Virtual walks and free chocolate? What workplace pros say the new office will look like

Working remotely has become a new workplace normal and may continue to be so. Although it may be difficult for younger generations to acclimate to this working situation, there may be some benefits to it as well. Read this blog post to learn more.


The traditional office’s days are numbered; the office of the future will be a “collaboration center” with a mix of skeleton staff and remote workers meeting through virtual team walks and group meals via home-delivered Zoom lunches.

Millennials and Generation Z will have problems networking in the new remote work world with fewer face-to-face meetings; and mental health and well-being benefits will become more important than ever before.

Those were some of the predictions of compensation and benefits professionals at the first virtual gathering of the WorldatWork 2020 Total Resilience conference — a digital substitute for an annual conference that was supposed to be held in Minneapolis this year, but was postponed in response to the global coronavirus crisis.

"The office environment will change,” said panelist Steve Pennacchio, senior vice president of total rewards at Pfizer, during an online session on resilience on Wednesday. “Remote work is here to stay.”

Pennacchio said a number of companies will shut down their office space, which will have serious ramifications for commercial real estate and new entrants into the workforce, who will be at a particular disadvantage because of the limits of networking and source building through remote technology.

He suggested more virtual engagement tactics, including virtual walks or group activities, including having teams eat together with coordinated deliveries of lunches or chocolate. “Nothing hurts with chocolate,” he said. During the conference, which will continue with weekly panels through Sept. 2, organizers also hosted social events, including virtual trivia games and online networking.

Pfizer is investing $1 billion on development of vaccines and treatments for coronavirus, he noted. “Hopefully ours and others will work. The world needs more than one,” he said.

Likewise, Susan Brown, senior director of compensation at Siemens, said her company has focused on four key areas of building a team, culture, management team and employees who can adjust to the new environment through virtual meet-and-greet sessions and lunches where all team members must be present visually.

“The relationship builds with seeing each other,” she said. “The camera on changes the dynamic more than a phone call.”

Brown also noted tremendous innovation around talent management happening during the coronavirus crisis. She said that progressive companies have made a quick shift to focus first on the mental health and well-being of staff as a priority, rather than having an emphasis on business metrics.

“The whole conversation changed to focus on people’s health and safely, how they were feeling and empathetic messaging rather than a focus on business results,” she said.

WorldatWork CEO Scott Cawood, who served as moderator, noted that employers’ responses are being closely watched by staff, and other companies.

“COVID-19 doesn’t define who you are; it actually reveals who you are,” said Cawood, sitting alone on a stage with a white chair and house plant, as panelists called in from around the country.

Kumar Kymal, global head of compensation and benefits at BNY Mellon, said the global financial services firm has 95 percent of staff working remotely.

"Times of crisis and change give us permission to rethink the way we do things, and it's an opportunity to decide what really matters to your organization," Kymal said, noting that the company announced that there will be no layoffs in 2020 to put staff at ease.

Management response should focus on “speed, speed, speed,” he said about responding to challenges under the coronavirus crisis, with special attention to empathetic corporate messaging.

Kymal said at his company, management focused on a new framework to address healthcare concerns globally, with a broad overview of their healthcare plans. Second, management focused on addressing stress and anxiety, particularly with attention to messaging and staff feedback. They also put an increased focus on well-being and resilience strategies, and accelerated a mental health program to allow employees to assess their ability to deal with stress. Finally, BNY Mellon improved social connections for managers to lead better on connecting with various teams.

Looking ahead to the return-to-work phase of the crisis, Kymal said the stakes are high. Challenges include dealing with temperature scans, wearing masks, closed cafeterias and social distancing.

“As we're starting to plan what the return to office looks like, it's clear to us it has the potential to become an awful, awful employee experience,” he said. “We really need to rethink and redesign. What does an office experience look like? That's front and center in my mind.”

SOURCE: Siew, W. (08 July 2020) "Virtual walks and free chocolate? What workplace pros say the new office will look like" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-workplace-pros-say-the-new-office-will-look-like


Facial Analysis Technology in the Workplace Brings Risks

Technology is a forever-changing topic and a forever-advancing field. Most recently, facial recognition technology has been a topic of discussion when talking about technology. Read this blog post to learn more.


Facial recognition technology has been under the microscope as organizations and lawmakers re-evaluate its use in the wake of global protests about racial injustice. Technology giants Amazon, IBM and Microsoft all recently announced that they would stop selling facial recognition technology to police departments in the United States, citing the technology's potential for violating human rights and concerns about racial profiling.

Recent research has shined a light on some inherent dangers of using the technology. One study by MIT and Stanford University found that three commercially released facial analysis technologies showed skin-type and gender biases. The study found that the technology performed better for men and lighter-skinned people and worse for darker-skinned women.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as well as other human rights groups and privacy advocates also have raised concerns about privacy and surveillance issues tied to use of the technology.

Evaluating Job Candidates

Some vendors in the human resources industry have long used facial analysis technology to help evaluate video interviews with job candidates. These artificial intelligence (AI) tools scan facial expressions and movements, word choice, and vocal tone to generate data that help recruiters make hiring decisions. Vendors say the tools can help reduce hiring costs and improve efficiencies by speeding the screening and recruiting of new hires.

But experts say that if these facial analysis algorithms aren't trained on large or diverse-enough datasets, they're prone to consistently identify some applicants—such as white men—as more employable than others. For example, the MIT and Stanford study found that one major U.S. technology company claimed an accuracy rate of more than 97 percent for a facial recognition algorithm it designed. Yet the dataset it was trained on was more than 77 percent male and more than 83 percent white.

