How HR Best Practices are Changing, Part 1

The workforce and technology are both changing rapidly. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that human resource professionals are rethinking the way they do things, too. Sticking to the same old strategies and routines is as passé as a paper resumé. We asked two leading HR experts to suggest some updated best practices–their answers may surprise you.

Get with the gig economy. “The big news for HR leaders is that we have many more freelance workers today,” says Jeanne Meister, bestselling author of The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules for Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees (McGraw Hill). “According to a recent study, gig workers account for 34% of the workforce, or 54 million people.”

What this means is that certain longstanding company policies could use rethinking–and HR departments might have to lead these conversations with management. “Among the questions you may need to ask are, ‘Should freelancers have access to the same training processes and certifications as our full-time employees do?’ and ‘Should gig workers have mentors and coaches, and receive the same holidays as the rest of the staff?’”, says Meister. You don’t want different departments having different policies for these workers, she warns, since it’s a recipe for resentment. Instead, she advises, “Set up a cohesive policy and be a leader.”

Be bot-friendly. The modern workplace goes beyond a blend of full-timers and freelancers, says Meister. Increasingly, companies are bringing a third kind of “worker” on board: bots. These aren’t actual robots–it’s an umbrella term for smart technologies, such as apps and voice-driven devices that can perform tasks more quickly and efficiently than a human could. “These bots are now being targeted to the HR departments,” says Meister.

Need a clearer idea of how bots might work? Picture an employee texting an app a question about his company’s T&A guidelines and getting an instant reply, rather than having to leaf through a thick manual or wait for a time when an HR staffer is free to talk. Picture, too, an HR person using an online platform to find the best interview questions to ask any given candidate. By 2017, says Meister, iIt’s estimated that more than 25% of the Global 100” –the planet’s 100 most sustainable corporations, that is — “will have customized apps for their organization.” Why not follow their example? “HR needs to explore and leverage the latest smart technology to improve its productivity,” Meister urges.

Dial up the detail in job descriptions. With employment laws evolving, and discrimination and retaliation lawsuits on the rise, it’s never been more important to spell out workers’ duties from the start. “Think of the job description as the hub of a wheel,” explains Karen Young, senior professional in human resources and author of Stop Knocking on My Door: Drama-Free HR to Help Grow Your Business (Advantage). “Everything else stems from it, from pay to performance evaluation.”

Young recommends listing not only the tasks associated with each position, but the physical requirements and the work environment in which they will be performed. “Does the job require someone to stand on cement for eight hours a day? If I have an applicant or injured employee who can’t physically do that because of a temporary or permanent disability, I need to demonstrate that it’s an essential part of the job,” she says. Otherwise, you open to the door for legal complaints.

Do more documentation training. This is another practice that can help protect companies from costly conflicts and lawsuits, says Young. Simply put, documentation training is the act of showing managers how to properly and promptly document any incidents that happen on their watch. It’s as essential as any other type of on-the-job learning, Young stresses.

You’d be surprised how many supervisors don’t document troubling incidents, and instead rely on memory alone to recall them. “Partly, it’s because when they think about documenting things, they think it means sitting down and writing a whole essay,” says Young. Explain that it’s fine just to send HR a brief e-mail about it, or write down the bare basics (“Spoke to Melissa about her lateness on X date.”) The important thing, says Young, “is to record incidents in real time. Individuals have between six months and a year to bring a complaint to management’s attention–how will management remember the interaction unless they have it documented?”

Make the workplace an experience. “Employers who want to attract the best talent have to understand that work is more than a job these days. People are looking for an employer that taps their emotional connection. They want to work for an organization that is purpose-driven, and makes an investment in them–in their learning and their career,” observes Meister. It may mean more effort on your end–but ultimately it will also mean a top-notch workforce.

Improving hiring processes to gain quality employees

It’s a given that most businesses need high-quality employees to be successful. One way to attract skilled employees is with high-paying salaries but there are other methods to seek out talent without bringing people in who may only be looking for a payday. According to Forbes magazine, employees are a company’s greatest asset and competitive advantage. With that in mind, consider how the process of searching for and hiring new people can be revitalized.

