HRA Blog

Telecommuting in the Modern World

Written by Kelly McArter on .

In today’s world, the issue of telecommuting is a hot topic.  No matter how you feel about it, the number of organizations allowing their employees to telecommute is growing each year.  According to a study by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs, in 2015, nearly 4 million U.S. employees worked from home at least half the time, representing three percent of the workforce, a 115 percent increase from 2005.  That’s a lot of telecommuters!

Many factors go into an organization’s decision to allow telecommuting.  There are benefits and drawbacks to working remotely, however, the consensus seems to be that in order to attract and retain top talent, telecommuting should a be benefit available to employees to use at least part of the time.

In the past, employers have viewed telecommuting with a skeptical eye.  Without the day to day visibility of their employees being in the office, managers often found it unsettling to not having the constant reassurance that work was getting done.  Worries about decreased productivity and disengagement from colleagues were and continue to be among employers’ highest concerns with regards to telecommuting.  Fortunately, telecommuting has been the focus of many studies that have shown that with proper management and guidance, telework can provide many benefits for both employers and employees.

Diving into the Data

Employers have a lot to gain by implementing telecommuting.  According to SHRM’s Global Workplace Analytics study, 77 percent of teleworkers reported greater productivity while working offsite; 30 percent reported accomplishing more in less time, and 24 percent accomplished more in the same time.

The study also showed that teleworkers also logged five to seven more hours a week than non-teleworkers, and often worked while sick or on vacation.  It revealed that not only does telework boost productivity, but employers also report positive impacts on retention and turnover, faster return-to-work times after a medical issue or surgery, and employees are also more likely to take a pay cut in order to have the option to telecommute.  The aforementioned study also cites that employers save nearly $11,000 a year per telecommuter. Telecommuting often optimizes office space utilization, solves parking availability problems, reduces the cost of technology, and increases employee creativity and innovation.  These are all excellent reasons to get on board with telecommuting!

For the employee, having the flexibility to work when and how they want has become a top priority for good reason.  U.S. News and World Report reports that telecommuting not only boosts productivity and performance, but also overall job satisfaction, and reduces stress and work-family conflict.  By eliminating a commute and morning prep time, telecommuters also get more exercise, more sleep, and eat healthier.  In addition to the benefits of the day to day flexibility, there are times when without telecommuting, the work wouldn’t get done at all.  Bad road conditions, sick children at home, school snow days and waiting for a repair company to show up, are non-issues for employees who work from home.  Employees who work from home also save a lot of money.  SHRM cites that 30 percent of teleworkers report saving $5,230 annually in expenses such as day care, transportation, lunch, and dry cleaning.  Saving money on commuting expenses such as gas, parking, tolls, or public transportation is key, but eliminating the need to drive to and from work every day is also eco-friendly.  No wonder telecommuting is so high in demand!

By allowing employees to work remotely, employers give them increased control over their work and perhaps more importantly their lives.  This translates to better job satisfaction, retention, and overall quality of work and productivity.

To ensure employers and employees are on the same page, set expectations by clearly communicating the boundaries of the telecommuting agreement from the beginning (number of days per week, work availability times, etc.).  To ensure team engagement, designate a recurring day that makes sense for your organization for all teleworkers to come into the office to see each other face to face.

When managed well, telecommuting can be the best asset to your company for everyone involved.

The Winter Blues – Don’t Hibernate, Motivate!

Written by Kelly McArter on .

It is officially the dead of winter.  The days are short, the leaves are gone, and depending on where you live, coats, gloves, and hats may be staples of your lives. People always joke about hibernating during this time of year, and for many of us this happens. However, the truth is, withdrawing from the world can lead to depression and decreased productivity at work. To avoid the “winter blues” it’s important to take extra steps in your work life to remain happy, motivated and productive employees.

The Sun Still Shines

With the days so darn short, many of us find that it’s dark in the morning on the way to work and dark when we get home from work. No wonder this time of year is depressing for many!  As it turns out, according to the Mayo Clinic, reduced sunlight can cause a drop in the amount of serotonin in your body which is a key component for making people feel happy, calm, focused and emotionally stable.

