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Staying Diligent

During this holiday season, let’s show our team that we care for them by getting ahead of the COVID curve. I know that we are all suffering from COVID-fatigue, but now is NOT the time to get lackadaisical in our protocols. 

 

We at HR Synergy encourage you to go beyond the law and CDC guidelines as pertains to workplace safety and COVID-19 to maintain a safe workplace and avoid more shutdowns.

 

The country-wide 7-day moving average of COVID-19 cases is at its highest since the beginning of October. (Prior to the emergence of the Delta variant, the country-wide 7-day moving average of COVID-19 cases had not been this high since early February.) (In the CDC graph, the blue bars show daily cases. The red line is the 7-day moving average of cases.)

 

In addition to the rise of COVID-19 rates, we are in the cold and flu season. Be aware that your employees might be tempted to come to work sick as there the Federal Employee Paid Sick Leave has ended. Currently, 25 States have added paid sick leave for COVID pay, requiring employers to pay employees absent for COVID related reasons and receive credit through their state tax filing. Unsure if this applies to the state you’re operating in, check here.   

 

Let’s be mindful and conscientious, implementing the standards we were more diligently using at the start of the pandemic.  Employers have a responsibility to help keep employees healthy and prevent the spread in your workplace by mitigation risks, regardless of vaccination status.  

 

Suggestions:

-Implement testing protocols that conserve employee privacy

-Require masks

-Encourage social distancing

-Clean and disinfect all hard surfaces 

-Encourage regular hand-washing 

-Make hand sanitizer readily available 

Continue to allow remote/on-site employees (hybrid model) 

As an individual you can do your part to mitigate spread as well. If you haven’t already, receive your vaccine and/or booster shot. When indoors, wear your mask. Outdoor gatherings with social distancing are still a safer choice when available. Let’s do our part to stay healthy and reduce the spread this winter.

If you are unsure how to navigate these decisions and communicate with your team the how and why, HR Synergy is happy to help you. Click here to contact us.

Grateful and Thankful

Tis the season for thankfulness. Let’s show our employees and favorite non-profit organizations our gratitude. How can you show your employees appreciation and retain them in return? Research shows that companies should perform self-reflection and attend to employee retention with as much energy as typically used for recruitment and hiring. Retaining current employees through engagement and internal promotions is better and cheaper than hiring new employees. An average turnover costs about 20% of an employee’s salary for non-senior positions and costs up to 213% to fill highly specialized, senior level positions. Therefore, to continuously rehire due to high levels of unexpected turnover means great financial burden on the company.
It is no surprise why employees are leaving: the annual salary increase for the average employee being about 1%, incentive programs lacking, and companies not pivoting to support the growing number of remote employees. Explore the worth of retention initiatives.
Show employees your appreciation by listening to how they feel their job is going; don’t wait until it is too late during an exit interview. “Stay interviews” are a proactive, informal tool to gain employees’ unique perceptions of their work environment, giving you a chance to retain them. Their answers will show if they are looking for career growth or happy with what they’re doing. Use their responses to make appropriate changes to encourage them to remain with your organization. While you might not always like their responses, their feedback will ultimately save your organization money, power, and time. Feel free to modify these “stay” interview questions to best fit your specific organization and specific employees.

More Than a Round of Applause for your Employees

It’s time to think about how to re-engage and reignite your employees as they come back to the office for work, because, according to the Prudential Pulse of the American Worker Survey, 43% report their choice to stay at their current jobs depends on how employers maneuver reentry. Incentive programs that reward and recognize employees for their contributions are a great start. As you develop appropriate incentives, remember that some workers are hesitant to return to the office due to enjoying remote work and/or public health safety concerns. You should consider, at least short-term, offering flex-hours or a hybrid work structure to accommodate changes in family commitments and public health fears. In a Paychex survey, employees reported team morale dropped from ⅔ to less than ½ due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is time for HR to modify incentive programs to balance employees’ new wants, improve morale, and reduce unemployment and job jumping. Employee incentive programs should support transformational experiences and help professionals to become their best selves. 

