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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Facial Analysis Technology in the Workplace Brings Risks

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


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

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

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

Evaluating Job Candidates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal and Privacy Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rethink Work-from-Home Employee Perks

Working from home has become a new normal for many employers and employees. With that being said, it may be time to rethink employee perks that expand flexibility and customize work schedules. Read this blog post to learn more.


As working from home stretches into the summer and beyond at many companies, some firms are adopting interesting, innovative incentives to maintain engagement and productivity among telecommuting employees.

Most common among such perks is the expanded flexibility for personal time off and customized work schedules. But many employers consider those options to be table stakes and are raising the ante. Perks related to food and drink, camaraderie, dress code and new technology are being introduced as HR rethinks and adjusts company culture.

"Pre-COVID, working from home was considered a top employee perk," said Cheryl Fields Tyler, CEO of San Francisco Bay-area firm Blue Beyond Consulting. "Now, it's practically considered an entitlement. And with executives [seeing] how effective their home-working employees have been during this situation, it's likely to stick around even after the recovery."

At her firm, "our teamwork has really stepped up. People are supporting each other more and finding new ways to handle responsibilities to get through this, which will be the lasting benefit of this 'change'."

At IBM, CEO Arvind Krishna created and shared a special eight-point pledge that went viral as a model for other C-suites to follow, putting a "human touch" on his entire workforce.

"With employees and companies making such strides in work-from-home execution, there's going to be a massive rethinking of just how you build culture," Fields Tyler said.

Informality Catches On

Many companies are creating clever ways to connect remote employees during and after the workday ends, usually with fun in mind.

Tampa HR consultant Michelle May Griffin, SHRM-CP, has clients who have created a virtual coffee klatsch once or twice a week, designed with an impromptu gathering-in-the-breakroom feel. "Supervisors aren't invited," she said. "Staff can come and go. It's very informal. People can eat lunch or have a cup of coffee and just talk about anything they wish."

At Centurion, a health care company based in Vienna, Va., HR created a voluntary lunch-time video meeting for employees on Zoom to talk about things other than work, said Jennifer Tyrrell, SHRM-SCP, senior director of HR. ‎

"We did one that was called 'Get Up and Move' based on fitness videos so employees could be active, but that didn't draw a huge crowd," she joked. "Others had better participation, such as 'Just Social: Brown Bag Lunch Buddies' for remote workers to take a break and have virtual lunch to catch up with co-workers, and end-of-day Friday happy hours, including one where we played Pictionary."

Griffin shared another story of a small client. On one Friday afternoon, HR reached out to all employees and took drink orders. It then set up a virtual happy hour on Zoom where employees used their drinks—that the company personally delivered to their homes—to toast another great week.

"The company did a good job, packing them in baskets with other goodies," Griffin said.

As for food, some larger companies are offering stipends for daily lunch pickups or delivery, which has become an unanticipated expense for remote employees "now that they aren't able to take advantage of full cafeterias at work every day," said Chris Hoyt, president of CareerXroads, a membership-based talent community of more than 150 companies.

Zoom Fatigue

Virtual meetings have become so common at most companies that "there is more and more talk of blocking out meetings on multiple days each week to reduce stress and prevent 'Zoom fatigue,'" Hoyt said. "For some, there are entire days where either no meetings are called, or at least none that involve a video log-in. That's a well-being perk."

As for home offices, tech equipment stipends can make work and life easier. Hoyt said one organization gave its remote employees full access to a virtual ergonomic assessment that could help determine what equipment they would need to work most productively and funded those purchases.

At Iona, a social services group in Washington, D.C., employees were provided with office furniture and computer technology delivered to their homes, with set up-help provided, said Stacey Berk, a managing consultant with Expand HR Consulting in Maryland. "They bent over backwards to help their employees," she said.

At some companies, encouragement to take a summer vacation is a well-received perk. "Having spent so much time over the past few months working from home, [employees] are pivoting to summer rentals in remote places instead of theme parks or family reunions," Berk said. "Some employers are allowing staff to extend that time away if they split their work time, and may offer to pay for Wi-Fi connections, additional temporary office resources and supermarket gift cards for these types of vacations so that they can productively work in this capacity."

