HR Reports from Abroad
In our search to bring you stories of interest, we read numerous business and HR reports from around the world. We find most of the material is interesting and valuable to ECPs in America. Occasionally there is an international story that we believe is most worthy of sharing with you.
This edition of Business Essentials offers two such cases. Both involve surveys done by the British magazine,
Personnel Today. The studies had to do with what Human Resources professionals think of the executives with whom they work. The magazine surveyed 937 organizations. What do they think?
Only 8 percent of the HR professionals described their leadership as "extremely talented." Of the rest, 45 percent thought their company's executives could cut it with the proper development, no doubt provided by HR. Meanwhile, 14 percent, or about 1 in 7, were hopeless, according to the HR professionals. "Devoid of any leadership talent, whatsoever," is how the report put it.
The survey also found that greatest areas of deficiency identified in their leadership were interpersonal and communication skills.
Eyecare professionals, whether owners or managers, know that there are two highly coveted skills in providing exceptional service to their patients: interpersonal and communication skills.
We would offer this suggestion to our ECP readers: practice these skills and do so daily. Periodically ask your professional staff for their candid assessment of your interpersonal skills and the effectiveness of your communications—with them and with your patients. After all, customer and staff satisfaction are among the most important measures of the success of your practice. So take time to "check in" with your staff periodically. You will be glad you did.
Our continuing objective at Business Essentials is to be a primary source of information to assist you in the ownership and management of your practice. To do so, we will continue to provide you with timely and relevant information. If we are achieving our objective, please take a moment and
let us know. Likewise, if there are topics or there is information of relevance that would be of benefit to you, please include your suggestions.
Hedley Lawson, Jr. is the managing partner of
Aligned Growth Partners, LLC, a strategic, operational and organizational consulting and executive search firm. Lawson also serves as consulting editor for Jobson's Business Essentials monthly e-newsletter.
How to Develop an Employment Brand?
Our eyecare clinic and several optical practice offices that we operate would like to embark on an employer branding exercise to attract potential employees. How do I go about doing this and what does it entail?
A: Branding is not just about slogans, logos and design; it is about defining what is known as your Employment Value Proposition, or EVP, and developing a focused communications campaign with your target labor market.
The EVP is the collection of attributes that people value in an employment relationship. Generally, there are five main categories of attributes that drive an individual’s satisfaction with their employer: the organization’s success and reputation, rewards and compensation, development and advancement opportunities, work/life balance and, most important, the quality of the people who work there.
There are two main requirements for initiating an effective employer branding effort. First, you need to understand what attributes in each category of the EVP are most important to your employees and the people you are trying to attract. This can be determined by conducting surveys or focus groups involving employees and job seekers.
Identify the top four to six attributes that employees (and prospective employees) rank as important. Against this information, you will need to determine how well your clinic or practice delivers on those attributes.
Typically, this information is also collected using surveys or focus groups. Once you have this data, compare the desired company attributes to the actual attributes conveyed by your clinic or practice. In effect, you are now able to conduct a "gap analysis" to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
The next step is to apply what you have learned about your firm’s strengths and weaknesses, and decide on the message you want to send to those you are recruiting. Here is where you should engage your communications consultant for creative expertise.
Your messaging must be accurate and truthful if it is to have credibility. Do not sell work/life balance if your firm cannot deliver it.
Developing an employment brand will help you attract the people who will feel at home in your work environment. As such, you should find it easier to retain them. A focused employer brand development effort takes patience and commitment. Given the competition for talent, the results are more than worth the effort.
questions to one of our experts.
—Hedley Lawson, Jr.
Getting the Message Out About Benefits Programs
Many employees have a shockingly minimal knowledge of the benefits programs available to them, which is why they do not value them appropriately, according to a senior vice president and national practice leader of
Segal/MGC Communications, a firm that specializes in communications for benefits, HR and organizational issues.
A big reason is that "There is often not enough communication about how benefits programs fit together to provide a supportive environment for employees to grow both professionally and personally," the spokesperson said.
Eyecare practices are no exception to this rule. Experts advocate using a total rewards approach to integrate all the rewards of work under a single structure, which helps employees and candidates more easily view and appreciate the value proposition being offered by an eyecare practice.
Once benefits programs are viewed holistically, a variety of tools and media can be used to educate employees and communicate to them how to use those benefits efficiently. These approaches include:
Develop personalized statements. Generic information will not always have the impact of giving your employees their own personal snapshots—in print and online. Aim to include all quantifiable rewards (salary and bonus; health/wellness, retirement and work/life benefits; additional perks) on the statement pages, and add a cover page to introduce and provide context for the statement. Don't forget to link it to your ECP's employer/employee philosophy or mission statement.
Create online video interviews or podcasts/audio files. For example, develop an online or written brochure titled "How to read your Total Compensation statement" presentation for your employees so that they understand and value their personalized statements.
Promote online open enrollment. This can be done with an online slideshow, video presentation and/or audio file.
Launch an internal blog. The blog can promote what might be under-appreciated initiatives, such as wellness programs, remind employees about the value of their 401(k) or defined benefit pensions, and provide advice on making the right choice at the time of annual health plan open enrollment. Use your health plan and 401(k) plan consultant to help you develop and publish the content.
