Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When Employees Ask for the Impossible, What Should You Do?

Many of us are familiar with the stories of entertainment professionals requesting special water, candy, or other items in their dressing rooms.  Specific working hours that allow enough time for partying later in the evening.  And an entourage of assistants to answer the celebrity’s every beck and call.  Such behavior happens only in Hollywood, right? 

Not necessarily.

For several years, human resource professionals have focused their organizational efforts on becoming “employers of choice,” with the hope of attracting “employees of choice”: committed, consistent high performers and contributors.  According to Dr. Kenneth Christian, Ph.D., the primary characteristics of such organizations include the following:

  • An organization that consistently invests in education, training, and ongoing mentoring far more easily aligns a multifaceted workforce with its goals.
  • Employees in such a workforce develop loyalty to the fundamental cultural values of the organization and in turn actively support adherence to those values.
  • This resulting standard of devotion and engagement creates in employees a willingness to tap into discretionary effort and go the extra mile for the employer that goes the extra mile for them.
  • The result is happy, productive workers who work harder and smarter, and when necessary, longer. They do so because they feel included, feel a sense of belonging, and are aligned with the goals of the organization. They know that their personal development is a fundamental organizational goal.
However, an unexpected outcome from these efforts has been the creation of a workforce that has started to challenge management in both process and decisions.  Along with this come situations where the employee makes demands on management that border on the impossible. For instance, as the efforts to become an employer of choice result in more financial success, expect increased demands for raises and benefits. succinctly summed up the issues surrounding questions of raises:
o        How much of your resources you wish to give up is your decision, but it is near impossible to grant every employee demand and have a successful business. You will discover that there are few secrets in a business. If you are generous to a particular worker, others will expect the same treatment. If employees think you are making money, expect them to knock on your door. As an employer, you will conclude you need to say no. Saying no to a valuable worker is difficult, but there are times you must, even when the person threatens to quit.
o        Never allow yourself to be hostage to threats of quitting. If you get a reputation as an "easy mark," it is going to be difficult to reverse it. Most employees expect reasonable and just treatment. Their loyalty develops from consistent and fair employee policies. You will find that discrimination will lead to hostility and problems. Be fair and honest with your employees and you will find it easy to say no to any unreasonable demand. 

Another area of concern is the swelling ranks of mobile workers, fueled by the wireless Internet, powerful handheld devices, VPNs (virtual private networks), and WLANs (wireless local area networks).  As many as nine out of every 10 employees now work from locations other than the organization’s headquarters, according to Nemertes Research, a New York market researcher that specializes in emerging technologies.  The new “employees of choice” are very much aware of this demographic.  According to Microsoft Small Business Resources, an organization should respond as follows:

o        Update your management style. Supervisors often distrust or resent mobile workers, who are then overlooked or uninformed. The command-and-control style of bygone days doesn't work with self-motivated offsite workers. One remedy is to require everyone on staff to work remotely for a while. You'd be surprised how quickly that changes attitudes.
o        Put everyone on the same page. Without consistent guidance, each remote worker will set an individual list of priorities. In that case, if you're lucky, all you'll lose is efficiency. Instead, make sure mobile workers have the same business goals as you do. Tech tools are making that easier.
o        Limit access to need-to-know. There's no good reason why every staffer should be able to access all company bytes and archives. You can also limit data on a remote basis but allow more access in the office.
o        Work on the glue but stay vigilant. Communications and follow-up with isolated employees demands special effort. After all, on site, every staffer takes one look at the boss' face and gets an instant organizational weather report. For remote workers, relying on Instant Messaging, e-mail, or texting will not cut it. Have real-time phone conversations often. Bring in mobile workers for periodic updates to maintain ties with the rest of the staff.
o        Bridge HR and IT. What happens when a mobile worker calls in sick? Do you even believe it? And how can mobile workers take advantage of benefits or training programs? One way to resolve such issues is to put your human resources manager and your technology guru in a room and walk away for several hours. Ask them for policy suggestions.
o        Keep tools up-to-speed. A serious challenge of the untethered workforce is keeping tabs on all the wandering devices and technology. How often do you update which workers? How do you integrate personal mobile tech, such as cell phones and home WLANs, with organizational firewalls? What about internal communications? Will your mobile device talk to mine?
o        Measure productivity not activity. "If you lay out clear expectations and performance goals, and the employee doesn't need to be in the office or verbally interact with other people, then it shouldn't matter if the eight-hour workday is from midnight to 8:00 a.m.," says Roberta Matuson, a human resources consultant based in Northampton, Mass.

