2015 / 03

Seattle’s NEW Minimum Wage Goes Into Effect April 1!

by Jeanne Knutzen | March 27, 2015

0 Human Resources Staffing, Legal Issues - Staffing

Beginning April 1, both large employers (501 employees or more) and small (500 or fewer employees) located in SEATTLE must pay their employees no less than a hourly rate of $11/hr. – or a base of $10/hr. and make up the difference with an employer contribution to a medical benefits plan. And if you’re an “outside of Seattle employer,” don’t assume this wage increase isn’t relevant to you! While the minimum wage mandate does not yet apply to most employers other than those in SeaTac and Seattle metro, you’ll likely need to watch some employees who may be willing to drive a few miles north or south just to put an extra $1/hr. in their pocket. To learn more about Seattle’s Minimum Wage go to minimumwage@seattle.gov.

Mandatory Work Hours During Busy Times

by Jeanne Knutzen | March 25, 2015

0 Resources for Employers, Hiring Managers, HR Professionals

By Strategic HR Inc. Question: Can we dictate "mandatory" hours for our exempt and non-exempt employees during busy times? We do not typically require employees to work specific hours (during the evening or on the weekend) but during our busy times we need the extra coverage. Can I do this legally? Answer: Yes! As an employer you may require employees to work a certain number of hours and/or even specific hours of the day or specific days. The Fair Labor Standards Act defines 40 hours as a standard work week, however, it does not put an upper limit on the number of hours you can have your employees work. There are employee relations concerns with such a mandate but from a legal perspective, you can require your employees to work as much as you need and whatever schedule is necessary to meet your business needs. It is recommended that you work with your employees to clearly communicate such mandates throughout the on-boarding process, or if it is a new requirement help them understand why you made the change to avoid less-than-happy employees. One caveat, the FLSA does have working hour restrictions in place for child labor and does require overtime payments (paying time and a one half) for hours worked over 40 in a work week. Some states even require overtime payment if you work more than eight hours in a day. Keep those things in mind when you are determining who needs to work those large number of hours and check out www.dol.gov/whd/flsa for additional information on those requirements. Strategic Human Resources, Inc., is a national full-service HR management firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our president and founder, Robin Throckmorton, can be reached at Robin@strategichrinc.com.

How to Manage Employees to Achieve Great Things

by Jeanne Knutzen | March 25, 2015

0 Resources for Employers, Hiring Managers, HR Professionals

By Valerie Grubb Managing employees can be one of your most challenging–and also most rewarding–responsibilities as you move up within a company. When your management works and you see your employees surpass even their own expectations, it's wildly exciting and incredibly fulfilling! Fortunately, you don't need a big budget to inspire your employees. Your management style alone can motivate them to achieve great things. The other side of that coin, though, is that it also has the potential to demotivate them and lead to massive turnover. (After all, as the old saying goes, "Employees join companies and leave managers.") Motivating employees to achieve exceptional results requires you to step up your management game in the following five areas:

