Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The Employee Lifecycle

By guest author Mandy Skinner of The Wedge Group

In today’s competitive and ironfisted market, businesses are only as good as their employees.  It is this simple truth that makes the employee lifecycle so influential in the success of an organization.  The employee lifecycle is a model that follows the stages of an employee’s career within an organization from start to finish.
The first stage of the lifecycle involves the hiring, orientation, and on-boarding of the employee.  A comprehensive background screening during the hiring process can save a lot of frustration later in preventing theft, violence, and fraud.  Safeguarding your product and your employees is always a good plan.  After the candidate passes the screening, they must then begin the orientation process.  As we all know, first impressions are everything, so having a comprehensive process to do this well is imperative.  It gives the employee the impression that the company is well organized and takes care of their own.  In addition to fulfilling the required paperwork, a solid on-boarding program can set the stage for employee engagement and retention.  A program that integrates the new employee into the workplace culture as well as builds professional relationships, such as those developed with mentoring programs, work well to develop this commitment.
The next stage of the employee lifecycle is based on development.  By encouraging development in the employee, we are improving their capabilities as well as enthusiasm.  There are several ways to do this.  Training and development in leadership, team work, and technical skills will help to improve an employee’s skill set.  Another way is to engage employees on a personal level through perks such as health and wellness programs.  Although programs like these are indirect in the development of an employee, the return on investment is excellent, not to mention the improvements in employee morale and engagement.  It is no wonder that many of the world’s top performing companies are offering them.
Management plays a key role during this phase of the employee lifecycle.  Effective performance coaching and support from a strong leadership team can truly change a person’s life.  It can mean the difference between moving up and moving out for an employee.  When done well, effective management can also largely contribute to the realization of a company’s vision and mission.
The third step in the employee lifecycle involves transition.  Some people work in the same place for their entire careers, but the truth is most do not.  As skills and experience are developed, talent within the organization grows and allows for more staff movement internally.  Promoting from within has many benefits including greater employee engagement, smoother transition, and deeper loyalty.  Unfortunately from time to time, an employee may not be a good fit for the organization or the process of restructuring demands that employees be let go.  Regardless of the reason for transition, a smooth transition into new positions, retirement, or outside of the company relies on having processes in place to accommodate this movement.  Clear communication, expectations, timelines, and planning are key to developing this process. 
Just like any cycle, this process goes back to the beginning.  Once an employee transitions out of their position, it must be filled again bringing us back to the first stage of the employee lifecycle.  It is important to understand the process and work within it as effectively as possible to create the best team for your organization.
The Wedge Group, Inc. offers support to companies without Human Resource teams or in partnership with existing HR staff.  Our programs develop and implement the best system for getting the most out of and retaining engaged, productive, and steadfast employees.  Our background checks and on-boarding programs work to help you find and retain the best talent.  We also offer Leadership and Team Development, and Performance Coaching training to ensure that your employees are engaged and productive.  Succession Planning is a proven way to have a plan in place for all sudden changes within the work force and to have a solid Business Continuity Plan.  If you are looking for external motivators, our Corporate Health and Wellness Program have a proven track record and outstanding return on investment.  Career Transition Coaching has been a staple of our services from the beginning; we pride ourselves on providing employee support while cutting costs for the organization making the process much more efficient and positive.  Our commitment to providing the best support and service is what has kept us in business for over 30 years. 

For more information on getting the best out of each and every employee, please visit us at:
www.TheWedgeGroup.com
You can also contact us at JIhnotic@TheWedgeGroup.com or (607)772-9359 for further questions and inquiries.

About the author:
Mandy Skinner is the Head of Client Services at The Wedge Group, Inc., where she has worked with organizations such as Cornell University and Prudential Securities.  Her service and support are individualized to meet the changing and diverse needs of all The Wedge Group’s clients.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Readers Write

“Rewards and Recognition: Are You Doing Enough to Acknowledge Employees’ Hard Work?”, our September 2nd Astronology article, generated quite a buzz!  Loyal reader Richard Virgilio of Intrepid HR Consulting shared his thoughts with us via e-mail:

I find the comment of how "one size fits all" is not likely true for a Total Rewards program to be absolutely not true in every case. Whenever someone, whether a vendor or an internal manager, offers a "one size fits all" solution, it is likely to be simplistic, shallow, and fraught with great credibility risk. If "one size fits all," why would there be any need for sizes? As business partners, HR professionals need to have a definite "early warning system" with many indicators and appropriate metrics. Early action when alarm bells sound for what should have been a "comprehensive" or "exhaustive" or "everybody wins" solution to an issue is vital to a thriving company and HR department.


