Does Your Employee Have One Foot Out the Door? How to Identify and Keep Employees on the Brink

Unbeknownst to you, your employees may have made “getting a new job” as one of their new year’s resolutions. And that can spell trouble, considering that job postings skyrocket in January. Here are the signs to watch for in employees that could signal they are looking around—and changes you can make to help keep them happy where they are.

Signs of a disengaged employee

  1. Attendance issues

Noticing lots of sick days or someone regularly leaving early? That could be a sign that they are not only mentally checked out, but physically too. They could be using up accrued paid time off or they could be tied up with their job search and interviews. Of course, if they are allotted time off, you can’t question them, but this type of pattern should put you on alert.

  1. Less participation in company functions (both work and fun)

We get it, not everyone relishes hanging out with their coworkers, but what you want to look for is an abrupt change. Was a certain employee usually joining in group functions, like volunteer days or potluck lunches, and you’ve noticed them tapering off? Or, did they used to participate enthusiastically in staff meetings and now you get one word answers, or nothing? A distinct change in their participation could indicate they are cutting ties, so to speak.

  1. Reluctance to commit to long-term projects

Their lack of fire and enthusiasm might be the first thing you notice, but they also might be reticent to take on work that would ordinarily interest them. Someone who’s not planning to be around much longer won’t be invested in the team’s future, and that can translate into not diving into new projects. Or they might actually be being a team player in another way by avoiding letting their group down by taking too much ownership in something that they know they won’t be finishing.

How to stop the exit

If you’ve noticed these signs, you’re probably wondering what you can do to kept this employee around. (Or on the flip side, you might be hoping to hasten their exit if you feel that they have become toxic—but we won’t tackle that one; after all, HR professionals are the first to know what they can and can’t legally do in that type of situations.)

But there are strategies to consider that can help retain an employee with a wandering eye, or, even better, try to keep your employees from looking around in the first place.

If you have an employee who’s wondering if the grass is greener somewhere else, now is the time to reinforce that your workplace is so great there’s no way it possibly could be.

Some of the top benefits that employees want from their workplace are:

  • Opportunity for advancement
  • A feeling of purpose, as in, a sense of the mission
  • Adequate training and professional development
  • A manager who believes in them and makes them feel appreciated
  • Open communication at all levels of the organization
  • A feeling that their voice is being heard
  • Camaraderie with the team

If you do sense that a valuable employee might be readying their resume, a good place to start is by talking to their manager—who might be the person who tipped you off in the first place—and gathering background on behaviors that seem out of the norm.

Then, without accusing, call a meeting with the employee in question to talk about how they are feeling about the workplace, and if they have any concerns. (And, while it’s on your mind, as you look ahead to 2020, note that regular check-ins with employees on their overall feeling about the company can help you keep a pulse on employee sentiment and help you meet their professional goals, thus making it less likely someone will blindside you by leaving!).

You don’t want them to feel threatened, but you want them to know that you care and want to help improve their experience if you can. After all, it’s much more fruitful for both sides to hold a “We’d love you to keep you happy” meeting rather than an exit interview as they head out the door.

Sometimes, of course, it’s impossible to keep employees content, as some aspects might be out of your control. But be sure to look for patterns in employee exits to see if you can stem the tide by proactively addressing common problems:

  • Is there a certain manager who seems to be driving people away? They might need leadership training.
  • Are employees consistently leaving for more money or better perks? Your compensation and benefits program might need an overhaul, if possible.
  • Do employees want to work remotely? Look into ways you can provide even a modicum of flexibility.

By addressing potential workplace issues, you’re more liable to retain valued employees for the long haul—a win-win for all.




Help Your Employees Understand Disability Insurance with these Five Questions

Employers are offering more and more voluntary benefits—and workers want these benefits. A recent study showed that nearly one third of eligible employees were signing up for voluntary offerings (that’s a higher participation rate than in earlier years).

Amy Hollis is the national leader of voluntary benefits for HR consultancy Willis Towers Watson. She recently spoke to Workforce about their recent survey. It shows that 70 percent of employers claim voluntary benefits will be an important part of their value proposition in coming years. “Companies are using voluntary benefits to enrich their offerings without additional cost,” she said.

While there is a win-win element to this—it’s a good economic choice for both employers and employees—the story finishes with a stark warning. Rob Shestack, chairman and CEO of the Voluntary Benefits Association in Philadelphia says that HR teams need to be ready to educate. “The most frustrating thing is when HR makes the effort to provide these programs then does passive enrollment,” he says. “It’s like saying you don’t care if people use them or not.”

