Friday Facts – Bring Your Dog to Work Edition

My Dog at Work – Kelly Marinelli
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Friday Facts, where I will look into a topic that peaks my interest, and share what I found. Today I’m curious about dogs at work, since so many companies, retail businesses and other places here in Boulder are universally dog-friendly. Here are the facts:
1.   Take Your Dog to Work Day is a thing. This year it takes place on Friday, June 24th. This event began in 1999, created by Pet Sitters International.
2.  A 2015 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey found that eight percent of American workplaces allowed their employees to bring pets to work with them. This increased from five percent in the 2013 survey. An older 2008 survey from the American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association has that figure even higher, at 17% of workplaces being pet-friendly. 
3.  A study carried out by researchers at the Central Michigan University and described in this Entrepreneur article showed that a team working with a dog alongside them exhibited greater trust, intimacy and team bonding than a dogless team. 
4.  Not surprisingly, a study from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management, mentioned in this slide show from PetMD, found that we have lower stress levels when our animals are with us at work, as opposed to workers who left their pets at home or have no pets at all.
5.  Need some great practical tips on how to create a BYOD (dog, not device) policy for your workplace? This article from is a great resource. My favorite tip? Set up a “Rufferee Team” to handle any disputes or complaints.  
Those are the facts!  Enjoy your weekend!
For more information, visit Solve HR, Inc. 

Look For These 4 HR Compliance Concerns in 2016

Photo credit: timlewisnm via / CC BY-SA
Human resources compliance is one of those irritating things that some organizations think they have to contend with just once in a while. You know, when you hear about a new rule, or a reporting requirement comes up—you check the box and call it good. On the other hand, sometimes you get a letter from a government entity (Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division or OFCCP, anyone?) and all of a sudden that box-checking starts to look like it wasn’t nearly enough to get you ready to respond within the deadline when the regulator comes knocking.
You can just call your law department (or outside counsel), right?  When you need them, your attorneys are a critical and very helpful resource, but their work comes at a cost, so it’s best to involve them in proactive planning you can use across your entire organization, not just in the heat of the moment when you are reacting to getting a specific audit scheduling letter. If you want to spend a lot of money for work you could have directed more carefully, out of a budget you didn’t allocate on the front end, you may be hard-pressed to justify that expense without any corresponding business success to celebrate.
On the other hand, proactively planning for the moment when you will be asked to justify your business practices and compliance with state and federal regulatory requirements is not only the most affordable way to go, but it’s also the best method for finding the intersection between compliance requirements and business success. Engaging in substantive review and planning for compliance means that YOU are the first one to spot any problems, and address them, before they get out of hand.  It also ensures that whenever questions or complaints come up, you are ready to respond immediately and without your hair on fire!
 In a really active year for regulatory changes, here are a few areas to watch out for:
1.  Federal contractor paid sick leave: This proposed rule, makes certain federal contractors subject to rules about how much sick leave employees are allowed to accumulate (and use). “We already have paid sick leave,” you say.  Well, these rules might be a little different; (see the FAQ here) how and when entitled employees are allowed to use the time is probably not the same as what you currently allow. The final rule is expected by September 30, 2016.
2.  Compensation information added to the EEO-1 form: Employers with more than 100 employees may have to provide information about pay ranges those employees fall into, if this proposed change is approved.  How much will this change what resources you need to complete this annual report on your workforce (and what will it reveal about your company’s pay practices, if anything) is yet to be seen, but now would be a good time to begin planning. If approved, the changes would be effective in the 2017 EEO-1 reporting cycle (you can review the EEOC’s take on this proposed change here).
3.  Changes to the maximum salary allowed for the “white-collar” exemption from overtime status:  This proposed change has received a lot of attention lately, and with good reason. There are several industries, non-profit and retail especially, that will need to make substantial changes in salary levels, staffing numbers, and/or budget for overtime work, in order to comply with the new salary maximum, which is proposed at $50,440 for 2016.  Check out the Department of Labor’s fact sheet.
4.  Affordable Care Act employer penalty provisions, a.k.a. “employer coverage mandate” go into effect for smaller companies in 2016:  Employers with more than 100 full-time or equivalent employees have already been subject to the requirements throughout 2015, but employers with 50-99 full-time or equivalent employees are now subject to penalty for failing to provide minimum coverage that is affordable and provides minimum value in 2016.  The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has more information on penalties for non-compliance here.  All employers with 50 or more full-time or equivalent employees are subject to the reporting requirements.  Luckily, the IRS has delayed reporting deadlines, but not for long. The new deadlines are May 31st for those not filing electronically, and June 30th for those that are.  Psst-if you haven’t even thought of this requirement yet, you already missed the March 31st deadline for providing forms 1095-B and C to individual employees, so you may want to check it out as soon as possible!

Consider these compliance concerns, seek advice from your attorneys, and take the time to operationalize their advice to fit your HR department and your business, to maximize legal compliance AND success!

Find out more about Solve HR, Inc.

