Planning your budget? – Create Your Compensation Strategy Now

Now is a great time to start planning for your yearly strategic budgeting meetings. And since employee compensation is often the largest line item in a budget, it will pay big dividends to think through your compensation structure and get the data you need to make informed budgeting decisions, and to back up your budget requests.

Here are some compensation budgeting tips to get you started:

  • Know where you are in the marketplace when it comes to compensation. Now is a good time to focus on collecting the data you require as you prepare for first of the year/end of the year performance reviews. The market has moved a lot in the past two years, and some positions – especially tech positions – are still continuing to outpace the general market. If you think the 3% across the board average applies to your Software Developer, or your QA Engineer, you may want to do some research with more current salary data.
  • Always ask for more than you think you’ll need. It’s always better to have some extra budget to work with, or to use for the unexpected raise request that may be well-deserved, than to come up short.
  • Be strategic with pay increases. Are you giving people increases just for keeping a seat warm (i.e. cost of living adjustments)? Or are you being more strategic with your available dollars and linking pay to performance and results? If your CFO gives you a 3% budget increase for base salaries, are you going to give everyone a 3% raise? What do you think that does to your top performers, when they see Lazy Len getting the same increase they got? Why not give Rockstar Rudy a 5% raise and Lazy Len a 1% raise? If you’re afraid of having the ensuing conversation, then you likely don’t have the right performance management process in place, or you may need some new tools in your management toolbox for having difficult conversations. Either of these we can help with.
  • Better results should result in better rewards, whether that’s cash or some other form of reward that is more meaningful to that employee. Find out what motivates your staff and leverage it to the company’s benefit, creating a win-win possibility.

Having a consultant in your pocket to help with providing expert guidance and data can be very helpful in making informed decisions. A good one can also work as your ally to provide objective recommendations and supportive data to your company leadership.

More Resources

For more tips and information regarding creating a successful compensation structure including, how to have good conversations about compensation, how to use performance reviews effectively, and how paying the right wage can create a successful business check out these latest blog posts:

Compensation Conversations: How to make them better for your managers and employees.
Thanks to the Internet and social media, employees and potential candidates have access to salary information. How do you make sure that your employees feel fairly compensated? It turns out that paying more money isn’t the only answer. Learn more!

Do Ratings Help or Hinder Performance?
Grading on the curve may have worked for high school and college students, but is it really appropriate to use in evaluating employees? Microsoft recently abandoned their bell-curve-based rating system. Companies need some way to measure and reward performance, so what’s the solution? Learn more!

A Pay for Performance Perspective and Tips
When you give out pay raises, are you giving your worst performers the same raise as the guy or gal who brings in three times as much revenue? Many organizations tend to give across-the-board raises of about the same percentage to all employees. Which means the poor performers have no incentive to work harder, and the top producers have plenty of incentive to find a job with another company that rewards them better. How can you use pay incentives to create a successful business? Learn more!

Grades and Ranges – What are they and why are they important?

Pay grades and pay ranges are key components to creating a successful compensation plan and driving performance.

Pay Grades and Pay Ranges Defined

A pay range sets a minimum, midpoint, and maximum dollar amount that your company has determined it will pay for a given job. Employees’ salaries are determined within the range parameters based on their performance quality, proficiency, internal equity, scope of responsibility and tenure. Pay grades are a mathematically determined set of pay ranges with increasing midpoint differentials (the difference between the midpoint of one range and midpoint of the next range up) based on the nature of the positions included in the range and usually with overlapping boundaries. Grades provide a way to give structure to various pay ranges within a company.

Why are they important?

Grades and Ranges:

  • Help with financial planning and projections.
  • Ensure your business and compensation strategies align.
  • Ensure pay equity and can be perceived as legal protection against an inequity claim.
  • Inform salary movement related to career paths.
  • Help determine how to pay unique positions.
  • Makes administration and employee conversations related to compensation more transparent.

As an organization grows, grades help to ensure fairness, make it easier to make compensation decisions and share with employees how you make those decisions. As we shared in our blog post on tips for making compensation conversations more productive for managers and employees, employees who are well informed and communicated with clearly about the pay-setting process in their organization, walk away feeling much more satisfied even if they don’t agree with the actual number.

Is it time to create a compensation structure with grades and ranges?

If you answer yes to one of the following questions this may be a good time to create a compensation structure.

  • Do you have jobs that may need to be leveled?
  • Do you have unique or hybrid jobs that you can’t figure out how to pay?
  • Do you have known pay issues that a structure would help fix? (i.e., legacy issues, compression issues, equity issues, budget issues)

For more tips on compensation including tips on using pay to drive performance visit our blog.

