Considerations Before You Increase Employee Monitoring

There are all sorts of workplaces out there. Some require clocking in and out so that management can ensure every employee is logging a certain amount of hours each week. On the other end of the spectrum is the type of company that doesn’t invest in any employee tracking at all, other than for security purposes. Their staff can come and go as they please, create their own schedules, and even work from home. 

However, even seemingly lax companies may monitor employee email or software use. When it comes to employee tracking, ethical and legal issues pop up, along with issues surrounding company culture. Understanding how and why companies track employees is the first step toward deciding what’s right for your business.

Types of Employee Tracking

There are numerous ways for a company to keep an eye on what employees are doing. From direct observation in the office to secretly logging every keystroke an employee makes on their computer, some types of monitoring are helpful, while others can feel invasive:

  • Direct monitoring: If a manager wants to directly monitor what’s happening, they may put workspaces in a central, open area. Using hardware that logs keystrokes is another type of direct monitoring.
  • Email monitoring: Email monitoring ensures that everything being sent from a company email address is in-line with the company’s values. It will also clear out spam before it reaches an inbox, which helps the employee do their job more efficiently.
  • GPS monitoring: Depending on the type of job an employee performs, GPS monitoring may or may not be worthwhile. For example, it’s best when used for the employee’s safety and to prevent accidents, like in the fleet industry. GPS tech can monitor how often a driver hard brakes or speeds, and an in-vehicle buzzer can alert the driver to risky driving so they can improve.
  • Network monitoring: In order to keep the company’s network secure and free of viruses, it’s necessary to monitor it. Network monitoring includes tracking the content that’s sent over the network and monitoring who is accessing files.
  • Software monitoring: For companies with dispersed teams or remote workers, software monitoring allows managers to keep an eye on what’s happening even when they’re not in the same physical location as employees. Software monitoring logs information like changes to files, conversations, and screenshots. 

Regardless of which types of monitoring you decide are right for your business, you have to let employees know how they’re being monitored. You should also have employees sign to acknowledge that they understand how and why they’re being monitored. If your monitoring strategies change, you should update employees right away, preferably before the changes are put in place.

Ethics and Legalities of Employee Tracking

If you don’t approach employee monitoring the professional way, a lot can go wrong. If you neglect to let the employee know they’re being monitored, they may feel betrayed and concerned about working for you. They may wonder, “What else don’t I know?” 

Even if they’re aware of the monitoring, employees may feel like their privacy is being invaded. They don’t want a micro-manager who needs to see every single thing they do at every moment of the workday. They’d rather work for someone who trusts them. 

Furthermore, certain states have specific legal guidelines to follow. For example, in Connecticut, employees cannot monitor employees without getting consent first. Ensure that your organization is legally compliant in order to avoid issues down the road.

Alternatives to Employee Tracking

Consider why you want to track your employees. There may be another way to achieve the same results. For example, let’s say you’re worried that employees are wasting time at work. They seem to be meeting deliverables and deadlines, but every time you walk into their workspace, they’re on social media or chatting with one another. Instead of monitoring what they do to catch them in the act, talk to them to find out if they’re bored or not challenged enough at work. The problem could be that they don’t have enough to keep them busy.

Here’s another example: Let’s say you need to cut costs, so you want to see who’s clocking in late or leaving early. Unless you have a good reason to think this is happening, a better first step is to audit the workplace and see where waste can be reduced. You may discover that you’re regularly replenishing inventory that isn’t actually being used or that you can use alternative packaging that’s less costly and wasteful. 

Final Thoughts

There are times when tracking is useful to both the company and its employees. For example, applicant tracking systems make it easier for companies to source potential hires and go through hundreds of job applications to hone in on the best ones. For the applicant, that means they’ll get a response sooner rather than later because managers don’t have to manually sort through tons of applications. 

On the other hand, some employee tracking feels unethical, giving employees the impression that they’re not trusted by the company they work for. Getting to the root of the issue and determining why you want to track employees will help you decide the best way to monitor them or if they have to be monitored at all.

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How HR Can Help During Tax Season

While HR is generally seen as being associated more closely with payroll than taxes, there is a huge overlap between the two. This means that at some point any given business will end up relying on its HR team to help in ensuring that its taxes are filed and paid appropriately. HR professionals can provide invaluable help with both employer and employee tax filing if they educate themselves, stay organized, and keep up to date on the ever-changing tax code.

Both Employers And Employees Rely On HR During Tax Season

Though HR professionals are by no means tax experts, their role within a business often leads to tax questions from both employers and employees. A well-trained HR team will be able to address questions from both with ease, whether they are related to personal or business taxes. HR departments are the main conduit of communication between organizations and employees, and it is important that they be able to help either when it comes to tax preparation.

The tax code changes relatively regularly, so it is to be expected that employees may have questions that go beyond how to appropriately fill out a W-4. For example, many employers encourage their employees to open health savings accounts, and employees who do might find themselves wondering what contributions to their HSA are deductible or what the limit for annual contributions might be. HR staff should be prepared to assist with these questions as it will ultimately help both the employee and the organization.

Assisting your employer with proper filing and helping employees with any questions they might have is important as an HR professional, however, there are limits to what can be done. HR teams can give as much advice to employees as they like regarding how to fill tax forms like a W-4, but filling one out for an employee is illegal. Understanding the limitations of how much an HR department can and cannot do helps to maximize efficiency while reducing any legal risk to the organization.

Organization Is Key

When HR teams assist a business with the proper filing of taxes, it is of utmost importance that they maintain a high level of organization. Keeping an accurate record of tax records through digitally scanning them and avoiding using easily lost physical documents is essential. Additionally, keeping a detailed log of business expenditures within the HR department and any documentation that might prove useful when filing taxes should be a priority.

