Red Hot Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘management’


October 15th, 2014


Last month we talked about the prevalence of prescription drugs use and their abuse in the workplace.  So, what can you do to keep your business, and your employees safe?  What signs might indicate the potential for drug misuse? 

The indicators listed below are “warning signs” of drug and/or alcohol abuse and may be observed by supervisors:

Moods:  Is an employee unusually…

  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Suspicious
  • Complaining about others
  • Emotionally unsteady (e.g., outbursts of crying)
  • Moody (his/her mood changes after lunch or break)

Behaviors:  Do you notice that one of your employees is more…

  • Withdrawn or improperly talkative
  • Argumentative
  • Egotistical / Has exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Violent / displaying violent behavior

Absenteeism:  Are any of your employees experiencing…

  • An acceleration of absenteeism and tardiness, especially Mondays, Friday, before and after holidays
  • Frequent unreported absences, later explained as “emergencies”
  • Unusually high incidence of colds, flu, upset stomach, headaches
  • Frequent use of unscheduled vacation time
  • Leaving work area more than necessary (e.g., frequent trips to water fountain and bathroom)
  • Unexplained disappearances from the job with difficulty in locating employee
  • Requesting to leave work early for various reasons

Accidents:  You have an employee…

  • Taking of needless risks
  • Disregarding the safety of others
  • With a higher than average accident rate on and off the job

Work Patterns:  One of your employees is experiencing…

  • Inconsistency in quality of work
  • High and low periods of productivity
  • Poor judgment/more mistakes than usual and general carelessness
  • Lapses in concentration
  • Difficulty in recalling instructions
  • Difficulty in remembering own mistakes
  • Using more time to complete work/missing deadlines
  • Increased difficulty in handling complex situations


Relationship to Others on the Job:  One of your employees is…

  • Paranoid
  • Avoiding and withdrawing from peers
  • Receiving complaints from co-workers
  • Borrowing money from fellow employees
  • Complaining of problems at home such as separation, divorce and child discipline problems

Any one of these signs, alone or combined, could be a signal to a number of concerns, not necessarily substance abuse related.  However, if any signs are combined with other signs of impairment, you have cause for concern.  Some signs of impairment may include, but not be limited to:


Still, even with a number of signs, there may be other issues, such as illness, or a recent family situation, which are causing many of the above signs and symptoms.  You must be careful not to judge too quickly.  While you want to take care of your business, you do not want to falsely accuse anyone.

Next month, we’ll discuss what steps to follow if you do notice an employee exhibiting many of the symptoms above.  Remember, if you possibly have a current situation, and cannot wait for next month’s article on how to follow through on the warning signs, give one of our HR Coaches at Red and Associates a phone call.  We’ll be happy to walk through the situation with you and see how we can help.



April 9th, 2014


Your CFO is retiring in two months.  While you’ve known this was coming since she announced her intentions six months ago, you weren’t prepared for how hard it would be to replace her.   You started the search by placing an ad in the Sunday paper; when that didn’t garner the responses you  needed, you pulled out your rolodex and began down your list of contacts.  One call went to a buddy 1000 miles away who happened to know of an ideal prospect.  You received his resume, conducted a phone interview, completed his background check and references, and booked his flight for a face to face interview.  He has all the qualifications you have been looking for, including ten years experience in your industry.  You should be looking forward to finally meeting him face to face.  The problem?  What if you really like him?  He’d have to move his family 1000 miles if he accepted the offer.  What impact would that have on your budget…and your business?  See page three for some relocation tips.

In our newsletter a few months ago, we wrote about the benefits (and costs) of telecommuting.  If this option fits the needs of your company and the new employee, and the benefits outweigh the costs, this could be a viable option.  However, if you need this position to be filled on-site, and your best candidate lives 1000 miles away, it is obviously time to get a relocation package in order!

There are many factors to consider when talking to a candidate about relocation and determining the relocation package you would like to offer.  One size does not fit all when it comes to moving a new employee.  Do they have a spouse? Kids? Pets?  Do they own or rent? All of these need to be considered when creating a relocation assistance package.

