Viewpoint: Your First 90 Days as a New Manager

Did you know: the average turnover rate, from the Vice President Level, has decreased from 3.3 to 2.2 years. With this being said, it's important that when coming in as a new manager that the first few words said will impact the image given to colleagues. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn helpful tips on how to make being the new manager a little less difficult.


"The president of the United States gets 100 days to prove himself. You get 90."

That's how author Michael D. Watkins opens his seminal book on leadership transitions, The First 90 Days. The three-month period, as he explains, is a quarter, the time frame used by companies to track performance, and it is long enough to offer meaningful indicators of how a new manager is doing. Research shows that success or failure within the first few months of a new management role is often an accurate predictor of ultimate success, he adds.

"When leaders derail, their failures can almost always be traced to vicious cycles that developed in the first few months on the job," Watkins writes.

These vicious cycles frequently begin in a few similar ways, says leadership expert George Bradt, co-author (with Jayme Check and John Lawler) of The New Leader's 100-Day Action Plan. Some new managers do not realize the impact of their early words and actions, and are inadvertently sending colleagues the wrong message. Others focus on a new strategy before earning trust and support from the team. Others expend too much energy on the wrong projects and neglect the priorities of stakeholders, Bradt writes.

Moreover, recent widespread trends in the business world have made the task of mastering the first three months on the job even more important for new managers, Watkins says. Chief among these trends is that management is turning over at a faster and faster rate.

"The pace of transition has gone up pretty dramatically," says Watkins. As evidence, Watkins cites a recent study of Fortune 100 global healthcare companies. Since 2013, average turnover time at the vice president level decreased from 3.2 years to 2.2 years. "There's a premium on getting up to speed faster," he explains.

Watkins's approach is to break down a new manager's first 90 days into 10 separate directives: Prepare Yourself; Accelerate Your Learning; Match Strategy to Situation; Negotiate Success; Secure Early Wins; Achieve Alignment; Build Your Team; Create Alliances; Manage Yourself; and Accelerate Everyone.

Given this, we asked Watkins and Bradt to contextualize their guidance and highlight key best practices for managers. We also asked a few seasoned managers with successful track records in new leadership roles to provide their insight and perspective on what drove their success.

Preparing and Assessing

Preparation for a new managing role is crucial, and the preparation process should begin before the first day on the job. In most cases, it should start before the first job interview, explains Michael Sarni, CPP, recruiting and training officer for the Emergency Management Agency of the City of Lockport (Illinois), and president of Security Consulting Specialists.

In Sarni's view, a manager candidate conducts due diligence research on the company before being interviewed. The information-gathering process continues during the interviews, with the manager candidate asking informed questions about role expectations and the workplace environment. "A good manager…should always be preparing for future outcomes," Sarni says. "This must start before the first day they walk in the door and continue to the last day they leave the office."

Of course, the manager should also take time before the interview to prepare answers to common interview questions. In Bradt's view, all interview questions boil down to one of three basic questions: What are your strengths? Will you be motivated? Are you a fit for the organization? Given this, managers should prepare answers before the interview that convey three fundamental points: My strengths are a match for this job. My motivations are a match for this job. I am a good fit for this organization.

Another key aspect of preparation is learning about and assessing the company's culture. "I think understanding the culture—and adjusting one's approach accordingly to new challenges and opportunities—is ultimately the key to success in the first 90 days," Sarni says.

Sometimes, a manager can do this by using scouts and spies: customers, former or current employees, or anyone who has been involved with the firm and can speak to its culture, Bradt says. Sometimes, these associates can be a good source of information on an organization's unwritten norms, such as the actual hours most work, as opposed to the hours prescribed in the employee handbook; how employees socialize outside the office; how connected and active staff is through email and texting; and more.

Managers can also learn about the firm's culture simply by being hyper-observant every time they visit the office–taking note of people's interactions and demeanor, their dress, the office's physical set-up and structure, noise level, and other signs. "You can learn an awful lot by simply walking into a place," Bradt says.

In general, new managers who fail to understand a company's culture stand a much higher chance of ultimately being rejected by it. But now, Watkins says, with millennials representing the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, a new dynamic has come into play. A millennial employee joining a new company may in fact make the effort to assess the company's culture—but find it lacking. "They're not terribly tolerant, necessarily," Watkins says with a laugh.

This has created a crossroads, he says: "Is it incumbent on them to adapt to the culture? Or will they ultimately be the agents of change of the culture?" At some firms, the current situation is bi-directional adaptation: millennial employees try to fit in with the culture (at least in some ways), but the company also tries to evolve its own culture so that younger employees stay engaged and not leave. "A lot of companies are grappling with that. It's a real generational shift," Watkins says.

Overall, it behooves new managers to be aware of this generational shift and consider how they might contribute to the company's overall goal of ensuring its culture does not drive away promising employees. "Onboarding is the leading edge of engagement, and engagement is a core part of retention," Watkins says.

Owning Day One

Although preparing, learning and assessing are all key steps before the job begins, they alone will not guarantee a successful transition, experts say. The first several days of the new role will bring their own challenges.

Rex Lam, a Hong Kong-based senior consultant with Guardian Forest Security, has successfully transitioned into a few different management positions since he joined the security industry 15 years ago. While he also supports the importance of preparation, he says that well-prepared managers who are excited about their new ideas must avoid coming off as a know-it-all.

"Avoid the impulse to immediately want to make an impact for the good by changing everything. The attitude should be to learn and listen first, and do not let perfection be the enemy of good," Lam says.