Timekeeping is also incredibly important for HR professionals. Keeping track of nonexempt employees’ hours worked is essential in order to remain compliant with both national and state tax authorities. Doing so will prevent headaches in the long run and make the job of filing appropriately that much easier.

The ability for HR professionals to keep tax-relevant documentation organized is increasing rapidly. This is due largely in part to the rise of advances in cloud storage and big data. These new and powerful technologies allow HR professionals to not only execute their daily operations more efficiently but to keep important information like tax documentation organized and readily available as well. Despite the ease of the cloud for storage, however, it’s imperative that HR professionals understand how to make and keep backups of all important data as well, in case of emergency.

Keeping Up With The IRS

The IRS processes around 240 million tax returns every year generating nearly $3 trillion in tax revenue. While this is impressive, the IRS relies on both private citizens and companies alike to file their taxes promptly and appropriately in order to avoid having to perform an audit if there are any discrepancies detected. Avoiding an audit is obviously preferred for any organization, so ensuring that all levels of an organization, including the HR department, are well versed in recent changes to tax code is a good idea.

The United States tax code recently saw its most substantial reform in over 30 years in the form of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The changes made to the tax code by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act have far-reaching implications for both employees and the organizations that employ them and because of this, it is imperative that HR professionals understand how the changes to the tax code affect their business. 

Payroll systems had to change across the board after this legislation passed as it affected individual income tax rates and brackets. Additionally, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the ability to deduct the expenses from popular employer-provided fringe benefits such as deductions for parking and transportation expenses for employees. 

In an era where transparency is increasingly appreciated by employees, especially when it comes to salary and payroll, it is important for HR professionals to be able to explain these changes if questions arise. While there is no certainty what future tax code reforms might hold for employees and organizations, HR professionals would be wise to remain up to date on any changes that might affect them.

HR teams are some of the most important and unsung aspects of any business or company, and the ability to assist both employers and employees with tax filing questions adds yet another notch to an already impressive list of skills. If HR professionals stay on top of keeping the appropriate documentation organized and accessible and stay on top of any changes to the U.S. tax code, they will be more than equipped to answer nearly any question asked of them.

How HR Professionals Can Be More Supportive of Parents

In about 46% of two-parent households in the United States, both parents work full time. This is a shift from the past, where more women stayed home to raise the children and take care of the family. 

More parents want to keep working and further their careers after having kids. It’s possible to do so, but companies and large organizations need to take steps to facilitate continued career growth for these individuals. Businesses need to support parents by offering a better work-life balance. This will help them attract new employees and retain current ones. 

There are many benefits to supporting parents within your company. It starts with understanding what parents really value and what they need. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can be more supportive of the parents who work for you or will work for you in the future.

What Expecting Parents Really Want 

When companies and HR professionals are considering which benefits to offer their employees, they have to hit the right marks. One survey suggested that 80% of employees would prefer a better benefits package over a raise. Benefits are likely even more important for parents or for those who are expecting. 

Support for new parents or those who are about to have a baby can make a difference in employee retention. For expectant couples, supportive benefits can include things like paid maternity and paternity leave, as well as insurance benefits that will help employees deal with the medical expenses of having a new baby. 

It’s also essential to avoid discriminating against expectant mothers in your workforce. Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is unethical, but it still happens. By making sure your policies reflect a positive and non-discriminatory attitude toward pregnant employees, you can create a more welcoming and comforting family atmosphere within your business. 

The number one priority for any pregnant woman is to keep herself and her baby as healthy as possible. Here are some ways to make your workplace more inclusive of pregnant mothers:

  • Your company can support that by offering things like healthy complimentary snacks or water. 
  • Make sure restrooms are easily accessible for everyone. 
  • Offer exercise or yoga classes for expectant mothers who want to stay active. 
  • Encourage more flexibility in their hours so they can have more time at home to rest and get some sleep

It’s a good idea to include some pre-birth perks for expecting dads too. Paternity leave is important and should be a part of any benefits package. Also consider sponsoring birthing classes and encourage expecting fathers to join support groups to know what to expect. 

As with expectant mothers, flexible hours for fathers-to-be can also be a big draw, as they allow men to go with their partners to doctor’s appointments, classes, and more. This can be especially helpful for same-sex couples who are going through the adoption process or using a surrogate. Some companies actually offer surrogacy compenasation, which can be huge for same-sex couples or couples who can’t have children on their own. 

As you can see, none of these offered benefits or resources have to blow your budget. By making a few small policy changes, you can create a complete shift in how pregnant women and even fathers who are expecting are viewed and treated within your company. 

Better Benefits for Families

For individuals or couples who are already parents, employers can offer more paid time off, daycare services, lactation support services, and more flexibility. 

Offering various family insurance plans, as well as life insurance plans can also attract new parents to stick with your company, since they’ll know they can be protected if anything were to ever happen. Life insurance can be used to protect a family, to pay off debts, or for parents to simply have peace of mind when it comes to leaving something behind for their children. Even if your company chooses not to offer life insurance, it’s a good idea to have a few agencies in mind to work with so you can point your employees in the right direction. 

New parents might want to return to work, but that can be hard to do with a baby or young child at home. To show your employees their real value, offering work flexibility can make a huge difference. This includes offering non-traditional hours or even work-from-home opportunities. Thanks to technology, working from home has become very popular. It’s a great option and can be very successful for single parents, and there are many companies that cater to these families. By offering that kind of flexibility, your employee is more likely to take the job seriously from home, and they won’t experience burnout or resentment from having to leave their family. 