Wellness Well-Done

Berk sees a trend where clients are providing wellness "relief" to their workers by having group stress-relieving exercises, guest virtual speakers or even comic relief, such as themed summer dress-up days. Hoyt agrees that wellness has become an emerging front for many HR leaders.

"Some have been pushing for the ability to incorporate ideas and strategies for years and now are realizing that the pandemic [is the final catalyst] to get initiatives off the ground and running," he said.

"Some company fitness centers are offering virtual workouts much like commercial gyms do," Hoyt added. "A few employers' in-house trainers are getting creative with programs for people who may not have equipment at home but can do workouts with whatever equipment they might have around."

Personalized mental-health care program offerings also are gaining popularity, Hoyt said, such as LyraHealth and Headspace. Both focus on mindfulness and meditation for stress, anxiety, sleep, attention and fitness and enable participants to track their progress. Other popular programs include MeQuilibrium, a well-being and performance platform that helps employees identify and manage stress; and Sleepio, a digital sleep-improvement program featuring cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

Gifted and Talented

At BHI Insurance in Newark, Del., which boasts 28 employees, HR Director Maria Clyde, SHRM-SCP, offered everyone a list of electronics to choose from as a thank-you gift for adapting well to working from home. She budgeted $40 to $60 per gift.

"We thought that was fitting since everyone who is working remotely is looking to make their lives (and their kids' lives) easier," Clyde said. "I've also seen companies providing headphones and streaming services like Netflix or Disney+ for the kids. People are getting really creative!"

Charitably conscious, Hoyt said some companies are matching or double-matching employee donations to local organizations or for anything related to front-line workers and PPE creation and distribution.

Other benefits that companies can define as perks, Berk said, are a relaxed summer dress standard and the ability to work outdoors, which shows up as an employee's background in virtual meetings. "By not having to wear a blouse or dress shirt, think of the money employees are saving in dry cleaning because they can dress casually," she said. "It's not a lot of savings, but it helps."

Giving employees a greater voice can be considered a perk for some employees. Organizations that previously conducted one employee survey a year—or even every couple of years—are now conducting them more frequently, Berk said. "This gives employees more of a chance to be heard and to have a voice in some policy decision-making, which is one perk you cannot put a price tag on."

Tyrrell said Centurion has conducted more employee surveys recently and found that 90 percent of employees expressed confidence in how the C-suite has been dealing with the crisis, while at-home distractions ranked second lowest among employee challenges.

Many companies are creating incentives for work-from-home employees to voluntarily return to the office. Campus Advantage, an owner and manager of off-campus university student housing, has 70 employees assigned to its Austin, Texas, headquarters.

"Many workers are still afraid to come back," said Angela L. Shaw, SHRM-SCP, vice president of HR. "Our office has a mojo committee that creates fun office events, and we've offered those in the office breakfasts, Taco Tuesdays and yoga classes. On average, we'll have about five employees come in. The others are happy to continue working from home."

Perks on the Chopping Block

Many companies are planning for the next wave of the coronavirus, one that is expected to hit them hard financially during the second half of 2020 and beyond, Berk said. Traditional employee perks likely will be impacted, at least for the short term.

"Expect perks like traditional staff-wide wellness benefits, such as gym memberships, discount programs and celebratory gatherings, will be cut or eliminated and replaced with more modest offerings," Berk said. "Companies are quickly adjusting forecasting and budgeting for the coming year based on the realities of the pandemic. The reimagined office layout and sanitation will be at the forefront for HR and executives, and you could see companies reducing employee benefits, eliminating increases, bonuses, education stipends and executive perks. With the post-pandemic workforce, they have to account for a big in-office sanitation budget and potential reduced profits."

SOURCE: Bergeron, P. (01 July 2020) "Rethink Work-from-Home Employee Perks" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/rethink-work-from-home-employee-perks.aspx


What Your Youngest Employees Need Most Right Now

During the trying times that the coronavirus has placed upon the workforce, it seems to be creating a bigger unknown difficulty in younger employees. Read this blog post to learn more.