When it comes to disability insurance, education is that much more important. James Reid of CDA member company MetLife argues something similar in a story in Benefit News: “While employees have a general idea of the benefits they use most often (medical, dental or vision), they don’t always grasp the value or need for some of the other benefits which may be available to them (disability or accident insurance, for example).”

Disability insurance is one of the most critical forms of coverage for working Americans—and one of most overlooked. Part of the problem is that people simply don’t understand how relevant it is for modern life.

Here are five questions you can ask as a framework for understanding what disability insurance is:

  1. What does disability mean in this context?

Many people hear the word disability and assume it only means catastrophic health issues. In fact, disability can refer to a broken leg from a skiing accident, a pulled back while cleaning out your garage, a cancer diagnosis, or a pregnancy that can put an employee out of work for days, weeks, or months at a time.

Share the five most common reasons that keep people out of work for long periods: Pain in the back and neck, cancer, complications from pregnancy, and mental health issues all rank before accidental injuries, which many assume is the leading cause of disability. You can also share infographics.

  1. What are the statistical chances of becoming disabled?

Eighty percent of us live with optimism bias. That’s to say we don’t have a realistic understanding of the risk of becoming ill or injured. This is particularly at work with the younger generations who have grown up with some of the most supportive parents in modern history.

These are the numbers: According to the Social Security Administration, more than one in four of today’s 20-year-olds will be out of work for a year or more for a variety of reasons before they reach normal retirement age. This includes common health conditions such as knee, shoulder, or back injuries, cancer, heart problems, or depression.

Add to that the fact that nearly six percent of workers every year will experience a short-term disability due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. Three quarters of these claims last up to two and a half months, and the rest can last for up to six months or a year.

  1. How would you pay your bills?

Ask rhetorical questions as you educate: Will an employee be able to pay their mortgage, phone bill or contribute to their health insurance or retirement plans should a pregnancy, illness, or injury take them out of work for a few days, weeks, or more? This is about laying the foundations for their long-term financial stability.

Data from the Federal Reserve shows that 40 percent of Americans do not have enough savings to pay for an unexpected $400 bill. Disability insurance pays a portion of someone’s salary when they need to miss work due to an illness, injury, or having a baby. For those who are single, disability insurance is the second most important insurance they can carry after health insurance. And if employees have a family that depends upon them, this insurance gives them an income stream if they need to leave work.

  1. What does Workers’ Comp and SSDI cover?

Employees need a realistic understanding of the various safety nets that are in place should they become ill or injured—so they can make an informed decision:

  • Workers’ Compensation: Workers’ Comp only applies to accidents done on the worksite. Disabling illnesses or injuries are much more likely to be non-occupational in origin, which would rule out that coverage.
  • Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI): The Social Security Administration provides Social Security disability benefits for eligible individuals who have a disability that lasts for one year or longer. Many applicants are denied due to a lack of work history, lack of medical evidence, the temporary nature of their condition, or the fact that people may still be able to work outside of their profession. There are three important things to bear in mind: 1) workers who become disabled off-the-job won’t always qualify for SSDI, 2) they can face average wait times of 600 days for a hearing (that’s nearly two years), and 3) if they do eventually get benefits, the monthly amount (averaging around $1,200, based on the most recent data) probably isn’t enough to help them keep up with their ongoing expenses.
  1. If you want to start a family—what is your financial plan for maternity leave?

If your company doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, this is an important point to raise with women in the workforce. Disability insurance is a critical benefit for many new mothers in the U.S. Indeed, pregnancy is the most common cause of short-term disability (STD) claims. Plans typically cover two weeks before and six weeks after a routine pregnancy.

Here’s an important note: One of the major differences between pregnancy and other types of disability claims is predictability. For a healthy woman, purchasing coverage through their workplace in anticipation of a planned pregnancy can be a fairly easy transaction. The key is that they buy coverage before they become pregnant. This way there is little risk of underwriting issues or denial of their claim due to a pre-existing condition limitation. (Read more on this here.)

By asking these questions, you can broaden the minds of your employees and give them the larger context of how disability insurance works in real life. That way, it isn’t just vague words on a list in a company intranet.

To learn more about disability insurance, or to offer your colleagues further reading, guide them to our new consumer microsite: RealityCheckup.info 

 




Beat the Sunday Scaries

The “Sunday Scaries” Are Real, But You Can Help Your Employees Avoid Them

We all know that Friday feeling, but unfortunately, it’s followed all-too-soon by its evil twin, the Sunday Scaries. Not familiar with that term? Sunday Scaries is that general anxiety that the weekend is over—and you’re about to start another week.

The truth is you’ve probably experienced it—and chances are good your team has, too. In fact, one survey found that nearly 40% of respondents admitted having the Sunday Scaries. The good news is that you can help your team get rid of them—once and for all.