Some things to consider when developing your company’s relocation program and policies:

Location Visit/Tour.   Offer to have the candidate return for a visit.  If he/she is married, offer to pay for the spouse as well.  Plan on allowing them at least a couple of days to tour the area.  You may also choose to connect them with a reputable real estate professional so that they may see housing options.  The realtor is most likely knowledgeable about schools, healthcare facilities, area recreational opportunities and other services that may be important to your candidate.  While allowing enough time for the candidate to see the location, you’ll also want to plan on visiting as well, so he/she and, if applicable, their spouse, feels comfortable that all of their questions have been answered about the company and the job.


Home Selling/Lease Cancellation Assistance.  Find out what you can reasonably do to help a candidate either sell their home or amicably end their lease. An example may include financial assistance if the home does not sell within a certain amount of time.  In today’s market, companies need to be open to this option especially if the candidate is moving from an area that has a depressed real estate environment.

Spousal Assistance.  In today’s world of two-income families, if a candidate is married, his/her spouse most likely will need to leave a job to move.  You may want to locate services in your community which may help the spouse find a new job opportunity.  Also, you may want to consider paying the amount of the spouse’s old income for a specified period of time so the family may avoid financial strain.

House Buying or Renting Assistance.  Can you help with the realtor or mortgage application fees?  Or assist with the deposit needed to rent an apartment.

Transportation of Household Item.  Determine how it may be best to transport the new employee’s belongings.  Will you arrange for a moving company or allow the individual to move themselves?

Reimbursement of Other Relocation Related Expenses.  When determining a relocation package, you’ll want to clearly identify which items will be reimbursed.  You’ll want to consider such items as house hunting trips, travel expenses when making the final move to your company’s location, and realtor or mortgage fees. Also,  you need to remember to state in your policy if you expect an employee to pay you back relocation expenses if he/she leaves you employ before a specified period of time after moving

We are in a very tight labor market where finding the right person who has the skills and talent needed can be extremely difficult.  Relocation costs are becoming a normal cost of hiring.  By putting together an attractive relocation package, your company will be able to compete for the type of employee you need to succeed.

Tips on Writing Policies

April 1st, 2014


The first step is to ask yourself what you want to accomplish by implementing the policy.  You have to have a clear goal in mind in order for the policy to be effective.  In circumstances where you are writing policy to ensure you are in compliance with a government regulation, you may not have much choice in the context and length; however, when you do have control, you should strive to keep your policies as short and simple as possible.

Next, as you write the policy, keep asking yourself “what if” questions to be certain you are covering the basics and the normal exceptions and questions.  As discussed in the previous page, no policy will or should ever cover all contingencies, but most may have some basic “exceptions to the rule” that you may want to cover.

The next step is having your written policy reviewed by both employees and management.  You may use a small pilot group for this process.  You want to be sure  that your policy is well understood and supported.  Not everyone has to like the policy, but the policy needs to be written so that people will be able to easily follow its directives, and management will be able to fairly enforce it.

Depending on your policy’s legal implications, you may want to have your legal counsel review it before distributing it to employees for enactment. After legal review and approval, you are ready to present the policy for implementation to all of your employees.

Meet with all employees to introduce the new policy and answer any questions.  When you meet with employees, have them sign an attendance sheet so that you’ll have record that they are aware of the new policy.  Or, you can have each employee sign an individual acknowledgement form indicating that they have received the necessary information.

As your employees begin working within the parameters of the new policy, be open-minded as everyone learns how to interpret the policy appropriately to their current work environment and practices.

As you integrate more and more policies into your workplace, it may be helpful to remember 4 easy rules:

1. Keep it simple

2. Keep it short

3. Be fair

4. Be consistent

If you need help in determining the appropriateness of a policy or procedure, or you need help in the writing of a new policy, give one of our HR Coaches at red and associates a call.  Remember, sound policies effectively implemented are beneficial for your business and your employees.

Employee Hears Hiring News on Facebook

March 4th, 2014

While scanning her Facebook newsfeed a few weeks ago, one of our staff members came upon a real life HR drama being played out on Social Media. An acquaintance’s status had just been changed to announce the exciting news that her husband had been chosen for a promotion. Obviously, this was wonderful news that she wanted to share with her closest friends.