10 Tips for Employers to Promote Balance

Photo credit: egarc2 via / CC BY
Our employers are a big part of our lives. They provide us the opportunity to make a living, and depending on our jobs, some of them allow us to make a real difference in the world. No matter how you look at it, a huge part of our waking day is spent engaged closely with our employers.
Great employers care about us, too.  It’s in their best interests-studies have shown that our well-being as employees brings them profit and success!  Here are 10 easy ways employers can promote balance and keep employees happy, healthy and productive:
  1. Showing friendliness for work flexibility.  To the extent possible, allow employees flexibility in time, location and method of accomplishing work tasks.  We understand that you can’t always allow this—in a call center or a retail store, there needs to be coverage, for instance—but understand that we are human beings with families and needs outside off work. If employers want to maintain their workforce in the future, they may want to listen to the talk about Millenials’ keen expectations about work flexibility.
  2. Giving recognition in the moment.  Did you see your team member do something great?  Don’t just tell her, but tell the team too, by thanking her in front of them, or using a recognition tool (such as Globoforce) or internal social media platform (like Yammer) if one is available at your workplace.
  3. Ensuring accountability for all team members.  Knowing that every team member will be supported and taken to task for his performance if appropriate helps everyone feel good about pitching in together to do the best work, even if extra effort is needed. Ownership over successes as well as failures helps the team feel in control of their own destiny and keep the focus not on complaining, but on solving real problems.
  4. Providing opportunities to keep learning.  Continuous, embedded learning in the context of their work keeps employees engaged and feeling good about their value to the organization. When employees are engaged, they are more strongly committed to their employers, and the balancing act between work and life is easier to maintain.
  5. Listening and connecting on a human level.  No one has everything in common, and it’s not expected that managers be best friends with their team members. But genuinely empathizing with employees and understanding where they are coming from as people can help reduce some of the stress that comes with a work and home life that sometimes is bursting at the seams. Notice when your employees are having a tough time, and check in to make sure they are okay.  As Stephen R. Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  Make sure you are focused on understanding your employees.
  6. Knowing that after-hours activities aren’t always welcome.  Depending on the culture of your workplace, it may be expected that employees go to happy hour after work, or attend events in the evening. For some roles, it may make sense to expect frequent after-hours socializing, but don’t make the mistake of believing this is off-duty time and there’s something wrong with employees who decline to show up and have fun on demand.  Here is a rule of thumb: if a manager is present, it’s still work, and there are other ways to build your team’s connections.
  7. Offering honesty with compassion and respect.  Employees generally know when they are not doing the best they could in their work, and they really do want to succeed. Your team members appreciate hearing the truth, as long as they feel safe to have a real conversation about what’s going on and what they need. But when they don’t trust managers to understand where they are coming from, or feel like one false move will get them fired, employees may not be receptive to feedback.  Be sure to lay the groundwork first.
  8. Cutting off gossip and comments on personal issues of others.  Sometimes when a team member is going through a particularly tough personal situation (divorce, illness), other employees, particularly those more prone to chitchat, will bring up details in conversation at work. Besides coming off as unsupportive to the employee in crisis and distracting your team members from their work, it can create an atmosphere of risk for EEO and ADA concerns.  Express empathy one on one, but don’t allow other employees to comment, and if you come upon any conversations, be clear that gossip won’t be tolerated.
  9. Sharing leaders’ joys and challenges.  Real, human stories from leadership help all employees feel like they are understood and that the company values their whole selves, not just the commoditized work they provide to the company. A manager mentioning his child’s illness or a VP sharing the challenges of caring for her aging father can go a long way toward creating a culture of understanding and support for employees’ needs beyond the workplace.
  10. Considering gradual entry and exit plans.  Returning from maternity leave, especially for a first-time parent, can feel overwhelming.  Providing options for gradual re-entry, including extended part-time work, can allow new parents enough time to adjust to this huge change in their home life, while returning to work and remaining engaged in their careers. Soon-to-be retirees help themselves and the company transition by gradually sun-setting their schedules, working part-time for the last six to twelve months of their time with the company, if pension provisions do not interfere.  Flexibility recognizes the real effects of substantial personal changes, instead of using arbitrary cutoff dates that don’t work well in real life.
When employees and employers work together, great things can happen.  Employers remembering that work and life are now inextricable can help us all manage to do our best work and enjoy our lives at the same time!

Find out more about Solve HR, Inc.

