Many companies require departments to issue RFPs for new business software systems, often when the cost estimate exceeds a certain dollar amount. Unless there are legal requirements that mandate an RFP process, consider these ten reasons why you should research alternative acquisition options.
- With today’s internet, gathering competitive information on products and vendors couldn’t be easier. Why bother with an RFP or RFI if the goal is information gathering?
- Many vendors, as a matter of policy, will not respond to RFPs, believing there is already a preferred vendor in place. Your well-intentioned RFP could inadvertently be excluding qualified vendors.
- RFPs tend to unnecessarily prolong the vendor selection. If you already have a preferred vendor or two, focusing on them will save time and generally produce a quality choice.
- Vendors want your business and will often lie or exaggerate their capabilities in RFP responses. Researching vendors and engaging them 1 on 1 will provide a more honest assessment. It’s easy to lie or stretch the truth in a written RFP response, but much harder to do so when asked face-to-face in a presentation.
- If the ultimate goal of an RFP is to gather competitive quotes from already screened vendors, consider a less formal RFQ. You will save time and generate the same desired result.
- RFP questions are often all over the map, intermingling true requirements, nice-to-haves, and even completely irrelevant questions. Nothing discourages prospective vendors like entire sections where they must respond in the negative. If you must issue an RFP, stick to your known requirements, and consider an RFI instead.
- If you are considering releasing an RFP for a new system, chances are you already have a qualified vendor in mind. Why muddy the waters with several new and often confusing proposals when you already have confidence in your first choice.
- Consider researching and selecting a short list of vendors and go straight for demos, circumventing the Q&A process. RFP decisions are almost always made after the demo. So head straight for the presentation/demo. You will save time, and likely make the same selection.
- In most business software categories, there are usually one or more “safe bets” — older reputable companies with large install bases. You have heard the phrase “No one was ever fired for choosing xxx”. There is a reason they have that level of reputation, so why not make that safe bet?
- If your department has a requirement to issue an RFP for purchase of systems above a certain threshold, consider finding a qualified solution that falls within that cap. Even though a cheaper system may be lacking in some functional areas, they may simply be “good enough”. You may just look like a hero by saving your company time and dollars.
Every employee loves incentives and rewards and they can be part of the tools that help keep engagement with your company. They can come in the form of cash bonuses, salary increases (and/or promotions) or prizes (tangible gifts). Generally, incentives are considered more like the carrot on the stick – achieve management’s stated goals and you receive the gift. Rewards on the other hand may be given ad hoc after an employee performs well above expectations, without any awareness of a potential recognition.
So which method can potentially help management achieve peak performance from their employees? In this blog we will only consider positive awards. Negative incentives (threats of termination or demotion, for example) will be saved for a future blog. And we aren’t talking about traditional holiday bonuses.
Let’s take a look at some of the various incentive options that could trigger an award, and the recommended award types:
Meet stated goals
Not recommended unless the team as a whole is well below plan/quota
Exceed stated goals
Yes – can be ongoing
Raise or bonus
One-off performance contest
Yes – occasional
Bonus or prize
Top producer for a period
Yes – ongoing
Special activity – e.g., best new idea, charity work, etc.
Yes – occasional
Recommends a new hire candidate
Yes – when candidate is hired
Unexpected performance above & beyond
Yes – as one achieves this designation
Bonus or prize
Random lottery game
Yes – occasional
Bonus or prize
How did I select specific award types depending on the activity?:
Permanent, used for rewarding ongoing or longer-term success.
Cash is king. When the achievement is one-time and high-value to the company. Everyone likes cash.
Fun, different, unexpected — when the employee’s special performance doesn’t necessarily impact company performance, and the award impacts general morale.
Many companies have a policy of posting available positions internally prior to seeking candidates in the open market. There are many advantages to this policy for both the organization and current employees. For employers, hiring from within can save time and money (i.e., recruiting fees). Additionally, the company already knows the potential internal candidate, lowering the risks of hiring a seemingly qualified candidate that was better at interviewing than actually performing the job at hand.
Recruiting from within the organization also shows employees that they have opportunities for growth within the company, helping to minimize the loss of quality workers that may feel unimportant or otherwise stagnant in their current role. Employees that are bored or generally not satisfied in their position are a clear flight risk.
It is common knowledge that training new hires is far more expensive and time consuming than training current employees.
So why not hire/promote from within? For one thing, it generally leaves a resource gap in the employee’s previous position. Stealing from Peter to feed Paul, as they say. For another, it can create animosity with the worker’s current co-workers, who may feel overlooked or forced to take on their colleague’s former responsibilities.
It is common knowledge that college educated persons are more likely to earn greater incomes during their careers than those without a degree. And there are certainly many lucrative careers that don’t require higher education. Plumbers, electricians, construction workers, and similar often don’t attend college, but rather have degrees or certifications from specialized vocational schools. For these workers, they have achieved the necessary higher level of education beyond high school to meet their career aspirations.
But what about high school graduates that, for various reasons, do not pursue college or other advanced education? The reasons for not continuing education are many:
- Financial constraints – though there are many low and no cost options, including community college and public universities, low interest loans, scholarships and grants, military service, work-study programs, etc.
- Family constraints – such as the burden of caring for small children, aged or sick parents, or other issues that bind the potential student to home – and night school may not be feasible.
- Poor or underperforming students – for instance scholastic underachievers who may require additional tutoring or other private services in order to qualify for minimum college acceptance standards.
- Language issues – foreign language speaking students lacking proper English Language Arts skills.
- Opportunities that don’t require college – such as entering into a family business.
- Lack of motivation or belief that one is not “college material”.
The last bullet is key to potential employers. When presented with a potential hire that appears to have the necessary skills, but lacks a college degree, employers are likely to dig into the candidates reasons for not pursuing (or not finishing) a degree program. Likely it will be some combination of the above reasons. The problem for the candidate is to not make excuses, but rather prepare reasonable and legitimate explanations, while firmly demonstrating the equivalency of their “life experiences”.
Many businesses occasionally (or even frequently) require the services of part-time and/or specialty contract workers. Workloads may be seasonable. New projects require talent that is not currently available on staff. The business cannot find qualified permanent employees. Whatever the reason, sometimes the company must hire 1099 workers.
1099 workers generally consume fewer HR resources because they are provided with fewer benefits, and they are paid without tax and other deductions. Generally they are not entitled to holiday pay, or any PTO pay. However, their hourly rate (or fixed base pay) is usually higher than their coworkers performing the same or similar tasks.
Here-in lies the potential problem. What if the 1099 “employee” actually works full-time and truly functions essentially as a full-time employee, particularly if the worker has been with the organization for many months, or even longer?
In other words, is it acceptable to judge an employee’s performance on activities that occur outside of the office, even if those activities include disparaging the employer? Though laws and policies are different in different states and jurisdictions, the question is still valid.
It may seem obvious that employees (and really everyone) should not compromise themselves in any way online, but the facts show otherwise. People simply do dumb things all the time and post them for all to see. In reality, anything posted online in a publicly accessible page could be considered fair game to anyone else who decides to use that information freely.
What if the employee is posting a job search on LinkedIn? Is it reasonable that the employer’s view of the employee be impacted one way or another? Management may decide to cajole the employee with a positive review (and associated bonus). Or they may prefer to cut the cord and let the employee go prior to him/her actually resigning. In employment-at-will states, employers don’t even have to give a reason for dismissal, as long as the termination is not violating other laws such as discrimination.
The great majority of new employees are hired for a specific role within the organization. But in many cases new hires (and tenured workers) may be exposed to other functions they were not initially called on to perform. For instance, a payroll clerk may be called upon to handle some related employee benefits tasks. Or a shop floor worker, who has been trained on a particular discrete machining job, may be needed to temporarily substitute for another, absent employee.
Certainly employees, who are multi-faceted and can readily handle new challenges, are a tremendous asset to their employer – and to their own personal career aspirations. However, some employees may relish new responsibilities while others don’t.
Whether a company provides formal, structured training, or encourages learn-as-you-go on-the-job training, unquestionably employee training and education is good for business. But what happens when employees are pulled out of their comfort zone to handle unfamiliar duties? Unfortunately this occurs in companies large and small. “Fire drills” arise at unexpected times (hence the moniker “fire drill”). Unless a company has the ability to hire short-term temps to fill in the resource gaps, the situation quickly becomes “all hands on deck”.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article on the new trend towards open office environments – no walls, no cubicles, and no privacy. The argument towards better collaboration and team spirit may or may not justify this almost draconian office design concept, depending on your point of view. Certainly any drastic change in your office design is going to garner at least mixed reviews and varying levels of acceptance.
In that last blog I suggested as an alternative offering employees the option of telecommuting if their functional role would lend itself to working remotely. Unfortunately not all jobs can be performed from home, but many can, at least occasionally.
