Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy

Summertime is often a season when work takes a back seat to barbecues and beach vacations. Providing flexibility during the summer months is often appreciated by employees and can help boost engagement. Read this blog post from SHRM for best practices on managing staff during the summer months.


Summertime is that season when "the livin' is easy," as the famous tune by George Gershwin goes—a season when work often takes a back seat to pool parties, barbecues and beach vacations.

How do employers keep workers' heads in the game when their toes are itching for the sand? Or how do they plan for the disruption that summer holidays and vacation schedules inevitably bring? What are their best practices for keeping productivity high?

In the health care industry, patients' needs mean productivity can't fluctuate with the seasons. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, nurse manager Michele Higgins oversees a staff of 70 on an adult general medical unit.

"Summer is busy in health care, especially at a level-one trauma hospital such as Maine Med, but we continue to care effectively for patients, and we remain patient-centered," she said.

Anticipating higher patient traffic in the summer months, the hospital pushes out its June, July and August schedules as early as March. Staff view the schedules, are reminded of guidelines for taking vacation time, and plan time off around shifts or swap shifts with co-workers.

But what happens when an employee unexpectedly calls out "sick" over the Fourth of July weekend? A pool of floating in-house nurses responds to shortages. When the pool of nurses cannot meet the demand, managers ask staff to cover shifts for incentive pay. According to Higgins, a 10-year Maine Med veteran, the numbers typically work out and the medical center maintains favorable nurse-to-patient ratios. But she's always prepared to show up in scrubs and jump in as needed. "Being present is important to me," she said. "I make myself accessible and stay positive, supporting the staff and recognizing their efforts."

Higgins rewards her staff with hospital-sponsored special events throughout the summer. These include "nurses' week" at the beginning of May, when employees win gift cards and goody bags in daily raffles, participate in a book swap, and play games like cornhole. Later in the summer, senior leaders host staff appreciation lunches, smoothie breaks on the patio and an ice cream bar. The hospital also reserves box seats for each of its 23 units at minor league baseball games at Hadlock Field in downtown Portland.

"Maine Med is a great place to work," Higgins said. "But busy is the norm."

Workers Appreciate Flexibility

For employees who are parents, juggling work and school-age children who are either home for the summer, at camps or in day care can be challenging—and expensive.

Recognizing this, some employers observe summer hours so parents can start and end the workday earlier. Employees at Princeton University call it quits at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day.

River City Dental, a dental office in Williamsport, Md., operates on an 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule in June, July and August. Office manager Lori Robine reports that the employees, many of whom are parents, appreciate the flexibility of the shortened workday and increased free time.

Workplace flexibility is another benefit that can boost spirits—and productivity—during the summer months. Maine Medical Center can't tweak its summer hours, but fewer meetings are held, and they're even put on hold in July.

When summer arrives, workplace productivity doesn't have to suffer. Employers can look for opportunities to be flexible with scheduling and dress codes, find ways to recognize and reward employees, and host events that celebrate the warm months.

Michele Poacelli is a freelancer based in Mercersburg, Pa. 

SOURCE: Poacelli, M. (12 July 2019) "Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/employee-engagement-in-the-summer.aspx


Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019

The importance of looking forward three to six months or even a few years for new and emerging trends was discussed during this year's SHRM's Annual Conference & Exposition. Factors such as technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation, all affect how companies do business and attract top talent. Read this blog post to learn more.


LAS VEGAS — HR professionals and organization leaders have a lot to keep up with: technological developments, economic changes, globalization and automation. All of these factors affect how companies do business and attract and retain talented workers.

"If we don't keep up with all the changes going on around us in terms of the tasks we do every day, we become obsolete," said Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at New York City-based Future Workplace, an executive development firm dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace.

It's more important now than ever for business professionals to look forward three or six months or even a few years, he said during a mega session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2019 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Conference attendee Jessica Whitney said she hoped to learn about any new trends for the workplace so she could compare what's discussed to what her company is currently doing—to see what it's doing right and if there are any new ideas she can take back to the office. Whitney is a people partner at Unum Therapeutics in Massachusetts.

These are the top 10 trends that will impact HR departments in 2019, according to Schawbel's research.

1. Fostering the relationship between workers and robots.

One of the biggest trends of 2019 is the partnership between robots and humans. "The human element will never go away," Schawbel said. HR will continue to manage the human workforce, and information technology (IT) teams will manage the robots. "The big opportunity moving forward is for HR to partner with IT and even other departments … in order to collaborate and manage the human experience," he said.

2. Creating flexible work schedules.

"Flexibility is something that we want because we're working more hours than ever before," he said. Regardless of age or generation, employees want to have a life outside of work.

3. Taking a stand on social issues.

Younger workers, especially, want to work for companies that are making a positive difference in the world, Schawbel said. Companies that take a stand on social issues will be unpopular with some people, he noted, but if they want to attract the right talent, they have almost no choice.

4. Improving gender diversity.

Compared to men, few women hold executive positions. The New York Times reported that "fewer women run big companies than men named John." That's the bad news. "The great news," Schawbel said, "is that countries are getting involved, companies are getting involved, and it looks like changes are on the horizon."