How HR Makes a Difference

When it comes to supporting new parents, your focus should be less about money and more about relationships. While a raise is always nice (and likely always appreciated), you can form a better lasting relationship with your employees by showing them you care about their families, their health, and their overall well-being. 

When your employees are ready to get back to work, keep the benefits rolling, and they’ll be likely to ease back in comfortably. Companies like Amazon offer “on-ramp” programs that help employees to start working again at a comfortable pace. It starts out with a shorter schedule and offers a lot of flexibility and paid time off. 

If you’re not sure what the parents working for you really want, don’t be afraid to ask! Taking an interest in your employee’s wants will show them that you care about their lives, and they aren’t just a number to you. Being a parent and working at the same time isn’t always easy, and it typically requires a lot of juggling. You can make it easier on your employees, boost their sense of self-worth, and give your business a boost when you offer the right kind of support.

Why You Should Invest in Personal Finance Training for Your Employees

Personal finance and budgeting play a role in everyone’s life. It’s no secret that your ability to wisely allocate financial resources has a significant impact on your quality of life. 

Unfortunately, most individuals — including your employees  — are probably not as financially capable as they ought to be. High schools and colleges have stopped making financial literacy a requirement to graduate, and so many individuals are completely unaware of personal finance basics of personal finances. 

At this point, you might be wondering why you, as an employer or someone in HR, should care about this. Why should it matter to you that employees can successfully manage their finances? Well, here are just some of the reasons why you should invest (or advocate that your business invest) in personal finance training for employees:

Less Stress, Higher Productivity

For one, stress as a result of personal financial mismanagement is a common problem of the workforce today, resulting in lower rates of productivity and ultimately affecting a company’s bottom line. About 68% of employees are not fully engaged at work, and much of this can be attributed to financial stress. 

This is backed up by Dr. Thomas Garman, a Virginia Tech professor, who states, “Workers waste 20 hours of company time a month thinking about and dealing with personal finances.” Further, 40% of employees have even openly admitted that personal stress greatly affects their productivity at work.

With these figures in mind, teaching your employees about personal finance management can only be a win-win. Most employee learning takes place during work hours, so it makes sense to offer opportunities for employees to learn more about personal finances. In return, they will get rid of financial stress and become more productive. 

Retain Top Talent

Providing a benefit like personal finance training for employees can also help you attract and retain top talent. In fact, a Society for Human Resources study found that “employees are looking to their employers for help with managing their financial wellness.” Today, with the rise of the gig economy, many workers are able to control their work hours and get paid for extra time on the clock. Given the fact that the gig economy as a whole can offer more pay, this provides the means for employees to feel financially secure while also attracting top talent. 

Jobs as part of the gig economy rarely come with benefits, so including personal finance training in your benefits package gives yourself an edge when it comes to recruiting talent. Thus, including financial wellness training as a part of an employee’s benefits package can yield positive results. This is a great way for a company to demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of those they employ.

Ripple Effect on Society

An often-overlooked advantage of providing finance training for your employees is the ripple effect it can have. Giving employees this information enables them to spread financial best practices to friends and family, ultimately improving the well-being of those around them. While this may not immediately and directly benefit your company, it does create for a more financially stable community in the long-run. In turn, this new, more skilled society will help your business’ bottom line. 

These are just a few of the reasons you should consider financial training benefits for your employees. As you can see, alongside enhancing employees’ lives, your company stands to benefit greatly from this inclusion. The best part is that personal finance training programs are actually quite easy to implement. Here are some tactics to consider: 

Give a Financial Self-Assessment 

The first step in promoting the financial wellness of your employees is gauging how much they know about personal money management. People often struggle with planning their finances because they neglect (or intentionally avoid) thinking about them critically. As a result, they are unable to adequately plan for the future.

A financial self-assessment solves this problem and allows for both managers and employees to learn about their personal financial capabilities. Once this is done, your employees can identify pain points in their financial planning and take the appropriate steps to make changes. There are many free financial assessment quizzes available online that you can hand out to your employees. A good starting point for a personal finance self-assessment can be found at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website.

Offer Classes/Training Seminars 

Fixed classes or seminars are effective ways of teaching financial wellness on an ongoing basis. You could devote one hour a week to a training seminar where employees could be given the chance to hear from various experts and financial planning. Each seminar could cover a different topic under the umbrella of personal financial wellness, including how to improve and maintain good credit, how to pay off credit card debt, how to plan for retirement and a child’s education, how to invest, and more. 

Even if you aren’t in the position to host seminars, you could consider giving your employees the option to enroll in online money management classes and cover the cost. Alternatively, you could offer premium access to sites like SkillShare or Udemy that offer classes from experts across a range of topics. 

Provide Budgeting Tools

Budgeting is key to personal finance management. Make sure your employees know basic budgeting skills — you could even start with the “give, save, and spend” concept that is used to teach children about money. From there, teach employees about the principles of setting up a household budget such as identifying income, tracking spending, and determining goals. You could also keep an eye out for financial tools that could help your employees. These include free retirement planning tools, investing tools, budgeting apps, and more. 

Spread Awareness About Cost-Effective Options

Another initiative that is easy to implement is spreading awareness about resources that outline how to get the most cost-effective services. Choosing cost-effective options can increase savings and aid money management efforts. One way to do so is to teach employees how to evaluate various deals for everyday services through a monthly email newsletter. 

