Viewpoint: 3 Steps to Make Learning Part of Company Culture

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


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

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

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

1. Own your learning.

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

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

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

2. Build and keep building.

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

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

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

3. Activate ambassadors.

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

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

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

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

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


3 steps to optimize intern onboarding and training

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


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

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

The intern experience trifecta

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

Some formal onboarding

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuous, experiential training

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

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

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

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

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

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


Meal program provides healthy lunches to remote workers

The coronavirus pandemic has placed many disruptions in the day-to-day lives of employees, which has caused both mental and physical challenges. Research has shown that more people are now snacking or eating more now, due to the quarantine brought upon many. Read this blog post to learn more.


Disruptions from the coronavirus have infiltrated the daily lives of employees, causing challenges to both our mental and physical well-being. Focusing on proper nutrition is on the back burner for many.

Twenty-seven percent of people reported snacking more during coronavirus, and 15% said they are eating more often than usual, according to a study by the International Food Information Council. Forty-two percent have been relying more on pre-packaged foods than in the previous month, despite believing they are a less healthy option.

“The quality of fuel we put in our body ultimately controls the output,” says Michael Wystrach, CEO of Freshly, a meal subscription service. “So how well our brain functions, how our emotions and hormones are released, how productive we are, it really does start with diet.”

The coronavirus has exacerbated the challenge of accessing healthy food for many across the United States. While there has been a skyrocketing demand for groceries and grocery delivery services during the pandemic, 37 million Americans are considered “food insecure,” meaning they lack access to affordable and nutritious food options.

To address those concerns, Freshly created a new meal service called Freshly for Business to provide healthy and affordable meals for employees working remotely. The program allows employers to offer free or subsidized meal plans consisting of up to 12 meals per week. Employers including PwC and KPMG, among others, are partnering with Freshly, which costs an average of $8 per meal per employee.

“We used our platform to solve the needs of customers who are saying, we have a lot of employees working at home who are working hard but are strained and have a lot of challenges on their plates,” Wystrach says. “Employers wanted to provide them a benefit of healthy food by signing up a few dozen to thousands of employees very quickly.”

Lack of proper nutrition can have devastating and expensive consequences: In the U.S., 40% of adults are obese, and 90% of overweight individuals have prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, a condition often caused by poor diet. According to the American Diabetes Association, the cost of medical expenditures and lost productivity due to diagnosed diabetes was $327.2 billion in 2017, the most recent data available.

“Type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing disease in America, and it’s principally caused by poor diet. It takes a huge toll on employers and employees,” Wystrach says. “One of the challenges now is the traditional lunch hour is gone and convenience is the pinnacle. But we make poor decisions when we rely on convenience with our food.”

Providing food in the workplace is a much desired benefit, with 73% of employees saying they want healthy cafeteria and snack options at work, according to a survey by Quantum Workplace and Limeade. However, just 32% provided free snacks and food, and only 17% had an onsite cafeteria available for workers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

As employers begin considering their return-to-work strategies and how they will make their offices safe and their benefits supportive of the health and well-being of their employees, providing meal options should be a major consideration, Wystrach says.

“Especially as we think about social distancing, the less you’re sending your employees out, the safer everyone is,” he says. “Employers will also be thinking about healthcare costs post-COVID. How do they keep overall healthcare costs down? It’s really in everyone’s benefit to provide benefits that promote health and wellness.”

Meal offerings and proper nutrition are a win-win for employers and their workers, Wystrach says.

“Health and happiness ultimately creates a more productive employee,” he says. “When you’re trying to find a win-win for everyone, it drives productivity, it creates happy employees, and it reduces cost over time. There will continue to be a focus on benefits that provide that.”

SOURCE: Place, A. (12 May 2020) "Meal program provides healthy lunches to remote workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/meal-program-provides-healthy-lunches-to-remote-workers


What Happens When Employers Violate Shelter-in-Place Orders?

During the coronavirus pandemic, many states are allowing only essential businesses to stay open to the public, while other businesses are on a shelter-in-place order. Read this blog post to learn more.


In many states, only essential businesses can stay open to the public and only critical staff can remain at the worksite during the coronavirus pandemic. So what happens when employers ignore the rules? In some jurisdictions, employers can face civil or criminal penalties.

Officials in some states, including California, Georgia and New York, are asking people to report businesses that are violating shelter-in-place orders.

