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HR Connection blog

5 Tips for Establishing Effective Hybrid Work

How to Find a Productive Middle Ground for Working in the New Normal(ish)  
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How to Run a Successful Wellness Challenge

on May 5, 2021 9:15:00 AM By | Matt Buchanan | 0 Comments | HR Department Wellness Teamwork
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the population has been experiencing skyrocketing stress levels. Social distancing and working from home mean people are getting out less and looking at screens more. With all of these factors taking a toll on people's mental and physical health, some organizations are using wellness challenges to help their teams support each other's well-being and try to rebuild healthy habits that might have been lost in the transition to remote work. A wellness challenge can take on many shapes and sizes, and what's right for one organization may not be right for another. The approach one company, Service Direct, used to run a successful three-month wellness challenge last summer could serve as a useful starting point for other organizations that want to develop their own programs.   Structure After establishing a three-month timeline for the Service Direct wellness challenge, the planning team selected daily tasks in three categories and assigned point values to each: High impact (3 points): exercising for 30 minutes, digitally detoxing (no screen time) for 4 hours, getting at least 7 hours of sleep, eating at least 3 servings of fruit or vegetables Medium impact (2 points): drinking at least 64 ounces of water, sharing gratitude for 3 things Low impact (1 point): journaling for 20 minutes, stretching for 20 minutes, meditating for 10 minutes, reading for 30 minutes An introductory video presented an overview of the program and made it easy for everyone to learn how to participate in it. Weekly updates (via Slack) to the scoreboard kept everyone updated on participants' efforts. At the end of the challenge, a wrap-up party (held virtually) celebrated everyone's efforts. Branded wellness-challenge t-shirts were mailed to all participants ahead of time so they could wear them on camera at the party, and the top three point getters received wellness-related prizes. Afterward, all participants were asked to complete a survey to help the company measure the program's impact. Overall, the response was very positive, with 100 percent of the participants (who were 70 percent of the company's employees) saying they would likely participate in a wellness challenge again. All participants also reported that the challenge motivated them to create new healthy habits, and some said that it helped them feel more aware and focused on their wellness. The only criticism was the program was too long, and some participants suggested that a monthly or bi-weekly challenge would be better. This program succeeded in improving employee wellness partly because it wasn't solely a fitness challenge but focused on overall wellness. In order to avoid narrowly defining wellness as just physical fitness (which can exclude some employees), the program intentionally featured a wide range of activities to include physical exercise, mental fitness, and emotional self-care. The biggest positive result of the wellness challenge, though, was the sense of community and purpose it fostered as colleagues shared their wellness journeys with each other. Since the end of the wellness challenge, many Service Direct team members have continued sharing their wellness activities in the program's Slack channel. That alone speaks volumes about the value a program like this brings to an organization.   Setting Up a Wellness Challenge Any business can benefit from running a wellness challenge (whether or not the world is in the middle of a pandemic) as long the program is well planned and well executed. By following these recommendations, program planners can help employees to get the most out of the challenge. Pick a leader. Right from the start, the program needs to have a go-to person available to answer questions. Knowing who is running the program and where they can turn for help will make employees more likely to participate in it from start to finish. Select a specific timeframe. People tend to struggle with commitment when a challenge or project is open-ended, which is why work projects tend to have specific deadlines. If a wellness challenge launches with no end date in sight, employees might put off joining until later—or just dismiss the program entirely. Centralize task management. Making it easy and fun for employees to join and participate in the programs requires coordination and planning—which are made much easier by using one location (such as a shared list or discussion forum, for example) as a place for brainstorming, planning, managing, and delegating tasks. Possible tasks include building a leaderboard, getting budget approval, creating a registration form, determining awards, planning the wrap-up party, and sending out the post-program feedback survey. Choose a variety of challenge activities. This step can make or break the success of a wellness challenge. Having diverse activity options makes the program more appealing to more people and better supports its ultimate goal: helping everyone feel good, be productive, and grow. Fitness-related activities provide a solid foundation for a wellness challenge, but the program should also include reading, having technology-free time, meeting sleep goals, and other activities that encourage everyone to be more mindful about how they use their time. Provide a shared tracking environment. The social aspect of a wellness challenge is a big part of what makes it work. People who try to develop new wellness habits on their own often struggle to stick with them. To emphasize the shared effort of a wellness challenge, record participants' activities and track their progress in one digital location (even something as simple a spreadsheet works).   Increasing Participation First and foremost: don't make participation in a wellness challenge mandatory. After all, someone who doesn't want to do it won't be motivated to engage in activities and make progress—which just defeats the whole purpose of such a program. The following strategies can help make the program more appealing to employees and encourage widespread participation. Make a bold announcement. People get dozens (or even hundreds) of messages a day—which makes a standard company-wide e-mail likely to escape their notice. The launch of a wellness challenge should be news that no one can miss, so design a compelling announcement and send it out via all of the business's communication channels. Simplify communication. Make it as easy as possible for participants to find and share information. From the start, keep all communication related to the challenge in one place—such as a dedicated Slack channel or digital document, or (once everyone is back in the office) a tracking station in the break room or other common space. Whatever the setup, it must be simple: making it complicated or frustrating will only cause people to drop out of the program. Keep the signups open. Don't prevennt employees from joining the challenge late! Publicly sharing program updates with the entire organization (not just participants) often elicits "fear of missing out" feelings, and people who didn't show much interest at the start of the challenge sometimes decide to jump in late once they see how much fun it is. Get some friendly competition going. Depending on a company's culture, a little friendly competition can encourage participation. Regular leaderboard updates and reminders about the wrap-up party (and the prizes!) at the end can help keep people motivated and interested. Don't let the competition become cutthroat, though: one key goal of a wellness challenge is to help employees learn to support each other and become a better team. Host a wrap-up party. This event recognizes and celebrates everyone's efforts and provides an opportunity for them to share what they've learned. A small gift (such as a t-shirt) for each person is a nice way to thank them for participating in the challenge, and prizes for the winners highlight their extra effort.   Give It a Try! Whether such a program follows the guidelines listed here or goes off in totally different directions doesn't matter as long as it focuses on bringing people together and provides support (and motivation) for them to improve their wellness. Under today's unusual circumstances, a wellness challenge is something that can help people find some much-needed positivity. But remember, the world doesn't need to be stuck in a pandemic to justify the launch of a wellness challenge. There's never a bad time to feel better!
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The Reinvention of HR

