Best tools to support your remote workforce

The coronavirus pandemic has brought many strains onto the workforce, and some are caused by the fact that employees are now having to work from home. Although working from home can come with benefits, it can also create challenges that weren't noticed before. Read this blog post to learn more.


The remote workplace comes with a lot of benefits — including increased productivity and better focus. But it’s also causing challenges to both employees’ mental and physical well-being.

Disruptions from the coronavirus have infiltrated the daily lives of employees. Everything from proper nutrition to child care and financial concerns are major focus points to many.

Many companies are now stepping up their efforts to adapt their benefit offerings to support employees who work from home. Employers are considering options like work-from-home office policies and stipends, ergonomic workplaces at home or mental health and telemedicine checks.

From virtual fitness memberships and snack boxes to tech tools and online wellness resources, here are some of the best tools employers can provide to support their remote workforce.

Free food at home
While almost everyone is working from home, many employees have lost a popular office perk – free food. That’s why Stadium, a New York City-based group lunch delivery company, introduced a new service in early June where employers can have snacks delivered nationwide to any home office. The service, called SnackMagic, lets employees choose individual snacks and beverages that they like within a gift budget set by the employer.

The coronavirus has also exacerbated the challenge of accessing healthy food and proper nutrition for many across the United States. To address those concerns, meal subscription company Freshly created a new service called Freshly for Business to provide healthy and affordable meals for employees working remotely. The program allows employers to offer free or subsidized meal plans consisting of up to 12 meals per week. Employers including PwC and KPMG, among others, are partnering with Freshly, which costs an average of $8 per meal per employee.
Mindfulness and stress management

As a result of these circumstances, Unplug Meditation, a Los Angeles-based drop-in meditation studio and app, is seeing a surge in corporate programs, and has partnered with companies including Disney, Mattel and Google. The app offers everything from virtual meditation and sound bath sessions, to team building, stress management and customized wellness programs.

Chill Anywhere, a mindfulness and meditation app, is built specifically for the workforce, and provides live mindfulness video practices. It can be offered as an employee benefit or part of an organization's Employee Assistance Program. App users can track their mood before and after each session to see how their mindfulness practice impacts their day-to-day lives.

Financial wellness
As the pandemic sends shockwaves through the U.S. labor market with layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs, employers are making efforts to support the financial security and resiliency of their employees.

SmartPath, a financial counseling platform, launched a free online resource called the Money Moves Quiz to help employees build confidence and a secure financial plan by answering 15 questions about their current situation. The questions cover topics such as levels of emergency savings, home ownership or employment status. Based on the answers, SmartPath will provide a clear financial plan tailored to the employee’s needs.

In March, Alegeus, a consumer-directed healthcare solutions company, introduced a new offering called the Employee Care Card, a debit card that enables employers to offer targeted financial support for employees to address their most immediate needs during the pandemic. Employers determine the amount they wish to contribute per employee, as well as the type of eligible expenses they want to allow — from groceries and home office supplies to educational supplies. Unlike cash or gift cards, employers control how the dollars can be spent, preserve unspent dollars and gain real-time insight into employee spending trends.

As head of an HR tech company and mother of two, Rachel Lyubovitzky, CEO of EverythingBenefits, felt the effects of this firsthand. That’s why she decided to offer Outschool.com, an online education platform for children ages 3 to 18, as a benefit to her employees. Outschool offers classes on subjects ranging from life skills, arts and music, to math, coding and science.

Screen Sitters, a virtual child care service connecting sitters with families to entertain children via live 1:1 video, is another service offering overextended working parents some relief. Employers can get flexible packages that integrate into their existing benefits programs. All of the company’s sitters are vetted through a 5-point screening process to ensure safety and a hassle-free transaction for the parents. Children get a personalized experience, as the sitter plans sessions ahead of time based on each child’s personal interests.

This summer, a virtual camp experience is what many facilities and families are choosing to keep their kids safe. Anna Birch, a 23-year summer camp veteran has replaced her usual summer adventure camp programs with an online alternative. The new resource, called The Camp Cloud, provides children ages 6 to 17 with the opportunity to make new friends and engage in guided activities led by institutions like science centers, museums, zoos and aquariums, schools and theaters, without need for significant parental assistance.

Team building
Summer is typically a time when companies plan team outings, parties and activities to give employees an opportunity to bond outside the office. But with COVID-19 taking a toll on group activities, many of those events are now cancelled.

HealthKick, a corporate wellness program, provides a personal well-being hub for companies and their employees to participate from home. From using in-home workout services to taking cooking classes over Skype with meal delivery kits, teams can take advantage of many different activities this summer that they can do together from their new work-from-home offices.

Mental health resources
Employee mental health is a workplace crisis, with many employees experiencing increased anxiety and depression during the pandemic. To address care accessibility issues — including in-person sessions and treatment — imposed by COVID-19, many employers are offering employees access to mental health care online.

Healthstat, a provider of virtual employer-sponsored health centers, is offering a virtual mental health solution, Ment4Me, that helps employers improve access to high quality mental health services for employees who are seeking support for treatable mental health conditions. Ment4Me aims to help reduce the stigma that can often be associated with mental illness. It’s also using artificial intelligence to offer the chatbot “Tess,” a provider of on-demand mental health support.

Mental health benefits provide Happify Health has designed a new program for employees and health plan members to remotely access mental health resources to meet the recent surge in demand. Happify Connect is a part of the organization’s selfcare platform and allows employees to connect with mental health care that is more conducive to the current work-from-home environment. The program directs employees to mental health resources, including self-guided tools within the Happify platform, higher-touch care through integrated partners such as online therapy and a mental health provider directory.

Supportive, a mental wellness support platform, offers 24/7 chat-based peer support on any emotional well-being topic ranging from depression, anxiety and loneliness to daily life struggles like parenting, relationship conflicts or stress and burnout. Users answer the question "what's your struggle?" for Supportiv to analyze and auto-match them to a small group of peers who relate. Each group has a live moderator to guide the chat, make sure each user's needs are met, and vet the personalized resources that appear as hyperlinks in real-time. It can be deployed as a dedicated web link, integrated into an EAP, or embedded as a chat window that appears on any existing benefits portal.