1. Implement “Meeting-Free Mondays.”

One of the reasons employees might feel anxious on Sunday is because they have to jump in with both feet on Monday, after a couple of relaxing days off. That means that on Sunday they start thinking ahead to all they have to accomplish—and panic. We all know that meetings can be a very large time consumer (some might say “time waster”), precluding people from doing actual work. If it’s feasible in your office, consider keeping Mondays an off-limits meeting day so that your team knows they have the whole day to get actual work accomplished and start the week on a productive high note.

2. Ban weekend email.

Well, you might not want to outright ban it but at the least, encourage managers not to send emails over the weekend. Many employees feel obligated to answer, but that can leave them feeling resentful and drained—the opposite of the recharge/refresh that a weekend should accomplish. Turns out, finds one study, that just expecting that you have to check work email after hours can harm your employees’ well-being—and that of their families. Disconnecting can have real benefits in our “always on” workplace, so encourage managers to think twice before hitting send. If you can, try to implement a policy whereby employees aren’t required to answer email outside of the normal workday. Remind your managers about the “boy who cried wolf.” If they act as if everything is an emergency that needs to be dealt with immediately, employees may decide that nothing is. PS: We’re coming for you, too, Slack.

3. Survey the team about their impression of the workplace.

One reason that people might experience the Sunday Scaries is that they’re just not happy with their workplace. And in today’s tight labor market, that can spell trouble if you sense they have one foot out the door. Everyone wants to have their opinion heeded so start implementing surveys to identify what about the job might be bumming (or burning) your people out. Is it the workload? Their environment? The culture? See what changes might make your employees happier—and therefore more content coming to work.

4. Surprise your team with something fun on Monday.

The end of the week is usually when we tend to relax and unwind, maybe have a team happy hour or group lunch. But why should Fridays have all the fun? Switch it up and make Monday the day that you bring treats in to the break room or have a potluck lunch. WeWork has even been known for its “Thank God It’s Monday” ethos.

5. Help build a team vibe.

One of the reasons we love the weekends is we get to spend time with our friends. We’re not suggesting that you should try to turn the whole office into instant BFFs, but encouraging friendships at work can go a long way in people feel more positive about their job. A Gallup poll found that women who had a best friend at work were more than twice as likely to be engaged in their job—and engaged employees are happy employees. So encourage team members to linger over a cup of coffee, take a longer lunch break and sit near whoever they’d like—as long as they are getting their work done of course. To help forge those relationships, think back to your elementary school days and the “Star of the Week” where someone shared photos and fun facts about themselves. Or, incorporate team-building activities into your culture…and while we’re thinking about it, why not do them on a Monday?

6. Start a new Friday ritual.

Encourage all your teams to spend 10 minutes before they leave Friday planning the upcoming week. Sometimes we feel more anxious when we don’t know what’s coming up, or we worry that we’ve forgotten something. By winding down the week doing some planning for the next week, your employees won’t have to dread Monday, because they’ll already know “they got this.”

7. Remind them you’re there to promote their health and well-being.

One of the best parts of being in HR is helping provide peace of mind to your team by looking out for their financial and physical wellness. Take the time to periodically review your special benefits offerings that are designed to help alleviate your employees’ stress—no matter what their situation.

 




4 Things to Know About Family Leave and Your Income

Mother holding a baby.Becoming a parent is an extraordinary and, at times, stressful endeavor. Your life is about to fundamentally change. And as you plan the myriad dimensions of this new reality, you may be wondering how you’ll cover all the bills while you take time off work.

Family leave is a complex issue and it requires a good amount of research. Begin by reading your employer handbook or asking a co-worker how they dealt with family leave and what they were offered. Consider what will work best for you, in terms of the time you’d prefer to take off work. If you do become pregnant, make sure you let your boss know before anyone else. Embrace it enthusiastically as an opportunity for growth. As Carol Walker, president of the consulting firm Prepared to Lead tells the Harvard Business Review: “Planning for your maternity leave is an opportunity to demonstrate to everyone that you’re in the game.”

Here are a few ways you can replace your income during family leave:

Paid Family Leave

This is the ideal situation of course, but don’t hold your hopes up too high. The National Compensation Survey (NCS) conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, revealed that just 14 percent of civilian workers had access to paid family leave in 2016. There are a few states who are pioneering paid leave: These include California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, and New York joined the group in January 2018. If you work in the tech industry, you could also be in luck: Tech companies offer some of the best family leave out there. Ask your HR team or boss if they offer this benefit.

