A 2014 study conducted by the Association of Accounting Technicians discovered that the people polled valued good relationships with coworkers over the amount of money they made at their job.  Out of the 2,000 person group, 8 out of 10 stated that would turn down a salary increase if it meant working with people they didn’t like.  Indeed, employees that are able to get along and work well with each other are the best possible foundation for a successful business, and such harmony is definitely what you should be seeking as an employer.  According to salary.com, there are 5 components critical to building strong working relationships.

  • Clear Communication-  When you have employees working in a team environment, keeping everyone on the same page in terms of details, due dates, and deadlines for a project helps things get accomplished more smoothly and assists everyone with feeling they are working in unison toward a shared goal.
  • Collaboration- While individual efforts should always be recognized, employers should set the expectation that success consists of the entire group working together to achieve an end result.
  • Corporate Culture- Harmony in the workplace comes from the top down.  Employers should create an organization structured to reward collaboration amongst employees.
  • Creativity- Managers should hold regular meetings in which every single employee is encouraged to bring their ideas to the table in a judgment-free environment.  Show that you value the background and experience each employee has that can bring creative solutions to company problems.
  • Commitment- Engender commitment from your employees with teamwork.  Explain to each individual what they bring to the team that is positive and unique, as well as what others are there to contribute.  Employees should be aware of how their role in the team will allow them to shine, while at the same allowing them to learn from the knowledge of others.

We have all heard the expression, “Fake it until you make it,” and there is most definitely an existing school of thought in the world of psychology that if you aren’t feeling happy, plastering a forced smile on your face will help to improve your mood.  However, a study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University in 2011 actually suggests otherwise.

The study followed a group of 78 bus drivers for two weeks as they conducted their daily work tasks.  During this time, the drivers took surveys regarding their emotions before work, at the conclusion of their workday, and prior to going to bed at night.  The drivers were asked about their hours of sleep, their mood, and if they felt that had been emotionally “wearing a mask” that day.  The researchers discovered that drivers who practiced fake smiling at work became withdrawn throughout the day, their moods worsened overall, they reported increased family conflict at home, and they suffered from insomnia later that night.  Oppositely, those who smiled only when they genuinely felt it experienced increased work productivity, a better mood overall, and higher quality sleep in the evening.  From these findings, the researchers concluded that suppressing negative thoughts and emotions can actually make them more persistent.

Based on this conclusion, it is important to consider that in the business world, faking your emotions can actually be detrimental in any career.  If you are constantly pretending to be or feel something you are not when you are at work, the majority of people are likely to pick up on your lack of authenticity.  This could cause people to feel you are untrustworthy, and not want to do business with you.  When you are being genuine, it will convey a sense of honesty and vulnerability which help to establish trust.

In this increasingly high-tech world with so much of what we do computerized, it is not surprising to have employees demand access to human resources options online.  One item that is particularly in demand is the ability to complete and submit a timesheet over the internet.  If you are a Human Resources professional who is fearful of speaking to your employer about this option and having your request denied due to lack of funds, there are some strategies you can employ to increase your chances of approval.

The first thing to do is to make sure that the company’s board of directors and/or high level executives understand exactly what Human Resources self-service technology is, what it does, and how it can benefit your organization.  Chances are, your employer would like to see you spend less time on administration and more time on employee issues and supporting the company’s strategic goals. However, they won’t know just how this technology could help you do that unless you tell them.  Before you approach these executives, be sure you know the answers to any questions they may ask.  This would include the cost of the product, a timeline for implementation, a calculation of how much time this new technology will save both the Human Resources department and all other company employees, and how that time savings translates into benefits for the business in the future.

The return on investment of the expenditure will be a critical component of your presentation.  Keep in mind there are two ways of measuring this.  The first is hard monetary savings, or direct costs, such as no longer having to pay Human Resources staff overtime to get their job done due to the time savings provided by the technology.  The second is soft savings, or indirect costs, such as a standardization of processes, improved data integrity, and improved employee access to information.

In August 2013, New York City clothing salesman Wade Groom made the news, claiming the company Lacoste fired him from his job for posting a picture of his paycheck on Instagram, captioned by a statement that he was only making enough to live in a “third world apartment.”  While the company did not comment on the reason for firing Groom, Groom’s thinking regarding why he was fired is not outside the realm of possibility.

In fact, workplace policies forbidding employees from discussing their pay are not uncommon, even though the National Labor Relations Act prohibits them.  Unfortunately, many businesses do not fully understand the laws, and operate under fear that full disclosure of employee salaries would cause conflicts among staff and decrease job satisfaction overall.  It is also a possibility that some businesses, while aware of the law, are willing to pay the financial penalties if a complaint is filed against them with the National Labor Relations Board.  A 2011 survey conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that pay secrecy rules are still quite common.  Approximately half of the workers responding to the survey reported that discussing their salary information is either discouraged, prohibited, and/or could lead to negative consequences.

President Obama has taken notice of the issue of pay secrecy, and is on a mission to put it to an end.  In April 2014, he announced two executive actions which serve as a reminder of the current laws and promote the idea of “equal pay for equal work,” starting with those working within the federal government.  The first order directs the Department of Labor to collect data on what federal contractors are paying their employees, in order to spot any pay discrimination.  The second order prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries or other compensation with others.  The President has issued the message that, “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it.”

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.

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