Red Hot Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

No Raises This Year?

September 4th, 2014

CrowdFundedDiplomacy

Many business owners and managers are facing budget cuts that they haven’t experienced in many years.  With health care costs and other benefits increasing and revenue either flat or decreasing, many clients have told us that they will be freezing wages at least through mid-year.  While they fully understand the necessity of this measure, they are also concerned on how this decision will affect their employees.  What will be their response?  What about their morale and will it have an adverse effect on their performance?  No one likes to be the bearer of bad news…so what can be done to soften the blow?  Are there some low cost morale boosters that can be implemented in your business during these challenging times?

This year, many businesses will not be increasing their payroll budgets.  Not because they don’t want to provide their employees with their annual raises, but because the current economic conditions have given them no options.  While management studies have shown time and time again that pay is not the prime motivator, any business owner knows that NOT giving a raise (especially if one has been given regularly in the past) can definitely be a de-motivator if the business does not take extra steps to soften the blow.  Small gestures, little to no cost ‘actions of gratitude’, can have a significant impact on employee morale and productivity.

Here are some ‘actions of gratitude’ we have either put into practice at Red, or have been warmly welcomed at one of our clients’ companies:

  • Remember to smile and laugh at work…these expressions go a long way in setting a great mood and tone in the workplace.
  • Say “thank you” and “please”.  These are three of the most potent words a manager can use.  They go a long way in letting your employees now you value and respect them.
  • Openly communicate with employees.  Share as much as possible about your business plans and goals with your employees.  Now more than ever, sharing information with them will strengthen bonds and make employees feel like they are part of a team.  They’ll work harder at helping you achieve your aspirations, keeping focused on building the future instead of on fear of layoffs.
  • Have themed dress days or, if your business normally has a more formal environment, casual dress days.  Wearing something that is not part of the usual 9-5 attire can be a great stress breaker.
  • Offer flexible scheduling if possible.  If you can, offer telecommuting or flexible hours (i.e., 10am-7pm instead of 8am-5pm).  Would a 4 day/10 hours a day schedule work for your business?  If you have a business structure that allows some or all of these flexible schedules, offering them may increase employee motivation and productivity.
  • Would your work environment make a happy home for a cat or dog (or some other type of animal such as a bird or hamster)?  Our furry friends can help tremendously with lowering stress….just be sure to check for employee allergies.
  • Check with appropriate vendors to see if they are willing to offer discounts to your employees.  If possible, offer to do the same for their employees.
  • Fill your employee break-room with lots of games, decks of cards and puzzles.  We have one client who has a pool table available for employees to use.
  • If you can squeeze it into your budget, offer employees the option to apply for an emergency short term, interest-free loan.  Specify an amount that employees may borrow if they find themselves needing extra cash quickly.  As an example, someone in your business might need help paying that high winter heating bill.  Employees can repay the amount over time through payroll deductions.
  • Have lunch brought in for employees….not necessarily for meeting sales or productivity goals…but as an ‘action of gratitude’.

We all know employees are always an important part of making our businesses successful.  We hope we have provided some ideas you can utilize to improve office morale during these challenging times.

Going Green

July 9th, 2014

 

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To follow up to our article  on the company/employee philanthropy movement, we thought we’d share some ideas on how the green movement is making an impact in the workplace.  Many companies, both large and small are beginning to see the many benefits of conservation and being more environmentally aware.  The Green Movement has gone mainstream.

Here are some ideas you might consider for your workplace. By implementing just a few, your business can improve the environment by saving energy, decreasing waste,  and increasing employee and customer awareness.

