Creating a Culture of Wellness

Human resources goes through great lengths to ensure they’re selecting the right benefits provider that will offer the greatest options for employees. Although this has been a common benefit to ensure positive employee health and resources if/when needed, HR is also realizing that healthcare benefits aren’t the only option to help improve employee wellness. Employee wellness is vital, not just for the employee but also for the well-being of an organization.

When the economy struggled, many employees lost their jobs and benefits. Workers who were able to keep their job may have absorbed other job functions to keep the business afloat, creating stress due to the need to produce the amount of 2+ people. With recent increases in healthcare benefit premiums, employers may have had to cut back on benefit offerings (such as using a lower quality provider or cutting dependents) or stopped offering it altogether. In more positive situations, employers who are growing have been able to not only offer fantastic benefits but also have incorporated additional wellness programs through their Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) which provide additional support and resources for employees.

In my experience, I’ve seen HR actively keep employees informed. Sometimes benefits can be a bit too overwhelming to understand and other times, employees aren’t always aware of what they can use through EAPs. Aside from regular meetings, newsletters and so on, some companies’ HR departments have also incorporated initiatives to improve employee wellness. Some such things include weekly emails with tips on diet and exercise, on-site events for nutrition and fitness classes, and some companies also require employees to take a specific number of stretch breaks throughout the day. Lucrative companies have even splurged on cafeterias with healthy options (sometimes at no cost to employees), on-site fitness centers and unlimited PTO/vacation days.

Wellness programs are a good way to improve employee morale and lower stress levels, and is something more companies should consider. Although healthcare benefits are perfect for medical needs, wellness does not stop short of this and some wellness issues might not require a visit to the doctor. Additionally, some employees might not even be aware of situations impacting their wellness until it creeps up on them. This can include workplace stress, anxiety, sore muscles from sitting long hours or performing strenuous labor, eye strain from a computer, poor diet and so on. Over time, these things can add up and negatively affect the employee and organization. This can consist of unexpected absences and a general rise in absenteeism, reduction in performance and quality, turnover, low morale or even more long-term absences like LOA and FMLA. Although many HR departments are making an effort to boost wellness, it can’t only be up to them to be proactive about this. After all, they can’t be everywhere and they can’t keep a constant eye on every employee (despite what some might believe).

As part of a proactive wellness initiative, HR needs to get management involved to support the ongoing programs established. HR should train management regularly to be able to do the following:

  • Take stock of your employees: On many occasions, managers focus on the work that employees produce but may forget to pay attention to the employees as individuals. It’s important for managers to be aware of their employees, such as if they seem to be struggling, overwhelmed, distant/withdrawn or lack passion. These signs could be a tip of the iceberg that an employee is quietly dealing with. If you notice these things, be sure to reach out and see if there’s something you can do to mediate the situation.
  • Regularly check in: Along the lines of taking stock of your employees, it’s important to regularly check in with them even if you don’t notice any signs of struggle/lack of wellness. Checking in can be a practical approach to ensuring employees are prioritizing workloads correctly and managing their stress. Very similar to regular feedback sessions, this can be incorporated frequently and in a casual environment.
  • Create a culture of wellness and health: Time is money and some employees might work themselves into the ground to ensure job security or to help towards career progression. In other situations (and ones I’ve personally seen in the past), an office culture might be aggressive in the sense that employees seem to work an average of 10+ hours a day and respond to emails at all hours… and if you weren’t one of those employees, you may be shunned as the office slacker. Although businesses thrive on productive employees, there comes a point where working your employees too hard becomes counterproductive. Management should create a culture that offsets some of the pressures of rapid work demands, whether that means giving your employees breaks such as a longer lunch or an early dismissal, or just taking time to lighten up the atmosphere around the office.
  • Support employees who need it: As proactive as HR and management try to be to help wellness, sometimes it may not help an employee or maybe it’s too far past that point for them. An employee may not have spoken up sooner or asked for a mental break day because of guilt or the feeling of pressure from an overwhelming workload. Maybe some might feel like they don’t deserve a break because everyone works just as hard, so why are they the weak one? Whatever the reasons may be, if an employee finally reaches the point where they show signs or outright say they are having issues, management should take the stress of asking for help away. Being supportive, getting them in touch with HR about benefits, or encouraging them to take a day or two off to take care of things can help relieve any stress, guilt or anxiety they may have felt when asking for help.

Workplace wellness is more than just finding the right benefits provider; it’s about paying attention to the day-to-day of your employees. Underlying issues such as poor habits or workplace stress can be the cause of many issues and affect the health of an organization. Being proactive and finding ways to be supportive of your employees is essential to help promote a culture of wellness.