5. Investing in mental health.

Many people either have mental disorders or interact with someone who does, and mental health is becoming less stigmatized as more people speak publicly on the topic. Britain's Prince Harry, for example, is partnering with Oprah Winfrey and Apple on a series about mental health and has also asked employers in the United Kingdom to sign a pledge to take a stand on this issue. Schawbel noted that employers who sign the pledge signal to employees that they take mental health seriously.

6. Addressing the loneliness of remote workers.

Many employees today can work from wherever they want. Remote work is great—and employers need to promote flexibility—but there is a cost, Schawbel said. The isolation employees feel when they don't interact enough with co-workers may cause them to check out. Investing in offsite and team-building events can help. Connecting with remote workers in person even once a year can make a huge difference and build trust, he noted.

7. Upskilling the workforce.

There are 7.4 million open jobs in the U.S., and the unemployment rate is 3.6 percent. So employers need to find creative ways to close the skills gap. Companies are starting to hire more older workers, workers with disabilities, workers who were formerly incarcerated and veterans. "The [talent] pool is getting wider and wider, which is great," Schawbel said. "It's great because talent can come from anywhere." Companies are less focused on age, gender and other factors and more concerned with whether the person can do the joband work well with others, he added.

8. Focusing on soft skills.

"Soft skills are the new hard skills," Schawbel said. Ninety-one percent of HR professionals surveyed by LinkedIn believe soft skills are very important for the future of recruiting. "You can train for hard skills, but soft skills take a long time to learn," Schawbel noted. "If you hire someone who has a positive attitude, good organizational skills, is able to delegate work … they're going to be incredibly valuable in today's world."

9. Preparing for Generation Z.

Employers need to understand Generation Z, the demographic born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Many in this cohort identify anxiety as a major issue that gets in the way of their workplace success, which relates to addressing mental health, Schawbel said. And even though Generation Z workers self-identify as the digital generation, they say they want more face-to-face interaction at work. Additionally, they tend to expect quick promotions, so employers should set realistic expectations, he noted.

10. Preventing burnout.

Employees must grapple with an "always on" work culture, and many employees leave their companies as a result of being overworked. Employers should recognize what causes burnout and aim to fix it, because it may cost them more over time if they don't, Schawbel said.

"We have to think about work differently," he added. "The future is uncertain … but we can make changes today that will give us a better tomorrow."

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L., J.D., SHRM-SCP (27 June 2019) "Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Top-10-Workplace-Trends-for-2019.aspx


Culture is what employers ‘do when no one is looking’

Culture is one of the primary reasons employees choose to leave a current position or accept a job offer. According to a recent survey, 30 percent of job seekers left new positions after 90 days because of company culture. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


Employers advertise their values to attract like-minded talent, but if organizations don’t practice what they preach, they risk watching that talent walk right out the door.

Second to compensation, company culture is one of the primary reasons employees leave a company, according to the 2018 Jobvite Job Seeker Insights Survey. A good fit is so important that 30% of job seekers left brand-new positions after just 90 days because they didn’t like the company’s culture, the study said.

“It’s interesting that people think about culture in terms of what they want it to be, not what it actually is,” Mita Mallick, head of diversity and cross-cultural marketing at Unilever, said Wednesday at the Greenhouse Open Conference. “Culture is defined by what you do when no one’s looking.”

Mallick and Jennifer Turner — an HR strategy consultant at Alphabet, Google’s parent company — engaged in a panel discussion on creating an inclusive company culture during the conference. As HR professionals managing large teams, they agreed employers need to take initiative to establish healthy work environments.

“Creating an environment where women and people of color feel comfortable needs to be a priority,” Turner said. “Including their voices is how you make that happen.”

Turner recognized that some marginalized employees won’t feel comfortable speaking up about problems with company culture — especially if they have less job experience. Mallick and Turner said it’s helpful for these employees to find allies in senior level coworkers who can advocate for them.

“Early in my career, I know I didn’t feel comfortable raising my hand and saying, ‘That’s not OK,’” Mellick said. “I’m much more confident now.”

Mallick spoke about a time when she felt she needed to step up for employees who are mothers. Unilever was in the middle of planning a new campus in New Jersey, complete with a mother’s room for nursing. After viewing the plans, Mallick said it was clear the designers didn’t ask any of their female employees what they’d like to get out of the room. From her own experience as a mother, she said it would be most helpful if the room also functioned as a co-working space; the plan she was presented with didn’t have those elements.

“I asked [the men], ‘Have you ever nursed before?’ And, of course, they said no,” Mallick said. “Some of the men were getting grouchy, saying they were just trying to do the right thing. But that’s just an example of failure in not trying to connect who you were trying to serve.”

“If you don’t, it happens organically,” Mallick said. “There are people who will try to fill the culture.”

Turner spoke briefly about Google’s transition from startup to global enterprise, a change that required the company to redesign its culture. She said Google was able to bridge traditional office hierarchies with Google’s original culture by training managers to act like coaches. The founders hoped this management structure would perpetuate their original value — teamwork.

“Our founders felt uncomfortable with the word ‘management,’” Turner said. “But you need it at larger companies to organize jobs.”

