3 cool employee perks for the hot summer months

Employee Perks for the Summer

Are you and your employees ready for summer? Maintaining employee engagement during summertime can be challenging. But you don’t need to resign yourself to a period of low productivity and motivation just because temperatures are rising. Try these employee perks to keep your team members in the game while also giving them a chance to enjoy the season.

Flexible Work Schedules

Flex schedules are the norm in an increasing number of workplaces, and summer may be when your employees need them the most. Kids are out of school, there may be gaps in childcare coverage, and it’s a prime time for much-needed vacations.

These easy perks don’t cost you anything, but they can help your employees manage this busy, transitional season:

  • Half-Day Fridays: Let your employees go home early either every week or every other week.
  • Revolving Home Days: If employees can complete work from home, set aside certain days and times for it. This lets employees work during “off” hours so they can be with kids or attend functions during normal work hours.
  • Schedule Swapping or Earned-Time Allowance: Planning vacations can be like composing a symphony—lots of moving parts need to come together to create an enjoyable time away. If employees have less vacation time than they need, let them earn more days off by working extra hours before a vacation to create an earned-time allowance. Similarly, make it easier for employees to switch shifts with coworkers to accommodate everyone’s time away.

Relaxed Dress Code

While you want your employees to maintain an appropriate appearance at work, consider allowing some leeway on the dress code during the summer. Let men lose their ties for a few months, and let women wear sleeveless shirts or dresses. The more comfortable employees feel while in the office, the more their heads will be in the game.

Freebie Fridays

Another way to celebrate your employees’ devotion while maintaining their engagement is to hold special events throughout the summer. A smoothie machine one week, chair massages another, or an employee gathering outside of work hours can go a long way toward showing your appreciation. In addition to work-sponsored events, consider arranging discounts with local businesses like sports teams or amusement parks so your employees can enjoy some summer fun at a discount.

With a little planning and a lot of appreciation shown for jobs well done, perks at work can effectively maintain, or even increase, employee engagement during the coming summer season. Flexibility and perks can be the key to continued company success.

Annual bonuses: How much do they actually incentivize employees?

Employee Bonus Plan

 

by Andrea Vearncombe, Total Rewards Manager, Achievers

Do you give your employees big annual bonuses as a reward for their work? Or perhaps you just give them out of tradition? If so, you have plenty of company: It’s common to rely on annual bonus plans to build employee motivation and pad salaries. However, a lot of bonus plans aren’t set up in a way that truly motivates good work. There’s a psychology behind rewards and incentives that you need to understand before you can create an effective bonus structure.

Do you give them, or do employees earn them?

If bonuses are going to serve as an incentive, you need to provide employees with clear metrics and objectives so that they understand exactly what they need to accomplish to earn the bonus. If you have a structure where everyone gets a bonus no matter what, that will quickly demotivate some employees, because they expect to receive a check regardless of their performance.

In addition to being clear, the bonus objectives need to strike a balance so that they’re not too far-fetched, or too easy. The goals should be attainable.

Too little, too late

Employees come to work every day of the year, and you need them to feel motivated and engaged on each one of those days. Most bonuses, however, only come 1-4 times per year. Even if employees feel a sense of satisfaction when they finally get their check (and research shows that sometimes they don’t), it won’t provide motivation for an employee who faces a challenging work situation weeks or months before bonuses are due. Furthermore, annual bonuses can actually spawn resentment or entitlement, creating interpersonal conflicts among employees or alienation from the company during a financially lean year.

Reward more with less

While financial incentives can be an effective way to motivate and reward employees, employers shouldn’t rely on periodic payout as their only method of engagement. Managers and employees should recognize each other and celebrate accomplishments both large and small all throughout the year. Real-time recognition that’s tied directly to an employee’s contribution is often more effective than the annual bonus—and it costs a lot less.

 

Andrea Vearncombe  Andrea Vearncombe is responsible for leading the global total rewards and culture strategy for Achievers in North America and EMEA.