"Each and every one of us is called to work together and cooperate with emergency responders and public officials who are working hard to keep all New Yorkers safe," said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on shelter-in-place orders.

What Is an Essential Business?

To help combat the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, many state and local governments are issuing stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders that only permit "essential" businesses to remain open. The distinction between "essential" and "nonessential" businesses isn't the same in each location, so employers need to review the specific orders that apply to their operations. Generally, essential businesses include health care, first responders, food production and delivery, medical supply, public utilities, communications and information technology, grocery stores, and gas stations. Nonessential businesses typically must allow employees to work remotely, close for a period of time or reduce their operations to certain activities that are necessary to preserve the business.

(The National Law Review)

State and Local Coronavirus Decrees Raise Questions

Gray areas in state orders call for careful introspection and decision-making by businesses. Should they find a way to stay open to pay workers and maintain customers, or close for a less tangible public good—helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19? "Those are extremely difficult decisions to make and not the sort of thing most HR professionals were having to deal with five months ago," said Jackie Ford, a partner at Vorys, a labor and employment law firm in Houston, which issued its own citywide shelter-in-place rules on March 24. "It's a whole new skill set."

(SHRM Online)

Civil and Criminal Penalties May Apply

Employers must follow shelter-in-place orders or they could face civil or criminal penalties. In Michigan, for example, violating the state's order is a criminal misdemeanor and businesses that don't comply can be fined and possibly shut down.

(USA Today)

States with Shelter-in-Place Orders

Many state and local governments are implementing strict measures, but the duration of the orders vary. For instance, Alabama's order is in place until April 30, Virginia's expires June 10 and California's is effective until further notice. Here's a chart that shows which states have ordered nonessential businesses to close and where public officials have encouraged or mandated residents to stay at home.

(Littler Mendelson)

Michigan Extends Retaliation Protections Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Some states are also addressing coronavirus-related issues in their antiretaliation rules. For instance, on April 3, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order prohibiting employers from discharging, disciplining or otherwise retaliating against an employee for staying home from work because the employee tests positive for COVID-19, displays principal symptoms of COVID-19, or has had close contact with an individual who has tested positive or has symptoms.

(SHRM Online)

Showing Compassion May Minimize Risk of Employee Claims

Care, show compassion, connect, communicate and be flexible—these are COVID-19's HR lessons. Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of SHRM, summed things up as follows: "Every workplace operates under a set of guiding principles, whether overtly expressed or more subtly embedded in the culture. This is the moment to examine the principles that define you as an employer and a corporate citizen, and ensure they are ones you want to uphold and are prepared to live. Employees will rest easier knowing that you are operating under a strong value system that doesn't waver in good times or bad."

(SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L. (13 April 2020 "What Happens When Employers Violate Shelter-in-Place Orders?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/when-employers-violate-shelter-in-place-orders.aspx


Keeping Up with Professional Development During the Pandemic

As many state and local governments recommend and require social distancing, many professionals are looking at other ways to continue growing and developing. Read this blog post to learn more.


Many employees need to accumulate credits to keep their professional credentials, and they may look forward to large gatherings with their peers each year where they can learn about the latest developments in their industry. But the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way employees and businesses are approaching professional development, with many opting—at least for now—for online learning.

"We've seen a large shift in the manner in which these things are being done," said Melissa Peters, an attorney with Littler in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Since March 31, the U.S. State Department has advised U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to COVID-19. Within the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had urged residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut to temporarily halt nonessential domestic travel and asked people everywhere in the country to carefully consider the risks before traveling.

"Some employers are going further and recommending that employees cancel or postpone all nonessential travel," observed Douglas Brayley, an attorney with Ropes & Gray in Boston.

The White House and many state and local governments have either recommended or required people to practice social distancing through April and even beyond—which is causing some business and professional associations to find creative alternatives to their in-person meetings.

Going Virtual

A webinar or videoconference may be a good alternative to an in-person meeting, Brayley said.

Elizabeth Wylie, an attorney with Snell & Wilmer in Denver, noted, "Many companies are bolstering their remote conferencing access to ensure it is adequate to meet the anticipated increase in needs in the coming weeks."

Kathleen Sullivan, chief human resources officer at law firm Clark Hill in Pittsburgh, said her firm is using webinars, videoconferencing and phone conferencing technologies. "Our goal is to continue to provide excellent client service while we ensure we are taking care of our employees," she said.