  • Look around your lunch room.  Can you begin recycling cans, the daily newspaper, plastic bottles or magazines?
  • The next time you have to replace a light bulb,  use a more energy efficient one.  Efficient bulbs may cost more upfront, but will save money over time.
  • Depending on your business location, encourage car pools and/or public transportation.
  • Turn off office lights when not in use.
  • When possible, recycle used printer and copier paper.
  • Reuse old file folders.
  • Limit the use of disposable items at company functions.
  • After a company function, give leftover edible food to a local charity or let employees take it home instead of throwing it away.
  • Watch the thermostat!  Employees need to be comfortable, but encourage discretion.
  • Depending on your company, allow employees to telecommute if possible, even just one day a week.

In our area, the local power company will visit worksites and perform energy audits.  They’ll look for ways to reduce utility costs and suggest other cost saving measures that can be implemented.  We have clients who have used this service and are amazed at the reduction in their energy bills.  Call your local provider and see if they can provide this program for you!

Do you have any other ideas?  If so, please share them with us!  We’ll publish them in the next Red Alert

 

Education Benefits for Employees

June 25th, 2014

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To remain competitive in today’s business environment, many employers are offering education benefits to their employees.  In addition to helping employees on a personal level to overcome vocational deficiencies and upgrade their skills, employer-provided educational benefits can help retain valuable employees while also attracting talented new ones.

There are some who believe that employer-provided educational benefits are a waste of money. They are quick to voice their opinion that employees usually don’t learn anything useful that can add value to their work product.  It is also their opinion that many employees, after attending coursework that will improve their marketability, will soon quite to work for a competitor.

Naysayers aside, most in management agree that such programs can be one of the best and most affordable retention tools around if they are carefully administered.  The benefits are many:

¨ Retain quality workers. It can be a challenge to find quality workers who are a good fit in a specific company and, after all of the work of identifying, interviewing and hiring, the next challenge is to keep them  Education assistance can be a motivator and loyalty builder which can help boost a company’s reputation as a great place to work.   The ability to openly promote the program, rather than waiting for employees to ask if they can take a course at the company’s expense, only enhances the perceived value of the benefit.

¨ Attract younger workers.  Often, recent college graduates tend to focus on securing employment with ‘name-brand’ employers and may not know that a company that better fits their skills and talents even exists.  Small business, in particular, needs to inform these potential employees of the various benefits of working for them.  Knowing that education is valued by these potential workers, offering education assistance might be just the hook that is needed.

¨ Build upon your employees existing job-related skills.  Employers can organize the program so education assistance is provided only for those courses that are relevant to their jobs. The business can ensure that it is paying only for skills that have a direct and positive impact on the bottom line.

¨ Enhance the personal skills of your employees.  Even courses unrelated to an employee’s job content can improve performance. For example, a worker might learn budgeting skills that would ease his/her worries about personal finances, resulting in more time focusing on the job at hand. A parent might take a course in managing a difficult teenager–and relieve much stress that affects his or her work. Someone might take a course in painting and find a new and creative way to relax, bringing to work a refreshed attitude.

 

Some suggestions before implementing an employee education policy:

 

¨ Is it the intent of the company subsidize only education or training that relates to an employee’s current job/some other job in the company or will there be no restrictions to what will be subsidized?

¨ Will the program be offered to all employees or just certain types of employees, such as those who meet specified length-of-service requirements or some other subjective, non-discriminatory requirements?

¨ Will the company cover all education-related expenses, such as tuition, books, transportation costs, or equipment or just some?

¨ Will the tuition/fees reimbursement be contingent on the achievement of a particular grade, a certain attendance rate, or continued service with the company for a specified number of years after the benefit is paid?  Will there be any conditions under which employees might have to repay any reimbursements they receive?

¨ Will payments be made directly to the employee or paid to the educational provider directly?

¨ Will there be a specific procedure that must be followed in order to receive reimbursement; i.e. specific forms that must be completed or documents that must be submitted to support a reimbursement claim (receipts, course transcript, etc.)

 

In some instances, employees may use such a benefit to reach their professional development and advancement goals outside the company. Despite this possibility, most employers find that the advantages of education benefits outweigh the costs, particularly if they structure programs to minimize the possibility that employees might use their enhanced skills to land jobs elsewhere. A company’s investment can be returned several times over through employees’ application of new knowledge or technical know-how on the job.

