal issues and how to handle them

Summer is right around the corner, leaving employers little time to brush up on seasonal employment law issues. Issues such as hiring interns, dress code compliance and handling time off requests can cause legal issues for employers. Read this blog post to learn more.


Summer is almost here and with that comes a set of seasonal employment law issues. Top of the list for many employers includes hiring interns, dress code compliance and handling time off requests.

Here’s how employers can navigate any legal issues that may arise.

Summer interns

Employers looking to hire interns to work during the summer season or beyond should know that the U.S. Department of Labor recently changed the criteria to determine if an internship must be paid. In certain circumstances, internships are considered employment subject to federal minimum wage and overtime rules.

Under the previous primary beneficiary test, employers were required to meet all of the six criteria outlined by the DOL for determining whether interns are employees. The new seven-factor test is designed to be more flexible and does not require all factors to be met. Rather, employers are asked to determine the extent to which each factor is met. For example, how clear is it that the intern and the employer understand that the internship is unpaid, and that there is no promise of a paid job at the end of the program? The non-monetary benefits of the intern-employer relationship, such as training, are also taken into consideration.

Though no single factor is deemed determinative, a review of the whole internship program is important to ensure that an intern is not considered an employee under FLSA rules and to avoid any liabilities for misclassification claims.

Companies also should be aware of state laws that may impact internship programs. For example, California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland and New York consider interns to be employees and offer some protections under various state anti-discrimination and sexual harassment statutes.

All employers should be clear about the scope of their internship opportunities, including expectations for the relationship, anticipated duties and hours, compensation, if any, and whether an intern will become entitled to a paid job at the end of the program.

Summer dress codes

Warmer temperatures mean more casual clothing. This could mean the line between professional and casual dress in the workplace is blurred. The following are some tips when crafting a new or revisiting an existing dress code policy this summer.

If the dress code is new or being revised, the policy should be clearly communicated. Sending a reminder out to employees may be helpful in some workplaces. In all cases, the policy should be unambiguous. List examples to make sure there is no confusion about what is considered appropriate and explain the reasoning behind the policy and the consequences for any violations.

To serve their business or customer needs, companies may apply dress code policies to all employees or to specific departments. They should also make sure the dress code does not have an adverse impact on any religious groups, women, people of color or people with disabilities. Company policies may not violate state or federal anti-discrimination laws. If the policy is likely to have a disparate impact on one or more of these groups, employers should be prepared to show a legitimate business reason for the policy. Also, reasonable accommodations should be provided for employees who request one based on their protected status. For example, reasonable modifications may be required for ethnic, religious or disability reasons.

Finally, failure to consistently enforce a neutral dress code policy or provide reasonable accommodations can expose a company to potential claims. As always, dress codes and any discipline for code violations should be implemented equitably to avoid claims of discrimination.

Time off requests

Summer time tends to prompt an influx of requests for time off. Now is a good time to review policies governing time off, as well as the implementation of those policies to ensure consistency. Written time off policies should explicitly inform employees of the process for handling time off requests and help employers consistently apply the rules.

An ideal policy will explain how much time off employees receive and how that time accrues. It also will include reasonable restrictions on how time off is administered such as requiring advance approval from management, and how to handle scheduling so that business needs and staffing levels are in sync.

Most importantly, time off policies and procedures must not be discriminatory. For instance, if a policy denies time off or permits discipline for an employee who needs to be out of the office on a protected medical leave, the policy could be seen as discriminating against employees with disabilities. Companies should train their managers on how to administer time off requests in a non-discriminatory manner. Employers generally have the right to manage vacation requests, however protected leave available to employees under federal, state and local laws adds another layer of complexity that employers should consider when reviewing time off requests.

To minimize employment issues this summer and all year around: plan ahead, know the relevant employment laws and train managers and supervisors to apply HR best practices consistently throughout the organization.

SOURCE: Starkman, J.; Rochester, A. (23 May 2019) "3 summer workplace legal issues and how to handle them" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-employers-can-handle-summer-workplace-legal-issues


Working from home for medical reasons poses challenges for employers

There has been an 11 percent increase in remote work since 2014, according to SHRM. This increase in remote work is posing new challenges for HR teams when the request is due to medical reasons. Read this post to learn more.