 

 

Should you let your employees go remote? How to weigh the risks and benefits

Benefits of Telecommuting

The benefits of telecommuting are becoming clearer, and this practice has gained popularity so fast that it is now considered a standard perk in some industries. Forrester Research predicts that by 2016, 43 percent of the U.S. workforce will primarily work from home. Not only that, but a Global Workplace Analytics survey found that 36 percent of employees would choose a telecommuting option over a pay raise. Would your organization benefit from allowing, or encouraging, some employees to work remotely? There are a few key factors you should consider before you decide to offer this option. And be aware—if you don’t discuss telecommuting proactively, your employees will likely start asking about it soon.

First, consider what types of jobs are best suited for remote work. Obviously anyone dealing with customers, patients, or physical objects can’t telecommute. If you have team members whose effectiveness depends on immediate information exchange, then their roles are not well-suited for telecommuting. However, many information-based jobs can be done from home just as well as they can from a cubicle, if not even better. Many employees report higher levels of productivity at home, when they don’t have to deal with distractions from coworkers, ambient noise, and difficult commutes.

Effective telecommuting requires certain basic ingredients, both human and technological. Before being granted the right to work remotely, an employee should demonstrate consistently high performance and commitment to the job. Once they’re home, they’ll have no oversight, so managers will need a good way to track results and keep employees accountable. (Though this is true even for employees who come into the office every day – results speak much louder than butt-in-seat-time).

Additionally, you will have to consider the technology needed to support effective remote workstations. Will your staff members need to share a virtual whiteboard space, have real-time group meetings, or simultaneously mark up documents? Remote work platforms are becoming more sophisticated, but it might take some up-front investment on your part to provide your employees with high-quality software and audio and video equipment.

Telecommuting is somewhat unstructured by nature, so creating a structure is a good idea. Be clear with your employees about what hours you expect them to be available, and through what means of communication. Ask for input from your employees, and engage in conversations about the possible issues that might arise. Once you have the technology and policy in place, begin slowly: Have workers telecommute one or two days a week at first, and then evaluate how things are going at the end of each month. While you may increase this schedule to several days a week, you’ll probably still want to have regular meeting times where everyone comes together in the same place. It’s important that employees continue to feel a sense of belonging and identification with your organization.

Employee engagement is the key to business success. Employees feel more engaged and productive when they are able to effectively balance work and family obligations. In fact, businesses whose workers telecommute at least three times a month are likelier to see a 10 percent higher annual revenue growth. That means that telecommuting doesn’t just benefit your employees—it can benefit your business’ bottom line as well.  When managed well, your team of virtual employees can get the best of both work worlds.

You look like you need a vacation: Helping your employees disconnect

Work-life balance tips

Are you one of the 64 percent of managers who expect their employees to be continually available by email and phone? This figure comes from a recent survey by Workplace Trends, and the ramifications of blurring the boundaries between personal time and work time are concerning. Too often, both employers and employees assume that true dedication means they’re never off the clock – in reality, this inability to leave work behind yields only inefficiency and emotional burnout. Forward-thinking employers support (and even pay) their staff to disconnect completely when they’re not at work.

Weekends and vacations act as mental “reset buttons,” helping workers remain effective by allowing them to refresh themselves and engage fully in other interests. Decades of research show that humans perform better when they have the chance for rest and recuperation. Football coaches encourage players to get plenty of rest before a game, and colleges warn students not to study all night long before a big exam.

An increasing number of businesses now recognize that their workers are more engaged on the job when they have the chance to disconnect. In fact, the CEO of Evernote now pays employees $1,000 to take a vacation in which they stay entirely disconnected from work. FullContact went one step further, offering its employees $7,500 to take non-working vacations.

The trend toward working from home and using personal mobile devices on business trips creates confusion about what constitutes personal time. In addition, the economic pressures of the recent recession have instilled fear in employees that if they take truly disconnected vacations, they might be passed over for promotions.

To encourage your employees to get the mental refreshment they need, here’s a quick list of work-life balance tips:

  • Set an example: When you’re not working, let your staff know that you aren’t available by phone or email.
  • Make disconnecting during non-work hours a company-wide policy, and publicize it widely.
  • Provide assistance with delegating, especially if your employees have a tough time believing it is safe to leave work in a colleague’s hands.
  • Reassure workers that you don’t value them on the basis of over-connectedness. Instead, praise them for demonstrating good mental hygiene (as shown by being able to step away from phone and email).
  • Incentivize taking all the allotted vacation time.