Physical well-being
With gym closures disrupting wellness benefit offerings as well as employees’ workout routines, employers are now looking to virtual solutions.

Earlier this spring, Virgin Pulse, a global provider of digital wellness and wellbeing solutions, launched a dedicated COVID-19 hub to provide employees with resources — ranging from webinars to blog posts — on fitness and nutrition. It aims to help employees build and maintain healthy routines by reducing stress, staying active, being productive, eating healthy and sleeping well. The hub is a resource app for Virgin Pulse users, but also gives free access to health and wellbeing content, programs and resources.

BurnAlong is an online video health and wellness platform where employees can take classes from a network of hundreds of instructors across 45 categories ranging from cardio and yoga to stress, chronic conditions and diabetes. They can take classes alone, or invite friends and colleagues to join them live online for social motivation. The platform, which is used by companies, hospitals, insurers and brokers, is partnered with on-site and local gyms, studios, instructors and wellness professionals to help people achieve their health and wellness goals.
An ergonomic workplace
With employees using everything from their kitchen table to their couch as their workplace, working from home sometimes brings bad ergonomic habits and solutions.

Bad ergonomic habits, if left unaddressed, could mean higher healthcare costs for the employer, lower productivity and the increased potential for an employee to sustain a medical condition.

To be mindful of employees’ who don't work out of an office too, some employers are reimbursing them for remote office furniture.

Livongo, a digital health services company, is offering its remote workers reimbursement for ergonomic and job essential furniture. With the whole company being remote during the pandemic, the office furniture reimbursement benefit was extended to all employees to help make their home offices more efficient. Even before the pandemic, Livongo had a strong remote workforce with more than 1/3 of its employees working remotely. The company says taking the time to set up a workplace that is safe, comfortable and limited from distractions is important for employees to help manage their time and well-being.

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (19 June 2020) "Best tools to support your remote workforce" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/best-tools-to-support-your-remote-workforce


Polishing Your Resume to Make the Best Impression

Writing a resume can be stressful due to it creating the first impression to a potential employer. With wanting to make the first impression count, it's important to revise and polish your resume to show the right story in regards to a career. Read this blog post to learn more.


Your resume is your introduction to a potential employer. Make that first impression count, because it will determine whether the employer wants to interview you.

Take the time to revise your resume until it tells the right story about your career and how you can do the job the employer needs filled. A resume never springs complete in a single draft from anyone's keyboard.

Does My Resume Tell the Right Story?

As you write, rewrite, polish and otherwise revise your resume, regularly refer to your target job deconstruction, which clearly outlines the story your unique resume needs to tell. When you feel the story that you're telling is clearly focused and complete, review it against these questions:

  • Are my statements relevant to the target job?
  • Where have I repeated myself? Is the repetition redundant or does it make my resume stronger?
  • Is every paragraph focused on the employer's needs?
  • Can I cut out any sentences? Or, can I shorten a long sentence? Can I break that one long sentence into two short ones?

Short sentences pack more punch. And: If in doubt, cut it out!

Let's review the sections of the resume to make sure you've got all the parts of your story in order. Download this template for help.

Target Job Title

Use a headline to draw readers in. Do you have a target job title that echoes the words and intent of the job descriptions you collected when deconstructing your target job?

Performance Profile/Summary

This short paragraph follows the target job title and reflects the priorities and language used in typical employer postings for this job. Keep this summary to no longer than seven lines—just list the "must haves" of the job. Also keep it short because dense blocks of type make reading harder. If your profile/summary runs longer, cut it into two paragraphs or one paragraph that's followed by bullets.

Professional Skills

List the skills you bring to your work that support the statements made in the preceding performance profile section. Prioritize the skills so the most important come first.

Chronology

Your work history should start with your most recent job and work backwards. Make sure each entry emphasizes relevant experience, contributions and achievements. Can you include endorsements of your work, if they are relevant? Leave out lists of references and only mention they are available upon request.

Achievements

In all of the above entries about your work experience, whenever you can, give examples of doing your job efficiently and well, and emphasize these achievements with examples. Quantify your examples whenever you can and make them easy to read by listing them in bullet points. You can encourage a reader to call you for an interview by telling what you've done, but not explaining. Create a reason for starting a conversation.

Education

Your educational record usually comes at the end of the resume and starts with your highest level of education. It should also include professional courses and accreditations that support your candidacy. However, if you work in education, law, medicine, sciences or other professions that put an emphasis on academic accreditations, your educational attainments will usually come at the beginning after the target job title and professional profile.

Much of the success of a project is determined by the amount of preparation put into it, and this is where the prep work gets done on your resume. I once worked with a senior HR partner on a resume and strategic career transition, and, before the job was finished, we had completed eight revisions, each one giving us just a little tighter focus and that much more punch. It took about two and a half weeks, but generated eight interviews in seven days, one of which landed her a senior position at Microsoft.

SOURCE: Yate, M. (16 June 2020) "Polishing Your Resume to Make the Best Impression" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/polishing-your-resume-to-make-the-best-impression.aspx


Don't Be Silent: Expert Tips to Defuse Workplace Tensions

During the crazy times that society is facing, workplaces are beginning to see tensions due to it. Read this blog post for tips on diffusing tension in the workplace.


In these days of high emotion and polarization, it's hard to know how or even whether to address the feelings of anger, despair or frustration that may be percolating among employees at the workplace. But it would be a mistake for company leaders and managers to stay silent, said Eric Ellis, a longtime consultant on diversity and inclusion.

Today's crises have frayed nerves and opened wounds.

"None of us is unaffected by this," said Ellis, president and chief executive officer of Integrity Development Corporation in Cincinnati and a speaker at the 2020 SHRM Talent conference. He advised employers to have a plan for managers to de-escalate conflict and build common ground. "If we don't prepare our people to have this conversation, we're leaving ourselves open to micro-explosions."