In response to limits on travel and social gatherings, some licensing bodies have eased up on their e-learning limits. For instance, the Indiana Supreme Court and other state high courts have temporarily waived distance-learning limitations for attorneys seeking continuing education credits.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has transformed its 2020 Talent Conference & Exposition to a virtual experience so attendees can stay current and earn professional development credits without leaving their homes.

"We've been working with public health officials and collaborating with the conference venue and vendors to make an informed decision based on the latest science, local public health guidance, and our ability to provide the HR community with the best event and professional development experience you've come to expect from SHRM, in a safe environment," SHRM said on its website.

Should Employers Reimburse Nonrefundable Expenses?

"There is not a uniform practice in terms of [employers] reimbursing for canceled or postponed trips," said Mark Keenan, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg in Atlanta. He said organizations need to make such decisions based on:

  • The health and welfare of their employees.
  • Whether such trips can be rescheduled or postponed with limited incidental additional expense.
    "However," Keenan said, "most organizations would still reimburse such trips as an appropriate business expense, and therefore should reimburse nonrefundable costs as they would with any other itinerary change."

If the employer paid for the professional development and travel in the first place, any cancellation costs would generally be absorbed by the employer, said Susan Kline, an attorney with Faegre Drinker in Indianapolis. "If it's something the employee signed up for as a personal matter for a weekend or vacation, employers might treat it like any other vacation."

She noted that some states, such as California, require employers to reimburse reasonable business expenses.

Peters said employers are making difficult business decisions as they struggle with the economic impact of COVID-19. "There are legal aspects, but whether or not you want to reimburse people for professional development should be aligned with the company's philosophy and business needs."

The best practice for each business is highly dependent upon its business needs, industry and workforce, Wylie said, and is subject to change as the recommendations of public health agencies evolve.

Stay Updated

"The employer community seems to be very proactive in communicating updates on the coronavirus and the impact on their workforces," Keenan observed. For now, he said, the best practices are to not panic and to monitor the CDC's website.

"The situation is evolving rapidly," Sullivan said. "It is important to stay up-to-date with the current information."

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L. (13 April 2020) "Keeping Up with Professional Development During the Pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/keeping-up-with-professional-development-during-the-pandemic.aspx


Remote Work Policies Should Now Stress Flexibility

While employers are in the midst of distributing guidelines for employees working remotely, it's important for management to also outline policies and procedures for working remotely. Read this blog post to learn more.


Organizations are implementing remote-work arrangements for their employees due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak—many for the first time—and need to be able to outline expectations and guidelines for working outside the office.

Generally, remote-work policies cover eligibility, working expectations, legal considerations and technology issues, but, during these extraordinary circumstances, flexibility is paramount.

We're undergoing one of the biggest changes in history in how people work, said Brian Kropp, chief of research in the HR practice at Gartner, a research and advisory firm in Arlington, Va. "We have a set of people who have never worked from home who are now doing it full time. We also have a set of managers who have never managed people working from home. Under these circumstances, the policies shouldn't be thought of as managing productivity, but more a set of guidelines and norms for people managing and working in a brand-new way."

Kropp said that employers should design their remote-work policies around outcomes, not workflows and processes. "The idea is that employees are expected to accomplish their goals, but how they do it and when they do it is flexible."

Just applying a traditional telecommuting policy to all workers during this unprecedented situation will lead to problems, Kropp said. "Look at your current policy and see what makes sense in this situation, and, if you're not sure, lean toward flexibility and trust as opposed to measuring and monitoring your employees. If employees are not given flexibility, it will be harder for them in their personal lives and they will feel that they are not trusted, which will come back to bite the organization when we come out of this."

Gregory Abrams, an attorney in the Chicago office of Faegre Drinker, said that being flexible with remote workers right now is not only good management practice but necessary, considering the quickly changing legal landscape.

"Clear policies are always advisable, but employers must be ready to adjust quickly as circumstances change," he said, noting that new Department of Labor guidelines could affect remote work. "Policies should clarify that expectations are subject to change quickly and unexpectedly given the current climate."

With flexibility as a guide, there are certain core elements of working from home that should be addressed in a written policy.

Define Eligibility and Duration

First, companies should define whom the policy covers and when it applies, as some workers may still be required to be at the worksite and others may not be able to work remotely. Employers may want to clarify whether the policy is only in effect during the coronavirus-related shutdown.