Management needs to take steps to learn how to control impossible employees rather than have these employees control their managers and their environments.  Lack of control will only lead to increased workplace stress for all involved.   Always keep in mind that in any group, there will be someone who keeps pushing, asking for the difficult or impossible with each question.  You and your organization must decide if the employee’s contribution to the greater good is worth addressing such requests and demands.  In some cases, addressing unreasonable demands tears away at the fabric of the group.  In others, a little give makes all the difference.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Guest Post: 8 Reasons to Retain Existing Employees

Should an employer try to hang on to existing employees or hire new ones? It depends on the situation, but you should never be too quick to get rid of your existing work force in favor of fresh new faces. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve noticed a drop in morale among some of the established employees at your firm. Perhaps you think it’s easier to get rid of the malcontents and hire new (and possibly cheaper) workers. Or suppose morale isn’t an issue, but some new positions or opportunities have become available in your firm. Maybe you think it is better to start with a new crew than to give your existing employees first grabs at the new opportunities. But don’t be too hasty. There are plenty of good reasons you should make every effort to retain your old employees. Here are eight.

1.   You’ll save money, time, and effort in recruitment and hiring. Looking outside of your firm to fill positions can be costly and time-consuming, and placing help wanted ads is just the beginning. Although the Internet has made job postings more cost-effective and much more efficient, ads in other media such as print or broadcast still have a viable role in many companies’ recruitment strategies. And someone has to monitor those job postings, as well as review resumes, interview candidates, conduct background checks, and verify references.
2.   You’ll save time and effort in training. Some may argue that it takes more time and effort to retrain employees who are “stuck in their ways” than to train new ones. There may be some validity to this argument in certain cases if an employee has bad work habits that seem ingrained. But what about your good, productive employees? They are already trained, and you don’t have to start from scratch. They may need additional training, refresher courses, or retraining in some areas, but the fact that they’re not a blank slate can be to your company’s advantage.
3.   Your existing employees have experience and the right skills. Experienced employees are generally less likely to make errors and more likely to be productive. Even if you have to retrain in some instances, keeping your old employees is still often more cost effective than hiring new ones.
4.   You can’t put a price on morale. Morale can take a nosedive when employees get laid off, downsized, outsourced, or replaced. Making an effort to retain employees – and making your employees aware of that effort – can go a long way towards keeping morale high. Remember that once morale breaks down it can be very difficult (and costly) to restore.
5.   The employees you have are a known quantity. We’re not going to say "go with what you know,” but the truth is that you do know them, to a large degree, after they’ve been with your company for a while. You know something about their work habits, their job performance, perhaps even their interests and ambitions.
6.   There is value in continuity and stability. Continuity is good for productivity. Some industries just naturally have a high turnover rate and count that as part of the cost of doing business, but most companies would rather not have to deal with a revolving door of employees. Making a genuine effort to retain good employees will help ensure that your company isn’t beset by constant personnel upheavals.
7.   There is value in loyalty. Many companies like to boast that their people are their most cherished resource, yet the actions of many firms don’t really reflect that noble sentiment. And if it seems that employee loyalty is a thing of the past, perhaps it has something to do with the fact that in the past couple of decades, employer loyalty has fallen by the wayside as well. Globalization, economic upheavals, and cultural shifts have created a work environment that is markedly different from that of previous generations, and these days it’s pretty rare for a worker to stay at the same company all of his or her working life. Yet you can and should strive to do your best to retain your valued employees as long as possible. Loyalty is no longer a given; you have to earn it. But it’s well worth the effort.
8.   Sometimes, it’s just the right thing to do. Business has always been about more than the bottom line; it is (or should be) about human values as well. Your employees are not disposable, interchangeable commodities; they are individuals who contribute value to your company. This isn’t to say that you should hang on to a worker who is a true liability to your operation. But don’t be quick to get rid of experienced employees. Sometimes, making that extra effort to retain a long-time worker – even if that worker is having a challenge or two – really is the right thing to do.

Although it is true that you may be able to hire new employees for a lower salary, the actual cost of replacing established, experienced workers might turn out to be steeper than the salary difference. Very often, you really do get what you pay for.

Author Bio:
This is a guest post by Sarah Brooks from She is a Houston based freelance writer and blogger. Questions and comments can be sent to brooks.sarah23 @

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Are You Using These Hot HR Technologies?