Even if it takes a bit of effort to break the habit, your organization will benefit from the change in culture. When your employees have the chance to take a true break from work on evenings, weekends, and vacations, they’ll come back with increased productivity and improved morale.

Failing grade: Why hiring managers lose out when focusing on GPA

Questions Hiring Managers Should Ask

How do you evaluate candidates for a job? Is college grade point average (GPA) an important metric that you integrate in your decision? In an era when analytics have become a key part of almost every business decision, GPA seems like an obvious number to rely on. It’s time to realize, however, that not all metrics are created equal. Many human capital experts agree that GPA has little or no predictive value for the performance of a student in their eventual job. In fact, according to Laszlo Bock, the SVP of People Operations at Google, their hiring managers have stopped this approach: “One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation,” Bock said.

Because college students typically enter their undergraduate studies as teenagers, there are countless reasons why they might have sub-optimal performance in the classroom. At that age, students are only beginning to navigate the world as independent adults. We’re all aware that some of the deepest life lessons are acquired outside the classroom, and often those lessons involve learning from painful mistakes. If those experiences show up as low grades, then GPA will not attest to the true learning that took place.

If you collect this uninformative data, you won’t be able to avoid relying on it; it’s just human nature to be biased in favor of a candidate with a 3.9 GPA over one with a 3.0. A numerical bias of this kind can prevent you from finding the best candidates, or from comparing applicants on the basis of qualities that really make a difference. For example, one key quality that reliably correlates with workplace success is employee engagement. If your new hires are a good cultural fit for your workplace and their personal ambitions are aligned with the values of your company, they’re more likely to be motivated, productive, and successful.

It’s true that hiring managers should consider many factors when vetting a candidate, but be careful not to cloud your judgement by gathering irrelevant information. The questions hiring managers should ask should focus instead on behavioral interview questions that determine a candidate’s thought processes, problem-solving skills, experiences, motivations, and personality. Your understanding of which candidates are a better fit is, in the end, far more relevant than a number on a transcript from long ago.

Money doesn’t motivate: Why employees need more than just a paycheck

Salary and Job Satisfaction

by Andrea Vearncombe, Total Rewards Manager, Achievers

Why do your employees show up at work every morning? If you think it’s just to earn a paycheck, then you’re overlooking something essential about human motivation. Most people agree that fair compensation is a requirement for employee engagement and job satisfaction, but it only meets the bare minimum.

Research studies published in Harvard Business Review demonstrate that the overlap between pay level and job satisfaction is actually less than two percent. Of course salaries have to be competitive if you want to attract and retain employees in the first place, but once people are able to meet their basic lifestyle needs, their happiness and engagement are actually driven by non-financial factors.

Harvard researchers noted that corporate performance is directly correlated with employee motivation, so they ran a large-scale study to determine exactly how managers can foster a strong climate of motivation within their teams.

In a survey of 300 Fortune 500 companies, the researchers focused on four specific indicators of motivation:

  • Employee engagement
  • Satisfaction
  • Commitment
  • Intention to quit

They defined “engagement” as the “energy, effort and initiative that employees bring to the job.” Their research found that none of these four indicators of motivation were actually influenced by salary.

They also discovered two important human needs that determined how engaged employees will be. The first of these is the need to bond with larger teams and groups. When an employee feels proud to be part of an organization or company, they are strongly motivated to give their best effort. The second need that companies can fulfill is the individual’s desire to be challenged and to make a unique and meaningful contribution to their organization.

The take-away for HR and people leaders is that recognition and rewards shouldn’t just come in the form of salaries and bonuses. Instead, the most effective way to foster engagement is by acknowledging the human need for bonding and teamwork. Positive social recognition from both managers and peers will encourage individuals to meet challenges and contribute to the success of their team. When employees feel acknowledged and appreciated by the people around them, they’re more likely to repeat the behaviors that earned praise.

Because this element of human-to-human bonding and recognition is so essential for job satisfaction, it needs to be systemic within your organization. Don’t leave recognition up to chance. Develop a strategy around how recognition and rewards will be distributed across each sector of your company so that every employee has the chance to participate. By making investments in employee alignment, rewards and recognition, and team bonding activities, you can earn much higher returns than just doling out large raises.