So let’s explore the positives and negatives of telecommuting. First, can you check all of these eligibility boxes?:
- Your work substantially is conducted on the phone and/or computer
- Your work is generally conducted outside of the office anyway (i.e., sales or service)
- Home computer work does not violate company security policies
- Face to face meetings with managers and coworkers are infrequent or can be scheduled when you are in the office
- You don’t require access to physical documents (file drawer stuff)
- Management does not tend to micro-manage staff
Would you hire a highly skilled and experienced prime HR candidate for the price of an entry level clerk? What if your new employee is guaranteed to:
- Save the organization valuable time and dollars
- Resolve HR cases faster
- Free up other HR resources for more strategic work
- Guarantee consistent adherence to company policies/procedures
- Increase employee satisfaction
- Electronically archive and manage all HR case history
- Assure adherence to government regulations
- Automatically generate and distribute valuable analytical reports
- Track patterns of issues & resolve them before they fester
Additionally, what if your new hire will:
- Work 24/7/365
- Never take a day off
- Never complain about anything
- Require no paid benefits
- Will do everything you ask (within the job description)
- Never make a mistake
- Do all of this – guaranteed
Interested? Meet LBi HR HelpDesk 6.0, your new superstar. LBi HR HelpDesk is your loyal and dedicated partner, dedicated to helping you build and maintain a successful HR Shared Services operation.
Or not? There is a current trend in designing new office spaces around a wide open concept, in extreme cases providing seats at long contiguous tables in lieu of individual desks. The days of semi-private cubicles may be numbered. Partitions of any type are becoming scarce in many companies, even for managers and some executives.
In complete contrast, back in the 1980’s when Microsoft moved its corporate headquarters to a brand new campus in Redmond Washington, virtually every employee was provided with a private office — 4 real walls and a door (and a window for the lucky ones). And how did that work out for Microsoft? That’s in the history books.
Now companies like Facebook and others are literally breaking down the physical barriers and counting on greater employee engagement within the organization. In fact, Facebook’s headquarters is the largest open office environment in the world (see picture).
Having an HR Help Desk is great for answering employee questions, resolving issues, and running analytics on what is actually happening in the workforce. But frankly, when you think about it, all of these benefits are more reactive than proactive.
HR Help Desk captures in real time the good, the bad, and the ugly in the day-to-day work life of the company’s employees. The question becomes then, how can I anticipate issues before they occur? As we have discussed in previous posts, analytics are a tremendous help but they are still based on past (albeit very recent) actions.
The answer lies in survey tools. There are many very good web-based survey apps, but products such as LBi HR Help Desk already include one. LBi’s HR Help Desk includes a free survey utility that provides admins with the capability to create custom surveys and associated reporting on the collected data. Admins can create and modify surveys at any time. New surveys can be posted then removed and replaced after reports are run, or data is extracted for use in analytic engines.
The prominence of big data’s role in business has been growing steadily over the last few years. Today, it has reached every area of business, creating even a new name for data-driven companies — the “quantified organization.”
And HR has been no exception. In fact, the concept of people data has created a huge buzz, expanding ideas of what HR thought was possible with solving issues such as employee engagement, recruitment, retention, and more. But with all the scraping and storing of scores and scores of data, companies have run into a new conundrum — putting that data into action.
However, 2016 has seen new hope for the application of big data in HR. Deloitte University Press recently reported that the percentage of companies that feel ready or somewhat ready to use this data in people analytics jumped from 24 percent to 32 percent this year — one-third greater than last year.
Why all the hype? Sierra-Cedar reported in its “2014–2015 HR Systems Survey Results” that organizations with an environment of data-driven decisions have a 79 percent higher return on equity than non-quantified organizations. So it’s no wonder that businesses are beginning to look for the tools and methods that will best put their invaluable stores of data to work.
We’ve been talking a lot about our LBi HR HelpDesk 6.0 update, and for good reason. It’s the most powerful HR case management solution out there, and its many improvements were designed to make your life easier.
Because that’s the whole point of an automated HR case management solution, right? To streamline the process and mitigate the hassle, freeing you to focus on talent management and your employees to focus on their work. Unfortunately, so many help desk software solutions complicate the process and exacerbate the headache. They employ inefficient design and interfaces that do anything but lighten your workload. Even with our HR case manager, we saw room for improvement, and so we created LBi HR HelpDesk 6.0.
As we listened to feedback from our clients, we realized that one of our main improvements would be user experience and accessibility — for both HR and employees. Why? Every time someone logs on to LBi HR HelpDesk, we want them to be able to find exactly what they’re looking for quickly. The interface and design should be user-friendly, enabling users to complete tasks efficiently and come away from the whole experience with a general sense of enjoyment and ease. Joy and HR reporting? Yes, it’s possible.
Many would say never, ever. What about the employee engagement factor? Much has been written about the benefits of employee engagement to the organization. It is widely accepted that increased communication between employees and management improves overall performance. Whether the communications involve grievances, general working environment, work-life balance, or general topics, getting employees active and involved with the business is proven to benefit all.
Let’s face the facts; business is most certainly going to be impacted one way or another by the upcoming presidential election. Never has the country been so divided in terms of the direction the US will take over the next 4+ years.
So what could be more stimulating in the workplace these days than a lively discussion of politics? Not a drop-down dragged-out battle between hardline ideologues, but rather a civil (if that is at all possible) conversation and debate about the current and future state of our country. To paraphrase a common statement, as the country goes, so goes the business.
Everything from health insurance reform to global trade to taxes to immigration impacts virtually every business in one way or another. And considering the vast differences in policy between the major presidential candidates, now more than ever it is important for the workforce to come together and weigh the potential impact on the business, and by extension our own personal lives.
In my business, responding to RFIs, RFQs and RFPs are a part of my daily work life. If you want to win the business, you must accept these requests as a mandatory function during the sales cycle.
20 years ago, questionnaires focused almost entirely on the business application up for bid; features, functions, bells, whistles, and the like. Technology questions primarily centered around the technology platform – Windows, Solaris, SQL Server, Oracle, web vs. client-server, etc.
In today’s cyber security threat world, IT has essentially commandeered the process, and now RFPs are often heavily weighted on security questions. Frankly, many recent RFPs that have crossed my desk barely touch on the relevant and in-demand application features, in favor of addressing IT Security issues. In a few cases, it has been hard to find the actual application questions buried in one of many Excel tabs (worksheets).
Over the past decade, employer reviews of social media accounts rose by around 500 percent, according to a CareerBuilder survey. Employers report using social media to investigate potential new hires and to communicate with — and check up on — existing employees. While the practice of involving social media in the employer/employee relationship is still being debated, if you do decide to review social media, you might not want to take every post into account.
Social Media Isn’t a Complete Picture
Brands today know that social media isn’t a complete picture of any person or company. A single joke made in poor taste or a photo of a night partying doesn’t actually tell you much about a person’s skills, work ethic or overall personality. Instead of reacting to single pieces of content, look for a pattern or trend that would be concerning for your workplace. If you refuse to hire anyone who has at least one questionable social media post, you’ll have a hard time finding any candidates.
A mentorship is an excellent way to help a new employee learn the basics of your company and its culture. No matter what size your corporation, start by introducing each employee to their mentor at orientation. The employee can then pose questions to the mentor during and after the onboarding process. After the onboarding process is complete, you may be interested in having the mentee shadow, regularly talk with, or be formally trained by the mentor.
The Role of Mentorships in Small and Large Companies
In small companies, mentorships bring together experienced employees and new, often younger employees. The relationship builds the bond between people of different generations and strengthens the connections within the company. It also allows operations to proceed more smoothly. In large companies, mentorships train new individuals who would otherwise get lost in the crowd. The mentor becomes the “go-to” person for the new employee, who might not know how to approach higher-ups and may not understand complex hierarchies. In both small and large companies, the mentor acts as a resource for the new employee. The mentor remains a stable, helpful guide who anchors them in place and makes them feel at home.
Labor demographics are changing rapidly, and as a generation, Millennials now make up the largest percentage of the workforce. As a result, this group has a strong influence on management practices. Smart employers are adapting to new ways of doing business in order to stay competitive. Those that choose to stick with traditional methods of attracting and retaining workers are quickly becoming obsolete, because they haven’t recognized that Millennials want much more than a simple raise in pay.
Flexibility: Work/Life Balance Isn’t Enough
To attract Millennials looking for their next job, it’s not enough to tout “work/life balance.” With today’s technology, most employees have accepted that they are always available by phone and email. Millennials are comfortable with a BYOD (bring your own device) culture, and they prefer video chat, instant messaging and texting to in-person communication.
Instead of work/life balance, Millennials want assurance that they will have flexibility in where, when and how they get their work done. Some are calling this “work/life blend,” in which employees are free to take a few hours for a child’s soccer game in the middle of the afternoon, with the understanding that they will catch up after the kids are in bed.
Most businesses grossly underestimate the true cost of turnover, and they pay the price when they allow strategic engagement and retention planning to fall by the wayside. Such initiatives are more than just good public relations. They create a culture in which employees stay with the company longer, are more productive at work and provide the priceless word-of-mouth and social media advertising that creates a high-quality employer brand.
Who Are Today’s Job Seekers and Why Are They Jumping Ship?
In a survey of more than 5,000 job seekers and 2,000 hiring managers, CareerBuilder’s 2015 Candidate Behavior Study made a startling discovery. Three out of four employees are open to or actively seeking a new position. While not all are sending out resumes during their time away from work, this figure represents the full extent of the population in danger of being wooed away by friendly recruiters looking for top talent through social media.