Lately, there have been numerous discussions on advancing technology and its place in Human Resources.  Unifying talent management suites, harnessing the potential of cloud storage, and exploring gamification technology are prominent in our Human Resources world of 2014. One must wonder, are we making the most of these hot HR technologies?  If not, are we aware of them and how we can use them to our best advantage?  Let’s explore each technology in more depth.

Talent Management Suites that are “Unified,” not “Integrated”
According to Bill Kutik, technology columnist for Human Resource Executive, the word “integrated” to describe HR tech applications can be misleading. Vendors will insist their systems can be integrated between different modules from other vendors that clients are currently using, only to find post-purchase that the desired integration may not be possible.  As a result, a new buzzword in 2014 will be used: “unified.” Instead of having pieces of a talent management suite, HR professionals will have a complete unified system, as the components would be built together.

Naomi Lee Bloom offered this thought on unified Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) during the webinar Predict and Prepare 2014: “The number and complexity of the interconnections between what's normally in core HRMS and what's normally in talent management creates an enormous problem if you have to integrate across multiple disparate systems… can it be done? You write enough code, we can make anything work. But every dollar spent making it work is a dollar you don't have for innovation."

What systems are you currently using that could benefit from unification?  What steps can you take to harness this trend for your organization’s strategic advantage?

Cloud Data Storage 

TO THE CLOUD!! The rush to join cloud options for data storage has been an ongoing discussion for some time. In 2014, cloud storage has become safer, which means more organizations will take seriously the option to place their precious data in the cloud. Kutik speculates, "I think everyone agrees HR is moving to the cloud, …so the question is how fast will they do it, and which vendor will they choose to do it with?"

What data can you migrate to the cloud, to free up internal resources and enhance productivity?  What is holding you back from migrating to the cloud?

Fighting Low Employee Engagement with Social Performance Management and Education

A Forbes blog post quoted an HR manager with saying, “our employees are no longer looking for a career; they’re looking for an experience.” So what can HR do to make that experience rewarding, engaging, and encouraging? As explored in a recent Astronology article, gamification is a new and exciting area to consider in order to engage candidates and employees alike.

In a fairly recent eyebrow raising Gallup poll, only 29% of American employees are engaged at work. Why? While a variety of factors may be in play, broadly speaking, Human Resources has been paying less attention to employee development.  This results in the dreaded skills gap, employee feelings of inadequacy on the job, and a general sense of lack of caring by the employer.  So why does employee development get moved to the back burner, given its far reaching effects? Perhaps we have been focused on other areas in recent years and have strayed off course?  Did concerns over the cost of employee development – whether in terms of finances or time – drive those decisions?  Whatever the reason, expect more conversation on employee development plans in 2014.

In what areas can your employees grow? Have you considered using gamification to create a performance management and employee development system that facilitates sharing, development, and communication between employees and managers?  Not the standard yearly review, but rather a program that the employees can access at any time, to track their own growth, and enjoy mini-rewards for reaching goals.

It’s anticipated that organizational learning will become less formal over time. While learn-at-lunch programs and e-learning have been used with measured success, gamification is making big waves.  Don’t be surprised if you find your own organization creating online gaming formats in order to train and educate employees. Such ingenuity will create excitement for employees and will surely keep them enthused and engaged with their organization.

Are there some areas of technology not mentioned here that your organization is using successfully in Human Resources? Please share them with us!  We may feature them in an upcoming issue of Astronology.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Perks That Make Up Some Top Tech Companies

Technology companies offer great perks to keep top talent within their ranks. San Francisco is home to many of those great companies and their perks are the standard bearers for most of the top companies in the world. Outlined by The San Francisco Business Times, here are a few of my favorite of the perks:
  •'s unlimited gummy bears...and donation matching up to $5,000
  • Dolby Laboratories' early screenings of films in the Dolby theaters in the office.
  • DocuSign's "tranquility room" with "soft lighting and water fountain for mothers or people who want to chill out" and, of course, Nurf guns.
  • Dropbox's complete music studio equipped with drums, piano, amplifiers, etc.
  • Quantcast's annual home brewing competition--of beer
  • OpenDNS gives a week-long vacation on the company once you get to the five-year mark
  • And, my favorite, Piston Cloud Computing gives each employee "A beautiful, awesome hat of your choosing (bowler, fedora, panama) that is adorned via a hatting ceremony."
These are just some of my favorite perks that are being offered by companies in San Francisco to employees. There are a lot of ways to make employees happy but one of the most memorable ways to do it is through unique and meaningful perks. You don't always have to offer employees an awesome hat--but do something employees will be connected to you by.  

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