Josh Bersin, a global HR industry analyst and dean of the Josh Bersin Academy in Oakland, Calif., said some HR vendors have embedded facial analysis technology into their video-interviewing tools with the goal of identifying job candidates' demonstrated stress, misrepresentations and even mood.

"These vendors have tried very hard to validate unbiased analysis, but they are taking risks by doing so," Bersin said. "The best solution is to use these tools very carefully and make sure you perform tests across very large samples before you trust these systems."

The use of facial analysis technology to evaluate job candidates is "very problematic," said Frida Polli, founder and CEO of the New York-based assessment company Pymetrics. "The science of the technology in terms of what it really says about someone is extremely new and not well-validated, and certainly not well-validated for HR uses," she said.

Results should be viewed with a skeptical eye if the technology is used for any assessment of job candidates' character or behavior, said Elaine Orler, CEO of the Talent Function, a talent acquisition consulting firm in San Diego. "The technology solutions aren't accurate in this area, and they leave too much to chance in terms of creating false positives or negatives," she explained. "To understand micro-expressions, for example, would require a deeper understanding of that one person's behaviors and not just a crowdsourced base line of everyone's expected expressions."

Some experts say facial recognition technology isn't without value in the workplace, especially in the age of COVID-19. Orler said using the technology as a biometric tool to grant access to parts of a building or as a touchless replacement for time clocks can be a good solution to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

"Badges and other products that hold credentials often need to touch products that have been touched by others, and fingerprint scanners also have such dangers," she said.

Legal and Privacy Concerns

The use of facial recognition technology is now governed by laws in a growing number of states. Kwabena Appenteng, an attorney specializing in workplace privacy and information security with Littler in Chicago, said most employers are now aware of the landmark Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) that requires companies implementing facial recognition technology in that state to obtain consent from subjects and to provide a written policy about how collected data will be stored, protected and used. Appenteng said more states—including California and Texas—also now require employers using the technology to satisfy certain compliance obligations.

Illinois and Maryland also have placed restrictions on facial analysis technology specifically for use in evaluating job candidates. California and New York have proposed similar legislation to regulate the use of artificial intelligence in assessing job applicants, said Monica Snyder, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Boston and New York City and a member of the firm's data security and workplace privacy practice.

Illinois enacted its Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act earlier this year, a law that requires companies using the technology to notify applicants in advance that the technology will be used to analyze their facial expressions, to obtain consent for its use, to explain to applicants how AI works and to destroy video interviews within 30 days if a candidate makes such a request, Snyder said.

"Employers need to tread carefully on how they use this technology," she said.

Appenteng said there's also the issue of getting employee buy-in for using facial recognition technology since many may consider it a risk to their privacy. "Employers may therefore want to consider providing their employees with a notice that explains facial recognition technology in easy-to-understand terms to placate any of those employee concerns," he said.

SOURCE: Zielinski, D. (09 June 2020) "Facial Analysis Technology in the Workplace Brings Risks" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/facial-analysis-technology-workplace-brings-risks.aspx


doctor and patient

How Hospitals Can Meet the Needs of Non-Covid Patients During the Pandemic

As there has been many waves of coronavirus cases for many months, health care has seemed to only point to helping those who have been impacted by the virus. Although there are still many cases that test positive for the virus, there has been a dramatic decline in other non-COVID related health issues. Read this blog post to learn more.


During the initial wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, hospitals worldwide diverted resources from routine inpatient critical care and outpatient clinics to meet the surge in demand. Because of the resulting resource constraints and fear of infection, clinicians and non-Covid patients deferred “non-urgent” visits, evaluations, diagnostics, surgeries and therapeutics. Indeed, early in the pandemic physicians and leading public health officials noted a dramatic decline in non-Covid-related health emergencies, including upwards of a 60% decrease in patients with acute myocardial infarctions and strokes.

While these postponements may have reduced the amount of unnecessary services used, they likely also caused a perilous deferral of needed services, which many believe will lead to later hospitalizations requiring higher levels of care, longer lengths of stay, and increased hospital readmissions, thereby further straining hospitals’ inpatient capacity. It is critical that we not only focus on the acute care of Covid-19 patients, but that we also proactively manage patients without Covid-19, particularly those with time-sensitive and medically complex conditions who are postponing their care. This is important not only to sustain health and life, but to preserve future hospital capacity.

Drawing on key principles from operations management and applying a health-systems perspective, we propose four strategies to facilitate care of non-Covid patients even as hospitals are stretched to absorb waves of patients with Covid-19.

1. Innovate outpatient management to reduce demand at downstream bottlenecks. 

To reduce future bottlenecks in emergency departments (EDs) and hospitals, outpatient clinicians should expand their proactive management of patients at high risk of needing acute or inpatient services, such as those with poorly managed hypertension or diabetes, and triage patients with acute needs to EDs now in order to reduce more serious complications later. This will help reduce potential future spikes in demand on EDs and inpatient beds from non-Covid patients.

While most clinicians have rapidly adopted some form of telemedicine, they will need to increase their digital engagement with high-risk patients in a more targeted fashion. Clinicians should evaluate their patient panels to identify high-risk individuals and initiate telemedicine visits, rather than relying on patients to initiate contact, similar to the process for proactive disease management used by several community health care organizations.

Although high-risk patients will vary by specialty, targeted populations may include patients recently discharged from the hospital and those at high risk for hospitalization, including those with uncontrolled heart failure or active malignancy. To facilitate remote patient monitoring of high-risk patients, clinicians may opt to send telehealth kits tailored to patients’ medical and technological needs. These kits may include connected health devices such as blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters, and heart rate monitors, and even mobile technology devices such as tablets or smart phones. To most effectively leverage telemedicine during the pandemic, clinicians must also promote multidisciplinary virtual collaboration across primary care clinicians, specialists, social workers, home health clinicians, administrative support, and patients and their caregivers.

