Employee Relations: Electing to Talk Politics at Work has Serious Implications

Original post workforce.com

As the political races unfold in 2016, just about everyone seems willing to share their opinions on candidates, parties and issues — whether they’re asked to or not.

For many of the nation’s workers, this can lead to uncomfortable situations or outright arguments while on the job. Responding with a personal opinion might seem like second nature, but it might also be a risky move careerwise.

Employers generally have the right to limit employees’ political commentary during work time, and many of them choose to do so given the often-heated nature of the subject. Workers should always use common sense when deciding whether to discuss political issues at work, but there are some situations in which employees should definitely steer clear of such talk, such as:

When the business owner or boss is vocal about their own beliefs. It’s a concept that might be shocking to many Americans, but, in many states, private employers may fire workers for their political beliefs.

Under the at-will employment doctrine, in the absence of a contract, employers can terminate employment at any time and for any reason not prohibited by law.

Every state except Montana subscribes to the at-will doctrine.

Under this principle, organizations don’t need “just cause” to fire someone. If local or state law doesn’t prohibit it, private employers generally may terminate an individual because of his or her political beliefs.

Many misinterpret the First Amendment and believe that it applies in all cases related to freedom of speech. The First Amendment only applies to government censorship of speech. As such, it restricts public employers from engaging in this practice.

Most private employers won’t typically terminate employees for their political beliefs. The bad publicity from such actions will typically outweigh any perceived benefits.

Even in states and locations without laws protecting employees’ political beliefs, employers will have to tread a fine line. Some states, like Wisconsin, prohibit employers from taking action on employees’ legal activities, such as running for office or voting. If the discussions are union-related, they might also be protected.

Yet, employees should still be cautious. A business owner or manager who is strongly invested in their political beliefs could discipline or terminate others with opposing viewpoints.

When it wastes time. Many employers recognize that restricting all nonwork-related conversations can have a detrimental effect on morale. But if employees are spending large amounts of time debating the pros and cons of a particular political candidate or issue when they should be working, an employer is going to take notice and possibly take action. Employers generally have control over what employees may and may not do on company property and on work time.

When discriminatory language is involved. Employers have a duty to prevent and address discrimination in the workplace.

If employees are holding inappropriate discussions about a candidate’s sex, age, race, religion, ethnicity or other protected traits, the employer will likely want to take action. A business may be held liable for fostering a hostile work environment if it does not halt such conduct.

Because of the legal ramifications, most employers take discrimination in the workplace very seriously and will respond accordingly. This could include discipline and even termination.

When representing the company. If an employee is passing themself off as a company representative, or even sporting company logos (on a shirt, hat, etc.) while giving a personal interview on the subject of politics, an employer likely has the right to act. Such actions could give customers and others the impression that the employee’s beliefs are those of the company.

Think before speaking. When faced with a workplace situation involving heavy political posturing, it can be hard to consider the effects of statements prior to making them in front of co-workers.

But taking a moment to think about the consequences of certain political discussions before engaging in them might be the best way for employees to safeguard their job.

Employees should consider the career risks of bringing politics to work. The best course of action might be to leave political discussion at the door.

4 Ways to Talk to Employees So They Listen

Original post entrepreneur.com

No one likes to be lectured in the workplace.

As a leader, you need to communicate with your employees to deliver strategic direction, reinforce corporate culture and rally the troops to achieve company goals and objectives. To be effective, you need to deliver these messages in a way that creates energy and enthusiasm, rather than deflating your team.

Here are four tips for talking to employees in a way that energizes them rather than depleting them:

1. Use humor. No matter how big or small your operation may be, there is often tension and emotional distance between the boss and employees. To diffuse that, I regularly use humor, a tactic that makes me more approachable. In my experience, the best kind is self-deprecating humor. When I showed up to meet new employees for the first time at a Midwest location, I started the conversations by poking fun at my pronounced "New Yawk" accent. It got a laugh and made me seem more accessible.

2. Ask open-ended questions. And then be quiet. My favorite question to ask is “Tell me about [insert topic here].” When you ask a new employee about his ideas or a technologist about a new device, you are asking them to do more than give you a pat sentence or two in response. You have the opportunity to access that person’s deep knowledge and passion. Ask a question that opens the conversation wide and then hold still and listen.

