Mentorship Programs

How to improve employee onboarding with mentorship programs

Few things are more nerve-wracking than starting a new job. New hires are often apprehensive when they walk through the door on their first day, and their long-term engagement and success can be affected by how well you onboard them during the first few weeks. One great way to transition your new employees is through mentorship programs. By connecting rookie employees with seasoned mentors, you can improve morale, training quality, and even retention.   Tweet: By connecting rookie employees with seasoned mentors, you can improve morale, training quality, and even retention. http://ctt.ec/UYlu2+

Mentoring offers a host of perks for the entire workplace, such as a friendlier work atmosphere and enhanced job training. Workplace veterans can provide newbies with tips for internal processes, cultural norms, and even job-specific skills. For instance, at Achievers, all new hires are paired with a “buddy” who takes them out to lunch during their first week, introduces them to other employees, and helps them access all the resources they need to complete their onboarding paperwork and checklist.

This relationship can create an increased sense of belonging for new hires as well as a feeling of purpose for long-term employees. Instead of creating a competitive atmosphere in the workplace, you’re encouraging collaboration and peer-to-peer support.

Ideally, mentorship programs should be well-planned and thoughtfully executed to ensure that the process runs smoothly. HR should start off by talking with long-term, respected employees to gauge their interest in becoming mentors. Offering a reward for participation is a great way to entice mentors who might worry about time management and availability. At Achievers, both the new hire and the “buddy” receive reward points when the new hire successfully completes their onboarding checklist. This incentivizes both parties to work together to get everything done.

When building a mentorship program, it’s important to outline specifics like the pairing approach, program length, and collaboration frequency. Mentors will be more likely to participate if they understand exactly what their time commitment needs to be.

You’ll also need to decide how mentorships will be assigned and how outcomes will be measured. What’s the appropriate ratio of new hires to mentors? For smaller companies, a 1:1 ratio is ideal, but many large businesses prefer small groups.

Will new hires be paired with a peer or with a senior team member? Will they be paired with someone on their team or in a different department?

Before you roll out a mentorship program across your organization, consider recruiting a small test group of mentors and new hires that you work with closely to monitor their activities and get feedback. Take your learnings from the test group to create a carefully documented set of expectations and responsibilities for future mentors. Think strategically about how you can set incentives, and then publicize those incentives, to attract the best set of mentor volunteers. Mentoring will be one of the first impressions your company makes on new employees, so you want it to be easy, streamlined, and genuinely helpful.

Commuting to Work

Driving me crazy: How bad commutes affect employee retention

There’s nothing worse than sitting in traffic or squeezing onto a crowded subway. But for many workers, it’s the way they both start and end their day. When we think about the issues that most affect employee happiness and turnover, we often overlook a major factor that actually takes place outside the office: the quality and length of an employee’s commute.

Long commutes can cause personal problems, physical problems, and ultimately disengagement from the workplace. Tweet: Long commutes can cause personal problems, physical problems, and ultimately disengagement from the workplace http://ctt.ec/frg2v+

While a recent study by the Brookings Institution shows that commute distances for both urban and suburban residents are increasing overall, managers do have options. There are a number of changes you can make within your organization to help relieve the negative effects of commuting to work.

One big impact that long commutes have on people’s lives is that they increase their sense of loneliness. Harvard social scientist Robert Putnam has studied social isolation at length, and he discovered that “every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10 percent fewer ‘social connections’.” To alleviate your employees’ sense of isolation as they travel to and from work, you can help them set up carpool or vanpool options. That way, they can break the isolation and connect with colleagues while underway.

If employees do need to rely on personal vehicles to get to work, you can make their lives easier by flexing hours in response to local traffic patterns. If you allow someone’s workday to begin and end slightly earlier or later than the standard rush hours, they can avoid gridlock and get to and from home faster.

Since long commutes result in more time spent sitting down (and more fast food consumed en route) you can help employees counter these effects by placing stronger emphasis on healthy habits in your workplace. You can replace the office donut box with fresh fruits and raw vegetables, and offer subsidized benefits such as gym memberships and smoking cessation assistance. Get more ideas for encouraging health in the workplace from our article 5 ways to make healthy lifestyle part of your company culture.