Sarni advises extending the learning process that most new managers undergo in the early days, so that it covers more than just the security department. "Taking a methodical approach to learning as much as you can, not only about your own department and how it fits into the organization, but also about all the other departments with which security impacts operations and culture, should be an early objective," he explains.

He also recommends that new managers try to make the effort to learn what's below the surface. "Always dig a little deeper to learn and understand an operation further. The more one is prepared for the unexpected, the easier it is to adapt when the unforeseen challenge presents itself," he adds.

Bradt agrees with the importance of listening and soaking in information as soon as the job begins, but he also said that too many managers show up with a passive, just-do-no-harm attitude. This is inadvisable; all eyes are on a new manager during the first few days and people start forming opinions based on limited contact. "If you show up looking clueless, people are going to assume you're clueless," Bradt says.

Instead, new managers should come in on the first day with ideas of how they want to position themselves strategically, and what message they want to convey. Then they can listen and learn, and also ask directed questions that support this strategy and message.

Bradt offered the following example to illustrate: A new manager, taking over a leadership position, does due diligence and finds that while the firm is in decent financial shape, competitors are nipping at its heels and gaining ground. So on day one, the new manager listens and learns, but also asks many other department heads, "I've looked at what you've done so far, and it's amazing. What do you think you're going to do next to stay ahead of the curve?" That type of directed question reflects an active focus-on-the-future strategy and message, rather than a passive approach, Bradt explains.

Similarly, a new manager for a firm that needs to be more customer-focused can decide to spend some of day one meeting with customers, outside of headquarters. Here, Bradt recommends following the leadership maxim "Be, Do, Say." New leaders will be judged on all three, in that order of influence. What a leader says comes third; what a leader does comes second; who a leader is comes first. So, if a new leader continues to meet with customers through the first 90 days, at some point the leader will "be" a customer-focused leader in the eyes of staff. That will be part of his or her identity.

Early Wins

Early accomplishments, even small ones, are usually a big boost toward ultimate success for new leaders. If someone asks an employee, "How's the new manager?," while it's nice if the employee says he or she is likable, it's even more indicative of future success if the employee can say he or she already accomplished X.

Lam offers the example of taking over a management position for a company that wanted to alter operations so that it could plan more than three years ahead of time, rather than focusing completely on the current workload. For Lam, targeting the underlying systemic issue led to an early win. "The key is to identify the bottleneck and focus on eliminating the root cause," Lam says.

In this case, Lam identified the bottleneck—inefficient processes—that prevented the team from having enough resources and time for advance planning. So, he decided to target inefficiencies. He improved the resource allocation process for the service team; the team's quality of work increased, and costs immediately went down because outside service contractors were no longer needed. The team was also spending too much time filling out detailed reports for small expenses such as subway and bus fares; Lam distributed pre-paid cards, and this tradeoff won back time for staff.

The cost and time savings became quickly apparent, resulting in an early win for the new manager and eventually developed into a significant accomplishment. "I was fortunate to make the correct decisions," Lam says.

And the chances for notching early accomplishments increase if they are based on a broader strategy that is appropriate for the type of mission that is needed. Watkins recommends that new managers use his STARS model to match strategy and situation. Using this model, the new manager must assess the business mission at hand (Start-Up, Turnaround, Accelerated Growth, Realignment, Sustaining Success) before designing an appropriate approach and strategy.

Alignments and Allies

Often, Watkins's directives of Achieve Alignment and Create Alliances are related for new managers in the security field, Sarni says. Since security touches on every facet of a company, alliances between the security manager and managers in other departments are critical. These alliances can be made with the goal of interdepartmental collaboration, for the benefit of all.

"Often, the security function is viewed as a hindrance to operations in other areas of the organization," Sarni says. "But, if the security manager takes the time to learn as much as possible about those operations and proceed from the philosophy of being a partner with those other functions, security can find ways to not only better secure the environment, but also improve upon methodologies others are using."

Toward this aim, the new security manager can begin to educate selected managers from other departments about how security can align with and support that department's goals and objectives. "Building those partnerships and empowering other departments to feel that they have a stake in security's outcomes—and showing how it can benefit them—dramatically improves the chances of success," Sarni explains.

However, Sarni concedes that this is no easy mission. It takes people skills, emotional intelligence and some deft explaining. "These concepts may sound simple enough in theory, but the reality is far more challenging and delicate," Sarni says. "The brute force approach, even with a mandate, rarely yields the best results. Finesse, patience and understanding the nuances of the environment generally yield the most desirable outcomes."

Forming alliances and creating alignments with other departments is especially crucial for new managers charged with overhauling operations. "Through most of my career I have acted as a 'change agent' for the organizations to which I have been hired," Sarni explains. "But even in that environment, where I have had a mandate from senior management, generating buy-in from peers in different areas of the organization has taken creativity, sensitivity, and perseverance."

On a one-on-one level, it's always best for the new manager to create alliances that function as a two-way street. When discussing issues with other managers, two questions are often very helpful, experts say: What is a best practice that will help me in this firm? How can I help you be successful?

Building Your Ever-Changing Team

Team building for new managers takes a certain mind-set, says Lam, and for new managers who previously worked on their own, it requires a mind shift toward the collective.

"When you are one person, you are the star. When you are the manager, you are a star maker," Lam says.

In many cases, one of two situations apply. A new manager will take over an existing team, with the hope that it will stay intact. Or, the new manager is tasked with building his or her own team. In either instance, one principle is equally valid, Bradt says: every team member should be playing to their strengths.

