Cross training is a term most often heard at fitness facilities.  It refers to using a variety of exercise equipment and routines in your workouts in order to strengthen all muscles equally, prevent injuries from overuse, and keep things interesting for you mentally.  In a workplace, the definition of cross training is teaching your employees who primarily perform certain job functions the skills needed to perform other tasks within your organization.  Similarly, this helps keep your employees challenged mentally while making them a stronger asset to your company.

There are many benefits to cross training your employees.

  • Training staff in a variety of tasks allows small businesses to start up and begin thriving with fewer employees and therefore lower salary expenses.
  • Cross training employees helps keep your company running on all cylinders should someone be out sick unexpectedly, take maternity/paternity leave, or decide to pursue employment elsewhere.  Additionally, this also saves your company money, as you will not need to hire temporary workers to fill these gaps.
  • The cross training process actually results in higher job satisfaction and morale among employees, as it lets them know their employer has faith in their abilities and is keen to provide them with opportunities to grow in their career.

If you are interested in implementing cross training within your organization, it is important to start with an organized plan.  A wonderful initial step would be to ask each employee or department within your company to create a list of tasks they perform each day.  Once these are complete, you can alert your employees of your plans to cross train, send them the lists, then ask which tasks outside of their regular job your employees would like to learn about.  It is best if you select multiple employees to learn each new function.  You should also have a system in place that allows your employees to practice what they have learned, such as occasional job-swaps for the day.

As a manager, supervisor, president, or CEO within an organization, it is highly recommended you have an open door policy with your employees.  This means letting them know that you are always available to them if they have something they need to discuss.  This can have a variety of benefits.

First, by making yourself accessible, you are helping your employees to feel more comfortable stopping by for any number of reasons, from a quick hello to a difficult issue.  In general, this gives you a better idea of what is happening in the company on a daily basis, especially on those harried days when you find it hard to step away from your desk.

Second, an open door policy lets everyone know that you really care, and that you are both interested and engaged in the day-to-day operations of the company.  Employees will be more likely to chat with you informally about things going on in the office, which will give you insight into their thinking and generate ideas for change or improvement.

Next, you will find having an open door policy means you will gain access to information more quickly.  When the door to your office is literally closed, employees will assume you are engaged in an important task and will feel it is best not to disturb you, even if an urgent problem arises.

Finally, an open door policy helps to create a friendlier culture within your workplace.  A closed door acts as a barrier between you and those working for you.  If you avoid this, your employees will know that you are genuinely interested in them as human beings and not just about the job functions they perform.  They will also feel that you are likely to be open and honest with them when necessary. Both of these things will increase morale overall.

Good communication in the workplace is critical to the success of your business.  If employees are not kept informed of what is expected of them, changes to daily processes, or new information important to do their job properly, it can lead to lowered morale in addition to flawed performance.  If you feel you could communicate with your employees more effectively, read on for some suggestions on how to get started.

First, recognize that informal communication can be just as important as formal meetings.  Make it a point to check in with the employees directly reporting to you each day, not to discuss work tasks, but to simply see how they are doing and if they have anything they wish to speak with you about.  Make sure all other supervisors in your company are doing this as well.  This task is very important, so if you have to, schedule specific time on your calendar each day for it.  Your employees will be much happier knowing that you care about their wellbeing in addition to the work they are performing, and will feel much more comfortable approaching you if there is a problem that needs your attention.

Next, if you have information to provide to your employees, consider if it should be delivered in person or in writing.  If your message involves mentoring, training, conflict, delivering bad news, or any other interpersonal item, it is best done in face to face.  You can then follow up with an email if you feel something needs to be in writing.  When you do choose to email, be sure to read over your paragraphs for clarity and tone before hitting the send button.

Finally, you should establish formal ways for your employees to provide you with feedback at any time.  Although it may seem old fashioned, an anonymous suggestion box is a good way to solicit unreserved commentary.  Establish quarterly all-hands meetings where you can address the concerns submitted to you as well as answer employee questions on the spot, as this will let your employees know their feedback is important to you.

If you own a business, you already know the importance of recruiting and hiring the most talented staff and providing them with the training needed for them to excel at their jobs.  However, do you have a method in place for monitoring their performance and job satisfaction once they begin working for you?  If not, it is important to establish regular performance evaluations as soon as possible.  You will find that conducting these evaluations will provide a variety of benefits.