For instance, you could send out a newsletter that details how to pick the best internet deal for one’s home, covering pointers like looking for plans in the “Back to School” period in August. The following month you could send out a newsletter about how to pick the best car insurance, and what to consider when choosing one. Spreading awareness about ongoing deals that you have researched, as well as knowledge about how to choose cost-effective options is a good way to educate employees about making financially sound decisions. 

Promoting the financial wellness of your employees is a great investment, benefitting both your company and your employees. Use these tips to introduce personal finance training into your employee benefits package to build a more productive and financially savvy workplace.

What HR Can Do to Promote a Healthy Work Environment

Most workspaces present some kind of challenge for an employee’s health. Whether that be too many unhealthy temptations, a job that’s physically demanding, a job that isn’t physical enough, or even one that challenges a person’s mental health, each working environment can do more to prioritize employee health. Not only do healthy employees work better, it’s also beneficial to workplace culture for employees to feel as though their employer cares about their well-being and not just the bottom line. 

In order for HR to promote a healthy work environment, there are a few things they can do. By taking steps that prioritize employee health, employees can go from experiencing wellness challenges to watching their health thrive in the office. 

Be a Source of Health Information

There is a wealth of health information available out there, but it can be difficult to sift through studies, warnings, and updates if you’re not familiar with health news. For this reason, it can be helpful to be a source of health information for employees. You can do this by releasing a health newsletter each month, which can include things like medication news that may impact their health, food and drug recalls, or new CDC research. You might also recruit experts to speak or offer a health fair to allow employees to research wellness options in their area. Include various types of insurance, holistic health services, and mental health physicians as well. This way, you can be a reliable source of health information for your employees. 

Understand Employee Health Gaps

Not every work environment will require the same things to promote health for employees. The key is in identifying employee health gaps and working to provide ways to remedy them. For instance, if your employees sit for a large portion of their work day, promoting a healthy work environment will involve encouraging walking breaks or purchasing standing desks. If your employees have a physically demanding job, promoting a healthy work environment will involve offering rest breaks and comfortable areas for relaxation. 

Both health gaps are damaging to employees’ overall health and wellbeing. In addition to the type of work done, it’s also important to offer support for each employee’s specific health condition by providing what they need to be productive, safe, and fulfilled in the workplace.

Provide Healthy Alternatives

An office environment can be problematic to a person’s health because of all of the unhealthy temptations that can occur. Morning donuts, pizza luncheons, complimentary soda, etc., can all derail a person’s health goals. This doesn’t mean cutting out the bagels and complimentary lunches altogether, it just means you can promote a healthy work environment by offering healthy alternatives as well. 

For instance, some may prefer the health benefits of tea over coffee, so offering both can help employees to stick with their preferred beverage. The same is true for fruit and granola in addition to donuts and bagels, a salad bar in addition to pizza, or low-calorie and no-sugar drinks in addition to soda. 

Promote Exercise and Wellness

Exercise and wellness are staples of health, and promoting them at work can do a lot to create a healthy work environment. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress and promote physical and mental health, so providing a benefit like a gym facility or a paid gym membership can go a long way for employee wellness. You might also organize an exercise outing for those who wish to participate, such as a group hike or an employee team for a local 5k. 

This way of promoting a healthy work environment is great for workplace culture, which is great for company reputation as well. You can promote wellness in the office by offering on-site flu shots, organizing a health clinic, providing wearable medical tech, or designating a quiet area for meditation and relaxation to relieve stress. 

Prioritize Mental Health and Safety

Providing a healthy work environment isn’t just about offering healthy snacks and a gym membership, it’s also fostering a work culture that isn’t detrimental to their mental health and an environment dedicated to keeping them safe. Work on promoting a healthy work-life balance by offering PTO, flexible schedules, adequate pay, and the freedom to take time if they are burnt out. Be open about any mental health information employees may need, and make sure any insurance plans include mental health services. 

You might also offer sexual harassment training to ensure all employees understand consent, boundaries, and appropriate behavior in and out of the office. Work hard to make employees feel safe, and establish trust so they feel protected enough to report any incidents if they should occur. 

A healthy work environment should make an employee feel happy, healthy, fulfilled, and safe. It’s impossible to cater to every employee perfectly, but you can reach many of them by providing them with a few resources to help promote a healthier lifestyle. Not only is this better for employee morale and workplace culture, it also works to build better employees who enjoy their jobs and feel more productive. Employees will be happier and healthier overall when you show them that you are invested in and care about their health.

What to Consider Before Implementing a Pet-Friendly Office Policy

If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress in your office and improve employee productivity, adopting a pet-friendly office policy might be the solution. Having dogs in the workplace can encourage employees to interact with each other and may even result in reduced employee absenteeism. Another perk is that a pet-friendly office can even help to recruit millennials

But adopting a pet-friendly office policy is something that needs to be done strategically, since it can also have some downsides. The safety and happiness of both employees and their pets needs to be a priority, and bringing pets into the workplace also creates some legal liabilities that you should be prepared for. 

Options for Employees Who Can’t Be Around Dogs

While many of your employees may love the idea of a pet-friendly office, you’ll need to consider the employees who either can’t or don’t want to be around dogs. According to Square Foot, employees with pet allergies can experience mild to severe symptoms with dogs in the office. The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes allergies as a disability in some cases, and if your office cannot accommodate the needs of employees with pet allergies, you could be discriminating against an employee with a disability (and breaking the law in the process). 

It’s also important to consider the fact that some employees may be fearful of dogs. Square Foot states that fear of dogs is one of the most common phobias, and bringing dogs into the workplace could create a situation where employees feel unsafe or even are unable to function. 