This should be kept in mind by new managers busy with building their own teams and actively hiring. And it should also be remembered by new managers inheriting an intact team. They should still do a "role sort" in the first 90 days, and make sure everyone is in the right job. A good skill set/role match could mean a star in the making, whereas a mismatch can make for all sorts of problems down the road. Bradt says that one of the top regrets cited by leaders is "not moving fast enough on people" (i.e., reassigning staffers to best-fit positions) earlier in their tenure.

Finally, Watkins cites two recent trends that may have a big impact on team leading. One trend is that more teams are becoming virtual, with some members in different time zones and less face-to-face communication. This type of team can still be managed effectively, but it can take additional skills that not all managers have.

The second trend is turnover. The rate of turnover for team members is even outpacing the rate increase for management turnover. This is true in part because younger workers are more likely to leave a job if they are dissatisfied with the company. As a result, many teams are in a state of constant flux.

"What I find now, pretty much consistently, is that virtually all teams are at some point of transition at any given point in time," Watkins says. This can mean an added challenge for the new manager: learning to lead a team consisting of parts that never completely stop moving.

The Future

What will the new managers of the future have to contend with?

In the last decade, culture has become more important to the ultimate success of the company, Bradt says. Fast forward 10 years, and that continues to the point where "culture is the only thing that matters." With the continuing advancement of technology, companies will be able to duplicate almost any type of competitive advantage in product and services and operations that their competitors may have.

So the only real meaningful component that will separate companies from each other is culture. "Their culture is the only thing they can own," he says.

As for Watkins, he believes that recent innovations like artificial intelligence and the growth of ever-more-sophisticated analytical machines may have a vast impact on how work is done, giving him some pause when he considers the future. He knows that the exact extent and ramifications of this transformation (including the impact on management), and the time frame, cannot be predicted with certainty. "But I tend to believe it's going to happen sooner rather than later," he says.

"I'm wondering if there will be managers in 10 years," he says. "Your manager could be an algorithm."

Mark Tarallo is senior content manager of  Security Management magazine.

This article is adapted from Security Management magazine with permission from ASIS © 2019. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: Tarallo, M. (19 February 2020) "Viewpoint: Your First 90 Days as a New Manager" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/pages/viewpoint-your-first-90-days-as-a-new-manager.aspx


DOL updates FLSA regular rate rule

With the New Year right around the corner, it's important to know what rules are being updated. The U.S. Department of Labor has updated the "regular rate of pay" to calculate overtime pay. This standard is used to calculate overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Read this blog post for more information on this final rule.


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a final rule updating the "regular rate of pay" standard used to calculate overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), according to a notice to be published in the Federal Register Dec. 13.

In the rule, DOL clarifies when certain employer benefits may be excluded when calculating overtime pay for a non-exempt employee, including bona fide meal periods, reimbursements, certain benefit plan contributions, state and local scheduling law payments and more. The rule also clarifies how employers may determine whether a bonus is discretionary or nondiscretionary.

The rule will take effect Jan. 12, 2020.

The rule will likely result in employers taking a closer look at their benefits packages, Susan Harthill, partner at Morgan Lewis, told HR Dive in an emailed statement.

A number of employer advocates that submitted comments on DOL’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), including the Society for Human Resource Management, supported excluding employee benefits like gym memberships, tuition assistance and adoption and surrogacy services from regular rate calculations. Gym memberships and tuition assistance are generally excludable, according to DOL, but the agency said only some forms of adoption assistance would be excludable and that most surrogacy assistance payments would not be​.

Employers also inquired about public transportation and childcare subsidies. In the final rule, DOL said public transportation benefits would not be excludable, noting that the agency "has long acknowledged that employer-provided parking spaces are excludable from the regular rate but commuter subsidies are not." But it did add clarifying language around childcare, saying that while "routinely-provided childcare" must be included in the regular rate, emergency childcare services — if those services are not provided as compensation for hours of employment and are not tied to the quantity or quality of work performed — may be excluded.

DOL also offered additional details about its treatment of tuition reimbursement and education-related benefits. As it stated in the NPRM, the agency said that as long as tuition programs are offered to employees regardless of hours worked or services rendered are "contingent merely on one’s being an employee," such programs qualify as "other similar payments" excludable from the regular rate. This includes payment for an employee's current coursework, online coursework, payment for an employee’s family member’s tuition and certain student-loan repayment plans, DOL said.

HR teams should respond by performing audits of the pay codes for benefits that would be impacted, Tammy McCutchen, shareholder at Littler Mendelson, told HR Dive in an interview: "This is a good time to get your calculations correct." McCutchen suggested that employers conduct audits first before deciding whether to expand benefits options in light of the rule. She added that it's an employer's responsibility to notify payroll providers of any changes to exemptions.

Employers also will need to check state laws and consult with counsel ahead of implementing changes to employees' regular rates, as those laws may differ from DOL's new rule, Harthill said. Moreover, "[t]his is an interpretive rule and it remains to be seen whether courts will defer to DOL's interpretation of the rule or if any resultant exclusions are challenged," she added.

SOURCE: Golden, R. (12 December 2019) "DOL updates FLSA regular rate rule" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/dol-updates-flsa-regular-rate-rule/568954/


Labor Department Issues Final Rule on Calculating 'Regular Rate' of Pay

The New Year is bringing changes to the current "regular rate" of pay definition. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor updated the FLSA definition of the regular rate of pay. The final ruling will take effect on January 15, 2020, and will provide modernized regulations for employers. Read this blog to learn more.


