What is Discrimination?

A hiring manager, eager to fill an exciting new role in the company, reacquaints himself with a candidate’s resume as that candidate takes a seat across from him. Looking up, the hiring manager jolts involuntarily, surprised to see a gray-haired man likely in his late 50s—a much older person than he had envisioned for this cutting-edge job. While the interview goes well, the hiring manager feels that the candidate’s age makes him a bad fit.

Elsewhere, a vice president ponders which project manager would be the best person to assign responsibility for the development of a new feature on the company’s signature app. Contingencies aside, the choice is clear: Mikalah has had far and away the most success of anyone on the team and is eager to jump into this new assignment. But Mikalah announced last week that she’s pregnant, and while she hasn’t yet requested leave, the VP assumes Mikalah won’t be able to do as good a job this time around. After a moment’s consideration, the VP opts to assign the project to Doug.

After receiving complaints about unequal pay, an HR director conducts a pay audit of their workplace, discovering that the complaints have merit. By and large, men in the company are paid more than women, and in many cases, the disparities seem to be based only on gender. Merit, seniority, and productivity didn’t seem to enter the equation.

Each of these scenarios illustrates what discrimination can look like in the workplace. Discrimination occurs when people are treated differently or less favorably; it becomes illegal in the employment setting when it’s because a person belongs to a protected group.

Discrimination is often harmful, jeopardizing people’s jobs and careers, adding to their stress, and putting their health at risk. Employers who engage in or tolerate unlawful discrimination can face devastating lawsuits.

Antidiscrimination Law

Under federal law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an applicant or employee based on age (40 or older), disability, genetic information, national origin, race or color, religion, and sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation). These are called protected classes. Federal law also prohibits discrimination against an individual who complains about discrimination, files a charge of discrimination, or participates in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Federal antidiscrimination laws include, but aren’t limited to, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Equal Pay Act, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act). You can learn about the requirements of these laws, what exactly they prohibit, and the employee counts at which they apply on the platform.

State laws may offer additional protections to employees as well. For example, a number of states have amended their employment discrimination laws to specifically define race as including traits associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles. Information about these laws is also available on the platform.

It’s worth noting that discrimination doesn’t have to be deliberate to be unlawful. Discriminatory outcomes, intentional or not, can put your organization in a world of hurt.

Types of Unlawful Discrimination

Unlawful discrimination will generally fall into one of the following categories:

  1. Unfair treatment, which occurs when an employee or applicant is treated differently than others who are similarly situated because of a protected class or protected conduct.
  2. Disparate impact, which can happen when a neutral employment policy or practice disproportionately impacts persons within a protected class.
  3. Failing to undertake certain actions prohibited or required by law. For example, failing to reasonably accommodate a known disability of an employee or applicant.
  4. Harassment, which is unwelcome conduct that is based on a protected class. This includes sexual harassment. Harassment becomes unlawful when either enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment or the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
  5. Retaliation, which is punishing an employee (or treating them unfavorably) for complaining about job discrimination or assisting with a job discrimination proceeding, like an investigation or lawsuit.

The best way to avoid discrimination is to base employment decisions only on factors that are job-related.

Responding to a Complaint

If you receive a complaint that an employee has violated your discrimination policy, conduct a complete and well-documented investigation into the allegations. Assume neither guilt nor innocence and make no promise of a particular outcome. Speak with the employee who made the complaint, the accused employee, and any witnesses they name. Ask open-ended, non-accusatory questions.

Once the investigation is complete, document your conclusions and actions taken. If you determine the accused employee did in fact violate the company’s discrimination or other workplace policy, take the appropriate disciplinary measures, which, depending on the severity of the behavior, may include termination of employment. A memo summarizing the findings should be placed in the accused employee’s file.

It is then important to inform both the accused employee and the accuser about the conclusions of the investigation and any disciplinary measures taken. The complaining employee doesn’t need to know the specific disciplinary action, just that appropriate corrective action was taken. In some situations, it may be advisable to separate employees to limit the potential for future incidents, but care should be taken so this step doesn’t have a negative impact on the employee who raised the complaint.

Companies that do not make changes substantial enough to eliminate discrimination once they become aware of it face greater liability in the event of future issues. You can help reduce risk related to discrimination complaints by conducting a quick, thorough, fair, and well-documented investigation, followed by steps to minimize the risk of such actions happening in the future.