A Pay for Performance Perspective and Tips

A Pay for Performance Perspective and Tips

Recently Business Insider reported that one of Gawker Media’s writers, Neetzan Zimmerman decided to leave the company to work at a startup social media organization. While the news of someone making a career move may seem mundane, this move is interesting when you start to delve into this particular reporter’s performance successes and how they relate to a pay for performance model. Gawker employs approximately 15 writers and it turns out that Zimmerman was responsible for bringing in 99% of Gawker’s web traffic. 99% of the results that Gawker needs to be successful. 99%! And while we of course don’t know the complete story of why Zimmerman left the company, the statistics provide an interesting perspective regarding whether an organization should use a pay for performance model as an incentive to ensure top performers don’t even think about leaving.

Many organizations have a tendency to give a cost of living pay or ‘thanks a latte’ increase across the board, which usually amounts to about 3%, without truly measuring which employees are bringing the most value. This means that even poor performers are being rewarded. By not differentiating financial rewards between top and poor performers, there is no incentive for poor performers to “up their game” to accomplish the tasks that are most critical to the bottom line. And it’s a slap in the face to the ones who are giving it their all (and then some) to achieve success for the company when they receive the same, or minimally different, increases as the slacker sitting across from them.

Quick tips for creating a successful pay for performance model:

  • Define what metrics are driving your business success (revenue, number of clicks, safety, service quality, clinical outcomes, patient experience, efficiency, etc.).
  • Communicate clearly and often with employees to track their progress.
  • As part of your performance management plan, create SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals for employees.

By creating a pay-for-performance culture, employees have a clear line of sight on how their daily actions contribute to the success of the organization and the size of their paycheck, which puts organizations in a position to thrive.

To help you have productive conversations with employees regarding compensation, we have put together these tips.

Compensation Conversations – How to make them better for your managers and employees

Employees and potential candidates are more knowledgeable about salary data than ever before, either through the internet or colleagues, so ensure your organization is confident with its base pay compensation plan and understands how it compares in the marketplace. Having the ability to share with employees the process by which your organization makes pay decisions increases employee engagement and satisfaction as they feel like they are thoughtfully considered and valued.

Why is compensation communication important?
This is the time of year when you have either already administered salary increases or are getting ready to do so. And inevitably, this process brings up questions regarding pay that managers may not be properly equipped to answer. If your employees feel that your pay decisions are arbitrary or do not understand how your compensation strategy tracks back to the organization’s overall business goals, it leads to confusion and a sense of powerlessness. Disengagement naturally follows, possibly leading your employees to look for other opportunities, taking with them their skill set and institutional knowledge. Giving your managers the tools to explain base pay setting, raise increases (or no increase), reasons for differences in starting pay and wage differentials, makes conversations more productive and clear while also making the employee feel like you are being thoughtful and straightforward with your approach.

According to a study done by Mercer in 2002, when employees are well informed and communicated with clearly about the pay-setting process in their organization, they walk away feeling much more satisfied even if they don’t agree with the actual number. The bottom-line is that employees who understand the process in which pay is determined have greater engagement and satisfaction. Not to mention your managers will also feel empowered and supported during the salary review process.

Top three compensation communication tips:

  1. Communicate throughout the year – Instead of having a conversation about pay practices once a year, keep employees informed throughout the year specifically when it comes to how performance tracks to your compensation plan. Ongoing communication makes employees feel informed and empowered, and helps them understand how their actions and contributions can help improve the bottom-line – both their own and the company’s.
  2. Train your management team – Ensuring your managers have the tools they need to help roll out a compensation plan or answer questions about the plan will help to increase employee buy-in.
  3. Educate employees on their total compensation package including benefits, rewards and other items unique to your culture (such as education and development opportunities as well as work life balance programs) they receive throughout the year.

In the coming weeks and months we will be sharing tips and information for creating an effective compensation strategy, communicating compensation details with employees and developing a benchmarking process. Let us know if you have a specific question or an aspect of compensation you would like us to explore in more detail.

Unlimited Time Off – Too Much of a Good Thing?

We are a big proponent of ensuring employees receive the benefits they want/need in order to help with continuous employee engagement, motivation, and productivity. Recently, we’ve noticed a growing trend that several companies (including Hubspot and Netflix) are offering unlimited time off from work. Sounds like a pretty enticing perk – take as much time off as you want as long you get your work done. But could this be too much of a good thing?

We often help clients weigh the pros and cons of benefit policies by sharing our collective knowledge. For example, here are some of our client’s examples of benefits and onboarding strategies as well as our employee appreciation ideas.

