As a Human Resources professional, part of your job is finding the very best talent to fill open positions in your organization.  Most definitely, an individual’s resume is the best way of seeing if they meet the basic skills and qualifications for a particular job.  However, an in-person interview is an absolutely critical part of the process, as it allows you to see a candidate’s ability to think strategically and their leadership potential.  Below are some common questions that can help you assess a candidate, and what you should be looking for in their responses.

  • Tell me about the time you faced your greatest challenge; how did you handle it?  With this question, you are looking to see a candidate’s thought process when it comes to working through a challenging situation.  You want to see that they demonstrate problem solving skills, utilize strategic thinking, and that they have the ability to seek help when they need it.  This question may also tell you something about the candidate’s ability to work in teams or their customer service skills, depending on the situation they were dealing with.
  • How would your friends and/or colleagues describe you and why?  This question requires the candidate to do some self-reflection, and can provide a great deal of insight into certain aspects of their personality.  Listen for key words that will tell you more about the candidate’s values, leadership qualities, time management, commitment, and acceptance of personal responsibility.
  • Name an area where you feel you need improvement; what steps you are you taking to act on it?  Obviously, if a candidate has no answer to this question, that would be a red flag regarding their insight into themselves.  Otherwise, the key to this question is really to see if the candidate is action-oriented and taking steps to correct what they perceive as an area of improvement for themselves.

According to Monster.com, more than half of employers in the United States block social media access on their employees’ computers.  The main reason employers do this is fear of lost productivity due to their employees spending work time visiting social media sites.  However, since any employee with a smart phone can just as easily visit these sites while on the clock, is this really helping?  If you are currently blocking social media sites on your business’s computers, you might want to consider some of the potential benefits that can arise from social media use.

First, your worst fear may actually be unjustified, as social media use at work actually has the potential to increase productivity.  Researchers at the University of Melbourne have found that employees with social media access are 9 percent more productive than those without it.  According to their study, the ability to reward yourself by accessing social media briefly between assigned work tasks reinvigorates an employee for their next assignment and improves the quality of their overall performance.

Next, social media is an excellent way for you to market your company and its products through free advertising.  In order to tap into this resource, you need to allow access, and you also want to find employees who are highly familiar with how to use these sites.  Furthermore, social media use can help your company stay on the pulse on your intended customer demographic.  If you are unsure if a new product or service would be popular, a quick Facebook poll will give you an idea quickly.

Finally, social media use facilitates networking and collaboration.  It is a good thing for your employees to be in communication with others in their same line of work, as it helps them to learn, grow, and ultimately be much better at their jobs.

The legal definition of sexual harassment is “verbal, non-verbal, visual, or physical conduct which is unwelcome, and which is either of a sexual nature or based on an individual’s sex, that is severe or pervasive and affects working conditions or creates a hostile work environment.”  Examples of this include, but are not limited to:

  • *Requesting sexual favors or dates
  • *Touching of a person’s body or clothing inappropriately
  • *Staring at an individual’s body
  • *Displaying or sharing emails, pictures, drawings, screensavers, posters, or videos of a sexual nature

Sexual harassment is against both state and federal law and should not be tolerated.  By law, an employer may not retaliate against an employee for reporting sexual harassment.  An employer who receives a report of sexual harassment is required to take reasonable steps to promptly correct and prevent such incidents.  If you believe you are being sexually harassed at work, you are encouraged to take the following steps.

  • *Tell the person involved that his/her actions are offending you, and ask them to stop. Do this both verbally and in writing.
  • *Create a journal of any incidents which have occurred, including dates, times, locations, and any witnesses.  Keep this journal safely at home rather than in your office.
  • *Research your employer’s grievance/complaint procedures and follow them accordingly.  Additionally, report the harassment to your supervisor and/or Human Resources Department and let them know how you want the situation rectified. Do this both verbally and in writing.  If you are a member of a union, you may wish to file a formal complaint through the union as well.
  • *If you plan to pursue your grievance through the court system, you must first file a formal harassment complaint through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and/or the fair employment agency in your state.  Most importantly, you should not delay in doing this.  Federal law gives you 300 days from the act of harassment to file a complaint, and your state law may allow as few as 180 days.

In April 2014, Monster.com published the results of a survey they conducted of approximately 7,000 U.S. employees.  They found that 35% had debated leaving a job due to a stressful work environment, and another 42% had chosen to leave a position due to workplace stress.  More distressing, approximately half of those surveyed reported having missed work due to office stress, 61% said work stress has made them physically ill, and 7% said they had to be hospitalized as a result of work-related stress.

In today’s workplace, we are all being asked to “do more with less.”  However, no employer wants to see their employees become physically ill due to the resulting pressure that comes along with this.  As a Human Resources professional, you have the power to encourage wellness in the workplace.  The first step towards this is making sure your employees are aware of the physical signs and symptoms of stress.  These include:

  • Feelings of anxiety, irritability, depression, or apathy
  • Sleep issues/fatigue/difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Muscle tension/headaches
  • Increased/excessive use of alcohol or drugs

Next, make sure your employees know that your company supports their self-care.  You can do this by:

  • Encouraging exercise- Buy your employees pedometers and start a lunchtime walking group, or work with a local gym to give your employees discounts on membership.
  • Encouraging healthy food choices- Let your supervisors know how important it is for their employees to take a lunch break away from their desks.  Provide healthy food and beverage choices in your kitchen’s vending machines.
  • Offering smoking cessation courses and resources for employees who are concerned about drug and alcohol dependence.

Finally, you can help your employees with their organization and time management skills by offering brown-bag lunch sessions featuring tips on how to prioritize tasks, plan out a balanced schedule for the workday, manage long-term projects, and more.