 

What do your employees want for incentives? Ask them directly, then modify the perks accordingly. Remember, it is not a “one-size-fits-all” answer, by being flexible and innovative, you will retain happy and productive employees. While cost may seem prohibitive, research shows successful incentive programs result in an increase in weekly profits. “The Harvard Business Review reports that 40% of employees would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more.” Specifically, effective safety incentive programs should pay for themselves, realizing savings on compensation insurance anywhere from $2 to $10 on every dollar spent. As you’re developing an incentive program, don’t forget about traditional incentives: generate open communication between managers and employees, send hand written recognition notes, pay for lunches, create social media recognition posts, maintain a positive company culture, and lead relationship building experiences (see “Summer Outings” blog for ideas). Make the workplace fun again, while increasing productivity.

 

Taking the “Risk” out of Risk Management

 

Risk management means identifying, assessing  and controlling threats to an organization by  distinguishing the hazards that others miss and taking action to reduce the risk. Risks are unexpected, harmful events that cost an organization money, events such as accidents, cyber-attacks, data-related risks, financial uncertainty, IT security threats, legal liabilities, natural disasters, and strategic management errors. Crisis management must be deliberately controlled, especially during this time of the digital revolution. A way to manage risk is by designing and implementing a risk management plan.

We recommend all employers/businesses have a risk management plan outlining the procedure to identify, avoid, and control potential threats in order to minimize their impact, while reducing extra costs later. A quality risk management plan supports the organization’s goals by generating a secure work environment, lessening unnecessary insurance premium costs, protecting your most valuable assets (employees) and company assets from damage, reducing legal liability, strengthening stability of operations, and tapering issues that impact “human capital risks,” such as employee success.

An effective HR partner, risk management team, and executive leaders work together to manage risks by managing culture. They locate potential risk in three areas: hiring and retention, employee turnover, and professional fraud. Who you hire can be a source of risk with possible negative consequences. Some tips to include in your hiring/onboarding process:

  • Conducting reference and background checks as part of the hiring process is important and can help an employer identify a risk before hiring an employee.  
  • Once hired, provide all employees with an employee handbook outlining clear expectations, company policies and procedures. 
  • Employee turnover can result in loss in time and money, approximately ⅓ of the employee’s annual salary.   It’s important to hire slowly to ensure you have the right fit for the team and the organization.  
  • It’s important to manage conflicts and maintain company culture to increase retention. The timing of when an employee leaves your organization could tell you where improvement is needed. If employees leave within 10 days of employment, assess your interviewing and onboarding processes. If employees are leaving after a month, reevaluate new hire training. Leaving after a couple months may mean you should examine the employee’s manager. 
  • Compensation and benefits may be the reason you are losing employees after a year. 
  • Understanding the “Fraud Triangle” to head-off occupational fraud. The Fraud Triangle is a model commonly used in auditing that aims to explain why an employee decides to commit fraud in the workplace.  For example, when an employee has a personal financial problem, privately solves it by breaking company rules and violating financial trust, and then justifies their violations. An organization decreases professional fraud by establishing company compliance culture by implementing an anonymous reporting system without fear of retaliation, enacting random automated audit systems, and instituting clear policies with firm consequences. 

In order to determine an organization’s risks, HR audits should be conducted. “Risk assessment is at the core of every audit.” To build a quality audit, take client’s risks into consideration prior to conducting audits. Don’t just “go through the motions” of an audit. Link procedures to a risk assessment to reduce over-auditing and increase efficiency of the audit. Modify standardized, third-party procedures to address your client’s specific risks. Keep in mind as you develop your audits that significant risk is not limited to fraud. Lastly, tailor audits to each client’s needs. Following these steps will help you create a strong audit and reduce risk in your organization.

Embrace Workplace Diversity and Thrive

There are similarities and differences in all facets of your employees’ lives. Diversity in the workplace is more than racial differences. Common aspects of diversity include, but are not limited to: accent, age, disability, ethnicity, family status, sex, gender identity/expression, introvert vs extrovert, language, neurodiversity, physical characteristics, political preference, race/color, religion/belief/spirituality, sexual orientation, veteran status, and weight.