Organizations, like people, don’t necessarily march to the beat of the same drum. Some need to operate in a very steady, even and predictable manner. Others need to have operational fluidity, spontaneity and a more go-with-the-flow approach. Neither approach is right or wrong so long as positive results are being delivered.

As you think about potentially offering an unlimited time off benefit, consider the following:

  • Does it work for your industry? Some industries require a lot of structure and control over workflow and people resources. You need to be sure that your business can sustain this and is something to take into consideration as you create your employee benefits program.
  • Can this benefit be tracked? If your organization cannot budget around the anticipated costs of time, limits need to be established to ensure the organization can manage this benefit in a fiscally responsible manner.
  • Do you have the structure in place to ensure employees can truly utilize (not abuse) the benefit? This type of benefit has the potential to create unintended employee relations issues (e.g., disparate treatment, morale, performance issues, etc.). For example, some employees may be more inclined to take off a lot of time whereas others may feel compelled not to for fear of looking like they’re slacking. We encourage you to have a thoughtful communications plan to address any gray areas and to clarify expectations.
  • Is it compliant with local, state and federal labor laws? This type of benefit brings a level of ambiguity so it is important to consult your HR department to ensure it is compliant with applicable labor and employment laws. Certain state and local laws may require specific monitoring and record keeping of time off practices.

While we admire policies that are creative and are customized to employees we always encourage clients to consider how such a benefit aligns with relevant employment laws, business practices, company culture and individual motivating factors.

We’d like to hear from you! What do you consider the pros and cons of the unlimited time off benefit? And what benefits do you offer your employees that you have found to be motivating and help create a successful culture?

Is Your Internship Program Legal?

A new case law went into effect this summer, which is driving the requirement that interns be compensated for their work. The case is dubbed the Black Swan case, named after one of the movies in which the defendant (Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc.) ‘employed’ interns for zero pay. In his ruling, the judge referred to a Department of Labor (DOL) “Fact Sheet” that includes six criteria that an intern program must meet.

As graduates look for opportunities to gain on the job experience and organizations look for ways to garner talent while minimizing payroll costs, it’s important to test your internship program’s legality.

The Test

In a nutshell, the law says that your intention for employing an intern should be to provide them training or job experience that they can apply to their studies or to further their career. It is key to understand that the employer should not be receiving the benefit (e.g. a free cost employee) of having the intern work for their organization and that instead it is the organization’s responsibility to provide the benefit (e.g. on the job training) to the intern.

Here are the criteria your program must meet in order for it to be legal NOT to compensate interns:

  1. The internship is similar to training, which would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is really for the benefit of the intern, not for the benefit of the employer;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Learn more information and view the fact sheet..

Worried your internship program might not pass the test? Send us your questions and comments below.

Employers: Ready, Set, Engage!

With U.S. employers competing for top talent in industries such as software, biotech and other highly competitive industries, retaining and engaging current employees is mission critical in today’s growing global talent market. As companies promote aggressive recruiting strategies, retaining and cultivating the talent that already exists is an equally essential endeavor.

With a known talent shortage in the U.S. in some industries, prioritizing the value of current employees makes great sense to the bottom line. When a candidate becomes dissatisfied with their current work environment, they are far more open to new opportunities: recruiters look for this open door. Hiring and training new employees, regardless of the industry, is far less cost effective than keeping current employees engaged and happy. In today’s market, 71% of U.S. employees feel they are “not engaged” at work, and 29% of employees feel they are actively “disengaged” (Gallup International 2011). With so many low cost and no cost ways to effectively engage employees and improve retention, why not spend more time building loyalty and stability in your existing team?

A recent report published by Deloitte indicates that key global players, including Australia and Canada, are stepping up their game by improving competitive immigration policies to take advantage of skills developed in other countries. Deloitte’s recommendations to address the lack of highly needed skill sets in the U.S., includes lightening up on licensing standards, while expanding technical and vocational training programs (as well as apprenticeships), to create alternative pathways to developing highly specialized skills.

Imagine an enormous ship sitting just 12 miles off the shore of California; although this looks like a cruise ship, there is no recreational agenda. The cabins are offices and the guests drop in to build businesses. Although this ship does not yet exist, the concept is the brain child of Blueseed, a company founded by a young entrepreneur, designed to offset restrictive U.S. immigration laws and to build new businesses, while reaping the benefits of new jobs.

On the local scene, Seattle recently witnessed the departure of Sarepta Therapeutics (formerly AVI Biopharma). Although the biotech industry is establishing a strong foothold in the area, Sarepta opted to move to Boston because the company wasn’t finding enough of the skill sets it needed in the Seattle area to execute on its strategy.