Both women emphasized the importance of conducting regular employee surveys to determine engagement levels. Mellick said lower-level employees often feel more comfortable providing honest feedback in surveys. She believes this is the best way to “hold leadership accountable.”

“Sometimes there are some bad actors who continue to slip by without living by your company’s values because they produce results,” Mellick said. “It’s important to listen to employee feedback because these productive jerks can be an overpowering force that creates fear in your workforce.”

Turner said employers who are serious about their company’s core values need to conduct regular performance reviews for managers and take their lower-level employees’ feedback seriously.

“We want our leadership to stand up for us and believe what comes from their mouth,” Turner said. “If leaders don’t live by [the company’s] values, how can the culture be that way?”

SOURCE: Webster, K. (14 June 2019) "Culture is what employers ‘do when no one is looking’" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/alphabet-unilever-discuss-workplace-culture


5 Strategies to Motivate Burned-Out Workers

An optimal way to motivate and engage burned-out workers is by rewarding team members for their achievements. Continue reading this post from SHRM for five strategies used to motivate burned-out workers.


Robert is a human resources director in a local community hospital who feels the heaviness of low staff morale. Employees are clearly tired, they feel like they're working at their maximum, and they're having a hard time keeping up with the patient load. In fact, due to leaves of absence from co-workers' disabilities and workers' comp, more employees have been working double shifts over extended periods of time. They are showing the classic signs of burnout. Unfortunately, Robert can't simply backfill positions because employees are on protected leaves of absence, and temp agencies and registries have few candidates to offer due to the tight labor market. In short, Robert doesn't know how to stop this apparently endless cycle of staffing shortages, excessive shift coverage, employee leaves and limited position replacements.

"Unless you've got some kind of magic wand to make these all-too-common challenges disappear, you won't have much success in terms of addressing these issues directly and head on," said Terry Hollingsworth, vice president of education and human resources services for the Hospital Association of Southern California in the greater Los Angeles area. "Yes, tightening up your recruitment cycle and opening your network to more temp agencies and registries may help, but those are Band-Aids. The real value lies in looking at the other side of the equation: employee engagement and self-motivation."

Rewarding people for their achievements, it turns out, is an optimal way to motivate and engage a team that feels like it's treading water. Allowing people to assume greater responsibilities and focus on their career development is better for them and for the organization—even when they may be feeling overwhelmed or burned out at the time you initiate the programs that follow.

1. Create a Career Development Pipeline

If your organization isn't already doing so, look for opportunities to build a succession planning program, especially among your hourly workers where career escalation is relatively easy to accomplish.

In Robert's case, the hospital's key challenge lies in finding certified nursing assistants (CNAs) due to market shortages.

"Hospital food service workers, janitors and others might want to pursue their CNA certification as a first step to formally launch their health care careers," Hollingsworth said. "Setting up onsite training classes and allowing on-the-job shadowing can be a game changer in terms of your culture and creating an environment where workers feel motivated and re-engaged. Ditto for developing a training program where CNAs can apply for their licensure to become licensed vocational nurses, the next rung on the nursing career ladder."

2. Develop a High-Po Program

"High-potential (high-po) programs focus on identifying the top 10 or 20 percent of workers in a given classification and awarding and recognizing them for their achievements, while helping them build out their resumes," said Rita Van Vranken, chief human resources officer at the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans in Studio City, Calif.

"High-pos may not be ready to promote just yet, but they set themselves apart as top performers, brand ambassadors, and potential leaders who deserve special levels of acknowledgment and development from departmental and senior management. A structured high-po program serves as an effective recognition and development tool and dovetails nicely into formal succession planning."

Identifying one person from each department or unit gives these individuals more than an opportunity to feel special. They also may, for example, attend advanced classes on leadership, communication and teambuilding; enjoy a once-a-quarter lunch with their regional manager; and benefit from individual development plans that, created in tandem with their manager and department head, will single them out for promotion when the opportunity arises.

3. Develop an Active Employee Recognition Program

"Many organizations fail to realize the importance of both formal and informal recognition programs," Van Vranken said. "More important, though, is that companies that have them in place fail to promote and publicize them. If you have [an] Employee of the Month and Employee of the Year award program that barely gets attention, scrap it temporarily." Instead, try a Shining Star or Employee Spotlight program that recognizes employees who go above and beyond their job's expectations.

"[Pilot] a three- or six-month program that generates a buzz and makes the rewards something to brag about," she added.

Just remember that these types of programs are meant to spark up the troops, and, if you're not rewarding the most-needed behaviors (e.g., accepting double shifts or coming in on weekends), you're missing the main benefit of the exercise.

"Make it real; make it pop; and make sure your messages, values, and activities are all aligned," Van Vranken said.

Don't be surprised to learn that the most dramatic and immediate change in your organizational culture stems from praising employees and recognizing their achievements. And that recognition need not be monetary. In fact, many consulting firms that specialize in reward and recognition programs will tell you that research shows public praise and recognition can be more meaningful to workers than a cash card or check in a sealed envelope.

There are plenty of simple and effective ways for leaders to recognize their employees, from employee photos in the lobby to prestigious parking spots. Whatever you decide, make sure to communicate both expectations and celebrations clearly. Encourage your team members to follow your lead in recognizing others for a job well done. Share praise openly, and consider organizing recognition events to honor bigger accomplishments, especially those reached by teams working closely together.