Employers now have more clarity and flexibility about which perks they can include in workers' "regular rate" of pay, which is used to calculate overtime premiums under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule that will take effect Jan. 15, 2020.

This is the first time in more than 50 years that the DOL has updated the FLSA definition of the regular rate of pay. Here's how the new law will impact employers.

Reduced Litigation Risk

Currently, the regular rate includes hourly wages and salaries for nonexempt workers, most bonuses, shift differentials, on-call pay and commissions. It excludes health insurance, paid leave, holiday and other discretionary bonuses, and certain gifts.

Many employers weren't sure, however, if certain perks had to be included in the regular rate of pay. So instead of risking costly lawsuits, some employers were choosing not to offer competitive benefits.

Employers were concerned that, for example, if they offered gym memberships to employees, they would have to add the cost to the regular-rate calculation, explained Kathleen Caminiti, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Murray Hill, N.J., and New York City. The new rule says that gym membership fees and other similar benefits don't have to be included.

The new rule is intended to reduce the risk of litigation and enable employers to provide benefits without fearing that "no good deed goes unpunished," Caminiti said.

The final rule largely tracks the proposed rule, noted Susan Harthill, an attorney with Morgan Lewis in Washington, D.C. But it includes more clarifying examples and provides additional insight into the DOL's views on specific benefits, she said.

This rule was relatively uncontroversial, said Tammy McCutchen, an attorney with Littler in Washington, D.C. She noted that only a few employee and union groups commented against the rule, and those comments addressed very specific points.

"Employees like these benefits, too," she said.

Clarifications

The rule clarifies that employers may exclude the following perks from the regular-rate calculation:

  • Parking benefits, wellness programs, onsite specialist treatments, gym access and fitness classes, employee discounts on retail goods and services, certain tuition benefits, and adoption assistance.
  • Unused paid leave, including paid sick leave and paid time off.
  • Certain penalties employers must pay under state and local scheduling laws.
  • Business expense reimbursement for items such as cellphone plans, credentialing exam fees, organization membership dues and travel expenses that don't exceed the maximum travel reimbursement under the Federal Travel Regulation system or the optional IRS substantiation amounts for certain travel expenses.
  • Certain sign-on and longevity bonuses.
  • Complimentary office coffee and snacks.
  • Discretionary bonuses (the DOL noted that the label given to a bonus doesn't determine whether it is discretionary).
  • Contributions to benefit plans for accidents, unemployment, legal services and other events that could cause a financial hardship or expense in the future.

"Unlike the upcoming changes to the FLSA white-collar regulations, which will have the force of law, this final rule is predominately interpretative in nature," said Joshua Nadreau, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Boston. "Nevertheless, you should review these changes carefully to determine whether any of the clarifications are applicable to your workforce."

Employers who follow the rule can show that they made a good-faith effort to comply with the FLSA.

Paying Overtime Premiums

Under the FLSA, nonexempt employees generally must be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked beyond 40 in a week. But the regular rate includes more than just an employee's base hourly wage. Employers must consider "all remuneration for employment paid to, or on behalf of, the employee," except for specific categories that are excluded from the calculation, such as:

  • Discretionary bonuses.
  • Payments made when no work is performed, such as vacation or holiday pay.
  • Gifts.
  • Irrevocable benefits payments.
  • Payments for traveling expenses.
  • Premium payments for work performed outside an employee's regular work hours.
  • Extra compensation paid according to a private agreement or collective bargaining.
  • Income derived from grants or options.

The final rule updated and modernized the items that can be excluded from the calculation, Caminiti said. For example, the prior regulation referenced only holiday and vacation time, whereas the new rule recognizes that many employers lump together paid time off. The rule clarifies that all paid time off will be treated consistently as to whether it should be included in the regular rate.

The DOL eliminated some restrictions on "call-back" and similar payments but maintained that they can't be excluded from an employee's regular rate if they are prearranged.

The rule also addresses meal breaks, scheduling penalties, massage therapy and wellness programs.

"Some of these benefits didn't exist even a decade ago," McCutchen noted.

Harthill observed that the line between discretionary and nondiscretionary bonuses has created uncertainty and litigation. So the final rule's text and preamble give more examples and explanations about certain bonuses in response to commenters' requests. For example, the final rule provides more clarity about sign-on and longevity bonuses, but the DOL declined to specifically address other types of bonuses commenters asked about.

Action Items

"Now is the time for a regular-rate audit," McCutchen said. Compensation specialists should gather a list of all the earnings codes they're currently using for nonexempt employees, note each one they are including in the regular rate and compare that with the new rule to see if changes need to be made.

Most employers presently are not including paid sick time, tuition reimbursement and other perks in the regular-rate calculation, McCutchen noted, and DOL has confirmed the practice.

Now is also a good time for employers to decide if they want to start providing certain perks that are popular with employees, she said.

Harthill noted that it is important for employers to check whether the relevant state law tracks or departs from the federal law, because state laws might have stricter rules about overtime calculations.

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L. (12 December 2019) "Labor Department Issues Final Rule on Calculating 'Regular Rate' of Pay" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/Labor-Department-Issues-Final-Rule-on-Calculating-Regular-Rate-of-Pay-.aspx


Tech tools underused for workplace engagement: survey

Did you know: Only 45 percent of employers use technology to improve employee engagement, according to a survey of HR professionals. Read the following blog post to learn more about using technology to enhance workplace engagement.


Just 45% of employers are using technology to improve employee engagement, according to a new survey of thousands of HR professionals in organizations of varying sizes.