What is called for is empathetic support, with conversations guided by the "core values that companies adopt and post but are at times challenged to live," he said.
"A neutral leadership style is not very helpful during a crisis. Organizational leaders must assess their personal beliefs and feelings first and then expand beyond them. The most effective leaders find ways to support employees who have perspectives that differ from their own."

Ellis, who has consulted with businesses, advocacy groups and law enforcement organizations across the country, said HR professionals can play a crucial role in maintaining a respectful workplace.
"The kind of people-centered sensitivity needed at this time, in many ways, is baked into their training and professional DNA," he said.

To help provide a framework for opening and guiding productive conversations, Ellis offered the following tips:

Start with yourself. A good place to begin is by acknowledging your personal biases as well as what's taking place in our country and demonstrating empathy for those experiencing hurt, anger, sadness or disappointment.

Recognize different perspectives. People come to the workplace with a variety of perspectives on the ongoing unrest. Ellis suggested that these perspectives fall into four broad categories:

Justice requires action. Strong supporters of the protesters. They may have personal experience with injustice or are closely affiliated with people who directly experienced unfair and/or heavy-handed policing.

Nonviolent protest supporters. General supporter of protest but uncomfortable with rioting, looting and violence.

Don't protest; a few bad apples. People who believe George Floyd's death was wrong but not worthy of this response. They generally believe that every organization has a few people who abuse power or are negligent.

Loyal to the system. People who generally side with law enforcement and believe these protests demonstrate the need for more control, law and order.

Ellis recommends that leaders lean their support closer to the perspectives of those employees in the first or second categories, to align with the tradition of supporting peaceful protests for civil rights in this country, and also to acknowledge the well-documented history and ongoing examples of racial injustice, which is reflected in intense acts of solidarity with protestors from around the world. However, he added, leaders should remember the importance of being inclusive and protecting the rights of employees with beliefs closer to the third or fourth categories. No one should feel disrespected, blamed or harmed in the workplace due to their personal perspective, he said.

Teach empathetic listening and de-escalation skills to your entire workforce. People need these critical skills to communicate effectively with their co-workers, even when they disagree.

Empathetic listening requires people to avoid engaging in point-counterpoint debates. They need to display open body language. The listener begins by paraphrasing comments shared with him or her, beginning with a tentative opening such as "Let me see if I'm understanding what you're saying." This is followed by a summary of both the content of the message shared and the feelings expressed. The final step is to check for accuracy, to ensure that the listener accurately restated the message shared by the co-worker. Employees can engage in empathetic listening even when they disagree with the perspective shared by their co-worker.

Arrange for company-sponsored listening sessions. It can be helpful to provide employees with a safe forum to express their feelings and concerns with their co-workers. It may be necessary to engage external experts experienced at successfully facilitating these types of conversations. The ultimate objective is to provide solutions that improve employees' ability to effectively manage their feelings and anxiety in order to reduce the impact on their emotional health and workplace effectiveness.

Provide counseling support. Make sure to have counseling resources available for employees who may need assistance with their mental and emotional well-being as a result of stress and anxiety related to these massive national and global issues.

Strengthen inclusion efforts, don't pause them. Strengthen current commitment and engagement efforts with inclusion strategies versus pausing them. All companies should take a hard look at their own culture to ensure that they are strategically working to create workplaces that are fair and inclusive of diverse employees in general and racially diverse employees specifically. If an organization conducts a legitimate assessment, it will include the identification of several areas where bias has limited the opportunities available for employees of different racial backgrounds and other diverse characteristics and traits.

SOURCE: Cleeland, N. (07 June 2020) "Don't Be Silent: Expert Tips to Defuse Workplace Tensions" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/dont-be-silent-expert-tips-to-defuse-workplace-tensions.aspx


How to Help Your Team Advance

With many managers wanting to help their employees expand their skill set and talents, they are continuously working side by side with their employees to define their goals and achievements. Read this blog post to learn more.


Working for a company that invests in career development is often a top priority for employees, and if the company doesn't provide those opportunities, employees will take their talents elsewhere. A 2019 iHire survey found that 51.7 percent of professionals voluntarily left their job in the past five years. One of the reasons professionals cited for quitting was the lack of advancement opportunities (reported by 11.7 percent of respondents).

Managers can help combat this talent drain by working with their direct reports to define the employees' career goals and then help them achieve those milestones. "If you want the best team and want them to perform at their highest level, you have to invest in developing them," said Iris Drayton-Spann, SHRM-CP, vice president of human resources and organizational development at WETA, a public television station in Arlington, Va. "Then they will bring their 'A' game."

Investing in your team doesn't necessarily mean paying for high-priced training programs. There are plenty of low-cost and free development opportunities managers can offer employees, such as suggesting certain trade publications to read, or introducing them to a staff or board member who is a subject matter expert or thought leader in a field they want to pursue, said Jody Fosnough, SHRM-SCP, a senior consultant and executive coach for Right Management, a leadership development firm in Fort Wayne, Ind. The key is to find out what skills each team member is looking to develop or what type of position he or she hopes to grow into.

Ask Thought-Provoking Questions

Drayton-Spann carves out 45 minutes every two weeks to talk with her four team members individually about their goals, training needs and anything else they want to discuss about their work. It's up to each employee, though, to set the agenda and tone for the meeting.

"Some of the meetings are casual, some are very formal," she said. "I listen to them, they ask me questions, and then I ask them questions. It gives them ownership over their career development. It's not me telling them what to do." If they make a commitment to work on a project, meet with a mentor or look into a professional membership organization, Drayton-Spann follows up with them at the next meeting to see if they completed the task and to figure out what the next step will be toward their milestone.

To help employees set realistic goals, Fosnough said, managers need to ask more pointed questions than simply "What do you want to do?" Ask employees questions that force them to think critically about their strengths:

  • What's a compliment you received about your work?
  • What recent problem have you solved?
  • How have you surprised others on your team?
  • What are you most proud of this month?

These questions will help employees to consider why their colleagues value their work and help them see what types of roles they should gravitate toward in the future.

