The 4 Elements of an Effective Onboarding Program

The 4 Elements of an Effective Onboarding Program

“With a ‘sink or swim’ approach, companies and leaders are flirting with disaster.” —Lee Hecht Harrison

Accelerate the investment you made on your new hire by onboarding effectively. Research consistently reports that effective onboarding programs lead to higher retention, elevated performance and increased loyalty and engagement.

The most critical time of the employee life cycle is the first 90 days of employment. You can hire the best and brightest talent to join your team, but without an effective and positive onboarding experience the chances of you being able to retain them diminishes every day. The Wynhurst Group reports that “employees are 58 percent more likely to be at the company three years later when they complete a structured onboarding process.”

Further, giving employees a thoughtful, organized and well-planned out onboarding platform will accelerate their learning, increase their assimilation into the company and strengthen their connection to your mission. Benjamin Franklin reminds us that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Following best practices, the onboarding cycle should be structured into four (4) primary areas over the course of 90 days: 

1)      Prepare (pre-hire)

Onboarding starts before the new hire starts employment. Being well-prepared before the new hire arrives on their first day ensures they will have a positive and memorable first day! Prepare their onboarding plan, ensure their workstation and computer are ready and have a welcome lunch planned. 

2)      Assimilate (first 1-3 days)

To avoid overwhelming your new hire, fill the first few days with experiences that teach them culture, build relationships, explain workplace expectations and give them the space they need to get oriented. 

3)      Engage (first 60 days)

Operational immersion should begin with role-specific training including shadowing, reverse shadowing, a strong buddy/mentor resource and weekly checkpoints with their manager. Checkpoint meetings should be geared toward collecting feedback from the new hire and determining where additional support and training may be needed.

4)      Review (within 60-90 days)

At the end of the onboarding period, the new hire’s manager should conduct a formal review meeting to share their observations on how the new hire is performing, norming to the culture and engaging with the broader team. While formal and documented, this “review” should be approached within the spirit of feedback and supporting their long-term success with the organization.

“Research and conventional wisdom both suggest that employees get about 90 days to prove themselves in a new job. The faster new hires feel welcomed and prepared for their jobs, the faster they will be able to successfully contribute to the firm’s mission.”

 – Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM)

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees. Contact us today to discuss how we can support your onboarding needs!

Six Things Employers Should Do Right Now To Prevent Harassment Claims

Six Things Employers Should Do Right Now To Prevent Harassment Claims

Sexual harassment claims in the media are rising at an alarming rate. These growing allegations and the #MeToo campaign have given employees a safer platform to share their story and callout sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. While these shared experiences are prompting increased openness about discussing the issue, it is up to each organization to create an environment in which employees know that this behavior is unacceptable at the highest levels of the organization. Only then will employees be confident that it is safe to have this conversation and that they are encouraged to bring forward claims.

Many of the recent allegations in the media are truly shocking and reveal how often organizations were aware of these allegations and chose to silence the victims instead of holding the perpetrators accountable. This can be very concerning to many employees and some may be wondering where their organization and leadership stand on this issue.

Organizations who are proactively responding to this issue are sending a message to their employees that it is safe to bring forward their concerns and reinforces the organization’s commitment to a harassment-free workplace. Failing to address this issue head on could inadvertently perpetuate a culture of silence in which sexual harassment is not brought forward by victims or witnesses.

Don’t be fooled! Just because an organization hasn’t received a formal claim of harassment in the past doesn’t mean they are safe from future claims. This is a critical time for organizations to take a hard look at their culture, workplace behaviors, and policies to proactively assess areas of risk. Responding to these trends should be a top priority for every organization in 2018.

What You Need To Know. While "quid pro quo" cases make the most headlines, they are far less common than "hostile environment" harassment, where an employee is made to feel uncomfortable by the discriminatory or harassing behavior of another co-worker, client or customer. For harassment to be considered unlawful, it has to be so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in an adverse employment decision, like the victim being fired or demoted. However, employers shouldn’t wait until it escalates to an unlawful level before taking action.