  • Goal-setting
  • Delegation
  • Motivation
  • Coaching
  • Feedback
Goal-Setting Effective goal setting is the foundation for great management. If employees don't have a clear picture of your expectations, it's hard for them to meet those expectations (and it's also difficult for you to hold them accountable). So your first responsibility is to use SMART methodology to set clear and concise expectations:
  • Specific–Targeting an identifiable, observable goal
  • Measurable–Objective
  • Achievable–Moderately difficult, but within reach
  • Relevant–Meaningful to the individual and to the organization
  • Time-bound–Accomplishable within a specific time
Because employees are more committed to their goals if they've helped to establish them, be sure to involve them in this process. Effective Delegation Why delegate? For several good reasons:
  • It frees you to think strategically.
  • Developing employees allows them to take on more responsibility.
  • It creates a succession plan, thus allowing you to move on to other roles and responsibilities.
  • It motivates your staff!
Effective delegation involves three critical elements:
  • Responsibility. Rather than tell your employees how to achieve the goal or complete the project, give them the responsibility to figure it out on their own.
  • Authority. Give your employees the authority they need to get the job done. (This can be the toughest aspect of delegation!) Unless your employees are able to make the decisions relevant to completing the project, you're basically just giving them a task to do and not actually delegating a project for them to complete. Keep in mind the project's ultimate goal, and if different routes lead to the same outcome, allow your employees to choose their own paths.
  • Accountability. Hold your employees accountable for their actions, decisions, and results.
Finally, understand that delegating a task does not mean that you "dump and run" and disappear. Effective delegation includes coaching your employees to get the project done. If you don't check in, you're sending the message that you don't care about the project (or the employees). Employee Motivation An important concept to understand when managing employees is that they will be motivated to engage in behavior to the degree that they believe that the behavior will lead to an outcome they value. As management consultant Michael LeBoeuf so aptly declared, "You get what you reward." If you want to cultivate employee motivation, you need to follow these steps:
  • Identify the behaviors you want to see.
  • Determine what outcomes your employees value (money, promotions, autonomy, leadership positions, etc.).
  • Show your employees how performing the desired behaviors will lead to their desired outcomes.
When it comes to motivating employees, though, those steps will get you only halfway. Employees value autonomy, so you need to give them that, too. (FYI, if you're a micromanager, your employees are probably looking for their next positions even as you read this.) Empowering your employees will make them more motivated and give them a higher degree of commitment to achieving their goals. To empower your employees, here's what you need to do:
  • Articulate the goal, then cut your employees loose to solve the problem.
  • Galvanize their enthusiasm and confidence in their ability to accept the challenge of a stretch assignment and think outside the box.
  • Encourage them to achieve outstanding results and push themselves beyond their comfort zones.
  • Publicly tout your employees' achievements to everyone!
  • When needed, coach employees to help them develop their skills and overcome hurdles.
Coaching With its focus on future behavior, coaching is developmental in nature. It helps employees move ahead by releasing their potential in ways that work best both for the organization and for the individuals. Effective coaching includes these elements:
  • Support and challenge your employees. Coaching comes from a place of support, but at the same time you should be pushing your employees out of their comfort zones.
  • Listen at multiple levels. Don't stop at the facts–listen for what your employees are reluctant to say (and pay attention to nonverbal communication).
  • Ask powerful questions to get to the root of what's going on. The goal is to get your employees to figure out next steps without you telling them how to proceed.
  • Widen the range of options. As the old saying goes, "Two heads are better than one." Share perspectives with your employees and encourage them look through different lenses to solve issues.
  • Create ownership and accountability. Coaching isn't a therapy session or a friend-to-friend conversation. Both parties should be invested in the process and its outcome.
Feedback Whereas coaching is forward thinking, feedback focuses on past behavior. Evaluative in nature, feedback is used to help employees change behavior in prescribed directions that works best for the organization. Providing feedback yields many benefits, including the following:
  • Reduced uncertainty
  • Problem solving
  • Trust building
  • Stronger relationships
  • Improved work quality
  • Forward momentum for projects
Effective feedback has the following characteristics:
  • It is knowledge-based. It's based on firsthand experience and observations of job performance.
  • It clearly identifies the action or behavior that worked (or didn't work). It cites specific examples that illustrate how the employee's performance was (or was not) completely effective in certain instances.
  • It provides an alternative action or behavior that would result in improved performance. It delineates between the actions/behaviors that were observed vs. what is preferred/required in the future.
  • It details an acceptable benefit. It pinpoints an area in which you and the employee believe improvement would benefit her or him, the department, and the company.
  • It is followed through. Feedback is effective only when you follow up on it and make sure the individual progresses toward improvement.
It's time to step up your management game: you ask your employees for their best, so now give them your best! Valerie Grubb of Val Grubb & Associates Ltd. (www.valgrubbandassociates.com) is an innovative and visionary operations leader with an exceptional ability to zero in on the systems, processes, and personnel issues that can hamper a company's growth. Grubb regularly consults for mid-range companies wishing to expand and larger companies seeking efficiencies in back-office operations. Her expertise and vibrant style are also in constant demand for corporate training classes and seminars. She can be reached at mailto:vgrubb@valgrubbandassociates.com.

Work/Life Balance is Good for Business!

