Get on Board! Increasing Retention and ROI of New Hires.

Now Hiring

For the first time in a long time, the job market is as busy as the supermarket on Sunday. As of the 3rd Quarter of 2014, there were 4.8 million job openings in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics this was the highest level of job openings since January 2001. Even better yet, we saw a significant net increase in employment after accounting for turnover.

In the thick of budget season, there is no doubt you are counting and recounting your FTEs (full-time equivalents) and forecasting 2015 hiring needs. You’ll account for the basics like salary and benefits, but new hires come with an additional premium – the cost to get them on board. From external costs like job-board postings, screening fees and background checks, to internal costs like recruiting staff and learning and development, a new hire starts costing you money before they even start.

Now, don’t take this the wrong way, we love to see organizations growing and putting people back to work. We just think that your human capital should be looked at like any other investment you make. Maximizing your return on investment isn’t a mere monetary endeavor – it takes time and resources. But when you pay the higher price up front, your returns take a jump, too!

Off Boarding – It Happens

All too often, the best day of a new hire’s employment is the day after their interview. You know – when you celebrate, thinking you struck gold on LinkedIn and scored the perfect person for the job. Fast forward to
usually about two weeks later, and your onboarding efforts may already be starting to get off track:

• The new hire just doesn’t seem to fit in
• The new hire isn’t getting up to speed quickly enough
• There just isn’t enough time to hold his or her hand
• Your training program doesn’t fit the needs of the new hire
• The HR team is small and overworked; the hiring team is short-staffed

The next thing you know, the new hire is a termination time bomb. Maybe they even feel it more than you do. And maybe they move on to a company that doesn’t use terms like “proactive” and “self-directed” to cover up the fact that their new recruits are stranded on a desert island with a training binder and an emergency e-mail contact.

Hire Education

A holistic onboarding program starts with the first new hire contact and doesn’t end until your new recruit reports for work for the 91st day. Think of onboarding like a high-maintenance date. From providing the right job description and setting realistic performance expectations, to supplying them with the right tools (and we don’t just mean a stapler and chair), new relationships require nurturing. If you’ve done well, your new hire…

• Fits in with your culture
• Is committed and engaged
• Has gotten up to speed

Moreover, your organization experiences lower turnover rates, improved brand image and reduced recruiting costs.

Talent is not as easily found as it is squandered. Don’t lose good people by getting off on the wrong foot.

Wellness Programs: The Penn State Experience!

Written by Guest Blogger: C. John Holmquist, Jr.
Holmquist Employment Law Firm, Troy, Michigan

Penn State is planning to implement a wellness initiative called the “Take Care of your Health Initiative” next year. The program had three components: the completion of a WebMD online health risk assessment; having a preventative physical examination; and having a biometric screening that would give a full lipid profile as well as blood pressure, body mass index, and waist circumference. Employees who completed the three steps would be entered in a raffle to win one of six $500 cash prizes. Employees who did not complete the three steps would have a monthly deduction of $100 from their pay. Spouses and domestic partners are required to participate in the first two steps.

The program was not well received by the employees and the faculty; some referred to it as the “Sandusky tax” in reference to the monetary exposure from the football scandal. On September 29, 2013, the university suspended the $100 monthly surcharge and encouraged employees to utilize the initiative to find out about their health.

The Penn State wellness program caught the attention of Representative Louise M. Slaughter (D NY) who wrote a letter to the EEOC on September 23, 2013, expressing her concern with a program that “coerces private health information from participants.” Ms. Slaughter who authored the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”) stated that the Penn State program raised concerns with the type of information collected and the “voluntariness” of participation. Representative Slaughter stated in her letter that any employer who coerced employees to provide genetic information through monetary incentives would violate the core intent of GINA and other civil rights laws. She urged the EEOC to promptly issues regulatory guidance for wellness program compliance with federal nondiscrimination laws.

The EEOC held a hearing on May 8, 2013 where panelists addressed the treatment of wellness programs under federal law, specifically the ADA and GINA. To date, no action has been taken by the EEOC. One commissioner tweeted “I agree.” with a link to an article discussing Representative Slaughter’s letter.

On September 26, 2013, Towers Watson issued the results of a survey concerning employer action to increase the success and effectiveness of wellness programs. The survey found that nearly 8 in 10 employers viewed lack of employee engagement as the biggest obstacle to changing behavior. The survey also found that for 2014, 4 in 10 US companies will use penalties such as an increase in premiums or deductibles for employees who do not complete the requirements of health management activities. That figure will jump to 61% for 2015.