on Apr 14, 2021 9:15:00 AM By | Karina Schultheis | 0 Comments | HR HR Department
Even though HR still struggles to dispel its decades-long stereotype as a group of technically incompetent, soft-spoken, corporate enforcers (think of Toby from The Office), in recent years savvy, effective, data-driven HR teams have been actively reimagining everything from performance management to corporate culture. In 2020, COVID-19 and societal unrest made the HR function even more mission-critical and underscored the importance of human intellect in people management. Today, companies are leaning on CHROs and CPOs to lead their pandemic responses and to shape their growth strategies while keeping employees engaged, reconfiguring workflows, redeploying talent, and upskilling staff. Indeed, well-resourced HR teams that successfully managed the transition to a hybrid workplace are now a top competitive advantage for companies in every sector. Just as CFOs' roles were elevated following the 2008 financial crisis, HR's impact and innovative potential will be fully realized in the wake of 2020. Strategic, tactical people advocates will drive tangible business results.   The Shifting Nature and Language of HR When it comes to being both process champions (who work to improve workforce continuity, automating processes, and compliance) and people scientists (who understand, predict, and respond to or change human behavior), no other field comes close to HR. To fully realize its potential, though, HR must change its nature and language. Rather than treat people as "human capital" and focus on "measuring performance," HR leaders must treat people as people and support their overall passions, contributions, and potential. HR must rethink what it means to be "qualified," challenge the status quo, and find ways to be fair and equitable in a world that has neither equal footing nor a one-size-fits-all handbook.   Employees as Primary Stakeholders More than any other factor, employees have the single greatest impact on the success of their organizations. In fact, a 2019 panel of 600 senior executives "attribute[d] 72 percent of their company's value to their employees." 1 As organizations adapt to putting people before profits, it should be overwhelmingly clear that the most important stakeholders in any organization are its people. Rather than treat employees as a resource (that is, as a commodity to manage or to extract value from), today's organizations should put them at the center of their purpose. HR must lead these efforts. As technology continues to automate manual processes, HR has the opportunity—indeed, the obligation—to focus primarily on serving and enabling employees through meaningful strategic initiatives that address their well-being and long-term growth and development. It's time to think differently about employees, their relationships, and their impacts on organizations, and shift the focus to creating the right conditions that allow them to thrive. In a 2020 McKinsey & Company study designed to evaluate employee "well-being and work effectiveness" during COVID-19, "ten employee experience elements accounted for approximately 60 percent of differences in outcomes." 2 The study found that "in addition to basic needs (safety and security), three other experience themes (trusting relationships, social cohesion, and individual purpose) are having a disproportionate impact on employee well-being and work effectiveness." If HR doesn't prioritize enabling these drivers across every level of the organization, who will? And who stands to lose the most if they don't?   The Evolving Role of Technology Thoughtfully applied technology will continue to play an important role as HR functions begin to shift their focus back to their people. Foundational levels of safety and security will remain essential, and employees and leaders alike will continue to expect convenience, speed, and accuracy from HR processes. Many emerging technologies are capitalizing on these changes by offering scalable solutions designed to truly serve employees, such as easing financial strain, improving mental health through charitable giving, or keeping a pulse on employee sentiment so leaders can act on the topics that matter most to their people. Today's employees desire—and deserve—much more out of work than a paycheck. Armed with innovative workplace technologies and a renewed focus on supporting people, HR departments have never been more empowered to shift the employer—employee relationship from a transactional one to a transformational one. The result will be a diverse, engaged, and empowered workforce that's agile, flexible, and responsive to changing business demands.
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Blockchain and the Transformation of HR