The study explored the impetus behind employees’ increasing willingness to take new positions. While the reasons vary from frustration with limited development opportunities to dissatisfaction with compensation and benefits, the underlying theme is low engagement. Employers are simply not offering the type of work environment and company culture that inspires staff members to stay.
Many of today’s businesses have multiple sites around the country and around the world, and telecommuting employees are less uncommon than before. Technology designed to bring employees together despite their geography isn’t new; however, the growing trend towards employing remote staff members has organizations looking at this technology in a new way. Tools that were once too costly to share with employees working from home offices are now more affordable, making it easier to connect remote workers and increase their engagement, regardless of physical location. Employers have more options now than ever to bring their virtual workers closer to the business.
Creating Personal and Professional Relationships
One of the primary drivers of employee engagement is the personal and professional relationships between team members. Frequent communication and time spent face-to-face builds trust, making teams far more effective. However, remote employees find developing these relationships challenging, as their primary method of communication is through email and instant message. In fact, one study determined that a full 81 percent of virtual employees consider development of rapport and trust within a virtual team the number one work related concern.
Fortunately, travel is no longer required for face-to-face meetings. Video conferencing technology is now so economical that businesses can offer the option to all remote employees without incurring significant expenses. Staff members find they can fully participate in relationship building with colleagues through daily use of video conferencing applications, and they are comfortable with the technology because it is now an everyday form of communication between family and friends.
Adding a Personal Touch
Increased use of inexpensive video conferencing, instant messaging and other forms of communication are proven relationship builders, but they can’t entirely replace the personal touch. Consider organizing regular in-person meetings, first when the team is formed, and then at least once a year. Spending several days together gives virtual colleagues an opportunity to develop solid personal relationships through informal interactions, which facilitates effective collaboration through virtual channels later. …Read More
Encouraging employees to continue their education can increase your company’s profits, improve productivity and create more committed employees. Spending around $680 on education and training per employee returns an annual investment of around 6 percent, according to a study from the Association for Talent Development. Give your employees the tools they need to succeed by helping them choose the best options for their education. Here’s how to get started.
Create an employee action plan
Before talking with employees about their education goals, determine what type of support the company will offer. Consider implementing a tuition reimbursement program, paying for books or supporting specific degrees or areas of interest. Businesses that can’t afford a tuition reimbursement program but still want to support their employees’ education can offer a flexible schedule for classes and study time.
Next, sit down with your employees individually and figure out an education action plan that benefits both the company and them. Ask your employee to draft up a proposal of what type of courses or degrees would benefit their career and how they expect it to fold into their day-to-day responsibilities while helping them grow professionally. Create guidelines for how time away from work will be handled and whether employees must pay back fees if they stop taking classes.
If your employees seem unmotivated, they might be in a slump. Only 30 percent of workers in America are actively engaged in their jobs, according to a recent Gallup survey. The decline in employee engagement reportedly began in 2008 during the Great Recession, when job security and unpredictability were at the forefront of concern and positive attitudes plummeted.
Today, human resources departments understand more than ever that rewards and recognition can play a key role in helping businesses increase productivity and create an overall happier workplace.
Reclaim your workforce by implementing an innovative rewards program that includes compensation, gifting, recognition, and perks. Here are a few ways to get started!
Keeping top talent has become an increasing concern for HR, and it’s a challenge that’s expected to get more difficult, according to SHRM and others. Yet all too often, it’s only after the fact — during the exit interview and maybe not even then — that managers learn why departing employees are disgruntled.
“The only time the average manager thinks about retention is when she or he receives a resignation from an employee,” say B. Lynn Ware and Bruce Fern in their research report “The Challenge of Retaining Top Talent: The Workforce Attrition Crisis.” “We also found that most managers predictably attempt to talk departing employees out of leaving, trying to convince them that they are making a mistake.”
Have you ever noticed that you feel different when surrounded by nature or when there are plants nearby? New research conducted by the University of Exeter shows that employees are happier and up to 15 percent more productive in work environments with plants than in environments without any greenery.
Green Is Good for Productivity
Academics from the University of Exeter, the University of Queensland, Australia, and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands carried out a long-term experiment comparing employees in two large commercial offices in the UK and the Netherlands. They monitored one office with plants and one without plants and measured employees’ perceptions of air quality, workplace satisfaction, concentration and productivity levels. The results show significant increases in all three areas of employee perception in the work environment with plants and a 15 percent increase in productivity. Researchers believe that the plants help employees to be more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work.
There are some office configurations that are simply more conducive to productivity than others. A 2013 survey of 42,000 office workers by the University of Sydney found that open-plan spaces — those that have employees seated in large spaces without walls separating them — lower office productivity and morale. Researchers concluded the lack of privacy, personal space and perpetual noise were the biggest factors in lowering productivity.
These results contradicted the industry-accepted idea of open-plan spaces benefiting work environments. They also showed that the layout of your office can make all the difference between a distracted staff and one that is content and comfortable, and thus productive. Here are three additional ideas to help create an environment that boosts morale and subsequently, productivity. …Read More
Guests at our HR Tech booth had fun playing Plinko for a guaranteed prize (vibration speakers, ear buds, USBs, water bottles…) and a chance at four Chromebooks and four Kindles.
The hottest prize at the booth was the vibration speaker — a cool gadget that magnifies the sound of your smartphone via vibration (no bluetooth); we had a lot of fun giving those demonstrations.
Our booth theme was HR HelpDesk Rated “E” for Everyone – HR HelpDesk, our innovative Case Management software, comes in four versions for organizations of varying sizes.
The E also stands for:
- Employee Engagement
- Efficient Case Management
- Easy Sign up – no credit card required for free trials
- Encompassing Pricing
- And any other “E” word our marketing people could come up with.
We also generated some buzz on twitter at #EforEveryone.
We live in the self-service era — self-serve check-out lines, pay at the pump, YouTube do it yourself videos… I just fixed my mountain bike by watching a YouTube video on how to adjust the disc brakes. It is just faster to do it ourselves. I didn’t have to drop my bike off at the shop and waste any time. Also, there is a bit of a self-esteem lift involved when you fix it yourself. Recently I fixed my garage door opener by ordering a $10 part and watching a YouTube video. (Although when I started it I did not realize the video was “1 of 5” and it would take me 8 hours to do it. But time management will be saved for another blog post.) The key was even though I wasted a tremendous amount of time, I felt good that I had fixed the door by myself.
An HR Knowledge Base can contain all types of employee information — benefits guide, code of conduct, policy information, PC FAQs… It is more than just an online Employee Handbook. The key to a knowledge base is the information that allows the employee to easily find answers to their questions. So properly indexing the knowledge base is essential. The knowledge base should have search engines that allow an individual to type in a question. It is much more than an FAQ.
A good knowledge base and supporting tools can empower your employees to find the answers to their questions themselves. This both saves HR time and engages your workforce.
The best thing about computer technology is instant access to information any time, anywhere. Smart phones and tablet computers are a godsend in today’s fast moving world. Don’t agree? Just ask Siri or Skyvi (Google’s version of Siri). Now you can find a movie, a restaurant, a gas station, plumber, or anything else you need with just a few taps of the screen.
Pew Research estimates 58% of American adults have a smart phone, and 42% have a tablet computer. Clearly smart device owners understand the power at their fingertips and are realizing significant productivity gains, at least in the category of personal time management. So it stands to reason that mobile information access would provide similar benefits in the workplace, right? For instance, an HR self-service app that delivers virtually instant answers to all of a worker’s employment-related questions, right on their PC, phone or tablet? Well, this is true…if the content is comprehensive and the search tool is simple to use.
The combination of case management and self-service technology gives employees the power to answer their own questions and take care of many of their own HR and benefits tasks at a time of their choosing and from their own desks — or even from home. Employees are increasingly expecting their online interactions at work to be as easy and personalized as their online consumer experiences. Online workplace applications — including HR programs — are now considered table stakes for businesses of all sizes to reach and support their employees.
This means that by implementing these solutions, the company is also giving time and resources back to HR. Fewer HR hours need to be allocated to answering employee questions and managing routine paperwork. And that means more time and resources to focus on strategic business tasks and planning.
Studies show that the right self-service system, like that in LBi HR HelpDesk Pro and ProPlus, can accurately address and resolve 80 percent of all employee inquiries. This is particularly significant for SMB organizations that are still operating with a traditional HR department and a manual case management system or resolution process.
Wikipedia describes at-will employment laws as follows:
“At-will employment is a term used in U.S. labor law for contractual relationships in which an employee can be dismissed by an employer for any reason (that is, without having to establish “just cause” for termination), and without warning…[and] an employee may be similarly entitled to leave his or her job without reason or warning.”
Like many well-meaning HR policies, at-will laws in practice may be a double edged sword. On the surface at-will regulations appear to be beneficial for the employer and employee, though with some negative implications.
An employee can quit with no advanced notice, freeing the departing worker to “jump ship” Friday afternoon ready for the next new career move the following Monday without skipping a beat professionally. After all, it is the employer’s prerogative to immediately dismiss the resigning employee whether or not they offered the traditional two week notice. If this were to occur, the employee could potentially have a costly time gap between the old and new job. So why provide any notice at all?