If you have a business with specific talent demands what does this mean to you? From a recruiting perspective, we know that landing good talent requires multiple approaches, a strong story, and impeccable timing, particularly if you own a small or mid-market sized business requiring the same niche talent that large corporations aggressively pursue. If a recruiter approaches a passive candidate with strong skill sets, the candidate has to have the motivation and appropriate incentives to consider the move (and the risk) to take on a new role.

The purpose of employee engagement is to build a culture of committed and loyal individuals who want to give more than what is required (and who are less likely to move to a competitor when approached by recruiters!). Below are some tips designed to help build awareness and improve employee engagement, regardless of the industry:

  1. Make sure your company has a clearly communicated mission, vision, and strategy. A sense of purpose drives employee engagement.
  2. Execute transparent communication; employees should have a connection to how the company is doing financially and how objectives are being accomplished; this creates a sense of “buy-in” and helps employees feel their work has a direct impact.
  3. Build a strong team; your Human Resources partner can actively develop healthy team dynamics, assist in overcoming minor communication issues that can become far more serious, and promote participation and recognition.
  4. Create a culture of trust. By facilitating an environment where employees feel their voices are heard and thoughts can be shared, a strong sense of community naturally follows.
  5. Recognize employees for what they bring to the table; positive affirmation and acknowledgement is a great no cost way to bolster a sense of loyalty within the team.
  6. And finally-make sure employees know what is expected. By providing the tools, training, and resources to achieve what is expected, employees will reward you with impactful work that benefits the organization as a whole.

If you have suggestions or methods that have been effective in building and retaining a strong team, we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Engaging Your Workforce!

The way we engage our employees and value others is intrinsic to the social and emotional learning programs we produce. As a senior level HR executive, I have had the opportunity to work at several organizations and see what works and what does not. As a client of Resourceful HR, I wanted to share with blog readers some of the best practices I have learned throughout my career.

By Jean Battersby Wooten, Human Resources Manager, Committee for Children

I recently had the opportunity to attend Resourceful HR’s NW HR Best Practices Roundtable where the focus was employee engagement. This is a poignant topic for our organization as our team thinks of employee engagement as a cornerstone to the work we do. The way we engage our employees and value others is intrinsic to the social and emotional learning programs we produce. As a senior level HR executive, I have had the opportunity to work at several organizations and see what works and what does not. As a client of Resourceful HR, I wanted to share with blog readers some of the best practices I have learned throughout my career.

I also hope to hear from you! Employment engagement is ever evolving. It is a dynamic process that never really ends – it is not something we can just cross off our list after accomplishing a few tasks. What are the best practices you employ in your organization on a sustainable basis and what are the ways in which you measure engagement?

The following are just some of the techniques Committee for Children employs:

–          Employee engagement starts during the interview/hiring process (whether you are hired or not). We value expertise and the time job candidates spend engaging with our organization. Our goal is to show candidates respect throughout the whole process – this means keeping them informed, sticking to deadlines and keeping the relationship going even if they are not hired. You never know if you may need their contribution down the road.

–          Empower your employees. Giving your employees a full picture of what you are want to accomplish ensures they have the information they need to make good decisions. We share the strategic plan with the entire company and then each senior manager communicates with their team. This way every individual understands how their goals influence the results of the strategic plan.

–          Recognize all contributors. Recognize the efforts of all when possible. When a school or school district decides to purchase one of our programs, we acknowledge all that were involved. There are many contributors that helped along the way and we go out of our way to make sure everyone’s efforts are acknowledged, including designers and developers, the production and packaging teams, the financial team, client support services, our marketing team…the list goes on and on. Every purchase is a result of ALL of our employees’ synergistic efforts and all should be recognized for their contributions.

–          Focus on feedback. This is a crucial aspect that impacts our employee engagement initiatives. For two years in a row, our employees have voted us a Best Places to Work sponsored by the Puget Sound Business Journal. While the recognition is nice, it is not what drives our participation in this process. As part of the process, our employees are asked to complete a comprehensive survey (that requires 85% of employees to voluntarily fill it out in order to be considered for the award). The results from the survey let us know what we need to be focusing on in order to create greater job appreciation (i.e. what motivates people, what provides the support they need, what benefits are important to them). This feedback is then turned into our ‘marching orders’ for the year – We dive into each aspect and then work hard to create the environment our employees are desiring.

–          Listen, listen, listen. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Our culture thrives on transparent communications. While it is nice to have the Best Places to Work survey tool to collect feedback, the most important thing you can do is to listen and then communicate to employees that you hear them. For instance, you may learn there is a benefit that is lacking. While you may not have control over the benefit, it is still important to let employees know they were heard and tell them what you can and cannot do to help them. Another way we ensure everyone is at the table, even when they cannot, is to make notes from staff meetings and executive meetings available on our SharePoint.