So find any excuse to get outside on the sunny days during winter. Stash a pair of sneakers under your desk and go on a walk on your lunch break. Conduct walking meetings outside with your colleague, the title is self-explanatory. While it may sound silly, Harvard Business Review feels that walking meetings lead to an increase in creative thinking, more honest exchanges with employees, and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings. If you have the flexibility, go to work earlier and end earlier while it’s still daylight. Whether you work at home or the office, figure out ways to increase sunlight or configure office space to maximize available sunlight for employees.

Stay Active

While regular exercise is good for your overall health, it can also be crucial in warding off seasonal depression. There are a plethora of studies from organizations like that talk about physical activities and  Harvard Medical School that focus on holistic approaches, all citing the effects of increased serotonin and endorphins as a result of exercise having a role in battling depression.

As an organization, are you in tune with this connection between exercise and productivity? If you don’t, consider offering discounts at local gyms, hire yoga instructors to come on-site to conduct classes, or find organized team sports for your employees to participate in. This is also a great time of the year to have on-site health fairs which include blood screenings, cholesterol testing, nutrition advice, exercise equipment demonstrations, and even physical therapy and massage.  In tune employers know that healthy employees equate to reduced absences and employees that are more focused and energized to tackle the day.

Be Social

I’m sure you’re won’t be surprised by what I’m about to say. In the summertime, it’s warm, we’re outside, we’re social. In the winter, it’s cold, we’re inside curled up on the couch, we’re anti-social. While it’s good to recharge, it’s important to keep your employees engaged with productive social interactions during the winter.

Use this time to offer both formal and informal engagement opportunities. Informal suggestions include “lunch and learn” training sessions, book clubs, or weekly TED talk watching sessions. More formal considerations include off-site brainstorm or strategy meetings, team building events or employee retreats. On a side-note, the winter is a great time to score fantastic rates on venue locations. Many of these things don’t require a big budget or simply reallocating budget typically used in the summer, but doing so can promote engagement, creativity, teamwork, and boost morale.

Stick to a Schedule

For many, with the winter come the inevitable swings in their schedules. Many have difficulty waking up on time in the morning when it’s dark, conversely, with the sun setting earlier, it’s easy to lose track of time and work later than usual. According to the Huffington Post, changes in the light/dark cycles that come with winter can make you feel tired earlier or later than usual which can really impact your mood and productivity.  Keeping a strict adherence to both sleep and work schedules in the winter go a long way to combating the winter blues.

Waking up at the same time each day helps to set your internal clock to where it needs to be, not to mention eliminates the stress of running late and rushing around to get ready on time.  On the flip side, going to bed around the same time each evening ensures you’re getting enough sleep, which in turn sets you up for a seamless wake up.  Structuring your day at work is equally important, so stick to your routines, or create a routine. If you get to work early to settle in, don’t let the darkness let you oversleep. If you like to exercise at lunch, don’t let the cold stop you.  Adhering to your schedule will stave off the “blahs” and keep your creative and positive juices flowing at work.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who would say that winter is their favorite season, but it doesn’t have to be such a downer!  So consider the thoughts above, gaze at your tropical screensaver and crank up the heat, because the key to escaping the winter blues can be pretending that it’s not winter at all!

Six Resolutions for Effective Talent Acquisition in 2018

Written by Kelly McArter on .

Happy New Year! It is once again January, and with the New Year brings new resolutions for both personal and professional endeavors. If you’re like me, you have made a list with all the pursuits that you are ambitiously going to accomplish this year. However, this year, in addition to your own personal resolutions, what about making some for your organization?

We all want happy, motivated, productive employees and fewer turnovers, but, what changes within our organizations do we need to make this year to achieve these goals? While there are certainly many dynamics that can contribute to a successful organization, examining, modifying or improving the talent acquisition process will pay huge dividends over the course of the year.