Kropp advised employers not to promise a definitive date to return to the office or termination of the telework policy due to general uncertainty about the duration of COVID-19.

A remote-work policy should include a clause that it may be discontinued at will and at any time.

Working Expectations

Experts agreed that evaluation of remote workers' performance should focus on work output and completion of objectives rather than on time-based performance.

"There are managers that think their employees are sitting at home watching TV all day instead of in front of their laptop working," Kropp said. "The mistake that these managers make is that they are confusing a remote-work policy with a performance management problem. The same employee who sits in front of the TV all day instead of working was probably already not working to his full potential in the office. That employee is not engaged, or the manager is not effectively providing direction."

An appropriate level of communication between employees and their managers should be spelled out in the policy, including expectations of availability, responsiveness and what modes of communication are to be used.

"When you're not meeting with team members in person, creating processes for collaboration and communication are key," said Rebecca Corliss, vice president of marketing for Owl Labs, a Boston-based telecommunications company. "Consider what types of communication tools work best in situations like manager one-on-ones, team all-hands meetings or employee learning and development activities."

Kropp said that, traditionally, there has been an expectation that video calls and meetings from home would be professional and "office-like." Companies are realizing that can be difficult with what's going on now, he added. "A lot of workers are parents with kids at home or taking care of an older parent. A kid will show up crying during one of your WebEx calls. It's going to happen, so companies are relaxing the constraints around what 'professional' and 'office-like' means. Obviously, you can't walk around in your underwear during a video call, but 'appropriate' rather than 'office-like' is a better way to show understanding of the struggles everyone is experiencing."

Legal Issues to Grant

Remote workers are entitled to the same legal protections that in-office workers have, Corliss said. "Working remotely can present some added challenges that need to be addressed to ensure your company is legally compliant," she noted.

One of the most obvious compliance areas to address with remote employees is recording the hours of workers not exempt from the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Employers must ensure that hourly employees know "the number of hours they are expected to work, what they should do if they need to work outside of scheduled work hours, how to report time, and how to communicate about unanticipated overtime," Abrams said. "There are legions of cases where nonexempt employees allege that they worked off the clock while at home, and you can see a similar scenario playing out during this crisis."

The policy should be clear that all nonexempt telecommuting employees are required to accurately record all hours worked using the employer's time-keeping system. Hours worked in excess of those scheduled per day and per workweek should require the advance approval of a supervisor. But even if employees are instructed not to work more than 40 hours a week, they still must be paid overtime if they do.

"Set up a process to report hours for hourly remote workers," Corliss said. "To avoid high overtime costs, select times that employees should and shouldn't be working. With clear guidelines, they won't be able to work outside of these hours unless they have permission from their manager. This makes it easier to avoid employees accidentally working more hours than intended."

Abrams added that states have various laws about meal breaks, rest breaks, and how many consecutive hours one can work, and remote work policies need to be mindful of those as well. There could also be Americans with Disabilities Act issues, he said, if accommodations need to be made for remote workers.

Employers are also responsible for remote workers' health and safety. Some companies prefer or require an employee's remote work environment to be approved prior to working remotely.

Injuries sustained by an employee in a home office location and in conjunction with his or her regular work duties are normally covered by a company's workers' compensation policy. Remote employees are responsible for notifying the employer of such injuries as soon as possible.

Technology and Supplies

Remote workers need the right tools to complete their work. Employers need to be clear about what equipment and resources they will provide, whether laptops and videoconferencing tools or payments for office supplies, phone calls, shipping and home-office modifications.

Who pays for home technology is up to the company, but a policy should set expectations to make sure everyone is on the same page, Kropp said. "Both employees and employers must agree on what each is expected to deliver. For example, some companies will pay for high-quality home Wi-Fi, and others are expecting that the worker already have it at home."

For many employees, a laptop and a Wi-Fi connection might not be enough, Corliss said. "You'll also need policies and tools in place for remote team collaboration and communication, like live chat, synchronous screencast recording, live video conferencing and more to ensure technology doesn't get in the way of an effective and meaningful work relationship. Slack and Google Hangouts can act as a virtual water cooler, where employees can discuss the status of a project but also debrief on TV shows, share GIFs and bond over their favorite music."