2.  Combine essential non-Covid inpatient services across hospitals.

To balance demand across hospitals, public health officials should apply a version of the logistics strategy known as “location pooling,” combining demands from multiple locations. Rather than each hospital in a region redundantly providing the full suite of essential inpatient non-Covid clinical services, each of these services should be concentrated at one location. For example, each region should have a single designated cancer center, transplant center, stroke center, and trauma center. Implementing this strategy is fraught with challenges as hospitals are currently organized independently and compete with one another for patients and revenue. Nevertheless, during the initial Covid-19 wave, several hospitals in Boston collaborated to share data on the availability of hospital beds to efficiently route patients based on their clinical need and the available capacity. And centralization of acute stroke care, in which patients are taken to central specialty hospitals rather than the nearest hospital, demonstrates both the feasibility and potential improved outcomes of utilizing this approach in several countries including the United States, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Australia.

Crises require all possible realizations of economies of scale. Location pooling mitigates variability in service-specific demand faced by each hospital. As demand falls for specific non-Covid services at an individual hospital (e.g., for acute stroke care), hospital administrators can close those services and repurpose the specialty capacity to care of Covid-19 patients with underlying conditions, as discussed below.  If all hospitals implement this strategy, not all non-Covid services will be available at every hospital. However, location pooling draws demand from across hospitals, ensuring that as a given hospital loses some patients it gains others, allowing it to maintain sufficient census to remain fiscally viable.

Centrally coordinated regional organization, similar to mass casualty planning, is critical to ensure that each essential service remains fully operational for routine emergencies, while adapting to dynamic changes in the region’s hospital capacity. The number of hospitals to include in location pooling should be determined by weighing the tradeoff of efficiency gains from pooling across more locations versus inefficiencies from increased travel time incurred by patients and emergency medical services.

3.  Group hospitalized Covid-19 patients by their underlying clinical conditions.

At the same time that hospitals should be location-pooling specialty services for non-Covid patients, to the extent possible they should place their Covid-19 patients who have serious underlying health issues (e.g., cardiac conditions) with other Covid-19 patients with the same condition. In each of these “cohorted wards,” redeployed clinical staff from the relevant specialty service, such as cardiology, can provide essential specialty care alongside clinicians addressing patients’ Covid-specific care needs.

While such cohorting limits efficiency gains from pooling all Covid-19 patients in one ward, it maintains specialty care for patients who still need it while reducing the additional inpatient capacity strain resulting from patients being dispersed across the hospital. Indeed, prior research demonstrates that displacing patients from cohorted specialty units is associated with prolonged hospital length of stay and more frequent readmissions.

4. Discharge patients into post-acute care based on Covid-19 status.

Nursing home, rehabilitation hospital, and long-term acute care facility leadership should collaborate to establish separate regional, specialized, post-acute care facilities for Covid-19 and non-Covid patients. Sending patients to specialized post-acute care facilities based on their Covid-19 status will facilitate discharge planning, improving patient flow out of the hospital for Covid-19 and non-Covid patients alike. This will relieve strain at ED and hospital bottlenecks while maintaining care quality. Furthermore, having dedicated post-acute care facilities for Covid-19 patients will preserve post-acute care capacity for those recovering from non-Covid illnesses, while lowering their risk of becoming infected.

Challenges to this model include ensuring timely access to Covid-19 testing and rapid test results to guide appropriate patient routing. To prevent discharge delays due to testing constraints, hospitals need to implement rapid tests more widely, and post-acute care facilities should designate quarantine areas for patients to receive care while awaiting results.

*  *  *

These strategies will undoubtedly be challenging to implement. But now is the time to rethink health care delivery and adopt operations management strategies with demonstrated success that are most promising. This will allow us to be better prepared for future waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.

SOURCE; Song, H.; Ezaz, G.; Greysen, S. Ryan.; Halpern, S.; Kohn, R. (14 July 2020) "How Hospitals Can Meet the Needs of Non-Covid Patients During the Pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/07/how-hospitals-can-meet-the-needs-of-non-covid-patients-during-the-pandemic


As Jobs Disappear, Employees Hang On to What They Have

As the coronavirus pandemic has caused many to lose their jobs, some still have been able to hold onto their job that they had prior to the pandemic. Those who have been fortunate enough to keep that job, are now holding onto it. Read this blog post to learn more.


Employees spooked by continuing high unemployment are holding on to the jobs they have at rates not seen in nearly a decade.

While typically a sign of employee loyalty, low turnover these days can also signal fear, hopelessness and stagnation. Employers can head off those negative feelings and maintain morale and energy in the workplace by communicating with empathy and giving employees more control over decisions, experts say.

"Feeling trapped in a job can create a lot of challenges, leading to employee disengagement and burnout," said Dennis Baltzley, global head of leadership development at organizational consultancy Korn Ferry. Channeling that angst into helping the company meet the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic can improve engagement and the bottom line, he said.

'Quits Rate' Plummets

According to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary, a monthly report compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employees spent the past few years job hopping at historically high rates as the economy and their confidence in the future soared. Then in March 2020, the quits rate—which is the number of jobs quit that month divided by total employment—dipped below 2 for the first time in five years. It fell further to 1.4 in April, the lowest level since April 2011, when the job market was still recovering from the Great Recession.

Typically, quits outnumber layoffs by a wide margin, according to the federal data. But that trend reversed itself in a big way in March 2020, as states began issuing stay-at-home orders to counter the coronavirus pandemic. That month, 11.5 million employees were laid off while only 2.8 million quit their jobs.