The long-term toll of the coronavirus is unknown, but its effects on our health care system and the economy have already been catastrophic. And while the immediate concerns of skyrocketing unemployment and a stalled economy must be addressed today, employers also need to begin considering how to rebuild for the employees returning to the workforce — or entering it for the first time.

This includes Gen Z, the youngest members of the workforce and those currently in secondary school or college. Many who were just beginning their career journey have been furloughed or fired. Those in school were suddenly confined to their homes. Collectively, they are experiencing the greatest national trauma since the Great Depression and World War II.

Ultimately, for the workforce to be equipped to move forward and thrive, employers will need to address the fallout resulting from Covid-19 on their youngest — and future — employees.

How Events Shape Generations
As the Pew Research Center notes, looking at world events and other formative experiences through a generational lens helps provide an understanding of how people’s views of the world are shaped. Young people who grew up during the Great Depression and defended and supported the nation in World War II were coined “The Greatest Generation.” Once past the traumas of these extraordinarily difficult years, this generation shared characteristics that included a patriotism manifested by reverence for American ideals, a belief in the wisdom of government, and a frugality born of severe want.

For Millennials, the horror of 9/11 and the global economic crisis that began in 2007 were calamitous events that were life-altering for their generation. As many were sitting in classrooms, word of airplanes crashing into buildings spread through their school; frightened teachers, family members, and friends were unable to offer their usual reassurance that everything would be okay. The chaos that followed became the touchstone for a future where potential terrorist attacks were an ever-present theme in the way Millennials interacted with the world around them.

As they later began to make their way into the workplace, the economy collapsed. Job offers were rescinded, full-time opportunities became part-time without benefits, and many new hires were the first fired. A generation with an undeserved reputation for disloyalty had to change jobs frequently simply to keep up with basic bills and crushing student debt. Together, these experiences contributed to a profile of a generation more likely to seek order in their world and meaning in their work.

Today, even as the coronavirus has been merciless in its impact on people of all ages, the long-term effects on the Gen Z cohort of adolescents are likely to be particularly severe.

For the rest of their lives, the time the world stopped will be seared in Gen Z’s collective memory, a generation-defining moment that instilled deep fears about their uncertain future. Overnight, they lost their daily interactions with the teachers who trained them, coaches who mentored them, clubs that fulfilled them, and friends who sustained them through the painful ordeals of youth. Milestones such as proms, plays, athletics, and the ritual of graduation can be crucial to social and emotional development, each experience serving as a rite of passage to the next stage of life. These lifecycle markers of adolescence that were nervously anticipated and excitedly shared swiftly vanished.

How Companies Can Support Gen Z Employees
It will be years before sufficient data exist to quantify the full impacts of this experience on Gen Z. Existing research, however, can help employers learn what they should expect and how they can best manage their Gen Z employees, today and in the future.

Research in three areas offers a good start for this analysis: skill development, stress management, and building emotional intelligence.

Skill development. Gen Z’s learning has been disrupted in a way that schools were unequipped to manage. Some converted course work to online formats, often implemented by teachers and professors untrained for such a platform. Others minimized direct instruction, urging students or (depending on the grade level) parents to turn to independent projects and digital resources.

In most instances, learning has been attempted in the presence of entire families similarly house-bound and juggling multiple responsibilities — environments that are not conducive to instruction without any preparation. Grades have been converted to pass/fail, tests have been abandoned, and deadlines extended.

These options may be right for the moment, but likely will have costs. Research shows that Gen Zers already experience a difficult cultural transition between college and the professional world that can leave them feeling disoriented and confused. Now that their structured learning has been upended, employers and employees may need to develop greater patience with Gen Z’s adjustment to the professional world and a greater focus on intergenerational mentoring and support.

Employers should consider thoughtfully designed programs to ease Gen Z’s transition by, for example, rethinking orientation programs, early assignments, and mentoring focusing on the development of expertise. For example, orientation programs generally consist of a short-term introduction to manuals, computer systems, and other basics of the workplace. A more comprehensive approach could extend orientation throughout the first-year work experience, offer rotations throughout the organization, and include programs to help new hires integrate into the culture of the workplace. Programming can also address substantive job requirements, offer strategic career support, and provide training on the organization’s goals and objectives, allowing employees to appreciate where they fit and why they matter.