Find In-House Opportunities

One of the best ways to help team members advance is to invite them to work on a stretch assignment—a task outside their job description—that allows them to learn new skills or interact with colleagues they normally wouldn't have access to, Drayton-Spann said. Instead of telling an employee to take on a new project, Drayton-Spann asks the employee to work with her on a project. She also takes time to explain how the project would benefit the employee's career. Perhaps the worker will learn a new skill or have an opportunity to interact with members of the C-suite, she said.

In addition to stretch assignments, managers can offer plenty of other in-house opportunities to help employees grow into a new position, including cross-training with another department, telling other managers at the company about an employee's strengths, and allowing an employee to shadow someone who holds a position he or she is interested in growing into, said Kimberly Coan, a 20-year HR professional in the Dallas area. Job shadowing allows employees to learn what skills they might need to develop and the type of training they should focus on. And sometimes it reveals that a position they're interested in isn't actually a good fit for their skills, she said.

Career development can also focus on soft skills and help the employee gain confidence. For instance, an employee once asked Coan how to become more comfortable interacting with company leaders outside his immediate department. Coan encouraged him to invite a regional director out for coffee and ask the director how to best help the employee's department director do her job.

If an employee asks to participate in a specific training program, make sure it's appropriate for the employee's goals, said Andrea Raggambi, CEO at PerforMore Coaching and Consulting, a leadership development firm in Falls Church, Va. Often employees will want to earn a certificate or participate in a training program because they heard another colleague just completed the program.

"Sometimes they see their colleagues do certain things, and they think that is the correct career path for them even if it's not," she said. Ask the employee to explain why he or she believes the training will help achieve his or her career goals, how it will have a positive impact on the team, and how it will help advance the company's overall mission, Raggambi said.

Keep Plans Flexible

Keep in mind that not all employees will be interested in advancing their career. Some employees are content staying in the position they have, and managers need to respect that, Coan said. There might be reasons outside of work that influence their decision not to pursue a promotion. For instance, they might be taking care of an aging parent or sick child. But, Coan said, keep in mind that just because employees aren't interested in career development today doesn't mean they won't be interested in three months or a year from now.

Employees' goals can change. Raggambi recommends asking employees to revisit their career plans every three to six months. Managers should always ask, "Does this career plan still look good for you? Are you still excited and energized by this?" It's important to allow employees to reassess their plans and make adjustments.

SOURCE: Rabasca Roepe, L. (09 June 2020) "How to Help Your Team Advance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/developing-your-employees-.aspx


5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Value — Remotely

When working remotely for an extended amount of time, many employees can feel as if they are not visible to the organization. Read this blog post for helpful tips on how to show value, while working remotely.


With unemployment levels at the highest since the Great Depression, many individuals don’t have the privilege of working, and those who do feel nervous about how long they’ll have that opportunity.

If you fall into the latter category, I can appreciate your very legitimate concern. Many companies are struggling to bring in revenue, let alone turn a profit. And with remote working arrangements, you don’t have the visibility with your colleagues and managers that you normally would. When you were in the office, you might have had informal interactions with these individuals multiple times a day. Now, if you don’t have a meeting on their calendar, you may wonder if they remember your presence — and more importantly, your importance to the organization.

I can’t guarantee that your position is secure, and there will certainly be factors outside your control. But there are ways that you can make yourself and your accomplishments more visible to your organization, even when you’re not in the same building. The following suggestions are five concrete steps that you can focus on right here, right now, to increase your odds of thriving in your job during this tumultuous time and demonstrating your value while working remotely.

Do Your Work

Getting your work done is always a good idea. But especially in times where businesses and organizations are having to make hard decisions about who to keep, doing your work — and doing your work well — is essential.

As a time management coach, I’ve been working with clients throughout this time of uncertainty. (Thankfully, I was already remote!) And the sense I am getting is that there was a grace period in March and part of April as individuals were adjusting to working from home. Managers were more forgiving if there was a dip in productivity or missteps here and there. But now that it’s been multiple months of remote work, higher standards of output are returning. If you haven’t done so already, put a system in place for keeping track of your tasks and ticking them off, even if your schedule is modified because you have other responsibilities at home.

Tell Others

I don’t recommend that you give yourself a shout out at every single meeting, and I definitely don’t advise that you take undue credit for others’ work. But if you have accomplished something significant, share it. That could look like covering a few highlights of your work with your boss each week, either in your one-on-one or through email. Or speaking up in a meeting to share about what your team is doing. Or even giving a presentation on some best practices that could help other colleagues in a similar role. Focus on not only what you did but how it produced positive results for your organization. This is not bragging but simply informing others about how, even though they might not see you working, you’re getting great things accomplished. And this gives you increased visibility across the organization as people understand the role that you fill and the value you add.

Help Your Boss

Although you don’t want to overload yourself with extra work to the extent that you burn out or can’t keep your commitments, look for ways to make your boss’s life easier. For instance, turn in your work early so your manager has extra time to review it before a meeting, or be extra prepared in your one-on-one meetings so they are as concise and effective as possible. These little things help reduce the pressure on your boss, so they are not worried about whether you’ll deliver and if you’re on top of your work. And if you have extra capacity, offer to help with extra assignments or take work completely off of your manager’s plate. This shows that you’re not only someone who gets their work done but also someone who takes initiative. Although your immediate supervisor doesn’t always have a say in layoff decisions, if they do, they’ll put in a good word for you if you’re making things easier for them.

Play Nicely

With my clients, one of their least favorite ways to spend their time is in brokering arguments between people on their team. It drains energy, and they generally consider it a waste of time.

Spread Positivity

One very unfortunate outcome of this season is that it’s brought out some very anti-social behavior in people. Many people’s response to their own fear is controlling others. I’ve seen more vicious online behavior and more people yelling at strangers in public in the last two months than I’ve seen in my entire life. And since the biggest subject on most people’s minds and on all media coverage is Covid-19 — an anxiety-producing topic for most — the air has been tainted with the stench of negativity.

As a bonus, if you can be humorous, do so. Laughter and positive energy draw teams together and make people feel good about being around you. While doing good work and being a positive presence doesn’t guarantee your position will make the cut as you face layoffs, it does increase your odds because you’re demonstrating your value to the organization and the people around you.

