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August 25, 2008

Short takes: motivation, surveillance, mutual mentoring, and more

Motivating the work force Bryan Alaspa of Management Issues has an excellent post about one simple way that many senior managers miss the mark by simply being thoughtless when it comes to the people who work for them. They often lose touch with the rank and file by forgetting to acknowledge their employees and showing that they care. Thoughts from Training Time offers a related post on the importance of employee recognition during tough times - the age-old tried-and-true motivator, the compliment. And perhaps one of the reasons why managers and supervisors often forget these people management basics is that they haven't had enough training in interpersonal skills. Wally Bock of The Three Star Leadership Blog discusses the importance of ensuring that Interpersonal skills are a critical a part of leadership development.

Sick leave - lawmakers in 12 states are considering legislation that would require businesses to provide sick days to some of the 46 million workers who lack the benefit. Many workers' advocates believe paid sick time should be an employment standard, like the federal minimum wage. State legislatures began considering the legislation when a federal proposal failed. According to the Department of Labor, about 39% of service workers have such a benefit, in contrast with about 80% of management workers. HR Lori recently write about how a sick leave mandate recently failed in California.

Surveillance and the FMLA - Jeffrey Hirsch of Workplace Prof Blog posts about employers' increasing use of surveillance against employees who are out on FMLA leave. He notes that while employers have the right to raise reasonable suspicions of abuse, there is a risk of crossing over into retaliation or intimidation.

Handling resignations - Susan Heatherfield of Human Resources at About.com tackles a reader question about best practices for an employee resignation. She offers advice on areas you need to be sure to cover, such as exit interviews, transitioning the work load, and communicating the news to other employees.

Intergenerational mutual mentoring - Are your older workers having trouble adapting to Web 2.0 technologies? Why not start a cross-generation mentoring program pairing senior staffers with younger workers? Stuart Mader of Grow Your Wiki posts about how Wachovia has just such a program. Mader suggests that technology can be a connector for multiple generations. He notes that, "Between the two workers one has the technology knowledge, one has the business experience, and both are needed to be successful."

Cohabiting employees - If you think your job as an HR manager is tough now, consider your Japanese counterpart. What if among the other benefits you manage, corporate dormitories for your single employees were part of the package? HR Blunders posts about how some larger Japanese companies are bringing company-sponsored dormitories back as a way to attract and retain younger workers.

August 22, 2008

Side effect of an ailing economy: spike in domestic abuse

We are noting an unhappy trend in news headlines lately - we've seen an unsettling amount of news stories from various parts of the country reporting on an increase in domestic violence: California, Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Louisiana all report spikes in the number of reported cases of domestic violence. And in Pennsylvania, officials sound an alarm about domestic violence deaths - thirty such deaths occurred in the state during a 30-day period beginning June 22, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

These are just the few headlines we've gleaned from a Google search of news items in the last few weeks; no doubt, they are merely the tip of the iceberg. A correlation between the economy and domestic violence makes complete sense to most counselors and professionals who work with troubled people: when they economy falters, domestic violence rises. Money is one of the most disputed family issues in the best of times, but when pressures mount - job loss, home foreclosures, increased costs of living - frayed tempers often give way to violence.

A spike in domestic violence should be of concern to employers for a number of reasons. The health and well-being of workers is directly linked to productivity, and a problem as highly highly intense and disruptive as domestic violence leads to absenteeism, lower productivity, turnover, and excessive use of medical benefits. Researchers from the University of Arkansas found that women who were victims of recent domestic violence had 26 percent more time lost to tardiness and absenteeism than non-victims. And violence frequently spills over into the workplace. In a National Safe Workplace Institute survey, 94% of corporate security directors ranked partner violence as a high security problem.

From our vantage as an EAP, we see that employers can play a pivotal role in helping to curb domestic violence. That help may be as simple as being alert for warning signs and making referrals to an EAP to instituting a full workplace awareness and education program. One good resource that employers should know about is the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. They offer an extensive library of resources ranging from educational materials and sample policies to practical dos and don'ts for employers. One resource that we find particularly helpful is the best practice library where programs from a few dozen of the nation's most prominent employers are profiled - it's a good way to get ideas for things you could do at your workplace.


Additional resources
Violence prevention in the workplace
Domestic Violence in the Workplace - a weblog by Kim Wells, Executive Director of CAEPV
Family Violence Prevention Fund
Intimate Partner Violence: Intervention - from the U.S. Department of Justice

August 17, 2008

A few "new" HR blog discoveries

The HR blogosphere keeps getting better and better. We've discovered a few good blogs - not necessarily new but new to us - that we thought we'd share with our readers. We'll be adding them to the blogroll in our sidebar, too.

The first two are a pair of blogs from Manpower: The Manpower Employment Blawg authored by Mark Toth, the company's Chief Legal Officer. We enjoyed his introduction: "For the first time in recorded history, a lawyer is doing something for free. This blog -- or blawg -- is designed to provide you with up-to-the-minute employment law information without putting you to sleep. Take a look around. You'll find entertaining videos, provocative questions, practical tools, legal alerts -- even an employment law sing-a-long. We'll do everything we can to keep you up on the law and out of jail."

He's correct that the blog is quite entertaining, but don't let the breezy style fool you - it is also packed with useful information. Check out the termination tools(PDF) and roster of helpful cheat sheets on employment laws.

Mark's colleague Melanie Holmes is Vice President of World of Work Solutions at Manpower, and she hosts the Contemporary Working Blog. She covers a plethora of everyday workplace issues ranging from improving your public speaking skills to tattoos in the workplace. We also like that she loves her pets. Oh, and an interesting side note - although a corporate executive today, Melanie began her career at Manpower 26 years ago, starting as a $5 an hour temp.