 

 

 

 

 

Job Descriptions

June 18th, 2014

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Anyone who has had a couple of kids and a Saturday Job List to be completed before any play can take place knows the battle call: “Cleaning the bathroom is on her list.  It’s not fairIt’s not my job!”  If your house is like many of ours, becoming embroiled in a ‘what job belongs to who’ discussion can be a frustrating and losing  proposition.  The Saturday Job List mentality can spread to the workplace as well.  We have clients who are convinced that written job descriptions will have the same disastrous results, with some tasks being ignored or forgotten if they are not specifically assigned.  However, we all know that without a list to start with, nothing ever gets done.  We’ve put some of our thoughts about developing job descriptions on page three.

Job descriptions are extremely important.  They are a necessity in any workplace.  If constructed well and used correctly, job descriptions can provide valuable benefits to your business and employees.  However, if they are poorly written or not seen as worthwhile within your company, they can lead to disaster.

Why your employees (and your organization) deserve written job descriptions:

Þ They  can provide an opportunity to clearly communicate your company’s values and mission, and they will also assist your employees in understanding how they and their job are an essential piece of the big picture.

Þ They set clear expectations for what is acceptable action in regards to job performance and work behavior.  If an employee is not meeting your expectations, it could be that he/she does not know what is expected to be productive and successful.

Þ They help you maintain legal compliance, i.e. having accurate physical requirements for a job will assure compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

Þ They will assist you in recruiting when you need to hire a new employee.  Candidates will have a clear understanding of what you are looking for when hiring.

Þ Having job descriptions is necessary to establish an effective compensation structure for your company.  You need to understand what each job really does, the level of responsibility it has, and the minimum qualifications of the person completing the job in order to ensure your employee(s) is being properly compensated within the labor market.

It is important to stress that job descriptions can quickly become outdated as your business changes and grows.  You need to be diligent in reviewing descriptions with your employees.  We recommend reviewing descriptions no less than annually, or even more frequently depending on the amount of change occurring within your business.  Be careful to not just heap on more responsibilities without reviewing the overall job.  You may need to remove tasks as well.

Be sure your job descriptions have enough flexibility so that your employees have some freedom to work outside of the borders as needed.  The first responsibility of any employee is to strive to achieve the mission set by the organization.  Employees need to feel comfortable helping a co-worker when needed, making a decision to meet customer service standards, and cross-training into other areas.

Poorly written job descriptions could potentially put you into legal “hot water”.  Whether job candidates believe they were truly the best fit for a position, or employees file wrongful termination suits because they believe they were meeting expectations based upon the description, vague, un-measurable, untimely or unused descriptions can get you in trouble.  Poorly written job descriptions can also lead to making bad hiring decisions.  If you and your company do not have a clear understanding of the job, you may not make the best decision when it comes time to hire someone.

Job descriptions should be an integral part of your performance management system, especially if evaluations are used to determine salary increases and bonus eligibility.  If not, you need to work towards this goal and integrate your descriptions with your performance evaluations.

Do you have written job descriptions that are an integral part of your business?  Does everyone know what they are responsible for—and what is expected of them when they come to work every day?   If it’s time to take another look at your current descriptions, give us a call to help!  For those of you who have access to our HR e-Book, you will find the tools and forms available to help you get started. Additionally, we are happy to work with you to review what you currently have, or help you create the job descriptions you need.

 

 

 

Job Analysis

June 9th, 2014

JobAnalysis

Over the last year, the goal for many companies has been to stay afloat without having to let go of their top talent (or of anyone for that matter).  Nevertheless, workforce reductions and hiring freezes may have occurred anyway.  During the course of these changes, existing job functions may have also changed.  Duties that were most appropriately completed in one department may have been shoved to another department.  Other duties may have been deemed relatively unimportant and pushed to the back burner.  Moreover, some duties which have been serving a purpose, may no longer be functional.  With the hope of economic growth ahead, now is the time to assess the jobs that remain to determine if their current function is still necessary in today’s business climate.