What You Should Do Right Now. Here are six (6) steps every organization should take right now to protect their employees and the organization from distracting workplace behaviors and expensive legal claims:

1)      Design and deliver customized harassment prevention training. Many organizations are tempted to quickly offer online, generic harassment training in response to these trends. However, this is not enough to address the unique context within each organization and provide the venue for dialog about the issue. Offering customized, onsite training provides employers the opportunity to reinforce their organization’s core values, reflect their cultural norms and share examples that are relevant to their work environment. This is a far more effective than asking employees to review a handbook or watch a generic online training.

Managers and employees need to be told different things during sexual harassment training, so we recommend keeping their training separate. Employees need to know the basics on respectful and professional behavior and where to turn if they are the victims of sexual harassment. Managerial training should focus on how to end disrespectful conduct, avoid liability, appropriately handle complaints, and reinforce anti-retaliation policies.

Following best practices, these trainings should take place within all new hiring onboarding and on an annual basis thereafter. Some states, like California, have even enacted these requirements into state law.

2)      Conducting effective and unbiased investigations. How an organization handles a complaint or even a whisper of sexual harassment has significant impact. Turning a blind eye or worse – handling an investigation poorly - will create more liability for the company. HR (or whomever in the organization conducts investigations) needs continued professional development on leading effective investigations to avoid legal missteps and ensure that each party is treated fairly and objectively throughout the process. While every employee has a right to come forward and lodge a complaint, every alleged harasser is also due the benefit of an objective investigation.

3)      Conflict resolution is a core competency. The goal of an anti-harassment policy and subsequent training is to prevent and remedy harassing conduct before it rises to the level of illegality. The first step in doing so is to encourage employees to attempt to resolve the conflict amongst themselves. Should an employee become uncomfortable with the behaviors of coworker, being able to tell them directly may be enough to quash the issue.

To build this skill in your organization, employers should ensure that harassment trainings are complemented with conflict resolution and active listening skill development sessions.

4)      Ensure your policies are legally compliant. If there was ever a time to ensure your policies are legally compliant, up to date and effective, now is that time. Beyond just citing the requirements of the law, anti-harassment policies should be customized and specific to your culture, work environment and operational norms. Here are four (4) key areas to include in your policy review:

·       Avoid legal-ease. Write your policy in a way that is easy to understand, reflects your company’s culture and outlines your workplace expectations while also stating the requirements of the law. Simply citing the legal definition is fine for lawyers but, without more context, provides inadequate notice to employees.

·       Use examples. It’s a best practice to include real-life examples of unacceptable conduct that is relevant to your workplace. Using behavioral examples that will resonate with your employees will provide the necessary context to avoid unintentional harassment.

·       Have a multi-option complaint policy. Companies should have two or more unrelated ways that employees can complain about harassment, discrimination or retaliation. For example, if your policy states to go to your manager, and that individual is the harasser, your policy is completely meaningless. 

·       Beyond employees. Do your employees work with customer, clients, vendors, or contractors on a regular basis? Your policy should emphasize that anti-harassment expectations and protections extend beyond just employees.

5)      Reinforcing a culture of respect. Respect is a basic human principle that applies to everyone regardless of their position, salary, gender, race, socioeconomic status and more. Creating a respectful work environment where all employees are valued and treated equally is the core foundation to a harassment-free workplace. Organizations should take this opportunity to consider how respect, equality and inclusivity are valued in their workplace. For example, are those words expressly captured in your organization’s core value statement?

6)      Top-level executive engagement. It starts at the top. To set the tone for the organization, top-level executives should quickly engage with the issue by preparing a well-crafted statement reinforcing the organization’s commitment to a harassment-free work environment and announcing the launch of a company-wide anti-harassment campaign.

Beyond legal ramifications, the business case for a healthy work environment is clear. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that, “in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars paid out in settlements every year, sexual harassment causes low employee morale, high job turnover, increased sick leave, decreased productivity and reputational loss. While written sexual harassment policies are a must at every organization, preventing sexual harassment involves much more from the top down. Prevention starts with an attitude by top-level executives that they will not tolerate any form of harassment.”