While each company takes a different approach to hiring talent, and regardless if your recruitment department is a one-person operation, or a robust staff, there are some universal key elements that comprise successful talent acquisition programs. Here are some New Year’s resolutions to help you improve your talent acquisition processes and effectively hire the right people:

Resolution #1: Evaluate your recruitment process
It may seem obvious, but does your recruitment process make sense? Is it efficient? Are all the right people involved? What factors are contributing to slowing the process down? A streamlined recruitment process is more likely to lead to a more positive candidate experience (we will delve into this later), and gives everyone involved a clear understanding of what to expect and what his or her role will be in the process.

Resolution #2: Do your research on the positions
Some organizations are lucky enough to have Human Resources assist managers with recruiting for open positions. If you are in HR, chances are that you are not an expert in every field for which you are recruiting. That’s okay, as long as you do your research. According to iCIMS Hiring Insights, 80 percent of recruiters feel they have a good understanding of the jobs they are recruiting for, yet 61% of hiring managers disagree. You don’t have to have expert-level knowledge of the job, but you do need to know enough to evaluate a potential candidate’s suitability on a broad scale. If you are the HR recruiter, make sure you sit down face-to-face or get on the phone with the person who will be overseeing the hire (the hiring manager) to find out the good, the bad, and the ugly about the job. Does the job description accurately reflect the job? What are the top skills this person needs to have? Are there must-haves that are not in the job description (long hours, supervisory responsibilities, travel, etc.)? Are there any specific questions I should ask in the interview? If possible, discuss the position with the person who is currently doing it. If you are the hiring manager working with a recruiter, don’t automatically assume that he or she knows what the job is all about, and ensure that you are communicating all the pertinent information. The more the individual recruiting for the position knows about the job, the better chance he or she has of finding candidates with the right skill sets.

Resolution #3: Have a recruitment strategy
Figuring out a recruitment strategy is critical for not only finding the right candidate, but also for managing your time effectively. No matter who is involved in the recruitment effort for your organization, collaboration is key to success. In addition to ensuring that everyone has a good understanding of the position, also brainstorm potential sources, target organizations, and industry-specific venues. Discuss what each of your roles will be in the process to manage expectations. Make sure everyone understands that they need to hold up their end of the bargain in terms of giving timely feedback and making time for interviews. Nothing is worse than losing a promising candidate because someone was unresponsive or unavailable. Recruitment is a time consuming function with a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Communicate regularly with your hiring team to discuss all the activity happening on your end as it may not be readily apparent. A thoughtful strategy will pay off in finding the best candidates.

Resolution #4: Keep employees in the loop
Do you have an employee referral program? According to HireClix, 71 percent of organizations have an employee referral program, but only two percent of those organizations actually meet their referral hiring goals. This is partly due to the fact that many employees don’t even know which jobs are open. It is important to communicate open positions and remind employees about the referral program. Make sure that it easy for employees to submit referrals, and recognize them publicly if your organization hires a referral they made. If employees know the referral program is being used successfully, they will more likely refer others themselves.

Resolution #5: Make sure everyone’s interviewing skills are on point
How does your organization approach interviews? Is there a structured flow to the interviews, or do people just wing it? Getting the right information out of an interview is a skill that must be learned and practiced. Ensure that everyone in your organization who is doing interviews is trained on behavioral interviewing. Behavioral interviewing is based on the idea that past performance is the best predictor of future behavior. Asking a candidate to provide specific examples of job related situations will help the interviewer assess real observable actions, attitudes, and outcomes. If you ask a candidate a more generic question like, “Tell me about your weaknesses,” nine times out of ten they are going to tell you they tend work too much and do not take enough breaks (cue the eye roll). Instead, ask a question like, “Tell me about a time when you encountered a difficult problem at work”. Follow-up with a question like, “How did you go about solving it?” It’s harder to fudge answers to questions that are very specific, and in turn, the interviewer gets useful information.

Resolution #6: Create a top notch candidate experience
2017 was a candidate’s job market, and employers predict that 2018 will be more of the same. Are you treating your candidates like customers? If not, you should be! The “candidate experience” is the term that is now used to describe how a candidate feels during the recruitment process. Workplace Trends reports that 60 percent of candidates report having a poor hiring experience. Candidates need to feel valued throughout the entire process. If they don’t, not only will they move on to another organization, but they may also be inclined to share this experience with others on social media or on employer review sites like Glassdoor. Your organization’s reputation is at stake, and a just little extra effort on your part will go a long way. Communication and follow up are key for a pleasant candidate experience.