So, why not conduct a job analysis?  A job analysis is an examination of all jobs within a company and the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform them.  Job analysis is useful in the recruitment of qualified candidates, ensuring employment practices are non-discriminatory (proof that decisions are based on objective factors only) and ensuring that employees are fairly compensated for the work they perform.

Where to start?  Your first step should be to make a list of the processes, start to finish, that have to be completed in order for your business to grow and run effectively.  From here, you will need to select a method (direct observation, questionnaires, or interviews) for collecting the relevant information. Third, ask the right questions.  Some questions you might ask during a job analysis are: What is the function of this job?  What skills and qualifications are necessary to perform this job?  Are there any duties/responsibilities of this job that have become extinct?  Is there more that we could expect from this job?  Are the expectations of this job too much?  Fourth, analyze your findings to discover what, if any, changes need to be made to the existing job and/or organizational structure to ensure there are no gaps in the processes (i.e. that relevant duties are being performed and irrelevant ones are not).

Conducting regular job analyses will help you gain a better understanding of the changing nature of your business and will allow you to align your HR practices accordingly.  Doing so will ensure that your company is prepared for growth when the time comes (if it isn’t here already).

 

 

Summer Slows

June 3rd, 2014

Summer-Work

Is it difficult keeping everyone focused on work when vacations and the outdoors are calling when the major topic at the Monday staff meeting is updating everyone on holiday plans and sunburns?

No matter where you are reading this edition of the Red Alert, you have probably already been affected by “Summer Slows”.  While it hasn’t been officially been deemed a real illness by the AMA, it is a very real syndrome that hits businesses and organizations across the US—especially during the months of July and August.  What can you do when the temperature outside is climbing and your employees are either on vacation, planning their vacation, or in denial that they are actually back from their summer break?  How do you increase productivity and boost the energy of your team…or do you just give up, grab a hammock, and wait for September?  Here are some of our favorites submitted from our clients over the years…

Some Summer Energy-Boosters (compliments of our Red and Associates’ clients!)

Here are some tips that might help get your team reenergized:

1. Have a bulletin board in the employee break room for vacation pictures to be posted.  One client’s employees take a small company sign with them when they vacation.  At the end of summer, the employees votes for who photographs the sign in the best location.

2. Bring ice cream and lemonade instead of donuts and coffee to the next meeting (those umbrellas in the lemonade can put a smile on anyone’s face).

3. Too hot?  Reward great performance tickets to an air-conditioned movie theater or passes to the nearest water park.

4. Carve out time in early September for an employee meeting to re-focus everyone on your priorities for the rest of the year. 

5.  Keep your vacation schedule posted where everyone can see who is gone (and for how long).  Nothing frustrates a team member more than having a project on hold because they didn’t know a key member was planning on being out for the next two weeks.

Any ideas you’d like to share?  Let us know and we’ll follow up in our July Newsletter!  clientcare@redandassociates.com

 

 

Lily Ledbetter and the Fair Pay Law

May 21st, 2014

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Lily Ledbetter worked hard at her job as an area manager for Goodyear Tire and Rubber in Gadsden, Alabama.  Between the years 1979—1998, she spent most of her time in management.  The vast majority of managers at her level were male.  At the start of her management assignment, Lily’s pay was in line with her male counterparts.  Over the next twenty years, however, Lily’s pay failed to keep up with the other area managers.  The slow erosion of her pay wasn’t noticeable at first, but by 1997 the difference between her pay check and the rest of her management level (who by this time were all male) was 15%!  Lily’s Employment Discrimination suit went all the way to the Supreme Court where, in 2007, the Justices ruled that the employer was protected from gender pay discrimination if the claim was made on decisions made by the employer 180 or more days prior to the claim.  The decision by the Supreme Court was overturned by the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government when the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was passed this January.  How does this Act affect your business?  What do you need to know about fair compensation?