Photo Source

Flexibility in Leadership

Lately I’ve been having a lot of interaction with a variety of leaders, ranging in experience, function and more. I was impressed to see diversity in the ways they were able to successfully perform the role and each conversation allowed me to understand the complexities a leader faces every day. Although many of their styles have differed, I did notice two traits that seemed to be common across the board. They were humanized and they were flexible.

With the evolution of the workplace, both with an increase in members from multiple generations and diversity, leaders now have to face the challenge of being able to perform leadership functions in a way that will be effective for the ranging personalities. With the variety of people found there, a leader must know how to be able to show the qualities that these people value to get buy-in. Although some people may disagree or have varying opinions, I appreciate the following traits in the leaders I’ve come across.

  • Humanization: Although some leaders are a little more open than others, I like the ones that aren’t scared to show that they aren’t perfect. I appreciate it if a leader tells me that they don’t know something 100%, asks for help, or is willing to collaborate on something. I don’t necessarily need a perfect leader but I do want someone who can admit when they’re wrong, show that they’re willing to learn and respects his/her employees enough to trust them to take ownership on a project.
  • Collaboration: Falling in line with the leaders who admit that they aren’t know-it-alls, I like it when leaders are open to working with others and/or are open to learning from one of their employees. The leaders who are willing to work together with his/her team to find a solution is one that I can have faith in.
  • Flexibility: As I said earlier, the varying personalities in an organization means that a leader has to be flexible. To be able to notice when a certain way of working with someone isn’t as effective as with someone else is key when determining the best way to lead the team as a whole and the individual members. It may take a bit extra time, but it has favorable results.
  • Ability to identify potential: Although a leader’s job is to forge forward and help the business to progress, it’s important for them to take a look back at those they are leading. Employees have potential, some are very vocal about it while others are a bit more subtle. Identifying the potential and finding ways to foster it is so important to helping the business grow.
  • Passion to develop: I know leaders are busy and don’t necessarily have the time to notice each individual person, but that needs to change. A leader won’t be there forever, so it’s important to take the time to develop their successors to feel confident that the company and the team will be left in good hands. Developing others can even help discover new areas of opportunity that may have not been uncovered otherwise.

I’ve been lucky enough to work and learn from some really great leaders. Each of them are unique and have found a way to encompass all of these characteristics in their own way. Because of it, I’ve seen employees and the organization flourish in ways that I’ve never seen at other companies. I’m looking forward to learning from them and will find ways to incorporate these qualities and others as I progress throughout my career.

Photo Source

The Evolution of HR and Talent Acquisition

The Sky's The Limit....or is it?

When I first started this blog back in June of 2012, my experience with HR had been quite different than what it is today. At the time, my knowledge came from textbooks and from working at small organizations with one-stop-shop HR departments. My job experience typically had me in roles that did everything from initially recruiting candidates, on-boarding, new hire orientation, training, employee relations, payroll, off-boarding, and general HR management. I had a hand in everything and at the time I thought this was everything I needed to know about HR. It wasn’t until shortly after I started the blog that I realized how wrong I was. Either my experience had been sheltered, the HR function had changed rapidly, or a bit of both. Regardless, the HR function has evolved right before my eyes.

Some of my most noteworthy discoveries:

  • HR and Talent Acquisition are two different things: Due to the fact that my experience had dealt with everything from start to finish, I thought that this was the norm across the board. It wasn’t until I got a new job as a sourcer (which I had no idea what that was at the time) that I learned how talent acquisition is a beast in its own right. Effective talent acquisition involves an in-depth strategy, involving anything from candidate mining, to employment branding, to better interviewing options. Once I saw how this was done, I almost wondered how anyone could even fathom handling all the other HR duties on top of this function. As time went on, I saw more and more companies splitting talent acquisition off from the HR department.
  • Recruiting has gone social: When I first started this blog, I was using it as a supplement to my resume. I wanted people to see my knowledge and passion. To promote it, I started using social media sites only to eventually get hired via Twitter. Once I got settled in my job as a sourcer, I was deemed the social media recruitment queen and had to create training on how to do this effectively. Needless to say, I like to practice what I preach so I often incorporated social media into my sourcing efforts. Candidates are also recognizing how much social plays in the job hunting game and now take the time to use social as a means for personal branding. Honestly, looking at some of these creative resumes was a lot more fun than staring at the typical resume format over and over.
  • HR tech is going beyond HRIS and ATS systems: Prior to my most current employer, my experience with HR tech was the typical HRIS and ATS systems. With the acceptance of social media in the workplace and the increase of technological advances, new HR vendors are emerging rapidly. HR technology now can include anything from video interviewing and social media recruitment platforms. Also, there are platforms for onboarding, recognition, training, career succession, and more. It’s wild how much has been developed over the last few years and I hope to make it out to the HR Tech Conference one of these days to see some of the interesting options.
  • The 2020 workplace is right around the corner: Not to alarm anyone but time is flashing by. Although it’s no secret that 2020 is known as the “Gen Y Takeover” of the workplace, companies need to start revamping their offerings to attract these candidates. Competitive companies are taking the time to understand Gen Y values and apply it to their culture or perks. For example, some companies are offering flexible work schedules, telecommunication options, social media friendly environments, creative workplaces, assistance with student loan payments and more. It’s no longer about offering a hefty paycheck but about creating a situation where work-life can be blended better.
  • Typical employment is changing: Say farewell to the idea that your employees are bound to stay with you for their full career. That’s not really a thing anymore. In fact, it seems as if more companies are contracting employees or more people are becoming free agents and/or consultants. When I first started recruiting, I was told to stay away from the job hoppers but as the years went on, I’ve realized that “job hopping” is becoming more of a regular occurrence. Some employers are actually even embracing those types of people because the amount of knowledge and skill they picked up from employer to employer.
  • Talent acquisition is becoming more proactive: Companies need to be prepared because any one of their employees can be a potential risk thanks to proactive recruitment. Recruiters are now taking time to build relationships with passive candidates and talent pools are now being upgraded to talent communities. Passive and active candidates are easily in contact with recruiters and are up to date about opportunities as they arise. Posting and praying is becoming a thing of the past and recruitment is now about two way communication.
  • HR law is becoming a bit trickier: HR law seemed to be so much easier to handle before social media and alternative workplace options came creeping in. Sometimes it boggles my mind to even try to consider what could be a liability in these situations so I’ll leave that to the professionals. There are way too many gray areas for me to process.
  • The usual training programs don’t cut it anymore: If you’re relying on classroom trainings during new hire orientation only, you’re doing it wrong. More companies are expanding their training through various means, such as job shadowing, social learning, mentorship, support for continued education and online learning. Additionally, training is no longer focused only on new hires. Instead companies are now offering trainings or refreshers for people who want to keep up with the fast paced changes in their industry. If an employee wants to take control of their career progression, these new options for training and development can allow them to do so.

If someone asked me two years ago what I thought my career progression would have been, I would have said HR assistant, to supervisor, to manager, to assistant director, and so on. If someone were to ask me now, I would have absolutely no idea. For example, my current job role is in marketing for HR and the talent acquisition industries. Never in my life would I have thought I would fall into marketing but apparently this is one of the many areas that someone in HR can go, especially with the emphasis on employment branding. I definitely am not complaining because it allows me to keep up with the industry and continue to learn. The sky’s really the limit and based on what I’ve seen over the course of the last year, I think that’s going to continue to be the case.

Photo Source

Be a Leader Worth Following

Nothing like a little healthy discussion about leadership on #Tchat last week. Of course, there are plenty of leaders out there providing their advice on how to be an effective leader, but I don’t think leader-to-leader advice is the best way to consider all angles. In this chat, we were able to get some employee/follower insights about what we would want out of our leaders. It was very interesting to get their responses and discover the attributes that they value in a leader and also what they think needs some improvement.

Are you missing the mark?

  • Stop walking too far ahead: of course, a leader’s main objective is to pave the way for the future. But are they pushing through the obstacles and trudging ahead without a glance backwards? It’s important to provide direction to your people but you need to also be involved in the group, otherwise you’ll never know if you’re being as effective as you could be.
  • You can dish it out, but you can’t take it: a big thing that is valued in the world of work is continuous feedback. But it shouldn’t only be one-way. Sometimes people need to be led differently. A leader will never know the greatest way to lead his/her people to the best of their abilities if they don’t open up to two-way communication and feedback.
  • No one’s perfect and you’re not an exception: the quickest way a leader can lose faith from their followers/employees is to act like they know everything. We don’t want to hear, “It’s my way and that’s final” or “This is how it’s always been done and we’re sticking to that.” Things in business change pretty quickly and so should you. We will respect leaders who are open to continuous learning even if they experience some failure along the way. Why would anyone want to follow someone who seems to be out of touch with the current state of things?
  • Are you using the tools forced upon us: companies are adopting all sorts of new procedures or technology to help collaborative efforts. Additionally, these things are supposed to help with communication. But what good is it if the people that can make a change (cough, leaders) don’t actually utilize these things? So, basically, we’re wasting our time going through these motions without being heard.