In April 2020, another 7.7 million employees were laid off while just 1.8 million quit voluntarily. Meanwhile, only 3.5 million employees were hired into new jobs in April, a low for the 20-year series.

"Right now, most employees are just looking to hang on to the work they do have, rather than trying to find something better. This is particularly true of people in the retail and hospitality industries, areas that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus-led recession," according to an analysis of the data by Quartz. "The weak job market means more people are stuck in jobs that don't fully take advantage of their talents and are generally less satisfied."

Don't Assume Everyone Is Fine

Even if asked directly, employees afraid of losing their jobs aren't likely to express their unhappiness to supervisors. Baltzley recalled a chief executive who marveled at the high satisfaction scores from employees in a recent pulse survey. "I told him, 'They're not fine, they're just not telling you,' " he said. "People put on a brave face. They're going to be grateful to have a job. They will work hard to keep that job, sometimes in unhealthy ways."

To break through that fear and foster a healthier environment, Baltzley recommended that employers:

  • Give employees choices when possible to restore some sense of control. This could include the question of working from home. Employees have a range of feelings about returning to the workplace, with some eager to rejoin colleagues while others dread the thought of increased exposure. "You don't want people to feel it's a requirement if it doesn't have to be. If you give people a choice, you relieve the pressure of feeling trapped."
  • Listen and watch carefully to evaluate how employees are feeling, because they're not likely to tell you. "Are people short of patience, uncommunicative, not addressing the big picture? That could be a sign of being overwhelmed. If you're carefully listening, you can usually tell where people are."
  • Don't double down on control by monitoring remote workers. "You have a bunch of leaders who never had to manage people remotely. They might instinctively want more meetings, more reports, to be sure employees are working, but that is exactly the opposite of what you should do. You want people trying to figure out how to make things happen without you. If they're problem solving, they're more engaged. Otherwise, you will create a workforce that's waiting for instruction."
  • Project empathy, even if employees don't indicate they need it. Leaders can do this by describing what's been difficult or challenging for them during the pandemic. "During a crisis, communication is not about providing information. It's about connection."
  • Work hard to maintain the new level of trust that may have developed during the past few months of shared hardship. "This experience has broken down a bunch of barriers. You don't want to lose that."

Many Still in Survival Mode 

In normal times, the lack of potential for advancement or promotion could lead to employee resentment. But Kimberly Prescott, a human resources consultant in Columbia, Md., who works with a range of small and mid-sized employers, said it's too soon to worry about that.

Prescott noted that safety is one of the most basic needs in Maslow's five-tier hierarchy of motivation. Until a sense of security and safety is restored, most employees won't have the bandwidth to worry much about their status or feelings of accomplishment.

"I think people are happy to have a job right now, based on what I've been hearing," she said. "Job satisfaction at this point is secondary to survival. People are still kind of holding their breath. We're in survival mode: 'I'm alive. I have a job. I have food to eat.' "

To help restore a sense of security and alleviate stress on their workers, employers should go out of their way to communicate the status of the business and what they are doing to ensure the company's survival. This is especially true for employees who've been furloughed and are waiting to be called back.

"This is the time for overcommunicating," Prescott said. "People are hungry for meaningful communication, especially around next steps and business plans. You cannot communicate too much, even if you're saying the same thing week after week. Even if it's just a survey asking how you're feeling, are you able to come back to work?"

SOURCE: Cleeland, N. (02 July 2020) "As Jobs Disappear, Employees Hang On to What They Have"  (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/afraid-to-leave-job-covid.aspx


A new tool for employee temperature checks ensures safety and security of workers

As employers begin to move employees back into the workplace, they have to be mindful of new legal guidance that has come from the CDC and HIPAA. In regards to new legal guidelines set into place, employers and management teams will now have to check employee temperatures. Read this blog post to learn more.


Temperature checks will be mandated at workplaces once employees return to the office, due to legal guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but privacy concerns could heat up among workers concerned for their security.

“It’s now permissible to take employee temperatures, but if employers store it and keep track of it, there’s no exemption from HIPAA and identity laws,” says Dan Clarke, president of IntraEdge — an Arizona-based tech company.

IntraEdge developed a kiosk that privately takes employees’ temperatures, and only shares the results with the employee, keeping any health information concealed from HR. Instead, managers are simply notified if the kiosk gave their employee permission to enter the office, or not, which completely eliminates the potential for HIPAA violations, Clarke says. The kiosk, called Janus, can also prevent sick employees from entering the office if their temperature is too high.

Clarke spoke in a recent interview about how Janus can help employers protect their workforce, while adhering to privacy laws.

How does Janus help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

If we want to limit exposure to COVID-19, we can’t assign someone in the office to take everyone’s temperature; it’s not efficient and it puts more people at risk. Employers need a digital solution, one that puts them in compliance with HIPAA and privacy laws.

Janus uses an accurate thermal camera to take the temperature of the user. Before using it, employees would need to sign up online and provide information to confirm their identity. After that’s done, they’d go to the kiosk and present their identification through their phone. The kiosk will ask them a few questions about how they’re feeling and the camera will take their temperature. The normal temperature range for each employee is personalized based on the individual’s age and medical history. Many people don’t realize our normal temperature increases as we age. If an employee reads at an unhealthy temperature, they’re not allowed inside the office.

How does this help employers stay compliant with HIPAA and other privacy laws?

Employers don’t have access to their worker’s medical history, or the temperatures read by Janus. The kiosk doesn’t display an employee’s temperature on screen. Instead, the employee will receive a text message telling them their temperature and whether they’re allowed inside the office. Printouts are also available for employees who don’t have smartphones.

