Yesterday I had the opportunity to check out a session by Chester Elton on Building a Culture of Belief to Drive Results. It’s a great topic, and it pulled from the concepts in All In, a book I reviewed a while back. Check out the short video below and some of the tweets from the session. Great stuff!
People in good organizations know the what and how of the work. The people in great ones also know WHY. #SHRM14
Before I jump in, I realize that there is some cost associated with everything. My love of economics doesn’t allow me to get away with the idea of a “free lunch” without mentioning that; however, I’m talking about increasing the perceived value without increasing the direct cost of the various options offered. Hang with me, there’s good stuff to share.
My first SHRM 2014 session focused on benefit communication best practices and was presented by Mary Shafer at ADP. Here are nine tips, ideas, and concepts for improving your benefits communication.
What’s the key to crafting a communication plan? Understand your objective and your audience and communicate with multiple media.
If you want to increase the perceived value of an item (your benefits package), you need to help the customer (your employees) better understand the offerings and how they can help them to achieve their life goals.
Think about targeted, timely messages. As an example, “Hey, it’s two months until the end of the plan year. You still have some of your FSA funds remaining. Here are a few ideas for how you could utilize those funds before they expire…”
Talk in laymen’s terms, not HR-speak. Think about someone in your life that might have trouble understanding the message, and make sure you could explain it to them (a teen, parent, grandparent, etc.).
Mix up the media you use–email and/or brochures are not the only options! Consider postcards, posters (bonus tip: include QR codes for smartphone scanning), mailings, video, podcasts, text, external websites, or even social media.
Use employee stories (with permission) to make the options personal and help others relate. Maybe a new parent talking about how the maternity benefits helped them, an employee who utilized the short term disability coverage, or someone who transitioned to a high deductible plan and realized cost savings.
Be sure to measure, refine, and follow up. Results are the key here, not just activity.
Pro tip: use short one minute videos to answer questions in an FAQ format and post them internally for employees to access. Not sure how to start? Imagine an employee calls you with a question about their benefits. Now, consider your response to that question. Take a few moments to write down some key thoughts, then shoot a video of your response (or just record the audio as a podcast, if you’re video shy!). That is all it takes! Do five to ten of those, then post them. As you get other frequent/recurring requests, create more of those short snippets to help answer questions.
So, what has worked for your organization? How do you communicate benefits to your staff? Are any of the suggestions above of particular interest to you?
Recently I was talking with a friend about recruiting, and LinkedIn came up. I mentioned my success with the tool, and that led to some discussions around how to use it, what to do, how to connect, etc. In the video below I go over my tips for how to use a free LinkedIn account to recruit like a rockstar.
In the video I cover three key areas for the newbie or the advanced HR pro to take advantage of LinkedIn for recruiting.
Searching LinkedIn with Google using the site:linkedin.com operator
Crafting a connection message that people want to respond to
Leveraging new contacts’ connections for referral purposes
Have you used LinkedIn for recruiting? What has been your experience? Any other questions I could answer?
Intuition, awareness, or whatever you want to call it–it’s a critical skill if you want to be a successful HR pro. I’m a fan of examples to prove my point, so let’s dive in!
Seeing the needs of new employees
Recently I was helping to onboard a new group of employees. We had won a new contract and needed to pull the new folks into the fold ASAP with no downtime or issues.
The “standard” HR practice would be to gather all of the employees in a single place, give them a speech, hand out paperwork, and wait for it to roll in. However, that’s not how I handled it.
Instead, we sat down with each individual employee. That meant the entire exercise took approximately 10 times as long; however, there were some conditions that I had examined that told me the one-on-one would be more beneficial across the board. Here’s where that intuition/awareness/whatever comes into play.
They were coming from a “big company” employer that didn’t treat them as individuals or as highly valuable.
In my one previous meeting with the group, there were a few people who felt their concerns were not addressed for one reason or another.
Our history had always been that of a high-touch HR function, and this was the first chance to prove it.