 

Andrea VearncombeAndrea Vearncombe is responsible for leading the global total rewards and culture strategy for Achievers in North America and EMEA.

4 things you need to understand before hiring a new college grad

Hiring Millennials with Graduate RecruitmentThese days, many companies are clamoring for college grads; each year brings a fresh pool of talent for you to tap. The great news about graduates is that if they’re intelligent and adaptable, they can work in almost any sector of your business. But what’s the best way to compete against all the other organizations trying to recruit the same candidates?

Keep in mind that new graduate recruitment and hiring millennials requires a different approach than recruiting seasoned professionals.

Demonstrate your company’s mission and meaning

Most college students want to feel like they’re a part of something meaningful and something that has a positive impact on the world. If you want to attract this growth-oriented group, you need to demonstrate how your company makes a difference in your industry, your community, or the world.

If your company offers unique values, culture, or growth opportunities, don’t be afraid to highlight them. Are you performing work that has a big impact on society? Do you have a creative and innovative atmosphere in your workplace? Do you emphasize a collaborative team-based environment? Illustrate why your company is unique and innovative, and you’ll attract innovative young employees.

Understand where grads are coming from

Candidates that have just graduated present a much different recruiting challenge than other candidates. Most of them don’t have experience with the interview process, contract negotiations, and other professional norms.

Understand that recent grads are still a work in progress and that training and guidance are necessary at the start to build on the talents your candidates naturally possess. This will ensure your investment in a recent grad pays off with big dividends down the road.

Use the right recruiting tactics

Millennials have grown up almost entirely in the digital age, which means they are used to constant communication, using digital tools to achieve their goals, and plenty of flexibility. You can showcase your company’s strengths in these areas by using the following tactics:

  • Set up a peer interview to allow a recent grad to connect with other young employees in your organization who can answer their questions.
  • Explain how a grad’s skills will help a company or organization succeed. This will help a millennial candidate gain a clear vision of how they will gel with your company’s culture.
  • Consider offering flexible job hours or the future opportunity for remote work for certain grads that can complete the required tasks on their own schedules.

Retain employees the right way

After you recruit a millennial, it’s important to keep them engaged and satisfied with their job. Providing millennials with regular feedback on their job performance and recognizing them for the work they put in is key. That means routine employee engagement surveys are vital to keeping millennials happy.

It’s also necessary for you to reward millennials that are performing well. Recent grads aren’t the types who will put in years of work to gain seniority, and they will often change companies in pursuit of their ambitions. If you can demonstrate that advancement is based on results, you’ll be in a much better position to retain millennial employees.

How does that make you feel? Why employee mood is important

Woman Takes Employee Surveys for Employee MoraleIf you want to keep a pulse on your company’s health, you need to understand how engaged or disengaged your employees are feeling on a regular basis. It’s no longer sufficient to gauge employee satisfaction just once or twice a year. After all, if leadership, employee morale, or performance problems aren’t solved quickly, they can lead to a drop in productivity, job satisfaction, and customer service. Big data and frequent employee surveys are a great way to measure employee mood and satisfaction in real time.

Why companies need to understand their workforce

There’s a reason world-class companies are constantly assessing employee satisfaction: engaged employees are the engine that fuels growth, great ideas, and customer satisfaction.
It’s important to remember that employee engagement directly relates to the success of an organization. Would employees recommend other skilled people in the industry for a job at your company? Do they project a positive image when dealing with your clients and customers? Do employees feel they can openly approach supervisors with suggestions? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, then disengaged employees might negatively impact your business without you realizing it.

Stay on top of employee needs every day

Businesses are using real-time data to track their markets, their customers’ behaviors, their advertising performance, and more. So why don’t we start applying this same level of analysis to tracking employee engagement? Forget annual surveys: you should be measuring engagement on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

Frequent employee surveys will allow you to track the effects of changes in your business, such as new system implementation, changes in management, changes in company structure, or anything else that might affect engagement and morale.

Make smart changes based on employee feedback

Employee surveys are an excellent way to keep managers informed. Gather feedback on a variety of your business practices, including training, onboarding, work environment, leadership effectiveness, systems, and more. This feedback will empower you to take a data-driven approach to improving your processes, evaluating your leadership team, and improving employee engagement.