The layout of your office may allow you to create dog-friendly areas, so employees can avoid dogs if they need to. This solution does risk causing some employees to feel isolated or left out, though. 

Liability Insurance with Pets in the Workplace

Bringing pets into the workplace can increase your company’s liability. If employees or customers are injured by a pet or a pet causes damage in the building you’re renting, your business could be held liable. 

To understand how pets could affect your liability and your business insurance, start by having a conversation with your current insurance company. You may need to take out an additional business liability policy that specifically covers pets in the workplace. 

In addition to taking out liability insurance, you should prepare a plan in case an employee is ever bitten by a dog while in the workplace. Your plan should incorporate elements like a method for promptly gathering information about the incident, reporting the bite to the authorities, ensuring the employee gets immediate medical treatment, and removing the dog from the workplace. 

Dog Insurance to Protect Employees

When you bring multiple dogs into the same area for long periods of time, accidents and incidents can happen. Dogs can injure themselves while roughhousing with each other, and dog fights can and do occur. These incidents may result in costly vet bills. 

Pet insurance can help dog owners to cover the costs of unexpected vet bills and medical issues. If a dog gets into a fight, accesses some food that he shouldn’t eat, or has any other type of accident in the workplace, having pet insurance can reduce some of the financial stress that a trip to the animal ER or vet can create. You may want to recommend that your employees look into pet insurance policies before bringing their pets to the workplace. 

Having dogs in the office can carry the risk of diseases spreading, too. Kennel Cough is a highly contagious disease that can quickly spread when dogs are in close quarters. It results in a dry, hacking cough, and symptoms can last between one and three weeks. The disease spreads similarly to the way that colds spread among humans, and if dogs are together in an enclosed environment, like an office, the disease can spread rapidly. Employees may want to invest in a Kennel Cough vaccine for their dogs before bringing them to the office. 

Pets as Workplace Distractions

Pets are great for relieving stress and driving engagement between employees, but a workplace filled with pets can also be distracting. Multiple pets underfoot can disrupt employees’ attention spans, and the sound of dogs barking the background doesn’t make for a professional conference call with clients. 

If you decide to make your office pet-friendly, plan for ways to manage the pets and ensure employee safety. This may mean a restriction on the number of pets in the office each day and a requirement that pet owners bring in crates or baby gates to keep pets contained when they have to go to other rooms for conference calls. You may want to write a pet policy that dictates minimum age and training requirements for pets, office areas that are out-of-bounds, required vaccines for pets, and more. 

Informing an employee that their pet’s behavior is not acceptable and that their pet cannot continue to come into the office can create a difficult situation, but these types of situations can and will arise when you have pets in the office. By making a pet policy as detailed and clear as possible, you can help your employees to understand what’s expected of them and their pets. A detailed pet policy can also help to avoid problems before they happen. 

Plenty of offices are successfully pet-friendly, but it’s a decision that requires careful deliberation and preparation. Think about it thoroughly, and consider every scenario that could arise with the implementation of a pet policy. Get the opinion of all the office employees, and if it’s an overwhelming want, you can successfully make it happen. 

 

The Role of HR in Reputation Management

Most people think of recruiting and hiring when it comes to the HR department of any given company. But HR needs to be involved in much more than just interviewing potential employees. In fact, one of the most important aspects of HR work is reputation management. By guarding the company’s image and making sure employees are happy, it’s easier to not only harbor more interest from potential employees but to let the world know your company is a great place to work, grow, and find success. 

A human resource team should be properly trained when it comes to representing how the business looks to the rest of the world. It’s their responsibility to build and sustain a positive image for the business itself as well as its employees. That includes training for proper employee management and creating an environment where strong, respectful communication is expected and encouraged. Strong communication involves skills like being respectful, listening actively, knowing your audience, taking note of body language, and even habits as simple as putting your phone away.

When communication isn’t open between HR personnel and employees (especially unhappy employees), it will make matters worse and could result in an extremely stressful situation for your business. 

So, how can your HR team develop and sustain a positive reputation for your company? Let’s look at a few practices that your HR department should start committing to right away. 

Building a Better Company Culture

One of the best ways an HR team can focus on reputation management is to build a better company culture from the inside out. The way to do this will look a bit different for every type of business. It’s important to understand what’s important to your company and how you want to portray that not only to your employees but to the rest of the world. 

You want to make sure when any potential employee walks into your business for the first time, they get a full feel of what your company represents. They should understand your atmosphere, what’s expected, the culture surrounding other employees, the culture surrounding customers/clients, etc. It’s up to your HR team to make sure an environment of community and purpose always shines through. 

Other tactics that can be put into place to boost your company culture include things like: 

  • Encouraging your employees to share their positive experiences with the company on their own social media pages or on your company website. 
  • Encouraging your team to talk to potential hires before they start the job. 
  • Creating an environment in the workplace that motivates people to do their job well. 
  • Being flexible with people’s personal lives and schedules. 
  • Building a team — not just a group of individual workers. 
  • Having a strong company mission and making sure everyone knows it. 
  • Communicating with one another to keep things as clear as possible between employees and management. 

When your HR team chooses to create a positive company culture an environment that ensures employees are happy, the benefits will speak for themselves. Not only will you have a crew of employees who are excited to do their job and who are likely willing to go above and beyond, but you’re also more likely to recruit better employees to come work for your company. The trickle-down effect of a great workforce is self-evident. When you have the right people in the right positions, your customers — and in turn your business — will reap the benefits. 