HR departments in small to medium sized organizations share the same employee issues that occur in large enterprises; the only difference being the volume of problems HR is confronted with. Labor disputes, morale problems, productivity issues, compensation inequality and more, are the bane of HR departments both large and small.
As one well known technology company proudly articulates, “There’s an app for that”. And there is. But until now case management software solutions explicitly developed to address the privacy and confidentiality requirements of HR have been out of reach for the SMB market due to the generally higher cost factor. Lower cost IT help desk and sales/support focused CRM systems, even Excel spreadsheets and simple email public folders, have long been considered “good enough” for smaller HR departments, and for some companies that is certainly true.
However, what happens when that emailed ticket declaring an employee’s sexual harassment accusation is inadvertently (or intentionally) BCC’d or forwarded to unauthorized eyes? This breach of confidentiality can be extremely costly for any sized organization.
Are 360 degree employee reviews particularly more or less fair to the employee? Let’s start with defining the 360 degree review process. 360 degree employee performance reviews encompass comments from the employee’s managers and peers, customer feedback, HR statistics such as patterns of absences and late/tardy occurrences, as well as actual performance measures.
Additionally, some companies monitor their employee’s social media sites, looking for more clues into their overall impact on the organization. Some reasonable weight is assigned to each of these processes in order to assess the total picture of the employee’s value and contribution to the business.
Seems fair and complete, right? Well they certainly can be, as long as the proper weight is applied to each component of the review, and subjectivity is minimized. For instance, an employee may have achieved 100% of his MBO’s, but for various reasons is not viewed favorably by his/her peers. Does that really matter in the long run? Another employee might have successfully completed all of his projects on time and within budget, but management was quietly expecting more cost cutting measures, though not openly mandated. Is that fair?
Traditional employee reviews focus primarily on performance compared directly to assigned objectives, with additional consideration given to other mitigating factors such as general employee attitude, leadership qualities, attendance, etc. But 360 degree employee reviews take a truly holistic approach and effectively become the “balanced scorecard” of employee reviews.
We’re not here to say HR technology has ignored the small and midsize business market. If we did, we’d be cut to ribbons in a heartbeat. A Google search I just did for “HR technology for SMB” returned 29.7 million results. HR technology vendors have targeted the SMB user with cloud-based software to handle everything from recruiting and onboarding to performance management, time and attendance, career development and compensation.
Until now, however, no one has offered the SMB market a fully featured HR case management solution the way SMB companies really want to buy software — which means going beyond offering Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). That’s become table stakes.
Doing more for SMB buyers starts with offering free trials, just as SMB users expect from all kinds of other SaaS products. So LBi is offering LBi HR HelpDesk to the SMB market with free trials — including a free-forever trial for companies with fewer than 100 employees on the system.
Life is full of sad realities. One is that the SMB market has been vastly underserved by the HR technology industry. There’s one very simple reason: Despite the glut of cloud-based HR software, HR technology vendors have until now largely failed to sell products the way small and midsize businesses want to buy them. (For the record, we’re talking about companies with 2,000 or fewer employees.)
For starters, the HR technology industry has traditionally failed to let the SMB user “try it before you buy it.” They certainly haven’t wooed the SMB buyer with free trials like they offer to the enterprise customer. We concede that until now, we at LBi Software have been as guilty of this as our competitors, especially when it comes to our flagship solution, the HR case manager and call-tracking workflow system, LBi HR HelpDesk.
That’s a shame. HR leaders in the SMB market until now have never been given the opportunity to determine, without pressure or hassle, whether an HR technology solution could really benefit them (assuming, of course, other motivating factors also fall into place — factors like pricing and having an easy purchasing process).
Call us crazy, but we think HR buyers in the SMB (small and midsize business) market have been overlooked for too long. We believe HR technology vendors — including LBi — have failed to sell products the way SMB users want to buy them.
We think we’ve set things right.
LBi Software is proud to offer the SMB buyer HR HelpDesk, a fully featured yet affordable HR case management and call-tracking workflow solution. Of course, the powerful and robust enterprise edition of LBi HR HelpDesk is a highly configurable system that offers complete integration with HR, ERP, and email systems; advanced document management; options for on-premise hosting and licensing, or hosting on a dedicated server (for maximum security); single-sign on; corporate branding, and more.
But now we’re giving HR leaders in organizations with up to 2,000 employees the opportunity to launch a cloud-based version of LBi HR HelpDesk as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and start using it right away. And we’re doing that in a way that’s hassle-free — consumer-friendly access with no obligation to buy and a simple, one-step purchasing process.
LBi Software is pleased to announce that it has completed an expansion of its headquarters to over 10,000 square feet at 7600 Jericho Turnpike in Woodbury, NY. LBI Software also recently reached the 50 employee mark. In the last 18 months LBi has grown by over 30%! This expansion is to support the upcoming new offering of our flagship solution LBi HR HelpDesk.
The office expansion included new offices, new workstations to support 3 monitors per developer, meeting rooms, video games and a Ping Pong table.
View the slideshow:
Before starting down the path of developing an RFP, it’s crucial to understand the ultimate goal of the journey. Not all RFPs are released with the objective of finding the best and most robust HR case management solution for a company’s needs. Other business goals for an RFP include:
- Finding the lowest-cost solution to meet the most nominal requirements
- Surveying the marketplace and gathering information for a future purchase
- Collecting ideas and information for building a system in-house
If the above is your reason for considering the RFP process, then please don’t.
A 2001 Gallup poll found that Americans who are obese or have chronic health problems cost their employers an estimated $153 billion per year in lost productivity. As the prevalence of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronic health conditions continued to rise from 1999 to 2010 (and beyond), employers are looking for ways to keep their employees physically fit. The best employee wellness initiatives are those that motivate without harming morale.
Promoting Healthy Body Weight
Obese and overweight individuals are more likely to take sick days, require more doctor visits and experience difficulty performing efficiently at work, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An effective strategy to encourage weight management is to have a friendly interoffice competition. For example, departments might compete against one another to see which can log the most exercise minutes, steps walked per day or pounds lost (following a group weigh-in, so as not to put pressure on an individual). Tying performance to monthly rewards such as an office party, financial benefit, or flex time is a great way to increase motivation.
Is work-life balance a myth? No, it just has different meaning and implications for different cultures. In the United States there is a trend towards encouraging employees to find a healthy medium between work hours and personal time. There is a widely held belief here that a happy employee is a productive employee. In some industries, employees are required to take all of their allotted paid time off. Others sometimes discourage long vacations greater than one week at a time. But today we are recognized as the most productive nation on Earth, though that belief is rapidly changing.
What about other countries and cultures? Certainly workers in China, South Korea, Japan and India, as well as other countries, are considered very productive. However, in those cultures generally work comes first, and sometimes to the exclusion of family and personal life. Disconcerting stories such as those coming from the Chinese factory Foxconn, are all too common. At Foxconn, employees often work seven days a week, eat in common cafeterias, and live in crowded dorms, though they rarely complain. On the contrary, many employees there are proud to work hard and strive for a solid middle class existence, which otherwise might be unattainable.
In these cultures, children are taught from an early age that hard work and personal achievement is the root of success and happiness. Anything less is considered shaming to the family. In school, “A” is the new “B”. Nothing less than “A+” is acceptable. Just look at the winners in the annual Intel Science and Siemens Competitions. They are consistently represented by a disproportionately large number of foreign born or first generation American students, often from Asian and Indian countries. It is truly hard to argue with success.
The percentage of employees that are contingent is quickly growing. Currently 18% of the total work force is contingent. Some are predicting this to rise to 50% of the Fortune 500 workforce! HR software and HR software vendors must be prepared to support this growing contingent workforce. Furthermore, this contingent workforce needs to be just as engaged as traditional full-time employees. We need to get the most from our employees whether they are permanent or contingent.
Contingent workers are not permanent employees and they know it. Depending on their contract or agreement with the firm, continued employment is always in question, as is the ability to move to a higher, more permanent position.
A contingent workforce may provide many benefits to the organization, such as helping to fill temporarily needed positions during uncertain times of unpredictable growth. But once those workers are in place they need to be properly managed. It is critical to understand that the disposition of contract workers is much different than the attitudes of regular full-time employees. Are they loyal to the company? Can they be trusted with confidential information? Are they at least as productive as regular workers?
The features of an automated HR Case Management System – from resolving cases faster and easier, to empowering self-service – can help create and heighten employee engagement.
For example, an HR case management system designed to serve HR keeps a record, instantly available, of every employee transaction. With just a couple of clicks, an HR team member has access to the entire history of a case. The employee doesn’t need to restart the process if he or she needs to follow up on a case. It’s obviously more efficient for HR, and it’s also an effective tool for heightening employee engagement. It shows employees that the company cares enough to handle their concerns quickly and knowledgeably – it brings consumer-like service to the world of HR.
It’s true that an HR case management solution is only one piece of a comprehensive HRIS solution. HR case management lives under the big umbrella of software solutions that help streamline the whole spectrum of HR management system functions, from benefits administration, to time and attendance, to performance reviews and succession planning.
Yet all of the pieces within an HRIS share two overarching goals: to help HR professionals manage their workforce more efficiently and to empower employees. Just as with a full-platform HR management system (HRMS), you also want an HR case management solution that will increase HR productivity by automating administrative processes and supporting HR on a strategic level.