These efforts don’t have to change the essence of your culture! Friendly banter and humor in the workplace is an important part of creating a fun, desirable work environment. As such, we work with our clients to create a custom designed anti-harassment campaign that will balance cultural values and support personal relationships while establishing appropriate boundaries between fun and harassment.

6 Critical Policy Updates for 2018

6 Critical Policy Updates for 2018

The employment landscape changes frequently, as such employers are encouraged to review and update their Employee Handbook every year. Employers need to be conscientious of the significant number of legal changes on the federal, state and local level that occurred this year. Therefore, it is critical for an employer to review, amend and properly update its handbook for 2018 to reflect the latest legal requirements.

Employee Handbooks are the backbone of an organization’s culture. More than just policies, these guiding principles should tell the story of who you are and describe the motivations and priorities that drive your business. Beyond the necessary legal updates, we also advise that during this review you evaluate your content and tone to ensure it continues to reflect your culture and leadership practices.

Below are 6 critical policies employers should review and update in their Employee Handbook:

1.     Sexual Harassment Policies. With the recent rise in sexual harassment claims, employers should ensure your policy emphasizes zero-tolerance on sexual harassment and gender inequality. Additionally, the policy should clearly outline the process to bring forward instances of harassment.

2.     Employment Opportunity (EEO) Policies. Many states have enacted laws this year providing employment protections to new and emerging protected classes and expanding the coverage of equal opportunity laws. Maintaining updated policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on membership in a protected class is critical from a compliance perspective.

3.     Review Reasonable Accommodation Policies. Several states have enacted or expanded reasonable accommodations for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and for those with marijuana prescriptions in 2017. Your Handbook should expressly comply with these requirements.

4.     Comply with New and Updated Leave Laws. States and cities remain very focused on passing paid sick leave laws and family and medical leave laws. For example, Colorado state law requires employers to offer up to 3-days of unpaid leave for instances associated with domestic abuse. 

5.     Safe Driving Policies. Employers must remember that in an increasingly mobile society, employees are always on the go while still needing to remain connected for business and personal reasons. An employer should make sure enforce safe driving policies that comply with state law, such as Colorado’s state law prohibiting texting while driving.

6.     Amend Smoke-Free Workplace Policies. The increased presence of e-cigarettes and tobacco substitutes has forced employers to update their smoke-free workplace policies to ensure the workplace is comfortable and pleasant for all. It is advisable for any smoke-free workplace policy to also specifically prohibit the use of e-cigarettes.

It’s not enough to just update the contents each year. Employers must make sure employees are aware of the policies and have had adequate opportunity to review and comprehend them. Employers are encouraged to provide employees a copy of the Handbook upon hire and after every update. It is a best practice to always have them sign an acknowledgement upon receipt.

Don't have a Handbook? It may be time for your organization to build one. It's just like building a culture of accountability. Your Handbook sets expectations - both employer and employee expectations. When you use your Handbook consistently, trust is build and culture will thrive. 

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees.

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4 Ways to Create Value-Added Performance Reviews

4 Ways to Create Value-Added Performance Reviews

The needs of a modern workforce have evolved. Has your performance review process done the same?

Many companies are holding onto traditional performance reviews because they think it adds value to their organization, even though in most cases research shows otherwise. Studies show that employees want development, motivation and recognition that will help them grow and benefit their companies. Incorporating these actions into the performance management process could equally benefit both the organization and their employees.

Whether you are reevaluating your current process, or thinking about implementing a new performance review process, consider these four (4) tips:

1)     Define your objective.

First, determine your objective or the ultimate outcome you are trying to achieve. For example:

•        Are you seeking a method to differentiate performance and reward individual employee efforts through merit pay? Or;

•        Are you looking for a consistent method to provide employees with performance feedback?