Short-Term Disability Insurance

Short-term disability insurance is another way to protect your income when you cannot work due to an illness or injury. This includes pregnancies — and it’s very commonly used for this purpose by employers. Short-term disability insurance plans often cover six weeks post-partum. It covers a portion of your income — normally around 60 percent. Several states such as New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island have short term disability laws in place. You can also purchase this form of insurance as an individual.

Unpaid Family Leave

The vast majority of American workers don’t have access to paid family leave (88 percent according to the NCS study). So your next step is to see if you qualify for unpaid family leave — which keeps your job intact although it doesn’t offer a salary. The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was signed into law in 1993 and it guarantees eligible workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave per year. FMLA does have its limitations though: it only applies to companies that have more than 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace. You also need to have worked there for at least a year and put in a minimum of 1,250 hours. Laws around this also vary from state-to-state so you’ll need to research your local situation. FMLA applies to giving birth, adopting a child, or fostering a child — and it can also be used in the cases of caring for a spouse or parent with a serious health condition. There are ways of making it work while on unpaid leave—you just need to plan well.

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Many people will use some of their PTO to cover their income for part of their leave. Your workplace may require you to use up your accumulated PTO before benefits can kick in. Others will allow the benefits to begin immediately, which may allow you to use some of your PTO to extend the length of time you can stay at home.

Take the time to educate yourself on the benefits that apply to you. Know your rights and don’t be afraid to try to negotiate a better deal. If you are just starting to think about having a child, now is a great idea to build out a financial plan to help avoid the stressors down the line. With a plan in place, you can relax and enjoy the extraordinary gift of welcoming a new life into the world.




Back to Work: Beating the January Slump

It’s a new year, a new beginning. We’re feeling refreshed after a season of holiday cheer and celebrating with family and friends. Maybe some of us ate and drank a little too much. And maybe we spent our entire year-end bonus on presents that the kids are already tired of playing with. But we all feel rested and recharged after some much needed time off, and we’re anxious to get back to work. Right?

That may be true for a few, but returning to the work after the joys of Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, Festivus, and New Year’s Eve can be a real let down for many.

 

Holiday Stress and Anxiety

A recent survey conducted by Appreciation at Work found that a growing number of employees consider the holiday season more trouble than it’s worth. They cite increased traffic, expense, pressure to complete end-of-year work tasks, and holiday work events among the top reasons to dread the most wonderful time of the year.

Another survey, conducted by the American Psychological Association, found that 56% of respondents felt an increase in work-related stress during the holidays. Those surveyed blamed low salaries and lack of advancement opportunities as factors most likely to contribute to increasing stress levels.

However, despite the anxiety that many experience during the holiday season, the majority of employees do look forward to time away from work at the end of the year.

 

Facing the New Year

Returning to work after time off, whatever the season, is always tough. Days spent celebrating with friends and family are suddenly replaced with days of email, ringing phones, and an impossibly long to-do list. But time off during the holiday season seems to compound the problems. We enjoy being with loved ones, but the hustle and bustle of the season doesn’t leave much time to relax and recharge. Exercise often goes out the window. We eat too much, drink too much, and sleep too little. Instead of returning to work refreshed, we’re often more tired than before we left.

And all the excitement of the holidays is gone, leaving us with nothing but January and the dark, cold winter ahead.

 

But You Can Help Your Employees Get Back Into the Routine

Want to help your employees beat the post holiday blues?

  • Allow your employees time to ease back into the routine. Hold off on big meetings or project kick-offs for the first few days of the new year, and give them time to catch up on emails, phone calls, and leftover loose ends.
  • Provide something fun for employees to look forward to, like a team breakfast or lunch.
  • Encourage new habits for the new year, such as regular stretching.
  • Set new goals with your staff. Help them focus on opportunities in the year ahead, rather than just working to clear their email inboxes.

 

Now might be a good time to think about preparing for the next holiday season. Here’s a tip: Employers who don’t force holiday cheer and who give their staff the time needed to both complete work requirements and enjoy time away are typically rewarded with a happier, less stressed, more appreciative team.




How HR Can Make the Most of “Dead Week”

Is your office quiet that last week between Christmas and New Year’s? Chances are good it is; one survey found that 1/3 of U.S. workers planned to take the entire week as vacation, with nearly 70% expecting to take at least part of it.

 

But while the rest of your office might be relaxing by a fire or sliding across an ice rink, the HR department is usually still hard at work, wrapping up year-end needs. And in a counterintuitive fashion, that might mean that it’s even harder to focus on what you need to do. Here are some tips for identifying the important tasks to take on and advice for staying focused while others are out to help you prepare for a smooth start to the New Year.