Kill These 2 Innovation-Blocking Employee Assumptions

Radical Transparency.  It seems like a difficult culture to maintain without completely stripping team members from their own emotions, but Ray Dalio runs his business that way. Take a look for more information on Bridgewater’s unique way of giving feedback.
On the opposite end of that scale is a culture where nothing gets done unless everyone at each level has taken the time and energy to calculate the reaction each action or idea may generate from the level of management above it.  Mistakes or failures are punished (overtly or quietly, in the form of reputation damage wrought by a whisper campaign) and the only acceptable actions are those perceived to be completely without risk. This is an extraordinary waste of energy and time, and like a poisonous fog, obscures what could be great ideas, big wins, monumental problems solved…and as Ken Pearlman described here, it’s a true innovation killer.
Here are two ways your employees are wasting their time, your company’s money, and squandering innovation in the process:
1.   Nothing is shared with leadership unless it’s perceived as something they want to hear.  Each idea that’s generated is initially met with excitement, but that’s quickly tamped down when the team goes into full spin mode. What will the leaders think of this idea? There is currently a huge push underway to cut costs, so this idea is likely to be seen as a misunderstanding of that directive, because it requires a budget. What about the fact that it is likely net cost-saving?  No way will the team (or their manager) take that chance, because if it is a flop, history has shown they will go down with their ship.
2.   Those who actually go ahead and champion ideas that go against #1 are labeled as troublemakers. Sometimes ideas are just that good—your employees can’t resist trying to bring them to fruition. What has happened to those team members in the past?  Have your fearful managers attached targets to their backs and discredited them to the rest of the leadership team?  Or have these employees with moxie been so discouraged by the stagnant culture that they left the company on their own? Either way, you lose—ideas, talent, and forward motion.         
When you multiply the levels of your organization, if this waste of resources is happening all the way up the chain, you are losing a lot of productivity and nixing hundreds of great ideas.  Discard the fear and send the message from the top that innovation and free flow of ideas is what you want and expect from your employees and managers, and enjoy the success that comes from trusting the amazing people you chose to be part of your team.

Visit Solve HR, Inc.
Photo credit: Patty Maher via / CC BY-ND

6 Easy Ways to Drive Away Great Talent

Photo credit: F H Mira via / CC BY-SA/td
There has been a lot of attention on the dismal levels of employee engagement lately. In fact, Gallup’s most recent poll shows employee engagement at 34.1% in the United States. Turnover has great costs, in financial and human terms-I wrote on the Solve HR, Inc. blog recently about how trust can inspire loyalty, increasing retention, if that’s the direction you want to go.
Instead, today I thought we should talk about what managers do to push employees away.  We’ve all experienced these irritating, counterproductive habits of poor managers that drive great talent to seek another (even any other) path.  Just one manager exhibiting these behaviors can cost your business thousands, so imagine if you have several of them how expensive that can be!  Here are some of the miserable things these managers do:
  1.  They make sure they have no idea what their employees are doing. Your managers aren’t there to organize and allocate work.  They are just there to pass on pronouncements from above them and to make sure their teams don’t do things that generate complaints that they will have to actually respond to. And if problems arise?  This manager passes them on to the team without comment and goes back into his office. The good news for him?  His manager doesn’t know what he is doing either.
  2.  They ask for status updates every ten minutes, and don’t let their team talk to anyone without asking them first. Your employees are pretty lazy—I mean, what would they get done without their manager following behind them, asking them to justify their every move?  And they’re not too savvy either. That’s why this manager has to make sure she controls every word upper management hears from the team. It also doesn’t hurt that this way she can take credit for any decent idea they happen to come up with, although that’s not likely.  What would the company do without her stellar management skills? They’d save the cost of her salary and reduce turnover, too.
  3.  They don’t go to bat for their team-it’s too much trouble. Upper management doesn’t totally understand what employees are doing on the front line when they come up with a new strategic direction for the company. That’s something a manager could use courage to be frank about, and stand up for the team to ensure that bad decisions aren’t made in the absence of full information. But why should this manager do that when he thinks it’s easier to just keep quiet and look like a stellar team player to his leadership? Just say “yes” to everything and lean on the team to move mountains to get the job done, even if the results don’t justify the effort, and employees completely burn out in the process.
  4.  They don’t explain anything – the team should just do as they’re told. What does company strategy have to do with this team? Apparently, nothing much.
  5.  They make sure their team knows “face time” is more important than results. Being in the office early and staying there late is much more important than how much work product is generated and what kind of quality work gets done. Face time is what the leaders see, and when the leaders see the team, they comment on what a great manager he is, especially when the leaders aren’t paying attention to the results either!  The extra bonus is that this leader can lord it over other managers who let their teams get off “easy.”  It extends the reach of the dysfunction even further!
  6.  They know how to reward their highest performers-give them all the work! Why should this manager waste time figuring out what team members need for coaching and development, when she has a goose that lays golden eggs, in the form of a stellar performer who always seems to hit it out of the park on every project?  When others can’t finish on time or don’t perform up to par, just give it to the team’s best player! I’m sure he won’t mind doing everyone else’s work, even if he has to put in a few extra hours after everyone else goes home.  Oh, wait a minute.  It wasn’t too hard for some other employer to notice what a great performer he is-when a recruiter reached out on LinkedIn, he was ready to respond, given that he’s miserable and being taken advantage of!
Every organization has moments when it’s tough to avoid these awful manager behaviors.  The key is to call them out, name them, and make it clear to every leader and employee that they won’t be tolerated.  Creating a culture of respect and trust is a great way to say goodbye to these counterproductive and turnover-producing management habits-forever!

Find out more about Solve HR, Inc.