3. Bring others into the conversation. A boss-employee conversation may seem casual to the boss but can feel like an interrogation to the employee. To diffuse this situation, I like to bring others into the conversation to even out the experience. I may turn a one-on-one discussion into a larger conversation by inviting people to join us and share their thoughts and experiences. It benefits me, because I get to hear more voices, and it helps put everyone else at ease.

4. Let the little stuff slide. If you are the kind of hands-on person who helped build the business from the ground up, you probably have insight or advice on everything from the capital budget to color of the carpet. But you don’t have to communicate every thought to the staff. If it’s not an important critique, let it go. I visited a flower shop in my company once and noticed the manager was not lining the trashcans with plastic bags. I know from experience that liners make the job easier, but I also know that I don’t need to communicate every idea that comes into my head. It just creates a climate of nitpicking.

Conversations that take place up and down the food chain – between supervisor and staff, people of different departments and the boss and the new employee – are often the source of great new ideas.

As the boss, it’s your job to get those conversations started and keep them going. You have a chance to make that happen (or achieve the opposite) every time you open your mouth.

15 tips to improve employee engagement

A great deal of time is spent making sure the communication between you and your consumer is on point. But what about the communication between you and your employees?

Gary Grates, a globally renowned, recognized, and respected expert in employee engagement, wrote in a 2004 PRSA Strategist article, "“Employees want to know what the company believes in and what it will fight for — its mission, vision and values; its foundational principles. They will commit or not commit, engage or disengage, on the basis of that foundation.”

Engaged employees are involved, enthusiastic and committed to their work. Their engagement can determine the outcome of a project.

However, engaged employees are not the norm according to Gallup's 15 years of research. Employee engagement has consistently averaged less than 33 percent in the United States. Worldwide it's even lower at just 13 percent.

So, what can you do as an employer to change that trend?

Behan Communications put together this list of 15 ways to improve internal engagement.

  1. Be clear and concise:
    Overwriting and using technical jargon will lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
  2. Set the tone at the top:
    CEOs and senior leaders need to set the tone. They need to be visible and accessible, and they need to understand that there’s a correlation between strategic employee communications and the achievement of organizational goals.
  3. Understand your employees:
    You may need to communicate differently with different audiences. For custodians who don’t use computers at work, e-mail is ineffective. To determine your employees’ needs and perceptions, consider surveying them regularly: Are they getting the information they need?
  4. Use many channels:
    Most people need to hear or see a message multiple times, in multiple ways, to understand it completely. Distribute your messages electronically, in writing, face-to-face and at forums and meetings. Your message should be consistent across all of these channels.
  5. Provide context:
    Employees need to hear information at multiple levels. Provide context (what external factors are at play?); explain strategy (why did we decide to respond this way?); and make it personal (how will this affect me?)
  6. Be timely: make employees first!
    When you prioritize your communications, always think of your internal people first. Your employees should hear it from you before they hear it from anyone else — they shouldn’t be surprised by a media report.
  7. Be forthcoming and be continuous:
    Always communicate, and communicate both good and bad news. If you are honest and candid in sharing bad news, your good news is more credible.
  8. Match actions with words:
    If you say you will address a situation in a certain way, do it. If you don’t, you’re undermining your credibility.
  9. Emphasize face-to-face communications:
    Although today’s employees may be more tech-savvy than ever, nothing beats human interaction: Most employees want to hear news and information from their supervisors. Managers need to be trained in how to communicate, and they need to have the right tools at hand. If you are expecting your managers to help explain a complicated change to the organization’s pension plan, you’d better provide them with talking points and handouts.
  10. Create an organizational habit for communications:
    You know you need to communicate about policies; health and safety; benefits; and how a job should be carried out. But remember that you also need to share information about your organization — what our your objectives? How are you performing? What are your plans and prospects? How can employees help?
  11. Plan:
    Be systematic and strategic. Have an editorial calendar that spells out what you’ll say, when you’ll say it, where you’ll say it and how you’ll say it. Develop a checklist of what needs to be communicated.
  12. Measure effectiveness:
    Set some objectives and be prepared to assess whether you have met them, whether they are employee engagement goals or perception goals. You might want to regularly assess engagement levels and ask employees whether the organization has communicated its strategy well. Do they understand how their daily work helps the organization meet its goals?
  13. Facilitate two-way conversation:
    One-way communication is a thing of the past. Individuals are empowered to talk back, and feeling “listened to” enhances feelings of trust. There are many ways to facilitate two-way communication, including face-to-face meetings; “town hall” meetings; interactive video interviews; Twitter questions; employee surveys; Q-and-A features on the employee intranet; and anonymous suggestions via e-mail or suggestion boxes.
  14. Be objective:
    Don’t “spin,” or try to dictate or assume how people should feel about the news you’re sharing.
  15. Say “thank you” as much as possible:
    If an employee feels appreciated, she’s more likely to feel engaged.