It doesn’t end there. There are personnel techniques your HR team can utilize to highlight the net impact of each employee. Once you’ve found those people who love the work and are willing to go above and beyond, a good management structure won’t let them stagnate. For example:

  • If an employee shows a proclivity toward working with customers, you can create a customer success position in which their strengths can shine. 
  • If a member of your team is highly detail-oriented and organized, consider how they can help your organization by becoming a company auditor to ensure legal compliance with regulations and optimal efficiency.
  • If a member of your team is good at networking, they may be a good candidate when it comes to finding someone to manage your brand’s social media account.

Give employees the opportunity to play an active role in their own career development and the growth of the business. Professional empowerment is a force of nature, so keep an eye out for the unique skill sets that each of your hires bring to the table. 

How to Handle Unhappy Employees

Though reputation management is a big deal when it comes to finding new employees, it starts from the inside, and any successful HR team needs to realize that when they’re working on company culture. The old saying goes that you can’t make everyone happy all the time. But, people who work in HR should make it a constant mission to keep employees content. Yes, it starts with creating the right culture, but that culture needs to be continuously fostered to take care of employees who are already working hard. 

Some signs of disgruntled or unhappy employees typically include things like attendance problems, poor work quality, negative attitudes, or complaints about the job. Sometimes, though, employees won’t say anything about how dissatisfied they are, and they may just opt to quit. A high turnover rate within your company is a sign that your HR team isn’t doing what is needed to ensure everyone’s satisfaction. 

That might seem like a small problem to have, but if employees start leaving, they could do damage to your company’s reputation.Word of mouth goes a long way, and what a former employee says to a customer could result in a negative review. This could lead you to have to hire some serious reputation management. If not the negative reviews can be a huge red flag for people who might have otherwise been interested in working at your business. 

Additionally, an HR team has to be prepared for unexpected situations. For example, if an employee gets hurt on the job, reputation management is still an important consideration. Typical job injuries include things like: 

It’s up to the HR team to make sure an injured employee gets the care they need. If they don’t, that employee could take legal action, which could seriously damage any company’s reputation. 

Reputation management is important for any business. But, it’s not just about making sure customers and clients see you in a positive light; it’s making sure you’re attracting the right people to work for you and keeping your current employees satisfied with your company culture. This should fall on the shoulders of a quality, driven HR team. Putting some of these ideas into action immediately can make a big difference for your business by providing a boost to your reputation.

Tips to Consider While Writing Your Employee Handbook

Many companies have an employee handbook to clarify and dictate proper behavior, social norms and legal issues. Creating a handbook is a big project, and companies strive to write their guide in a way that’s thorough and clear, without being boring – employees should actually read the guide, after all. Moreover, companies have to make sure that they’re covering everything necessary to protect themselves and to avoid liability in the future.

Create the Handbook with the Masses in Mind

Every business is going to have a few bad seeds who like to push boundaries, break the rules, and get themselves or even the company in trouble. This is why creating a clear employee handbook is important, as a handbook will clarify what is okay and what isn’t, with little room for interpretation. Most employees will appreciate a guide to what conduct is expected at work, but if you create a handbook that sounds threatening and that scolds your employees before they even do something wrong, you’ll put your employees on edge and build mistrust from the beginning. Instead, you can clarify and outline the rules and repercussions while still being respectful of your employees.

Avoid Boilerplate Policies

You can easily find employee handbook templates online, but copying and pasting this information into your own handbook isn’t going to provide the information your employees need or the protection your company needs. Boilerplate information is meant to be used as an example or a starting point. You have to adapt this information to account for current laws, your industry and your location.

The same goes for covering scope of employment. The handbook should clarify what’s expected of an employee depending on their role. This can protect the business if the employee breaks a law by performing an act that falls outside their scope of employment. Usually, an employer is only liable if the unlawful act falls within the scope of employment.

Include Disclaimers

Every employee handbook should include disclaimers. Here are a few things that these disclaimers should make clear:

  • The employee handbook does not serve as an employment contract.
  • The employee is still considered an at-will employee.
  • The handbook can be modified at any time by the employer or HR department.

Disclaimers serve two purposes: they help the employee understand what they’re agreeing to and they also give the company the flexibility to make amendments as needed.

Don’t Skip Company Culture

Your employee handbook has to cover legal bases, but you shouldn’t skip over the backbone of your company: its values, mission, and ethos. That’s what employees truly care about, especially if you’ve vetted and hired the right people for your team. To the right employees, that sort of information is going to be a lot more important than the minutiae of lunch break and work shift policies. On the same note, think in terms of the culture you’re in, such as the industry you’re part of and the age group and interests of your employees. This will help you create an engaging handbook instead of a dry and boring one.

Explain the Thought Process Behind Policies

If you on’t explain why a policy is the way it is, employees are going to make assumptions and guesses, and they may talk themselves into being displeased with the policy. For example, let’s say one of your company policies is that no more than five employees can take their lunch break at the same time. To the employee, this may sound like the company doesn’t want coworkers to mingle or get to know one another. In reality, though, this could be so there are always enough people monitoring communication so that there’s never a long wait for a customer.

Here’s another example: your employees may not realize why proper retention and disposal of customer records is important. They may assume that you’re just being picky and over-cautious. By explaining that those records have personal information or health information protected under HIPAA law, employees will take document retention and shredding more seriously.

Ask for Feedback

There’s nothing wrong with asking your employees for their opinions about the employee handbook. You may find out that something is unclear, that they were told different information during the hiring process or that your policies aren’t aligned with industry best practices. While you don’t have to make changes to the employee handbook simply because some employees have a problem with it, you’ll open yourself up to new viewpoints you may not have thought of yourself.