Is HR or a manager notified when employees aren’t allowed in the office?

Janus doesn’t share with HR what employees’ temperatures were, only if they were given a “yes” or “no” to enter the office. They can receive a text message whenever an employee is given a “no.” This helps employers stay compliant with HIPAA and privacy laws because they never see the full results, and they’re not stored. But it also helps them keep track of their workforce.

It can also be programmed to notify a security officer that someone didn’t pass the temperature check to ensure compliance. We can also program the kiosk to distribute security badges only to employees who pass the temperature check.

Before coronavirus, employees sometimes came to work sick out of fear their colleagues/managers would question their dedication to their job. Do you think this product will help change that after the crisis is over?

I think the crisis is changing the perception of remote work enough that people will be comfortable saying they’re going to work from home when they don’t feel well. Janus can definitely help enforce it, if the employer chooses, but we wanted to ensure it was useful for employers after the crisis is over. It can also be used to clock employees in and out for work and as office security.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (08 June 2020) "A new tool for employee temperature checks ensures safety and security of workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/a-new-tool-for-employee-temperature-checks-ensures-safety-and-security-of-workers


The benefits and pitfalls of remote hiring

Hiring employees remotely can have several benefits, but can also come with several pitfalls. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, employers have turned to virtual meetings for several things which also includes virtual interviews. Read this blog post to learn more. 


Companies operating remotely over the past few months have found that hiring, onboarding and training can be done virtually, in a way that’s effective and efficient, thanks to today’s technology.

Since stay-at-home orders went into effect, 51% of respondents have interviewed a candidate remotely, and 42% have extended an offer remotely, according to a report from Addison Group, a national staffing and recruiting firm.

And remote hiring could be here to stay, as 21% of hiring managers believe virtual interviewing will be a permanent benefit moving forward. This can help expand a company’s candidate pool, as people who can’t get time off from work or have problems with childcare can still interview for the available position, says Peg Buchenroth, SVP of human resources at Addison Group.

“For larger teams with several interview rounds, it’s not uncommon for candidates to have more than three interviews ahead of an offer,” she says. “The widespread use of virtual interviews in initial interviewing rounds accelerates the process, saves the hiring organization excess expense and shows respect toward a candidate’s time.”

But the technology can also be the reason an interview goes wrong.

“A technical error could reduce face-to-face time or reflect poorly on the party responsible for the technical difficulties,” Buchenroth says. “Ensure any tools you need, such as Skype or Zoom, are properly set up and working well before the interview.”

The rapid transition to remote hiring routines isn’t always easy — for 56% of hiring managers, this is the first time they performed hiring activities remotely, the Addison Group report finds. For job candidates and employers who are used to, and more comfortable with, in-person interviews, adapting to the new normal of remote hiring can be both stressful and frustrating.

“I think there are some positions where an in-person interview can be hard to replicate, especially if that position is going to require a lot of in-person interaction at some point,” says Candace Nicolls, SVP of people and workplace at Snagajob, a staffing firm for hourly and essential workers. “Sometimes that can be hard to assess remotely unless you have a clearly thought out process.”

With many candidates having kids at home, or not having reliable internet access, it’s also important that employers are compassionate and understanding of potential issues that the work-from-home environment can impose, Nicolls says. Managers should take time to explain the process, and leave room for technical difficulties.

“I think the advantages [of remote hiring] far outweigh the disadvantages,” she says. “But when there are circumstances that people just aren’t able to control, that's actually a real opportunity for hiring managers to show empathy, and it can be a really powerful way to show your brand through all of this.”

Having a standardized remote interviewing process, where all candidates are given the same set of questions, can also help improve diversity and decrease adverse impact and bias, Nicolls says.

“Asking objective questions will help you assess candidates based on a criteria that everybody’s already decided on,” she says. “When people are interviewing face-to-face, those initial first impressions can override some of the candidate answers. We know that relying on that gut instinct when someone walks through the door isn't the best way to make hiring decisions.”

Additionally, remote hiring can be a solution to the safety concerns brought on by COVID-19. Candidates do not have to worry about taking physical safety precautions while entering an office, and employers can keep themselves and their employees safe too, says Kevin Parker, CEO of HireVue, a software company that provides pre-employment assessment and video interview tools.

“As you think about all the challenges that we face, whether in the office or not, having long lines of people coming to the office for interviews — with all those risks associated to both the candidate and the hiring company — has jumped up pretty high on the list of concerns,” Parker says. “Companies are having to re-imagine that in a more virtual way.“

With all the benefits of remote hiring, there’s reason to believe it will be the new normal after the pandemic settles, Parker says.

“We almost made a 10-year leap in 90 days in terms of the way we think about work, remote work and hiring and access to talent,” he says. “The employers are looking more broadly than they ever had before, and recognize that they can find good people almost anywhere. And candidates are recognizing that if they can work from home 20 miles from the office, they can work from home 200 or 500 miles away from the office.”

SOURCE: Nedlund, E. (24 June 2020) "The benefits and pitfalls of remote hiring" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/the-benefits-and-pitfalls-of-remote-hiring


How employers and the economy win with remote work

Employers have been highly affected by the situations that the coronavirus pandemic has brought upon them, but so has the economy. The coronavirus has seemed to bring in a dark cloud over most situations, but now it can be looked at as helping both employers and the economy with the remote working situations. Read this blog post to learn more.


As high profile employers such as Twitter and Slack announce that they will allow employees to work from home indefinitely, other organizations have also noticed the advantages of a remote work model.

Aside from increased productivity and improved mental health for employees, employers can save $11,000 per employee on office costs and even reduce their carbon emissions, says Moe Vela, chief transparency officer at TransparentBusiness, a company that provides a remote workforce management platform.