 

Identify What Needs to Be Done

That quiet week can be a gift in itself, provided you use it responsibly. If you anticipate it will be hard to dive right in when you come back to the office, do your planning before you leave your desk for the Dec. 24 festivities by taking 10 minutes to create a list of the tasks you hope to accomplish before everyone else heads back to the office on Jan. 2 (or 6!). Here are some thought starters:

  1. Wrap up year-end reviews. Many offices have turned to more frequent feedback in lieu of annual reviews, but if your office still conducts them, you might be dealing with an onslaught of paperwork. Now is the time to sift through the reports thoughtfully, making notes on items where you might need to follow up, and highlighting areas where training and professional development might be in order as you notice patterns among the reviews.
  2. Write thank you notes. Definitely acknowledge the secret Santa present, as well as the elves who put together the holiday party, if appropriate. But the end of the year is also a great time to consider all the employees who help make your job easier—or who challenge you to improve. Think of your team members and department heads, but also acknowledge the other people who maybe don’t get thanked as often—from the administrative professionals who ensure your communications go out in a timely fashion to the new employees who helped you rethink your interviewing or onboarding processes.
  3. Clean out your desk and files. Out with the old and in with the new! It’s easy to make a New Year’s resolution to stop hoarding papers or emails, but much harder to put it into practice—particularly when you hit the ground running Jan. 6, already feeling behind. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is the ideal time to get a jump start on the task; your future self will thank you when you put in one to two hours a day tackling this chore that always gets put on the back burner.
  4. Set goals. Everyone is in a reflective mood, and, as mentioned above, it’s easy to get a little too ambitious with your goal setting in late December. So consider staggering your goals—instead of picking four behaviors at once, choose one per quarter. Feeling successful at one thing will make it more likely you’ll tackle something else, and it’s much easier to manage one new habit or goal than try to foster four at once.

 

Stay on Task When You’re the Only One in the Office

With a calendar largely devoid of calls, meetings and deadlines, it might be hard to know how to allocate your time—and that makes it surprisingly easy to squander. Here are some ways to help stay on task.

  1. Take your to-do list and make it into a schedule. One long to-do list is easy to ignore until the last day when you realize you haven’t done all the tasks you’d hoped to. Avoid that by consulting your list and estimating how much time you believe each task will take—be realistic, too. Then divide them up over the days you have. Most work is best accomplished in chunks, so instead of trying to power through 20 thank you notes in one day, allocate four to each day. Do the same with other large tasks so that your time in the office have a predictable flow where you are knocking out small goals each day.
  2. Set a timer. Once you’ve divided tasks among the days, make yourself sick to a schedule. It’s all too easy to be lured into living vicariously through other people’s holidays on social media, or watching YouTube videos. Once you have picked a task…say, deleting old emails…set a timer for 30 minutes and commit to not being sidetracked until the time is up.
  3. Find an accountability partner. “Misery” loves company, they say, and even though being in the office catching up on work hardly qualifies as “misery,” you know what we mean. The good news is that when fewer people are in the office, it offers a chance to get to know someone with whom your path might not typically cross. Seek out another hard-working coworker and touch base to see if they want to goal set together; for example, vow to knock out x number of tasks or spend x number of minutes on a larger project. Then meet for coffee or lunch to celebrate your success.
  4. Take some time for you. Yes, you’re setting a good example by being in the office and yes, you’re feeling accomplished through taking care of tasks you’ve been putting off. The only way to celebrate a win like that? With a little reward. Take satisfaction in how much you got done—and then take an hour or so to do something just for you.



Five Employee-Focused Programs to Enhance in 2020

The start of a New Year—and decade!—is the perfect time to kick off or refresh HR-related programs. As company culture becomes more important than ever for employees, the payoff that comes from programs that meet their needs can be huge in terms of retention. Don’t forget that with the New Year comes resolutions—and for some employees that might include looking for a new job if they aren’t satisfied with their current situation. Here are five programs to consider offering to help keep employee loyalty high.

  1. Diversity and inclusion efforts

Why it’s important: Maintaining a diverse workforce remains a priority for companies, who find it leads to more innovation and better financial performance, as well as for employees; in one survey more than 80% of respondents said they preferred a diverse workplace.

What you can do: The first step is to examine your recruiting efforts to make sure that you’re building a diversity pipeline from the start. Then, take a look at your teams to see if they are integrated. Does your workplace foster inclusion by creating teams of different genders, cultures, abilities and ages? Are there policies you could implement, such as more flexibility, that would make it easier for all employees to be part of the team? Consider convening a task force to offer insight into what they think could contribute to a more inclusive environment.

  1. Mentoring

Why it’s important: More than 90% of workers who have a mentor say they are satisfied with their jobs, which is crucial for retention. In addition, mentors can help newer employees build their skills, which benefits the entire organization.