Another way to solve the commute issue is to lessen or eliminate it; telecommuting, compressed work weeks, and job-sharing options allow employees to complete work with less physical travel. The number of employees who work remotely grew by almost 80 percent between 2005 and 2012, and these numbers increased across all sectors even during the recession.

Finally, some employers are considering commute time as a selection factor in hiring, and some job candidates have mixed feelings about the practice. Just ask this letter-writer to the Ask a Manager blog who doesn’t understand why potential employers should care about her 2-hour commute.

While this hiring approach might eventually weed out the commuting problem altogether, it might not be the most effective or ethical way to screen candidates. Xerox, for example, decided not to use data regarding job applicants’ distance from the workplace because it wanted to ensure that its hiring policies were not discriminatory – i.e. because in some areas, lower-income communities might be located farther from the city center.

Whichever approach you take, make sure that your people leaders have awareness of and sensitivity toward commuting issues. Small changes and allowances can have a big impact on employee engagement, health, and productivity long term.

Employee Onboarding, Training, and Development

All aboard! How employee onboarding can affect the rest of their tenure

Employee onboarding is an essential part of the hiring process, and when it’s done effectively, it can set the foundation for long-term success in the employee’s new role. Too often, however, managers don’t realize the importance of onboarding and the long-term benefits of training and development, so they end up providing a poor-quality employee experience. This has very real effects: according to SHRM, “Half of all senior hires fail within 18 months in a new position, and half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first 120 days.”
Do you know the best practices for effectively onboarding your new hires? See if you identify with either of the scenarios below.

Scenario 1
On your new employee’s first day of work, you sit him or her down at a workstation and give them a large file of HR forms to fill out. After these documents have been submitted, you present the new hire with their first set of tasks and tell them to get started. You assume if they have questions, they will ask. Coworkers mostly leave the new employee alone, because they assume the person has a lot to figure out and doesn’t have time for small talk. You see onboarding as a practical to-do list: setting up a new log-in and work area and making sure the new hire is briefed on logistics such as exit, entry, schedules, and timesheets. Once the logistics are covered, you feel that onboarding is complete.
If the scenario above sounds familiar, you may be losing good employees because you’re not effectively integrating them into your organization right from the start. Scenario 2, below, demonstrates an approach that’s informed by the best onboarding practices:

Scenario 2
You gather together a set of new employees for a multi-day onboarding session, and you encourage them to think like a team. Enthusiastic brand ambassadors provide a personal welcome and company orientation, with form-filling as an interim activity that all new hires do in the same physical space. After the initial session, a peer mentor is assigned to each new hire to introduce them to co-workers and orient them to the expectations for their role. Co-workers invite the new hire to join them for a team lunch and stop by their work station frequently to offer a greeting or helpful tip and check in with how they’re doing. On several occasions after hiring, you seek feedback from your new employee about their onboarding process, and ask whether they have any suggestions for improving it.
The faster your new hires feel comfortable and confident with their new coworkers and new responsibilities, the sooner they will begin contributing to your organization’s mission in a meaningful way. The benefits of appropriate onboarding, training, and development will pay off well in building staff loyalty and strengthening your employer brand reputation for future hires.

The Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility

The importance of corporate social responsibility programs for employee engagement

Organizations with well-defined social responsibility programs can improve their brand reputation, attract more job candidates and customers, and increase employee engagement.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs arose from the understanding that businesses function as a part of society—the success of each deeply affects the other. The importance of corporate social responsibility has increased in recent years, in large part due to the growing influence of millennials. According to the Brookings Institute, within 10 years millennials will represent three quarters of the workforce. For this generation, brand loyalty belongs to companies that offer actionable solutions to specific social problems. Eighty-three percent of millennials expect businesses to try harder and achieve more with their social responsibility programs, according to a recent study.

This discerning generation is seeking out companies to work for and to patronize that make genuine contributions to charitable and social causes. This shift in values makes a real difference financially. A report by the Harvard Business Review pointed out that there is a strong link between CSR programs and profitability: “CSR can be much more than a cost, a constraint, or a charitable deed—it can be a source of opportunity, innovation, and competitive advantage.”

Additionally, the US Federal Reserve found that three out of four (74 percent) of the highest revenue companies in the US now have CSR programs. Globally, the percentage of CSR reporting organizations rose to 80 percent of the world’s largest corporations.