President Obama recently signed the Fair Pay Act into law.  Under the new law, the 180-day clock to file a pay discrimination claim under the ADA, ADEA, Title VII, or the Rehabilitation Act restarts every time an employee receives an unfair paycheck. In Lily’s case, this meant that the discrimination didn’t occur just once, but every single time she received a paycheck that was discriminatory (e.g. less than her male counterparts).  The Fair Pay Act is retroactive. It takes effect as if it had been enacted on May 28, 2007 and applies to all pay discrimination claims that are pending on or after that date.

The Fair Pay Act applies broadly to any discrimination that has any effect on pay – not just to decisions that directly affect pay. This could include, for example, a decision not to promote somebody because of their gender, age, religion, etc. Therefore, if an employer chose to promote a male over a female back in 1988, or a 30 year old instead of a 45 year old in 1995, and the decision was discriminatory, those who were unfairly passed over for the promotion could potentially file a lawsuit today or at some point in the future, so long as the employee receives a discriminatory paycheck within 180 days before filing the lawsuit. Additionally, the Act covers discriminatory benefits, such as pension payments. That means that a retiree could sue for discrimination that happened quite some time ago if the retiree files the claim within 180 days of receiving an unfair benefit payment.

We recommend the following actions to address the possibility (or perception) of discriminatory pay practices:

  • Develop objective, measurable guidelines for compensation decisions.   Apply these compensation guidelines consistently and uniformly with job classification, work group, department, etc.
  • Implement a formal performance evaluation process.  This process will provide management with a tool that assures compensation decisions are given the same thorough review as other important decisions such as terminations or discipline.
  • Create pay policies to ensure managers and supervisors do not have general discretion when making compensation decisions.
  • Regularly audit compensation practices to ensure sufficient documentation is available to support pay decisions.
  • Review your company’s documentation retention policies and procedures to ensure information regarding compensation decisions is readily available if needed.
  • Train supervisors and managers in fair pay and discriminatory practices.  They must understand the importance of making objective compensation decisions and document as needed.

The Fair Pay Act requires employers to compensate their employees fairly.  Objective compensation programs have always been the hallmark of well run businesses.  Employers must now be certain that these fair pay practices are well documented and followed throughout their organizations.  If you would like to further discuss implementing fair pay processes in your business, please give our HR Coaches a call at 866.599.1RED.

 

 

 

Good Boss/Bad Boss

May 1st, 2014

 

 

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Your local bookstore’s management section is full of best sellers touting the latest trends in keeping employees happy and motivated.  If you’re like most of us, however, you have little free time to wade through the stacks of books looking for useful ideas you can apply to your own workplace.  However, we all know that high morale usually results in higher productivity, so it makes sense to take a good look at your own management style and the impact you have on your employees’ work.  Are there little things you can do differently that can pay big dividends in improving your employees’ morale?  Take a moment and learn some tips on what you can do to improve your (and your employees) performance!

Motivated employees create an environment that makes it easier for everyone to reach the goals and objectives you’ve set for your business.  Creating and maintaining a workplace that energizes and appreciates its employees doesn’t happen by accident, however.  There are many things management can do to have a positive effect on their team.  It only takes a few bad habits, however, to ruin all your hard work.  What are you doing to make their day…or ruin it?