What you can do: Whether you choose a formal or informal mentor program, creating ways for employees to work together and learn from each other is positive for everyone. If you have a wide variety of ages, encourage a “reverse mentoring” dynamic, where older employees learn from younger employees, as well, as one more way to support your inclusion efforts.

  1. Professional development

Why it’s important: It’s no secret that today’s workers need to be focused on upskilling to stay competitive. According to MetLife’s 2019 U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, more than 90% of respondents find career development and training to be key considerations when deciding whether to accept a job or stay at the one they have. And helping workers develop new skills doesn’t just benefit them—their new talents will help your organization as a whole.

What you can do: Find out what skills your employees need that will also make them more effective to the company and then help them get the appropriate training, whether it’s attending an industry conference or completing an online program. You can also encourage more informal educational opportunities, such as inviting the team to read a pertinent book and then have a discussion group around it.

  1. Employee appreciation

Why it’s important: Do your employees know how important they are to the success of the company and how much you value them? It’s vital to create a program that acknowledges everything from day-to-day hard work to someone who goes above and beyond on a specific project.

What you can do: The easiest way to foster a dynamic of appreciation is by encouraging team leaders to just say “thank you;” a Deloitte survey found that 85% of workers valued a simple acknowledgment of their hard work. Written notes are a nice touch as a tangible reminder that employees can look back on. And there are many low-cost ways to acknowledge efforts, from a small gift card to a special parking space for a month. A more involved recognition program might include an awards program where team members submit nominations and an executive team chooses the winners.

  1. New benefits offerings

Why it’s important: Offering competitive compensation is vital to attract and retain top talent, but don’t overlook your benefits program as another way to convey your commitment to your employees. Believe it or not, one survey even found that many employees would prefer more benefits over more pay.

What you can do: Offering solid healthcare and retirement plans are important places to start. But then look beyond those to additional ways you can offer your employees peace of mind, such as with life insurance and disability insurance. Other popular choices include programs that promote financial wellness, improved health and flexible work options. Talk to your team about what’s important to them and then do what you can to bolster your menu of benefit choices to include those that are most important and therefore most inclined to spur loyalty.

According to Glassdoor’s Chief Economist, Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, company culture will come first in 2020, he says in a list of HR predictions. Now is the time to review the programs you already offer and see where you can strengthen existing efforts or introduce new ones to help create the workplace environment that your employees demand.

 




Dos and Don’ts For Handling Office Holiday Gift Anxiety

Office gift giving can be a source of holiday stress; in fact a recent study found that nearly 20% of millennials were worried they’d be judged by the gift they chose for an office gift exchange.

 

How do you decide what sort of holiday gifts are appropriate at the office? Here are some tips for workplace gifting dos and don’ts.

 

Do find out the office norms.

If your office always does a “secret Santa” gift exchange, it’s probably wise to participate, for the camaraderie and fun that goes along with it. But if there’s no organized gift-giving opportunity like this, see if you can find out what is normal for your office culture. Maybe everyone brings something small for the staff that supports the team or chips in a small amount for a group gift. While you certainly are not obligated to, it might be wise to participate in what is considered workplace etiquette. You can ask around your department and/or talk to HR to find out what’s typical.

 

Don’t assume you need to give a gift at all—especially to your boss.

Of course, we want to reiterate that you never need to feel that you have to give a gift. Most people find the holidays budget-busting when there are too many “obligatory” gift giving occasions, and it’s perfectly fine to focus on your own financial wellness.

Often one of the most stressful holiday-giving etiquette situations involves your manager. In most office places, gift-giving goes “down” line; in other words most employees don’t give a gift to their boss. (In fact, in some workplaces it might even be frowned upon so be sure to ask HR if there are any rules in place.)  As with any office situation, much depends on your relationship with your boss as to what feels comfortable.

 

Do become the “team leader” and suggest an outing or small event in lieu of giving gifts.

If you feel comfortable spearheading the gift-giving norms, ask around and see if the team might want to go out for lunch or for a fun activity like bowling or even volunteering all together. You may consider doing a potluck of your favorite holiday side dishes or a cookie exchange. Celebrating the season certainly doesn’t have to mean giving gifts, and everyone might feel relieved if you suggest alternatives.

If you find that giving to your supervisor is customary, suggest going in on a group gift so that everyone needs to just chip in a small amount. A group gift might make your manager feel less awkward, as well.

 

Don’t mix drinks with the workplace.

If you do decide to hold an activity, try to stay away from happy hour or other drinking situations that could make members of the team uncomfortable. And avoid giving wine or liquor as a gift. In general, alcohol and work don’t always mix well and are therefore best avoided.