Mentoring, too, can be a powerful way to leverage generational diversity. Research demonstrates that, properly coached, new professionals will develop faster because their learning has been enhanced and guided. To maximize the opportunity for a successful mentorship program, employers should ensure managers understand the benefits of strengthened intergenerational relationships, dispel negative perceptions that could weaken engagement, and provide the needed time and resources. One way to accomplish such buy-in is by including reverse mentoring programs where young employees help senior workers improve their skills in technology and social media. For members of Gen Z, such mutually-supportive relationships can enhance their expertise and ease their transition into the workplace, offering employers the added bonus of a stronger multigenerational culture.

Of course, the most significant and potentially enduring adjustment that workplaces had to make during this pandemic has been the implementation of remote working arrangements. The sudden shift was forced on employers by a crisis, but workplace experts have long advocated for greater flexibility based on changing gender and age demographics, globalized businesses, and technology improvements. As businesses begin to rethink how they open their doors, they should also consider building new transition and learning opportunities into the culture of flexibility that younger workers are seeking.

Stress management. For more than a decade, researchers have noted an alarming trend: Gen Z reports higher levels of anxiety and depression than other generations. Studies also tell us that childhood exposure to significant stress can impact brain development and affect mental and social development. If Gen Z’s baseline already shows high levels of stress, what will the impacts of this pandemic be when it comes to their work and careers?

Most companies are aware that unaddressed employee stress and anxiety can also result in absenteeism, turnover, and lowered productivity. Recent data estimate that the annual cost of job stress to U.S. businesses exceeds $300 billion. But too few firms have developed effective programs to help their employees with mental health struggles. In fact, studies shown that an effective stress management policy operates at the employee, workplace, and organizational levels. In particular, organizational approaches lead to more sustainable results than interventions solely directed to individuals.

Further, because Gen Zers are starting their careers with higher levels of anxiety exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, employers can adapt existing research and best practices to create customized programs for young workers. This could include early-career affinity groups that encourage open conversation in a supportive environment. In addition, coaching interventions can boost an individual’s confidence in their ability to succeed and reduce anxiety, helping to keep minor performance challenges from becoming career-damaging incidents.

Emotional intelligence. Research demonstrates that emotional intelligence, consisting of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills, is a critical element of effective leadership — and can be taught and learned. Employees who develop emotional intelligence can provide a foundation for a respectful work environment and a talent pool of future managers. This area of research offers both challenges and opportunities for Gen Z employers.

In having to cope with a shut-down of life as they knew it at such a young age, many Gen Zers have experienced a massive interruption in their ability to discover what motivates and fulfills them. Because of this, they’ll need more time in their young adult years to undertake this self-exploration. Employers can help fill this gap by offering programming that helps build emotional intelligence from the outset of their careers — not several years down the road. One note: I would recommend eliminating the phrase “soft skills,” a term that actually denigrates the importance of training and development in these important areas.

Employers are likely to benefit from the likelihood that Gen Z enters the workplace with a greater level of empathy and adaptability, qualities that are critical components of emotional intelligence. Having experienced both the significant disruption to their own lives and the pain and sorrow felt by friends and loved ones who suffered during the pandemic, Gen Zers are likely to be vigilant to the emotions of others at work.

Companies have the opportunity to help members of Gen Z become the Next Great Generation of leaders. Having been tested at a very young age, they will bring a special blend of resiliency and humanity to the workplace. Employers can take advantage of these unique formative experiences by providing structured support to their younger employees that will smooth their transition and ensure their place as valued members of the workforce.

SOURCE: Rikleen, L. (03 June 2020) "What Your Youngest Employees Need Most Right Now" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2020/06/what-your-youngest-employees-need-most-right-now


How COVID-19 has changed the recruiting tech stack

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


COVID-19 will disrupt many established workplace trends

 


Over the past few months, the coronavirus pandemic has altered almost every aspect of how people around the world live their lives and do their jobs. In the months to come, it will continue to disrupt and transform routines. Sooner or later, though, the emergency will end. Lots of things will go back to the way they were before January 2020. Some won’t.