Companies also should specify the level of tech support they will offer to remote workers and outline what remote employees should do when having technical difficulties.

Employers need to pay extra attention to securing the technology their remote workforce is using. The COVID-19 pandemic is providing plenty of new opportunities for cybercriminals to exploit unsecured technology systems, overworked information technology (IT) staff and panicked employees who are new to working from home.

"In the course of developing communications to employees, examine existing policies closely, such as confidentiality, information security, business continuity, BYOD," said Joseph Lazzarotti, an attorney in the Morristown, N.J., office of Jackson Lewis. "If companies have specific requests, for example if they don't want employees working on public Wi-Fi, then that should be stated in the policy."

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (02 April 2020) "Remote Work Policies Should Now Stress Flexibility" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Remote-Work-Policies-Should-Now-Stress-Flexibility.aspx


Nearly a third of workers 'actively avoid' going to HR with problems

Did you know: nearly 30 percent of employees avoid going to their HR departments with their problems. Read this blog post to learn more.


Dive Brief:

  • One-fifth of workers don't trust HR, and nearly a third (30%) actively avoid going to HR with problems, according to a new survey of more than 500 employees and 300 HR professionals conducted by Zenefits' Workest.
  • Of the workers who avoid going to HR, 35% said it's because they don't trust HR to help, and 31% said they feared retaliation. Some of the reluctance may be due to a negative perception of HR or their employers overall; 23% of respondents said they had witnessed or experienced "poor HR, hurtful management, or discrimination." Thirty-eight percent of employee respondents felt that HR did not equally enforce company policies across all employees; 18% of that group said they believed managers received special treatment.
  • Most of the HR respondents said that fewer than 30% of complaints they received in the last two years resulted in any disciplinary action. According to a Workest blog post about the survey, "Having less than a third of cases result in disciplinary action led employees to wonder — if they bring complaints forward, will anything even result?"

Dive Insight:

Some employees may have an inaccurate perception of what HR does, but the survey makes clear that workplace culture-building efforts still leave a lot to be desired — particularly when it comes to employees and HR working together to stop harassment.

According to a recent Emtrain study, most employees (83%) would not report harassment if they saw it. Additionally, similar to the findings in the Workest survey, 41% of workers were not confident that management would take a complaint seriously.

Nonetheless, culture is becoming a priority for some business leaders, many of which are hiring chief people officers both to help remedy toxic environments and also as a proactive strategic talent measure.

Investing in retention and culture makes sense for companies' bottom lines: In the past five years, the turnover cost of a toxic work environment was more than $223 billion for U.S. employers, according to Society for Human Resource Management research.

In order for culture efforts to bear fruit, they have to be more than mere lip service. Some believe business leaders and corporate directors are not making real efforts toward these goals. In a recent Accenture survey, business leaders reported financial performance and brand recognition as their most important priorities. Just over a third (34%) of the leaders surveyed ranked diversity as a top priority.

SOURCE: Carsen, J. (02 April 2020) "Nearly a third of workers 'actively avoid' going to HR with problems" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/nearly-a-third-of-workers-actively-avoid-going-to-hr-with-problems/575303/


Employers Still Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic

As many companies begin to temporarily close their doors due to the  COVID-19 pandemic, there are several companies that are beginning to hire mass amounts of employees. Although employers run the risk of hiring effectively, they are in need of employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


When one door closes, even temporarily, another often opens. As people practice social distancing to avoid contracting COVID-19—the disease caused by the coronavirus—restaurants, bars and retailers across the U.S. are closing their doors and laying off tens of thousands of workers. But needs must be met, so online sellers and a host of other businesses are mass hiring for delivery, security, warehousing and distribution personnel.

Amazon announced a push to add 100,000 workers to address customer need. National grocery chains are ramping up hiring for delivery staff, Walmart is looking for more than 1,000 distribution-center workers, and health care providers are ramping up hiring to address the expected surge in patients. Retailers and pizza chains are boosting their payrolls to meet takeout and delivery demand, even as their locations are closed to guests. A security company just announced mass hiring to fill full- and part-time security vacancies to help provide public-safety services.

The challenge for these organizations will be to hire quickly and effectively at scale, without putting recruitment professionals and the public at risk. Technology is driving the effort. Online applications, video interviewing, online onboarding and more are being leveraged to enable fast, effective hiring.