 

Making Their Day…

Ruining Their Day…

Smile when you arrive to work, regardless of the mood you are in or how much sleep you didn’t get last night.  Your smile can set the tone for the whole day! Audit, audit, audit!  Track and watch your employees constantly.  Admonish employees for every mistake, no matter how little.  Your actions clearly show that no employee can be trusted.
Do you remember your Mom always reminding you to say “please” and “thank you”?  These three small words have a lot of power and go a long way in showing your employees that you value and respect them. Create an extensive hierarchical system that requires multiple permission steps to have even the smallest decisions made and/or tasks completed.  Empowerment?  Bah Humbug!
Clearly communicate your expectations.  When speaking to employees, have them paraphrase what the assignment is and what their responsibilities are so everyone is on the same page. Make a decision, announce it, then follow up with asking your employees for their ideas and feedback.  (Hint: If you aren’t getting input to help you make a decision, don’t ask for it!)
Provide regular, constructive feedback for your employees.  Even when you have to discuss something negative, the right approach can still help an employee maintain dignity in the situation. Find an individual or a small group of people who are breaking a company rule and scold all employees at a staff meeting instead of directly dealing with the misbehaving employee(s).
Be willing to confront issues when they occur—don’t bury your head in the sand!   Nothing can hurt the morale of your employees faster than concerns or problems you won’t address. Establish a bunch of new policies and procedures for all employees to follow as a means of dealing with the shortcomings of only a few (or even only one) employee(s).
Be open to new ideas. Try new ideas for motivating employees.  Be open to making changes in your reward and recognition programs.  Even if you are not able to implement a suggestion, make sure you remember to acknowledge employee ideas. Only provide rewards and recognition in consistent, expected ways and at specific times.  This will make employees feel they are entitled to the reward.  Not to say you cannot have an Employee of the Month program, but do not buy lunch for the crew every Friday.  The Friday you “forget” will not be an enjoyable one.

 

Making Their Day…

Ruining Their Day…

Make time for employees.  How often have you thought there is just not enough time in the day to complete your “to do” task list, plus make time for your employee interactions?  Remember, it is about quality, not quantity.  Make time for them, even just a few minutes…they will appreciate it. Create policies for every contingency allowing management very little latitude when working with individual employee needs.  Or, create so few policies that employees feel like they are working in a “free for all” environment rife with unfair treatment.
Encourage and assist your employees in continuing education and professional development.  Many employees who mention they are thinking of leaving their current employers do so due to lack of challenge and learning opportunities.  Employees may not care if there is not another rung on the career ladder, but occasions for continuous learning are crucial to keeping good employees for the long term. Make every task a priority and never plan for everyday emergencies.  Employees will appreciate the accomplished feeling they get from always “putting out fires” and never being able to proactively complete their work.  When there really is an emergency, employees will be appropriately cynical to your cause.
Openly communicate with employees.  Share as much as possible about your business plans and goals with your employees.  Sharing information with them will strengthen bonds and make employees feel like they are part of a team.  They’ll work harder at helping you achieve your aspirations. Do not allow your employees to learn from their mistakes.  Expect perfection the very first time your employees try any new task or responsibility you assign.  Also, never let employees forget  their mistakes and continue to scold them long after an error has occurred (usually in a public setting).
Adhere to consistently following the above guidelines.  Now that you’re motivating and encouraging your employees, do not rest on your laurels.  Make employee motivation your priority. The people side of your business is too important—to your team, your customers and your business! Withhold information from an employee that may help them make a better decision.  By not communicating this information, you’ll continue to feel important and your business will be doomed to fail!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Thank You Note You Don’t Want To Miss Sending

October 18th, 2012

We provide a range hiring services and support for our clients, from helping craft the want ads through background and reference checking.  When we are asked to oversee the entire process beginning with the want ad and ending with finalizing the offer letter, one step that often raises the eyebrows of our client is our insistence of writing ‘Thanks But No Thanks’ letters to those who were selected.

Questions we are asked range from “why waste your time on people who weren’t even qualified to apply” to “won’t they be upset when they get the letter”?  So, for those of you reading this that are tasked with the hiring process and do not currently send a ‘TNT’ (Thanks But No Thanks) letter, here are some things to consider:

  • It takes more time answering the phone time and time again when applicants call asking when a decision will be made and if they made the cut than to email a letter as soon as a decision is made
  • Candidates will be disappointed when they find out they are not chosen.  They will be much more upset if they are left to hang out to dry waiting for the phone to ring.