Make the Handbook Accessible Online

Employees will get the most value from a handbook if it’s accessible and searchable. Storing your employee handbook online means that employees (and management) can access it from anywhere and search for exactly what they want without thumbing through page after page. Also, any changes made to the handbook can be highlighted or mentioned on an introductory page. It’s also a good idea to let employees comment on parts of the handbook in case they have questions or concerns. This is especially important for remote workers and freelancers who need to be able to digitally communicate with the company from wherever they are in the world.

The Future of Your Employee Handbook

There’s no such thing as a final edition of your employee handbook. You’ll update and revise the handbook as necessary when policies change or need to be clarified, and also when laws change. Make sure that you’re keeping up with any updates or additions to employment law so that your handbook can reflect the changes. In many cases, it’s better to start with a broad handbook and then expand and add detail over time. As long as you’re covering your legal bases (it’s best to consult a lawyer), you don’t have to worry about your handbook getting you in trouble.

Providing Support to Employees With Serious Health Conditions

When an employee has a serious health condition, a certain level of accommodation is legally required. However, an employer’s obligation doesn’t stop there. Every person with health issues has their own needs, which may change over time.

Building and supporting employee wellness in the workplace means using effective communication tools, supporting employees by helping them access information, providing flexible work opportunities, and staying attuned to their changing needs.

Confidentiality, Empathy, Openness, and Support (CEOS)

Fostering a positive workplace culture is essential. CEOs, as well as management, needs to embrace the importance of CEOS. This acronym stands for confidentiality, empathy, openness, and support — the necessary foundation to build trusting relationships on. These tools can help you communicate with your employees about health challenges and support them:

  • Confidentiality: The last thing you want is a distrustful employee who ghosts you and fails to communicate, and the last thing an employee wants is to lose their job due to health issues or needing time off for appointments at the doctor’s office. By ensuring confidentiality when discussing healthcare concerns, you provide a foundation for better communication.
  • Empathy: When an employee faces a healthcare crisis, they may feel conflicted. They want to feel heard and understood, but they also need to remain professional and carry out work obligations. Many employees simply quit or find themselves laid off after facing a health crisis, so they may feel that it’s a risk to have a conversation with you about health-related topics. You can retain an employee’s trust by showing empathy. Listen actively and ensure you understand their needs and concerns by summarizing and confirming. A little empathy can go a long way.
  • Openness: Openness means you’re ready to support your sick employees when they come to you. This involves preparation. It’s also about how open the employee wishes to be about their illness. Some may find help in sharing details about their struggle, while others will wish to remain extremely private about it.
  • Support: Confidentiality, empathy, and openness are paths to support. If you’ve managed to implement these objectives, you can offer support to the employee. The best thing you can do here involves asking the employee what they need and helping them find a solution you can employ.

Understanding Invisible Illnesses

Invisible illnesses are especially important for managers and HR professionals to understand. Especially when it comes to chronic health pain and related conditions, you can’t always see that someone is in pain or understand their pain level.

When individuals suffer from chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia, they may experience periods of remission (when there is little to no pain), as well as flare-ups when symptoms are at their worst. For some, this status can change in a matter of hours, and factors like the weather or office temperature are not-so-obvious contributors to pain for some patients.

Regular treatments for some conditions can create more pain in the short-term to improve health overall. Examples include physical therapy and chemotherapy.

Many employees facing invisible illnesses, including digestive illnesses like GERD, also need to make significant lifestyle changes, including new medications. Further, new diets and exercise routines can impact how employees relate to family and friends — and they may entail a real adjustment period for the employee.

Overall, managing chronic health conditions is different than curing them. Accepting major life changes after being diagnosed with a chronic health condition can be traumatizing, and finding specific solutions for pain management is often a challenging road.

Mental Health Considerations

One in five people have mental health issues, and these are not immediately obvious. Does your company have a policy allowing for mental health days? What do you do to take mental wellness as seriously as physical health? Thinking ahead can help you support employees in this regard.

Mental health conditions often accompany serious physical health conditions. Dramatically changing pain levels, various medications, and the strain of being sick is very taxing on the mental health of people with physical illnesses. Plus, it’s not always obvious: Many car accident survivors develop PTSD, so even the act commuting into work can be extremely stressful for them.

Three out of four PTSD patients respond well to medical marijuana, but many businesses are a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to marijuana use. Does your company policy on drug testing accommodate employees suffering from mental health issues or chronic pain?

The Insurance Problem

If you’ve ever been sick while covered by employer-sponsored health insurance, you likely understand how defeating and demoralizing it can be to deal with the insurance company. This problem magnifies when you have a serious condition like cancer.

To help employees access their insurance, make sure you have the insurance company’s contact information on your employee portal and in your welcome materials. Ensure this information is clear when you provide employees with any information about benefits packages as well.

While you aren’t customer service for the insurance company, survey your employees routinely. Stay aware of recurring gripes about the health insurance coverage and attempts to communicate with the insurer.

Human Resource Technology

Especially for larger organizations, human resource technology is crucial to supporting employees with health conditions. Provide a centralized location that harbors documentation and contact information for employer-sponsored insurance. Include contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — not only to provide the resource, but to show that your organization values conversations around mental health.

Software tools like Zenefits and Bamboo HR allow you to provide digital resource centers to your employees. Additionally, many employees struggling with serious health conditions have a more challenging time with professional development. Your digital resource center can provide a framework for employees to learn about and express interest in new positions, participate in self-training, and provide feedback on whether they feel you’re using their skills fully, which is crucial for neurodiverse employees who require direct feedback.