Highlight the benefits of small business
The Wall Street Journal recommended advertising the ways smaller firms trump big companies. A few examples of the merits associated with working for small businesses are flexible schedules and the option to telecommute. There are often more opportunities for employees to take on different roles in the company and expand their responsibilities. Additionally, small companies may eliminate some of the corporate hoops employees of large firms must jump through, and the relationship between employer and employee can be more personal.

Mix up the recruitment strategy
Forbes suggested changing how job postings are phrased. Instead of simply listing qualifications and expected responsibilities, explain how the position works within the company’s overall objectives. These details will show potential employees that the job has value. Secondly, consider if a degree is as important as the industry implies. Research shows a combination of training and experience can be just as or more valuable than a college education.

Another article in Forbes explained that the hiring market is changing because applicants are gaining more power. However, there remains a disconnect between the two halves of recruitment. According to the publication, 60 percent of job seekers feel there aren’t enough attractive positions offered and 52 percent of recruiters report a lack of favorable applicants.

Company culture
The culture of a company can make a huge difference in gaining and retaining employees. If people enjoy aspects of being at work such as interacting with coworkers, the physical environment or relationships with managers, they’ll be more likely to stay with the company.

According to Forbes, the importance of building a brand as a quality employer is equivalent to creating a brand as a business. It’s inevitable that employees will be vocal about an employer who doesn’t respect them or make them feel appreciated and valued. To bolster the company’s reputation for providing a positive work experience, offer employees certain perks. Some benefits that staff may value are flexible hours, day care services for those with young kids or personalized products.

Part of being known as a great company is hiring effective managers. According to Business News Daily, employees who quit often do so because of experiences with their direct manager rather than an issue with the company as a whole. The publication recommends investing in management and being diligent about letting ineffective managers go.

Create a referral program
One of the reasons a positive company culture is so important is for a successful referral program. Current employees have to enjoy where they work to be motivated to tell their friends about open positions. The program will be more effective if there is an incentive associated with referrals. Some companies offer a cash bonus, either when a referred applicant accepts a job or based on high-quality performance over a determined length of time. Alternatives to a boost in their next paycheck include personalized business gifts that remind the employee of the company. They must be proud of where they work if they want others to work there also, so this is a very appropriate incentive.

Designing an office environment for maximum productivity

Based on the assumption of a 40-hour work week, employees spend nearly 25 percent of a given year at the office. As a result, the appearance and atmosphere of an office is key for employee happiness and retention.

“Equipment and decor can influence productivity and mood, and the floor plan can facilitate the flow of energy and ideas,” contributor Jerry Jao wrote in Forbes.

Even if operating on a tight budget, it’s important to allocate enough resources to establish a comfortable environment that lends itself to efficient and effective workflow. Though it may not seem like an immediate need, Jao asserted that improving the office is actually an investment for the future.

A study published in the World Applied Programming journal found making atmosphere a priority and subsequently making positive adjustments resulted in higher employee self-esteem, better reactions when giving and taking criticism, more group cooperation and a stronger desire to take responsibility.

Company culture
Offices are often little social ecosystems or a communities that are dependent on company culture. Shared values, practices and beliefs define a company’s personality and how it interacts with the greater business environment. says good organizational or company culture is one that balances benefits for the business and the people who work there. A positive company culture can bring about higher morale, more motivation, better attendance and result in greater financial returns.

The physical space
In a survey conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers that focused on recruiting and retaining employees, physical space was determined to be among the top three influential factors. Though compensation took the lead by a large margin, benefits and physical workspace essentially tied for second with 22 percent and 21 percent of the votes, respectively. Those employees confirmed that the design and layout of an office contributes enough to job satisfaction that they would consider taking a job with a favorable atmosphere or leaving a job that is less comfortable.

