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January 28, 2009

Great places to work

When it comes to beauty pageants, we've always been partial to the Miss Congeniality award because we think substance should trump beauty any day. That's why we like Fortune's annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For 2009. We firmly believe that when you take care of the people, everything else will fall in place, assuming a good business product or service in the first place.

You can view the full list and learn more about each company and why it was chosen by clicking on the company name or sort by geography or by pay for both salaried and hourly employees. We particularly enjoyed the option to sort by best perks and the perkfinder, which offers a bird's eye view of the prevalence of certain progressive benefits among this roster of high-performing companies. There's also an honor roll of 9 companies that have never had a layoff.

Any company that is at least seven years old with more than 1,000 U.S. employees is eligible. Of the process, they state: "Two-thirds of a company's score is based on the survey, which is sent to a minimum of 400 randomly selected employees. The remaining third is based on our Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about demographics, pay, and benefits, and open-ended questions on philosophy, communication, etc." If you think your company can make the grade, submit a nomination at Great Place to Work.

But just to keep things in perspective about life at the opposite end of the spectrum, you might also want to review Fortune's list of the 21 Dumbest Moments in Business 2008. We wonder how they managed to narrow things down to 21.

January 22, 2009

Are your employees suffering from midwinter funk?

If your work force is seeming a little sluggish lately, there may be good reason. The days are short, the nights are long. Cold weather and inclemency mean that more people spend more time indoors. Coping with snow, ice, and sleet make daily commutes longer and more treacherous, and child-care issues can become a serious problem. Throw in the scary economy and the "spent too much money last year" pre-tax-season blues for good measure. These factors can pile up, resulting in depleted energy in your workforce and a drop in productivity.

For most people, the winter doldrums are just that, a seasonal low point, but some of your employees may be suffering from a more serious malady called SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder - a very real type of major depression linked to lack of sunlight. Sufferers may experience depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, headaches, weight gain, and other symptoms. The good news is that with treatment, seasonal affective disorder can be managed.

As an employer, there are a variety of ways you can help your employees get through whatever seasonal downturn they may be experiencing. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Alert supervisors to keep an eye out for employee behavior changes that might indicate signs of SAD or other forms of depression - a referral to your EAP may be in order.
  • In your newsletter, through your wellness program, or by distributing a fact sheet, educate your employees about symptoms of SAD and what can be done to alleviate symptoms.
  • Promote your organization's nutrition and weight loss benefit programs, or any benefits that might be available through your health care provider or your EAP. Eating right and exercising can do a lot to alter the body's chemistry.
  • Consider flexible commuting policies during poor weather. This is a matter of safety and can have great benefits for employee morale. When possible, allow more work-from-home options and flexibility with stop and start times during bad weather.
  • Address your employees' financial stress. Post-holiday is usually a time when debt concerns are high. This year, with the added pressure of a difficult economy, many people are hurting. You can help alleviate some of this stress by pointing your employees to debt counseling and financial planning resources.
  • Increase the amount and source of light in your workplace during the winter. Add plants and greenery.
  • Introduce special internal promotions designed to build excitement, participation, teamwork and shared goals. Have contests around achieving target sales or production goals or attaining levels of development in certain skills.
  • Invite your employees to share their ideas for alleviating mid-winter blues. Have a contest for the "best tip to beat the mid-winter blues" and share suggestions in your newsletter or company intranet. A great prize would be a mid-winter weekend getaway.
  • Tap into all available resources for help. If you have a good, full-service EAP, you should be able to access help and resources for many of the items on this list. Call your EAP for help in planning communications programs for your employees so they will be aware of all available resources. Also, your health care insurers and other benefit providers may have programs, materials or resources that could also help you - most have good communication resources and programs available for employees.

January 20, 2009

Employers braced for an inauguration slowdown

Inauguration day is a normally big day for the nation. This year, the historic nature of having the first black president makes it even more significant. Many employers are expecting a slowdown today - HR departments report that many employees are taking the day off entirely to watch events or take part in local events. At the workplace, some employers are making accommodations to allow people to take part. If your work situation allows, you may be able to view all or part of the day's events online - Lifehacker has compiled a Guide to Catching the Inauguration from Anywhere

But for those of us who won't be able to watch things live, here are a few good sources of information to be able to enjoy the day's events after the fact:

Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies

The New York Times features Picturing the Inauguration: The Readers' Album - an changing gallery of photos submitted by readers, or you can view photos and short video clips from Flickr's Inauguration pool

YouTube's Change.Gov will feature selected clips.