From an HR standpoint, corporate social responsibility programs are instrumental in helping employees feel more engaged and more aligned with the company’s mission, vision, and values. According to Forbes, “More and more, executive management came to realize that employees expected choice and access in their giving and volunteering.”

How can companies allow their employees to get involved with social responsibility at work? Here are some examples of how companies are encouraging employees to get involved with social responsibility programs:

  • Toyota offers each employee a $250 grant to their favorite charity after they complete 50 hours of public service.
  • HP allows employees to take four paid hours for volunteering each month.
  • Timberland invites and encourages employees, business partners, and even customers to get involved in its volunteering efforts.
  • KPMG hosts recognition award dinners where senior managers personally congratulate employees who excel in volunteering.

Other popular CSR programs include the coordination of group trips for employees to volunteer together during the work day, and employer matching for employee donations to specified charities.

The future of business belongs to millennials, who are the largest population group in US history and already outnumber baby boomers. They were raised with concerns about society and the environment, and they look to businesses to solve the world’s greatest problems. Meanwhile, many of the world’s most successful organizations have incorporated social responsibility into their core brand mission and messaging.

At Achievers, we’re such big believers in the power of CSR for employee engagement that we’ve dedicated one of our Achievers 50 Most Engaged Elite 8 Awards to corporate social responsibility. In 2015 the honor went to Netsuite, Inc. for initiatives led by its corporate citizenship arm, Netsuite.org.

Corporate Wellness Programs

Step it up! 5 ways to make healthy lifestyle part of your company culture

Corporate wellness programs can lead to better employee engagement, greater productivity, and fewer long-term health care costs. However, you don’t need enterprise-level resources to support your employees in leading a healthier lifestyle. Even small and mid-sized businesses can introduce changes that will support a culture of health and wellness, and many of them don’t cost anything.

“The workplace is too often an overlooked but important part of the employee well-being equation. With people spending so much time on the job, it’s key for companies to recognize their influence on people’s health, well-being, and productivity,” said Chris Boyce, CEO of Virgin Pulse, the habits-focused well-being company. “Ultimately, there’s no silver bullet when it comes to improving employee well-being, and successfully changing habits goes way beyond a person’s individual willpower. As an organization, anything you can do to support your people’s health will make a difference. It’s all about helping them by making small tweaks to the environment and culture so that healthy choices and changes are easier.”

  1. Promote exercise

Physical activity is one important key to better health. Depending on the size and nature of your workplace, you have many options for encouraging your workers to be active. Secure bike parking and employee showers are great options if your facilities allow for those, but simpler innovations can also be effective. Establish and incentivize a lunch hour walking club, or subsidize gym memberships and give points for hours attended. Fitness trackers are also increasing in popularity, and they allow employees to track their steps and other relevant health data. Holding friendly competitions, such as steps challenges, using these devices is a great way to integrate technology into your wellness programs.

  1. Get everyone on their feet

Numerous research studies indicate that prolonged periods of sitting result in unique health problems, and that “exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting,” according to one biomedical researcher. Provide your staff with standing desk options and encourage hourly stand-and-stretch breaks. Walk-and-talk meetings are another great option, because they simultaneously allow for physical activity while also keeping meetings from running too long.

  1. Offer healthy snacks

Good nutrition will give your employees the stamina they need to stay sharp throughout the workday. While special occasions still warrant cookies and cake, you should support your workers’ daily nutrition with healthier options. Stock vegetable snack trays, fresh fruit baskets, and plenty of low-calorie snacks that people can grab when they’re in a rush. Be sure to position healthy options right within eyesight, and consider hiding less healthy options in cabinets or in opaque containers to reduce temptation. Laszlo Bock, the SVP of People Operations at Google, refers to these easy techniques as “nudges,” and they’re extremely powerful. Google employees were able to cut 3 million calories from their diets as a result of nudges, and your employees could see similar results.

  1. Support mental health

Stress, anxiety, and depression are destructive forces in your employees’ lives. Linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, and immune disorders, these mental health issues also lead to sleep deprivation, family problems, and poor performance at work. Your company and employees both will benefit from any programs you put in place to address these common issues. In addition to providing support resources for employees in need, review your health benefits to ensure that you’re providing adequate mental health care coverage, and encourage or require employees to use all of their allotted vacation days.