Thanks for writing, Rich, and thank you for sharing your feedback!  Red flags should accompany “one size fits all” mentions in discussions.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Astron Road Show

Business Council of New York 2014 Annual Meeting
Make your plans now to attend The Business Council’s Annual Meeting at The Sagamore Resort on Lake George, September 17 - 19.  The meeting will feature a robust agenda spread across all three days.  New this year will be panels on promoting corporate board diversity, corporate social responsibility, the state’s new energy and tax policies, and the business issues that drive professional sports.  Astron is proud to support this event, click here for more information.
New York State SHRM Conference
Have you wondered how you can engage your employees in a new and innovative way? One avenue organizations are exploring is Gamification.  Astronology discussed the growing popularity of gamification in a previous article. On September 28-30, 2014 Michael Maciekowich will be a guest speaker in Buffalo, NY at the New York State Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference. Michael Maciekowich will be speaking on Gamification and the use of it in Human Resources. Register today to hear him speak!
2014 Upstate NY Healthcare HR Conference
From October 8 – 10, The American Society for Healthcare Human Resources Association (ASHHRA) Upstate New York Healthcare Human Resource chapter will be hosting its annual conference. The Astron team will be in attendance and look forward to seeing many of our friends in the Healthcare industry! The conference will be located at the Woodcliff Resort & Spa in Fairport, NY.
Wisconsin State SHRM Conference
Looking for a way to gain more knowledge on HR topics and policies? The Wisconsin State Society of Human Resource Management will be holding its conference at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference will be held October 15-17, 2014. In addition to exhibiting, Michael Maciekowich will present “Gamification in Human Resource Management: An Introduction.” He looks forward to seeing you!
As you can see Astron will be on the road several times throughout the summer and into the beginning of fall. Will you be near any of these locations? Consider stopping by and saying hello to the Astron team! For future updates on Astron’s travels, check out our Astron Roadshow page!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2015 Compensation Budgeting Preview


Moving towards 2015, Human Resource professionals are once again faced with many uncertainties that may have a dramatic impact on compensation program administration.  First, there are the mid-term elections in November.  A shift to a Republican majority in both the House and the Senate would create a stalemate in Washington, D.C. in terms of new legislation that would impact human resources, especially compensation program administration.  Second, chaos around the world and the continued threat of terrorism’s impact on the global economy creates an uncertain environment within which we must plan and operate effectively.

United State Economic Forecast for 2015
The key to understanding 2015 compensation budget predictions is to first understand the 2015 economic forecasts. According to Business Insider (http://www.businessinsider.com/ubs-2015-us-gdp-forecasts-2013-10#ixzz3D6YfLSNJ):

"Despite a slow economic recovery through 2013, U.S. growth still is expected to pick up…After currently forecast 3.0% growth in 2014, we now project 2015 growth to also be 3.0%...Central to their accelerating growth thesis is the idea that the fiscal drag will become less and less onerous.  And this will be offset by a Federal Reserve that begins to tighten monetary policy. This is a theme we expect to be common across most economic forecasts. Indeed, UBS's 3% growth expectation represents the median expectation among Wall Street economists. By mid-2015, we expect the Fed to start gradually raising the Federal funds rate to 0.75% by the end of 2015. In this setting, the benchmark yield on the 10-year Treasury note is projected to rise to 3.2% by the end of next year and 3.5% by the end of 2015. UBS warns prolonged fiscal restraint would certainly be bad news. Furthermore, Obamacare could discourage hiring by small businesses.
United States Compensation Budgeting Forecasts for 2015
With this economic perspective as a backdrop, it is not surprising to see most, if not all, of the major consulting firms and associations with similar predictions for 2015 compensation budgeting. The following is a summary of these predictions.
The Hay Group (www.haygroup.com):
Hay Group expects the 3 percent median base salary increase to hold steady across most U.S. industries, including chemical, consumer products, financial services, health insurance, industrial goods and utilities. Two sectors, however, have different expectations: Oil and gas industry employees can expect a median base salary increase of 4 percent and Hospital employees can expect an increase of 2 percent for most employee groups. More employers expect to tie reward programs to performance-management practices. These programs include increasing future emphasis on improving variable-pay programs (56 percent of respondents) and improving key non-financial rewards such as career development opportunities (63 percent).”
Mercer (www.mercer.com):
In its latest study, Mercer points to the following five year trend:









Mercer further comments that:
“As organizations strive to balance reward programs with budgets and the need to retain critical talent, they are analyzing key segments of their workforce and concentrating rewards on top performers. Consequently, the range between increases to high-performing employees and those given to lower performing employees continues to widen. Mercer’s survey shows the highest-performing employees received average base pay increases of 4.8% in 2014 compared to 2.6% for average performers and 0.1% for the lowest performers.”