The research finding comes from the Next Concept Human Resource Association (NCHRA) and Waggl, a real-time engagement platform. HR tech industry professionals weighed in on the topic at the HR TechXpo 2019 and others as part of the latest “Voice of the Workplace” pulse survey.

Of those respondents, 92% said they would like to create a strong internal culture that affects results. In addition, 81% believed that investing in people-focused programs and skills such as onboarding, performance and employee engagement would help increase revenues and profit margins.

Lisa Hickey, VP of professional development at NCHRA, was “a bit surprised” that only 45% of her group’s members reported that their organizations are using technology to improve employee engagement in the face of business volatility and a tight labor market.

NCHRA and Waggl, both based in the San Francisco Bay Area, also distilled into a ranked list crowdsourced responses to a survey question about social media and gamification platforms as tools to increase employee engagement.

Several caveats were expressed. One HR leader, for example, cautioned that they need to be tied to the type of company and demographics, as well as the extent to which employees are willing to embrace change. Another respondent said it’s important that gamification not be “viewed as a nuisance and a distraction from accomplishing job tasks.”

The bottom line is that giving employees an opportunity to help shape their organization’s culture, experience, vision and execution enables them to “feel more connected to the workplace and empowered to drive change,” according to Alex Kinnebrew, chief marketing officer and head of growth strategy for Waggl.

Benefit brokers and advisers can play a critical role in helping their employer clients bridge the technology gap when it comes to improving employee engagement, Hickey believes. “From designing an offering that represents company goals to securing the best technology to administer the program, brokers are guiding you every step of the way and also helping utilize technology beyond benefits administration that delivers more services and solutions for the company,” she says.

Founded in 1960, NCHRA is the nation’s second-largest HR association — serving more than 30,000 professionals in 23 states and several countries and showcasing more than 100 annual educational events.

Waggl’s Employee Voice platform examines critical business topics that include culture, experience, vision and execution. The company’s management team includes executives from Glassdoor, SuccessFactors and Coupa. Customers include Paychex, eBay, City Electric Supply, UCHealth, American Public Media and Freddie Mac.

SOURCE: Shutan, B. (4 December 2019) "Tech tools underused for workplace engagement: survey" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/tech-tools-underused-for-workplace-engagement-survey


Why employers should consider adding volunteer time off benefits

Employers are being pushed to become savvier with social responsibility causes and their benefit offerings with the strong job market. This is giving rise to volunteer time off benefits. Read this blog post from Employee Benefits News for more on why employers should consider adding volunteer time off benefits.


The strong job market is pushing employers to become more savvy about socially responsible causes. This is giving rise to volunteer time off benefits as one popular strategy for employers seeking unique ways to attract and retain talent.

Indeed, 65% of companies offered paid time volunteer programs in 2018, according to data from the organization Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose, which looks to help companies transform their social strategy. That figure represents a 4% rise from 2017.

Organizations that offer employees paid days off to volunteer their time and support the nonprofit causes they care about are going to be more attractive to job seekers.

“Offering VTO as a benefit for employees is one of the best ways to engage employees with their local communities through volunteering and donations,” says Jeff Fraley, vice president of corporate engagement at United Way of the National Capital Area, an organization that provides relief of social problems affecting the community. “It encourages employees to participate in social good and helps to foster meaningful relationships within a community and the company itself.”

About 75% of millennials expect their employer to participate in social good, either with donations or through volunteering, according to a Glassdoor survey. Additionally, 51% of workers expect their employers to allocate work time and resources for their employees to volunteer for social causes.

United Way took a look at VTO benefits across the country in an effort to better understand these programs from an employer/employee perspective. The survey looked at the demographics of 49 large U.S. companies that offer VTO in order to get a sense of the types of workplaces offering this benefit. What it found was that the majority of companies that offer VTO are headquartered in New York, and in or around Silicon Valley.

Additionally, of the 49 companies studied, 12 were in the professional services industry, 12 were in the information technology industry, and nine companies were in the financial services and insurance industries. The survey also uncovered that the maximum number of volunteer hours offered per year to each employee is 20 hours, which amounts to about two and a half days of volunteer time off.

If the company with the largest revenue headquartered in each state implemented one day of VTO, the projection of total volunteer hours in the U.S. would be over 75 million hours, or nine million days, according to United Way. It would cost companies, on average, $27.4 million to implement an annual eight hour VTO policy.

“VTO is just one option if you're looking to expand your impact in the community,” Fraley says. “An employer can also sponsor a nonprofit, match employee donations, or other philanthropic initiatives. What’s important is to think about some sort of incorporation of corporate social responsibility as we're seeing that it's an increasingly important criterion of employers for millennials.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (2 December 2019) "Why employers should consider adding volunteer time off benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/why-employers-should-consider-adding-volunteer-time-off-benefits


6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy

According to recent data from PwC, more and more potential employees are turning down job offers because of bad recruitment experiences. Often, when job candidates have a poor experience while applying for a job, they share the details of their encounter with friends, family and social media. Read this blog post for six steps employers can use to enhance their recruitment strategy.


Employers may be contributing to their organization’s bad reputation without even knowing it during the recruiting process

A strong labor market is presenting employees with more options, allowing them to weigh potential employers against each other, and eliminating the need to accept the first offer they get. Unique and inventive recruiting strategies are vital in attracting the right talent to your organization, but more potential employees are turning down job offers because of bad recruiting experiences, according to data from PwC.

Employers can develop some bad habits when it comes to recruiting, like dragging out the process and even ghosting candidates. When potential employees have a poor experience applying for a job with a company, they are going to share the details of that encounter with friends, family and the world at large thanks to social media.