Some survey responses said physical space is valuable because it influences their ability to be happy and comfortable; they are in the office a lot and they are more productive in a satisfying environment. Aspects that were listed as desirable traits for an office are bright lighting, new furniture and equipment, easy access to coworkers and supplies, the ability to personalize workspaces, and level of noise and privacy. Air temperature and quality were factors as well.

When determining layout, a big decision is whether to have open seating or cubicles. This partially depends on the industry but each setup has inherent qualities that contribute to workflow. Open seating is best when fostering collaboration and teamwork. It also encourages face-to-face communication. On the other hand, cubicles are useful when an office is divided by departments. They may be the more logical choice if an employee’s job requires privacy or they are dealing with sensitive information.

A few more additions
One way to improve appearance and air quality simultaneously is the introduction of plants. They add life to the office, literally, while removing carbon dioxide from the air and releasing oxygen. Many offices have an area for employees to take breaks where there is a television or game collection for them to use as de-stressing agents. Encourage employees to dress up their work space, whether it be with pictures of friends and family or a trendy organizational unit next to their computer. Consider supplying personalized calendars or personalized mugs to employees for splash of company pride in their workspace.

Making adjustments to the company space has a litany of benefits but ultimately, the best accessories to an office are a genuine smile and positive attitude.

Use promotional items for recruiting

A great staff can help a small business reach unprecedented levels of success. Unfortunately, recent data shows that many companies are struggling to find qualified workers to fill key openings. According to the ManpowerGroup’s latest Talent Shortage Survey, 39 percent of enterprises in the United States can’t find the right employees. This represents a 10 percent decrease from the results of the 2012 poll. Jonas Prising, president of the ManpowerGroup, believes that businesses have been forced to find ways to work around the difficulties of not having full teams.

“Our survey results demonstrate that U.S. employers have awakened to the realities of the talent shortage and are implementing innovative strategies to work through the business challenges it brings,” Prising said in a statement.

While dealing with limited staffs is a necessity, small businesses must find ways to recruit top talent to fill critical positions. Distributing promotional items might be one of the best strategies for developing brand recognition and opening lines of communication with recruits. For instance, a company could distribute promotional pens at job fairs to engage attendees and generate interest among potential candidates. A small business gift can be the difference between hiring a great employee and missing out on a valuable contributor.

Hiring a new employee is the perfect time to give a corporate gift

Promotional products that are branded with a company logo, slogan or symbol are great for raising awareness of products or services, but they can also be used to increase company loyalty and improve employee morale. This is particularly true when they come in the form of corporate gifts – these handy presents are capable of thanking a worker for joining the team and illustrating how important he is to an organization.

Presenting personalized gifts to new hires is also helpful because these items may help them to do their jobs better. Workers that have recently begun work at a company will want to hit the ground running, so personalized pens, custom journals, promotional portfolios or logo diaries will allow them to take notes and record important information the moment that they begin working.

As recent hires become veteran employees, they’ll think back fondly to their first day whenever they take out their corporate gifts that they’ve used for so long. Such items become a right of passage at a company and will help retain the best employees. All people want to feel as if they’re part of a family, and corporate gifts are an excellent way to welcome the youngest members.

Recent graduates attracted via promotional products

With the economy still recovering, businesses need all the help they can get. Courting the best and the brightest of the Class of 2011 requires all the tools in a company’s arsenal, and promotional products and business gifts are an excellent way to stand out from the rest. The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) has released the results of a survey that bolsters this claim.

When asked about their hiring practices, 55 percent of representatives from human resources departments stated that branded products given as gifts to prospective employees made a positive impact. This is especially the case when the products were distributed at job fairs or career events.

The choice of which products to give away was also a matter of inquiry for the survey. Fifty five percent of companies responded that they used promotional pens to raise awareness at events targeting recent graduates. Items with logos, such as t-shirts and calendars, were distributed by 41 percent of respondents.

ASI also reports that some of the most successful promotional gifts for raising awareness of a company among this group were tech items. These includes branded smartphone cases, logo USB drives and other electronic gadgets.

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