Two of our red team members have sons in their twenties who are currently looking for employment.  One is still in college and is simply looking to help with monthly expenses through a part time job; the other is looking to move on to another (and more rewarding) opportunity.  Both have worked at red when they were younger, helping file the piles of paperwork the HR folks manage to produce on a daily basis, answer the phones, and stuff TNT letters we send out during hiring searches for our clients.  They learned from the age of 16 that thanking people for applying for a position is the right thing to do.  People deserve a timely response; they need to be assured that their

application was received and thoughtfully reviewed.  Both boys were known to grumble a bit when they stuffed a stack of envelopes, and were much happier when we moved to emailing the TNT responses.  To them it was just part of their high school job.  Now, in their twenties, they have come to appreciate just how important these letters can be.

The college student has applied for many part time jobs, and has been told twice that he has the position “that is still in the budget phase and will be contacted when it becomes available”.  After waiting for the phone to ring and turning down other opportunities, he discovered ‘through the grapevine’ that both positions were put on hold indefinitely.  No phone call, no letter, no Thanks But No Thanks…nothing.  The second young man has a solid resume and track record and has been interviewed by many companies in his area, three times making the final interview cut.  To date, he has not received any communication on why he wasn’t hired – or even if the position was filled.

These employers’ lack of timely responses send a message to the applicants: you don’t really matter.  What these employers don’t understand is that these applicants are also consumers…and have family, neighbors and friends who are also consumers.  When treated badly by a company, the natural response is to quit doing business with them.  A TNT letter, when written with respect and sent in an appropriate time frame, is not only the right thing to do – it is also a very effective marketing tool.  Remember, they may not be the ideal candidate for this position, but they might be perfect for the next one that comes up.  And, even if they are not a good fit for your company, they might be a great fit for the products and services you sell.

We have a sample TNT letter available for download through the HR Subscription Service.

Fun or fearful? Building an environment of respect in your workplace

July 13th, 2010

Which type of harassment is most common in the workplace? Answer — The kind that never gets reported. Whether intensive harassment or just rude behavior – these are common complaints from employees, but they are often never officially dealt with as people fear retaliation. And often if confronted, employees and leaders are surprised – “we were just having fun….everyone does that.” Meanwhile others at work live in fear.

In today’s workplace it is tricky business striking the balance between a fun-loving, loose and creative atmosphere and one that also respects the needs and viewpoints of everyone employed. Leaders often lose their bearings and become unaware of harmful behavior and an unproductive environment. By either going along or looking the other way, they are contributing to a boiling, if not explosive, set of problems that they will be held responsible for in the end.

What can leaders and business owners do to build a respectful and trusting workplace? One that fosters creative and collaborative thinking for the long haul – not just fun in the moment? For sure they must establish the policies of behavior that all employees must abide by – that pay attention to both the legal and motivational aspects of employee needs. But equally important, they must be a model of respectful behavior. Here are a few key components:

Make sure you are constantly encouraging open communication. Listen to employees and other leaders, address issues head-on that might be hard to confront, question assumptions that your team makes — all this ensures that you hear the true concerns of people and focus on solving them proactively.

Be sure your words and your actions are in sync – that you are consistent. Be the model of your stated organizational values –even if that means stepping away from “the fun” at times. Be honest and follow through on commitments, both your own and the ones stated in the policy manual.

Outwardly show that you value the contributions and opinions of everyone – demonstrate, don’t just say that diversity is an advantage. Give due credit without bias. And don’t expect favors in return. Show confidence in others by advocating for everyone. If you do these things, you earn a lot of credit when the occasional bump occurs.

Harassment and other poor behavior are cues that the work environment has been ignored and left to the discontent to define. Creating and leading the culture of your organization is as important as any other business factor in running a successful enterprise. As the saying goes, “a little respect goes a long way.”