Before the advent of desktop (“personal”) computers, many office workers utilized mainframe (“green screen”) terminals to perform their daily computing duties. There was nowhere to surf outside of a few stark business related menu choices. Interestingly though, some of the most common mainframe systems actually included one or more video games. Some were included with the system’s core programs, while others were written by adventurous in-house software support personnel.
These simple games used rudimentary two-color graphics (green and black), if at all. Many were 100% text based. But they were fun for bored or overworked workers who needed a brief distraction from the day to day drudgery of their jobs.
Then came Apple, IBM and others with their new personal desktop computers supporting full color screens (16 colors at first – billions later). Game programmers took full advantage of this new user interface (UI) and started to create more sophisticated and exciting games. Remember Solitaire, PacMan and Space Invaders?
At first these computers were used in businesses to connect to company mainframes via something called terminal services, essentially making the PC a “dumb terminal”.
Micromanaging, by definition, focuses on the smallest details of the manager’s direct reports’ daily activities. Nothing is too insignificant, too mundane, and even too irrelevant to bypass a micromanager’s wrath.
In some industries this may be a good thing — think heart surgeons or NASA engineers. Missing just one small detail can costs lives. 99% accuracy and completeness may be perfectly fine in one business but can spell disaster in another.
What about businesses where perfection is not mission critical? Is micromanaging necessary and even beneficial in a sales organization, for instance? Sales people have performance quotas and other responsibilities such as record keeping, cold calling, etc. Sales managers’ styles vary greatly from being entirely hands-off (the uber-trusting type) all the way to the hyper-controlling style.
Yes, there is a difference. Reports summarize current and past data. KPIs measure degrees of success based on the comparison of summarized data (actual) to forecast. Analytics are typically used to predict future performance.
In other words:
- Reports (metrics) = what happened
- KPI = why it happened
- Analytics = how can we improve
This is an important distinction for HR, because most HR managers and executives are not necessarily technical. You may be requesting the wrong service from your IT resources, wasting valuable time when timing is critical to HR.
LBi is proud to announce that we have been awarded a 2018 Top Workplaces honor by Newsday. We’d like to thank all of our employees, who made this happen.
The list is based solely on employee feedback that was gathered through a third-party survey that was administered by research partner Energage. The anonymous survey measures several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution, and connection, just to name a few.
According to survey responses, some of the things we do well include:
- Senior Management understanding what’s really happening at LBi
- Heading in the right direction as a company
- Making sure our employees feel genuinely appreciated
Of course, we received some constructive criticism, as well, and have been working on some action items to improve in areas that we’re lacking.
LBi HR Help Desk is known for its flexible reporting templates – more than 15 templates HR can access to build a wide array of powerful and productive custom reports. These templates in aggregate provide end users with access to virtually all of HR Help Desk’s data fields.
Using HR Help Desk’s export feature, data points may be combined from multiple templates to provide an even greater capability to build specialized reports and analytics. But what about merging data from non-HR Help Desk systems for literally limitless analytics capability?
Today, in many industries analytics is the name of the game for companies seeking a competitive edge. IT departments are often inundated with custom analytics requests from every department and business group. You want a custom report? Take a number. Don’t call us – we will call you.
So what can HR do to accelerate delivery of their custom report requests? This blog will demonstrate how to use Microsoft Excel and one single key function plus Pivot Tables to combine data from literally any source into a single table, ready to slice and dice.
That’s right. Specifically VLOOKUP and Pivot Tables together are the keys to HR analytics nirvana. Perfect? No. Limitless? No. But you will be amazed how easy and flexible it is to create a wide variety of reports using your help desk data combined with data from other sources.
Let’s say you want to analyze the demographics of employees that have submitted harassment or discrimination claims. You are primarily concerned about patterns of abuse by age, gender and/or race – neither of which is tracked in HR Help Desk. Additionally you want to analyze whether your recent diversity training was beneficial in reducing complaints.
Here are the basic data points and common location you need to create your reports:
Employee ID (key field)
HRIS, Help Desk, Talent mgmt
Date of complaint
Category of complaint (i.e. discrimination)
Date of diversity training
Notice the key field must be included in each export table. This field ties all tables together.
Here are the steps you need to take:
- From each system (HRIS, Help Desk, Talent Mgmt) create an extract of the above fields and open in Excel. Place each table in the same workbook, each in separate worksheets.