It seems, however, that among her 457 Facebook friends, there were a few that probably shouldn’t have heard the news from her. The first three comments to her status were full of congratulations and best wishes. The fourth comment read:“Wow. So HE got the job. Nice someone told the rest of us who applied that we didn’t get the job before it got blabbed all over Facebook.” Ouch.

In this instant notification age we live in, news spreads unbelievably fast. It is the right and ethical thing to contact applicants who did not get the position. Under no circumstances should they have to find out that they lost out on a dream by reading someone’s Facebook page. Hiring managers need to let new hires know that it needs to remain confidential until everyone who needs to be notified is informed of the decision. Then, and only then, should they feel free to spread the word of their new job.

Does this mean that hiring managers need to get the word out immediately after the chosen applicant says yes? YES!!!! Applicant Tracking Systems have made the notification process much easier and less time consuming. If you don’t have such a system, be sure you have the time set aside to send emails/make phone calls the same day you make the hire. Don’t wait for the news to spread on Twitter,Facebook or Instagram. Everyone knew where her husband worked and it suffered a ‘virtual black eye’ when it became apparent the hiring manager didn’t take the time to let everyone know who got—and didn’t get—the job.

Outsourcing Payroll

February 27th, 2014

Payroll for the small to mid-sized business can be a real pain!  The process of recording time, tracking benefits and accruals, paying payroll taxes, and processing all the paperwork that goes with it can be a daunting and time consuming task.  The only thing more daunting can be the thought of turning it over to someone else! Where do you even go to begin the search?  What questions should you ask?  Will moving your payroll to a web-based system make sense, or should you stick with the payroll software you are using now?  Will it really save you money to outsource your payroll or will it just add more headaches?  There are so many products on the market today that it can seem easier just to keep payroll in house than having to figure out what solution meet your specific needs.  We’ve  helped many clients who have faced the same dilemma find an efficient and affordable payroll solution.


It’s a rare day when we hear a business owner or manager relate how much they love payroll.  We usually hear just the opposite. However time consuming and painful the process is, many of our clients have clung to their current payroll system because they were unsure of what (or how) to make it better.

We have recently begun implementing a web-based payroll outsourcing system for many of our clients and they are extremely happy with the outcome.  To prepare our clients to move from excel spreadsheets and basic payroll software to a more convenient, time and cost-saving payroll system, we focus on key reasons why making such a change makes sense for them—and their employees:

1. Payroll Expenses.  In most small to mid-sized businesses, the payroll functions are balanced by one or two individuals who are charged with many other important duties.  While having one dedicated payroll person in-house is often too expensive, adding payroll responsibilities to an internal employee who is already overloaded with tasks can be even more very costly.

2. Efficiency.  By juggling many responsibilities, productivity can be adversely affected.  If payroll functions are taking more and more time away from actually doing the work of growing the business and being more profitable, it’s time to look for another answer!

3. Accuracy.  The laws and regulations around pay and benefits are growing.  Both Federal and State government agencies demand that accurate, up to date records  be kept on employees with timely filings.  Tax regulations, minimum wage laws, FMLA tracking…all demand a knowledgeable payroll person who not only understands the requirements but applies them correctly.  If the current payroll system does not support the demands made to keep pay and benefit processes in compliance, the consequences can be extremely costly.

4. Timeliness.  Many of our smaller employers do their own payroll, or the duties are delegated to the spouse.  When the owner is on vacation or sick, getting payroll out on time can be a real challenge.  Being able to access payroll information and process pay through a web-based system makes sense for anyone who doesn’t want their time-off schedule tied to the payroll cycle!

If you’ve been considering a new payroll system, or just need to assess if your current system is sufficient for your needs, call our HR Coaches at 866.599.1RED.  We’d love to share more ideas on how outsourcing your payroll can make your life a lot more enjoyable (and profitable, too)!

Employee handbook… a good idea?