“Job seekers today expect the hiring process to be streamlined, efficient and customized to their personal preferences, with effortless technology and sincere human interactions,” says Bhushan Sethi, a workforce strategy leader at PwC.

However, very few organizations are providing this experience, according to the PwC survey of 10,000 job seekers. Not only can a bad recruiting experience drive candidates away, it can also create lasting damage to an organization’s reputation as an employer.

“Leaders have an opportunity to gain an edge in the battle for talent by delivering a superior recruiting experience to every candidate, even those who don’t receive an offer,” Sethi says.

But there are ways to make a candidate’s recruiting experience more positive, even if they don’t ultimately get an offer. Here are six steps organizations can take to deliver a “first-rate” recruiting experience to potential candidates.

Find a balance between tech and human interaction

The human interactions candidates experience during the recruitment process makes a stronger impression than any digital experience, the survey shows. “Candidates want positive, direct human interaction throughout the recruiting process, whether that’s in person, over the phone or via email,” Sethi says. “Two-thirds of candidates said personalized initial outreach makes them more likely to apply for a position.”

Technology does have an important role to play in the recruiting process. However, recruiting technology is typically designed with the enterprise, not the candidate, in mind, Sethi says. Employers should look to utilize technology that streamlines routine tasks or makes the hiring process easier for job applicants. About 44% of those surveyed by PwC say they’re open to using automation and technology options for routine touchpoints and to get information during the recruiting process. Another 65% said they would like if an organization had an application dashboard so they could track their progress.

Communicate often and keep the process quick

More than half of job seekers (56%) said they would discourage someone else from applying for a job with a company where they had a bad recruiting experience, according to PwC data. A majority of job seekers (92%) said they’ve experienced poor recruiting practices at some point in their career. Candidates pointed out the two most frustrating behaviors by recruiters: dragging out the process by more than a month and recruiters who withdraw communication with no explanation.

“These practices are rampant: 61% of candidates said they’ve simply stopped hearing from an organization during the hiring process,” Sethi says. “And 67% gave up pursuing a role because the recruiting process took too long.”

Ask for social media details

About 50% of job seekers said they’d be willing to share their social media data with potential employers if it helps to determine a better job and organizational fit. Checking out a potential employee’s social media allows HR to understand more about the candidate. But candidates are only willing to share their social media data if the right privacy measures are in place. Recruiters can gain candidate’s trust by being transparent. About 78% of those surveyed by PwC said they expect the recruiting process to be clear on how personal data is used. About 77% of candidates said they wouldn’t apply for a job if they felt their privacy and information wasn’t protected.

Highlight the rewards potential employees most desire

Upskilling, personal flexibility and inclusion are three key aspects of workplace culture that have become more desirable among candidates than salary, according to PWC. Additionally, candidates are willing to give up 11.7% of their salary for more flexibility and training.

Give candidates a way to experience the company’s culture first hand

Today’s candidates are looking for more than a job, the PwC survey notes. They want an employee experience that provides a sense of purpose and pride.

“Culture is so meaningful that 33% of C-suite-level candidates said they’d take a pay cut to work for a mission-driven company that aligns with their ideals,” Sethi says.

It can be challenging for recruiters to provide an accurate sense of a company’s culture. Recruiters can help candidates experience this firsthand by holding networking and other social events.

Always be mindful of your reputation

When candidates have a bad recruiting experience it does more damage than recruiters realize. “It can cause lasting reputational harm and even hurt your chances of hiring the workers who are hardest to find,” Sethi says.

Almost half of candidates (49%) working in high-demand sectors like tech, banking and energy say they would be more likely to turn down a job due to a bad recruiting experience. Of those surveyed by PwC 71% say working for a company with a good reputation as an employer is more important than working for a well-known customer brand.

“That’s good news for small brands jockeying for talent with big-name competitors,” Sethi says. “You can gain an edge by cultivating and promoting a strong, positive reputation. It’s also a call to action for bigger brands: you can’t rely on name alone to attract talent.”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (9 December 2019) "6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from 6 steps to enhance your recruiting strategy


Why using a 401(k) to pay for emergencies is hurting employers and employees

More and more employees are withdrawing $1,000 or less from their 401(k) retirement accounts to help pay for emergency expenses according to HR leaders. This trend is causing corporate leaders to become concerned about the financial stress that their employees are living with. Read the following blog post to learn more.


More than ever, HR leaders at Fortune 500 companies are reporting that employees are withdrawing $1,000 or less from their hard-earned 401(k) retirement accounts to pay for emergency expenses. These employees — often living at the brink of being financially unstable — are using the funds for unexpected emergency expenses like car repairs, medical bills or even to purchase books for their college-age children.

Corporate leaders are now, more than ever, concerned that many of their employees live under a high degree of financial stress that can affect their productivity, creativity and even their health, resulting in absenteeism and drops in productivity that ultimately impact the bottom line. HR managers are especially feeling the pain as they are called upon to handle the excessive paperwork needed for the 401(k) plan withdrawals, causing extra work that could be spent more productively on other projects that benefit all employees.

The fact that more Americans than ever are dipping into their 401(k) accounts for emergency funds reveals that many are living above their means or working below their needs financially. While it’s important to have an emergency fund, for many people savings is a luxury they simply can’t afford. According to a Federal Reserve survey, nearly 40 percent of Americans said they don’t have enough cash on hand to cover an unexpected $400 expense. The quick fix for many is to use credit cards or ask family or friends for a loan when an emergency arises, but when those are not options, tapping into the 401(k) accounts is becoming increasingly common.