We’re not out there pointing fingers at leaders and telling them they’re at fault for something. Honestly, we just really all want to work together in the best way that we can, which will take equal effort on both our parts. Sure, things can get messy and sometimes our attempts won’t always pan out. But even if that’s the case, are you still a leader worth following?

Photo Source

Prepare for the Interview Battlefield

 

Over the weekend, a friend of mine reached out to me because she was seeking some advice on how to properly prepare for the interview process. She had been out of the job seeking world for a few years now so the current concept of interview loops seemed foreign to her. Even though I studied human resources, talent acquisition, and have been in the field for a few years, I also struggled with this when I was searching for work a year ago. I thought I would have had the knowledge to beat the odds but I soon realized that whatever plan I had initially used during interviews was severely flawed. I began to feel like being a job seeker was like walking into a battlefield with the awareness that everyone is betting against you. It’s tough and winging it these days isn’t going to cut it.

You may never really be able to fully prepare for your job interviews, but it would be unwise to think that you can’t prepare yourself at all. The best thing I did for myself when I was getting ready for a phone interview was prepare organized notes that I could review while speaking to the recruiter. This helped me greatly so I suggested that my friend should get ready the same way I did:

  • Compare your skills/experience to the job description: the recruiter is trying to find out how much of a fit you are for the job role. Look at the job description requirements and duties and briefly write down your own experiences in a way that flows nicely against the description. Many people get caught up in unnecessary details or verbiage when the recruiter asks them about their experience. This can help you get straight to the point and make it easy for them to see that your skills will transfer well to this role.
  • Write down examples: a lot of the time, recruiters will ask you behavioral questions relevant to the job. This is a way to see how you would potentially handle realistic situations that may happen in the day-to-day. Having solid examples, details about the actions you took, and the result will be a great way to show the recruiter that you can handle any curveballs thrown at you.
  • Be ready for the tough questions: of course, you may not have been able to handle every curveball gracefully throughout your career. If a recruiter asks you about a time that you failed or about a weakness, make sure you have an example. More importantly, make sure you show them what you learned from this experience.
  • Don’t forget your accomplishments: there are times where you may have gone above and beyond in your company or you may have even accomplished things outside of your job scope. Sometimes, candidates mix this in when they’re explaining their work experience and this can throw off the recruiter. Having these examples separate can make sure the recruiter will see that you have relevant experience but also that you have the initiative and drive to do more when you have the bandwidth.
  • Have 2-5 great questions: recruiters love it when candidates ask solid questions. However, make sure you have thoughtful questions. Nothing is more irritating than getting asked a question that could have been easily answered if you read the job description. To really wow the recruiter, do some digging and take the time to research. Go beyond their company website and even look into news about them, their blog, or press releases.
  • Keep it organized: having notes is great but make sure you keep it organized. This can allow you to refer to them quickly so you don’t miss a beat in your response.

I loved having notes. Honestly, I’m not all that great thinking on my toes. If I’m taken off-guard, I’ll end up talking in circles. If I take the time to think it through, my nerves of taking too long to answer will force me to respond before I can even think of a good reply. I’ve heard this happening to plenty of people, which is why I strongly suggest taking the time to have these notes prepared. Having this ready may even help reduce some of your stress and interviewing jitters which can allow you to display confidence.

Photo Source

Interns Should be More Than Your Coffee Lackey

Many years ago, interns used to be called “apprentices.” In these roles, the mentor would teach the apprentice how to do the job, provide details about the industry, and give a realistic expectations. The mentor took time to add value to the individual they were teaching and, as a result, allowed the individual to gain skills and knowledge to perform well once they were ready to start their career. In present day, interns are joked to be the “coffee lackey” or the “errand runner” for the company they’re “working” at. Sadly, these terms came about because some companies have delegated these tasks to the individuals who initially came there to learn. But how is getting a coffee order right going to help anyone?

As a support system and mentor for some of my interns, I often have a weekly call with them to discuss some of the things they’re learning from the team/department they’re interning in. I’ll attempt to answer any questions, build a support system, and offer some guidance. Of course, I’m always intrigued to hear about their previous interning experiences compared to their current ones and also to hear about their dislikes and likes from each experience. Needless to say, it shocked me when I heard that there are plenty of times when these interns literally were delegated the bare minimum. They’d tell me that these situations didn’t allow them to learn anything useful and that they felt like they wasted their time. More importantly, their experience at the company made them want to rule it out as a potential employer down the line.