So much has already been written and said about the latter group of possibilities that I hesitate to add to the cacophony. But it may lend some structure to the discussion to sort the changes to come into three broad categories.

The first involves pre-existing trends that are being accelerated by the pandemic. The second involves trends that have been reversed by the pandemic. Then there’s … everything else.

Perhaps the most obvious case of a trend being accelerated by the pandemic is working from home. Doing so was actually more common back when tens of millions of Americans still lived on farms, shopkeepers lived above their stores and women sewed garments at home for piecework rates. But since 2000, which is around when broadband internet access began to become widely available, white-collar workers have driven a rise in the percentage of American workers who say they usually do their jobs from home, from 3.3% to 5.3%.

The percentage is a lot higher than that right now! Only 29% of employed Americans said they could work from home in a 2017-2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. But given that those who can’t work remotely have been laid off or furloughed in huge numbers since March, nearly half of those who now have jobs in the U.S. have likely been doing them from home, estimates Adam Ozimek of the online labor marketplace Upwork.

My guess is that many of these people will be eager to return to the office when the pandemic is over. But large office buildings may not go back to full-scale operation for quite a while, and by the time they do many employers will have rethought their office-space needs, many workers will have rethought their commutes and many organizations small and large will have discovered new ways to collaborate from afar, with all sorts of consequences for office dynamics, business travel, commercial real estate and maybe even the shape of urban growth.

This growing freedom to work from somewhere other than the office will be empowering and liberating for some. But working remotely is for the most part a privilege of the affluent and educated, and some of the other trends getting a boost from COVID-19 don’t seem all that favorable for workers. For example, industry after industry in the U.S. has been growing more concentrated since 2000, and new-business formation has been on the decline a lot longer than that.

Yes, young companies gained a little ground in 2015 and 2016. But a new data series from the Census Bureau indicates that the formation of new businesses with hiring plans is down 32% since mid-March versus the same period last year, so that resurgence is over for now. Any economic downturn is going to favor strong companies over weak ones, but the particulars of this one seem to favor the giants even more than usual. Big tech companies are strengthening their grip as the pandemic progresses, and the fact that the five biggest such companies in the U.S. — Microsoft, Apple, Amazon.com, Alphabet and Facebook — account for more than 20% of the value of the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and nearly 50% of the Nasdaq Composite Index explains a lot about the resilience of the stock market amid economic calamity. Buyout firms that target troubled companies have also been seeing big stock-market gains. Consolidation is accelerating, and while conditions for those employed by giant, profitable companies in technology and some other sectors can be pretty great, the overall bargaining power of workers suffers.

Another workplace trend of long standing is increased automation. Fears of a rapid, massive displacement of humans by robots haven’t yet been realized, but machines have been taking over human tasks for centuries, and the pandemic seems likely to accelerate this process, especially for jobs that involve people performing physical labor in close proximity to one another — from meatpacking plants to Amazon warehouses to, perhaps, commercial kitchens. The need for distancing will eventually abate, but once companies invest in machines that do some or all of the work, those machines are unlikely to go away. There’s also been a rush to enlist 3-D printers to solve temporary supply-chain problems that will likely lead to their permanent, often-labor-replacing use. Such innovations can drive the productivity growth that improves living standards, not to mention displace jobs that are objectively awful, so this isn’t all bad news. But short-term it again reduces workers’ bargaining power.

So much for trends that are being accelerated. The most dramatic reversal so far has been the end to the long rise of employment in leisure and hospitality. The sector, which includes restaurants, hotels, casinos, museums, gyms, sports teams and, of course, bowling alleys, accounted for almost a quarter of U.S. payroll job growth over the course of the just-ended expansion — and lost almost half of its jobs between March and April.

The damage to the industry is severe and will persist for quite a while. If government efforts to keep these businesses on life support falter, it could take many years to repair. But once the threat of the coronavirus has passed, or receded into the background of seasonal respiratory ailments, almost everyone is going to want to hang out with friends, go to restaurants, sports events and shows, and travel again. The upward trend will surely resume; the big question is just where the starting point will be.