And lastly, the best way to engage employees is to be engaged yourself. Enlisting your HR staff and making sure your managers are on board is key to creating a work force that comes to work feeling valued, respected and wanting to contribute!

_ _ _

About Jean

Jean is a successful human resources professional with over 25 years of experience. She is a natural leader with a passion for helping others reach their full potential. The industries she has worked in include high tech, professional services, manufacturing, distribution, insurance, non-profit and academia.

About Committee for Children

Committee for Children is a 30-year-old nonprofit whose vision is safe children thriving in a peaceful world—a world in which children can grow up to be peaceful, empathic, responsible citizens. It may seem like a tall order, but their social-emotional learning materials are in schools from Illinois to Iraq, Chile to California. They’ve taught millions of children skills that help them stay safe, manage their emotions, solve problems, avoid risky behavior, and improve their academics. And with your help, they can reach millions more—one child, one classroom, one community at a time.  Visit them at

Think Twice Before Requesting Employees’ (or Potential Employees’) Facebook Password

Scoping out employees’ and potential employees’ online lives has become commonplace for employers, and there are many solid reasons to do so. However, requesting employees’ Facebook passwords, or any access information to their personal online accounts, is another situation entirely. Not only does gaining such access to employee accounts bring little useful information, it delivers a negative message to employees and may expose employers to a host of ethical and legal issues.

Scoping out employees’ and potential employees’ online lives has become commonplace for employers, and there are many solid reasons to do so. However, requesting employees’ Facebook passwords, or any access information to their personal online accounts, is another situation entirely. Not only does gaining such access to employee accounts bring little useful information, it delivers a negative message to employees and may expose employers to a host of ethical and legal issues.

First, consider the message that you send to your employees when you request their passwords to their personal online accounts. Do you really want to be Big Brother, with a finger in every aspect of your employees’ lives? Do you really want to encourage employees to conceal information from you, which is what they are likely to do in an attempt to maintain a modicum of privacy? Do you want to send the message that you place such a low value on information security that you would ask your employees to violate the security policies of their online services providers?

Second, consider the ethics of such a request. Can you honestly say that you have a business interest in gaining such access to your employees’ private online accounts? Can you honestly say you have the right to access these accounts? Is it ethical to place an employee in a position of having to choose to protect their privacy or please their employer?

And finally, such requests carry numerous legal implications. While this area of law is unsettled, such requests likely violate the law on several fronts.

  1. Terms of Use Violation. Requesting that employees provide their passwords is asking employees to violate their contracts with the online providers. Nearly without exception, online providers’ Terms of Use prohibit users from sharing their passwords, and the practice of requesting employees’ access information has already been condemned by Facebook and other social media providers.
  2. Unauthorized Access. Some courts have found that an employer’s request for access information from an employee is essentially coercive because of the power imbalance between employer and employee. Therefore, using such information may then be considered “unauthorized access” in violation of some state laws.
  3. Discriminatory Information. Accessing your employees’ private online accounts may provide you with information that you, as an employer, may not request or consider in making employment decisions, such as ethnicity or religious affiliation. An employer may not legally use such information in the employment arena, and merely possessing such information may cause future headaches in the case of a disgruntled employee looking to bolster a discrimination claim.
  4. National Labor Relations Act. Requiring your employees to provide you with their passwords to social media sites is likely in violation of the National Labor Relations Act, a federal law that prohibits, among other things, employers from acting to discourage employees from “concerted activity” regarding their employment and working conditions. Recent case law has held that employees’ actions on social media are considered protected “concerted activity” and that employers are limited in what they can do to regulate or restrict such social media activities.

Overall, requesting your employees’ Facebook passwords or other access information to their personal online accounts, while perhaps the latest trend in employee relations, is a high-risk, low-reward strategy that employers should avoid.

 – – –

Lauren Burgon is an associate at Equinox Business Law Group, working closely with business owners to ensure they are minimizing risk and protecting assets. While she especially enjoys working with business owners in planning ahead to avoid litigation, other areas of Lauren’s practice include protecting clients’ intellectual property rights and assisting them in drafting carefully written nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements. More recently, Lauren’s practice has developed in Internet and online issues, advising her clients on their online presence, retail activity, social media, and the ramifications of virtual work with customers worldwide. Read more about Lauren.

What are High-Performance Companies Doing when it comes to HR Planning?

Whether you are implementing your marketing plan, HR strategic plan or striving to reach your sales projections, we find that companies that proactively plan for the long-term rather than react to short-term forces increase their competitive advantage.