Some companies are partnering with payday loan companies so employees will refrain from tapping into their retirement funds. This is actually a worse idea because they’re setting their employees up to fail by enabling a vicious cycle of debt employees may never be free of.

Financial education could be the key to helping employees gain control of their financial lives. Companies that promote financial literacy courses and attendance at financial seminars or conferences offer the first step toward a better path for future financial stability. Offering or subsidizing the cost of continuing education courses help inspire employees to begin a lifelong journey of education for higher salaries and career advancement. Companies that promote education and career advancement attract, engage and retain employees longer than companies that don’t.

Flexible benefits can help

Companies can help their employees refrain from using their 401(k) retirement accounts as a bank if they offer flexible benefits. Employees get to choose how to use their earned benefits, like utilizing the monetary value of their unused paid time off (PTO) for other priorities such as paying for an emergency expense, paying down student loan debt or funding a vacation, among other things. Companies that offer flexible benefits are giving workers the ability to finally be in the driver’s seat of their careers and lives. When companies empower employees in this way, job satisfaction, productivity and creativity go way up.

Flexible benefits are a no brainer to organizations that want to attract, recruit, engage and retain top talent. Salary isn’t the only factor in determining a good career move, and companies that want to win the talent war will offer some type of flexible benefits. Every employee should have the ability to choose benefits based on their individual needs, avoiding the damaging financial practice of using 401(k) accounts for emergency expenses.

SOURCE: Whalen, R. (25 November 2019) "Why using a 401(k) to pay for emergencies is hurting employers and employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/employees-are-using-401k-funds-for-emergencies


Improving your employee experience during open enrollment

Is your company open enrollment hosted on an online platform? Employers often struggle with employee participation during the open enrollment season. Hosting enrollments online is one way to increase employee participation this year. Read on for more tips to help ease this open enrollment season.d


For HR professionals, open enrollment is one of the most stressful and demanding times of the year. Many employers struggle with employee participation and expensive, time-consuming roll-outs. They also have to provide resources to help employees make the right plan selections for themselves and their families. As we head into another open enrollment season, consider these tips to ease the process.

Switch your open enrollments to online platforms.

If you’re still relying on paper enrollment forms, you are likely spending more money and time than you need to in pursuit of your manual work process and its many inconsistencies. Online platforms provide optimum efficiency, accuracy and convenience for your workforce, offering employee self-service options that encourage employees to take initiative in selecting the best plan for their situation. Not only will members of your workforce benefit from the convenience of being able to explore their options on their own time, but you’ll be able to offer them multi-lingual enrollment materials and have more time to assist them than ever before.

Prioritize and diversify communication.

One of the top ways to ensure a smooth open enrollment period is to use multiple communication channels, including frequent reminders regarding open enrollment deadlines. Without consistent outreach on the part of your HR officers and general managers, you will likely find yourself hunting people down to meet your enrollment and extension deadlines. Using an online self-service portal as well as traditional in-person meetings allow you to remind your employees of critical dates and changes as enrollment closes in.

The robust benefits administration system you choose should offer enrollment tracking and reporting features so you can see at a glance who still needs to begin open enrollment, who has left enrollment documents incomplete, who has made changes to their benefits (such as adding a dependent) and more. You can arrange for the system to send automatic reminders to signal the employee that further actions are needed. Providing multiple reminders will improve participation and the completion of on-time enrollments.

Help employees choose the best health plan for their situation.

In order to have the most successful open enrollment period possible, educating your employees on the different plan options available will go a long towards ensuring employee satisfaction. Studies have shown that most employees don’t have the necessary understanding of terms like “deductible” and “coinsurance,” let alone the tools to know which plan is best for their individual needs. Incorporating at-a-glance comparison tools and charts into your online or print enrollment materials can help employees make the most informed decision possible. It can also be helpful to provide educational materials like videos and simplified plan charts or cost calculators.

Keep Up with Benefit Trends and Voluntary Offerings.

Given the current labor shortage and competitive talent market, you’ll want to make sure your company is up to speed on which new benefits your competitors are looking to add, as well as which ones are appealing to specific roles, locations or generations within potential candidates from your hiring pool.

Voluntary benefits, for example, are playing an increasingly important role in employee benefits portfolios and they don’t cost you anything. Some of the most popular voluntary benefits right now include identity theft protection, pet insurance, long term care insurance and critical illness protection. If you aren’t currently offering these types of additional benefits, they could be a cost-effective way to boost employee morale, increase participation in enrollment and attract more workers to your business.

SOURCE: Smith, M. (2 December 2019) "Improving your employee experience during open enrollment" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/improving-your-employee-experience-during-open-enrollment


How employers can prevent a new parent penalty in the workplace

The new parent penalty, a bias against new parents, often occurs when employees return from parental leave. The penalty presents itself in managers and colleagues who assume individuals are no longer interested in the upward growth of the company. Read this blog post from Employee Benefit News for ways employers can prevent a new parent penalty in the workplace.


Returning to work after parental leave is a rigorous experience for many employees. It can be a difficult time filled with adjustment pain points and career growth setbacks, all stemming from a surprising cause: the new parent penalty.

This penalty — or bias against new parents — presents itself by way of managers and colleagues assuming these individuals are no longer interested in or dedicated to upward growth in the company in the same way they were prior to taking time off. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common hurdle. This bias often has a negative impact on the morale and career potential of employees who experience it.

Yet there are several actionable steps that HR leaders and employers, in general, should keep in mind to help new parents get back into the swing of things at work.