February 25th, 2014

Given the litigious society we live in today, we often hear from new clients that the main reason they didn’t have an Employee Handbook is because they feared being sued.  While it is true that it is better to not have a handbook than to have one that is out of date or poorly written, the benefits of having a handbook far outweigh the costs.  Employees need to know that the company follows federal and state employment laws.  Even more importantly, they need to be able to access all of the company’s policies and guidelines so they understand what the company rules are as well.  Too often, we have encountered managers and business owners who have to reinvent the wheel every time they are asked a question about company policy, such as the amount of vacation time that can be taken or if the business will pay for classes outside of the regular work day.

A well written Employee Handbook is a valuable resource not only for the employee but for management as well.  During the hiring and orientation process, the handbook serves to introduce new employees to the company and can answer many of the questions managers are asked during the employee’s first few weeks on the job.  We feel it is very important that the company’s handbook have a section that discusses the company’s history, along with its Mission Statement and vision for the company’s future.


The handbook needs to include a section on federal and state employment laws that pertain to your company.  These include policies and procedures concerning harassment and discrimination among others.  If your company is covered by FMLA, an employee handbook is also a good place to include notices of FMLA rights.  With the many changes to Employment Law legislation both on the federal and state levels, we strongly advise that companies review their handbooks at least once a year.

There should be sections in the handbook that provides the employee with the guidelines the company has in place regarding safety, pay and benefits, training and other employment topics that impact your workforce.  When you make any change to a policy, make sure it goes into the handbook and that all of the employees know of the change.  We recommend employees sign that they have read the handbook; we also recommend that they sign when a change has been made. Employees deserve to know what the rules are—and be confident that they won’t change on a whim.

Managing employees successfully demands good communication and consistent supervision.  The company policies and rules are much easier to follow if they are clearly spelled out in the manual…and then followed!  When reviewing client handbooks, we find companies who have pages (and pages) of policies ranging from internet usage to lunchroom clean-up.  The first thing we ask management is:  “Do you consistently apply all of these policies?”  More often than not, the answer is “NO”.  If you are currently not following a policy that is presented in your handbook as a company rule, you need to assess the reason why this is so.  Is the rule too vague or too rigid?  Is it something that really needs to be there in the first place?  Successful companies have policies and rules in place that fit the needs of business, the customer, and the employees.  If it doesn’t benefit at least one group of stakeholders, it probably needs to be reevaluated.


The handbook provides both the employee and the manager an excellent opportunity to better understand what rules and policies need to be followed for the company, and those who work there, to be successful.


When the Employee Handbook is only taken out of the file cabinet when a new employee is hired, or a policy has been broken, the document is not the effective management tool it was designed to be.  Good managers know they need to keep it current, keep it visible, and follow the company policies and standards  consistently!

Team Building

February 20th, 2014

When much of our focus is on project deadlines, making the sale and fulfilling the everyday needs of the company, it is easy to overlook the fundamentals of team work within an organization. Team building is a way for employees to come together and set the goals and objectives of the organization while establishing each members skills and talents. If you feel that your company has put team building on the back burner for too long now is a great time to re-establish emphasis on integrating a culture that promotes just that. As owners or managers, it becomes important for you to lead the way in team building by dedicating time to meet with this agenda in mind. Team building exercises are a great tool to use during this process and will help to set strategies for improvement and outline expectations to meet.



Effective Communication Skills for Managers

February 18th, 2014

Arguably, one of the most common factors in any conflict, whether in the workplace or in our personal lives, is ineffective communication.   As Human Resources professionals, we are constantly striving to facilitate effective communication between leadership and management, management and staff, and amongst staff members themselves.

From our experience, we have found that it is quite easy for communication about company goals, policies, and personal expectations to become muddled.   And it isn’t surprising, as it generally takes some practice to become a truly effective communicator.


A major function of the HR role in any organization is to provide leadership training to management.  Managers are an integral part of work teams.  Not only do they receive feedback from their employees to relay to management, but they also receive direction from leadership to relay to their staff.   This can be a challenging position for anyone!

In our experience, we have often found managers who are confident in their business skills but who lack confidence in their ability to effectively manage and represent their staff (which is a critical part of any manager’s job).