Measure success. To track the success of your total rewards communications, use periodic employee surveys. Showing survey participants results are ways to further engage and gain appreciation from your employees of the plans and benefits you offer.
High-touch. Don't forget the power of in-person presentations, especially by the owner or manager of the eyecare practice, when issues or messages are complex or challenging.
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How Employers Can Prevent Age Bias
Google age discrimination lawsuit serves as an important reminder for employers to take aggressive steps to prevent age bias in the workplace. Here are five tips you can use:
1. Draft an effective
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) and anti-harassment policy. This type of policy is the backbone of an effective bias-prevention program. Make sure the policy is strongly worded and makes clear that discrimination and harassment based on age and all other protected characteristics (sex, religion, disability, etc.) are illegal. The policy should also describe what illegal conduct is, outline your complaint and investigation procedures, and state that discrimination and harassment will result in discipline up to and including termination.
2. Do not let your policy gather dust. Regularly distribute and communicate your policy to employees.
3. Train and retrain your employees. Conduct EEO and anti-harassment training for your entire work force, keeping records of who attends and the program content. It's best to have separate training for managers, because their responsibilities are more extensive.
4. Avoid age-based comments. Caution all employees that written or spoken comments about an employee's age—even if seemingly made in jest—are inappropriate and potentially illegal.
5. Don't rely on stereotypes. It's a mistake to assume that older employees are less flexible or less willing to learn new skills, such as adapting to new computer systems or accepting a promotion that would require a lot of travel.
Utilizing these types of questions to gain insight from a departing employee can be very revealing. More importantly, asking these same questions of current employees periodically may prevent the loss of a valued colleague.
Verifying Applicant Information for New Talent
Recruiting and employing new talent remains one of the most important management priorities in today's eyecare practice. Before extending an offer to a new employee, however, make sure to follow the following essential points:
1. Obtain signed authorization from the individual to check references and verify all information provided on the job application.
2. Require signed job applications from all job candidates, which include a statement that any misrepresentations or omissions will be grounds for termination.
3. Have applicants provide contact information for prior employers as well as personal references.
4. Verify degrees and training by contacting schools and colleges.
5. Verify licenses with licensing agencies.
6. Contact former employers to verify job performance, dates of employment, positions held, salary and responsibilities. Ask the former employer whether they would rehire the candidate.
7. Keep a record of all reference activities as well as responses received, even if the response is a refusal to provide information. If the individual is hired, be sure reference materials are maintained in a record separate from the employee file.
8. Make sure consumer and investigative reports obtained are consistent with state and federal requirements.
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Department of Labor Revises New FMLA Rules
In February, the U.S. Labor Department offered a comprehensive revision of the procedural rules governing the federal
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The proposed new FMLA regulations are intended to update and streamline the law.
"This proposal preserves workers' family and medical leave rights while improving the administration of FMLA by fostering better communication in the workplace," said Labor Department administrator Victoria Lipnic. "It's time to update these regulations—to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren't contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995."
In January, the 15-year-old FMLA was amended for the first time to allow employees time off to be with family members who are in the U.S. military, reserves, and National Guard. The proposed regulations recently issued by the Labor Department do not address the new military-related FMLA leaves, although they do ask for public comment about them.
The new regulations were needed, in part, because of several court decisions that had found certain of the regulations invalid. Additionally, the Department hopes to clarify certain FMLA terms, such as the definition of "serious health condition.”
The proposed rules also address the following issues:
- An employee's duty to request FMLA leave in advance
- Employer notification requirements
- Responsibilities of joint employers
- Employee eligibility and breaks in service
- Counting time off and light-duty assignments
- Releases and waivers of FMLA claims
- Medical certification and recertification procedures
Unlike the FMLA military-related amendments, which took effect immediately when enacted in January 2008, the Labor Department's proposed regulations are neither final nor official. Instead, the Department is inviting public comment for 60 days and may possibly revise the proposed rules in the upcoming months before they become final.
Tips for Dealing with New HR Laws, Regulations, Court Decisions
When it comes to HR issues, no matter what changes the law brings, there are some general principles and techniques to follow in dealing with them. You may want to adopt this step-by-step approach:
1. To get a sense of what the new challenge is all about, ask:
- Does the new law or regulation apply to my organization?
- When does the law or regulation take effect?
- What are the penalties for noncompliance?
- What is the intent of the new law or regulation?
- What does the new law or regulation require us to do?
2. Determine what changes the new law or regulation will require:
- What budget allocations will be necessary?
- How will policies change?
- What procedures need to be revised?
- What existing plans need to be altered?
- What departments will be affected?
- What individuals will be affected?
3. Make an implementation plan for management's approval. Include:
- The name of the person in charge of implementation
- Goals and outcomes
- Schedules and deadlines
- Milestones and intermediate steps, if it is a complex implementation
- Specific policy and procedure changes
- Associated paperwork, online forms, or recordkeeping
4. Follow and complete the plan.
5. Perform testing if necessary.
6. Implement procedures.
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