What employees need to know now to file tax forms for PPACA

Original post benefitspro.com

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) reporting deadlines are rapidly approaching, presenting a major administrative burden for employers who face penalties for failing to report in a timely and accurate manner.

While there has been significant discussion of employer roles and responsibilities, employees have been largely left out of the equation.

However, many employees will soon be receiving new forms that are critical to their ability to file their tax returns and to their employers’ ability to accurately fulfill their own reporting requirements.  Among these are Forms 1095-A, 1095-B, and 1095-C.

With this in mind, it is important for employers to educate individual taxpayers on what they are required to do and when and how to complete these requirements in the easiest and most efficient manner.


The most commonly received form will be the new 1095-C, which millions of Americans will be receiving for the first time this year.

This new government form is used to tell the Internal Revenue Service that you were eligible for insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act and whether you took advantage of or waived this coverage.

This form will be sent by employers no later than March 31 to all eligible full-time employees who worked for a company with a total of 100 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees in 2015. For the purposes of this form, full-time is any employee working 30 or more hours per week or 130 hours in a calendar month.

According to the IRS guidance, Form 1095-C helps to determine whether both the employer and the employee have complied with the “shared responsibility” clause of the ACA.

The form also determines whether an individual or family qualifies for the Premium Tax Credit, which reduces the burden of purchasing health insurance.

Anyone who does not have coverage elsewhere and chose to decline employer-sponsored health care coverage will be required to pay a penalty for not carrying coverage--this penalty will be assessed on their tax return.

For 2015, the penalty for declining all health care coverage is $325 per uninsured adult and $162.50 per uninsured child or 2 percent of household income, whichever is greater up to a family maximum of $975.

The penalty will increase to $695 per uninsured adult and $347.50 per child or 2.5 percent of household income up to a family maximum of $2,085 in 2016, and will continue to rise with inflation year-over-year.

However, the IRS offers special exemptions based on income, circumstance and membership in certain groups, so those without coverage should research their options or consult a tax professional. (The most common exemption is for those who declined employer-sponsored coverage that would have cost more than 8 percent of their total household income.)

Health care exemptions can be claimed by filing IRS form 8965 with your taxes. As previously noted, the form also determines who may be eligible for premium credits to help defray the expense of coverage.

Employers are required to submit insurance coverage information, along with social security numbers and other identifying employee information to the IRS, and employee failure to disclose a waiver of coverage may result in an audit and penalties greater than the ACA individual mandate penalty.


Form 1095-B essentially serves the same purpose as form 1095-c, but is used by and sent to employees of companies with fewer than 100 employees.

It may also be sent directly by an insurer to certify that individuals/families had non-employer sponsored coverage in place in 2015.  This coverage may have come from:

  • Government health care plans such as Medicare Part A, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program, and Tricare for military members, veterans’ medical benefits and plans for Peace Corps volunteers.
  • Health coverage purchased through the "Marketplace" -- Web-based federal and state insurance markets set up under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Any individual health insurance policy in place before the Affordable Care Act took effect.


Depending on the way a health care plan is structured, some employees may receive both a 1095-B and a 1095-C.


Form 1095-A is only applicable to those who purchased their health care coverage through ACA’s health care exchanges.

This form plays a critical role in reconciling the Advanced Premium Tax Credits (also known as APTCs)--a yearly stipend based on modified adjusted gross income designed to help lower-income individuals and families defray the cost of purchasing exchange-based health insurance--for 2015 and in determining future credits for 2016.