- Highlight each table and create a name for each (i.e. HRIS_table, HD_table, TM_table). Make sure the Employee ID is the 1st column in each table.
- Open the HRIS table and add the Complaint Date, Category, and Training date column headers. The table should look something like this:
- Now for the magic formula – =VLOOKUP(lookup cell, in this table, return this column value, false)
Enter this formula in cell E3: =vlookup(A3,HD_table,3,false) , where “3” is the HD_table column for the Complaint Date.
Copy this formula down to the last row. Your table should look like this:
Now repeat these steps for the Category and Training Date columns. Now your table should look like this:
- Your table is now ready for pivot table analysis. Click anywhere in the table and select Pivot Table or chart from the Insert menu in Excel.
Below are just a few of the pivot table/chart analytics you can create in just a few mouse clicks:
Complaints by age range
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?
IT help systems and customer relationship management (CRM) systems have much in common with HR case management solutions. However, what distinguishes the finest HR-specific systems from the rest is the ability to virtually (and often literally) hide confidential tickets from all but specific authorized users.
The level of confidentiality needed in generic CRM systems simply does not demand a true lockdown of sensitive cases required by HR. Without this capability, HR would be at risk of breaking HIPAA and other regulations.
Defining what is confidential, and the degree of confidentiality, should start with the employee’s new case entry. By defining general levels of confidentiality in case categories (e.g., “Disputes”) and subcategories (e.g., “sexual harassment issues”), the employee can select a specific topic and therefore indicate the need for privacy in the matter. Proper workflow setup ensures that not only will the case be routed strictly to the authorized specialist(s), but only that person or persons can even view the case. Unauthorized eyes won’t even know the case exists, whether in reports or by conducting a case search.
HR Help Desk systems are not payroll systems, though discussion of confidential payroll information may likely be collected during the course of managing an employee ticket request. The same holds true with healthcare data, personal credit data, and more. Certainly your HR Help Desk is not a financial system, benefit provider system, or any other system that is designed to collect and manage discreet types of personal information.
In some ways, the HR Help Desk system is more akin to email – with one key differentiator – data security. Your unsecure corporate email system collects and stores virtually any and all types of data, much of it potentially highly confidential in nature. HR Help Desks can and do collect that same information. The danger with email is that emails can easily be forwarded and/or copied to unauthorized eyes.
There is literally no feature in email systems designed to prevent confidential information from being sent to anyone. If you know their address, you can send anything to anyone without restrictions. Corporate policies may be in place to control email flow, but that is no guarantee that violations will not occur, whether inadvertently or intentionally.
The following post first appeared in 2014.
“A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict,” says Robert Townsend, author of the bestseller Up the Organization, and co-author of Reinventing Leadership. “He tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people.”
As an HR professional in an enterprise organization, you have a choice in how your team — and, therefore, your entire organization — handles all of the conflicts that arise from employee complaints, grievances, and concerns.
As you are evaluating new HR Help Desk solutions (or really any business software system), one primary consideration is always the software and hardware platform. SaaS? Hosted? In-house? “Which is better for my business”?
The choices are actually more varied than you might expect. Some vendors may offer only one option, while others such as LBi offer many choices.
As I have stated in previous blog posts, your system selection process should first evaluate if the system functionality substantially meets your requirements, and the vendor has a proven record of high quality support. Once that has been determined, then platform and architecture should be next in line for consideration. Somewhere in there is price — and we will get to that shortly.
Let’s walk through the most common deployment options, and their perceived pros and cons: …Read More
Employees often forget that HR works for the company, not them. HR has an obligation to keep personal employee information confidential, but there are limits, often not clearly spelled out in employee handbooks and other HR policy documents.
If an employee has personal “issues”, i.e., serious illness, legal problems, divorce, moving out of town, etc., that may potentially impact their performance at work, then HR can and will inform management of the problem. They have every right to know if employee performance may suffer due to personal circumstances.
HIPAA regulations are clearly written regarding release or sharing of an individual’s health information. But HIPAA does not cover 100% of situations where there is sharing of such material. For instance, one HIPAA provision states:
“The Privacy Rule excludes from protected health information employment records that a covered entity maintains in its capacity as an employer…”
One could read into this that anything you share with HR can go into your employee record, and therefore be exempt from HIPAA compliance.
Most businesses today don’t think twice about communicating internally via email with employees. Though much attention is given these days to the consequences from a legal standpoint of deleting and archiving email records, little thought is given to the ramifications of email content that seemingly has nothing to do with risks to business operations.