When it comes to HR planning, what should you be thinking about?

Look back – What one or two areas impeded your growth or business objectives? For instance, you may be looking to cut expenses. Ask yourself, what aspect of this issue is related to your staff and what efficiencies can you put in place to assist with solving this problem.

Create or update your employee handbook – Well-documented policies save you time and future headaches. When employees understand what is expected of them they perform better. Not sure what your handbook should cover? Start here.

Improve recognition and rewards for employees. This does not have to be a monetary investment. Ensuring employees are recognized and rewarded in a compelling way means greater retention, which will reward your bottom-line. Check out some ideas here.

Analyze your workforce plan – A key component of HR planning is understanding your workforce capabilities including projected shortages and surpluses in specific occupations and skill sets. Having a strategy in place will put you ahead of the competition, as you will be well positioned to solve for issues and take advantage of talent as the market changes.

Design a recruiting strategy – Once you have created your workforce plan and identified the talent you require to increase profits, create a recruiting strategy that gets results. When it’s time to grow, invest in the right positions.
Click here to learn more about our recruiting best practices training and guidebook.

Compliance is key – Being legally compliant with local, state and federal employment laws, no matter what your plans are is critical to being successful. Audit your practices and policies to save you from costly lawsuits in the future.

Once you assess your successes and the areas that need your attention, put your resources in action so that you are headed in the right direction.

Keep your Workforce Engaged – Employee Appreciation Ideas

According to Mercer’s October 2011 What’s Work survey report, research shows that despite ongoing economic uncertainty, employees are still considering leaving their current company for a better opportunity. Analysis of the study reveals that “non-financial factors play a prominent role in influencing employee motivation and engagement.”

These two factors combined make it more critical than ever for businesses to provide employees with appreciation “perks” that resonate with employees while increasing retention. It’s important to note too, that not every employee appreciates the same things and what might seem like a perk to one might be perceived as a waste of time/money to another. The more you can customize the perk, the better. Have options that appeal to those who are more social and those who are more introverted. Some people you may not suspect are introverted and cringe at group events.
>> CONTINUE READING for great hands-on employee appreciation ideas >>

Employee Performance Management: Giving Feedback to Your Employees

Encouraging regular, ongoing feedback in the workplace is a powerful tool for organizations. It boosts employee morale and allows your employees to know whether what they are doing from day to day meets your needs as a supervisor.

Most people find consistent, timely feedback provided by management and peers to be important to their overall job satisfaction. So why do so many companies have only an annual performance evaluation process? As you consider your evaluation process, here are some key things to remember about giving feedback:

Be Honest and Reinforce Positive Actions:
To be valuable the feedback you give must be honest; something you genuinely believe. Some managers believe that feedback must be balanced between reinforcement of positive behavior and correction of negative behavior so they will make up things to “complain about” to an excellent employee. When this happens the employee is likely to feel underappreciated and their morale can be affected, causing a star employee to behave more like an average employee. If you are lucky enough to have a star employee in your department you will be best served to focus on what she or he is doing well.

>> CONTINUE READING more key points about giving feedback >>

Office Holiday Parties: Important Considerations

It’s that time of year when most companies do something for their staff to celebrate the holidays and thank them for their hard work all year. There are so many ways to celebrate: simply catering a lunch in the office on the last day of work before the holiday or going “all out” and throwing a dinner and dancing event in a ballroom. Whatever it is you choose to do this holiday season, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Is attendance at the event voluntary or are you expecting everyone to be there? How are you messaging the event? Invitation or announcement?
  • How do individual religious beliefs fit in to the celebration and traditions of the holiday?
  • What is expected, if anything, of the management staff at the event?
  • Will you be providing alcohol at the event? Think about the implications that go hand in hand with an event with alcohol.
  • For those employees unable to make it because they are working; will you provide an alternative so they feel included?
  • What are your overall expectations of employees and their behaviors at such an event?

While these events are always meant to be fun and celebratory, it can often be uncomfortable or tension filled for certain employees. Not everyone is comfortable in a social setting, especially when you mix your professional life with your personal life. If spouses or guests are included, that adds a whole other dynamic to the mix. Think about previous holiday celebrations; what worked and what wasn’t as successful. It is often a good idea to poll the staff or a handful of folks and ask their opinions on a couple different kinds of options. If only a small group of upper managers are deciding and planning the event, they may be missing the mark on what the entire staff enjoys.

In any case, the company’s good intentions are what should shine through. Be sure that it’s clear to your employees that you appreciate their hard work. The goal is to celebrate in a way that the majority of the team can enjoy.