  1. Prevent illness

Flu season takes its toll each year on productivity, as employees and their family members succumb to long spells of illness. Furthermore, a hard bout of flu weakens the immune system, leaving the person vulnerable to whatever ambient infections cross their path. If possible, provide on-site flu vaccines to your entire staff. If this isn’t feasible, consider subsidizing your employees’ share of vaccine costs and provide paid time to go and get the shots. Additionally, managers should always encourage sick employees to stay home—not only will they recover more quickly, but they won’t spread their illness to colleagues. Ensure that your managers are trained to prioritize employee health over face time.

The health of your business cannot be separated from the individual health of your employees. When your organization becomes an ally in supporting each member’s wellness, you’re committing to better engagement, improved productivity, and increased loyalty. À votre santé!

Employee HR Policies for retail stores

5 ways to improve employee health and wellness in the retail industry

When we consider which occupations pose a risk to employee health, retail positions don’t ordinarily come to mind. However, the OSHA category that includes retail workers suffers the second-highest number of on-the-job injuries and fatalities of all industry sectors. Fatalities in retail work are almost exclusively the result of assaults and violent acts, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control. Hazards leading to injury include long periods of standing, heavy and awkward lifting, falling from ladders, problems from indoor air quality, and repetitive manual tasks. Fortunately, you can address the hazards your workers face with a variety of straightforward adjustments. Provide a safer workplace with the top five health-related HR policies for retail stores:

  1. Stools and cushioned mats

Standing for long hours can result in swollen legs, back aches, joint damage, varicose veins, high blood pressure, and foot deformities. The best solution is to let your employees sit on stools while they work. If this is impossible, cushioned floor mats can ease discomfort and reduce the incidence of foot problems.

  1. Ergonomic lifting instructions

Many retail positions require employees to lift and move heavy objects. While back braces are often thought to reduce the risk of injuries, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reminds employers that scientific evidence does not support this. Your workers will be far safer if you fully instruct them on safe ergonomic lifting techniques.

  1. Security planning

Employees who work alone, especially at night, are vulnerable to violent assault. You can help keep your workers safe by training them to recognize and respond to workplace threats. Physical security measures include pairing workers when possible, ensuring their easy access to a phone, and removing large amounts of cash from registers during night shifts.

  1. Enforce breaks

Employees’ productivity and well-being will suffer if they work straight through lunch, breaks, and vacation days. Insist that all staff members take their allotted time off and that working excess hours will not be viewed positively at evaluation time. Ensure that store managers are trained to enforce all required breaks.

  1. Encourage healthy snacking

Team spirit may be bolstered by the occasional birthday cake or donut run, but you can set a different daily standard. Provide free snack plates of fresh vegetables and low-calorie dip for those times of the day when employees usually grab a fast-fix snack. A working fridge and microwave in the staff room will encourage your employees to bring lunches from home rather than relying on unhealthy fast food.

Employee engagement depends on many factors, but addressing basic health and wellness issues is essential for adequately engaging your staff and creating a positive, safe workplace for all.

Ways to Motivate Part-Time Employees

4 ways to engage your part-time and hourly employees

Employee engagement is tricky even for full-time employees who are immersed in your company culture. For hourly and part-time employees, true engagement is even more difficult to accomplish. In many cases, your hourly or part-time employees are working in lower-paying roles with limited flexibility, no benefits, and a clock-in/clock-out mentality.

If you’ve noticed that your part-timers are feeling disconnected or unmotivated, there are several ways to motivate employees that will improve their experience, and ultimately their job performance.

Employee-led scheduling

Many part-time and hourly employees have limited or no control over the schedule they work. This can lead to resentment when work hours interfere with other things that may be going on in their lives. It can also be unhealthy if employees are asked to work split shifts, or switch day and night shifts on a regular basis.

While your company needs coverage during peak times, empowering employees to be part of the overall schedule design is beneficial for two reasons: it helps your employees understand and align to the needs of your company, and it gives them more flexibility to maintain their own version of work-life balance.

Change the work environment

Take a good, long look around the environment you work in. Is it warm and inviting, or drab and uncomfortable? Having a pleasant work environment can positively impact the everyday moods of your employees. And when hourly and part-time employees are in a good mood at work, their level of engagement rises.