Managing Remote Employees

The most common accommodation for employees with serious health conditions is work-at-home flexibility. In the United States, 36 million people miss work due to pain at least once per year. Most of these workers lose between four and five hours per week due to pain issues, and most chronic pain sufferers feel like they are not effectively managing their pain alone or with the help of a doctor.

For a chronic pain patient, working at home can mean the difference between missing work and showing up. For the person having a panic attack every time they get in the car due to a recent car accident, a temporary work-at-home solution not only enables them to work but shows you have empathy for their experience.

Off-site employees can interface with on-site teams easily by leveraging tools like:

  • Skype for Business: This provides face-to-face and text-based communication instantly.
  • Time-tracking tools: Time-tracking software allows all employees to log in and out electronically, preventing the need for micromanagement, especially for at-home workers.
  • Project management tools: Programs like Trello and Asana allow employees in various locations to work with one another to complete pieces of projects.

With communication, compassion, and reliance on technological resources, you can support employees facing serious health conditions and enable continued productivity through flexibility. Only then will you reap the benefits on employee engagement.

How to Ensure Greater Workplace Safety

Occasionally, you’ll see a headline on your local news station about someone who tragically lost a limb at a local factory, and is now suing his or her employer for a grand sum. For someone who works in HR, the incident may bring into question the risk this lawsuit poses to the employer, who may or may not be a long-running local establishment. As the story rages on, you may find yourself mulling over two different thoughts: one, how could those in charge be reckless enough to allow this to happen? Two, I hope it never happens to me or my employees!

However, nobody is above reproach. If you find yourself harping especially on that second thought, then maybe it’s time to take a look at the things in your area of work that could cause an employee harm. Improving work safety will keep your workers feeling comfortable, operations running smoothly, and ensure you all have jobs!

Let’s take a closer look at just how to evaluate your workplace risks, and find things that need changing. It can be a hassle at first, but ultimately it could be saving a lot of time, trouble, and even lives if you address it quickly. After all, why do tomorrow what you could do today?

Catering to The Risks of Your Work Environment

Every work environment is different, and thus the dangers of each occupation vary. For instance, the risks a worker faces when they go to work on a construction project are vastly different than the dangers you experience in an office space like Dunder Mifflin. As an HR manager, it’s your job to cater your mindset to your work environment.

This typically starts by recognizing the dangers of machinery used by employees. It’s extremely important that you enlist safeguarding methods to stave off incidents that could result in amputation or another life-altering injury. Educate employees as well to be sure they understand the dangers of such an environment and the dangers of loose jewelry and clothing in these environments.

However, this moves beyond machinery and maintenance jobs. For instance, asbestos poisoning can be found in a variety of fields, from old office spaces to aeronautics fields. Even those who work in the outdoors have to be on the lookout for dangerous wildlife, including animals and plants. The point is that, as an HR professional, knowing firsthand what your employees work with on a daily basis and how it might affect them in the worst possible scenarios is a crucial step toward ensuring they are protected from these dangerous variables.

Setting Up Safety Nets

If you’re not setting up safety nets for your employees, one of the consequences you might be forgetting is potential financial ruin in the wake of a lawsuit. This could come by neglectfully putting employees in danger, but also by not hiring the best talent because you don’t have a reliable and trustworthy safety net in the workplace — and that’s not including the potential for legal recourse from governing bodies, as most industries have strict safety laws depending on the profession. For instance, this year FedEx was ordered to pay someone $5.3 million for mishandling a job injury complaint. Inevitably, workplace injuries happen, and it’s an HR professional’s job to figure out how they can be best prevented.

The most popular kind of protection that places of business establish is workers’ compensation (also known as “workers’ comp”). Workers’ comp is necessary for the wellbeing of employees, but don’t forget that it helps employers as well. While it makes the former feel safer about coming to work, it is put in place to ensure that employers don’t have to deal with reputation-damaging consequences or lawsuits.

Of course, establishing the right kinds of safety regulations for your particular work environment can be a difficult task. What if you miss something? For this reason, some HR teams hire Health Safety specialists to check deeper into these things, including individual job duties and where safety oversights might be occurring before a problem happens. Through their inspection, businesses can better prepare, compile, and implement important safety net programs. Additionally, they sometimes offer prizes and incentives for such a thing, as seen in this rate-based incentive program from 2008 from Walter Scott Energy Center.

Opening the Doors for Communication

As we have already established, it’s HR’s job to be in the know about potential dangers, including allergens. Additionally, it’s their job to listen to employees, hear their concerns, and take action to address them. Employees make a company go round and are the cogs in the machine that allow their peers to pay the bills. More than anyone else, they need to be heard, or else the machine will stop running.

Here are some ways that you can ensure the employees at your place of business are being heard:

  • Making time for open, one-on-one discussion while you’re in the office.
  • Establishing an HR e-mail inbox designed to take complaints and requests from employees.
  • Setting up an anonymous suggestion or concern inbox.
  • Making a list of all concerns and bringing them up at scheduled meetings with other HR representatives or company heads.

If you are able to establish an open environment, the attitude of your work environment will be more positive for both employees and employers. After all, studies show that a positive work environment brings out more productivity. The willingness to work with employees to build that environment, including listening to them, protecting them, and serving them, will not only help create a safer work environment but also train and build a team that is equally dedicated to keeping the workplace safe.

In Conclusion

Every work environment is different, but the need for safety standards applies to all. To ensure you’re putting the right employee protections in place, speak with your employees, walk a mile in their shoes, understand and address their concerns, and consider the tasks they undertake every day. With the right safety nets and a culture of communication, you’ll foster a work environment that’s both safe and healthy.