Much of what happens with the job market and your particular job will be out of your hands. You can’t control what businesses are considered essential or not, nor can you control organizational changes and headcount. And there are many factors in place that determine the market demand for your work. However, if you follow the five pieces of advice above, you will do what you can to make the most impact and get credit for it within your current role. And you’ll make a positive impression in the process.

SOURCE: Saunders, E. (01 June 2020) "5 Ways to Demonstrate Your Value — Remotely" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/06/5-ways-to-demonstrate-your-value-remotely


How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy

A recent survey found that 55 percent of millennials that had partaken in the survey plan to leave employers that prioritize profits over people. Read this blog post to learn more.


Even before Covid-19 sent an unprecedented number of people to work from home, employers were ramping up their efforts to monitor employee productivity. A 2018 Gartner report revealed that of 239 large corporations, 50% were monitoring the content of employee emails and social media accounts, along with who they met with and how they utilized their workspaces. A year later an Accenture survey of C-suite executives reported that 62% of their organizations were leveraging new tools to collect data on their employees.

These statistics were gathered before the coronavirus pandemic, which has made working from home a necessity for thousands of companies. With that transition having happened so rapidly, employers are left wondering how much work is actually going on. The fear of productivity losses, mingling with the horror of massively declining revenues, has encouraged many leaders to ramp up their employee monitoring efforts.

There is no shortage of digital tools for employee monitoring — or, as privacy advocates put it, “corporate surveillance.” Multiple services enable stealth monitoring, live video feeds, keyboard tracking, optical character recognition, keystroke recording, or location tracking. One such company, Hubstaff, implements random screen capture that can be customized for each person and set to report “once, twice, or three times per 10 minutes,” if managers so wish. Another company, Teramind, captures all keyboard activity and records “all information to comprehensive logs [that] can be used to formulate a base of user-based behavior analytics.”

Despite the easy availability of options, however, monitoring comes with real risk to the companies that pursue it. Surveillance threatens to erode trust between employers and employees. Accenture found that 52% of employees believe that mishandling of data damages trust — and only 30% of the C-suite executives who were polled reported themselves as “confident” that the data would always be used responsibly. Employees who are now subject to new levels of surveillance report being both “incredibly stressed out” by the constant monitoring and also afraid to speak up, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, both of which — ironically — decrease productivity. Worse, monitoring can invite a backlash: In October of 2019 Google employees went public about spy tools allegedly created to suppress internal dissent.

Tempting as it may be to implement monitoring in the service of protecting productivity, it also stands in stark contrast to recent trends in the corporate world. Many organizations have committed to fostering a better employee experience, with a particular focus on diversity and inclusion. There are not only strong ethical reasons for having one’s eye on that ball, but good bottom line reasons as well. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey from 2019 found that 55% of millennials plan to leave employers that prioritize profits over people. Retention — which should be a priority for all companies, given the high expense of making and onboarding new hires — becomes difficult and costly for companies that don’t reflect those values. Given the risk of alienating employees coupled with the possibility of error and misapplication of these tools, it is quite likely that, for many, the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze.

Even so, some companies will still find it worth the tradeoffs. Justified fear of a collapsing economy reasonably drives employers to monitor their employees to ensure they are being productive and efficient. Indeed, they may even have ethically admirable aims in doing so, such as for the sake of their employees’ health and the health of the country as a whole. Furthermore, if the tools are deployed with the goal of discovering which employees are in need of additional help — more on this below — that may be all the more reason to monitor. But if your business concludes that it ought to monitor employees (for whatever reason), it is important to do so in a way that maximally respects its employees.

Here are six recommendations on how to walk this tightrope.

1. Choose your metrics carefully by involving all relevant stakeholders.
Applying numbers to things is easy, as is making quick judgments based on numeric scores spit out by a piece of software. This leads to both unnecessary surveillance and ill-formed decisions. It’s simply too easy to react to information that, in practice, is irrelevant to productivity, efficiency, and revenue. If you insist on monitoring employees, make sure what you’re tracking is relevant and necessary. Simply monitoring the quantity of emails written or read, for instance, is not a reliable indicator of productivity.

If you want the right metrics, then engage all of the relevant stakeholders in the process to determine those metrics, from hiring managers to supervisors to those who are actually being monitored. With regards to employee engagement it is especially important to reach both experienced and new employees, and that they are able to deliver their input in a setting where there is no fear of reprisal. For instance, they can be in discussion with a supervisor — but preferably not their direct supervisor, who has the authority to fire or promote them.

2. Be transparent with your employees about what you’re monitoring and why. 
Part and parcel of respecting someone is that you take the time to openly and honestly communicate with them. Tell your employees what you’re monitoring and why. Give them the opportunity to offer feedback. Share the results of the monitoring with them and, crucially, provide a system by which they can appeal decisions about their career influenced by the data collected.

Transparency increases employee acceptance rates. Gartner found that only 30% of employees were comfortable with their employer monitoring their email. But in the same study, when an employer shared that they would be monitoring and explained why, more than 50% of workers reported being comfortable with it.

3. Offer carrots as well as sticks.
Monitoring or surveillance software is implicitly tied to overseers who are bent on compliance and submission. Oppressive governments, for example, tie surveillance with threats of fines and imprisonment. But you don’t need to pursue monitoring as a method of oppression. You would do better to think about it as a tool by which you can figure out how to help your employees be more productive or reward them for their hustle. That means thinking about what kinds of carrots can be used to motivate and boost relevant numbers, not just sticks to discourage inefficiencies.

4. Accept that very good workers will not always be able to do very good work all the time — especially under present circumstances.
These are unique times and it would be wrong — both ethically and factually — to make decisions about who is and who is not a good employee or a hard worker based on performance under these conditions. Some very hard-working and talented employees may be stretched extraordinarily thin due to a lack of school and child care options, for instance. These are people you want to keep because, in the long run, they provide a tremendous amount of value. Ensure that your supervisors take the time to talk to their supervisees when the numbers aren’t what you want them to be. And again, that conversation should reflect an understanding of the employee’s situation and focus on creative solutions, not threats.