WorldatWork (www.worldatwork.org):
Following is an excerpt from WorldatWork’s latest salary budget survey:

“‘Salary increase budgets will likely remain close to the 3.0 percent mark until market forces require employers to raise wages more aggressively,’ said Alison Avalos, research manager for WorldatWork. ‘Recovering from the recession is no longer driving employers’ salary budget planning. Current salary budget increase amounts are less about a recovery from widespread pay freezes from a few years back and more about the current marketplace not demanding much growth in the size of pay increases for employees.’ Organizations continue to converge on budget amounts between 2 percent and 4 percent, with 85 percent to 90 percent of all organizations landing there, depending on employee category. The percentage of organizations not awarding increases has dropped to 2 percent to 5 percent, fairly close to historical levels.”

Total U.S. Salary Budget Increases
Employee Category
Actual 2014
Mean
Actual 2014
Median
Projected 2015
Mean
Projected 2015
Median
Nonexempt hourly nonunion
2.9%
3.0%
3.0%
3.0%
3.0%
3.0%
3.0%
3.0%
Exempt salaried
3.0%
3.0%
3.1%
3.0%
Officers/executives
3.0%
3.0%
3.1%
3.0%
All
3.0%
3.0%
3.1%
3.0%
Source: WorldatWork 2014-2015 Salary Budget Survey, preliminary findings.

http://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/compensation/articles/pages/2015-salary-budget-forecasts.aspx#sthash.sOv2leaA.dpuf

Astron’s Perspective
One key issue not reflected in these predictions is the compensation budget impact of the move to increase both the national and states’ minimum wages. The following is a summary of the upcoming minimum wage changes scheduled for 2015, as reported by Business & Legal Reports (www.blr.com):
State minimum wage changes effective December 31, 2014:
·         New York: $8.75 (See additional increase effective December 31, 2015)
·         West Virginia: $8.00 (See additional increase effective December 31, 2015)
State minimum wage changes effective January 1, 2015
·         Connecticut: $9.15
·         Hawaii: $7.75
·         Maryland: $8.00 (See additional increase effective July 1, 2015)
·         Massachusetts: $9.00
·         Rhode Island: $9.00
·         Vermont: $9.15
State minimum wage changes effective June 1, 2015
·         Delaware: $8.25
State minimum wage changes effective July 1, 2015
·         Washington, D.C.: $10.50
·         Maryland: $8.25
State minimum wage changes effective August 1, 2015
·         Minnesota: Large employers $9.00; Small employers $7.25
State minimum wage changes effective December 31, 2015
·         New York: $9.00
·         West Virginia: $8.75
The above changes, coupled with the US Federal Minimum Wage for Federal Contract Employees at $10.10 per hour, up from the current $7.25, will have a hidden impact on compensation budgeting.  Increases in federal and state minimum wages create compression and a domino effect on pay grade & range structures.  An organization that had set its lowest pay grade minimum at $7.25, and employers with federal contract workers, will have to raise that grade minimum by $2.85, or 39%. In New York State, the minimum wage on December 2015 will increase (in two steps) from the current $8.00 to $9.00, or 12.5%. Those employees in the lower pay grades will have to have their pay rates adjusted to avoid pay compression.  In addition to the bring to minimum adjustments necessary for employees currently in the lowest pay grade, attention should be paid to the salaries of employees in higher pay grades, to avoid compression with the lowest wage earners.

There’s a lot to keep in mind as you begin your 2015 compensation budgeting.  With the uncertainty both home and abroad, maintaining and updating one’s pay structures is more than a “plug and play” activity.  Rather, employers must keep a strategic perspective, not only on the pay range and annual salary adjustments, but also on the use of variable compensation and pay for performance tools, to effectively reward the truly high performers, the employees who make the difference between an organization going through the motions and organizational success.

Monday, September 08, 2014

A Not-So-Pleasant Look at HR

We do a pretty good job on this blog at staying cheery and positive, but once in a while, it's good to look at the bad. LinkedIn has a lot of great post by the Influencers and this was certainly one of them from Alan Collins.

He starts off in the most cheery of ways: "No matter what you do, someone is going to criticize and distrust you -- and many will hate you, even if they don't know your name."