It’s also worth using survey data to influence business decisions. Will employees react positively to a merger? What benefits do they actually want? What do they think about your company’s new growth strategy? These are the kinds of important questions a survey can answer quickly to keep your business on track.

Building a business case: How to convince your company it’s time for a social recognition program

By now, you’ve heard the news: employee engagement is a huge challenge for the modern workforce. As a result, businesses are dealing with high turnover rates, absenteeism, low performance numbers, and loss of customers.

Studies have revealed that employee recognition is one of the top drivers of engagement, so for many HR professionals, recognition seems like the silver bullet.

Brandon Hall Employee Engagement Social Recognition

 

In fact, in 2014, Brandon Hall Group discovered that companies that invest in social recognition programs see a 96% employee participation rate in engagement efforts, versus only 38% participation with other types of engagement programs.

Despite the growing evidence in favor of these programs, implementing a robust social recognition strategy can be daunting. You need to get buy-in from your executives, compensation managers, IT, and people leaders before you can introduce new technology. And once you’ve launched, you need enthusiasm from leadership before you can expect adoption from your employees.

So how do you convince key stakeholders that social recognition is a smart business move? Executives are concerned about cost, effects on performance, and effects on the bottom line. Compensation managers are concerned about cost and analytics. IT is concerned about security and implementation. Managers are concerned about ease of use. An effective business case should speak to each one of these needs.

Before you start building your business case, ask yourself these questions to determine how you’re going to vet a social recognition solution:

  • What’s your budget for social recognition technology and employee rewards?
  • What pricing model is preferable for your organization?
  • What will implementation require?
  • How will this program align with your other talent initiatives?
  • How will you measure the program’s effect on engagement, retention, and productivity?

When you’re assessing potential solutions, keep in mind that true social recognition is more than just a traditional rewards or incentives program. “Social” recognition involves peer-to-peer acknowledgement, which fosters a sense of community among your teams. Employees are no longer operating in silos, motivated exclusively by large monetary incentives; they’re supporting each other’s accomplishments with public praise and encouragement. This shift in team behavior can transform the culture of your business.

Brandon Hall Group has compiled two independent reports that will give you the tools and information you need to properly vet, pitch, and implement a social recognition solution that will transform your business.

Are you ready to get started? Download their two-part research series right here:

Social Recognition Solutions

Life in the shadows: Don’t let one star employee outshine your team

Social Recognition for Introverted EmployeesIt’s easy to recognize the employees that talk the loudest or most often, but are they the only ones with something to say? What about those deep thinkers who enjoy creative time alone or in silence? Which social recognition strategies should you use to bring out the best in all of your employees, including those who don’t fight to be heard?

The extrovert often gains energy and insight while spending time with others. They feed on the interaction and thrive in a collective atmosphere. An introvert comes up with solutions and ideas most easily in a quiet environment, often alone, with time to think deeply. They can be good at spotting flaws in an otherwise accepted line of thinking.

These differences can lead to hearing only half of the available employee ideas. Here are some simple ways to be sure that you’re engaging all of your employees:

Give introverts time to think

Provide an agenda or information about what will be discussed at the next staff meeting. An extrovert may brainstorm solutions on the spot, but having a list of meeting goals and topics ahead of time will motivate an introvert to bring their ideas to the table. If you can give even an hour’s notice before a meeting, your introverted staff members will have a better chance to contribute what might be a critical solution for your company.

Facilitate employee interaction

Foster low-pressure opportunities for your employees to mingle throughout the day. Common spaces in the office can give employees who might not otherwise communicate the chance to interact. Create open areas with comfortable seating, snacks, and coffee, where people can talk and collaborate. You might just lure an introvert into interacting with other team members more regularly. It’s far easier to speak up at meetings if you’re familiar with fellow employees. It’s also easier for extroverts to encourage ideas from the introverts they’re getting to know on a casual basis.

Offer social recognition

Consistent recognition is valuable to all employees, both introverted and extroverted. Your outgoing employees might relish public praise in a meeting, whereas your introverted employees may prefer to receive a personal message that doesn’t put them on the spot.

Social recognition platforms give you a way to publicly praise all of your employees on a consistent basis, and they can help managers track who they’re recognizing and how often. This is a great way to ensure that the recognitions are distributed to the people who most deserve them – not just the people the people who command the most attention.