Per IRS and ACA requirements, any excess APTC received in the previous year must be repaid through income tax.

What to do with these forms

Like the more familiar W-2 or 1099 forms, the 1095-A, B, and C will be needed to file a 2015 tax return for anyone who receives it.

Those using a tax preparer will need to bring it with them along with their other filing documents, and those doing their own taxes or using tax preparation software will need to keep this document with their tax records in case of any further inquiry /audit by the IRS.

Help is available

Of course, this is just one important factor in gaining a more thorough understanding of the complexities of the ACA.  While the IRS has worked to streamline the process as much as possible, many employers and employees are struggling to understand and keep pace with changing requirements.

However, for quick questions, there are many good resources available to both employers and employees.  One of the best is the IRS website.

As in all tax-related issues, the most important factors in handling ACA reporting for all groups are to know what’s coming, prepare in advance, keep excellent records, take note of deadlines and avail yourself of helpful resources.

Communicating with Employees - Don't Shove it into the Back Burner

Originally posted May 28, 2014 by Stephen Bruce on https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com

Ask employees what they like least about their jobs, and they typically cite a problem with communication. In fact, in many national employee attitude surveys, participating organizations across the board were rated lowest on questions related to communication, while at the same time employees who took the survey said communication was very important to them.

If communication is a problem in your organization, dig down to find out what types of information employees feel they aren’t getting, for example:

  • Employees don’t have a good understanding of what is expected of them or how they fit in the organization.
  • Management does not provide employees with information about how the organization is doing or the direction in which it is heading.
  • Employees feel they aren’t well compensated because they don’t have any information on the value of benefits and their total compensation.

Tools for Better Communicating

It is important to consider your audience when you determine what communication tools you will use to communicate a certain piece of information.

  • Do all of your employees have access to e-mail?
  • Are all of your employees on-site?
  • Do some of your employees work only on specific days?
  • Do some of your employees have jobs on the line that prevent them from attending meetings?

Keeping these things in mind, there is a variety of methods for enhancing communication in the workplace.


A company intranet is a great place for posting information on a variety of topics for employees, particularly if most employees have a computer.

Company Newsletter

Company newsletters are a great way to communicate changes, successes, and important information to your employees.


Meetings are an effective way to bring employees face-to-face, which is particularly appreciated when the news is good and the purpose of the meeting is to show employees are valued. Meetings are also a good forum for allowing employee questions or discussion on a topic and for obtaining employee thoughts, concerns, and ideas.

Telephone Conferences and Web and Video Conferences

Telephones and conference calls are effective tools for communicating with individuals or groups of employees who are not present at the worksite. Invest in conferencing technology (e.g., phones, video, good microphones) that delivers high-level transmission of audio and/or video to avoid the stilted delays and overlapping conversations caused by low-tech conferencing technology. Train employees on how conferencing technology should be used. If materials or printed information will be distributed at a meeting, make arrangements to ensure access to the material for those participating by phone.


E-mail is an easy way to disperse information to a large group of people at once. Unfortunately, the overuse of e-mail can make employees feel isolated, lacking face-to-face contact. E-mails are stored on company computer systems, and once sent, the sender has no control over where they are forwarded. As a result, an e-mail should be considered a permanent written record. This is much different than the casual conversations people have face-to-face or over the phone.

Bulletin Boards

Well-organized and up-to-date bulletin boards are an effective, convenient, and inexpensive way to communicate with employees, especially workers who do not have access to a computer at their workstations.

Social Media

Social media, including blogs, podcasts, and social networks, can be used to build community, gather feedback, and make updates more engaging. For example, daily, weekly, or as-needed podcasts can provide a venue for managers and executives to talk to their employees via the intranet. While social media can be a great way to communicate with all employees at once, it shouldn’t be a complete substitute for face-to-face communication.

Employee Surveys

Employee surveys can be an effective and efficient way to obtain information from a large group of employees. A well-written survey provides feedback on how employees feel about the organization, their role in the organization, their compensation and benefits, and communication at each level of the organization.

However, conducting a survey and then leaving employees feeling as if they weren’t heard or that nothing is actually going to be done in response to feedback obtained in the survey may actually cause more harm to employee relations than good.