 

Don’t feel obligated to reciprocate if you receive a gift.

 There’s usually one in every office—the Santa who gives everyone an unexpected gift. Remember that they are doing this because they want to, and not to make you feel awkward or as though they expect something in return. If you receive a gift, don’t immediately run out and buy something for them—that’s a one-way ticket to unexpected bills come January. Instead, respond with a sincere thank you and best wishes for their season.

 

Do remember it’s the thought that counts.

It sounds trite, but it’s true. If you do feel that gift giving is expected or something you want to do, avoid anything that will break the bank and/or can look like you’re trying to curry favor. And remember a beautiful package can elevate any gift! Here are some ideas for affordable, thoughtful gifts that anyone can enjoy:

  • A plant for your coworkers’ desk
  • A small donation to a charity, especially one you know your coworker supports
  • A small denomination gift card to the favorite local coffee or sandwich place
  • A holiday decoration (stick with snowmen or other “winter” themes unless you are absolutely certain the person celebrates with a tree)
  • A funny desk accessory or notepad
  • Food, snacks or other “consumables”
  • A reusable water bottle or coffee mug
  • Heartfelt thank you notes—everyone appreciates being thanked, especially at this time of year.

 

The holidays are indeed the “most wonderful time of the year,” but they also can be stressful when you mix work, finances and relationships. Just remember that employees are judged by the quality of their work and their interpersonal interactions on a day-to-day basis, not how they handle the once-a-year holiday gift-giving situation. Do what makes you feel comfortable, without compromising your beliefs or budget.

 




Scheduling Tips for the Holidays

As we head into the busy holiday season, two forces converge—one, some workplaces get extra busy, and two, everyone is craving time off for their own personal celebrations. Here are some suggestions for helping manage employee time off so that everyone feels that they have been treated fairly—or as fairly as possible. (Remember that these rules won’t apply to every type of business; for example, a company in the retail field likely has an “all hands on deck” policy.)

  1. Decide whether you will create a first-come/first-served or priority schedule.

There are two basic ways to figure out how you allocate scarce days off—the first person who asked or the person with the most seniority. There are pros and cons to each one; after all, the person who’s been there the longest or has the highest position might rightly feel they deserve the days off they request, while newer people might feel they deserve the perk because they planned ahead. While there’s no right answer, it’s crucial to ensure that the policy is clearly communicated and executed fairly—and that the priority requests have to adhere to a specific deadline. That means not making exceptions to the rule and letting someone slip in extra days if they didn’t request them by the deadline.

  1. Give extra days to people who work days no one wants to work.

Another option is to offer a “two-for-one” type of scenario; for example, for someone who works the day after Thanksgiving when most people want the extra day to continue their family time. In order to incent people to come in if that’s a day you need to cover, offer them an extra day in the future for covering this day.

  1. Schedule more, shorter shifts.

If certain days absolutely have to be covered, consider scheduling morning and afternoon shifts, rather than a full day. Or, give half your staff one full day on and the next day off and then switch. The goal is to make everyone feel like they’re giving a little, so no one feels they are bearing the brunt of unpopular days or undesirable shifts.

  1. Encourage work-from-home if feasible.

Sometimes you don’t need employees in the office, but you also can’t have them completely taking multiple days off. If your type of work still allows employees to be productive, encourage them to pick a few hours where they can stay up-to-date on whatever project they are working on by putting in some time at home. At the least, they will avoid the commute. And, if needed, you can hold staff or project meetings via conference call or video call to keep everyone in the loop even if you aren’t all together.

  1. Hire part-time employees.

Sometimes it might be necessary to staff up in order to cover vacation shifts and/or avoid burning out your own team. If you feel that they would benefit from time off to come back refreshed, and yet, the show must go on, put together a team of part-time employees to lighten the load while keeping the workplace moving ahead.

  1. Offer a bonus to those who work.

Offering a little extra money is another way to give a perk to those who are working and help them feel appreciated, rather than put-upon that they have to work while their coworkers are enjoying down time. It could be extra pay per hour, or just a bonus check at the end of the holiday season to say “thank you.” Anything you can do to help keep morale high will pay dividends.

  1. Remember who worked to ease the strain the following year.

While most places are bound to have some turnover, likely many of your employees will stick with you from year to year. If you had to give disappointing news to some team members who wanted specific days off, see if you can rotate the “pain” the following year so that one person doesn’t think they always have the most undesirable days.

  1. Be lenient with staff.

Remember that everyone is stretched throughout the holidays, so give a little breathing room to an employee who comes in late because they were shopping over their lunch hour, or let someone go home early if work is slow. While you never want to encourage anyone to take advantage, it’s also important that your team feels supported as you minimize their stress however possible.