When it comes to remote work, ”everyone wins across the board,” he says. “Remote work should be viewed no differently than a healthcare insurance package, dental insurance, paid time off, sick leave, or family leave.”

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Vela shared his thoughts on why remote work is the new normal and how employers can use technology to ensure that the experience for their employees is seamless.

How does remote work benefit employers and employees?

Employers benefit tremendously. On average, an employer saves $11,000 per year per employee in a remote workforce model. They need less commercial office space, so their bottom line actually improves because they can cut down on their office expenses. If you have 500 people in an office setting, that's 500 people you need supplies, equipment and infrastructure for — those costs get dramatically reduced or go away completely.

The other benefit to the employer is that productivity goes up in a remote workforce model. There is less absenteeism, workers are happier and also healthier because you're not confined in an office space spreading germs.

Your work life balance is improved dramatically by a remote workforce model for employees. On average, an employee gets two to three hours of their day back into their life because they don't have to commute. That's two to three hours you can spend with your family, that you can engage in self care, that you can run your errands, whatever it is you choose to do.

What advantages does remote work have outside of work?

One beneficiary in a remote workforce model is the economy. When those employees get those two to three hours back, guess what they're doing: they're spending money that was not being put into the economy before.

Another beneficiary is the environment. During this pandemic, there are around 17% less carbon emissions being emitted into the atmosphere and the environment. Climate change is impacted and our environment is a winner in a remote workforce model.

How can employers ensure a seamless remote work experience?

There are three fundamental technologies on the marketplace that every employer should immediately start using. Number one, video conferencing. We're all using it, it works just fine, you’ve got a lot of options in the marketplace from Skype to Zoom, to Google. Number two, file sharing. You have all kinds of file sharing software and services out there in the marketplace. Number three, remote workforce management and coordination software. All you have to do is implement them, and the risk is mitigated almost to nothing.

How can an employee approach management about working from home permanently?

Don't be afraid to ask your employer. Communicate your request very succinctly and very clearly. Let your boss know that you've thought this through. Prove to them that you have the self-discipline, that you have the loyalty, that you're trustworthy, and that you have the environment at home to be effective at working remotely. Use the fact that you've already been doing it as an affirmation, to attest to the fact that it can be done seamlessly and productively.


What to Do When Scared Workers Don’t Report to Work Due to COVID-19

Throughout the globe, many are terrified of contracting the communicable disease, the coronavirus. With this being said, many essential workers are refusing to go to work with that fear in their minds. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Some essential workers are refusing to come to work out of fear of contracting the coronavirus. Their employers must weigh the employees' legal rights and understandable health concerns with the organizations' business needs. It can be a tough balancing act.

"A good first step for an employer to respond to an essential worker who's expressing fears of returning to work is to actively listen to the employee and have a conversation," said Brian McGinnis, an attorney with Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia. "What are their specific concerns? Are they reasonable?"

McGinnis said that employers should consider whether it already has addressed those concerns or if additional steps are needed. Often, having a conversation with the employee "will avoid an unneeded escalation," he said.

Employees' Legal Rights

What if that doesn't work? Tread cautiously, as employees have many legal protections.

An employer usually can discipline workers for violating its attendance policy. But there are exceptions to that rule, noted Robin Samuel, an attorney with Baker McKenzie in Los Angeles. Putting hesitant employees on leave may be a better choice than firing them.

Christine Snyder, an attorney with Tucker Ellis in Cleveland, cautioned, "If an employer permits employees to use vacation or PTO [paid time off] for leave, it may soon find itself without a workforce sufficient to maintain operations. Therefore, an employer may want to rely upon the terms of its existing time-off policy, which typically requires approval to use vacation or PTO, to require that leave for this reason be unpaid."

OSH Act

Employees can refuse to work if they reasonably believe they are in imminent danger, according to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act. They must have a reasonable belief that there is a threat of death or serious physical harm likely to occur immediately or within a short period for this protection to apply.

Samuel explained that an employee can refuse to come to work if:

  • The employee has a specific fear of infection that is based on fact—not just a generalized fear of contracting COVID-19 infection in the workplace.
  • The employer cannot address the employee's specific fear in a manner designed to ensure a safe working environment.

NLRA

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) grants employees at unionized and nonunionized employers the right to join together to engage in protected concerted activity. Employees who assert such rights, including by joining together to refuse to work in unsafe conditions, are generally protected from discipline, Samuel noted.

"That said, the refusal must be reasonable and based on a good-faith belief that working conditions are unsafe," said Bret Cohen, an attorney with Nelson Mullins in Boston.

ADA

Employers should accommodate employees who request altered worksite arrangements, remote work or time off from work due to underlying medical conditions that may put them at greater risk from COVID-19, Samuel said.

The EEOC's guidance on COVID-19 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) notes that accommodations may include changes to the work environment to reduce contact with others, such as using Plexiglas separators or other barriers between workstations.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, unlike the ADA, does not have a reasonable-accommodation requirement, pointed out Isaac Mamaysky, an attorney with Potomac Law Group in New York City. Nonetheless, he "would encourage employers to be flexible in response to leave requests from vulnerable employees," such as older essential workers, as the right thing to do and to bolster employee relations.

FFCRA

If a health care provider advises an employee to self-quarantine because the employee is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the employee may be eligible for paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Cohen noted. The FFCRA applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees, and the quarantine must prevent the employee from working or teleworking.

FFCRA regulations permit employers to require documentation for paid sick leave, noted John Hargrove, an attorney with Bradley in Birmingham, Ala.