4. Help Employees Fulfill Their Personal Career Goals

Career development is a key driver of employee satisfaction. Your strongest performers will always be resume builders. Providing opportunities for talented individuals to do their best work every day, combined with training and educational opportunities, will go a long way in helping people achieve their career advancement goals.

Become an organization known for its commitment to professional development. Provide networking opportunities for your staffers to meet leaders from other parts of the organization over team lunch meetings. Serve as a mentor and coach to your direct reports by asking them about their longer-term goals and how you could help them get there.

"Show that you're interested in the whole person, not just the one who shows up at work," Van Vranken said. "You'll likely find that people will respond in kind to the heightened dose of positive attention they're garnering,"

More specifically, Hollingsworth said, "Ask your employees to schedule 30 minutes with you once per quarter to review their progress toward their career goals. Invite them to share their resume with you to help them make the best presentation possible and [add] their work-related achievements to their LinkedIn profiles as well. Remember that when you develop an achievement mentality where employees are adding accomplishment bullets to their resume, you'll create a high-performance culture where high-performers are far less inclined to leave."

5. Plan Ahead

All employees want some sense of job security regarding their future with the company. They likewise want to understand how their efforts contribute to the organization's larger goals, mission and vision.

Share information generously. Ensure that people understand the goals and challenges so they can tie their recommended solutions to the broader picture. Help them learn about your organization and build on their knowledge by collecting information in scorecards, dashboards and other forms of data intelligence.

Likewise, honor the annual performance review process—the one hour per year dedicated to each individual worker as the culmination of the previous 12 months (i.e., the 2,080 hours typically worked). Yes, managers and employees at times express frustration with the annual performance review process, but you'd be surprised how many employees complain about not getting formal feedback—sometimes for years at a time.

Finally, turn your team into corporate futurists: Have them research your organization, industry and competitors. Have them scour the Internet for current trends and patterns in your business, especially those that can impact their careers for the better. As an example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes its Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/ooh. Send your employees on research missions to the BLS website to determine what the growth trajectory for their particular position is (currently measured in terms of job growth from 2016-26).

If Robert's employees take on this task, they will find career projections for medical assistants, dietitians, home health aides, nurses, massage therapists, phlebotomists and pharmacy technicians, among others. The BLS site outlines national median pay, educational requirements and the all-important "job outlook."

On the job outlook page, the hospital's workers will find a bar chart showing, for example, medical assistant jobs will grow at a rate of 29 percent per year between 2016 and 2026, relative to average job growth in the U.S. of 7 percent (all job classifications).

That's pretty motivating, but there's also an Excel spreadsheet embedded in the page that maps out job growth in particular medical areas relative to the 24 percent overall growth for the entire classification. Robert's medical assistant employees will learn that 10-year job growth projections line up as follows by specialty area:

Outpatient care centers                       +53 percent

Specialty hospitals                              +38 percent

Nursing/residential care facilities       +32 percent

General hospitals                                +16 percent

Wow! How's that for motivating employees to focus on their career development and construct a longer-term career plan to help them isolate the areas where their skills will be needed most? And who knows—Robert may be helping his front-line operational leaders realize that the ones who shine at extracurricular exercises like these just might distinguish themselves as high-pos ready to build the hospital's leadership bench.

SOURCE: Falcone, P. (12 June 2019) "5 Strategies to Motivate Burned-Out Workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/5-Strategies-to-Motivate-Burned-Out-Workers.aspx


Mentorship Matters

Research shows that having a trusted mentoring relationship can help bolster emotional well-being for mentees. Continue reading this blog post from UBA for more on why mentorship programs matter.


Imagine highly tailored, expert advice for both professional and personal life goals and transitions being readily available. That’s what a skilled mentor can provide. Having an engaged, intentional, and present mentor helps support and build talent. Beyond talent and skill building, research points to a trusted mentoring relationship serving to bolster emotional wellbeing for mentees as well. No wonder people seek out mentors, and that people who seek out mentors are promoted more frequently.

There are benefits to the mentors, too. In some studies, mentors report feeling like their jobs are more meaningful. Mentors also report lower levels of anxiety as well, according to the HarvardBusiness Review. This relationship can be one that both parties learn from and creates a mentor pipeline with current mentees becoming future mentors.

Fortune 500 companies are keyed into the benefits of mentorship, with 70 percent of these large corporations having a program. Such programs can help boost a business' ability to attract and retain talent. This can be for all candidates but also for diversity and inclusion, since women and people of color report having a mentor as a valuable component of their success. This is particularly true for hiring Millennials, who want career direction and work that is meaningful and may benefit from strong mentoring programs.

With an ever-more-mobile workforce, mentorship can ensure your top performers share their knowledge in case they leave, per an article in Feedstuffs. Likewise, newer employees onboard more successfully when they have a strong mentor. Beyond sharing how processes and systems work at a particular company, mentors can also share culture tips that can help a newer employee integrate into an office community more seamlessly.

Whether a formal program or a more informal relationship, mentorship is something employees want but may not know how to get, says HR Dive. More than 75 percent say mentorship matters, but only 56 percent have ever had a mentor. Individuals currently being mentored falls to only 37 percent. HR departments of companies of all sizes should be prepared to answer questions about programs during interviews and hiring.