Employers in Michigan have another consideration with respect to imposing penalties. The Michigan Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act prohibits employers from making deductions from employee pay without the “full, free, and written consent” of employees obtained without intimidation or fear of discharge. The statute further requires written authorization for each wage payment subject to a deduction. Under Michigan law, an employer would not be able to automatically deduct the $100 without the written consent of the employee, which certainly would not be expected to be forthcoming.

It is very surprising that employers are implementing penalties even though it has not been settled that they are able to do so without violating federal law. The EEOC has made it clear that HIPAA compliance does not necessarily guarantee that an employer does not violate nondiscrimination laws. The agency has also made it clear that wellness programs are acceptable as long as they are voluntary.

An employer needs to carefully consider how to effectively engage its employees in wellness programs in a world without EEOC guidance. Penalties are easier to target than incentives; a penalty changes the status quo of the employee while a bonus does not. A comparison of the incentives offered with the penalty in the Penn State program establishes that the university felt a penalty was the better way to achieve employee participation. The incentive offered in light of the number of employees was, to say the least, minimal. No one wants to be the test case for the EEOC on the voluntariness of employee participation. Using penalties to achieve participation is an invitation that the EEOC may, at some point, decide to accept.

You’ve come a long way, baby…even with a baby!

From the moment America’s moms started trading in their aprons for college degrees and resumes, there have been countless debates surrounding working mothers and their roles in the workplace. They have been ridiculed for “abandoning” their families. They have been accused of making poor life choices and having imprudent priorities. They have been criticized for having to take time off work for family needs. Working mothers have been facing these judgments for decades; but in order to be part of the workforce, they have had to put the guilt aside, ignore the glaringly obvious social criticisms, and focus on their careers (while simultaneously juggling their families’ needs).

It is now 2013 and more than half of married mothers of children under the age of 18 are in the workforce. Surely these working moms do not have to deal with the judgments of decades past, right?

It is true that many employers have made huge strides in providing family-focused benefits to working mothers. It appears that employers generally appreciate the value of career women and have agreed to take the good with the bad, so to speak.

But the stigma still exists. In many cases, regardless of their qualifications, single men are still viewed “more employable” than moms of any kind. Employers want low-maintenance employees and who can blame them? But working mothers often bring a unique value to the companies they work for. They have an exceptional way of balancing several tasks without blinking an eye. They can easily make tough decisions and they tend to keep their cool under pressure. After all…they’re moms!

In order to employ these talented, career-oriented, well-educated women, employers must accept the fact that working moms have distinctive needs. They don’t just need enough time off to take care of family matters. They need predictable, yet flexible hours coupled with a general understanding that working mothers are in a constant battle to strike a balance between their work hours and their home life. They need that understanding from their employers and their co-workers.

Working moms have come a long way from the days of relentless judgments, but I believe there is still room for improvement. I hope there comes a day when there isn’t a need for a blog post, or a study, or an article or even a verbal discussion about this topic. Until then, working moms, don’t underestimate the value you bring to your job! That value has brought your employers to what they are today.

Written By: Amanda Trombly

Election Day – Time Off

Every state has a public policy to encourage voting. Although specific laws may vary from state to state, in general they all require that employees are provided time off to vote. Some states require employees to request time off in advance, some require employers to provide paid time off, some specify that time off is required only if the polls aren’t open two or three hours outside of the work day, and some states have no specific law on the subject at all. There are also some new laws that address absentee or early voting. So, the best thing to do… check on the law in your state. Your Secretary of State office is the place to start. And, the employee that is in major violation of your attendance policy because they came in late on voting day… you should probably call your attorney before you terminate.

Will Work for College Credit: Creating an Internship Program

With the fall semester right around the corner, students are actively seeking internships. Reap some knowledge from a bright, young mind and train the next generation of talent…

Hiring the next generation of workers is often recommended as a competitive edge, especially to companies who market or sell to the youth demographic. However, you may still hesitate to take on unproven talent or fresh college graduates. A 2010 survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities shows your concerns are shared as 73% of employers felt that more emphasis should be placed on students’ “ability to apply knowledge and skills to real-world settings through internships and other hands-on experiences”. Creating your own internship program is a great way to be a part of the solution, but to generate real value for your organization and the student you must go beyond posting an entry-level position as an unpaid internship.

So how do you create a mutually beneficial internship program? First, it’s important to know that the Fair Labor Standards Act defines criteria for internship positions and states that in addition to giving the student an opportunity to work in their field, you must provide instruction that is “similar to training which could be given in an educational environment”. So, you should choose departments and positions that support the dual goal of teaching a student new skills and benefiting from their existing knowledge and new point of view.