Emails that suggest inappropriate or even possible illegal activity are often quietly scrubbed. Emails to HR, which may include HIPAA or other confidential information, are virtually ignored from a legal standpoint.
Which is the higher risk to an organization? Exposure of potentially nefarious business activity or a HIPAA violation? Well that depends. How does a $1.5M penalty plus prison time for a serious HIPAA violation sound?
The single most critical difference between LBi HR Help Desk and more generic IT help desk systems is the concept of confidentiality. Any help desk solution can automatically route tickets to a specific individual or group based on company workflow rules. Generic systems may also be able to prevent unauthorized eyes from opening and editing particular cases.
LBi HR Help Desk goes a step further and literally hides any confidential cases from the view of unauthorized users. In other words, confidential cases will not show up on any user’s search results, filtered lists or reports unless they are assigned the case (or are the case owner’s manager). It is like the case doesn’t even exist to unassigned users.
In LBi’s hosted environment, even IT doesn’t have access to the entire database (unless explicitly approved by HR).
Much has been said (here and in many other articles) about cyber security risks, and the measures LBi Software and other companies are taking to prevent system data breaches. We talk about data encryption at rest, filed level encryption, VPN tunnels, malware/virus protection, intrusion detection services, two factor authentication, secure coding principles and more, but breaches can still happen.
More focus is needed on the most common reasons for breaches and what you, the client, can do to minimize them. Let’s face it; the chances of a hacker cracking the data encryption code that most databases use is roughly equivalent to winning the Powerball lottery. It could happen – after all we saw three lucky winners last week (though it took billions of tickets sold since the last jackpot winner) – but it just isn’t going to happen that way. That is why the Federal Government is currently pressing technology companies to assist in cracking encryption codes used by the bad guys in their communications with other bad guys. Even the Fed cannot crack those codes alone.
Literally (not virtually) 100% of LBi HR Help Desk clients require connectivity to their internal HR system (or application), and often to other systems as well, such as Payroll, Talent Management, data analytics systems and others. These connections may range from real or near-real time, to hourly, daily, or even less frequently.
Connectivity (we will discuss integration vs. interface shortly) can be one directional or bidirectional, depending on the client requirements. Therefore, it is critical for HR to carefully plan which systems need to be connected, and to what level.
Vendors will primarily use the term “integration” generically when discussing data connectivity; but what is the difference between integration and interface? And why should you care? You should care because different connectivity methods require differing skill sets and timeframes. If your IT staff is short-handed you may run past deadlines and deployment goals, not to mention presenting ongoing support concerns.
Why are cloud computing and SaaS (Software as a Service) so often used interchangeably – incorrectly? Well, clearly, most assume a SaaS offering is in the cloud due to its inherent low cost. But that is not true; a SaaS application could reside on a fixed or virtual server. Likewise, cloud computing should not imply SaaS: any application, including single tenant apps, can be hosted in the cloud.
Vendors and service providers put their own spin on SaaS and the cloud to suit their needs, which makes it even more difficult to understand the differences.
Regardless of what software and hosting they use, all HR leaders share one thing in common: They want to be sure their HR applications can deliver three mission-critical objectives — privacy, security, and confidentiality.
In HR case management, here’s how those three important objectives are defined and achieved:
- Confidentiality — Cases are accessible depending on their category or type of case and on rules set up by the organization. Confidentiality is meant to protect the case because of its assumed sensitivity or for legal reasons, and also to protect the identity of the employee and others involved. Examples include claims of sexual harassment, employee theft, and complaints about managers.
- Privacy — Cases are accessible only by authorized users based on the type of case and, largely, on the desires of the employee. For example, an employee may have a general HR question and want the response to be kept private. HR may not consider the topic one that demands confidentiality. LBi HR HelpDesk ensures privacy between the employee and HR by letting employees determine how they receive their responses during the handling of their case — email, in-person or directly by phone, for example.
- Security — Security is all about protecting data and information, and it’s delivered in various ways:
- LBi HR HelpDesk Enterprise, for example, uses a single-tenant model with hosting on its dedicated server option including a dedicated hardware firewall. In our SaaS multi-tenant model (Pro and ProPlus) the data is stored in separate schemas divided by client so that “records are not co-mingled”.