 

A lot of the biggest questions about the post-coronavirus work environment will be answered by political action or the lack thereof. Will the failures of the mostly job-based U.S. health-insurance system in a job-destroying pandemic lead to major reforms? Will the greater toll the pandemic has exacted on the disadvantaged encourage efforts to reduce economic inequality? Will the safety net be reformed to address the effects of automation? Will renewed antitrust enforcement counter the trend toward consolidation? Or do I have the direction of change all wrong here, and what we should really expect is more government dysfunction and maybe some tax cuts? I DON’T KNOW! And nobody else does, either. Predicting what might happen seems far less useful than working to bring about the change you want to see.

SOURCE: Fox, J. (15 May 2020) "COVID-19 will disrupt many established workplace trends" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/articles/covid-19-wont-change-everything-for-workers-right


Viewpoint: Introverts and Extraverts in the Time of COVID-19

As working remotely has become a new workplace norm for many employees and employers, many social effects may start becoming more clear. Read this blog post to learn more about considerations to ease interactions regarding introverts and extroverts in the workplace.


If you're working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, you and your co-workers maybe starting to feel the social effects of remote working. You may be on a plethora of video and phone calls throughout the day. Do some people's communication and manners rub you the wrong way? Here are a few considerations that can ease your interactions.

Extraverts

Extraverts are people who get energized by being around other people. They seek out opportunities to engage others and thrive when working with others, at least compared to introverts. In a more extreme form, they may be uncomfortable being alone for any length of time.

In the time of COVID-19, extraverts are deprived of the physical presence of their colleagues. There are no cubicles or offices to visit, informal chats in the coffee areas or regular meetings in a conference room. They are missing the interactions big and small that really get them going. Being deprived of those built-in connections with others is a real loss for extraverts. They will probably prefer video meetings over phone calls, which they prefer to text (e-mail, chat or Slack) for that dose of connection.

Living alone during this time can be a real hardship. While sheltering-in-place, they may have no in-person contact with other people, unless they go to a store or walk a dog. They are deprived of something that, for them, is emotionally akin to food. Video chats and phone calls are unlikely to provide the same energy lift.

Extraverts who live with others have the advantage of the physical presence of others, but depending on who those people are (e.g., children, sick relative, or roommate or partner who is out of work or having a hard time), the lift may be offset by juggling the demands of work and the demands of home.

Introverts

Introverts are energized by being alone. That's how they recharge. In the workplace, they seek out quiet places to work alone: the empty conference room, a quiet office. Interacting with people all day, as in a typical workplace, can be exhausting.

In the time of COVID-19, introverts may initially find that working from home is a relief, a reprieve from the more frequent interactions in a typical workplace, particularly an open-plan office. However, working from home has new challenges for introverts. Video calls can feel intrusive; there's too much eye contact. If they have large screens or laptops, other people are simply too big, or there are too many of them. It can feel overwhelming.

Introverts who live with others during this time may find that challenging. It can be hard to get real alone time, particularly if they are on numerous video calls, or they live in a space that doesn't provide much opportunity to be alone. Commuting time, which may have allowed some alone time with or without strangers, is gone. Now, when introverts live with others, and space is tight or children sprawl throughout the home, there may be no room of one's own.

Introverts enjoy some limited types of social interaction, but once they've had enough social time, they're ready to leave. Now, circumstances may require that they continue to engage—such as a day full of video meetings for work. It's worth noting that introversion is different from shyness, in which conflicted individuals want social interaction but also are anxious about such interactions. Introverts have no such conflict.

For introverts, phone calls may be preferred to video calls, and communicating via text may be preferred to phone calls, when that makes sense for the task at hand. Introverts may want to turn off their cameras on video calls.

Most people are neither extremely introverted nor extraverted. They are somewhere in between.

Solutions

Given we're in this for the long haul—a marathon, not a sprint—we need solutions, which start with encouraging employees to develop self-awareness. What is the type and range of optimal communication with colleagues and partners given the demands of the job, their level of introversion/extraversion and their current living situation? Would they be better off with some of the contact via phone calls rather than video? Phone calls rather than e-mail or Slack? Perhaps extraverts can seek out other extraverts?