Meeting the Need—Safely

Josh Tolan, CEO of video-interviewing company Spark Hire, said, "Technology gives hiring pros a huge leg up in their processes. Especially during this pandemic, tools like video interviews and online applications achieve the goals of continuing recruitment efforts, learning more about applicants and speeding up the hiring process—all from an appropriate social distance."

Amy Champigny, senior product marketing manager at Deltek, a software provider for project-based work, said that competition for workers may require employers to actively self-promote. "Organizations should focus on posting job requisitions online and focus on boosting their LinkedIn branding, as well as employer presence, during this time," she said. She recommended that employers, along with making sure their brand is visible, move candidates through the hiring process as quickly as possible. "Businesses should consider candidate pools to speed up recruiting cycles for all roles and especially critical, hard-to-fill positions."

Many companies are practiced in mass hiring, said Peter Baskin, chief product officer at recruitment software company Modern Hire. "Similar to mass hiring for seasonal positions, companies should adopt purpose-built, on-demand text and video interviewing tools," he said. "This will allow them to reach a larger audience of candidates, provide candidates with the information needed about the open jobs, allow for both parties to complete the interviewing process quicker, and, in return, roles can be filled at a faster rate."

From Start to Finish

Effectively employing technology in hiring begins with an online application process that's seamless and at scale. Baskin suggested that recruiters work from home whenever possible, utilizing on-demand text and video technology instead of scheduling in-person interviews.

"HR teams must ensure any technology they use—whether for recruitment, prehire assessments or video interviewing—is purpose-built, not only for the task at hand, but also for the specific company and industry in which they operate," he said.

"From home," Tolan said, "candidates can conduct one-way video interviews that they record on their own time and the hiring team can review at their convenience, as well." Further along in the process, he added, "live video interviews allow the hiring team to connect with the candidate face to face without the handshake and any potential exposure to the [coronavirus]."

Good Hires vs. Fast Hires

Even when time is of the essence, quality can't be ignored. Many organizations use prehire assessment questions, which a candidate can answer during the video application process. These allow recruiters to quickly make a determination on moving the job seeker through to the next step.

For some organizations, artificial intelligence is being leveraged to boost hiring metrics. "Data-driven insights can predict hiring success by measuring personality traits and problem-solving skills," Tolan said, "and compare candidates to job benchmarks customized for your company."

Onboarding at Scale

When candidates are selected, onboarding at scale is the next hurdle for organizations. "Onboarding needs to be standardized and repeatable to help organizations onboard a greater number of candidates during periods of growth or at scale," Champigny said. "Comprehensive [applicant tracking system (ATS)] solutions include onboarding portals to help companies provide a consistent experience for new hires, while ensuring that those new hires have a good experience as they come through the door."

SOURCE: O'Donnell, R. (29 March 2020) "Employers Still Hiring During Coronavirus Pandemic" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/Employers-Still-Hiring-During-Coronavirus-Pandemic.aspx


Virtual Presentations, Meetings Require New Approaches for Success

While working remotely has become the new norm for many employers and employees, it's important to keep a strong communication base, especially with team meetings and presentations. Read this blog post from SHRM on various strategies to succeed in leading online meetings.


As more people work from home, many are being asked to take on tasks and use technologies with which they have only a passing familiarity, such as leading team meetings and presenting online rather than in person.

SHRM Online spoke with experts about the different strategies required to succeed in those scenarios, as well as how to use the features embedded in videoconferencing and Web conferencing platforms.

Presenting Online

Giving presentations online rather than in person requires thinking about how to design PowerPoint slides, keep remote audiences engaged when they're facing more distractions and troubleshoot technology snafus that arise in these situations.

Pick up the pace. Attention spans dwindle during virtual presentations. "That doesn't mean you need to cut the amount of your presentation content, but rather that you spread it over more slides so there is more frequent on-screen change for audiences," said Roger Courville, a Portland, Ore.-based speaker and trainer who teaches people how to communicate online and is the author of The Virtual Presenter's Handbook (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2009).

Be proactive in guiding audience attention. Presenters should assume that some people are multitasking during an online presentation, Courville said. "You have to ask what the audience is taking away if at times they only glance at what you're presenting," he said. "One thing you can do is make sure the titles on your slides are more descriptive and capture the main point of the slide."

Virtual presenters also should use their voices to guide viewer attention, said Andrew Dlugan, a communications and presentation skills trainer in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Don't rely only on slide pointers or annotation tools provided on Web conferencing platforms.