Second, you have to carefully consider compensation guidelines. While unpaid internships are legal so long as you adhere to the FLSA standards, some compensation in addition to college credit may help you recruit more of a rising star than a dimming bulb. If you can’t provide an hourly wage, be sure you can provide even more praise, feedback, and the occasional bookstore gift card to keep your student motivated.

Now you need to find a source of interns. Start by contacting local colleges who offer programs pursuant to your business. The academic counselors of relevant departments can help you post a position or find an intern that matches your criteria. Internships are typically required of students in human resources, business administration, journalism and public relations. You might even go out to a job fair or two which doubles as an opportunity to market your business.

Once your intern is in place be sure you are closely monitoring their progress and also upholding your end of the bargain. Who knows, your next CEO may start out in the accounting file room!

Are Workplace Complaints Driving You Crazy?

Do you feel like your workforce is spending too much time whining? Consider this quote from Colin Powell:

“The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded that you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Certainly, there are some employees that spend too much time focusing on the negative.  And, chances are if you have some of those constant complainers in your organization, they might be driving you crazy. But, think about this; if you’re not hearing complaints, you are not in the loop. So we suggest taking a strategic approach.

You are in a management role because you know how to get things done. So when an employee brings a problem to you, your first inclination may be to solve it. But, hold on… when you solve the problem, it isn’t doing you or the employee any good. Your first response should be along the lines of “how do you think we can solve this problem?”  By asking this question you are setting the stage for an exchange of ideas that will help you, the employee, and your organization. You don’t need to take their advice, but once the whiners know that you are going to ask for a solution they may consider their complaints in a different light. Plus, you might be presented with a solution you wouldn’t have thought of.

Orange Paper: Brand & Culture

The Classic Scenario: Your organization has diagnosed the need for major change. Whether it be driven by a new senior management team, alterations to your product line, or even consumer feedback, you have decided it’s time to give your company a face-lift. Powerful buzzwords like vision, mission, culture and branding start flying and the reality of the workload required to pull this off hits you full force. You know that change of this magnitude is multi-faceted and it will require an army of dedicated resources to make it happen.

The Classic Solution: Despite the fact that most organizational change movements are intended to increase team cohesiveness, the project manager in all of us still falls back on the divide and conquer approach. So, armed with a new vision established by your senior team, your marketing and HR managers get their marching orders to recreate a portion of the wheel. The marketing team is challenged with rebranding and overhauling the advertising plan while your human resources team is charged with improving employee morale and redefining your internal culture.

The Classic Problem: First, even the most well articulated vision leaves room for interpretation. Setting a common goal is no guarantee the same path will be followed by both teams. Second, the brand experience had by your customers is directly driven by the cultural experience of your employees. When two separate teams are leading branding and culture initiatives the best you can hope for is two similar concepts. Yes, even with your monthly check-in meetings and quarterly progress reports.  What you really want is one brand/culture that drives the internal and external experience through and through. You see, these buzzwords (though applied differently by professionals in varying disciplines) are simply synonymous.

A High-Brow View of Brand and Culture: At In-Fusion, we remind our clients that a brand is more than a logo. Scholars (researchers, geniuses, word-nerds) in the field support this notion, though they state it with a bit more eloquence. Take this view from the Journal of Advertising Research, “To create a brand ideal, a company must identify a higher calling than simply selling its product. This ideal drives innovation and inspiration, enhances recognition, and unifies the organization in delivering against it. It not only informs business strategy: in an essential way, it is the business strategy.”

Amplify the Message: A brand is an ideal that unifies the organization. It is the business strategy.

Organizational culture is typically studied based on its impact upon your internal organization. Most scholars define it as the system of shared values, beliefs, and assumptions that impacts employee choice and drives desired outcomes.

Amplify the Message: A culture is a set of values that unifies the organization. It is the business strategy.

The Academy of Marketing Science made this strong assertion regarding developing your brand ideal, “organizational culture has long been recognized as having an important impact on marketing-related decision making.” So, rather than putting the cart before the horse we must know what our actual organizational identity is before we seek to describe that to our customers. The Journal of European Marketing also reinforces these intertwined concepts, “Corporate service brands need to coordinate internal branding activity to enhance their employees’ identification with, commitment to, and loyalty to, the brand.” There is a strong, deterministic relationship between the concepts of identification, commitment and loyalty of employees.