  1. Close for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.

While only about 8% of offices report closing this week, it’s a perk to consider depending on your industry’s workload; not only does it allow you to reward employees for a year of hard work, but it can also save some money by not having your operation running—and most certainly build goodwill heading into the new year. Furthermore, nearly 30% of employees say this week is wasted, anyway, with too many clients or co-workers out of the office to get any real work done.




Eight Ways to Find Part-Time Elves

As the holiday season rolls around, many companies find they need all hands on deck to handle an increased work load—just when many employees are requesting time off to celebrate with their family and friends. While the current low unemployment rate might make you wonder if you can find extra help, the good news is that plenty of people would appreciate a few extra hours to help pay off upcoming holiday debts.

Whether you run a retail establishment that needs extra workers or an office looking to cover end-of-year vacation absences or an increased December crunch, here are eight ideas for finding and attracting part-time workers in a tight hiring environment.

  1. Look inside first.

Your own employees might be your best source. While some are undoubtedly looking for days off, others might be willing to take on a few additional hours for the chance to earn extra money. Offering a nice pay bump is often worth it—instead of having to go through the paperwork and training involved in hiring a new person, you can instead dedicate that money to paying your own loyal employees more, knowing that they are going to be more efficient than someone just learning the ropes. You also could offer a referral bonus to employees who recommend a part-time candidate as it will save you the time and money involved in looking outside for employees—and will likely result in a great hire.

  1. Pay competitive wages.

This should go without saying, but it’s crucial to remember: Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish when trying to hire part-time help. This group you are trying to attract wants to make a few bucks, fast, and are liable to turn to the highest wage available…even if it’s only a quarter or so more an hour. Remember that most of these temporary employees are not looking to build a career with your company—they just want to make some extra spending money, and thus every dollar counts.

  1. Make quick decisions.

Someone who wants to work part-time wants to work part-time now. If you delay making offers, they are likely to accept a competing position. It’s imperative to shorten your hiring cycle—the average length is currently 42 days, although of course that metric also includes full-time positions. But the fact remains that waiting to see “what else is out there” could result in losing a viable candidate, especially if you are hiring for high-turnover positions.

  1. Provide just the right amount of training—not too much, not too little.

Training can be tricky with part-time positions; after all, they don’t need to know everything about the ins and outs of your company, but they need to know enough to feel successful in the position. Too many times part-time employees quit because they felt as though they were “thrown to the wolves” by being expected to come immediately up to speed on a new skill and interact with coworkers or the general public before they are comfortable. Promise your applicants that you’ll give them adequate training so that they won’t feel out of their element. And, of course, make sure it’s paid.

  1. Offer flexibility.

While full flexibility is probably not possible, since you are trying to hire to fill specific shifts, anything you can offer that gives them some choices—such as allowing potential employees to offer days and times they prefer, giving them the chance to switch shifts if both parties are amenable, etc. will help make your position more appealing.

  1. Promote discounts.

Not every company has a product that’s amenable to discounts, but if you’ve got it…flaunt it! Many potential employees might be attracted to the opportunity to not only make money through a paycheck, but save on their gift giving. You also should see if there are any benefits you offer full-time employees—such as discounts on movie tickets or transit passes—that you can relatively affordably also offer to these fill-in employees. It might make the difference between someone accepting your offer or that of a competitor.

  1. Look to non-traditional groups.

Holiday periods are the perfect time to look beyond your traditional hiring pool. Consider reaching out to local high schools to see if you can hire students for the few weeks of the holiday season; with sports, drama, schoolwork and other regular pressing needs on hold, even those who wouldn’t normally be able to hold down a regular position might want to make some quick spending money. Ditto kids home on college break—which often stretches a month or more. They likely would love the chance to bolster their bank account before they head back for second semester. To reach this group, advertise in the local community paper and on social media sites and post notices in local coffee shops or other local gathering places. Reaching their parents might be the best avenue to get to the returning college student. Finally, in addition to thinking young, think a bit older. Retirees might love the chance to get involved in the holiday hustle and bustle and make a few bucks.

  1. Advertise everywhere.

You never know where your next temporary employee might come from. Make sure you have listed your position on your social media websites and with notices in other places that your potential target part-time worker might be looking. It can pay to get really creative, like going door to door—seriously! One HR exec recently told a business gathering about an enterprising organization that “hired” a youth group to blanket a nearby neighborhood with cards advertising open part-time positions. The company gave a flat donation to the group, as well as an additional bonus for each person that was hired from the effort. She reported that the organization was able to fill nearly 85% of its positions, proving that creativity can pay.

With a little ingenuity, you’ll have all your part-time elves lined up in no time.