"What happens if some people aren't looking at their screens for a while?" he said. "A presenter might say something like 'What do you see below the picture of the woman on this slide?' or 'Look at the data on the right-hand portion of your slide.' "

Courville said presenters should monitor audience attention levels by checking whether people are actively participating on chat features or submitting questions during a moderated Q&A. Some Web conferencing platforms also have a feature called an attention indicator that detects the active application on audience members' screens. If a conference participant has switched to checking e-mail, for example, that tool would register the change. Courville said that while the tool shouldn't be used punitively, it can help presenters get a read on when attendees may be drifting away so they can switch tactics, such as by introducing an audience poll or a short Q&A.

Unnecessary flair can cause technical problems. The use of animation and complex transitions on slides might work well in person, but they can cause problems online, said Bethany Auck, founder and creative director of SlideRabbit, a presentation design and production company in Denver.

Web conferencing platforms handle slide upload and display differently, and experts say it's best to go simple when designing slides, keep file sizes low, and avoid the use of animations or complicated transition techniques between slides.

Consider slide contrast issues and viewer screen size. Assume that many will be viewing your online presentation from smaller laptop screens or even on mobile devices, said Ken Molay, president of Webinar Success, a Web conferencing training and consulting company in Cary, N.C. "Design your slides as if you're creating them for viewers in the back of a large auditorium," Molay said. "Use larger fonts and plenty of white space, and don't put things near the edges of your slides."

Keep in mind that you won't be able to see how your slides display on your audience's screens, and your viewers' computer settings for contrast, brightness and color may vary widely. "Remember that light colors can easily wash out online. Stick with high-contrast color designs, and avoid using subtle tone variations that can be difficult for virtual audiences to see," Molay said.

Leading Small-Group Virtual Meetings

Many of us have been conditioned to hold hourlong meetings, but experts say that standard should be reconsidered with today's new reality.

"One of the most powerful tools built into videoconferencing solutions is the instant meeting," Courville said. "You can easily set up virtual meetings and collaboration sessions in short blocks of time as needed. There are product development teams I know who hold 15-minute videoconferences every morning. The medium can be used as flexibly as a phone call."

Leaders, mute yourself when others are speaking. "Many of us use words like 'OK' or 'uh-huh' as confirmation that we're listening when others are speaking," Molay said. "But in an online meeting, especially if you're the leader or a person of higher authority, others often hear that and they stop talking, wondering if you wanted to interrupt to say something or even that they might have said something wrong. If you stay completely silent, it lets people complete their thoughts."

Not all technology platforms are created alike. If you haven't yet purchased a videoconferencing or Web conferencing platform (most major providers are offering discounts or free trial versions of products during the coronavirus outbreak), Molay said it's important to understand the differences between systems.

For example, the videoconferencing platform Zoom is among those that Molay said have a useful "push to talk" feature that is handy for small-group virtual meetings.

"Everyone enters the meeting in a default mute mode, but when they hold down the space bar, it opens up their microphone," he said. "It only stays open while it's pressed and people are speaking, like the old walkie-talkie."

Molay said the feature is good for group discussions in which everyone wants a chance to participate but a leader doesn't want all microphones open at once, since they're likely to pick up background noise when participants work from home.

You also may want to compare audience polling tools in different systems, Molay said. "Some only allow for a few response choices, while others offer more," he said. Many users will also likely want a polling feature that allows participants to select the best answer rather than all that apply, he said.

Question management tools—a helpful feature for more-structured and moderated Web conferences—also can vary by platform. These tools give session leaders a way to prioritize audience questions.

"If you have 100 people in a Web conference, you'll want a way to mark that certain questions might be a high priority to address on air versus a lower priority that you can follow up on later," Molay said. "Some platforms are better than others in how they allow you to reorder and organize questions."

He added that other key system features to evaluate are the number of participants allowed on video calls, ability to automatically record Web conferences for later viewing, and tools that allow you to easily edit recordings or create transcripts of online meetings.

Watch how you position yourself on webcam. Don't position yourself in front of bright windows, which will place you in shadows. Raise your laptop so the camera is at eye level or higher.

"Laptop webcams are sitting lower and often shoot straight up into your nostrils," Molay said. "That's not the best look for most people."