Another entertaining and thought provoking blog we've recently discovered is Punk Rock Human Resources, authored by Laurie Ruettimann, who describes herself a punk rock Human Resources professional with extensive Fortune 500 experience. She writes about business trends, employment, Corporate America, and permanently opting-out of the rat race. We like her recent post summarizing Obama's and McCain's views on work issues as stated in the recent Saddleback Faith Forum. And checkout her post Eye of the Tiger: Two HR Lessons From the 80s - good stuff.

In another vein, we were pleased to discover Corporate Wellness Insights a blog by Wellness Corporate Solutions, a Maryland-based employee wellness company. As the title implies, this blog focuses on all things related to wellness. The blog features weekly wellness news roundups, case histories of organizations with successful and high ROI wellness programs, and posts on topical health issues such as cancer and obesity.

August 11, 2008

5 cool tools to start your week

Fuelly: Share and compare your miles per gallon - Fuelly is a free site that lets you track, share, and compare your gas mileage. Simply sign up, add a car, and begin tracking your mileage. By recording and analyzing your mileage, you can see how much money you can save with small driving changes. You can also see how your mileage compares with EPA estimates and the mileage of other drivers using Fuelly. Tips and a discussion forum also offer ways to save.

Glossary of Human Resource Terms - commonly used terms and definitions that are significant to the profession of human resource management from the SHRM Knowledge Center.

World Lecture Hall - The University of Texas at Austin maintains this service that is entry point to free online course materials from around the world. It publishes links to pages created by faculty worldwide who are using the Web to deliver course materials in any language. Some courses are delivered entirely over the Internet while others are designed for students in residence, but they are a public resource.

Bringo! - Tired of dialing 1-800 numbers and not being able to get through to a human who can help you? Search Bringo!'s list to find the company you want to contact, enter your phone number, and Bringo will navigate the phone tree. You'll get a quick call to confirm, and then a callback when you are connected.

!0 Online Mapping Tools - online maps have been customized and tweaked to serve many purposes. This list provides some popular and useful variations.

August 8, 2008

Workplace smoke-free laws

Six years ago, only two states had laws prohibiting smoking in the workplace and other public spaces. Today, nearly half of all states have laws mandating smoke-free workplaces, with several new laws scheduled to go in effect in 2009. In addition, as of July 1, 2008, there are 2,883 municipalities with local ordinances that ban or restrict smoking in the workplace. The American Nonsmokers Rights Foundation has compiled a directory of States, Commonwealths, and Municipalities with 100% Smokefree Laws in Workplaces, Restaurants, or Bars (PDF) in effect as of July 1, 2008. They also produce a quick reference map of state laws.

If your state does not yet have a smoke-free workplace law, you might consider implementing your own policy. The Centers for Disease Control offer a Decision maker's Guide to Making Your Workplace Smokefree. According to the American Lung Association, there are many good reasons to do so:

  • A 2005 study estimated the total cost of secondhand smoke exposure in the United States at $10 billion annually, $5 billion in direct medical costs, and $5 billion in indirect costs such as lost productivity
  • Workers have been awarded unemployment, disability and worker's compensation benefits for illness and loss of work due to exposure to secondhand smoke
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that $4 billion to $8 billion in building operations and maintenance costs would be saved if policies prohibiting smoking in workplaces were adopted nationwide

Sample policy statements
Here are a few resources for developing your organization's policy.
The American Cancer Society: Model workplace policy
Americans for Nonsmokers Rights: Model Policy for a Smokefree Workplace
About.com's Human Resources; Smoke Free Workplace Policy for Your Company
CDC: Resources, sample policies, and organizations with smoke-free workplaces (PDF)

August 1, 2008

Short takes: instant messaging, diversity, HR hate, compliance, and more

EAP relevant blogs - Here at HR Web Cafe, we're delighted to have made the cut at the Employee Assistance Professional Association's Annotated List of 10 EA Relevant Blogs.

Instant messaging reduces interruptions - it would seem logical to think that instant messaging would pose another workplace distraction. Aren't employees juggling enough interruptions with phone calls, e-mails, and faxes? But a study by researchers at Ohio State University and University of California, Irvine found just the opposite: that instant messaging often replaces or is a substitute for more disruptive interruptions. While instant messaging led to more conversations, the conversations were briefer.

Diversity - Why are so many employers better at recruiting people of color than retaining or promoting them? Carmen Van Kerckhove was recently interviewed for a Crain’s New York Business article on diversity in the workplace that explored this topic.

Feel the love - not! - If you have been feeling a little lonely and under appreciated lately, you might find a clue in HRagitator's take on the top 5 reasons why people hate HR.

Compliance - Michael Fox at Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer discusses and points us to two new compliance documents:
EEOC's updated Compliance Manual section on Religious Discrimination
NLRB's Guideline Memorandum Concerning Unfair Labor Practice Charges Involving Political Advocacy.

The despot school of management - A recent poll found that one out of every four U.S. worker describes their workplace as a dictatorship. What's even worse, only about half of those surveyed think that their workplace promotes creative or inventive ideas or that their co-workers are motivated at work.

Economical motivators - If you are feeling budget challenged this year (and who the heck isn't?), Training Time suggests employee incentive ideas on a budget. We'd like to see the "simple thank you" gain wider traction.

By the numbers
10 habits that bosses love
5 rules of style for business casual
4 ways to a win-win solution in resolving workplace conflict
12 ways to fight fear in the workplace
20 tips for more efficient Google searches

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