Evaluate your current leave options. The first step to ensuring a smooth re-entry to the workplace is implementing a leave policy that allows employees enough time to adjust to their new roles as parents. Only 14% of Americans have access to any paid family leave for the birth of a child, according to Pew Research Center. Even more, 23% of mothers are back on the job within 10 days of giving birth whether they're physically ready or not, according to the Department of Labor. This often results in mothers leaving the workforce, even if though they want to stay. Paid family leave is critical — it improves health outcomes for recovering mothers and new babies and improves retention of new parents.

Set the entire team up to succeed. One thing I often hear from clients at Maven who struggle with returning to work is that there is pressure from managers to resume a business as usual mindset, ignoring the significant shift in their lives. Managers should be trained to help mitigate this by providing better re-entry support. Employers can no longer expect parents to work at all hours or travel at the drop of the hat without some flexibility. Providing a transition or ramp time can be extremely successful in helping parents juggle their often competing work priorities and the needs of their children. Transition time also helps set expectations for other team members who may feel frustrated and overworked when parents come back to work unable to operate in the same capacity that they once did — enter parental bias.

Support career advancement with individualized plans. A client who recently returned to work after maternity leave was surprised to learn during a progress meeting that her manager had placed her on a so-called mommy track. She had requested a flexible work schedule upon her return from leave. Her manager assumed that meant she was no longer interested in opportunities for growth at the company.

This mother is not alone, many new parents face similar roadblocks in career advancement as a result of employers scaling back on assigning them responsibilities that would keep them on the leadership track. Instead of assuming what the new parents are looking for, employers should offer individualized paths for success. This ensures that new parents can continue to grow their careers even if they choose more flexible schedules.

Create a support system. Implementing employee resource groups can be an invaluable tool for new parents looking to connect and receive advice from their colleagues, who have been in their positions. Connecting employees with peers who can speak first hand about the pain points of new working parenthood, and how to make the transition easier can go a long way. Having easy access to a network like this lets employees feel like their concerns are heard and their needs are being met. These employees are in turn more likely to confidently stay in their careers rather than dropping out.

Employers are understanding that there are significant benefits to supporting their employees’ transition back to the workforce, including an increase in retention, culture improvements, and positive impact on their bottom lines. In short: paid family leave is a good thing, and when combined with individualized support from managers and team members, a parent’s return to work is smoother. By understanding the needs of their employees, employers are better equipped and more prepared to anticipate and prevent parental bias that hinders employee and company growth.

SOURCE: Ferrante, M. (5 November 2019) "How employers can prevent a new parent penalty in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-employers-can-prevent-a-new-parent-penalty-in-the-workplace


Know your people, know your data: Keys to measuring employee engagement

According to research, over half of employees believe that health insurance is important in terms of their job satisfaction. Read the following blog post for ways employers can measure employee engagement.


Offering a total compensation and benefits package that fits employee needs drives morale, motivation and performance in the workplace.

Simply put, people who are happy and healthy are more productive. When an organization offers benefits that appeal to employees (and workers know how to use these benefits) employers should see an increase in total productivity.

On the other hand, if a company is off the mark with the total compensation package, or simply hasn’t communicated the benefits to people correctly, it will either see unchanged productivity or a decline. Organizations struggling to find improvement in productivity should look at their employee benefits offerings for answers.

Providing effective group health insurance and well-being programs is a good way to reduce the amount of sick leave worker's take. If employees promptly get healthcare when they’re ill, they’re more likely to be healthier overall. If an organization doesn’t offer appropriate health benefits, the result can be presenteeism.

Additionally, the cost of presenteeism multiplies when sick staff are contagious. One sick person refusing to take a day off can snowball into multiple people arriving ill to work on subsequent days. When illnesses reach critical mass and it’s harder for people to recover from things like the flu or a cold, organizations may find themselves short-staffed when employees finally pay to see a doctor.

Job satisfaction and morale are also linked to employee benefits. Research shows more than half of employees believe that health insurance is important in terms of their job satisfaction — even more crucial if staff live in an area where medical services are expensive.

Strategies to measure benefits engagement. HR staff have multiple ways of measuring how certain workplace functions are performing. Here are some effective methods organizations can use to measure benefits engagement.

Staff surveys. Questionnaires that seek to understand what benefits your staff know they have, and how they’ll use them.

Pulse surveys. Asking staff short, frequent questions about a benefits platform.

Focus groups. Gathering cross-functional groups of staff members together to have a facilitated discussion about benefits.

Exit surveys. Include questions about benefits and satisfaction levels during exit surveys, and then investigate what their next employer might be offering to have lured them away.

If organizations are not regularly questioning how well their benefits plan is performing, they may be missing an opportunity to get key insights into how employees feel about their packages.

Offering employee benefits isn’t just to support an organization’s staff, it should also support an organization’s long-term sustainability. Employee engagement is one key measure. The challenge for organizations is ensuring not only that they include benefits that will be relevant to staff, but also that they properly educate them in what those benefits are.

The less staff are educated on what benefits exist and how they can use them, the less likely they are to engage with them. Not having an appropriate communication strategy can often set benefits plan performance behind.

Working with analytics and claims data can indicate when specific benefits aren’t being used. Knowing what causes the lack of engagement requires a bit of discussion and investigation, but finding sustainable solutions is completely dependent on understanding whether the issue is the benefits themselves, or the communication to staff.

SOURCE: Rider, S. (1 November 2019) "Know your people, know your data: Keys to measuring employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/using-data-to-measure-employee-engagement