Communicating Bad News No one likes to be the bearer of bad news. But the right approach can help. The following tips are especially important when communicating bad news: Be straightforward. Confront the situation honestly and openly. Don’t hedge or try to hide the unpleasant truth. Act promptly. Delay will only make the task more difficult. Deliver bad news face-to-face whenever possible. This provides the opportunity to show concern and deal with questions directly. Always explain the reason behind the bad news. The more information people have, the more easily they will be able to accept the situation. Put the situation in perspective. In most cases, there’s an upside as well—however small. Be sure to highlight any positive aspects that will help the listener look beyond disappointment and see the big picture.


Know the Secrets of Successful Employee Engagement

Originally posted April 16, 2014 by William Taylor on https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com

The emotional commitment an employee has toward a company and its main goals is called employee engagement—employees being more focused on helping the company thrive.  This emotional binder has nothing to do with financial compensation but with the personal feelings of that employee for the workplace.

Let’s not confuse engagement with happiness.  Being happy at work doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re working hard to help that organization succeed.

Engaged employees initiate better business results.  Research shows that organizations with engaged workers can easily reach higher profit margins of up to 6%.

Motivated employees often lead to:

  • Better customer satisfaction
  • Better quality of services
  • Enhanced productivity
  • Higher profit levels
  • Increased shareholder returns

Switching from THE Company to THEIR Company

Ownership is the heart and soul of employee engagement.  Your people must feel that they own the company for which they’re working.  It’s paramount to treat them like partners and make them feel like CEOs (even if deep down they are employees and nothing more).  Once you’ve accomplished that, allow them to make important decisions, share vital information with them, let them take part in important meetings to keep them motivated.  Engagement soars when employees feel like leaders.

How do you maintain employee engagement long-term?

Engaged employees are both happy and motivated people.  They feel appreciated by their bosses, they feel valued, and they’re willing to go to extreme lengths to help THEIR Company flourish. However, it’s vital for organizations to make sure the engagement is permanent.  Here are some important aspects you might want to look at to make sure your people stay engaged for as long as necessary.

  • Consistent expectations—whatever you do make sure your expectations are clear and consistent.  Tell your employees exactly what you want from them, but make them feel comfortable and safe in your presence.
  • Value their work—employees want to feel that their work is being appreciated; if you must criticize, do it, and do it constructively.
  • Leave room for advancement in their career—the goal of every engaged employee is to climb up the ladder; the more some advance in their career, the harder they will work to please their superiors.

Constructive Criticism Keeps Engaged Employees Alert

Feedback is important for engaged employees who want to be sure that their actions are good enough.  These people are willing to accept criticism and do everything in their power to turn an observation into a goal.  Communication is equally important between managers and motivated workers.  As boss, CEO, or supervisor, it’s your job to foster that motivation by asking questions and challenging their potential.

Criticism should be constructive; it should be meant to add value to a company.  Engaged people are not afraid to be criticized.  On the contrary, they strongly believe that the only way to nurture their potential is to give them challenges that are difficult to achieve.

A Different Type of Reward

We mentioned that employee engagement is not based on financial compensation.  While that might be true, motivated employees should be given constant rewards for their hard work.  Promotions, free training sessions, better working hours, and paid vacations, are just some incentives companies can offer to their committed people to make them feel esteemed.  There are so many things you can offer to satisfy their needs without breaking the bank.

After working hard on a project for over a month you can take them out for a festive dinner.  People love to socialize and the best way of making them feel good about themselves is to integrate them in your executive group.  Appeal to their social side, have a good time, and interact with them on a human level.

The key word for successful employee engagement is RELATIONSHIP.  Nothing matters more for employees than a good working relationship with their superiors and teammates.  Satisfaction and engagement are deeply connected in a company.  Let’s call it a marriage where two parties enter this “relationship” with extremely high hopes, best intentions, and great aspirations.  In time, the relationship can become unbreakable; however, for that to happen—employees and company workers must value each other equally.