Help Desk systems have become mainstream solutions in virtually every aspect of business operations, including Customer Support, Salesforce Automation, IT Support, HR Support, and more. Though there are many similarities in these applications, it is a keen understanding of the inherent differences that can make or break a successful deployment. Selecting a product that falls short of expectations in just one or two key areas can lead to time delays, as well as wasted (and potentially very costly) financial and personnel investment.
Never has this been truer than in selection and deployment of a new HR system, particularly HR Help Desk. For instance, a lack of privacy features in the help desk system can breach confidentiality agreements, potentially risking expensive and time consuming legal actions.
A well designed HR system, built explicitly for HR, will plug all of the security holes that may exist in some non-HR centric applications. We invite you to take this simple test below and score your current system against the best solutions, such as LBi HR Help Desk 5.0.
Give yourself 5 points for every question you can unequivocally answer “Yes”.
Recent research from British law firm EMW paints a distressing picture of employee data theft. EMW found that cloud computing makes it easier for employees to take enterprise data when they leave, and that court cases over theft of business information increased 56 percent from 2011 to 2012. Adopting “bring your own device”, or BYOD, in your business can leave you vulnerable to employee data theft when staff move on. Accept this, then take steps to minimize your risk.
What’s at Stake if an Employee Walks
When an employee leaves, he carries with him knowledge of your products, services and workflow. Employee laptops and phones will have enterprise and client emails, strategic information, work documents and other data. Since employees may leave for a variety of reasons, every policy should take this into account. Employees who transfer to another office or take a medical leave may need to keep business information, while those who resign, are laid off, or are fired should not keep data.
Recently I closed one of the biggest contracts of my career. The last key piece that sold it was “our employees”. During one of the sales meetings the prospect’s CFO said something profound – “after all, it is not so much about choosing Company A over Company B as it is with being comfortable with the people from Company A”. The CFO liked the team that presented the solution but he wanted to be assured that the team that will execute it was just as good. So I sent him the name and bio of everyone who would be assigned to the project. We then followed that up with an in-person presentation of all the team members. The next day we got the contract.
Phone, email, text, instant message (IM), in person? Unfortunately, many younger workers have grown up in a world where face-to-face (or even phone) communications are not deemed necessary in order to interact effectively with others. The nuances of verbal communications have given way to graphical emoticons and cryptic acronyms. Why bother interpreting visual or audible cues when there is a Smiley face for that?
Have we forgotten about the importance of body language and vocal inflections? In the animal kingdom virtually all creatures converse, not with the written word, but rather by sight and sound. And they apparently are quite successful at it. If sophisticated communications within species through visual and audible means is the product of millions of years of evolution, what does that say about humans and texting? Is this really the next phase in our evolution… or not?
Almost every organization has a formal, written Mission Statement. These statements have at least two primary purposes — to clearly state long-term corporate goals, and to generally set the guiding principles by which employees conduct themselves internally and with their customers.
Mission Statements are top-down mandates that every employee must follow in their daily professional lives. Often it is the responsibility of HR and middle management to monitor (formally or otherwise) their employees to ensure adherence to corporate policies, including those broad principles detailed in the Mission Statement. So how can “the mission” be efficiently monitored day to day, week to week, and beyond, particularly in larger organizations?
This past summer three of my favorite TV shows ended: Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Burn Notice. Each one was very successful yet only one remained on top until the very end. Why is that? Did the others lose their way or just ride out the series like a cash cow?
As far as the reasons behind the failures of Dexter and Burn Notice, they are a matter of personal opinion. Dexter clearly had jumped the shark and, given the series plot, it got less real with each additional microscope slide. As for Burn Notice, in my opinion, it tried to be like the competition and turned from a fun campy A-Team-like show to a lame spy thriller.
“The right tool for the right job.”
That’s been the advertising slogan for True Temper tools since at least 1907, when the Cleveland-based company was called American Fork & Hoe. The catchphrase is just as true today as it was then, and not only when it comes to forks and hoes.
Without the right technology for the right job, it’s highly unlikely any mission will achieve its optimal outcome. Sure, the job might get done. But at what cost? What will be left out or left behind? How much better could the job have been done with the right tools – with the benefit of software and a system, for example, uniquely designed to accomplish that particular job?
Guests at LBi Software’s HR Tech booth participated in a game to try to solve the puzzle of HR Technology:
Each player would add a piece to the puzzle and try to guess the message. The first correct puzzle guess won a Microsoft Surface and each correct guess after that was put in a drawing for a second Microsoft Surface. Participants would also win a prize for just playing: Kindles, iPod Nanos, ear buds, Amazon gift cards, 8GB flash drives and water bottles.
One of the hottest HR Shared Services products today is talent management software. Designed to manage the entire lifecycle of employee tenure within an organization, these solutions have become one of the most high-demand systems for corporations large and small. However, as they impact virtually every department within HR, from recruiting to benefits to payroll, etc., the decision timeframe for selection of the best-fit solution can be considerably protracted as many users are directly involved in the selection process. Additionally, the most comprehensive systems can be quite expensive, frequently requiring a longer term budget appropriation process.
For many organizations, the short-term solution is to continue with their current painfully inefficient paper intensive processes until a new system can be procured and implemented. There is, however, a viable alternative – LBi HR HelpDesk. As we have discussed in previous articles, HR HelpDesk is a productive and often necessary add-on to even the finest talent management systems, since HR case/ticket management is not generally a component of talent management suites.
For many years, large companies such as Microsoft, GE and others have rated their workforce on a bell curve system, which dictates how employees in a review period are ranked within their given group. More importantly, it limits how many can be ranked above average, and requires a certain % to be graded below average. Even if the entire team and every individual outperforms their goals!
The image below provides an example of GE’s stack-rank policy:
- Training and Development
- Succession Planning
Yes, the very best Talent Management systems are designed to handle the complete lifecycle of your workforce. They connect and manage all of the stages of the employee’s career within the organization. Cradle to grave, as they say.
Or do they? Is there something missing here? Absolutely there is.
Let’s talk about that cradle to grave analogy. Mom and Dad plan to start a family – Recruitment. The big day comes and the bouncing baby is born – Onboarding. Teach the little one how to walk and talk – Performance. Potty training, manners, and formal education follow – Training and Development. College and career aspirations – Succession Planning. The little one finally leaves the nest – Offboarding.
That’s it, right? Wrong. What about all those endless hours of issues, problems, questions and general conversations that you have with Junior through the years? Why can’t I have the car keys? Can you raise my allowance? Can I go to Miami for Spring break with the gang? I am really mad at my brother!
With all the hype created in the media for The Affordable Care Act, (aka Obamacare), it is critical for HR departments to communicate openly with their employees regarding any impact (whether positive or negative) on them financially or otherwise.
While some components of the law have already been enacted, many key provisions (and some of the most confusing) are set to begin in 2014. Because the press has had a field day covering the political football known as Obamacare, misinformation is bound to be created, causing tremendous FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). This fact has the potential to not only generate an unneeded distraction within the workforce at a minimum, but great anxiety and grave concern for their future at the other extreme.
This weekend my friend, an HR Department Head, asked me if he was being too hasty in replacing his legacy HCM system. After all, his entire department had invested so much time and money into it: learning the nuances, customizations, interfaces… So I asked him what was wrong with the current system. His response was that it does not do everything they want and it is too costly to maintain (expensive upgrades and annual fees). He predicted that the new software’s payback period was less than 3 years.
The use of HR technology to heighten employee engagement is still evolving. In some respects – and despite so much that’s been written about it – applying the features of HR and HCM technology to boost employee engagement is still in its infancy. But in other regards, the trend is already starting to become passé.
The practice of tapping into existing legacy HCM systems to drive employee engagement will soon be outdated. Here’s how Brandon Hall Group and The Starr Conspiracy put it in their recent white paper, The Future of HCM: 7 Trends That Every HCM Provider Needs to Know: “There’s one certainty within this uncertainty. These legacy HCM systems will all eventually go away forever. HCM players have taken novel steps to hasten the progress of this slow death.”
As with every other aspect of human capital management today, success increasingly depends on engaging employees. And that means HR must give employees consumer-like online experiences in their work life as much as possible.
Why? Two overarching reasons:
- HR has gradually and increasingly taken a page from marketing’s playbook. Savvy HR leaders today know the value of actively soliciting feedback about – and keeping abreast of – employees’ needs, wants, preferences, and concerns; developing relevant and actionable data from that knowledge; and responding accordingly.
- Also like their colleagues in marketing, forward-thinking HR leaders are aware of – and responding to – the shifts in employee demographics, social networking, mobile computing and connectivity, and online consumerism. Just like consumers, employees want increasingly to be informed, connected, and empowered.
HR technology that supports this trend – while balancing it all with privacy and security – fosters a more engaged, more productive workforce. An HR case management system that features an engaging employee portal, an accessible user interface, and unconditional security offers one big step toward treating employees as consumers. The results: a more engaged and more productive workforce.
In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, one fellow asks another: “How did you go bankrupt?” The man answers, “Gradually, and then suddenly.”
The same could be said of many of the most volatile, hot-potato situations you face as an HR leader. Even flare-ups that appear to come out of the blue — a breach of company policy that puts the organization’s brand at risk, a seemingly sudden lack of productivity in one sales department — are really just the straws that broke the camel’s back.
Authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman wrote in their 1999 bestseller, First, Break All the Rules: What The World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. If anything, that statement rings more true today than ever before. And it’s even more sobering when you consider the most recent findings from Modern Survey, the employee engagement measurement company.
Modern Survey’s Spring 2013 National Engagement Study found that:
- Disengagement among U.S. workers is at its highest level since the company began conducting its twice-yearly study six years ago.
- Just over 1 in 3 employees feel that direct managers and supervisors are “most responsible” for engaging employees.
- Nearly 1 in 4 managers are, meanwhile, unfamiliar with the concept of employee engagement.
So, when someone leaves your organization, odds are good that the relationship between that person and his or her manager had at least something to do with it. How would HR know what those reasons were? More importantly, how would they know in time to change the course of events? How might the problems that one employee is having with a manager be affecting other employees?
Throwing a wider net, what else is going on among your employees that’s not readily visible on the surface but that could nonetheless be causing employee disengagement and, ultimately, be contributing to their decisions to leave? To begin to answer that question, think of all of the personal and professional issues in any employee’s life that might cause them to reach out to HR.
In an enterprise organization, HR is going to be contacted about employee concerns ranging from complaints about their managers to questions about paid time off. Or employees may need help resolving difficulties over, say, getting medical claims reimbursed or their sales bonuses accurately paid.
We’re not saying any one of those concerns in and of itself would lead to employee disengagement or cause someone to quit. But what if you could see where the common denominators lie? What if you could compare the issues affecting disengaged and terminating employees with those of their colleagues, other business units, or the entire company?
A fully featured, automated HR case management solution with robust and accessible analytics, like LBi HR HelpDesk, gives you the power to look back among HR cases of disaffected and exiting employees to get accurate and timely insight into their concerns and to see how those metrics compare with similar reports for other groups. You can track the same metrics against performance and productivity to determine how trends among exiting employees are affecting the bottom line.
From there, HR can be a more strategic business partner and proactively suggest changes in policies or processes. With a system like LBi HR HelpDesk, you have the tools to help managers positively affect employee engagement and to generate greater engagement among more front-line workers.
To learn more about how an automated HR help desk can help HR transform data into better workplace performance and up its strategic game, download our white paper “Stay Competitive: Use Your HR Help Desk to Drive and Measure Employee Engagement.”
Image source: CallMe! IQ
You probably wouldn’t think so, but Helen Keller had some advice for today’s HR leaders. “The only thing worse than being blind,” Keller wrote, “is having sight but no vision.”
Today, HR leaders in enterprise organizations often have access to huge piles of data. It sits before them, a sight to behold, a mountain of data compiled from reports and analytics. But do HR leaders gain vision from what they see?
Does HR get perceptions of who their employees are and what truly matters to them? Do they get fresh insight into how to better support talent management and their organizations’ learning and development systems, or where the opportunities for positive change lie?
That kind of vision can come with the incorporation of an automated HR case management system into a talent management solution or a learning and development strategy. With that combination, the enterprise HR leader can support the employee’s entire life cycle, from onboarding through career development and succession.
Sure, an enterprise talent management system — like a good learning and development system — will show you an employee’s defined goals and the training they’ve completed. But will they give you insight into the employee?
What if you could look at an employee’s talent management curve related to his or her historical interactions with HR … and do that at a glance? What if you could compare how your high and low performers differ in their concerns about such personal, ground-zero matters as the use of paid time off, out-of-network medical coverage, problems with an immediate manager, or any of dozens of other potential red-flag concerns?
And what if you could see how cohorts compare based on pay scale, demographics, or business unit? Now you’re talking about having a vision of what your workforce is all about. You gain actionable insight that empowers you to respond immediately and act strategically.
This kind of analysis becomes increasingly important when you further consider such diverse trends affecting American business as the continued increase in spending on learning and a rise in the number of employees working remotely. High-performing organizations look at the entire spectrum of talent management and development through the lens of HR interactions.
A fully featured automated HR case management solution that provides robust and accessible analytics, like LBi HR HelpDesk, turns seeing into insight through real-time tracking of transactional data across every department and system. Logistically, it’s a no-brainer: The best systems, including LBi HR HelpDesk, integrate seamlessly into most HRIS software and talent development applications.
To learn more about how an automated HR help desk can help HR transform data into better workplace performance and up its strategic game, download our white paper “Stay Competitive: Use Your HR Help Desk to Drive and Measure Employee Engagement.”
Image source: Ecribouille
If you’re in a competitive industry (and who isn’t today?), you need to know with confidence that your organization’s benefits and compensation plans are helping you find top talent and retain your best performers. But with the increasing complexity of plan designs, and with the rapidly changing demographics of the workforce, how do you gain the level of insight you need to know if your benefits are, in fact, hitting their marks?
Even more important, how can you get that awareness before your top people become disengaged? How can you proactively suggest revisions to your organization’s plan designs? And how can you do all of that with staff reductions in HR that continue to linger even as the economy begins to recover?
Employees’ attitudes toward their benefits usually only get serious consideration when annual enrollment looms near, or during exit interviews. As for how employees feel about their salary and compensation, those attitudes are usually assessed only during formal salary surveys or, again, in exit interviews. Neither option is optimal.
A fully featured, automated HR case management system like the LBi HR HelpDesk can give you continuous, real-time insight into how your employees feel about their benefits and their compensation packages. It can capture and categorize inquiries about everything from medical plan reimbursements, to changes in pay rates, to concerns about beneficiary coverage. And it can guide HR decision-makers through case management best practices to be able to better support your organization’s strategic initiatives.
LBi HR HelpDesk, for example, creates a centralized, continuously updated knowledge base that’s integrated with case management; you can share information across HR and your business units. The obvious benefit is that inquiries are resolved consistently and efficiently. The less obvious but equally significant advantage is gaining information to help make forward-looking HR decisions.
LBi HR HelpDesk gives you insight into problems with insurance carriers and benefits claims, flexible spending accounts (FSAs), and more. You can learn how easy or difficult it is for employees to change personal information or coverage. You can also evaluate their use of, or employee concerns over, workers’ compensation and other workplace-benefits issues.
The bottom line is that the LBi HR HelpDesk offers powerful benefits and compensation reporting and analytics that give a complete historical view of the interaction between HR and employees. This can identify what’s working, what’s not, and where you can suggest changes.
If you don’t know the term, a “frenemy” is the friend whose words or actions hurt you, regardless of whether you believe that’s their intention. A frenemy is the friend you ought to get rid of, but don’t. Why? Because as the Urban Dictionary puts it, “they’re nice, they’re good … you’ve had good times with them … they’re good people that you can count on to bring you down again sometime in the near future.”
Sound like some of your employees? Do you think they’re not hurting you every day? Maybe you think that because they’re not consistently underperforming or causing you grief, they’re not steadily eroding your bottom line. They are. They’re hurting the company through their own middling performance and because of their impact on colleagues.
In its trailblazing research, The Gallup Organization identifies three groups of employees: engaged, not engaged and actively disengaged. We’d argue that a frenemy is already actively disengaged. Because with employee engagement, as in life, there truly is no middle ground. As Anakin Skywalker says to Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, “If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy.”
That includes the employee who’s on autopilot, the employee who’s along for the ride. That person, plain and simple, is a step away from becoming an “actively disengaged” employee.
And the damage wrought by a disengaged employee is staggering.
Curt Coffman, co-author of the Gallup-research-fueled books First, Break All the Rules and Follow This Path, describes the “actively disengaged” employee as a “CAVE dweller.” It’s an acronym for “consistently against virtually everything.” Coffman has written that, “Every day, actively disengaged employees tear down what their engaged co-workers are building.”
How much does that cost you?
Gallup research estimates that disengaged employees are costing the American economy as much as $350 billion a year in lost productivity. The organization’s most recent figures say 16 percent of the U.S. workforce is actively disengaged. That means slightly more than three of every 20 employees on your payroll are, at best, impeding the good of your engaged employees.
More to the point, Gallup says disengaged employees:
- Take more sick days and are tardy more often
- Undermine the work that more-engaged employees perform
- Cost each employer $3,400 to $10,000 in annual salary
- Miss deadlines and achieve poor sales
Indirectly, the cost of disengaged employees includes:
- Higher customer complaints, because disengaged employees become frustrated more easily and pass their cynicism and negativity to customers
- Turnover costs to train new employees when disengaged workers quit or influence colleagues to leave
Our last post shed light on three super-significant factors for influencing employee engagement in today’s shifting economy (trust, values and a purpose-driven mission) and where to look to discover employee dissatisfaction and concerns. The same solution — an automated HR help desk — can be leveraged to discover who your frenemies are, identify their concerns and recommend changes in policies, processes and management procedures.
You may not be able to turn a frenemy into an engaged employee. But you can point the ship in the right direction to keep other employees from becoming disengaged.
Image source: Roving Coach International
For a while, it seemed that American business was federally required to include something about employee engagement in every single human resources and talent management conference or publication. Then the recession hit.
Employee engagement took a back seat to nearly every other aspect of trying to navigate a successful business and do more with less. HR and its related operations were no exception. Then the economy began to recover — however slowly and unevenly — and employee engagement roared back as a hot topic.