While working from home has become much more popular in recent years – an 11% increase just since 2014, according to SHRM – this can pose challenges for HR teams when the request is due to medical reasons.

Even if your workplace has guidelines for remote workers, requests to telecommute as an accommodation must be carefully reviewed to assure you’re in compliance with ADA regulations

The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment based on disability, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees. A reasonable accommodation entails any changes in the work environment, or in the way things are customarily done, which enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities.

In these cases, it’s important for both the HR rep and a physician to gather information about the accommodation request to gauge if telecommuting is medically necessary or simply a personal preference.

The HR rep needs to gather specific information from the employee, including the following:

  • Explanation of why it’s medically necessary to work from home
  • The essential job functions the employee finds challenging to perform in the office
  • The duration of the request to work from home
  • Whether telecommuting for a period of time enables the employee to return to work in the office and perform essential functions of the job
  • Confirmation that they have a dedicated workspace with phone, Wi-Fi and other essential technology

Meanwhile, the physician should gather certain information from the HR rep, including:

  • A description of the medical condition
  • How working from home will help the employee better manage that medical condition and perform the essential job functions
  • The restrictions (things the employee cannot do) and limitations (things the employee should not do)
  • Why the employee can work from home but not in the office
  • How long the employee will require the accommodation (short or long term)
  • Likelihood that the employee will ever be able to perform their essential job functions from the office

With more offices adopting an agile model with open workspaces, employees now have more natural lighting, feel less cramped and have more opportunity for collaboration with their colleagues. However, these advantages to many people can be challenges for others.

Light and odor sensitivity, as well as distractions, are some of the most frequent triggers of medical conditions that drive the need for accommodations. In many cases, some simple modifications to the workplace can help solve or alleviate some of the employee’s challenges.

Light sensitivity, or photophobia, is intolerance to light, which can cause a painful reaction to strong lighting. Adjustments can be made to help alleviate this, including head lighting modifications, window shading, cubicle shields for fluorescent lights, polarized glasses and/or prescription eyewear.

Odor sensitivity is another common issue in open workspaces – especially for employees who previously were in a contained space with infrequent interaction with colleagues. Consider workplace signage prohibiting perfume or cologne in the office, enforcing a fragrance policy, air purifiers throughout or in select areas, a transition to scent-free cleaning products, or upgrading the ventilation system in the office to allow more air flow. For food smells, ask employees to eat in a designated area and not bring food to their workspace.

Distractibility is the inability to sustain attention or attentiveness to one task. With agile workspaces often involving moving around frequently or being positioned in a high-traffic area, this can be challenging to some employees. Consider providing noise-canceling headphones, white noise machines, cubicle shields, noise barriers or an adjustment to the office configuration. Consider allocating space within the open work plan that’s off-limits for meetings and away from heavy foot traffic.

While agile workspaces have many benefits, they can pose challenges to your workforce. It’s your responsibility to work with employees to accommodate medical requests which may result from light sensitivity, distractions or even odors. Following these simple tips can help assure a healthy, happy and productive workplace for your team.

SOURCE: Holliday-Schiavon, K. (23 May 2019) "Working from home for medical reasons poses challenges for employers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/remote-work-for-medical-reasons-challenging-for-employers


Taking the first steps to a long-term benefits strategy

Many companies are struggling in the search to find cost-effective, successful employee benefits strategies that HR professionals and finance professionals agree on. Read this blog post to learn more.


The quest for a cost-effective and successful employee benefits program can feel like a search for the Holy Grail. To most, it’s an elusive goal within the context of rising and unsustainable costs.

Unlike “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” in which a comedy of errors made for a hilarious movie, nonsensical benefits strategies can have serious consequences.

One major challenge is that many HR and finance professionals have conflicting objectives. HR’s mission is to design a program that is competitive in the marketplace for human capital needs while supporting the organization’s culture. Finance, on the other hand, is charged with managing to a budget by controlling expenses to mitigate year-over-year increases. The result, in spite of best intentions, leaves organizations unable to commit to a multi-year plan and opt in favor of living year-to-year.