Amplify the Message: Brand and culture are inseparable. They are simply synonymous.

In-Fuse Your Solution: Boiling it all down to the simplest terms, you cannot define brand without culture nor culture without brand. Rather than assigning separate initiatives to define and unify your organization, you must approach it as one initiative and then allow each team to be driven by the implications of the outcome. This; however, doesn’t mean it is an ambiguous, leaderless project. It just means you need the right leader. In-Fusion Group can bring more than 30 years experience of marketing and human resource leadership experience to your organization. In addition to facilitating your journey to brand/culture identification, we can also project manage the marketing and human resource projects that result from your outcomes.

Smart People We Quoted: 1) Punjaisri, K., & Wilson, A. (2011). Internal branding process: key mechanisms, outcomes and moderating factors. European Journal Of Marketing, 45(9/10), 1521-1537. 2) Simon, M. (2011). Brands In Context. Journal Of Advertising Research, 51189-194. 3) Yarbrough, L., Morgan, N., & Vorhies, D. (2011). The impact of product market strategy-organizational culture fit on business performance. Journal Of The Academy Of Marketing Science, 39(4), 555-573.

Workplace Etiquette: Wash Your Hands!

There are many articles, blogs, and books written about etiquette in the workplace. Cubicles, kitchens, break rooms and board rooms are frequently covered. And, for good reason; there are a lot of inconsiderate slobs out there and maybe you work with one or two of them. This blog is about bathroom etiquette in the workplace. Yes, the bathroom! It is the season for colds and flu, and I am sure that you have discussed or read about the lack of hand washing on the way out of the bathroom. That was the motivation for writing this.

Did you know there is an organization called “The International Center for Bathroom Etiquette?” Really, there is and they are not afraid to tackle this sensitive topic. If you are a manager (or in human resources) chances are, you have been asked to handle difficult situations. Situations involving the workplace bathroom are probably at the top of the list of things you would rather not address. So, check out this great website for advice www.icbe.org.

In the meantime, “wash your hands” and try to prevent the spread of germs!

Written By: Ellen R. Charlebois, Senior Partner

This is Overtime?

July 2011:  Farmers Insurance Inc. agreed to pay $1,520,705 in overtime back wages to employees at call centers in Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). “Failing to properly compensate employees for pre or post shift work is a violation of federal law,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

How was the amount of back wages determined? The DOL interviewed employees and reviewed payroll and timekeeping systems to reach the conclusion that Farmers Insurance Inc. did not pay call center employees for time spent on required pre-shift work activities. The activities include turning on workstations, initiating software and logging into the system. The DOL investigators determined that each week employees routinely performed an average of 30 minutes of unrecorded and uncompensated work.

As you think about the routine of your employees, think about the time in your workplace spent on getting ready for the work day or the activities needed to wrap up the work day. It might not be hours each week; it could just be minutes each week. But, multiply those minutes out over a year and you are looking at a substantial amount of money. Are these activities being done “on the clock” or are they unpaid? Changing processes or routines may be in the best interest of your organization. It can keep you in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and it is certainly easier than paying out back wages.

No Money for Wellness Program?

As we all make every attempt to anticipate changes in our benefit plans, one thing remains clear… we can lower costs and reduce absenteeism with a corporate wellness program. So, that’s pretty easy to say; however, not so easy to implement! Not all organizations have the financial resources to bring in outside vendors, hire healthcare experts, or pay for employee’s dues at the local health club. So what can you do?

Keeping your workplace clean and free of germs, reminding employees to cover their coughs and sneezes, and encouraging a healthy lifestyle can all make a difference. Ideas for establishing a wellness program include:

  • Volunteer to facilitate a lunch hour walk. Organizing & encouraging employees in this activity reduces stress, promotes a healthy body, and increases energy levels for the afternoon.
  • Bring in a dietician from the local hospital or health center to talk about healthy eating. This is often provided at no charge.
  • Check with your health insurance provider, they may have guest speakers or mailers that you can provide to employees at no charge on a number of different topics.
  • Have some extra space in your building? Employees might be willing to donate exercise equipment that is now serving as a clothes rack in their house. Be sure to get a signed activity waiver from users.
  • Check with your local high school to see if facilities are available and open for public use. You may be able to use the track, the gym, or even the hallways for activities that include running, basketball, and walking.
  • Create a friendly competition with a contest for employees interested in weight loss, or set up a point system for teams of employees that participate in healthy activities.
  • Search the internet for more ideas on free wellness programs. Many colleges, health care organizations, and government agencies have great information and free resources available.