A few keys to building a successful mentorship program include:

Provide opportunities for feedback. For mentors looking to improve and open to constructive criticism, one of the best resources may just be anonymous feedback. It would only be truly anonymous, but also likely most valuable, after mentoring enough people to find trends or notice areas from improvement. Science reports that, while face-to-face conversations are important for mentoring relationships, anonymous feedback is equally important for individuals to improve.

Look beyond direct managers/supervisors for mentors. An article in Forbes points to a manager’s role as one of ensuring projects are successful and business goals met. That can get in the way of working on an individual’s development. Look outside of direct management for an employee’s mentor so the mentor can focus on the individual.

Invest in your mentoring program, and the mentors themselves. Creating a program is exciting and full of potential but taking time to train mentors is essential. Success happens after the launch of the program after all. Be sure you’re spending as much time developing your mentors, says the Association for Talent Development. If they feel like they are expected to just know what to do, they may struggle. Creating guides, training, and direction to mentors helps them feel successful from the start.

Make time for connection and conversation. Nearly half of mentees report that getting time with the mentors proves challenging. As an organization, consider how you can support a successful connection by carving out regular time for both individuals to be available. Trust building, boundary and expectation setting, and more all take time.

Read more:

Mentoring Can Supercharge Your Staff

Most Employees Say a Mentor Is Important, but Few Have One

Want to Become a Better Mentor? Ask for Anonymous Feedback

5 Reasons Mentors Need Help

Stressed at Work? Mentoring a Colleague Could Help

Why You Need A Mentor Who Isn't Your Boss

SOURCE: Olson, B. (18 June 2019) "Mentorship Matters" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/mentorship-matters


5 myths about returning to work after a disability

How is your return-to-work program? Many employers, human resources professionals and benefits experts have misperceptions about return-to-work and the accommodations that are used to make programs successful. Continue on for five myths about returning to work after a disability.


Carl was 58 when he found out he needed a hip replacement, and the environmental services worker was told he’d be out of work for three months to recover.

But less than eight weeks after his surgery, Carl was back on the job. It wasn’t because he couldn’t pay his bills without a paycheck — his short-term disability insurance through his employer helped with that. Instead, it was for two reasons: One, he was eager to get back to his normal life, and two, his employer was willing to support a plan for a gradual transition back to his usual duties. With his doctor’s approval, he worked half-days for two weeks as he built back his endurance and work stamina, and soon was working full-time again.

The result: Carl’s transition back to work over a 14-day period got him back on the job 40 days earlier than expected, based on initial estimated date. The transition plan also allowed him to return to work without needing to tap into his long-term coverage. At the same time, his employer was saved the cost of hiring and training replacement staff or paying overtime to other workers.

With a win-win like this — and it’s just one of thousands of examples I could share — you’d think all employers would be on board with return-to-work strategies. Instead we’ve found a surprising number of employers, human resources professionals and even benefits experts have misperceptions about return-to-work and the accommodations that can make it successful. And it’s hitting them and their employees hard on the bottom line.

Here are five of the most common myths about returning to work after a disability. See how many you mistakenly believe.

1. It’ll create a workers’ compensation claim. Some employers are afraid an employee who’s had a disabling injury will be a safety risk, getting reinjured on the job and creating a costly workers’ comp claim. The reality is a gradual transition back to full-time work makes employees safer as they regain strength and rebuild skills.

2. We don’t have to provide accommodations unless the injury happened at work.
This one’s not true, either, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Council. Employers legally can’t differentiate between employees who suffer a disabling injury at work and those who’re injured at home or elsewhere. Smart employers focus on getting a valuable employee back to work, not the injury or illness and where it happened.

3. Employees must be 100% or they can’t perform productive work.Employers willing to be creative often find there are many tasks a skilled, knowledgeable employee can perform during a transition period. True, some jobs have more rigid requirements than others. For example, a nurse might not be physically able to go straight back to patient care. But if you’re like most of us, you have a stockpile of back-burner projects that would benefit your business. A transitioning employee could have the perfect skills to take those on. In other cases, simple, inexpensive accommodations can help an employee perform better: An assembly line worker who can’t stand for an eight-hour shift could use a leaning stool for support and be just as productive.

4. Customer care or service will be negatively impacted. This one might seem logically true, but it really isn’t when you crunch the numbers. Accommodating a returning employee with part-time hours or different duties for a period of time has less impact on service and productivity than hiring, training and ramping up replacement staff. Routinely cross-training employees in other jobs also gives employers the flexibility to move resources where they’re needed at any time.

5. Other employees will also want “light duty.” This may not exactly qualify as a myth, as some employees really might want what they perceive as easier work. The issue is the term light duty itself, which is both loaded and vague. Effective communication is essential here: Consistently refer to new, alternate or modified job tasks, be transparent, and make sure employees understand return-to-work options. Having a return-to-work program where employees feel valued impacts the morale of the whole team, boosting productivity.

How to make return-to-work work well

Helping your valued employees rejoin your team doesn’t have to be costly or difficult. Here are a few tips to make it successful.