on Mar 31, 2021 9:15:00 AM By | Ike Bennion | 0 Comments | Company Culture HR Department Finance
No longer a pipe dream but now a reality, the use of blockchain in HR has the potential to improve recruitment, hiring, learning, and many other aspects of people's work experiences. In a typical scenario, an applicant collects the relevant blockchain credentials (e.g., contact information, job history, education history) that have been issued to them over their careers, opens up their blockchain wallet on their smartphone, scans a QR code on a job description, then taps "accept" to submit their credentials in both machine-readable and human-readable formats. Their potential new employer then sees those credentials in its application tracking system. Best of all, this data has already been validated by authoritative sources, so recruiters can immediately make a decision whether to hire that applicant without having to spend more time vetting their qualifications. This breathtakingly simple use for blockchain has powerful ramifications for HR. Like any business process, recruitment involves gathering clear data as quickly as possible and rapidly making decisions that have long-lasting impacts. Data gathering in most business areas is fairly straightforward (e.g., projected return on capital for the finance department, machine throughput for operations) but becomes more complicated when workforces are involved. Blockchain helps address that complication. The promise of blockchain is an unlocked data-rich ecosystem in which users can accumulate data about themselves over their lifetimes and thus more easily show their unique value. For employers, blockchain mitigates the problem of unclear or missing data by providing validated data (which, until now, hasn't been readily accessible) to inform their strategic workforce decisions. For some time, discussions about artificial intelligence have dominated HR conferences. However, AI hasn't managed to deliver on its promise of clearer decision making. AI must feed on a clean, rich, wide data set, and companies (large and small, global and local) have struggled to structure and house data in a way that powers effective predictive, prescriptive, and analytical insights. Blockchain is the high-octane fuel for better performance of artificial intelligence and machine learning systems. The timing of blockchain's arrival couldn't be better, as the business world is currently working to address several momentous questions: How do we transition the workforce in the face of intense and perpetual disruption? How do we find talent to fuel growth and expansion? How do we rapidly redeploy talent in the face of automation? How do we recognize talent in an unbiased, modern way? How do we provide clarity to individuals about where they are and where they could go? The answers to these questions are rooted in a clearer and deeper understanding of the current state of blockchain.   Better Data for Better Workforce Outcomes Blockchain will help alleviate these problems by first improving the quality and availability of the data used to evaluate the value of workers. Currently, companies still rely on unreliable (and not necessarily relevant) information such as college credentials (e.g., GPA, alma maters) and titles. With more relevant job-related data, such as a certification for leadership, a highly innovative project, or a skills rating backed by an accrediting or authoritative body, employers can evaluate candidates on abilities and experience that are valuable for their organizations' specific needs. The machine-readable and human-readable layers of data contained within blockchain reduce the filtering and processing of the data required by artificial intelligence and machine learning. For example, recruitment relies heavily on natural language processing to transform data so it can reveal insights about candidates. (However, that technology is still being refined.) Established standards for different values of data, such as O*NET (a U.S. Department of Labor database of occupational definitions) and Credential Engine (a nonprofit database of credential information), ensure that the value of a skill or credential is well understood wherever it goes.   A Cumulative Transcript for Long-Term Skills Development Blockchain will also transform the future of work by creating a development transcript for the employee. Today's modern learners can draw on after-work extension classes, massively open online courses (MOOCs), YouTube videos, and other learning options, and turn to corporate training systems only because they have to. By creating a continuous, uninterrupted record of employee development, blockchain can help people better leverage all of the development resources (especially modern corporate learning systems) at their disposal. Companies are most familiar with the qualifications and abilities their employees have that relate to their current jobs. But as automation forces the business world to more rapidly deconstruct, evaluate, and reconstruct roles, visibility into employees' wider abilities (e.g., backgrounds, unique certifications, other dimensions of their capabilities) may become important for helping organizations adapt to their future needs. Combined with AI-powered tools such as the Cornerstone Skills Graph, "an engine powered by AI and machine learning that automatically detects skills from different sources (profiles, job titles, training, job offers) and identifies them in different use cases,"blockchain can capture and standardize the individuals' capabilities so they can be quickly accessed when needed. 1   An Elevation of HR's Strategic Role The third way blockchain will transform the operations of HR is by elevating HR's strategic position within the company. Even in the age of scaled HR, a lot of checking, double checking, inputting, background checking, modifying, and verifying is still taking place. Blockchain cuts the clerical work. With more meaningfully structured data, different databases can share information in both human-readable and machine-readable layers. The effectiveness of AI systems to help predict retention risk, identify new skills, and plan succession would be much greater that it currently is. The real-world applications of blockchain are just the first step in the transformation of HR. As powerful technology becomes more generally accessible, HR will be better positioned to manage disruption, to respond to growth opportunities, and to build a competitively skilled workforce for tomorrow's workplace.
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Business Ethics in Human Resources