So, how do you overcome this challenge?

Step 1Key HR and finance stakeholders need to align on goals and objectives. They also need to remain engaged in the process throughout the year (not just at renewal). Once you achieve alignment, these objectives should be memorialized into a benefits philosophy. Why? So the collective team has guiding principles for future decisions.

Step 2: Identify the cost drivers of the program. Many employers have little line of sight into how their plan is performing until it’s too late. Once you are staring down the barrel of a 25% increase, an organization may be forced to make swift changes to soften the blow to their bottom line rather than follow a strategic approach that comes with preparation. Unfortunately, this type of knee-jerk reaction only temporarily relieves the pressure and may create unintended consequences to the employee value proposition.

Step 3Understand where you were, where you are and where you want to be. After 25 years in the consulting industry, one thing I know for certain is there are only so many levers you can pull to rein in escalating benefit costs. Identify the levers and how far you want to pull them.

Step 4: Determine success metrics. I’ve seen many organizations implement new tactics, such as a health savings account. When I ask them if it was successful, they can’t answer because they didn’t set an internal bar for success. That barometer will help you gauge success and determine what changes need to be made to your approach to achieve your goal.

Step 5Commit the plan to writing and review it periodically. Just like your company’s overall business plan, you will need to make adjustments along the way as your business changes.

Regardless of strategy, I recommend employers take steps toward a self-funding benefits model. Historically, self-funding was for groups with 1,000 lives and above. But that’s no longer the case. Self-funding provides that all-important line of sight into cost drivers because of access to claims data. Having a deeper understanding of the “why” behind costs allows an organization to implement a data-driven approach to the overarching benefits strategy. Self-funding also provides more plan design flexibility and eliminates the internal costs that an insurance carrier builds into a plan for profit.

It’s more effective to create a benefits strategy that is sustainable over time, so when you inevitably endure a higher-than-normal renewal cycle, typically every three to five years, you are prepared to stay the course.

Consider timing. When you make changes to a benefit plan is just as important as what changes you make. Evaluate the timing of benefit changes, how they are implemented and how adjustments will impact your workforce now and in the future.

For example, if you plan to add new voluntary benefits, such as indemnity plans, it may make sense to run them “off cycle” from the core medical benefits open enrollment season. This gives employees more time to conduct research about the new product option and make an educated decision.

Strive for simplicity. I can’t stress this enough. The Affordable Care Act, an increase in voluntary benefit options, new funding models and benefit trends have created an enormous amount of noise in the insurance industry. Tune it out and simplify your process as much as you can. Your HR and Finance teams are overwhelmed and so are your employees. Instead of throwing new benefits at them each year, focus on educating them and making choices simple. In fact, any long-term benefits plan worth its weight always includes an education and communications component.

Benefit illiteracy is rampant, and confusion over options at open enrollment can have consequences for the employee throughout the plan year. If your employees choose their benefits online, spend the open enrollment meeting educating them on how to buy and consume insurance, rather than just what the benefit choices are for the plan year, or how to use the online enrollment tool. You should also communicate throughout the year, rather than just at open enrollment to support employees’ understanding of their benefits program.

Identify other areas where employees might struggle. One trend is to offer transparency tools to help them choose a doctor or specialist. But be aware that the sheer number of doctors in a given list can be overwhelming. Rather than offering employees a choice of 50 doctors, narrow it down to five providers with the best healthcare outcomes.

Making it simpler for employees to be better consumers of healthcare will help you cut costs and get on the right path to a long-term benefit strategy. Of course, you’ll have to check in each year and consider making small adjustments to the program, and data will help guide these changes. Adjustments should all be in service of a long-term plan. If you begin your long-term plan by asking the question, “Where were we, where are we now and where do we want to be in the future?” you’re halfway there. You may eventually find that your Holy Grail is within reach.

SOURCE: Bloom, A. (14 May 2019) "Taking the first steps to a long-term benefits strategy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/taking-the-first-steps-to-a-long-term-benefits-strategy