- Data is “encrypted at rest” to increase security. Data at rest is any data that’s not moving over a network or temporarily residing in computer memory to be read or updated (an HR case form that an employee has downloaded, for example). Encrypting data at rest requires password-based access if the server is ever unplugged and rebooted — or accessed by an unauthorized user.
- Key PII (personal identifiable information) data fields such as Social Security Number or Bank Account info are further encrypted at the field level.
- LBi HR HelpDesk Enterprise hosting offers “intrusion detection” at the server level that’s physically monitored around the clock.
- The LBi HR HelpDesk application (and all our applications) are designed and developed using the secure coding principles from the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP).
At LBi, virtually 100% of the systems we develop and support maintain at least some level of private and confidential employee information. Along with the essentials of Social Security Number, date of birth, home address, etc., our systems may also contain work background information, personal health information and other personally identifiable data as well. Therefore, it goes without saying that our clients require the highest level of data confidentiality possible, since a data breach can be costly and inconvenient at best and financially devastating at worst.
Whether our systems are hosted by LBi or deployed on the client’s internal servers, data protection and security is always the #1 concern. During the project stage, critical questions are asked about the vendor’s security measures as well as the data security processes of the hosting provider — not to mention confidentiality features built into the actual system.
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.
The benefits of the cloud for HR technology are unassailable. It makes the adoption of robust, complex programs and systems affordable and scalable. Unlike legacy systems that run on your organization’s own servers, cloud-based solutions don’t require you to buy any hardware; all system maintenance, updates, and support are part of the package, and they’re usually paid for on a subscription or fee-for-use basis. Cloud-based solutions are also often designed with layers of features and complexity built in — behind the curtain, so to speak — so you can change your configuration and add more users with the flip of a switch.
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
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?
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.
Discover how Human Resources Help Desk analytics can transform your organization. On June 3rd LBi Software will host a webinar demonstrating the power of HR Help Desk Analytics and Big Data.
The benefits of implementing an HR Help Desk and Employee Self Service Knowledge Base solution are many, including fewer calls into HR, consistent adherence to corporate business policies, greater employee satisfaction, and more.
However, a robust, well-designed and mature solution can provide even greater value through powerful analytics.
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.
We live and conduct business in an increasingly litigious society. We all know that. At the same time, businesses are increasingly in the crosshairs of various state and federal agencies responsible for enforcing everything from fair hiring practices to safety in the workplace.
An HR help desk is the antithesis of the old way of responding to government audits and legal action. Then, managers and administrators had to almost manually piece together disconnected sources and chains of communication related to a grievance – emails, phone messages, printed forms and other sources.
An automated HR help desk, by comparison, offers an audit trail for every case, including all of its related documents and communications. A quality system also has the level of security to ensure privacy and confidentiality in the HR environment.
Whether 2013 was your most successful year yet or one you would like to forget, it should be seen as a learning opportunity for 2014. As a small business owner and captain of your own ship, it’s natural to make mistakes, but with the right tools, you can easily avoid common pitfalls and blunders like sloppy record keeping and spending too much time on social media.
1. Filing Messy Last Minute Taxes
If your 2013 taxes are proving to be complicated and cumbersome because you left everything to the last minute, take a few steps to make tax time easier in 2014. Third party Payroll Services organize all of your payroll records throughout the year. Instead of slogging through a year’s worth of records and manually transferring numbers, just click a few times, and your payroll software will download the relevant numbers and forms to your tax software.
Combine a program like this with an organizational app like Shoeboxed, which allows you to easily file receipts and track expenses. This app ensures that you never miss a write-off, and it has the power to effectively lower your tax burden. With the right tools in place, filing taxes in April 2015 should be a breeze.
The benefits of implementing an HR Help Desk and Employee Self Service Knowledge Base solution are many, including fewer calls into HR, consistent adherence to corporate policies, greater employee satisfaction, and many more. However, a robust, well-designed and mature solution can provide even greater value through powerful analytics that use key performance indicators. Key performance indicators, or KPI’s, define factors HR needs to benchmark and monitor.
Traditional HR systems do not track patterns of employee morale issues, the impact of personnel disputes on overall performance, management style inconsistencies, and other, often subliminal, employee related problems that can negatively affect corporate productivity.
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?
Today’s business systems create mountains of data. HR systems are no exception. Nor is the HR organization immune from leadership’s growing demand to mine that data and transform it into analytics that can help drive business decisions.