Our recent work-from-home (WFH) global shift creates space for more diversity in the workforce, as people who were unable to work in a traditional setting are now being included, which strengthens your organization. WFH naturally removes location bias and increases an organization’s geographical diversity, which can broaden diversity in age, culture, ethnicity, gender, mobility challenges, race, and sexual orientation. Instead of focusing on hiring those who “fit” your company’s culture, shift to a “culture add” mindset; look for potential employees who expand your company’s outlook.

Prejudices hamper growth, while diversity fights unconscious bias. Ultimately, embracing diversity in the workplace allows organizations to develop creative solutions that relate to our diverse world. McKinsey’s research shows that ethnically diverse and gender-diverse companies perform 35% and 15% better than peer companies, respectively. Fostering an inclusive, diverse organization improves company culture, employee retention, and engagement. Increased employee engagement can lead to collaboration, communication, and ultimately company success. As employees with a variety of skills work together, they generate innovative ideas that are productive, progressive, and profitable. A diverse workforce’s insights into a range of clients and their needs helps your organization thrive. Ultimately, this appreciation of your customer base improves employer brand and global reputation.

Does your business/organization have a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) plan? A quality DEI encompasses diversity in work styles, characteristics, and experiences that set employees apart. Your organization needs to learn how to leverage these attributes in conjunction with your business objectives. A team composed of individuals with diverse attributes, insights, and work practices will be more prosperous.  However, DEI is not a one-off training; it is continuous education that evolves with your employees and organization. It takes years to build a strong DEI program and there are specialists who can help you. HR Synergy encourages you to reach out to these specialists to create and implement your company’s DEI plan. 

If you are unsure how to navigate more diverse hiring practices, HR Synergy is happy to help you. Click here to contact us.

Smart Summer Safety

Be smart and keep your workplace safe and fun this summer. Workplace summer safety includes preparing for weather-related disasters and preventing heat-related illness. As an employer, it is your responsibility to train employees on severe weather plans and provide necessary emergency supplies. See the “Natural disasters and weather workplace preparedness” graphic below for information about how to train your employees for earthquakes, floods, heat, hurricanes, lighting, tornadoes, and wildfires.

While OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) does not specifically have federal regulations to maintain a certain workplace temperature, the General Duty Clause, sections 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires a work environment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” The recommended temperature range is 68-76°F and humidity range is 20-60%. Be aware that California, Washington, and Minnesota each have heat-stress standards that you must follow if conducting business in these states.

Certain jobs and locations put employees at greater risk of heat-related illness. At-risk jobs include agriculture, construction workers, emergency response, indoor employees in bulky clothing using heavy equipment, landscaping, oil and gas operations, transportation, and utility. At-risk locations that need reduction in heat via air conditioning and ventilation include but are not limited to boiler rooms, chemical plants, commercial kitchens, factories, food canneries, and laundries. Be especially mindful when the heat index risk level is moderate or higher; see the chart below for heat indices and protective measures. More than half of heat-related employee deaths occur within the first three days on the job. As employees return to work after COVID-19 kept them away, employers need to provide safety refreshers and time to acclimate.

Implement a heat-stress program to educate employees how to prevent, recognize, and treat signs of heat-related illness. To prevent heat illness, have employees drink a cup of water every 15-20 minutes. Require frequent breaks in the shade or air-conditioning. Encourage or provide employees to wear appropriate attire, such as hats, light-colored and light-weight clothing, breathable/wicking clothing, ice-packet vests, and heat-reflective attire. Allow them to work during cooler, less humid times of the day. Ask employees to download the OSHA’s heat safety tool on their phones. Use the chart below created from the CDC guidance to recognize symptoms and how to treat heat-illnesses.

Another factor to consider this summer is that wearing masks can intensify heat-related illness by trapping hot air and making it difficult to breathe. Be mindful of those that continue to wear a mask, whether by choice or necessity. With preparation and clear policies, you can keep your employees safe, while enjoying special summer perks.

Summer Outings

It’s time to change up the office routine and enjoy some summer-time fun in the workplace! 