What bothers me about this situation is the fact that we’re not doing anything or anyone justice if we aren’t utilizing our interns the best that we can. These interns come to companies in hopes to get a realistic view of what the world of work really is like. They came to put their school studies to practice and build their skills in ways that textbooks and classrooms can’t provide. They’re making a conscious effort to build their resumes so they are an attractive candidate once they’re ready for full-time work. They came to your company because they potentially wanted to build a relationship so you could consider them once you had a relevantjob opening. And how are they repaid for their effort? By having companies waste their time and make them feel expendable.

Here comes the irony: I often hear recruiters and hiring managers complain that there isn’t enough good talent for their entry-level positions. The reason for this is because some companies have turned internships into an opportunity to have someone do the unfavorable tasks that they don’t want to do rather than actually mentoring them. This could be an opportunity to allow them to reach their potential. As a company that has internship programs, it’s your responsibility to help build the talent for the future workforce. If you want great employees coming out of college, then it’s imperative for you to help them build their skills at a time where they are eager and inspired to learn.

Interns come to companies with natural motivation, desire to learn, drive, and ambition. They’re hopeful for their future and are looking up to their mentors to guide them in the right direction. Essentially, mentors of the internship programs are the ones who are helping shape our upcoming workforce. What are you doing to help contribute?

If this topic interests you, be sure to join in or listen to the #InternPro radio show.

Photo Source

Do You Have an Internal Employer Brand?

 

Last week, I took a trip out to Seattle to spend some time working, exploring, and learning about the city. I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to visit Amazon.com, one of the many corporate campuses that are located in the area. I had never explored a “campus” in the past but I’ve always been extremely eager to get a first-hand experience after reading the many articles that are out about it. Needless to say- I was impressed. But I wasn’t just impressed by the immensity of the campus, I was blown away by the branding located around the campus which had me thinking about the whole “employer branding” thing. I know HR is struggling to implement a strong brand to attract external candidates, but what about their internal brand?

One of HR’s main functions is to recruit and attract quality talent to their organization but it’s also about retaining the talent that is currently there. What are we doing to keep our employees engaged and loyal to our organizations? Competitive compensation isn’t going to be the only option to keep an employee from walking. Maybe you aren’t an enormous organization like Amazon.com, Google, or Linkedin who are notorious for having awesome internal brands, campuses, and culture, but there are ways to adopt some of these things to fit with your organization:

  • What vibe does your workspace give off?: One of the most notable things I think of when it comes to campuses like these are the different workspace options that are available. Yes- I said OPTIONS. Their offices are not set up with jail-like cubical rows with the occasional office or conference room here or there. They have open spaces, co-working options, lounge areas, and unique personalities. Perhaps you don’t have the space or budget to create these areas but there are plenty of ways to create an open environment that seems welcoming and non-restrictive.
  • What internal recruitment marketing do you have in place?: As I was riding an elevator in one of the Amazon buildings, I noticed a vibrant poster marketing one of their departments that currently was recruiting for Software Engineers. One side of the poster showed a man sitting at a computer with the saying, “This is what it looks like to work on my team.” The other side showed an imaginative, creative, and fun scene surrounding the man at the computer with the saying, “This is what it FEELS like to work on my team.” Below both posters had the team manager’s contact information that you could rip off and take with you. I absolutely loved it. Amazon is huge so having marketing options like that could really make it easy to recruit for internal candidates that didn’t know about your team. Makes sense for a company that’s as large as that, right? Here’s the kicker- even employees in small organizations admit that they aren’t aware that specific jobs exist or they don’t know about internal job openings within the organization. This can be a huge issue, especially since many employees leave their company because they feel like they have no internal mobility options. That situation might not be true and their perception of this might just be due to lack of information.
  • Are you too scared to adapt?: I understand the phrase, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” And that phrase is a perfectly reasonable one. If your company is functioning fine, there is no reason to fix it but what about offering more options? Compensation isn’t the only thing that can retain your employees, sometimes other options can be the deciding factor: telecommuting; flex work; tuition reimbursement; on-going training; co-working; employee engagement initiatives; and so on. Your competitors are coming out with really cool options to provide to their employees. Don’t let them beat you out because you were too scared to adapt to the changing world of work.
  • Is it a place of hierarchy or community?: There most definitely needs to be order within an organization but top down communication doesn’t really work as well as it did in the past. Your employees want their voice to be heard, they want to make suggestions, they want to contribute, and they want to build relationships. I’ve worked in an organization where the President and Directors are extremely open to two-way communication. They make it very easy to hold conversations, even to the point where interns aren’t scared to make suggestions or hold a casual conversation with someone higher up. It has created a great sense of community within the organization which has helped it be more progressive than other companies who haven’t adopted this.

Your employer brand isn’t just about convincing external candidates that your company is a great place to work, but it’s also about making sure your current employees also love working there to the point where no other company or job offer seems more attractive.