Any new year’s resolution involves getting out of our comfort zones and making some big changes to get the results we want. It is never easy and keep in mind you might meet some resistance along the way. However, if making smart hires and bringing in the best talent for your organization is a top priority, the commitment will be worth it. Resolve to make 2018 the year of your organization’s best talent acquisition program yet!

Organizational Sexual Harassment Training Recommendations

Written by Tiffany Aukema on .

If you search online for “Sexual Harassment Training,” you will find 6,530,000 hits in the News section alone.  It should come as no surprise that many of these articles have been posted over the past few weeks with fresh allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct coming to light daily across business, politics and entertainment industries .  In the wake of what is becoming known as the “Harvey Weinstein Effect,” many employers are scrambling to dust off their sexual harassment policies and offer trainings.  Other employers may already have solid policies in place and regularly offer training; however, they are asking themselves, “what can we be doing differently?”

Now, more than ever, employers should be encouraged to take a more insightful approach to their sexual harassment training and policy.  So, as an employer, what can you be doing differently in 2018?

Consider Live Training.  Many organizations offer sexual harassment training online.  While online training allows organizations to reach employees quickly and across diverse geographic locations, many feel that it isn’t the best method to effectively cover this topic.  If we are being honest with ourselves, how many of us multi-task while only half listening to online trainings?  Yes, live training demands more time and resources, but if delivered effectively, it will benefit both the employee and employer through greater participant engagement.  Live training offers an unrivaled opportunity for questions and participant discussion which offers greater understanding of the training materials.

Live training also allows employers to discuss real life workplace scenarios.   Realistic examples help employees connect the dots and understand that sexual harassment goes way beyond amplified stories in the news and is relatable to their workplace environment.

Focus on Respect.  Most sexual harassment training programs focus on the laws and employer obligations.  While this focus often checks a box for most organizations from a legal protection standpoint, this type of training can often create a misconception that sexual harassment politicizes are simply a bureaucratic activity driven by leadership to protect an organizations.

While clearly legal definitions are an essential component to sexual harassment training, however, employers who choose to equally focus on the law and creating a work environment based on respect and civility, will find greater success and effectiveness in their training. Employees want to work in an environment that is based on trust and mutual respect.  This is fundamental in creating workplace that is truly free of harassment.

See Something, Say Something.  Sexual harassment policies and training typically focus on behaviors of the harasser and the options available to the victim to address the issue.  Employers should equally emphasize the responsibility of the entire organization to “see something, say something,” when it comes to sexual harassment both through organization-wide training and policies.

Anyone who witnesses harassment or inappropriate behavior should be empowered to do something.  Simply because an employee was not the direct recipient of inappropriate behavior, he or she should take action.  “Bystanders” should be encouraged to speak directly with the person who was harassed.  Employees who are recipients of harassment are often uncomfortable and may welcome the support of a colleague.  A bystander should also be encouraged to speak with a manager, human resources, and even directly to the employee who exhibited the inappropriate behavior.

Be Clear about Consequences.  Recent news highlighting the dramatic downfall of many prominent men can actually cause some victims to be reluctant to come forward.  In most instances, the victim wants the behavior to stop and that doesn’t always equate to the firing of the harasser.  Employers should be clear that there are many different appropriate consequences depending on the severity of the situation.  The media has shown a light on gross sexual misconduct where the appropriate consequence is indeed termination, however, in many cases, termination is not wanted, needed, or appropriate.  Employers should be clear that a fair investigation will follow a complaint and the employer will respond appropriately and proportionately.

Invite the Conversation.  Employers should not only train often on this topic, but open up the dialogue as a normal part of doing business.  Managers have often shared with me that they fear an uptick in complaints after facilitating training on sexual harassment.  The irony is that this is a desired outcome of providing training and opening up conversation about sexual misconduct and harassment.  The EEOC actually has suggested that employers reward managers if harassment complaints increase, at least initially.  It shows that employees have faith in the system and believe that their concerns will be heard and addressed.