I knew that with contracts like these, the people were going to speak freely more often if it was a private conversation than if it was in a group.
In the end, that was definitely the right answer. Each person got to spend some individual quality time talking about their hopes, concerns, and other thoughts.
Developing your intuition muscle
This is one of those skills that is more difficult to develop. Some of us are just more aware of our surroundings, the considerations of others, etc. However, I believe it’s possible to learn to be more intuitive and aware of the things going on around you. Here are a few tips for making that a new focus:
Especially in situations like the one depicted above where there will be many “first impressions” all at once, take some time to consider what impression you’re giving. How you interact is how they will expect the rest of the company to interact as well.
In your day to day, think about how others will perceive and process what you have to say. Even if it doesn’t change what you say or how you say it, understanding how to predict the responses of others is critical for someone in this role.
Once you have started honing your intuition skills, start sharing the insights with other managers and staff. For example, when I learn about a new policy rolling out affecting specific employees, I let the manager know generally what to expect from some of the people who might not respond well to the changes. That helps them to prepare for the response as well as making them more likely to rely on that advice again in the future, especially if it prevents an employee relations headache!
What are your thoughts on this? I think intuition is a highly valued, yet relatively unknown, skill for HR pros to develop and maintain. Have you seen others value you for your intuition and insights? How did that play out? I’d love to hear your story.
Last week I was watching the local Best Places to Work event, and I couldn’t help but think about benefits and the role they play in helping an organization become a “best place” to work.
As companies around the world vie to recruit – and retain — employees across a multitude of positions, locations, and demographics, one of the key elements to consider is the slate of benefits offered, what portions the company will support financially, and how they will be administered.
The Knowledge Gap
If I asked you to walk out of your office, select a random employee, and ask them what benefits your company offers, how would they respond? Now, take a moment and think about what your actual benefit offerings are. The contrast between the employee response and what is actually offered is a knowledge gap, and the best solution to that problem is education.
Anger in itself doesn’t constitute a hostile work environment
Friend: My boss is kind of a jerk, and he’s breaking the law.
Me: Really? How?
Friend: He makes this place a hostile work environment.
Me: So he’s discriminating against others illegally?
Friend: Well, no, but he makes it uncomfortable to work there. He’s unpleasant, angry, and unpredictable.
I had this exchange with a good friend of mine recently, and the person was so convincing in the discussion that I had to go and look up “hostile work environment” one more time to be sure I was correct. Thankfully I was, but I thought it would be a good reminder to share the key pieces of the law that apply to that specific type of discrimination here.
What is a Hostile Work Environment?
In laymen’s terms, it’s an environment where a reasonable person cannot carry out the functions of their job due to some form of illegal discrimination that is occurring. Remember, all discrimination is not bad. That word has taken on some baggage in recent years, but you should discriminate on a daily basis.
The discriminatory behavior needs to be illegal, and we’re all pretty familiar with the categories that are protected under the law. And just in case you need a refresh on that, I have included the actual verbiage from the EEOC below to remind you.
What the EEOC says about a Hostile Work Environment
Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).
Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.
Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people. Source: eeoc
One last reminder
I ask one thing from you. If this was a good reminder for you, if you didn’t already know this, or if you just think this will be helpful to someone else, please forward this to them! The more people we can educate, whether it’s fellow HR professionals or our management staff, the better off we’ll be. :-)
I like data. I like reviewing it, pulling out trends, and sharing insights. I also like when I get the opportunity to ask others what they like and get some anonymous feedback, because I believe that anonymity helps to improve the quality and quantity of responses.
Recently I was listening to a podcast, and the speaker mentioned offering a confidential survey, which he felt was more valuable than an anonymous one. I had to stop and consider the differences, and I realized there certainly may be times when offering confidential surveys can beat offering anonymous ones.
Types of surveys
Anonymous-Anonymous surveys collect information and aggregate it without leaving a “trail” to find the specific participant
Confidential-Confidential surveys collect information but tie the response back to a unique identifier for each participant. This allows a third party to follow up if need be on specific answers.