Top 10 Employee Training Mistakes

Originally posted on https://ebn.benefitnews.com

Employee training can be a valuable benefit, yet much of the money and time companies spend on training programs is wasted, contends John Tschohl, president of Service Quality Institute, a customer service training company. Here are the main reasons group training fails:

1. Large groups

You can’t have a good group discussion if 100 people are in the room. Try to limit training sessions to 15 people so everyone has a chance to participate. If the group size is too large, most employees won’t participate.

2. Conversation domination

It’s natural in groups for three people to speak up while everyone else stays silent. Facilitators must call on everyone in the room to participate — if they don’t, they won’t buy into the training goals.

3. Silly games

People don’t like role-playing games. Games and exercises have to do with something that builds success as a team. Employees need to be actively involved in the exercise.

4. Complicated training materials

If the material is not easily understood, it will not be implemented. Test the material on several small groups. Make adjustments, then roll out the final version to the entire organization.

5. Facilitator-dominated sessions

Facilitators should be seen and seldom heard. They should steer the conversation, but they should not dominate the discussion. They should ask leading questions and make sure everyone talks at some point.

6. Lectures

Remember how you fell asleep when attending a boring lecture in college? Your employees are no different. Lectures are not an effective way to get employees to change their attitudes and beliefs or learn new skills.

7. Irrelevant information

If the material isn't relevant to their jobs, employees won’t accept it. They want ideas they can use immediately.

8. Bad physical environment

Learning can’t take place if employees aren't comfortable. Invest in a room that looks pleasant and professional, advises Tschohl. It sounds basic, but make sure the room is well heated or cooled and has comfortable seats. Offer refreshments. Make sure there aren't any outside distractions such as noise.

9. Too much repetition

Employees can’t watch the same training materials twice. Organizations need to bring in new trainers with new information and different teaching styles.

10. Not accounting for different learning styles

Millennials may learn differently than their older colleagues and may get bored more easily. If the training isn't entertaining, you may lose their interest and participation.



Five predictions for 2014: revolutionizing employee engagement

Originally posted January 29, 2014 by Keith Kitani on https://ebn.benefitnews.com

In 2013, the crucial parts of health care reform became a reality after months of debate and discussion, employers across the country revamped plans while consumers attempted to make sense of the complex and confusing new landscape. As we begin the New Year, educating employees about new benefit programs through innovative, digital communication will be absolutely crucial. Here are five predictions for what 2014 will bring:

Education will trump uncertainty – Health care reform created a massive opportunity for companies to re-think how they communicate about health plans.  This will be the year for organizations to step up their communications to ease the uncertainty many felt in 2013.

The shift to digital – Smartphones and tablets are the new M.O. for consuming information.  Employers will make the shift to communicate important content in digital formats available to employees anytime, anywhere.

The customized economy – Greater customization will emerge for engaging a company’s workforce and for influencing company culture.  Companies will communicate with employees in the company's unique voice and style, and provide consistent and digestible messaging regardless of employee location or job function.

Employee engagement will be measured – With communications going digital, companies will have more concrete ways to measure employee sentiment, by tracking actual behavior.  This new awareness will drive new initiatives to address and further improve employee engagement.

Wellness programs will become more prevalent – With more focus on high deductible health plans, due to HCR, wellness programs will become more mainstream to promote positive health, as well as to help companies attract and retain talent.

2014 will be the year when employers start to embrace more innovative ways to communicate with employees.  Those employers who focus on employee education, leverage digital channels, and customize their communications appropriately will not only enjoy higher employee engagement but also a greater awareness of the level of that engagement.  We see, time and time again, that engaged employees are more productive employees.  Those companies who get employee engagement right will see it in their bottom line.

Cloud-based HR revolutionizes employee engagement

Originally posted January 27, 2014 by Henry Albrecht on https://ebn.benefitnews.com

It’s undeniable – cloud-based technologies have fundamentally changed how businesses operate. As employers transition from on- to off-premise for HRIS, they are seeing increased productivity and profitability in the obvious ways: lower up-front costs, faster innovation, easier integration, and no nasty upgrade hassles. It’s quite possible, however, that a less-obvious HR cloud revolution may prove to be even more meaningful – one that is more about people and culture.