Salary Increase? – How to Answer the Raise Question During Tough Times

The economic status of many companies has been challenged over the past year and a half. Many companies reacted by scrutinizing the budget and slashing line items to help them “get through” this tough time. Most of these organizations decided raises should be among the first to go. Whether these were merit based or just an annual cost of living increase, these organizations went through the exercise of weighing out the pros and cons of “freezing” this annual salary change.

>> So, how do you respond to an employee who is requesting a raise?

What Should My Employee Handbook Cover?

Company policies, developed correctly, can be an invaluable tool to help shape the culture of your organization and can also save time and future hassles so that you can focus on running your business. To help you create a successful employee handbook we’ve compiled a list of the type of policies that should be included. To ensure you are legally compliant with local, state and federal employment laws, we recommend working with an employee policy expert. It may also be necessary to consult with a lawyer on certain topics, which a good employee policy expert will help you determine and manage.

Since an employee handbook is one of the first formal communications you will provide an employee after they have been hired make sure that it promotes a positive impression of your company. Your goal should also be to include what employees can uniquely expect from working at your company and set the tone for what you expect from them.
What areas should an employee handbook cover? >>

Non-cash Incentives – Motivate Employees and Increase Engagement

Studies show that employees who are rewarded for going above and beyond are more productive and satisfied, show greater loyalty and are more willing to contribute in an impactful and meaningful way. The list below outlines some quick tips on how to increase employee engagement and motivation through non-cash incentives:

  • Consider non-traditional incentive systems. Research shows that generations X and Y want different things than prior generations. For example, years of service awards like clocks, trophies and plaques, may not be rewarding to a new generation of workers especially since more people are working in shorter stints rather than long-term periods. Here you will find more information about the nuances of Generation X and Y.
  • Solicit feedback. The best way to find out what motivates an employee is to ask them.
  • Incent the behavior you want to drive. Create a clear plan for rewards that is tied to strategic goals and activities. Rewards given haphazardly will not have the long-term effects you desire.
  • Be creative. For instance, a company we have worked with created dollar bills with the CEO’s picture on them and implemented a system and criteria in which employees earn these dollars. The recipient buys something of his or her choice and turns in the receipt along with the company ‘dollars’ for reimbursement. It’s a very fun, popular program among the staff that drives loyalty and increased performance.
  • More ideas. We share more tips on how to motivate employees here

Benchmarking – The Compensation Building Block

Benchmarking is a skill that every human resource practitioner involved in the compensation process should perform efficiently and correctly. Accurate benchmarking is the foundation of appropriate salary assessments and market comparisons. If one benches internal positions incorrectly it may result in selecting the wrong market salary data and setting an inappropriate salary which in turn creates employee dissatisfaction and a higher turn over rate. Clearly, this is a skill that impacts your organization.

The definition of benchmarking for salary survey purposes is “matching an internal job to an external job of similar content”. The goal is to match each job being performed in your company to the survey benchmark job that most closely resembles the essential functions of that job. Once this is accomplished one can then review the market salary data to determine market rates.

>> How To establish effective benchmarks >>

Don’t Miss Out – Communicate Your Total Rewards Package

When it comes to your total rewards package ask yourself: In which areas do you need to meet or exceed the value proposition most employers offer to be competitive? Which factors are most critical to your current demographic and how might that change as you recruit new talent?
Factors include much more than monetary rewards and can encompass recognition, work-life balance, benefits, development and career opportunities. Obviously, you cannot afford to offer everything under the sun in each of the total rewards categories but you can understand where your business is headed and document the right mix of elements most important to your staff and business strategy.
The next and critical step is to design a communications plan that reinforces its value and shows how rewards are linked to business objectives. When employers communicate rewards in isolation from each other, employees lose sight of all they receive. This is an opportunity to drive employee engagement.
Here are several examples of things you probably do right now that you can share with employees >>

Executive & Employee Bonuses: No Merit Pay Increase?

Many companies are beginning to look at year end results. Were business goals achieved? How does 2010 look? Do we need to re-forecast goal initiatives? Often times, current year outcomes dictate merit increases the following year. When a decision is made to implement or continue a salary freeze due to business need, communicating this news effectively can be difficult.

Educate your staff on business requirements and results. Employees have an easier time buying into something once they understand why. If a company simply states the salary freeze with no information, the negative impact can be quite severe. No one likes to hear their hard work isn’t going to be recognized with a salary increase but recognition can take others forms. Increased visibility and input into the business as well as spot awards of time off are examples of recognition always appreciated.

As you prepare your message, ensure all employees hear the same news and can trust its truthfulness. Respect your staff by giving them as much information as possible and solicit their ideas. It is during difficult times that some of the best ideas surface.