Employers may relax documentation requirements due to the difficulty some employees could have obtaining access to medical providers during the pandemic and to encourage ill employees to stay away from work, said Pankit Doshi, an attorney with McDermott Will & Emery in San Francisco.

Hazard Pay

Although not currently mandated by federal law, hazard pay—extra pay for doing dangerous work—might be appropriate for an employer to offer to essential workers, McGinnis said.

If hazard pay is offered, similarly situated employees should be treated the same, he said. Otherwise, the employer risks facing a discrimination claim.

Andrew Turnbull, an attorney with Morrison & Foerster in McLean, Va., noted that companies with multistate operations may have legitimate reasons for offering hazard pay to employees working at locations with a high risk of exposure and not where the risk is minimal.

Hazard pay might be a good choice for public-facing jobs, where employees may not be able to observe social distancing, said Román Hernández, an attorney with Troutman Sanders in Portland, Ore.

Some localities require hazard pay in some circumstances, Doshi noted. These localities include Augusta, Ga., Birmingham, Ala., and Kanawha County, W.Va.

Inform and Protect Workers

Lindsay Ryan, an attorney with Polsinelli in Los Angeles, said that employers should keep employees apprised of all measures the employer is taking to maintain a safe workplace, consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and local health authorities.

If employers have the means to do so, they should screen employees each day by taking their temperatures and send workers who have fevers home, Snyder said. Alternatively, employers can require employees to take their own temperatures before reporting to work, she added.

"Finally, in light of recent CDC guidance regarding the use of cloth masks to prevent infection, employers should allow employees to wear masks in the workplace and consider providing employees with cloth masks if they are able to acquire them," she said.

SOURCE: Smith, A. (20 April 2020) "What to Do When Scared Workers Don’t Report to Work Due to COVID-19" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/coronavirus-when-scared-workers-do-not-report-to-work.aspx

Viewpoint: How to Lead in a Crisis

As many leaders have been faced with uncertainty during the trying times the coronavirus pandemic brought upon them, it's important for them to lead with the advantage that the uncertainty can bring. Read this blog post to learn more.


Despite a host of warnings about the impending COVID-19 crisis, it caught most of us by surprise. I recall attending the regular leadership team meetings of a few of my clients the week of March 9, and by March 15, the world had changed. It was no longer a potential crisis; it was a full-on global pandemic where new terms such as "social distancing" and "flattening the curve" became part of our lexicon. A spectrum of responses emerged, from reactive chaos to deploying well-practiced business continuity modes.

The challenge that leaders face in a crisis is that their organizations aren't typically set up to operate with such uncertainty. Leaders create visions, plans and metrics to attempt to control their environments and minimize uncertainty as best they can. In a crisis many leaders default to what they know how to do in order to reduce frustration and quell their own and others' fears. This default mode is simply not productive and rather than reduce uncertainty and anxiety, it increases both.

Today all organizations are faced with a new normal—uncertainty and inability to control the environments in which they operate. We know the pandemic will end but it won't truly be over until a vaccine is available. We know the curve will eventually flatten but projections seem to change hourly. We know people will get back to work but we don't know whether social distancing will continue to influence the economy. We know that remote work is possible on a broad scale but it's not clear if this will work long-term.

Ralph Stacey and Douglas Griffin's definition of a leader is one that lends itself to today's environment: "One recognized as a leader has a greater capacity to live with the anxiety of not knowing and not being in control. The leader is recognized as having the courage to carry on interacting productively and creatively despite not knowing." This definition certainly applies to today's environment of tremendous uncertainty and great anxiety. Clearly there is much we don't know about what the future will hold. It is also clear that leadership today requires an ability to embrace uncertainty and interact productively.

While it's a relatively small sample size, we have been amazed by the approaches our clients have taken to navigate their way through these challenging times. None have had an easy time, and some were certainly more prepared than others, but most have quickly overcome their natural tendency to control and shifted to doing their best to operate in crisis mode. In each case a few important themes emerged for how to embrace the uncertainty – humility, transparency, engagement, focus and patience.

Positive humility. In their own ways, each CEO acknowledged their fear about the unknown and that they didn't have all the answers, but they exuded a sense of calmness and confidence in their organizations to work smart and hard to get through the crisis. By reinforcing and modeling positive humility CEOs have established a tone for their leadership teams to cascade throughout their organizations.

Transparency. CEOs and their leadership teams are proactively communicating difficult information openly and being clear when they don't have answers to important questions. For example, they are not promising that no jobs will be lost but they are committing to pursuing all avenues necessary such as the SBA CARES Loans to secure jobs as long as possible.

Engagement. When in doubt these organizations are doing their best to negotiate clear expectations (i.e., daily check-in sessions with supervisors) and over-communicate (i.e., using email, internal web site and supervisors to reinforce that hourly workers will be paid weekly). They are also encouraging managers and staff to use multiple channels to remain in contact both formally and informally (i.e., Virtual Team Meetings, Virtual happy hours, random watercooler calls).

Focus. After a short period of getting their remote offices working, CEOs and their leadership teams redoubled their efforts to ensure their organizations remained focused on the core mission (i.e., executing loans, building interiors, registering / renewing members). They also reinforced that today's plans would likely change tomorrow and that learning from mistakes and helping employees and customers manage uncertainty is a big part of their jobs.

Patience. In a crisis adults often revert to overdone strengths – people who are naturally decisive might become arrogant or people who tend to be naturally empathetic might become overly protective. These CEOs and their leadership teams recognize this tendency to revert. They are working hard to have patience with each other by giving space, not overreacting themselves and providing gentle feedback.