Except now, the dialogue around employee engagement is more pointed and we have a lot more research to inform the conversation. What we’re all learning as a result is that most of what we assumed about what drives employee engagement was simply wrong.
For starters, didn’t we think that as the economy improved, employee engagement would rise? Wrong. In late 2011, an AON Hewitt poll of 5,700 global employers found that engagement levels through the third quarter of 2011 were about the same as the year before and were actually lower than in 2009 and 2008.
The report prompted one writer on staffing and recruiting trends to comment: “Unless employers change course and start listening to their employees, they may see a drop in productivity or increased absenteeism and turnover.”
But what do you listen to? How do you listen to your employees? These are the questions that are driving the new discussions around employee engagement.
Consider more recent research that included an empirical study of observations from 36,000 employees in 18 countries. This study identified three common denominators that, as the final report said, “give rise to a highly inspired group of super-engaged employees.” Those are, quite simply:
- A purpose-driven mission
We’d argue that those three factors should take any HR leader back to the same kind of questions we asked just a paragraph or two above. Where can you look to learn if your employees trust their managers and the company? How can you know if they respect and are aligned with the company’s values? What data exists to tell you if they feel they and the company are purpose-driven?
Look at it another way: Where can you look to see if employees are mistrustful, disagree with the company’s values or don’t feel they have a purpose-driven mission? The answer may be right in front of you. It may be in the tools and technology that HR has its disposal today, such as an automated HR help desk.
Think about it.
An HR case management system should be able to provide you with a wealth of insight into what employees are feeling and what they see as wrong with the company — from a complaint about a manager to a problem with the retirement savings plan. And a quality help desk will gather that information for you to mine while maintaining employees’ privacy and confidentiality.
Research shows employee engagement matters. Research also shows we know less than we thought about what that means. You can use all of the help you can get to help move the needle at your organization.
Image source: LRN ‘The How Report’
We’re pretty sure that in Lincoln, the new blockbuster movie about the sixteenth president of the United States, actor Daniel Day-Lewis never voices these words of wisdom attributed to Honest Abe: “Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.”
That’s LBi in a nutshell. We’re passionate about our work, dedicated to our vision and committed to our clients. We strive to be worthy of recognition. But receiving recognition is not why we do what we do.
On the other hand, like most any other business, when recognition comes our way, we’ll accept it — particularly when it comes from a source we respect. So on Valentine’s Day, we were happy to see we were featured in a post by Robin Schooling, SPHR, on her blog, HR Schoolhouse.
Schooling’s the vice president of human resources for the Louisiana Lottery Corp., an influential blogger and a social media expert. She’s also very involved in SHRM at the state and national levels. Her Feb. 14 post, Your HR Help for When They’re Joined at the Hip, speaks directly to one of the fundamental benefits of LBi HR HelpDesk. As Schooling writes, it gives HR powerful tools for “managing employee relations and service issues on a grand scale.”
Schooling’s post talks about the time she was in corporate HR and got a call from a frantic hiring manager. Five of the manager’s employees had just walked into her office, handed over individual letters of resignation, and “turned on their collective heels and walked out the door.”
As Schooling says, LBi HR HelpDesk has the power to help HR detect employee concerns and discontent before they can escalate and affect performance to that level.
“What are the trends?” Schooling asks in her post. “Are there potential looming issues that may arise based on what’s going on? That is what HR practitioners need to analyze.”
It precisely defines a key benefit of LBi HR HelpDesk. And we’ll gladly accept recognition for that.
Do employers have the right, whether legally or ethically, to monitor the private social network sites of their employees? Certainly employers may legitimately have full access to public-facing pages, such as an employee’s public profile on Facebook or LinkedIn, but what about sites that permit users to configure viewer access rights? In these cases, to ensure full uncensored access, employers must either be “friended” by the employee (or some similar method depending on the service) or be provided with their user name and personal password.
These legal and ethical questions will be debated elsewhere, but the question here for employers is how much value is actually derived from this information, and how it is relevant to the employee’s performance or professional relationships within the organization. Modern HR systems, such as LBi’s HR Help Desk, provide links to employee public social network pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and others. How HR actually uses the information may vary greatly from company to company.
Positive employee relations are critical to the success of most businesses. Logically, a deeper understanding of employees actions outside of work can only help HR effectively manage workers within the organization. Questions such as “is the employee seeking new employment” or “is the employee bad-mouthing his/her job or the company” are fair and reasonable to ask, and answers can often be found on social networking sites. Also concerns about unruly public behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, and other issues that can create negative workplace behavior are typically discernible on these sites as well. Employees are entitled to their privacy, but HR operations within corporations have the fiduciary duty to ensure employees are conducting themselves professionally and responsibly within the terms of their employment.
How social networks can extend the reach of the Human Resources Department
Anyone who thinks online social networking sites are just a passing fad needs to consider a few cold hard statistics. Facebook alone claims over 800 million users worldwide. That’s more than twice the total US population! It also happens to be more than the combined populations of France, Italy, Germany, UK, Ireland, Russia, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Austria, and Australia! Add in LinkedIn users, Twitter users, and users of other social networking sites, one can readily conclude that this is not a fad but rather a powerful and growing phenomenon.
It’s not unreasonable to assume that a majority of employees in any one company are already utilizing one or more sites to interact with their friends, family and coworkers. However, HR departments have yet to really integrate their current resources (such as employee portals and knowledgebase services) with websites like Facebook and others. Frankly, in recent years, most businesses have only attempted (some successfully) to tap into the vast marketing power of social networking sites.
Since your employees are already communicating with each other (and their peers in other businesses) via these services, why not embrace the movement and expand the capabilities internally? LinkedIn, for instance, is the #1 website for recruiters and headhunters. Facebook is best known for creating and promoting communities of people with like interests. Aren’t recruiting and building a sense of community key functions of HR departments? One of the reasons for Japan’s economic growth was that corporations recognized the importance of treating employees like family and as integral members of the organization. More workers in Japan than in any other country spend their entire careers with the same company. As any business executive knows, tenure equates to productivity, while high employee turnover can be very unproductive.
Human Resource departments most likely already have the business and personal email addresses of every current and many former employees. By tying employees’ Facebook and LinkedIn (or other services) accounts into the corporate account, the business can instantly create an environment for building relationships with employees, encouraging feedback, and ultimately fostering new and creative ideas that will make the company stronger and more competitive – not to mention drawing the interest of potential new employees and customers.
Though there are many online social networking sites, clearly Facebook and LinkedIn are the largest and most popular with business users. However, they have significant differences and are not mutually exclusive. Any business could (and arguably should) maintain accounts on both sites. LinkedIn is geared mainly towards business professionals desiring to share their work experience with others, in addition to maintaining memberships in specialized user groups. As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is the #1 internet destination for recruiters seeking qualified candidates for open jobs. LinkedIn users typically list their entire work history and core business strengths online. Users have an open profile which anyone can see, and generally a more detailed profile available to their approved connections. LinkedIn supports “Three Degrees of Separation”:
1st Degree – Your Connections
Two Degrees away – Friends of friends, each connected to one of your connections
Three Degrees away – Reach these users through a friend and one of their friends
It is easy to see how this can exponentially expand your reach.
Facebook is much more of a true “social” network. Users have profiles, which include both personal and professional interests. They can post pictures, videos, and other material for their “friends” to see. In Facebook, users can also show their approval of a specific post by “liking” the post. Facebook integrates with other services such as Foursquare.com to allow users to track their friends’ current locations, favorite restaurants, etc.
Understanding the features and differences between these services will help HR departments expand their services into the online social networking world. Corporate HR departments embracing social networking services can take a page from the Japanese philosophy in business,believing that “the sum is greater than the parts”. They can quickly begin to realize significant dividends in their investment, since the employees are already online and individually taking advantage of the services. Employees will be happier, more engaged in the overall business, and will truly feel they are a valuable member of the corporate community.
One of the hottest HCM business solutions today is Talent Management. At the 2011 HR Technology Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas Talent Management vendors outnumbered all other HCM vendor categories. Talent Management (TM) systems are designed to help companies manage the full life cycle of employees, from recruitment to onboarding to employee development to offboarding.
Unfortunately, what these powerful systems generally don’t do well is monitor individual employee satisfaction and general contentment during their tenure with the organization. Yes, the better systems manage performance and track employee growth; but what about confidential issues, employee disputes, embarrassing harassment situations, and other matters important to the employee but not on the radar of TM software?
Professionally and expeditiously managing these all-important events is in the dominion of the HR department, who may handle these cases very well individually while not necessarily recognizing potential patterns of employee issues. This is particularly true when specific HR representatives manage the help desk calls for specific locations. For instance, one company division or location prides itself on high employee retention while another similar facility struggles to keep the best workers. But what is the difference in these two similar business operations? They use the same talent management solution, the same HR system, and abide by the same HR policies. Additionally, management at the struggling location may not be able to pinpoint specific problems that are causing a higher degree of turnover.