In his May 2011 review of a weeklong conference, Impact 2011: Building the Borderless Workplace, Josh Bersin wrote, “I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the focus on HR measurement, metrics and analytics throughout the conference.”
In fact, developing and applying measurement strategies that “ensure efficiency, effectiveness and business alignment” is among the 10 best practices of “high-impact HR organizations,” according to research by Bersin & Associates (now Bersin by Deloitte). These HR organizations provide data that illustrates “clear connections between the efforts of both the HR function and individual people.”
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.
The days are gone when a company could control its brand either as an employer or a market solution. Gone also are the days when nearly everything a potential candidate or buyer knew about a company came directly from its public affairs office, from stories the company urged its employees and existing clients to disseminate, or from articles that appeared in the business media.
That was before the days of the Internet and social media, before we had the myriad channels through which an organization’s image could be trumpeted – or soiled. “Brand ambassadors, or employee evangelists, are becoming an increasingly common way for brands to leverage their biggest asset – their workforce, of course – to reach new markets, generate buzz, and put a real face on the company,” journalist Eric Markowitz wrote in Inc. Magazine. “They can be tweeters, bloggers, Facebookers – or they could just be the people you send to corporate events.”
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?
One of the top sports stories in the news lately has been the issue of player bullying in the NFL. Recently, a rookie player for the Miami Dolphins, a 312 lb., 6’5″ tackle, suddenly resigned due to accusations of bullying by another player, foregoing a high six figure salary. Certainly not your typical target, how is it even possible that the allegations (including physical, verbal and mental abuse) could be true? Who in their right mind would bully a 6’5″ giant? Except maybe another 6′ 300 lb. giant.
But that’s not the real story here. Several of the accused player’s teammates and many other NFL players are defending the accused, primarily on the basis that this is a common and accepted practice in the league, particularly with rookie players. Think of it as harmless “initiation” or “hazing”. In the eyes of many within the NFL community, these alleged actions were simply a means of toughening up the victim, preparing him for the rigors of the sport. And since the victim ultimately could not take the abuse and subsequently resigned from the team, the team and league are now at a better place – after all it’s about survival of the fittest. For the NFL, this story is far from reaching its conclusion.
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!
IT Help Desk solutions are feature rich and generally lower in cost than those developed specifically for HR; but consider the mission critical role of a help desk solution in HR, and the inherent risk of confidentiality breaches from less secure solutions, and the choice seems clear.
IT Help Desk systems generally don’t need to be concerned with employee privacy and information security. They are designed to handle the management of technical computer and telephony issues, software problems, etc. Routing of confidential cases (i.e., harassment or manager dispute cases) strictly to authorized personnel (and out of the eyes of others) is simply not a necessary function for IT. Read 7 Employer Actions that Can Increase Likelihood of a Lawsuit for insights on the importance of HR maintaining proper documentation while handling employee disputes.
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.”
It was no surprise to us that our webinar “Leveraging HR Technology to Meet Real-world Challenges” brought some great, real ideas to the table.
We brought in HR thought leader Robin Schooling to talk about these ideas because she’s been there. She’s had to bridge that disconnect between where an HR technology solution may end and where the real solution begins. With LBi Software President Richard Teed, we heard someone with decades of experience in the HR technology industry talk about the challenges of meeting the needs of HR pros. Lastly, the guidance and moderation of Laurie Ruettimann helped balance the two perspectives to give some powerful insights.
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.
Let’s face it. HR technology today is so powerful, so robust, and so omnipresent – not to mention so dressed out with bells, whistles, and data-generating gewgaws – that it’s easy to forget what HR’s most important role is every day: solving people problems.
We recently published an e-book, Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Applying HR Technology to Solve Real-world Problems, because we’re concerned about what we see as a gap between the promises of HR technology and the everyday reality that HR leaders face at ground zero.
HR professional, author, and speaker Robin Schooling was among those who contributed to Where the Rubber Meets the Road, and we’re excited that she’s continuing the conversation with us. Robin will join LBi President Richard Teed on July 24 for a one-hour webinar, “Leveraging HR Technology to Meet Real-world Challenges.”
Myth: Data security is a highly technical and esoteric undertaking that is solely the responsibility of an enterprise organization’s IT department.
Fact: Data security is an increasingly significant concern and function of many stakeholders, including HR.
HR is both a huge generator and an enormous consumer of sensitive information about employees and the company.