A major trend in Human Resource in 2014 is the expanding role voluntary benefits are filling in employee benefits packages.  Voluntary benefits are insurance products that a company offers their employees of their own accord, not because it is required by law, which allows employees to obtain these insurances at rates lower than they could on their own. Voluntary benefits can include dental, life, vision, prescription, accidental death and dismemberment, short-term disability, cancer, supplemental health, and pet insurance, as well as identity theft protection policies.  According to a white paper on voluntary benefits compiled by Prudential, offering these benefits to employees offers several advantages to employers.

  • *It is a cost effective way to increase your employee benefit offerings.  In a survey conducted by Prudential, 51% of employers said their voluntary benefits helped them stay competitive with the programs offered by their peers at little to no additional cost.
  • *It helps protect larger investments.  Employers already invest substantial amounts of money in employee retirement and health care benefits, and voluntary benefits can help support these investments.  For example, an employee with disability insurance would have the supplemental income they needed during a period of lost work, without having to drain funds from their retirement account.
  • *Voluntary benefits can save employers on expenses associated with employee absences.  Disability insurance companies generally offer “return to work” programs for those who are out of the office due to disability which will lower the cost of replacing or retraining those individuals.
  • *You will have happier, healthier employees.  Regular eye exams can help with early detection of high blood pressure, glaucoma, and diabetes, while good oral hygiene can be directly linked to preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.  Employees who have vision and dental insurance are much more likely to visit their doctors for preventative care to maintain their good health.

 

Is your office considering purchasing employee benefits administration software?  If so, you have probably been asked to articulate the advantages of having such software to senior management.  The key is to clearly communicate the amount of time and money this software can save your organization.  Below are some business advantages to using benefits administration software that your company should be aware of.

  • **Benefits administration software helps you with complying with federal law.  Federal mandates, such as HIPPA, FMLA, Sarbanes-Oxley, and COBRA, all carry with them complex rules and regulations.  Violating any of these laws can result in major financial penalties.  In a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, it was found that error rates pertaining to compliance lower to 1% or less through the use of automated software.
  • **Your employees will become more familiar with the benefits available to them.  Benefits Administration software will allow your employees to go online and conduct their own research regarding the benefits you offer, allowing them to more thoroughly understand plan features at their own pace.  Additionally, investment and retirement management available through benefits administration software will empower an employee to save for his or her future, while at the same time having the feeling of security that comes from knowing their employer cares about their retirement as well.
  • **Your Human Resources staff will have more time to handle special projects.  Employee self-service features offered through benefits administration software, such as time sheet completion and approval, will remove a great deal of paperwork from the desks of your Human Resources team.  This will give them more time to focus on staff relations, recruitment, and other items of importance to the company’s success.
  • Benefits administration software will greatly reduce the chances of human error that will cost your company money.  It will automatically calculate hours worked and paid time off, ensuring accurate paychecks and leave banks.

As the saying goes, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”  Employees who have a sense of unity and shared goals collectively possess the momentum your company needs to handle any bumps on the road to success and help you achieve your company’s visions with more speed and accuracy than ever before.  Below are some tips for creating a culture of teamwork within your organization.

  • To properly set the tone within your company, Human Resources personnel should stress the value of teamwork right from the start at new employee orientation.  They should also train employees on methods teams can use to complete projects efficiently.
  • Company executives and managers should utilize teamwork so as to become a role model for others within the organization.
  • Managers should relate tales to employees about times in the past in which teamwork was successful and what was achieved.
  • Managers should literally form teams of staff to accomplish tasks.
  • Group meetings are important.  Managers should meet not only with the entire staff as a whole, but with individual teams to make sure things are running smoothly with their projects.
  • Make sure teamwork is publicly rewarded and recognized.  This doesn’t necessarily need to be a monetary reward; it can be as simple as reserving five prime parking spaces near your building for the “team of the month.”
  • Have a performance evaluation system that places emphasis on teamwork. One such system, known as 360 degree feedback, allows an employee to receive feedback from four to eight peers, staff members, coworkers, and/or customers in addition to their direct supervisor.
  • Remember that teambuilding doesn’t always have to be about work.  You can encourage connections amongst the staff by taking time out to lead them through icebreakers prior to a meeting, by purchasing tickets for everyone to visit a local ballpark, or by having a monthly pizza party.

 

For the last three years, global law firm Proskauer has conducted a worldwide study of social media use in the workplace.  With 36% of all employers fully blocking access to social media sites, and 70% of businesses reporting they took action against employees violating the rules, it seems company social media usage policies are more important now than ever.   Not surprisingly, establishing such rules can carry legal ramifications.  Proskauer notes that each year in the United States, hundreds of lawsuits are brought against employers for unfair labor practices surrounding social media use.  The main issue in these suits typically involves social media rules interfering with or fully violating employee rights to engage in protected activity, as established by the National Labor Relations Act.  To avoid such lawsuits in your company, Proskauer offers the following five recommendations.

1)      Because laws surrounding social media are ever evolving, it is recommended that you have your legal team review the laws at least once per year, and make sure your current employee rules are in line with them.

2)      Make sure your policies surrounding social media use are reviewed thoroughly as part of your employee training program.

3)      Make sure your policies and training cover the following topics, and specifically how they pertain to social media: misrepresenting the views of the business, misuse of confidential information, the impropriety of disparaging remarks about the business or fellow employees, the inappropriateness of use that is not business related, and the legalities surrounding online harassment.

4)      If you have employees that are required to use business-related social media as part of their job, make sure clear lines are drawn on the boundaries between work and personal use.

5)      Implement a provision regarding the repercussions of misuse of social media by former employees to disparage your company or their former colleagues.

 

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.

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