Communicate early and often. Meet or talk with the employee before the leave and stay in touch while on leave. Talk before the return to work to set expectations.

Be flexible. Consider a graduated return-to-work plan to allow the employee to ramp up to full time. Allow work at home for part of the day or week, if possible. Make hours flexible to allow for medical appointments.

Be welcoming. Meet with the employee upon return, and ensure the manager conducts regular one-to-one meetings with the employee. Allow the employee time to reintegrate, perhaps with the aid of a mentor.

Focus on the job, not the illness or injury. Instead of asking the employee how he or she is feeling, ask how the company can better assist him or her in performing the essential functions of the job.

Be creative. Avoid making assumptions about what the returning employee can do. Flexible work arrangements, accessible technology or inexpensive adaptations can often help the employee do the job in alternate ways.

SOURCE: Ledford, M (5 June 2019) "5 myths about returning to work after a disability" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/myths-about-returning-to-work-after-a-disability


Your bad work environment may be raising your healthcare costs

Is your company’s culture leading to raised healthcare costs? More and more research is documenting a relationship between stressful work environments and a range of chronic conditions. Continue reading to learn more.


If you want to reduce the cost of healthcare for your employees — while simultaneously improving care — you may need to take a serious look at your work environment. When reviewing areas that could help reduce costs, a much overlooked aspect is a stressful work environment.

While employers have done a lot to reduce the risk of potential injuries in the workplace, they have done far less to reduce stress, which could also be harmful.

Research finds a link between employee health and job performance. There also is a growing body of research documenting the relationship between a stressful work environment and a range of chronic conditions — including depression, hypertension and sleeping problems. But employers often struggle to connect the dots between these health concerns and supporting a healthy environment for employees.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to manage something that remains unmeasured. That’s why measuring outcomes beyond healthcare cost fluctuations, such as absence, periods of work disability and job performance, can help employers understand a broader range of outcomes important to the successful operation of their business.

When employers ask how they can affect the health of their employees, I ask what they know about the working conditions in their organization. Is there management trouble, high turnover, high illness-related absence or low job satisfaction? Some of this can be determined from employee satisfaction surveys, or analyses of sick leave data and work disability claims. Often, even more can be discovered by gathering employee feedback.

For example, listening to employees, equipping them with the knowledge to recognize safety issues and providing the tools or procedures to correct these issues, were key to improving workplace safety. A successful safety review can result in real change. Employees observe this change and a cycle is created where prevention becomes the focus because all are accountable and all have trust based on experience that their identification of potential or real safety issues will be dealt with effectively.

If employers are unaware of the factors in their own work environment that could be modified to lessen psychosocial stressors, a good place to start is by listening to employees. Many employers already conduct job satisfaction surveys or health risk appraisals that provide some information around work and health issues. These same tools could be used to identify and address psychosocial issues in the workplace.

Whatever the channel — a suggestion box, a designated HR representative, a focus group, a survey — it must provide employees with the opportunity to authentically and safely share their perspectives. And, finally, it must be demonstrably legitimate, resulting in employer actions that are clear and meaningful to all.

Typically employers use health and wellness programs in an attempt to remediate rather than prevent illness. Our interviews with medical directors of some of the leading U.S. corporations revealed a similar finding. Often, the medical director or chief health officer is charged with improving employee health, while the HR benefits manager is charged with reducing healthcare costs. Not surprisingly, these two goals can be at odds with each other. Imagine the company with a large percent of untreated depression.

So how can employers know what works or even what to try?

Evaluators often start their work by asking why particular activities, services or coverage types were chosen or implemented. This helps identify those areas more proximal to the employment setting (something about the job or in the work environment, for instance) and those areas more distal to the employment setting (such as medication formulary). To put a fine point on the problem, Pfeffer notes that “putting a nap pod into a workplace is not going to substitute for the fact that people aren’t getting enough sleep because they are working 24/7.”

Those looking to get started might begin by watching Working on Empty, an 11-minute documentary, which can provide solid direction for the type of information you’re seeking from your employees. Honor their voice and insight, and use it to implement real change. In doing so, you will build trust and a channel for contribution that improves outcomes for employees and employers.

SOURCE: Jinnett, K. (20 May 2019) "Your bad work environment may be raising your healthcare costs" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/workplace-stress-increasing-healthcare-costs


A better place to work: How well-being impacts the bottom line

One in 10 employers is skeptical about the value of well-being programs. Health challenges, near stagnant wages, financial stress and more can take a personal toll on your employees, causing their stress levels to rise.  Continue reading to learn more.


Logically, employees bring their “whole selves” to work. Unfortunately, health challenges, relatively stagnant wages, heightened financial pressures, always-on technology and contentious geo-political climates around the world all take a personal toll on employees in the form of rising stress.

Employers recognize that the health and well-being of their workers is vital to engagement, performance and productivity, yet one in ten are skeptical about the value of well-being programs. But by learning from peers’ experiences, employers can take steps to help employees improve their well-being through access to related programs and services. And that contributes strongly to the overall success of the organization.