The answer to these questions would result in two very different performance review systems. The first would likely include a rating system that would differentiate employee’s performance outcomes, while the latter may simply be a structured format in which to provide feedback and doesn’t include a performance rating.

2)     Determine frequency.

The complexity of the process should help inform the frequency. Going through a rating process is time consuming and only realistic once or twice per year. However, we know that a modern workforce wants performance feedback much more frequently than that. Consider mid-cycle performance checkpoints that ensure employees are tracking towards their goals.

3)     Keep it simple.

Don’t overcomplicate the process so much that it’s cumbersome for managers (and thus a deterrent) and confusing for employees. Stay true to your objectives and desired outcomes.

4)     Make it meaningful.

BambooHR reports that 4% of respondents feel that performance reviews motivate and engage employees. Instead, employees reported they prefer to be motivated through:

•     Open, informal conversations

•     Getting raises

•     One-on-ones more geared toward career path

•     Managers listening to their ideas and using them

•     Getting more employee recognition

Incorporating these outcomes into your performance review process is a win-win!

Can I Use Unpaid Interns?

Can I Use Unpaid Interns?

It’s a complicated question, but more often than not the answer is NO.

Well-structured internship programs benefit both interns and employers. By participating in these valuable on-the-job learning opportunities, interns augment their work experience, hone important work skills, and develop their career goals. In turn, internships give employers access to a pool of motivated individuals who bring fresh thinking and innovation to their workplaces.

Interns are generally students or recent graduates who work on a full- or part-time basis and perform work for an employer that is relevant to their degree program. Internships in the “for-profit” private sector are most often viewed as an “employee” and subject to minimum wage requirements under the FLSA.

There are some circumstances under which individuals who participate in “for-profit” private sector internships may do so without compensation. Refer to Internships and the FLSA to determine if your intern program may meet the definition of a trainee program.

Unpaid internships in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations are generally permissible.

What about unpaid co-ops?

Cooperative education, commonly known as a "co-op", is a structured method of combining classroom-based education with practical work experience. A cooperative education experience provides academic credit for structured job experience.

Cooperative learning falls under the umbrella of work-integrated learning (alongside internships, service learning and clinical placements) but is distinct as it alternates a school term with a work term in a structured manner, involves a partnership between the academic institution and the employer, and generally is both paid and intended to advance the education of the student.

Unpaid co-op arrangements may be possible if the program meets the above FLSA definition of a “trainee program.” The work must be viewed as an extension of the individual’s educational experience versus performing productive work that benefits the employer.

Similar to internships, unpaid co-ops in the public sector and for non-profit charitable organizations are generally permissible.

Can someone ‘volunteer’ their time to work for my company?

It is unlikely that a for-profit business would meet the criteria for a volunteer. According to the DOL, an unpaid volunteer is: an “individual who performs hours of service….for civic, charitable, or humanitarian reasons, without promise, expectation or receipt of compensation for services rendered.”

To determine whether an individual is a true volunteer engaged in “ordinary volunteerism,” the DOL considers a number of factors. No single factor is determinative. The factors include:

  • Is the entity that will benefit/receive services from the volunteer a nonprofit organization?
  • Is the activity less than a full-time occupation?
  • Are the services offered freely and without pressure or coercion?
  • Are the services of the kind typically associated with volunteer work?
  • Have regular employees been displaced to accommodate the volunteer?
  • Does the worker receive (or expect) any benefit from the entity to which it is providing services?

A volunteer position is likely to be regarded as “ordinary volunteerism” and safely exempt from the minimum wage requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if you can answer “yes” to the first four questions and “no” to the final two questions.

It is unlikely that a for-profit business would meet the above criteria, and therefore should carefully consider the legal ramifications of using an unpaid “volunteer” that may in fact meet the definition of an employee. Misclassification of an employee can give rise to a variety of liabilities.

FINAL THOUGHTS: When in doubt, always pay minimum wage!

Solvere HR Consulting provides powerful HR solutions that optimize your organizational capability and profitability through your most valuable asset -- your employees.