This revolution, led by firms who bring a consumer-like experience and an understanding of the value of social connections at work, is helping build employer brands, improve engagement, and increase productivity and profits. It is ushering collaboration, innovation, and transparency in new ways. Here are three ways this revolution can change company culture:

1. The cloud allows for employee-driven collaboration and innovation at a new scale. This is particularly powerful with new tools like Brainstorm, created by financial software company Intuit. Brainstorm fosters employee innovation by allowing employees around the world to collaborate on new ideas, from small changes in process to large-scale, innovative business ideas. First created to spark innovation and cross-team collaboration, the tool helped Intuit generate a 1,000% increase in documented new ideas and a 500% increase in innovation in only a few short years. Within this new frontier for employee engagement and innovation, HR teams can also now easily identify the most innovative employees and support their growth.

Since its development a few years ago, the tool has expanded as a way for Intuit to foster inter-company collaboration, such as solving shared problems between themselves and the Red Cross. And after a partner asked Intuit to license Brainstorm, the company realized how valuable the software could be for other enterprises. Now, companies like General Electric and Lockheed Martin are using the tool with great success.

2. The cloud increases executive visibility of employee happiness.Historically, layers of reporting and infrastructure hindered executive visibility of everything from finances, operations, and even employee satisfaction. While financial and operational reporting does exists, (albeit expensive and often on-premise due to security) gauging employee morale at regular and consistent intervals has proven to be much more difficult.

Cloud-based technologies now allow for a new layer of instant visibility and transparency. TINYhr, a Seattle-based company, createdTINYpulse to collect employee feedback in one-question (i.e., “tiny”) weekly surveys. The instant feedback gives company leaders a constant pulse on employee happiness, so they can quickly (and cost-effectively) identify major issues along with superstar employees who can lead morale.

3. The cloud elevates the social power of community. Traditional employee wellness programs have been limited to one-time biometric screenings, sporadic events, or one-to-one or one-to-many communications.Cloud-based solutions open the door for many-to-many connections, fostering broad, social employee engagement versus individual task completion. Gamification, points systems, and both individual and team challenges energize the experience while still addressing compliance-based elements. By tracking goals, issuing challenges, and aligning engagement, health, performance, culture, and talent strategies, cloud-based products and technologies help HR departments think bigger, build internal brands faster and reach new engagement heights.

As the cloud-based revolution unfolds and newer technologies come to market, it’s imperative for HR and executive teams to adopt tools that align with business goals and will actually be used. And while these tools allow for a new layer of transparency, they will shine a light in the darkest corners of your company. So be ready to act on what you learn. Democracy is floating on a cloud.

Co-worker relationships more important for employee engagement

Originally posted December 12, 2013 by Amanda McGrory-Dixon on https://ebn.benefitnews.com

When it comes to having an engaged workforce, who your employees work with — rather than who they report to — is an increasingly important factor, according to a recent survey.

The survey from TINYpulse reveals that relationships among co-workers are more responsible for their happiness than their managerial relationships by 23.3%. This finding is supported by a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Professionals, which shows that 79% of respondents in 2012 regarded their relationships with co-workers as important, up from 76% in 2011. The same SHRM survey also shows that the importance of their relationships with direct supervisors dropped from 73% in 2011 to 71% in 2012.

Among the most desirable traits of co-workers are team play and collaboration, 44.3% of respondents say. Meanwhile, knowledge, skills and talent are considered the top traits of co-workers by only 26.4% of respondents.

"This shows that who you work with is becoming more important than who you work for,” says David Niu, founder and CEO of TINYpulse, which conducted the survey. “We often think of employee happiness and satisfaction as being manager-driven, but now as the workplace becomes more cross-matrixed, collaborative and ‘bottom-up,’ the importance of co-worker relationships continues to grow."

But the leading driver of employee engagement is management transparency, according to the survey.

"Not only are capital markets demanding transparency, employees want the same from their leadership,” says Niu. “The cost of improving transparency is almost zero, and we are seeing an increasing number of companies using transparency as an advantage when attracting and retaining top talent."

The survey findings suggest that organizations must focus on management transparency and recruiting more collaborative employees if they expect to keep employees engaged. Many respondents, however, are already practicing transparency as 82% say their managers have openly communicated their roles and responsibilities. Still, just 42% of respondents report knowing their organizations’ visions, missions and values.

The survey included more than 40,000 responses from 300 organizations.