Work-life Balance: How Will Your Generation Influence Work-life Balance?

Many employers are beginning to understand that work-life balance is important in order to maintain focused, attentive, healthy and happy staff.

According to Wikipedia, Americans first uttered the phrase “work-life balance” around 1986. The phrase is fairly common place today but the reality is that many Americans work more hours than our predecessors did twenty-five years ago. The work environment is competitive and many employees are being pushed to do more with less. While this is occurring, we do see potential change on the horizon as many employers are beginning to understand that work-life balance is important in order to maintain focused, attentive, healthy and happy staff.

>> How Work-life balance will change in the years ahead >>

Performance Management Drives Business Results

Performance reviews are an effective tool in business to increase communication, establish expectations, reinforce good performance and improve poor performance. Reviews also provide an opportunity for employers to encourage teamwork and keep a pulse on employee morale. Preparation and execution of an effective performance review can be an easy task but if done incorrectly, the process can take on unnecessary complexity, harm the relationship between employee/employer as well as leave the employee confused and nervous. These are never positive attributes for fully functioning organization.

>> Tips to ensure performance reviews motivate employees and improve morale >>

Holding Onto Key Employee Talent

As a leader in your organization, has the following thought recently crossed your mind:

“My key talent isn’t going to leave because they have nowhere else to go.”

Many research studies and my own personal experiences demonstrate that leading up to and following reductions in force, employee morale, productivity and engagement decrease. Given the current economic climate, managing your talent is just as critical as managing your overall business. Let’s face it , critical talent always has options, regardless of market conditions.

READ ON >> Retaining Key Talent = Answering A Key Question >>

Uncovering Hidden Employee Talent

As companies continue to feel the impact of these economic times, I see more people taking on different roles and responsibilities. Employers are getting wiser and focusing on what specific strengths and skills employees have that can impact the bottom line quickly. These organizations are also rewarding employees for wearing more than one hat as it is cheaper to add responsibilities to a person’s plate rather than hire a new employee.

>> Read on – the talent you need may be sitting right under your nose >>

Navigating The Turbulent Waters of Change

It’s an indisputable fact that we are living in a time of unrelenting and seemingly ever accelerating change in nearly every aspect of our lives – how we work, how we communicate, social mores, technology, finances. The list goes on and on.

It’s also a fact that most of us do not really like change on any type of grand scale. Sure, a new car, new clothing, or a new home can be exciting. Of course, these are changes we choose to make. However, when we enter the realm of changes that are beyond our control – corporate mergers, reorganizations and downsizing – it’s a different matter.
All of this raises the age-old question – how do we lead ourselves and those we manage through these changes when, given our druthers, we would opt for the familiarity and comfort of the status quo?

Best Recruiting Practices During a Down Economy

By now, most recruiting managers are dealing with the impact the economic downturn has had on both recruitment and talent management. During the “good ol’ days”, hiring managers and recruiters spent a majority of their time seeking out the best talent from small candidate pools. Now, we have large candidate pools coupled with a limited number of openings and in some cases, no openings. How can you make sure your organization’s recruitment practices are aligned with current economic challenges and your business goals? Read more best recruiting practices

Seeing Differences as an Asset

Any time you have two or more people working together you inevitably will have differences of opinion and potential conflict. It’s a given. Unfortunately, the common paradigm most people hold is conflict is a bad thing, a symptom of organizational discord. Well, the fact of the matter is conflict is value-neutral, meaning that it is neither inherently good nor bad. The value aspect comes into play when we look at our reaction to those differences of opinion – do we handle it well and welcome it as a source of strength, creativity and learning, or do we cower from the potential unpleasantness? Read more about using differences as an asset

Employee Recognition When the Bonus Budget is Cut

In this economy you and your employees are being asked to do more with less.  Budgets have been slashed, headcounts reduced by 10%, 401(k) matches also reduced and bonuses cut or eliminated. Employees are also experiencing guilt, because they remain when colleagues have been let go, fear that additional cuts will be made and may feel growing resentment over the necessary cut-backs. Read more for recognition ideas

Investing Employee Compensation in Product Development

Companies are looking for solutions to increase employee loyalty, eliminate layoffs and determine clever funding for product development in the absence of outside investment opportunities. When clients face these challenges, we often discuss ways to increase employee ownership in the business. Read more for innovative compensation ideas

Tweaking Employee Benefits During Hard Times

As we continue to see reports of companies cutting jobs, it’s important to think about creative ways to proactively work toward keeping your work force in place, yet addressing the economic needs of the company. We’d like to generate some ideas and discussions on what employers can do to mitigate this situation, starting with employee benefits. Read more about tweaking benefits