First, having standardized evaluations for all of your employees at regular intervals provides you with a fair way to compare employees who are up for promotion.  The evaluations exist as a permanent record of how each employee’s knowledge, skills, abilities, teamwork, and initiative have changed over time.  These reviews can also be used to make determinations regarding raises.  If an employee has asked for a raise, you will have evidence to support why they do or do not deserve one.

Next, performance evaluations can help you to discover areas in which your employee training needs improvement.  For example, if you notice all or most of the employees in a certain area within your organization are struggling to keep up with their assignments, you would want to reexamine the training individuals in that area have received.  You will likely find that by providing employees with additional or refresher training, you can improve performance and also greatly boost morale.

Additionally, performance evaluations serve as excellent documentation if you are forced to take disciplinary action against an employee.  They are a place where supervisors can note deficiencies such as consistent tardiness, disobedience, or failure to complete assignments.

Finally, performance evaluations are a great way for you to get to know more about the employees in your company that you do not work with every day.  Through an honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, you can learn where in your company their skills can best be put to use.

In 2008, the Institute for Employment Studies conducted a study on what Human Resources (HR) customers are looking for.  During their research, they collected 840 survey questionnaires and conducted over 100 in-person interviews.  In an effort to cover a wide range of industries, participants were surveyed who worked in retail, electronics, local government, health, and civil service.  The following are some of the expectations which were revealed by the study.

First, employees felt Human Resources Offices needed to communicate more clearly exactly what they do and how they can be of service to everyone else in the company.  It was revealed that many employees find the inner workings of an HR Office to be a complete mystery.

Next, managers within organizations stated they were seeking HR employees who can help them balance the needs and interests of employees and the business.  Essentially, they felt that HR should help to remind them that there are real people and real feelings involved when they are implementing company policies.  Managers also want Human Resources to regularly inform them of the general employee sentiment and recommend ways to maintain positive relationships between management and staff.

Finally, all customers of Human Resources want HR employees to be proactive, which applies primarily to being able to recognize problems in advance and make suggestions for resolving them.  This includes immediately tackling issues between managers and employees, researching best practices and bringing in positive ideas from outside of the business, being assertive if management seems to be overstepping their bounds, training managers on how to better motivate their staff, and working with everyone together to maintain consistency in company ethics, mission, and goals.

Overall, the customers of Human Resources would like to see HR workers move away from seeming to be chained to their desks by paperwork, and be a more visible force for positive change in the workplace.

The significance of the relationship between Human Resources (HR) employees and management within an organization has truly evolved a great deal over time.  In the past, management typically viewed HR as a clump of administrators working on legally required employee paperwork.  As a result, managers did not have much respect for HR employees as a resource or agent of change for the organization.  When managers did need to work with HR, it was often a contentious interaction, with HR being viewed as the bureaucratic heavy in the situation.

However, over time, there has been a shift in thinking.  This has primarily been caused by major changes in the way companies are structured.  In today’s business world, there are actually fewer jobs in management due economic downsizing and the new generation’s desire to work in self-directed teams.  This means the managers that remain have greater responsibilities, and are managing more people and much larger projects.  They are also being called on more than ever before to develop, motivate, and communicate with those they supervise, as businesses are discovering that the attitude of management is critical to maintaining their very best employees.  With all of these new responsibilities, management has naturally started seeking out Human Resources Offices for help, as their staff are more expert in the areas of employee relations.  In turn, HR employees are learning the business speak necessary to meet management where they are for the best possible collaboration experience.

However, it is not quite yet an ideal world where HR and management teams are getting along completely smoothly.  More work needs to be done to change the culture between these two groups.  The keys to success in this area must come from the top down, with business owners mandating Human Resources employees and managers collaborate, communicate, and cooperate, viewing each other as partners rather than adversaries.

Having timely and accurate payroll services in accordance with the law is critical for any company, but for international organizations, accomplishing this is even more complex.  Since 2006, business consulting company The Hackett Group has worked with the American Payroll Association to conduct yearly global payroll performance studies.  Based on their observations, the most successful global companies utilize the following best practices when it comes to their payroll.

1)      Adopt a service delivery model that is globally managed.  A successful global company should be innovative. It is highly recommended to adopt a payroll system that is globally uniform, and that new models be investigated every few years to insure you are using the best one for your company’s needs.