The cramped spaces most employees are working and living in also mean that we're not moving in the way we would at work. Most of us are sitting (or standing) in the same place with much more constrained movements while we're on our computers. Most of us don't have to walk far to get our coffee or lunch. We're not walking to the conference room. It's as if we're chained to our workstations at home. For both introverts and extraverts, I've been encouraging people to vary where they work within their homes, depending on what's available; to move their "workstation" around: a bed, a chair, a different chair, or standing up. The uniformity of the experience at their workstations can itself make the day seem unending and amplify either the social deprivation for the extravert or the social intrusiveness for the introvert.

Stela Lupushor, management consultant and founder of Reframe Work, urges managers to "help employees to realize that identity switching can also be taxing on the emotional state." When working in the office, the commute time allowed us to switch from our "work" persona to "home" persona. That switching now happens every single time an employee's child walks by his or her workstation or the dog barks, and it can deplete the employee's emotional equilibrium faster. Sheer awareness of this fact can help employees develop coping strategies, such as scheduling breaks, "off limits" hours and time for nonwork activities.

Encourage employees to pace themselves. It's wonderful that workplaces are creating virtual social hours, but, like their physical counterparts, make sure it's OK for employees not to attend, or to show up for a little while and leave early. Feeling pressure to attend and stay the whole time will use up the introverts' bandwidth for social engagement.

Judy Heyboer, executive coach, HR consultant and former CHRO for Genentech, noted, "There is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach that works for managing in a crisis. Knowing your people's behavioral style is essential to crafting an approach that optimizes both comfort and productivity." Managers can help by first being aware of their own introversion/extroversion level and recognizing that direct reports will have different levels. An introvert manager may prefer written communication or phone, but some direct reports may want to check in by video. An extravert manager may want a lot of video meetings, but some direct reports aren't enthusiastic about it. A mix is probably best, but managers should check in with their direct reports and specifically ask about preferences for different types of meetings or information flow. Encourage managers to be sensitive to what their team members prefer.

Video may be the preferred modality for team meetings, but make the meetings count. Encourage the meeting leaders to be thoughtful about agendas. Make sure agendas are distributed in advance—and that those expected to attend have a reason to be there, they know why they are there, and they know how they are expected to contribute.

Long Haul

Tunji Oki, Ph.D., industrial/organizational psychologist at Google, noted, "with the influx of stress that extraverts and introverts are facing during this time due to work-related adjustments or personal situations, and the inability for employees to take true vacations, managers should be more transparent about allowing their employees to take paid 'mental health' days as needed to maintain their productivity level."

As we must prepare for sheltering-in-place to last for weeks in this phase, and likely again in the autumn, we have to experiment in order to do this better. And we have to communicate with each other.

SOURCE: Rosenberg, R. (30 April 2020) "Viewpoint: Introverts and Extraverts in the Time of COVID-19' (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/viewpoint-introverts-and-extraverts-in-the-time-of-covid-19.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/


Fresh Brew With Olivia Childs

Welcome to our brand new segment, Fresh Brew, where we will be exploring the delicious coffees, teas, and snacks of some of our employees! You can look forward to our Fresh Brew blog post on the first Friday of every month.

Be sure to do the follow-up after a conversation! Clients want to know they are understood and have options.”

Olivia Childs is a Senior Solutions Specialist. 

New to the insurance industry, Olivia hopes to expand her knowledge in Medicare Insurance. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Organizational Leadership. She was involved in the Human Resources department and a member of HR Succeeds, a mentor program with professionals and students.

Olivia has been volunteering her free time at the Cincinnati Epilepsy Foundation since High School and her favorite catchphrase is, “We rise by lifting others,” by Eleanor Roosevelt.

Olivia will marry her fiance, Cory, in June 2020. They enjoy hiking and cycling together, as well as have two cats, Braun & Gus.

Chia Tea Latte

Olivia loves to drink her favorite brew, Chai Tea Latte, while at Half Day Cafe! 

Everything Bagel

Olivia loves sipping on her favorite brew, a Chai Tea Latte, while snacking on an Everything Bagel!