Viewer's Guide to the Inauguration

The Inauguration page from MSNBC

Inauguration Report is a Twitter feed that focuses on citizen-generated content. As might be expected, this can vary in quality, content, and language, so be aware.

Inauguration Day Events - fascinating historic overview of the day's ceremonies and traditions

Slideshow - Presidential Inauguration Through the Years

Inauguration History

January 15, 2009

Reminder: tomorrow is F-Day

If you have January 16, 2009 circled on your calendar and you are trying to remember why, Hr Daily Advisor has a reminder: be sure you are ready for F-Day.

Friday, January 16 is the day the new FMLA changes go into effect and the changes create a new set of obligations for those employers that are subject to FMLA regulations. FMLA applies to:

  • public agencies, including state, local and federal employers, local education agencies (schools)
  • private-sector employers who employed 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year and who and engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce – including joint employers and successors of covered employees.

CCH posts a helpful rundown of revised posters and forms. They note that every employer covered by the FMLA is required to post and keep posted on its premises, in conspicuous places where employees are employed, a notice explaining the FMLA’s provisions. (PDF of revised poster)

If you want to go right to the source, visit the Department of Labor's web page and resources on Revised Final Regulations Under the Family and Medical Leave Act

January 12, 2009

Short takes: biking, fraudies, forms, stress, memory and more

Bike to work - While falling gas prices have temporarily taken some of the economic sting out of a commute, tight budgets still cry out for frugality. Plus, there is more at stake than just economy - many are looking to establish commuting habits that are more environmentally friendly, such as biking, which also offers health and fitness advantages. There is good news for employers who want to foster the healthy "bike to work" habit work among their employees and offer a new benefit to boot. Beginning this year, the Bicycle Commuter Act will allow employers to provide employees a tax deductible benefit of up to $20 per month for riding to work. Employees can use the money for bicycle purchase and upkeep.

Economic stress and health - According to a recent AARP survey, one in five adults ages 45 and older are suffering health problems due to financial stress. "Right now people are increasingly concerned about their jobs, retirement savings and simply being able to provide for their families and it's taking a major toll on their health," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois Senior State Director. "It's a harsh irony that worrying about being able to afford health care is actually causing health problems."

The "Fraudies" of 2008 - Dawn Wolfe of George's Employment Blawg presents a new award for dubious achievements called "The Fraudies." Employee fraud winners were chosen based on "cunning audacity" and "the farcical nature of their career-limiting schemes."

Memory screenings - Wellness Corporate Insights posts that in November, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) gave free memory screenings at over 2,000 health fairs across the country. Early identification of Alzheimer’s allows individuals to start treatments that slow the development of symptoms. The post offers a reminder that disease-specific screenings and fairs are often tied to specific months, and suggests keeping a health awareness calendar on hand and alerting employees to local health screening events.

Form I-9 - Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blawg reminds us that a new year means a new I-9 Form. Thoughts from Training Time offers advice on ensuring compliance.

Cool tool - Google has a new, free 411 service that is fast and easy to use. Dial 1-800-GOOG-411 from any phone. State what you're looking for and GOOG-411 will connect you with the business you choose. If you are calling from a mobile device, the service can even send you a text message with more details and a map. Simply say "Text message" or "Map it." Learn more at Goog411.

Quick takes
IRS: 2009 Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits (PDF)

The 10 worst presentation habits

10 Universities Offering Free Writing Courses Online

This fellow may get our nomination for the worst boss of 2008.

January 6, 2009

Best and worst jobs

What do mathematicians and lumberjacks have in common? According to an article in the The Wall Street Journal, they represent the two extremes in a recent study of the best and the worst jobs. The study evaluates 200 professions against five criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. According to WSJ:

"The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of "Jobs Rated Almanac," and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz's own expertise."

You can find a complete listing of the 200 jobs that were analyzed at careercast.com, a new job site. We did not find human resources manager on the list but thought that maybe the role could be extrapolated from some that are on the list: Personnel Recruiter (58), Parole Officer (14), Sociologist (8), Corporate Executive (88), and Psychiatrist (100).

It's fun to look at the various jobs and where they fall on the list, but the real interest and potential usefulness lies in the methodology that was used to assess and rate the jobs. You might think about measuring the most common jobs in your organization against this matrix to see how they stack up, and think about ways to narrow the gap between the best and the worst in your own organizations. At the very least, the employees who hold the "worst" jobs in your organization might merit a referral to an EAP - we found the 21 factors that comprise the stress ratings particularly interesting because many of these stress factors are cited by employees that we counsel.

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