Troubleshooting Technical Problems

People will inevitably experience problems with video, audio transmission or other functions in virtual settings. "The first thing to do is isolate whether it's just that person having the issue or  everyone," Courville said. "In most cases it's just one person, but you usually don't want to stop the whole meeting or presentation just because one person is having a problem."

Molay said leaders can afford to spend only a limited amount of time trying to fix an individual's issues. "It's easy to focus on squeaky wheels in online settings, but you don't want to slow down 30 people to satisfy one person."

Meeting leaders also can mute and unmute participants on most platforms if people are having technical issues and bothering others, Courville said.

Auck, SlideRabbit's founder, said one tactic she uses when leading virtual presentations or workshops is to keep a second computer in view and log in as an attendee. "It won't account for all of the variables of people logging in remotely, but you'll have a tighter view of any lag in how your slides are advancing for viewers," she said.

Mike Fasciani, senior research director at research and advisory firm Gartner, said employees who reside in bandwidth-challenged areas can take steps such as turning off video and joining meetings using dial-in audio options while still seeing the content that's being shared through a browser.

Remote workers also can use their 4G-enabled smartphones rather than laptops or desktops in virtual meetings, he said. "Many video-meeting and workstream collaboration applications were built with a mobile-first design intent and so work as well as, if not better than, the desktop and Web client access," he said.

SOURCE: Zielinski, D. (30 March 2020) "Virtual Presentations, Meetings Require New Approaches for Success" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/technology/pages/virtual-presentations-meetings-require-new-approaches.aspx


Older workers are staying in the job market. Here’s why

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of employees over the age of 65 has risen by 697,000. With over two million jobs being created over the past 12 months with the help of the economy, the older generations are still wanting to be employed. Read this blog post to learn more as to why.


Older workers are sticking around the job market. This is why
The number of workers aged 65 and above increased by 697,000 as the economy created more than 2 million new jobs over the past 12 months, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in this CNBC article. The spike in the number of older workers represents about 36% of the overall increase, reflecting a trend over the past 10 years. “The norms about working at older ages have changed quite a bit, and I think in a way that really is to the advantage of older workers who want to keep working,” says an expert.

What ‘Rothifying’ 401(k)s would mean for retirees
Clients will not benefit from a switch to a retirement system where contributions would be made on an after-tax basis even if it could result in bigger tax revenue in the near term, experts write in The Wall Street Journal. "Over their lifetimes, workers would accumulate one-third less in their 401(k)s under a Roth system. This is because, with no tax advantage from contributing to a 401(k), workers would save less and those lower contributions would earn less over the years," they write. Moreover, "lifetime tax revenue generated by the average worker under a Roth regime would fall 6% to 10%, compared with the current regime."

Stop 'dollar-cost ravaging' your clients’ portfolio in retirement
Retirees who stick to a 4% withdrawal rule during a market downturn are putting their financial security at risk, as their portfolio would not recover even if the market eventually improves, writes an expert in Kiplinger. Instead, seniors should focus on how much income they can generate from their portfolio, he writes. "[I]t means choosing investments — high dividend-paying stocks, fixed income instruments, annuities, etc. — that will produce the dollar amount you need ($2,000, $3,000, $5,000 or more) month after month and year after year."

Will clients owe state taxes on their Social Security?
Retirees may face federal taxation on a portion of their Social Security benefits — but they could avoid the tax bite at the state level, as 37 states impose no taxes on them, writes a Forbes contributor. "While probably not a big enough issue to warrant moving in retirement, it is something to consider when choosing where you want to spend your retirement," writes the expert. "At the very least, you need to know about Social Security taxation when figuring out how much additional income you will need to have in order to maintain your standard of living during retirement."

8 ways clients can start saving for college now
There are a few savings vehicles that clients can use to prepare for college expenses, but they need to consider the pros and cons, according to this article in Bankrate. For example, clients who save in a 529 savings plan can get tax benefits — such as tax deferral on investment gains and tax-free withdrawal for qualified expenses — but will face penalties for unqualified withdrawals aside from taxes. Parents may also use a Roth IRA to save for their child's college expenses, but these accounts are subject to contribution limits and future distributions will be treated as an income, which can reduce their child's eligibility for scholarships or assistance.

SOURCE: Peralta, P. (18 February 2020) "Older workers are staying in the job market. Here’s why" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/why-older-workers-are-staying-in-the-job-market