5. Monitor your own systems to ensure that people of color and other vulnerable groups are not disproportionately affected.
Central to any company’s diversity and inclusion effort is a commitment to eliminating any discrimination against traditionally marginalized populations. Precisely because they have been marginalized, those populations tend to occupy more junior roles in an organization — and junior roles often suffer the most scrutiny. This means that there is a risk of disproportionately surveilling the very groups a company’s inclusivity efforts are designed to protect, which invites significant ethical, reputational, and legal risks.

If employee monitoring is being used, it is important that the most junior people are not surveilled to a greater extent than their managers, or at least not to an extent that places special burdens on them. For instance, it would be particularly troublesome if very junior employees received a level of surveillance — say, sentiment analysis or keyboard logging — that only slightly more senior people did not. A policy that says, “This is how we monitor all employees” raises fewer ethical red flags than a policy that says, “This is how we monitor most employees, except for the most junior ones, who undergo a great deal more surveillance.” Equal application of the law, in other words, legitimately blunts the force of charges of discrimination.

6. Decrease monitoring when and where you can.
The impulse to monitor is understandable, especially in these times. But as people return to their offices — and even as some continue to work from home — look for places to pull back monitoring efforts where things are going well. This communicates trust to employees. It also corrects for the tendency to acquire more control than necessary when circumstances are not as severe as they once were.

At the end of the day, your employees are your most valuable assets. They possess institutional knowledge and skills others do not. You’ve invested time and money in them and they are very expensive to replace. Treating them with respect is not only something they deserve — it’s crucial for a company’s retention efforts. If your company does choose to move ahead with surveillance software in this climate, you need to remind yourself that you are not the police. You should be monitoring employees not with a raised baton, but with an outstretched hand.

SOURCE: Blackman, R. (28 May 2020) "How to Monitor Your Employees — While Respecting Their Privacy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/05/how-to-monitor-your-employees-while-respecting-their-privacy


How COVID-19 has changed the recruiting tech stack

 


The rapid shift to telework for many office-based employers is not only forcing companies to conduct recruiting virtually, but also making them reconsider every aspect of their talent acquisition strategies. After implementing additional technology solutions amid the pandemic, experts suggest that some changes will be permanent.

While the talent acquisition function tends to lead technology adoption among HR groups, interviews were still commonly held face-to-face at some point in the process and deliberation over candidates often took place in in-person meetings. But recruiting leaders may find that digital processes offer new advantages and end up keeping them even when they return to their offices.

Improving the function
While many organizations scrambled to put together online fixes for manual or in-person processes during the pandemic, improvement took a back seat to maintaining continuity. Now that change is not so rapid, business leaders are focusing on how to improve in these conditions.

Recruiting is no different. Existing technology solutions can address strategic imperatives that were top of mind before the pandemic, such as workforce data, candidate experience or recruiter productivity. More importantly, these technologies can still be deployed while everyone is working from home.

"I think as you start to look at how things like machine learning can be applied, there's a lot of opportunities," Mark Brandau, a research principal, global industry analyst at Forrester, told HR Dive. "The ones I gravitate to are things that automate the process."

Scheduling, communicating with candidates and optimizing job board spend — the same way marketers do with online ad spend — represent the "low-hanging fruit" when it comes to recruiting technology, Brandau said. The tools are usually simple to use and do not depend on the technical maturity of the organization for adoption or implementation.

Having every single recruiting activity occurring within some sort of technology also allows for better data collection. While organizations are trying to collect as much as possible, it's a challenge to validate data entered by people and also can be subjective, such as a hiring manager's perception of a candidate after a first-round in-person interview.

"Something we suspected before the pandemic is organizations don't have a lot of necessary data to make adaptive forward decisions," Brandau said. "That includes candidate data and [talent] market data."

Having better data by having more widespread technology will allow talent acquisition leaders to be more informed about the metrics that matter and how they can improve the function's effectiveness. Efficiency gains, like being able to immediately schedule an interview, can improve the candidate experience and save recruiters time.

"They either want to automate [sourcing and screening] more because of high volume or they want to find better quality candidates," Brandau said. "So they're focused on automation and quality of time" to improve the caliber of candidates entering the funnel and their experience.

Expanding into onboarding
In a pre-pandemic interview process, once a candidate accepts a job offer, after the initial excitement from both parties subsides, there is often a hand-off to a different colleague to manage the onboarding process. Today, with remote work as the norm and more automation coming, there is an opportunity for talent acquisition to bolster, if not completely own, onboarding.

"Once a client understands and gets wind of what's possible with onboarding, especially as a part of a bigger HCM transformation, when you tie in learning and procurement and other things that can happen and goals within onboarding," Brandau said, "they start to light up because they see it way more transformative beyond talent acquisition."

Being able to seamlessly move into value-add onboarding activities without the possibility of a clunky handoff can pay off in many ways. It can boost a new employee's preparedness and excitement. It can also serve as an extension of a company's brand, Brandau said, noting the connections between candidate experience, employment branding and the overall branding of a company. Tactically, onboarding automation can include signaling procurement for a new computer or other supplies a new hire may need.

Organizational leaders often are interested in automating the first steps of onboarding to support a new employees' alignment with organizational goals and maximize the experience of their first 90 days, including what training they may need. "So there's a lot of there's a lot of immediate benefit, as opposed to longer term benefit, when you think about ROI and visibility and brand reinforcement, that's why they gravitate that way," he added.

Finding new sourcing channels
Another opportunity for remote recruiting teams is expanding the geography and scope of sourcing channels. When recruiters no longer need to travel to career fairs and instead interact with prospective employees virtually, they can speak to more candidates. And when candidates don't need to play email tag to schedule an interview, they move the process more efficiently.

SOURCE: Kidwai, A. (14 May 2020) "How COVID-19 has changed the recruiting tech stack" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/how-covid-19-has-changed-the-recruiting-tech-stack/577953/


Viewpoint: 3 Steps to Make Learning Part of Company Culture

Workplaces are constantly changing, and so is the world of work. Where things are constantly changing, culture is changing as well. Read this blog post to learn helpful tips for learning company culture.