But isn't that true of a lot of jobs, especially support roles like Legal, Compliance, and, of course Human Resources. But he gives some good advice, including this one:
2. Replace no's with options (lots of them), whenever you can. 
Let’s say your client is concerned about his three best people and wants to increase their pay beyond reason, in order to retain them. 
In this case, don't respond with just a flat out no. Meet with him on his turf to brainstorm alternative, creative solutions that address his real need: retention. For example, could you keep these top performers by creating an opportunity to improve their skills so they might be promoted (with higher pay) more quickly? Can you restructure their jobs to give them even more recognition, freedom and autonomy in making decisions? Can you enhance their work life by providing flexible work schedules, remote working arrangements or more time off? 
Strive for win/win solutions. It's not always possible, but work hard with your clients to come up with alternatives that both you and they can embrace.
The best thing you can do at work is include your co-workers in the decision process (where appropriate). No one wants decisions made for them, especially when that decision influences their wallet, their works status or their future. Keep them in the loop and strive for their respect--because the truth of the matter is not everyone will like you...and that's okay.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Rewards and Recognition: Are You Doing Enough to Acknowledge Employees’ Hard Work?

Forbes reported in 2012 that there is a $46 billion market for employee recognition programs. With it being such a huge market, clearly employee recognition is important for every organization to consider. Research from Bersin indicates that in “organizations where recognition occurs, employee engagement, productivity and customer service are about 14% better than in those where recognition does not occur.” With our interest piqued, Astronology will dig deeper into the topic of employee rewards and recognition, and explore best practices for these programs.

Employee recognition programs can vary, from the very simple and inexpensive to the elaborate.  No matter where your organization falls on that continuum, the stakes are high when considering the impact of a low recognition culture on an organization’s bottom line.  What are some consequences of ignoring the need to recognize employee contributions? 
  • Low productivity and low performance
  • Negative attitudes and a poor team culture
  • Increased absenteeism
  • Low employee retention rates and increased turnover rates           

It’s safe to assume that no organization would like to have to address and reverse any of these issues. And yet, doing something doesn’t mean that it will be a success.  Even more unsettling is learning that you can have a rewards and recognition program and still not meet the needs of employees. How so?

Susan M. Heathfield’s article featured on About.com points out that, for starters, many organizations believe in the “one size fits all” model when it comes to employee recognition and rewards. This results in narrow thinking when deciding when and how employees should be rewarded and recognized. As a result, employee complaints, jealousy, and dissatisfaction become prevalent.  Guidelines to consider in order to create a sharper rewards and recognition program for your organization include the following:

·     Decide what you want to achieve through your employee recognition efforts.  A program cannot solve all problems and motivate everyone to do everything.
  • Create goals and action plans for employee recognition.  Metrics focus activity towards the relevant and significant.
  • Ensure that fairness, clarity, and consistency are important to and evident in the program
  • Avoid “employee of the month-type programs.”  These approaches are usually not clear to employees and lead to accusations of “pet employees” receiving the awards. 
  • Recognize all people who contributed to a success equally.

Heathfield highlights a program to increase attendance that can spur your organization’s brainstorming in the area of employee rewards and recognition.  An organization hands out a three-part form or three-part certificate.  During the organization’s weekly staff meeting, one form is given to employees who had perfect attendance the previous week. The second form is kept in the personnel file.  The third form is entered in a monthly drawing for gift certificates. The goal and action plan for the program are clear, the raffle catches employees’ interest, and the approach avoids the angst that “employee of the month” programs can cause.
           
Forbes also gave the following best practices for employee recognition programs.  Consider these when developing a new or reviewing an existing employee rewards and recognition program.
  • Recognize people based on specific results and behaviors. Leave the “employee of the month” mentality and deliver awards based on specific actions.
  • Implement peer to peer recognition, rather than the traditional top down approach. According to Forbes, “peers know what you’re doing on a day to day basis, so when they ‘thank you’ for your efforts the impact is much more meaningful. Top-down recognition is often viewed as political and it rarely reaches the ‘quiet but critical high-performers’ in the company.”
  • Share recognition stories: Story telling is powerful. Sharing recognition stories can build camaraderie.
  • Make recognition easy and frequent.  Make it simple and clear for everyone to participate, receive, and enjoy.
  • Tie recognition to your own organizational values or goals: “Too many CEOs and managers focus on bottom line results without thinking about how it feels to slog away and work without anyone saying thanks.”