Survey says

According to the 252 global employers polled in the Working Well: A Global Survey of Workforce Wellbeing Strategies, building a culture of well-being is a higher priority than ever. Fully 40 percent of organizations believe they’ve actually achieved it, up from 33 percent in our 2016 survey. Of those who have not, another 81 percent are making plans to get there.

Top priorities for wellness programs in North America were to reduce stress and boost physical activity. Stress is a bottom-line issue for employers: 96 percent identified employee stress as the biggest challenge to a productive workforce.

Closely related priorities were improving nutrition and work-life issues, addressing depression and anxiety, and getting better access to health care services. On the latter, discussion with many employers confirms this includes sufficient access to mental and behavioral health providers—directly related to the top challenge of stress and its more serious potential debilitative consequences that can include anxiety, depression, addiction and more.

Health

The most frequently offered employee health benefits which respondents also assessed as most effective included the following:

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs): By far the most frequent program, offered by 86 percent of global employers and 96 percent of US respondents. About 7 in 10 of those who offer an EAP said it’s effective in achieving their objectives, although actual experience reveals a wish that many more employees would take full advantage of EAP services. Know your numbers assessments, including health screenings and health risk appraisals, rose in prevalence globally and were considered effective by 86 percent of respondents.
  • On-site care: While smaller numbers of employers offer on-site immunizations, delivery of medical care, or fitness centers, they were still rated at just over 80 percent effective – demonstrating that convenience and access can remove barriers and enhance results.
  • Flexible working policies: These rose in prevalence over our last survey, consistent with other research demonstrating that multiple generations prize work flexibility to enable balance and help manage life’s stressors.
  • Wearables: Sensors and trackers also rose in prevalence. Globally, two-thirds of respondents credited them with effectiveness in monitoring and perhaps motivating healthy activities.

The survey also found health literacy is required to engage and drive behavioral change, and employers need targeted solutions to build it.

Finances

Validated by other research, a majority of employees live paycheck to paycheck today. Of US respondents, 87 percent reported financial distress among employees (the global average was 83 percent). Employers cited negative bottom-line results from financial stress, such as lower morale and engagement, delayed retirement and lower productivity, among other detrimental impacts. Other studies show financially stressed employees spend three hours or more each week distracted by it.

In prior years, this survey showed a top focus on saving for retirement; now, non-retirement-related objectives are rapidly catching up as priorities. It’s hard to focus on retirement when current needs are pressing. As a result, well over 7 in 10 employers also seek ways to ensure adequate insurance protection, help in saving for other future needs, better handling day-to-day expenses, reducing debt, and having emergency savings.

ROI vs. VOI

Just under half of respondents have specific, measurable goals or targets and outcomes for their well-being programs overall. But measurement is tricky, and 45 percent of respondents noted a lack of resources to support measurement as the top barrier to metrics. Nevertheless, only 8 percent perceived “no measurable return.”

Of those measuring the health care cost impact, 54 percent reported their programs were reducing trend by 2 to 5 percentage points per year. Financial well-being ratings were more challenging, with only 4 percent globally saying they have objective data to demonstrate their financial well-being program effectiveness.

Concurrently, many placed their bets on technology tools to inform program design and outreach: 84 percent rated predictive analytics as effective in helping to support well-being, even if just over a quarter offer it today—another half plan to do so in the next 2 to 3 years.

A value-of-investment priority emerges from the data. Employers intuitively pursue programs that build goodwill by providing helpful resources. The top four objectives globally focused on engagement and morale, performance and productivity, attraction and retention, and overall, enhancing the total rewards offering while managing spend. While reducing health care costs was the top objective for the US, it was fifth globally. Other objectives linked the organization’s image or brand and values and mission—if the company has a message to external customers, it needs to “walk the talk” internally with employees.

Holistic strategy

Compared to prior surveys, employers continue to explore new ways to support well-being, in response to employee and business needs. The historically stronger emphasis on health-related well-being continues, but financial well-being efforts are on the rise. For the US/Canada, the recent fast-rising program elements have been spiritual well-being (67 percent), retirement financial security and preparedness (57 percent), social connectedness (57 percent), and financial literacy/skills (63 percent).

In total, survey responses suggest employers understand that these well-being issues are interconnected and cannot be effectively addressed in isolation without a more holistic strategy and delivery solutions.

That’s where value of investment comes in, acknowledging that enhancing physical and emotional, financial, social, and other aspects of employee well-being can help make the organization a better place to work.

SOURCE: Hunt, R. (11 April 2019) "A better place to work: How well-being impacts the bottom line" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2019/04/11/a-better-place-to-work-how-well-being-impacts-the-bottom-line/


Why your company needs a culture deck

Many HR professionals often recommend that employers create strong, positive company cultures as a way to best attract and retain talent. Read this blog post to learn why your company needs a culture deck.


Ask any HR professional how an employer should best attract and retain talent, and they’ll likely tell you that they need to create a strong, positive company culture.

But they’re also likely to say it’s easier said than done.

Sure, you can help attract employees with salary and benefits — but any other employers with the right data or a good broker can match those enticements. However, the culture at an organization is something that is not so easy to replicate.

Building a culture isn’t done by issuing a memo. The C-suite has a clear role in building the culture of an organization, but it can’t dictate it. Instead, most corporate cultures take hold based upon the behavior of employees. No matter how much the CEO wants “empathy” to be a company value, it’ll never happen if you hire a bunch of people who aren’t empathetic. The example the C-suite sets will have a far greater impact on culture than what they say.