by Jeanne Knutzen | March 25, 2015

0 Resources for Employers, Hiring Managers, HR Professionals

By Darcy Jacobsen. We often think of work-life balance as something that we can give employees by offering more flexible work schedules, or a holistic benefits package. Instinctively, it seems like giving employees time to manage their lives should help them achieve this elusive balance–which so many experts tell us we need. But is that enough? Flexible work schedules and an eye for work-life balance are good for business. A study last June by the White House Council of economic advisors showed a "significant positive relationship between work-life balance practices and total factor productivity" and recommended that "wider adoption of such policies and practices may well benefit more firms and workers, and the U.S. economy as a whole." It turns out that helping employees balance work and life isn't as simple as offering flex time. And many of us lack the tools to be very good at that sort of balance. According to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center, 56% of working mothers said it was very or somewhat difficult to balance the responsibilities of their jobs and their families. And this is not only a problem for women–50% of working fathers said the exact same thing. This lack of balance is the result of spillover. When things are rough at work, we take it home and snap at our spouses or children or roommates. When things are rough at home, we carry it into our working hours, where we are volatile or on autopilot. In fact, study after study has shown that in this world where so many of us are tethered 24/7 to our work email –working from home, taking our work home, or sleeping with our phones–a lot of us are epically failing at maintaining a healthy work-life balance. And that failure isn't good for companies. A recent OECD study showed that people spend one-tenth to one-fifth of their time on unpaid work. And while at first glance that might seem to be a windfall for the company, when you dig a little deeper it can reveal issues like disillusionment, burnout, and disengagement. What is the solution? According to researchers, investing in a little mindfulness could be the answer. Yep, mindfulness. Many of us dismiss the notion of mindfulness as a new-age idea– one that perhaps doesn't have an awful lot to do with building an effective work culture or any of the metrics that rule our HR lives, like retention or engagement. But turns out that some sort of mindfulness training might be just the tool we need to help our employees effectively build emotional boundaries between work and life, even while all the edges are blurred by our 24/7 working lives. Psychologists are finding that mindfulness, defined as the "state of a state of being attentive to and non-judgmentally aware of momentary experiences" is a great way to help us balance those two worlds. A 2012 study from researchers at the University of South Florida found that more mindful working parents reported better work/life balance, sleep quality, and vitality, and reduced family conflict. Another 2012 study on mindfulness in the work environment showed that mindfulness reduces emotional exhaustion and improves job satisfaction at work. And perhaps most significantly, in a recent article in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Behavior, researchers at the University of Heidelberg found that employees can "use mindfulness practice as a strategy for shaping the boundaries between life domains, for separating work from private life emotionally and cognitively, and for improving work/life balance." This is a huge win for companies, because the more we can incorporate a little mindfulness into our employees' world view, the more we can protect employees from burnout and stress and keep them focused and engaged in their work. In understanding how mindfulness helps with work/life balance, it helps to know just a little about boundary theory, which organizational psychologists use to study the balance between our working roles and the demands of our personal lives. The boundary is usually a continuum from full integration on one side, to full segmentation (or separation) of life and work. As a rule, the more completely we integrate the two domains, the more blurred the boundaries are, so that you may be in one domain but still be psychologically or behaviourally engaged in your role from the other domain. In the Heidelberg study, researchers used an online self-training intervention to teach employees how to use mindfulness practices to help create more segmented boundaries. This mindfulness is made up of two things, according to the researchers:

  • Self-regulation of attention: Awareness, focus, full presence, and full perception of immediate experiences. Mindfulness exercises typically anchor participants' attention to the present by directing them to focus on objects such as pictures or somatic sensations such as breath.
  • Orientation to experience: The attitude the participant takes in approaching consciousness. Researchers chose four criteria: (1) not judging positivity or negativity in arising experiences; (2) not striving to change experiences to meet future goals or expectations; (3) accepting current conditions, not in resignation or unconditional approval, but rather avoiding the struggle against the unalterable; (4) letting go of cognitions, emotions, or sensations as they come.
One strong advocate of mindfulness at work is urban monk Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, lecturer and Hindu chaplain at Columbia and NYU. Pandit has a great TEDx presentation on mindfulness and humility in education in which he offers some terrific tips on building mindfulness. In a recent article on Huffington Post, Pandit crystallized the problem with these blurred boundaries: "Just as eating too much healthy or unhealthy food can lead to indigestion, if we're not doing something to keep the mind healthy, all of these impressions, thoughts, and experiences can act like indigestion for the mind. We can all agree that indigestion of any kind is not a pleasant experience. Controlling what we eat and exercising regularly can help. The problem with our mind is that we have little to no control over it. It runs freely all day and all night long. It's trying to process the unlimited amounts of data it is receiving from its environment and all of this processing is causing us stress that we aren't aware of." The solution, Pandit said, may lie in just a few minutes of meditative thought, every day. Darcy Jacobsen is a content marketing manager at Globoforce, the world's leading provider of SaaS (software-as-a-service)–based employee recognition solutions. Through its social, mobile, and global technology, Globoforce helps HR and business leaders elevate employee engagement, increase employee retention, manage company culture, and discover the power of real-time performance management. Contact her or follow her writing at www.globoforce.com/gfblog.