Give It A Try & Share It!


Employers Grapple with Teleworking Decisions, Fairness

With businesses closing daily due to the implications that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon them, many employers are still questioning whether their employees have the resources to successfully work remotely. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


It seems that every hour, another company announces that its employees will work from home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus—although working remotely is not an option for everyone.

For example, roughly two-thirds of the 700 employees at the Community Healthcare Network need to be onsite to provide patient care. But what about the administrative staff who may be able to work from home? Should they be given the opportunity?

Kenneth Meyer, the chief human resources officer at the New York City-based network of 12 clinics, has been grappling with the question. "Will they have the resources they need to perform their jobs?" he wondered. He's not sure that the employees have the computers and Internet connections they'll need. "We're a nonprofit. We don't have computers and scanners just lying around," he added.

And there's another element to consider: Is it fair to let some employees work from home while others labor in an environment where they are more at risk of contracting the coronavirus? "Staff morale definitely enters that equation. It isn't the governing the factor, though," Meyer explained.

Deciding whether to let employees work from home amid the pandemic isn't easy for many firms. Health care providers and manufacturers require most people to be onsite to keep operations running. Yet even for companies where it is technically possible for employees to work remotely, there are other considerations that must be addressed. While such companies are often OK with some people working from home, they lack the systems and protocols to keep the business running smoothly when there is no one at the main office.

Last week, there was significant disagreement among senior executives at software maker Betterworks about whether to close the company's offices temporarily, according to Diane Strohfus, Betterworks' chief human resources officer. Some favored shuttering the offices, while others argued it wasn't necessary because the coronavirus situation was overblown.

"Opinions were all over the map, but we decided to err on the side of safety and caution," Strohfus said. The company decided to make the work-from-home policy mandatory so that people who really wanted to stay home didn't feel pressured to go to the office by those who chose to work there. She added that many of the employees at the Redwood City, Calif.-based company have infants and school-age children, so allowing people to work from home made sense when school and day care closings are happening all over the country.

"I told managers to expect more distractions," Strohfus said.

Strohfus added that even though it's technically easy for the company's employees to work from home, for a firm accustomed to personal interactions, there were still adjustments to be made. To improve communication, channels were added to Slack, a messaging platform used by Betterworks employees, and managers are organizing video meetings to keep employees connected.

"We encourage [videoconferencing]. People can feel your personality when they see your face," Strohfus explained.

Companies don't have to let people work from home, said Tracy M. Billows, a partner in the Chicago office of law firm Seyfarth Shaw who specializes in labor issues. However, she added that if someone is pregnant or has a disability or medical condition that affects his or her immune system, companies must make some accommodations.

Billows said companies need to follow existing laws and coronavirus-specific directions from institutions like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when creating work-from-home policies amid the pandemic. Beyond that, companies need to account for their individual circumstances. Has an employee been infected? Is the company located in a virus hot spot where schools are closed? Does the work need to be done onsite? Companies must balance the safety and security of their workers with what the business needs to continue to operate, she explained.

"There are no one-size-fits-all answers," Billows said.

As the virus spread, Elyse Dickerson thought about how to treat the 10 hourly employees who work in her health care company's manufacturing facility and do not have sick leave. Last week, she told them she would pay them for two weeks if they were feeling ill or needed to care for a family member.

"If they don't get paid, they can't feed their families or pay their rent," said Dickerson, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fort Worth, Texas-based Eosera, a maker of ear care products. She told her other 10 employees that they could work from home but might be called in to help in the manufacturing facility if someone is out sick.

Dickerson doesn't know what the company will do if area schools close, although that won't be a problem for most of her employees. She said employees could bring their children to work if necessary. "I suppose we could put on a movie," she said.

And if an employee contracts the virus, she said the company would have the facility deep-cleaned within 24 hours. She has two months' worth of product in reserve in case there are any production delays.

"We already bleach down the facility every night," she said. "You could eat off the floors."

SOURCE: Agovino, T. (18 March 2020) "Employers Grapple with Teleworking Decisions, Fairness" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/Employers-Grapple-with-Teleworking-Decisions-Fairness.aspx