Let’s find one silver lining in the “Harvey Weinstein Effect” and use this as opportunity to look closely at our policies, training, and communication around sexual harassment.  Creating an environment founded on respect and support from colleagues, managers, and human resources is a constant evolution and not an end goal.  Current events has proven that we can always do better.

The Importance of Families During the Holidays

Written by Barbara Irwin on .

The holidays to me are always a time of family. We surround ourselves with those we love, people that bring us joy and happiness, with whom we create new memories while reminiscing about days of past. It’s a special time that I look forward to every year.

I reflect often about family during the holidays. I think about how for many of us, our coworkers are family as well. These are people that we see day in and day out, with whom we create and share memories, laugh and cry, celebrate new experiences, and participate in life journeys. Many of my coworkers over the years have become lifelong friends.

The same goes for clients, partners, customers and other individuals in your professional life. I sometimes think that if we looked at the entire business landscape through the lens of family, that we’d be a more productive, cooperative and successful society.

Obviously as HR professionals we often see the other side of the coin. The disputes, in-fighting, unprofessional behavior, etc., but I’d say for the most part those experiences are few and far between.

With the year drawing to a close and where it seems every time we turn on the TV, radio or look around us we see so much hate, distrust and condemnation, I’d like to offer up a holiday wish for everyone.  I hope for all of you, nothing but the best within your families both at home and in the workplace. I hope the New Year brings joy, happiness, cooperation, new experiences and success. From all of us here at HR Advisors Group, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Riding Off Into the Sunset in Style – Ensuring Smooth Knowledge Transfer and Retention for Retiring Employees

Written by Barbara Irwin on .


My husband recently retired and his firm held a lovely party to send him off. It was a wonderful event and he was deeply touched for the recognition that they showed him for his years of service to the company.

As we were driving home, I began reflecting that many friends and colleagues will be attending these parties over the next few years as the Baby Boomers finally decide to retire.

As an HR professional, I’ve been involved in reviewing, writing and implementing various retirement and recognition policies over the years. Many firms have rewarded their employees’ long-term service both when they leave and while they’re still employed. Some firms give extra vacation time with year milestones (5,10,15, etc.), allow them select from a gift registry and some even have explicit policies for retirement gatherings and send-offs. It’s important to have robust programs and policies to ensure your employees are recognized for their commitment to your organization.

However, while festivities and recognition are very important to ensure that your retiring employees feel the ‘love and commitment’ for their service, for the company and the employee, the transition meeting is probably the most important part of an employee retiring. This is the meeting that formally ends the employment relationship. At this meeting, it’s critical for the organization to work with the retiring employee to make sure that the employee understands and has all questions answered regarding 401(k) plans, pensions, health insurance and other items that are considered retirement benefits.  A well-organized transition meeting gives employees the peace of mind on important factors that will have an impact on the next chapter in their life.

One of the areas that has become more of a hot topic today around employee retirement is knowledge transfer. Many organizations are starting to recognize that as employees exit the workforce, the knowledge they have obtained throughout their career goes with them.  Thus, it’s absolutely critical for organizations to take a long and hard look at their current knowledge retention and transfer programs, succession plans and their overall transition retirement plans to ensure that they are creating effective programs and capturing the relevant information that is critical to the future success of the organization.

While knowledge transfer is an important part of the retirement transition session, this is something that ideally is done well before an employee’s departure.  Not only does knowledge transfer provide a strong foundation for future employees to continue to learn and be mentored by these retiring employees, it’s also a gesture that signals to retiring employees that the organization values their insights, knowledge and expertise.

Retirement can be a difficult decision for a lot of employees. Ensuring that your retiring employees have a smooth transition out of the organization is one step to mitigate some of the added stress with such an important life decision. It’s also absolutely critical that your organization ensures that these retiring employees’ expertise and knowledge stays with the firm and can be leveraged for continued organizational success.  It’s a win-win for the employee and the organization if both are handled with professional care and importance.