on Mar 24, 2021 9:00:00 AM By | Jessica Miller-Merrell | 0 Comments | Ethics Business HR Department
Business ethics is defined as "the study of appropriate business policies and practices regarding potentially controversial subjects including corporate governance, insider trading, bribery, discrimination, corporate social responsibility, and fiduciary responsibilities." It's the application of a moral framework to the way organizations do business, and it shapes and changes the way businesses operate. It can be both normative (e.g., how employee behavior is related to cultural or social issues) or descriptive (e.g., how to incorporate best practices into an organization's policies and procedures). Failure to implement certain ethical principles may hurt a company's bottom line. These principles include managing financial or other customer data in a responsible way, avoiding fraud and misrepresentation in operations, treating employees and customers with respect and dignity, and giving back to the organization's community. Business ethics is especially important in HR. As the department that deals directly with people employed by a company, HR holds a large part of the responsibility for upholding business policies and practices in an ethical manner. SHRM's code of ethics for professional responsibility in HR states: As HR professionals, we are responsible for adding value to the organizations we serve and contributing to the ethical success of those organizations. We accept professional responsibility for our individual decisions and actions. We are also advocates for the profession by engaging in activities that enhance its credibility and value. (Indeed, ethics plays such an important role in HR that as of January 1, 2021, HRCI requires anyone seeking PHR or SPHR recertification to have at least one credit in ethics.) Hiring is one of the areas for HR that is most affected by business ethics. For example, if an employee is found to have falsified information on a job application after they have already been hired, if HR does not have policies in place to address this specific situation, the organization could face potential wrongful termination lawsuits. Also, in order to achieve legal compliance as well as ethically sound decision making, at the earliest stage of recruitment the company must address issues of equal opportunity, antidiscrimination policies, and legal compliance with regards to hiring practices Another issue that HR has to address with some frequency is the ethics relating to employee privacy. For example, companies routinely perform background checks on job applicants before extending offers of employment. From the employer's perspective, these checks are necessary because they reduce liability by verifying that the information the applicant provided is true. However, employers must follow reasonable guidelines in obtaining this information: inquiries must be related to the job to which the applicant is applying, and the applicant must be told what information will be checked and then give written consent for the potential employer to obtain it. HR is also responsible for legal compliance with regard to recordkeeping. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act specifies that employers must keep employee disability records separate from personnel files and in a secured location. Other laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, also have their own confidentiality requirements for the treatment of medical records. HR professionals must be aware of how federal and state laws affect the collection or storing of employee information. In HR, the application of ethics means helping an organization embed and uphold its values at all levels in order to maintain and increase trust. Accountability, or taking responsibility, is a key aspect of that role. Ethical policies and procedures for the company are in place not just to ensure that employees and company leaders do the right thing but also to protect the company from liability. HR is the department that develops, distributes, and enforces these policies and procedures.
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The Importance of "Momboarding"