To shape and influence the culture, one of employers’ best tools is a culture deck — which breaks down your company’s culture, core values and mission into clear, easy-to-absorb pieces.

It’s been 10 years since Netflix published the first culture deck to the internet. In 125 slides, the company outlined its values, expected behaviors and core operating philosophy. In the decade since, it’s been viewed more than 18 million times. Many other companies have followed suit with their own versions of a culture deck.

Done well, a culture deck is a promise made among the people at a company, regardless of what role they’re in or what level they’re at. A culture deck unifies thinking around how everyone is going to behave, and what matters most to them. A culture deck can galvanize what’s already happening inside the organization, and help you chart a course into the future. It can serve as an important filter in the hiring process, as prospective employees either get excited about working in a culture like yours’ or self-select out. A culture deck can infuse your mission, vision and values throughout the company, making your culture top of mind for everyone and part of their everyday conversation, and serve as a terrific introduction during new employee orientation.

If you think a culture deck could help your company, here are five keys to ensuring the deck has a positive impact for your company.

It needs to ring true. While a culture deck must be aspirational, it also must be rooted in truth. If it’s wishful thinking, employees are going to roll their eyes and you’re not going to create much cohesion.

You need to give it high visibility. Consider that research shows people need to hear something seven times before it starts to sink in — if you communicate the culture deck once a quarter, it’ll take almost two years for people to begin to get on board. The culture deck needs to be talked about in meetings. It needs to be shown on video screens throughout your offices. This can’t be a PPT that’s posted to the intranet and forgotten.

The CEO needs to be a champion. While the CEO can’t simply dictate culture from on high, if they aren’t actively on board people will notice; the tone at the top needs to be pro-culture deck. How seriously the CEO takes the culture deck determines how important it is to employees. If the CEO brings it up in all-hands meetings, that shows how committed they are to building a positive culture.

You need other champions, too. It’s good to identify a number of ambassadors throughout the company. These folks can be counted on to talk about parts of the culture deck with their colleagues. When business discussions are happening, these are the people that will say, “There’s that section of the culture deck that we should consider in this discussion.” When people start using the culture deck as a decision-making tool, that’s when you know you’re on the right track.

Remember that your culture is about more than just the deck. The culture deck is just one tool of many. It needs to be a centerpiece of your culture conversations, but simply creating the deck does not automatically mean you’ve created a culture.

Your company is a living, breathing organism — it will grow and change over time. And that means your culture must also adapt. The culture deck is not written in stone, but is a guide that can enhance communication, help team members live the corporate values and become better employees, assist you in hiring people that fit better and thereby reduce employee churn, and ultimately to help your company thrive.

SOURCE: Miller, J. (3 April 2019) "Why your company needs a culture deck" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-employers-need-a-culture-deck?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude Towards Employees

Employees are more likely to trust their employers who recognize their value. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn how you can develop an attitude of gratitude towards your employees.


Many companies plan to boost employee engagement in 2019. With benefits for both employees and employers, the strategy is easy to understand. What’s more, a strong employee recognition program can set your company apart in a tight job market.

Indeed, we find that demonstrating pride in our employees leads them to take pride in our company. A human-centric approach creates a company culture that puts workers first. Employees are more likely to trust (and feel trusted by) companies that recognize their value.

Putting employees first can also pay big dividends to the bottom line– a strong connection exists between employee trust and company performance. Companies with high degrees of worker trust consistently outperform in terms of productivity, innovation and retention. Happier employees also contribute to a positive company culture.

That positive culture can stretch far beyond the office walls. When job seekers research your company on social media and third-party review sites – something nearly everyone does these days – they will see positive feedback from your employees. This sets your company apart from the crowd and can help attract top talent to your organization.

Creative ways to show you care

When you recognize the value your employees bring, you demonstrate the company’s values of gratitude and appreciation. Don’t just assume employees already know you think they are amazing, show them. Here are some ideas to help you acknowledge employee contributions:

  • Reserve a designated “thank you” time during staff meetings – This provides a chance for managers and team members to express gratitude towards each other.
  • Implement a weekly email “shout-out” campaign – Spread recognition of top performers to the entire firm on a weekly basis.
  • Recognize individual successes with quarterly awards – Prizes for notable achievements and employees who consistently give 110 percent cannot be overvalued.
  • Provide special well-being perks to all – Ideas include reimbursing employees for fitness classes, books or purchases of apps that promote healthy living. Provide periodic yoga classes, chair massages or meditation sessions.
  • Plan special team celebrations after wrapping up a big project – Consider generational differences and crowdsource ideas so employees get something they really want.
  • Arrange annual team retreats packed with fun activities.

When companies celebrate their employees, everyone wins. Employees are happier. There is less burnout and turnover. We have seen a myriad of bottom-line benefits from on-going employee appreciation programs at Indeed. Recognition truly transforms workers, teams and companies.

SOURCE: Wolfe, P. (4 April 2019) "How to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude Towards Employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/how-to-develop-an-attitude-of-gratitude-towards-employees