So where does the answer lie? The answer can frequently be found in the history of employee interactions with HR personnel. However, without a system for collecting, archiving, retrieving and analyzing these interactions, it is virtually impossible to detect patterns of issues systemic within the organization that may lead to larger problems. Repeated questions about available Paid Time Off (PTO) days, dissatisfaction with company insurance plans, management disputes, work environment issues, and other potential red-flag cases cannot be uncovered by reviewing any individual employee record. Businesses need comprehensive HR Case Management software designed to filter through large databases of cases to recognize these patterns and understand the possible ramifications.
There are underlying common-themed personnel issues within an organization which can often directly suggest causes for more apparent concerns, such as employee retention problems, excess absences, or dips in productivity. Discovering those issues quickly and determining the potential consequences requires the right business solution – one that may not be found in even the best Talent Management systems. However, armed with the right information, management can put policies and procedures in place to mitigate problems before they become systemic. Automated Case Management Systems are designed to gather the right data points and provide exactly that type of powerful analysis.
When HR Help Desk / Case Management is incorporated into a comprehensive Talent Management strategy, the organization truly then provides the full lifecycle support for incoming employees, ultimately contributing to measurable performance gains. And the good news is the best Case Management systems, such as LBi HR HelpDesk, are designed to work seamlessly with both your HRIS software as well as the leading Talent Management applications.
In conclusion, for organizations planning to deploy end to end Talent Management systems, it would be prudent to evaluate the addition of an HR Help Desk / Case Management component to your solution map. Implementing an automated Case Management system will truly contribute to your project goals and add significant personnel performance benefits.
Providing employees with choices while keeping their confidentiality
Consider the evolution of terms referring to the traditional HR department. Initially there was the “Personnel Department”, which simply referenced employees as people. Next came “Human Resources”, further defining employees, albeit subtly, as business assets. The current term in vogue is “Human Capital Management”, essentially redefining people as revenue and profit generating business assets.
Unfortunately, though this transition of terms more accurately describes the role of employees in organizations today, it also tends to take the “personal” out of “personnel”. HR software business solutions have the potential to further reduce the close interaction between employees and HR staff. Just as interactive voice response systems virtually eliminate the need for customer contact with live support agents, so can automated HR support systems.
Automated HR Help Desk solutions are designed to minimize direct 1:1 personal contact with HR, which is both good and bad.
- Good – saves money, time, and frees up HR for other tasks.
- Bad – less personal contact with HR, potentially risking employee satisfaction issues.
However, solutions like LBi HR HelpDesk include a feature that allows employees to request their case resolution via phone, in person, email, etc., which provides the ability to create cases online but receive a response in person or other preferred level of contact. LBi HR HelpDesk also includes features that allow cases to be marked confidential and have them routed to specific representatives trained to handle special cases. Providing the ability to discretely submit a potentially embarrassing case such as a manager dispute or harassment accusation specifically to authorized senior HR personnel, and have the resolution process equally as discrete, truly supports the “Human Factor” in automated systems.
In organizations lacking an automated Help Desk system, employees are generally forced to make initial contact with one or more HR representatives whom ultimately may need to escalate their case to senior or properly trained personnel. This added level of contact risks employee privacy. Sometimes, just physically walking into the HR office can raise unwanted questions and curiosity among company staff.
In many help desk cases, such as simple PTO requests or tuition reimbursement questions, automated systems will speed responses to the employee, thereby saving valuable HR personnel time. Less unnecessary burden on the HR staff again supports the “Human Factor”.
The bottom line is the best automated systems provide employees with the greatest personal choice in selecting their preferred method of contact with HR, ultimately increasing employee satisfaction while providing the confidential interaction with HR that they deserve. From HR’s point of view, valuable administrative staff time is freed up to manage more strategic tasks. Not only is the “Human Factor” alive and well in the best Automated Help Desk solutions, it is the primary purpose for deploying such business systems. Systems such as LBi HR HelpDesk increase employee satisfaction and improve overall HR operations, ultimately driving improved performance within the whole organization.
The Year End process can be a complicated, highly visible one. LBi has created guidelines to smoothly manage this daunting process.
In a company’s Human Resources and Payroll area, there are a number of particularly time consuming processes that occur at the end of each year. These Year End processes are critical and can include:
- Imputed Income calculations
- Deferred Income processing
- Applying tax updates
- End of year bonuses
- Merit increases
- First payroll of the new year
- W2s and 1099s
- State Filings
Typically a team is created to manage the process. LBi has managed this process for several clients and has come up with a project methodology that helps the process run smoothly.
The first step in this methodology is the creation of a checklist. The Year End (YE) process begins by establishing task schedules and priorities. This enables the team to understand both the scope and the scheduling of events and is an essential first step in YE planning and project management. The checklist is used throughout the YE process to ensure that no critical steps are overlooked. After verification by the project stakeholders, the completed checklist is then used to build the Year End Calendar.
The YE Calendar of events expands the tasks in the checklist and incorporates dates and responsibilities. It is then used as a template for complete documentation.
The next step is to perform the required legal and regulatory changes as published by PeopleSoft or other HCM system, or requested by the company, to keep everything in compliance. These items are then added to the Checklist and Calendar.
The final step is to create a comprehensive inventory of all processes, customizations and ad-hoc reports. We identify all special queries required for “data cleanup” and balance adjustments. It is critical to include these ad-hoc reports and processes and productionalize them, as they are typically needed each year. We then assemble all the documentation and testing plans and results for SOX compliance and audit readiness.
There are four key steps in LBi’s Year End methodology:
1. Year End Checklist
2. Year End Calendar
3. Regulatory Updates
By following these steps, the seemingly daunting Year End process becomes a manageable project.
The technology explosion over the last decade brought us new and innovative ways to use the internet in our daily lives. The technological changes have conditioned people of all walks of life to the online environment as a resource for shopping, banking, job hunting and more. Online applications are now considered to be required for businesses to reach their customers and to support their employees.
Employee Self-Service (ESS) applications represent another step forward in the evolving internet-based services providing employees with access to information and company communications. Self-service programs can be executed over the Internet or a company’s Intranet.
Browser-based and integrated to the company HR applications, ESS provides 24/7 access to employees regardless of where they are, through the Internet or the company Intranet. This access allows for the verification of personal data and the updating of data as changes occur in the employee’s personal and professional life. The end result is data with a higher degree of accuracy and data that is current. ESS portals can be used to access personal and contact information, view paychecks, enroll and change benefit selections and more. Additional links added to the ESS provide access to 401K providers and to company communications and handbooks.
ESS systems offer features that meet the needs of the business, employee and industry with many functions seemingly appearing in several products. Internet-based payroll solutions, for example, facilitate cost savings by allowing companies to reduce resources needed to support the payroll function. Following are some of the features supported on ESS Portals:
Personal Data and Payroll: Review and updates of personal information is one form of self-service which allows employees to view and edit their own personal information. Companies can give their employees permission to review and make changes to their personal data (name, address, etc.), W-4 elections, and voluntary deductions, as well as view their payroll stubs and W-2s. Changes are then reflected in the appropriate HCM systems and the employee database reflects more timely and accurate information. Payroll information can consist of a mix of current information and payroll history.
Benefit Enrollment: The employee maintains information on plan participation and keeps track of benefits plans, performs cost plan analysis, budgetary projections, and tracks/reviews outside carrier reports. Benefits Open Enrollment gives employees the ability to check available benefit plan information and make enrollment changes. The company can provide the benefits manual online to help the employee understand the benefit selection process and options.
Time and Attendance Tracking: Electronic time sheets can dramatically improve payroll efficiency by allowing employees to enter and track their own work hours, paid time off and sick time. This is especially useful for companies with multiple worksites, a widely distributed sales force, employees who telecommute, or contract workers on location at other companies. With Time and Attendance Tracking using ESS electronic time sheets, employees enter their hours and worksite (if applicable) according to company defined categories. Then, they forward the sheet electronically to their supervisor who can approve it online. Electronic time sheets can improve accuracy and reduce handling time by 50% to 75%.
ESS Benefits and Savings
ESS can save time and resources associated with updating and maintaining employee data and company materials for employees such as handbooks and benefit announcements. For example, updating the employee handbook online eliminates the printing and distribution costs associated with a hardcopy manual. On the employee side, the information can now be updated in a more timely manner without utilizing HR resources. This is a win/win for both the company and the employee as the data is more current and the employee has convenient access without going through the HR department.
Self-service has great potential to support the decision-making process by allowing employees to perform “what if” scenarios to test decisions before implementing them. Employees can be given access to tools to try out various strategies for insurance coverage, benefits contributions, and other financial planning, which eliminates the need to request the information from HR or payroll.
ESS Long-term Benefits
When properly implemented, ESS solutions provide a positive impact for employees and employers alike. Employees appreciate the convenience and ability to control personal data, which can ultimately affect performance and retention. Within the payroll department, self-service eliminates paper shuffling and removes tasks that can be handled more efficiently by others. Communications to employees can be done via the portal, eliminating printing and distribution of hardcopy announcements and manuals. Finally, storing information electronically is cheaper than filing paper documents in cabinets.
As the technology becomes more affordable and the number of self-service features increases, ESS solutions will find greater acceptance in the business world. Employees will become increasingly more comfortable with online systems to make changes, get information and manage their own data. Whatever system you chose to run your business, ESS can be integrated to provide timely data and services to your entire staff.