  • Plan activities that take advantage of the summer weather allowing employees to step away from their computers. 
  • Organize activities personalized to your employees current interests. Keeping in mind not all may want to participate and ensure activities will not create a liability for your company (ie. allowing alcohol)

A good outing engages employees at the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels. Emotional activities help connect employees to their job and your organization’s values. Activities that engage employees on the emotional level give opportunities to get to know your employees on a personal level. Help celebrate work/life balance with mental-level activities that stimulate the mind and spark creativity. The last level to consider for activities is the spiritual level, where employees work together towards a shared responsibility. Fitting activities to consider are: 

  • Ice cream social
  • Lunch out
  • End of workday family visit party
  • Work walking groups
  • Outdoor patio gathering
  • Park outing
  • Cook-off
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Company softball/kickball game
  • Attend a sporting event
  • Break-room games
  • Hike
  • Boat cruise
  • Kayak/Canoe/Tube
  • Go-kart race
  • 5K race event
  • Volunteer at a local school
  • Work in a community garden
  • Mentor students

The focus of summer activities should be to unite your employees, not make them feel excluded or uncomfortable. While creating and implementing meaningful company experiences is a time investment, it is balanced with the benefits of more productive, engaged, and loyal employees. With preparation and clear policies, you can keep your employees safe, while enjoying special summer perks.

The Importance of Workplace Wellness Programs

Workplace wellness is in the forefront of your employees’ minds. You can RETAIN and ATTRACT employees with holistic wellness programs. Especially now during the pandemic, 90% of millennials want training on their mental, physical, and financial health, aka integrative health benefits. Employee stressors impact your bottom line. Whereas, connecting employees and your business’s mission through initiatives empowers your employees, raises engagement, improves productivity, and can lead to retention. Integrative health benefits are a key to attract new employees and are a major factor in retention for 56% of employees. Healthier employees over six years also correlate with up to 75% greater stock appreciation. Bringing integrative health benefits to your employees gives you a return-on-investment (ROI) by reducing days lost per year to illness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), every $1 invested in employee mental healthcare, gives a $4 return in productivity (via reduction in healthcare premiums and absenteeism), over a 400% ROI.

Keys to develop successful integrative care:

        1. Hybrid offerings
        2. Eligibility/voluntary EAP (employee assistance program)
        3. Streamline access
        4. Inform

It is important your business’s integrative care is accessible, streamline, and transparent. Including digital and physical integrative care through a hybrid model during this time of increased work-from-home employees is important. It is crucial to include full-time and part-time employees as well in the programs. You can provide services to part-time employees, employee’s family members, and employees under different health plans through a voluntary employee assistance program (EAP). Over half of Americans have misconceptions about what benefits and programs are offered, specifically mental health care. You want your employees to be able to easily access and use the programs offered through a single platform. Incentive programs and wellness challenges are a wonderful way to educate employees on offerings and about the platform itself. Have the employees use the platform itself to track their wellness challenge points. To increase visibility, have employees include a link to the wellness platform in their internal email signatures. Incentivize participation by offering health-related prizes, like money added to their health spending account.

Employee Wellness Challenge Ideas:

    • Stair Challenges: bell at top for encouragement
    • Walking Challenges: step number or distance
    • Habit-Building Challenges: water consumption, sleep hours, mindfulness
    • New Hire Exploration Challenge: organizational culture, important locations
    • Nutrition Challenges: healthy free group lunches, “accountability partners”, live/virtual nutrition webinars/seminars
    • Financial Wellness Challenges: education
    • Sustainability Challenges: personal health and environmental health
    • Charity Challenges: monetary, item, volunteer time donations
    • Vacation Exploration Challenge: encourage use of PTO
    • Social Challenge: community-building virtually/live

In order to build your wellness workplace, you need to plan, allocate, and execute. An effective plan requires employee buy-in. Once you have earned that, determine how everyone will track their initiative activity and determine what workplace improvements fit with your organization. Through a survey and initial biometric readings, chart the most pervasive health risks and access employees’ ideas for office enhancements. Next, decide leaders for your initiatives and for your workplace enrichments. Implement the wellness challenges and workplace improvements. Lastly, create and utilize a tool to assess employees’ health and wellness advancements due to your wellness program.