As technology transforms the world of work, learning is moving from the periphery to the core of corporate strategy. Upskilling is quickly becoming a business imperative, and hiring managers are teaming up with talent developers to ensure that business leaders have the talent they need to thrive.

With good reason, LinkedIn Learning's 2020 Workplace Learning Report shows that nearly all of today's talent developers have no problem securing executive buy-in, and CEOs now spend 20 percent more time learning soft skills than their employees spend. But in a workplace where the pace of change continues to accelerate, it takes more than just buy-in to build a learning culture that companies need today. As we work through the pandemic, an agile learning culture is needed now more than ever—one that enables employees to demonstrate their ability to quickly adapt to new environments, new protocol and shifting market demands.

Over the last year, Kraft Heinz's embrace of ownership—a principle that is core to our DNA as a company—has helped us to spark a learning transformation at Kraft Heinz. Here are three practices that can help you do the same.

1. Own your learning.

It's no secret that great leaders lead by example, and it's no different with learning initiatives. Learning champions must inspire and encourage others throughout their organization to pursue learning. That's difficult to do without first fully embracing learning themselves.

As chief learning officer, I needed to put myself in my learners' shoes. I couldn't tell them it was possible to carve out time in their busy lives for learning without first doing so myself. So, in February 2019, I made a commitment to learning something new every day. As part of that daily learning commitment, I completed a variety of learning experiences through our company's corporate learning platform, Ownerversity, and began sharing what I learned through our internal messaging app, the KetchApp.

Using the hashtags #LearnLikeAnOwner and #MakeTimeForLearning, my colleagues were able to follow along on my daily learning journey, picking up work-relevant lessons, tips and insight and—most importantly—seeing just how much I personally valued learning. They saw what was possible. A year later, learning has become a cultural conversation topic across the organization.

2. Build and keep building.

Taking a grassroots approach to building excitement for learning has helped inspire a movement among our employees. But we also knew that movement had to actually lead our workers somewhere worthwhile. For us, it was not a matter of "if you build it, they will come." It was the inverse: The employees were already on their way, and we had to ensure we continued to build and enhance a learning ecosystem that could truly support their aspirations and learning goals.

It started with making a commitment to learning at every level and ensuring that the learning was ongoing and democratic. Anyone who wants to learn can have that opportunity, every day. Requiring more than a one-and-done approach, this initiative needed a team dedicated to developing the tools to make sure that can happen.

Our learning offerings allow for active learning, encourage continuous reflection and help employees see the impact learning can have on their careers. Those offerings include custom courses, as well as access to thousands of LinkedIn Learning courses and other digital resources focused on business, technology and creative subjects to help employees build the skills they need throughout their careers.

3. Activate ambassadors.

One person alone cannot champion learning across an entire company. Learning champions must create a network of like-minded ambassadors at every level who can inspire and encourage their co-workers. Building a learning culture cannot simply be a top-down mandate; it must be a ground-up movement.

We expect all of our employees to seek out high-impact learning experiences, commit to learning—even if for just a few minutes—every day, and encourage others to do the same. On some days, that could be dedicating time to an e-learning course, but on others, it could be listening to a podcast, attending a live learning event or reading a magazine article. Last year, to help promote this goal, we created learning-commitment categories to help guide employees in setting aside time to learn from September through the end of the year. The goals included 15 minutes per month, 15 minutes every other week and 15 minutes per week. Even our CEO and chief people officer pledged to make one of these commitments.

Some employees have become especially invested in this new culture of learning. We recently invited 20 dedicated learners to a #LearnLikeAnOwner retreat, rewarding their commitment to learning, and also providing them with tools and resources they need to inspire others. They returned to their roles within the organization with the knowledge and confidence of being official learning ambassadors. Other employees know they can turn to these learning ambassadors for the inspiration, encouragement and guidance they need to pursue learning every day.

What I've learned over the past year as chief learning officer at Kraft Heinz is that leading by example paired with creating an environment of excitement and inspiration can truly fuel a cultural change.

SOURCE: Bassey, P. (21 May 2020) "Viewpoint: 3 Steps to Make Learning Part of Company Culture" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/viewpoint-3-steps-to-make-learning-part-of-company-culture.aspx


3 steps to optimize intern onboarding and training

Internships are often used to help students form a decision of where they may want to continue their career, or what field they may want to pursue. Read this blog post to learn three steps on optimizing interns and their training.


HR leaders face myriad challenges in crafting a positive candidate experience and establishing a strong culture across organizations, and there's an added twist when it comes to internship programs: this must be achieved in an exceptionally short amount of time.

"As much as Facebook is evaluating interns for their long-term potential as future employees, we know for certain that interns are also evaluating whether Facebook is where they want to launch their career," Oscar Perez, diversity recruitment and programs manager at Facebook, told HR Dive. "Interning allows college students to make more informed decisions about the type of company they want to work for and helps them crystallize a vision for the type of employee they want to be."

The intern experience trifecta

Multiple academics and learning experts echoed Perez's sentiments to HR Dive, generally suggesting that HR can find success with three steps: a short, formal onboarding; building in mechanisms for continuous skill-building; and a focus on the value of exposure to the business world.

Some formal onboarding

While some experts suggest that employee onboarding plans should cover at least a new hire's first 90 days, that's obviously not feasible for an internship that may last only 90 days.

"Something on the order of 10 to 15% is not unusual," Brooks Holtom, a management professor at Georgetown University told HR Dive. "Two or three days of up front training, and then maybe two hours a week on a Friday helps to increase both the capacity of the people but also the probability that they enjoy the work and they come back."

Still, an employer's onboarding for traditional employees may provide a roadmap, especially when it comes to the early days. This should include administrative tasks, introductions and acclimation to tasks.