The kinds of information HR generates and stores have expanded rapidly in the last decade or two. So have the storage capabilities and amount of data HR is responsible for creating and archiving. It wasn’t so long ago that most of the communication between HR and employees or leadership was spoken, handwritten, or typed onto paper. In addition, it was either never retained or was saved only until the schedule called for it to be shredded or tossed out to make more room in the filing cabinets and storage rooms for newer documents.
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.
“A good manager doesn’t try to eliminate conflict,” says Robert Townsend, author of the bestseller Up the Organization, and co-author of Reinventing Leadership. “He tries to keep it from wasting the energies of his people.”
As an HR professional in an enterprise organization, you have a choice in how your team — and, as a result, your entire organization — handles all of the conflicts that arise from employee complaints, grievances, and concerns.
Corporate life is full of risks of all shapes and sizes. The playing field is riddled with hazards that range from employee lawsuits stemming from a manager’s misconduct to federal sanctions and fines for failing to comply with the reporting guidelines of Sarbanes-Oxley.
LBi HR HelpDesk can mitigate risk for the organization across these areas and more. For starters, the system creates a complete and accurate audit trail of all communications between an employee and HR. Managers and administrators no longer need to go in after the fact and manually recreate timelines or piece together communications from disconnected sources related to a grievance.
Other features of LBi HR HelpDesk that reduce risk and protect the reputation of the organization include:
- Recording all inquiries and related communications throughout the history of each case
- Storing all documents and communications related to a case in one place
- Providing confidentiality for involved employees and security of all communications and documents
Recent enhancements to LBi HR HelpDesk further help reduce corporate risk. Version 5.0, released in December, tracks communications beyond just the employee initiating a case and the HR representative handling it. Dialogues can also be tracked between the HR representative and whomever he or she reaches out to for advice or support on the case.
This functionality gives HR a full picture, at a glance, of all communications related to any individual case. This can be a significant benefit when a case is put in the spotlight or may become part of a legal action.
The variety and detail of ad hoc reports that users can create in LBi HR HelpDesk (expanded in Version 5.0) can also help lessen risk by giving HR greater insight into the flow of cases, the time required to resolve cases, areas in the organization that have had a higher-than-average rate of grievances, and other standards that can identify potential areas for improvement or action before they escalate.
At the end of the day, users of LBi HR HelpDesk can leverage myriad features that give insight across the breadth of HR processes and throughout the organization to help minimize the risk of litigation, noncompliance and oversights.
The answer: Just by implementing it, you’ll cut your costs.
Unlike the budget sequester, however, an automated HR case management system is highly unlikely to stir debate over whether you should have taken a different path.
One proven advantage of a fully featured, automated HR case management system is that it will reduce HR department expenses. Period.
At the very least, quality HR help desks let HR quickly and easily centralize and manage huge amounts of information from various systems across the organization. (The new term for this in the digital age, by the way, is “information curation.”) A system with the right features can then take that information and, on the fly, create a searchable, automated knowledge base. Information delivery across the entire organization suddenly becomes a whole lot more consistent. Front-line employees and managers can go directly to the knowledge base to find answers about everything from safety policies to their medical insurance benefits.
The benefit is obvious: greater and more efficient HR service delivery, which means lower HR costs.
Industry research, in fact, says that an effectively deployed HR help desk can reduce unnecessary calls to HR by as much as 75 percent. HR Management magazine has cited a Gartner report that says HR organizations spend as much as 80 percent of their time dealing with administrative duties and questions from employees and managers. With an automated HR help desk, HR team members have more time to spend on work that is more strategic, and fewer HR team members are needed to field employee calls.
In addition, how about the savings you gain if your HR help desk offers automated, online access for employees anytime, from nearly any Internet browser, and on almost any device? The least expensive way to deliver HR service is electronically, such as through web self-service, email, and online chat.
If all of that is true (and all of it is), riddle us this: Why, according to the Shared Services Institute in 2010, had only 56 percent of large organizations deployed an automated case management system? Why had only 40 percent implemented an automated knowledge base as part of their HR services system? And why are the most resource-intensive communication channels — such as telephone calls to HR and call centers — still the preferred methods for HR service interaction?
It doesn’t need to be that way.
To learn more about how an automated HR help desk can help HR reduce costs and up its game, download our white paper “Five Top HR Challenges and How an Automated HR Case Management Solution Can Beat Them.”
Image source: Bill Hood
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.
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.