We believe that anyone can improve their communication skills.  But as stated above, it takes some work and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.  If you find yourself in a position of wishing your managers and staff were better communicators, here are some ideas of how you, as the leader of your ship, can encourage such growth.

1. Require staff and management to respond to a simple and anonymous (if practical) questionnaire for the purpose of measuring a manager’s ability to communicate effectively with their staff and other members of the management team.   Before building on one’s knowledge or skill set, it is important to know of one’s strengths and weaknesses and such a survey can provide invaluable information.  For example, the rating scale can range from “Never” to” Always” and includes such questions as:

  • My manager answers my questions in a timely and polite manner

My manager ensures I know and thoroughly · understand his/her expectations of my role

  • My manager communicates my concerns/suggestions to leadership
  • My manager offers creative ideas/constructive feedback in group discussions
  • My manager provides informative and frequent updates on projects that affect me/my staff
  • My manager responds to my questions/requests in a timely and polite manner

2. Once you have a clearer idea of your managers’ strengths and weaknesses, you should schedule periodic workshops/training seminars aimed at building/strengthening the managers’ communication skills.  Keep in mind that a one hour training seminar one time a year might not be sufficient for building effective communications skills.  As is the case when learning any new skill, repetition is key!

3. Ensure that your performance management tools and processes are up-to-date, relevant, and easy to use.  This includes your job descriptions, action plans, performance improvement plans, performance evaluations, etc.  These tools help managers communicate and manage the performance of their staff.

4. Encourage/support managers in getting involved in various speaking engagements or clubs.  Recently, several of our red staff members joined Toastmasters for the purpose of not only becoming more comfortable with the idea of speaking in public forums but also for the purpose of learning how to organize and articulate messages in both impromptu and prepared situations.  Most managers would agree that they frequently find themselves in situations that require tactful responses off the top of their head!


Proper communication is a skill that can immensely help a manager become successful at managing and representing their staff.   As a business leader, investing in the ongoing development of your  management team’s skills simply makes good business sense.

If you have any questions about how management training can help develop your managers skills and improve their performance, or would like to schedule a training for your management team

Staff Meeting Ideas

December 30th, 2013


Have you ever gone to a meeting wondering why it was happening? Have you ever left a meeting feeling like nothing was accomplished and you wasted a precious hour of your day?  We hear from many of our clients that not only do they hate to attend meetings…they go out of their way to avoid even scheduling one.  They realize communication is a priority for good management, they are simply frustrated with the time wasting and yawn inducing communications tool that employee meetings can be.

Meetings are a necessity in a well run workplace.   Therefore, it is management’s task to make them as effective and productive as possible.  Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your  next meeting:

Þ Start on time, follow the agenda, and end on time.  Sounds simple, right?  Can you count the number of times a meeting agenda was given up to discuss an unrelated tangent?  Or, you always wait for Bob in Marketing?  Don’t let it happen.  Set expectations, and then diplomatically follow through with them.  Assign someone to be the timekeeper – rotate to a different person at each meeting.

Þ Be sure the appropriate people are present at the meeting.  Does Sue from Accounting really need to be at a meeting to discuss recruitment strategies for customer service representatives?  On the other hand, Mary, the customer service supervisor needs to be there…so if she is not available, reschedule the meeting.

Þ Plan the meeting and distribute “pre-work” before the meeting.  Your meetings will be more productive if the participants come prepared to act.  The meeting will be more about accomplishing goals and less about reviewing materials that could have been read prior to the meeting.  Plan on distributing pre-meeting work at least two days in advance, but also be careful not give it out to early so that someone “loses” it.

Þ Effectively follow-up and hold others accountable for action plans.  Send out meeting minutes as soon as possible after the meeting.  Be sure to list out any follow-up duties and who is accountable, before the next meeting, to accomplish them.  Check with the people responsible a few days before the next meeting to be sure their tasks were completed.  This will ensure the next meeting is effective as well. 

Managing your meetings successfully will ensure people will be more productive and less stressed in the workplace.  Communication will be improved and your employees will feel more valued (and you might actually look forward to seeing the word ‘meeting’ on your weekly schedule!).