Changes don’t have to be extensive or expensive to create a big boost. Updating hazy or buzzing lights to bright whites, covering dingy paint jobs with warm colors, and adding some vibrant green plants are all fairly affordable and fast ways to improve an environment. This is another great area to involve your employees — challenge them to help create an atmosphere they’ll enjoy.

Keep people in the loop

Because part-time employees are out of the office much more than full-time staff, they can feel disconnected when they miss announcements, activities, or opportunities that took place while they were away. Managers should maintain a protocol for how they disseminate essential information to part-time employees throughout the week, so that they’re in the loop and ready to hit the ground running each time they come in.

Alternative benefits

It’s simply not cost efficient to provide the same insurance coverage and other benefits to part-time or hourly employees as it is for salaried staff. However, there may be ways you can engage hourly employees through alternative benefits. For instance, although your company may not be able to afford health or dental coverage for part-timers, you may be able to offer them access to plans your company has negotiated. They can enroll and self-pay for coverage that may be less expensive than going through a health exchange.

Regardless of their role, all employees need to be recognized and incentivized at work. Make an effort to praise and celebrate their accomplishments, positive behavior, and time in service. Whether you offer monetary rewards, additional perks, or just regular verbal praise, consistent recognition is a key way to improve engagement.

Chances are, your company’s success depends on your hourly and part-time employees just as much as it does on your full-time staff. By making easy changes and finding new ways to recognize and appreciate their work, you can keep your part-time team happy, reduce turnover, and even increase productivity.

 

Want to make recognition a bigger part of your total rewards package? Download our whitepaper to learn how.

Employee Training and Development

Make employee training a perk, not a chore

Many companies tout their employee training and development programs as major perks of employment, but their staff doesn’t always agree. Any professional education program will come with a price tag, so it’s crucial that your employees truly benefit from these offerings. If you offer programs that don’t meet the needs of your employees, you’ll pull them away from their work and add unnecessary commitments to their plate: a lose-lose situation for both the company and employees. Before you put a program in place, but sure that you’re establishing activities or courses that will genuinely contribute to your employees’ growth.

Do your homework

If you’re a program administrator, you have some essential homework to do before you convene your very first session. You need to find out each staff member’s attitude and experience about being in the role of a student. The right training approach for someone fresh out of graduate school will be very different from that for someone who hasn’t seen the inside of a classroom for decades. It’s also a good idea to ask each staff member how they learn best: Listening to explanations? Watching demonstrations? Role-playing and hands-on experimentation? A well-designed employee survey can give you valuable background information with which to design or select your education program.

Match training to needs

The ideal training programs will advance the interests of your entire business as well as that of individual staff members. Your choice of subject matter for employee development courses should be guided by the actual skill sets needed to meet current on-the-job demands. For instance, are your developers and engineers trained on the most cutting-edge tools and technology?

If you’re providing career advancement opportunities, your training needs to keep pace with your employees. Do you have leadership training in place for new managers? Do you have program or protocol training for employees who move cross functionally?

Set goals and measure achievement

Before starting the program, trainers must develop a list of competencies that students will achieve by the end of the program. These goals usually take the form of sentences stating, “After completing the training, students will be able to _______.” The blank is filled in with a specific skill or element of knowledge. Once these goals are set down, they provide a template for measuring the effectiveness of the training program after it has been completed. In addition to checking on how much your employees have learned, it is also important to ask them to evaluate the overall training experience. Anonymous survey tools allow participants to give constructive criticism of your program and trainer, providing valuable feedback for improving future sessions.

When they are well-designed, employee training and development programs constitute a significant on-the-job perk. Once you’ve committed the resources to making such education available to your staff, it’s important to go the extra mile and ensure the training is delivered in a way that employees will embrace and appreciate.

Employee Perks for the Summer

3 cool employee perks for the hot summer months

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.

While you’re at it, why not take a second look at the rest of your Total Rewards Package? There’s a lot more that you can include in your compensation toolkit besides salaries, bonuses, and a few cool perks. Download our whitepaper, The Total Package: Including recognition in the compensation toolkit, to learn more.

Employee Bonus Plan

Annual bonuses: How much do they actually incentivize employees?

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.

And if you’re running a recognition program manually with spreadsheets and closets full of rewards, you should know that there is a better way. Check out this whitepaper to learn how to make things easier.

 

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