2)      Establish lines of payroll authority globally.  This includes not only using the same or similar payroll providers across the board, but establishing governance for company-wide data standards and vendor oversight which can be tied to your company’s goals and objectives.

3)      Use advanced metrics to make informed decisions about payroll operations internationally.  It is important that your company stay in the forefront of technology and change, so you should be constantly reviewing your global payroll operations.

In summary, heads of successful organizations will insert themselves into the inner workings of their international payroll processes to maximize their effectiveness and efficiency.

Do you have employees struggling with getting their tasks completed in the time allotted?  If so, fear not, as this at not at all abnormal.  At some point in our lives, we all struggle with time management issues and can benefit from tips to get ourselves back on track.  Below are some ideas you can share with employees who feel they are falling behind on their task list.

  • Prioritize your assignments.  In Stephen Covey’s wildly successful book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he introduces the Time Management Grid.  This is a simple tool that allows you to place tasks you need to accomplish into four quadrants- urgent & important, not urgent & important, urgent & not important, and not urgent & not important.  By using this grid, you can quickly and easily see which tasks should be given priority each day.
  • Create deadlines for yourself.  While your supervisor most definitely sets goals and deadlines for you, you can create your own set of mini goals and deadlines to help you reach your objectives.  After creating a task list for a project you have been given, don’t be afraid to show it to your supervisor for feedback, and express concern if you believe the deadline they have set for you may not be achievable.
  • Minimize distractions.  Consider what may be causing distractions from your work and think about some possible solutions. You may consider putting your personal cell phone out of sight during working hours, sending your office phone to voicemail for a certain portion of your day, or designating specific times to check email, rather than jumping to your inbox each time a new message comes in.  If you find you work better in silence, you may want to check with your supervisor to see if you can occasionally work from home, or perhaps shift your hours to be in the office at a quieter time of day.

The term “work-life balance” is used quite a lot in today’s busy society, but what exactly does it mean?  Simply put, it means not allowing work to take over your life, but rather making sure you have the time you need for your health, family, and personal growth.  If work-life balance is something you are struggling with, the tips below may help to get you on the right path.

If you have the feeling your schedule is constantly overbooked, consciously build some downtime into it.  Have set times each week to do things you want to do, such as a date night with a loved one, a yoga class, or a time to gather with friends and play cards.  The key here is that once you put these things in your calendar, you should stick to them.  They should not be pushed aside to do work or household chores instead.

Now, really look hard at what else is in your schedule.  If you are spending time with activities or people just because you feel like you “have to,” and they are not adding value to your career or personal life in any way, let go of the obligation to make time for yourself.

Next, think about the errands you run on a regular basis, and consider if there is a way that technology can help you save time.  For example, would you rather spend an hour at the grocery store, or have groceries delivered right to your doorstep?

Finally, try not to be overwhelmed and think that only big changes to your lifestyle can make a difference.  Small things, such as leaving the office 30 minutes earlier so you can unwind with a bath each night, or taking 15 minutes to read and enjoy a glass of wine before cooking dinner, can make a big difference in your sense of inner balance.

If your business will be issuing bonus checks to employees for the first time, you may be wondering the best way to go about it.  Should you include the bonus as part of a regular paycheck, or issue a completely separate bonus check?  In the end, issuing a separate bonus check is the preferable method for the reasons detailed below.

*By not including bonus money in with a regular paycheck, you are simplifying the recordkeeping for both your company and your employees.  If you blend the two together, your employees may have to manually separate the numbers to determine any impact on their tax liabilities.  Separating the two checks is also helpful to your Human Resources Department when they are reconciling the bonuses and verifying them for accuracy.

*Similarly, your accountants will thank you for keeping to the two checks separate, particularly if the financial account you are using to issue the bonuses is different from the account you use for your payroll expenditures.

*The most important reason to issue your employees separate bonus checks is that it prevents them from being inadvertently bumped into a higher tax bracket.  A bonus lumped into a regular paycheck would increase an employee’s overall salary for the year, which could result in them paying a higher tax rate on all wages earned.  However, bonus payments not added to a regular paycheck are considered by the IRS to be supplemental wages, which will be taxed at a flat rate of 25 percent.

Should you decide to issue a separate bonus check, it is wise to include it in the same envelope as the regular paycheck, especially if you are not issuing bonus checks to all employees. This will help to avoid any possible dissention among employees, and hopefully prevent you having to answer uncomfortable questions regarding who was rewarded and why.

title quote