on Mar 10, 2021 9:30:00 AM By | Karina Schultheis | 0 Comments | Retention Onboarding HR Department Mothers
For most women, returning to work after maternity leave is, at the very least, complicated. No matter how much they love their jobs, their bosses, and their colleagues, and no matter how eager they are to return to the professional world, many new mothers feel conflicted about transitioning back to the workplace (and away from being with their new children constantly).
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Performing the Core Functions of HR Remotely

on Mar 3, 2021 9:30:00 AM By | Suzanne Lucas | 0 Comments | Employee Engagement HR HR Department Remote
A human resources department isn't just a team of experts who know how to manage people: it's a team of experts who know how to manage the people in their particular company. Although every successful HR team is unique, most HR folks use similar tried-and-true strategies for keeping things running smoothly. For example, many check in with employees regularly to discuss their goals and offer them development opportunities. Some gauge employee sentiment by observing behavior in the office, and some take managers out for coffee to discuss leadership or succession questions. Whatever strategies they employ, the HR activities that most successfully address problems share one common feature: interfacing with people.
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How & Why HR Will Remain an Essential Change-Driver in 2021

on Feb 16, 2021 11:37:11 AM By | Employment Enterprises | 0 Comments | Diversity HR HR Department Remote Inclusion Vaccination Policy
HR departments became unforeseen conduits of dramatic workplace transformations and migrations in 2020. And while change-driver has rarely been the typical role of most HR organizations in years (and decades) past, it is clear we have entered a new era. As we push further into 2021, HR and talent acquisition teams are already playing starring roles in much-anticipated changes, such as coordinating re-hiring and recruiting efforts to build up downsized workforces. At the same time, they are also being asked to manage complex and novel people-centric challenges, such as vaccination policy creation and rollouts.
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HR and Operations: Lessons Learned from the Economic Downturn

on Nov 11, 2020 9:45:00 AM By | Chas Fields | 0 Comments | Employees HR Department Operations
As parts of the USA work toward reopening, human resources and operations leaders are realizing that they need plans in place for handling changes to the basic structures and practices of work. When things finally do settle down, no one will miss the days of social distancing, managing personal and work lives during a pandemic, working early mornings and late nights, and carrying insurmountable stress. But everyone can definitely learn from those challenging experiences.
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How HR Can Support Companies in Times of Crisis

on May 22, 2020 8:45:00 AM By | Jessica Miller-Merrell | 0 Comments | Management HR Department Coronavirus
When economic downturns, natural disasters, company reorganizations, and other challenges arise, companies depend on HR leaders to set policies, initiate support, and assist employees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, HR departments have been actively involved in their companies’ decisions (such as slowing businesses, canceling conferences, and implementing new work arrangements) to slow the spread of the disease and to adjust to statewide and local social-distancing directives. By maintaining several key focus points, HR staff can more effectively lead their companies through this crisis.
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