These are extremely challenging times and despite efforts by the smartest scientists, economists and business leaders in the world, there is no clear path to when things will get back to normal. Ambiguity is a daily obstacle for most business leaders, but today we are dealing with ambiguity on steroids. It is not easy but we are so encouraged to see so many CEOs and their leadership teams embrace the ambiguity to help their organizations get to the other side of this crazy time.

Jack McGuinness is co-founder and managing partner of Relationship Impact, a consulting firm focused on helping great leaders build great leadership teams.

This article is excerpted from www.ChiefExecutive.net with permission from Chief Executive. C 2020. All rights reserved.

SOURCE: McGuinness, J. (20 April 2020) "Viewpoint: How to Lead in a Crisis" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/Viewpoint-How-to-Lead-in-a-Crisis-Coronavirus.aspx


COVID-19 Changes Internships, Apprenticeships

As the coronavirus pandemic has put a restriction on many plans, it's also raised concerns for organizations with internship and apprenticeship programs for early career development opportunities. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Travel restrictions and social-distancing mandates prompted by COVID-19 are causing organizations to rethink their approach to apprenticeships and internships, which typically involve hands-on, in-person participation.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is seeing a steady push toward moving internships online or limiting them in size and duration. A quick unscientific poll it conducted April 3 with 130 of its employer members provided insight on how members are adapting their programs:

  • 35 percent are making no changes to their program.
  • 35 percent are reducing the length of internships by delaying the start date.
  • 29 percent are moving to a virtual program.
  • 20 percent are moving events such as end-of-program presentations online.
  • 15 percent are reducing the number of interns.

Some organizations are considering micro-internships that condense a 10-to-12-week internship into a one-to-two-week experience later in the summer, said Bruce Soltys, head of talent acquisition sourcing strategy at The Travelers Companies based in Hartford, Conn. It has a 450-person internship program at 25 locations throughout the U.S.

He was among speakers at a panel discussion on internships that NACE hosted April 2.

"Companies might put a little bit more of an emphasis on training and development where [interns] are really focused on the learning and development piece and not so much on a personal project," Soltys said.

"From a change management perspective, we've presented the case to our senior leaders to say, 'If we have to go down this path from a virtual-work standpoint, the main question is, can this work be done virtually?' I think a lot of managers are not comfortable with the notion of interns doing the work virtually because [interns] are so new to the organization."

SAS, a computer software company outside of Raleigh, N.C., has a seven-figure investment in its internship program, said Kayla Woitkowski, a university recruiter leader for SAS who spoke on the NACE panel. Her employer is "making sure that any internship that does go virtual … the students have valuable work" to perform.

She has found, based on phone conversations with other employers, that organizations are taking one of three stances toward internships in light of COVID-19:

  1. Turning their internship program into a virtual one, ensuring that any work interns have been hired to perform can be done remotely.
  2. Canceling internships.
  3. Pushing back start dates.

As organizations wrestle with what to do with their internship programs, it's important that they keep in contact with the students they selected, said David Ong, panel moderator and senior director of corporate recruiting at Maximus. The Washington, D.C.-based company is a health and human services provider for state, federal and local governments.

The organization met with all interns and program associates as a group to assure them that they would keep them up-to-date on the program's status.

"It is also just a chance to keep them engaged," Ong said. "A lot of these students have [other] options."

Online tools can be an internship program's friend, according to Renato Profico, CEO of Doodle, a Zurich-based online scheduling tool.

"They can translate culture into a digital setting to make interns and new hires feel included," said Profico, who has personally invited every employee to a 15-minute virtual coffee meeting over the next few weeks. "These little things are important at a time when employee engagement and retention could dip significantly."

Apprenticeships

Changes prompted by COVID-19 will likely cause companies to be more pragmatic in how they view the role of apprenticeships, said Jennifer Carlson. She is the co-founder and executive director of Apprenti, which operates in 12 states as a fully paid technology apprenticeship program for minorities, veterans and women.

"COVID-19 is going to force companies to be more deliberate and probably see apprenticeships as an equitable pipeline, equivalent with all their talent acquisition pipelines," Carlson said. "Not all jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, for example, require a college degree.

"You can take people from nontraditional [areas] and train them and create a second pipeline [for talent] using apprenticeships."

One such example is the Youth Technology Apprenticeship Camp (YTAC) in Charlotte, N.C., a major technology workforce site in the U.S. Last year, for example, home-improvement company Lowe's announced the creation of a 2,000-employee global tech hub in Charlotte.

The demand for employees with tech skills "is off the charts for these companies," said Tariq Scott Bokhari, Charlotte city councilman and founder of the Carolina Fintech Hub. The Fintech Hub created YTAC and partnered with the city of Charlotte, the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, the Bank of America Foundation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Apprentices are high-school seniors who earn a credential after completing the four-week program. Those performing above a certain threshold are guaranteed acceptance into the local Workforce Investment Network training program. After successfully completing six months of training, participants are guaranteed a job as a full stack developer with a starting salary of $55,000.

The pandemic prompted a format change to the apprenticeship: It will be entirely virtual. Participants meet in small virtual breakout groups to work on their project, participate in labs, hackathons and livestream competitions and attend virtual training.

Bokhari thinks the altered format will continue in some way after the pandemic is over. With the virtual setup, overhead costs are lower, so more students can be accommodated. It also mirrors what he thinks will be the new reality for work.

"I think things will change forever after this, but it will probably be some mixture of physical and virtual [format]. We want this experience … to mimic the real-life workforce environment. I think the real-life workforce environment is going to change."

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (13 April 2020) "COVID-19 Changes Internships, Apprenticeships" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/organizational-and-employee-development/Pages/COVID19-Causes-Changes-to-Internships-Apprenticeships.aspx