"For all interns [at Facebook], the first day of their internship is spent in New Hire Orientation," Perez shared. "Where you get to hear from employees around the company on guiding principles that we anchor in as a company, critical logistical information that you'll need to navigate your time as an intern, [and] get an understanding of the other interns that will be your ‘home-base' community during your time at Facebook."

From there, interns meet their teams and learn more about the scope of their internship project, Perez continued. They also attend role-specific training on tools, expectations and critical concepts for both their role and beyond.

It may help to think about onboarding in three parts — pre-boarding, orientation and ramping up to productivity — according to Leslie Deutsch, director of learning solutions at TEKsystems. Deutsch previously shared a model for onboarding traditional employees; a similar, albeit more streamlined, structure can help when thinking about interns, she said.

"You want to give them exposure to your organization," Deutsch told HR Dive in a February interview, adding that it's important to make clear company values, mission and vision. Although, if interns are there to support a specific project or initiative, it may need to be more detailed, she said.

Pre-boarding can also be valuable, both as a way to engage the intern as a high-potential full-time candidate and to ensure they are learning as much about the company as they can before their first day. "I've seen pretty commonly [that] the onboarding and training actually starts before they even formally start the job. It's about building the relationship," Nicole Coomber, a professor of management at the University of Maryland, told HR Dive. "There are a lot of smaller interactions that happen before they come on board so that they have a lot of clarity on what they're actually doing when they get there."

Continuous, experiential training

Following formal onboarding, HR will want to focus on continuous learning, according to Holtom.

He noted that such efforts are good for building capacity and making sure that interns feel they are gaining from the experience. There are a lot of ways to deliver this kind of training, however, and it does not need to be formal or in-person; it can be worthwhile, for example, to make learning opportunities experiential.

"[Students] want to gain the experience that prepares them for the next professional opportunity and the chance to build relationships with other professionals in their field. That really sets apart a positive internship experience from a negative one," Rachel Loock, associate director of career services at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, told HR Dive.

For graduate school interns, experiential learning can be particularly valuable because they are already experienced professionals that may be making a career switch. They may need to get up to speed on certain software or business concepts to successfully make that switch.

"MBA internships are often used as a ‘bridge' to pivot from one industry or function to another,  Doreen Amorosa, associate dean of career services at the Georgetown McDonough School of Business, told HR Dive. "Successful internships allow MBA students to demonstrate newly acquired academic skills which enable those career transitions," she said.

SOURCE: Kidwai, A. (13 April 2020) "3 steps to optimize intern onboarding and training" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/3-steps-to-optimize-intern-onboarding-and-training/576014/


Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace

In many workplace organizations, there has been an increase in age demographics. As many generations are beginning to work together, it's necessary for organizations to cater to all generations while catering to their different needs, wants, and styles. Read this blog post to learn more.


Changing demographics are creating more age diversity in the workplace, and this 5-generation age range means employers are increasingly faced with catering to different priorities and communication styles with benefits.

When it comes to health and wellbeing, employees between the ages of 55 and 64 prioritize benefits related to physical health, while younger employees care more about social and mental health, according to a study from Optum.

“The one-size-fits-all approach to communication, benefits and services needs to evolve,” says Seth Serxner, chief health officer at Optum. “The challenges a 35-year-old woman with young kids has is very different from a boomer or an empty nester who are dealing with other issues, so the life circumstances are very different.”

Instead, employers should look towards implementing a personalized communication strategy, or even hyper-personalization of benefits related to life cycles, Serxner says.

“If you think about saving in a health savings account, for example, we like to really target these different groups,” he says. “Once we do that, we see a tremendous increase in contributions and the overall savings averages.”

Wil Lewis, a diversity and inclusion executive and head of global disability strategy at Bank of America, says that since the company functions in several different countries, it emphasizes diversity of experience, culture and generations.

“One of the things that we've done as an organization is focused on how to integrate the wisdom that comes from past experiences and be sure that we leverage some of their ideas and make decisions for the future,” Lewis says.

Bank of America is one of over 1,000 employers who have signed the AARP Employer Pledge Program, a nationwide group of employers that stand with AARP in affirming the value of experienced workers and are committed to developing diverse organizations. They have pledged to promote equal opportunity for all workers, regardless of age.

Bank of America also has an intergenerational employee network, with chapters across the U.S. and other countries. The network has, among other things, created mentoring programs where employees in different generations can come together and learn from each other in person or virtually.

“It's actually one of our fastest growing employee networks inside the company,” Lewis says. “We’re really trying to drive connectivity and opportunity for them to learn from one another.”

The company aims to have a broad and comprehensive benefit range that touches on all individual generations, says Ebony Thomas, a global human resources executive at Bank of America.

“We are really thinking about where employees are in their life cycle, and tailoring services, learning, training or benefits to that life cycle,” she says. “It's really thinking ‘are we inclusive of everyone in the organization, in different stages and points in their lives?’ and how a benefit impacts them.”

The Optum data also discovered differences in financial service needs among generations. Younger generations are more concerned about debt, student tuition and how to start saving, whereas older generations may be more interested in things like buying a house, family health or retirement, says Optum’s Serxner.

Technology is another area of great discrepancy among the workplace age gap. Serxner says understanding how millennials or younger generations think about text messaging versus older generations can help employers rethink how they’re utilizing technology and what impact it has.

“There can be mental and behavioral impacts from using technology,” he says. “Employees can start to feel isolated, lonely or left out, based on the way an organization might cater to only one group, or might have a bias toward one kind of technology, whereas some people really feel it's critical to be face-to-face or on the phone.”

It’s critical employers learn and understand the makeup of their workforce, and tailor their communication strategy to their needs, Serxner says. Employers can drive up engagement and participation in their benefit offerings.

“I work with one digital company communications company that’s more than 70% millennial, and all of their outreach, benefits and promotions are phone based,” Serxner says. “I have other older energy and utility companies where they still do big pool meetings, and hand out brochures and packages, where they have individuals explaining the benefits. So the employers tend to have a sense of who their populations are, and tailor their approaches accordingly.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (08 May 2020) "Personalization helps meet the needs of multiple generations in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/personalization-helps-meet-the-needs-of-multiple-generations-in-the-workplace