Has your organization established a rewards and recognition program? Does your organization adhere to some of these suggestions? What works best for you?  We’d like to hear from you!  Please submit your response to Astronology and we may feature your response!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The E-mail "Cool Button"

The Atlantic came up with a really clever way to make sure we don't get ruined by e-mail (H/T to Ally for the link):

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Astronology: Pay Disparity Revisited

Two years ago, Astronology explored the ongoing issue of gender pay disparity.  Since that time, discussions of the issue have continued on both the national and local stages.  In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue, March 14, 2014 was Equal Pay Day. But the question still remains, has anything changed since the 2012 census information regarding pay equity?
                
The PEW Research Center released a report in late December 2013 noting that women earned 84 cents for every $1 made by men in 2012. Included in their research are hourly earnings. Pew Research explains, “We chose to use hourly earnings, estimated as usual weekly earnings divided by usual hours worked in a week, because it irons out differences in earnings due to differences in hours worked.”
               
The report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics used in the study accounts for full time workers only (those who work at least 35 hours per week). This can impact the view of weekly earnings as women are twice as likely as men to work part-time. Regardless, the gap still falls at 16-19%.  However, on a positive note, PEW indicates that the wage gap is less among employees in the Millennial generation.  Today’s younger women have more education and an increased presence in professionals that tend to pay more, than previous generations of women.

Other factors that PEW suggests may be part of the reason that the pay gap still exists focus on wage negotiations research. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) noticed in a natural field experiment that randomizes nearly 2,500 job seekers, “when there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men are more likely to negotiate than women.” It is also suggested that women are willing to trade certain amenities, for instance, health insurance, for lower wages.
               
Fairly recently, the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to pass once again. Those who oppose this federal bill state that the bill will increase civil lawsuits, and find it duplicative since gender discrimination is already illegal. Those who support the bill believe the Paycheck Fairness Act will secure equal pay or reinforce equal pay for all Americans. It would also update the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which has helped close, but hasn’t fully eliminated the pay gap due to limited reinforcement and “inadequate remedies.”

Astron wants to know your opinion. Do you think the Paycheck Fairness Act would help in closing the pay gap? Do you feel like there isn’t a need for this additional law? With the millennial generation experiencing less disparity in pay, perhaps fair pay will eventually happen on its own? Contact Astronology to share your opinion!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Ask The Expert: Pay Negotiation Strategy

A few years back we had some really amazing questions for our Ask The Expert series. Astron Solutions' Founding Partner and Managing Director, Jennifer Loftus, is our resident expert and gave some sage advice to those who submitted questions. Well, we received another one and Jennifer once again came to the rescue. The question was: "Is it appropriate to ask someone you are in salary negotiations with (a senior-level position) to prove what their previous salary was (either through a W2 or paystub)?" Here's what Jennifer had to say:
---------
Salary negotiations – always a delicate topic! The prospective employee wants to maximize his / her total rewards income, as the potential employer wants to compensate fairly and in a budget sensitive manner. Even talking about salaries may be difficult for some candidates, while others provide a robust salary history in an attempt to build for the future.

The way the current “Ask the Expert” question is written, it sounds like the person asking is the one doing the interviewing for his / her employer. I know of several organizations that ask candidates to prove their current or past salaries by providing W-2 or paystub documentation. This practice is not illegal under federal law. However, different states have different labor laws, so please check with your state’s Department of Labor before instituting such a policy.

Simply because something is legal, however, may not mean it is prudent. If the organization conducts background checks, salary information may be verified through that process. Duplicating that effort may not be necessary. In addition, one many construe such a practice as price fixing and an exploration of a competitor’s pay rates, raising concerns with the Department of Justice. In addition, if the practice is not applied consistently, the door is possibly open to discrimination claims.

Furthermore, asking for such information may send the message that the employer does not trust its candidates. For example, if someone says he / she previously made $40,000 a year, and are asking for $45,000 at your organization, this should not raise a red flag if the position’s pay range is $35,000 - $52,500. If, however, the person claims he / she earned $50,000 two jobs ago, is currently making $105,000, and now wants a salary around $140,000, I would explore that more deeply. Such pay jumps could be related to explainable factors such as earning an advanced degree, or receiving a desired promotion. Or it could be due to salary fibbing.

Good luck with your interviews! We’d love to hear how everything works out.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cool Infographic: What Top Companies Get Right

Once in a while a very cool link ends up in my inbox--this one is from Top Management Degrees and looks at what top companies do right. Check it out:

What Top Companies Do Right
Source: TopManagementDegrees.com