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Five Ways to Promote Mental Health in the Workplace

In a survey by McKinsey & Company, 75 percent of employers acknowledged that there’s a stigma around mental health in the workplace. People in the workplace, leaders included, are afraid to speak up about their mental health needs or ask for help. As the McKinsey report notes, employers can’t solve every problem contributing to poor mental health, but there is work they can do to reduce the stigma around mental health and promote healthy behaviors. We recommend these five actions: 

  1. When possible, give employees a little extra time to slow down and rest. Employees may need a moment to breathe or a day to regain their peace of mind, and they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for time to take care of themselves. The ability to occasionally function at a medium (or even slow) pace should be built into performance expectations so that employees can avoid burnout or breakdown.
  2. Offer paid time off (PTO), mental health benefits, and flexible schedules if appropriate. In some cases, employees may want to get mental health care but can’t afford it. Losing pay from a missed work shift might be too great a hardship, and effective treatments might be financially out of reach. These financial hindrances can exacerbate conditions like anxiety and depression. In other cases, employees can afford the time off and the treatments, but they can’t make regular appointments work with their schedules. If you can offer PTO, health insurance benefits, or flexible schedules, these can help employees get the care they need.
  3. Offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP gives employees access to expert, confidential assistance for substance abuse issues, relationship troubles, financial problems, and mental health conditions. These services are offered through an outside provider that connects employees with the appropriate resources and professionals. These programs enable you to provide professional assistance to employees in a confidential manner.
  4. Make reasonable accommodations when possible. If an employee informs you that they have anxiety, depression, or another mental health condition that’s affecting their work, begin the interactive process to determine what reasonable accommodation(s) you can provide in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA applies when an employer has 15 or more employees, but many states have similar laws that require employers to make accommodations at an even lower employee count. You can learn more about the ADA on the HR Support Center.
  5. Promote good mental (and physical) health in the workplace. Healthy habits are important for everyone to practice. Consider setting time aside during the week or month for employees to participate in activities like yoga, meditation, and mindfulness that develop and strengthen these habits. If you aren’t familiar with these practices, solicit the help of your employees. One or more of them may know a lot about these activities and be able to assist you in setting up a workplace program or modifying a program for employees currently working from home.

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Invest Time in Onboarding

There’s nothing like a bad onboarding experience to make a new hire regret accepting a job offer. It’ll take a lot of work to restore the employee’s trust if you’re lucky enough to keep them.

A good onboarding process provides new employees with everything they need to be successful. They receive whatever tools, equipment, and instruction they’ll need to do their job. They’re given time to read and reflect on company policies. They’re given time to get acclimated to the new environment. They’re introduced to members of their team and given time to connect with people in the company they’ll be working with closely. Remember that the experience should be reciprocal—onboarding is a time for the company to get to know the new hire better, too. In short, they’re given a warm welcome!

As with hiring, always look for ways to improve the onboarding process. Establish a way for newly onboarded employees to provide feedback anonymously.

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Making the Most of Job Interviews

When interviewing job candidates, time is critical.

The time you spend talking to candidates adds up quickly, especially if you have a lot of great candidates. That has a cost—you’re not getting other important work done. That time also goes by incredibly fast. Within the span of a brief discussion, you have to gather the information you need to make an informed hiring decision and to sell the role to a potential hire. And don’t forget you’re competing with other employers eager to snatch up talent. Every minute counts.

Wasting time also amounts to a bad experience for candidates. Aside from the fact that they have other things going in their lives, you will be asking at least one of them to make a good decision too. A bad decision, on your part or theirs, will likely result in you both parting ways sooner rather than later, compounding the cost of filling the role.

Let’s look at some basic practices that will enable you and your job candidates to make the best use of this time.

Before you conduct any interviews, document what the job entails and what core competencies will be needed to do it. Interviews are not the time to clarify what you want the job to be. If you go into interviews fuzzy about the functions of the job, you won’t be able to assess whether and how well candidates can perform.

Include questions about specific occasions when candidates used those competencies and what the outcome was. For example, if the job you’re hiring for will involve regularly de-escalating tense situations with irate customers, you might ask candidates to tell you about a time in which they were able to calm an irate customer. This method of questioning—called behavioral interviewing—cuts to the chase. You not only get an affirmative or negative answer as to whether the candidate possesses the competencies you need, but also obtain verifiable evidence (or not) that they’ve previously done what they say they can do. For behavioral questions to be most effective, pose the same questions to each candidate and evaluate their responses using the same criteria.

Put your interview team together (if really needed) and coordinate who’s asking what. If the person you hire will be working with multiple people, each with a unique stake in the work being done, it may be prudent to involve some of these employees in the interview process. If several employees will be participating in the interviews, meet with them ahead of time to formulate a plan so there’s no unnecessary overlap in the questions you’ll each be asking.

Connect each response to what’s needed for this new job. After a candidate has answered each question, take a brief moment to explain how this new job may be both similar to and different from what the candidate did previously. For example, if a previous role of theirs required them to complete five projects per week, and the new role would require them to complete a greater or fewer number of similar projects, mention that.

The purpose of doing this is to give the candidate a clear picture of the tasks and challenges they can expect in the role so they know what to anticipate if they eventually accept a job offer. There’s also a reason why now is an opportune time to make this connection. When a candidate is reflecting on a previous instance that required the competencies you need, they’re likely remembering how they felt at the time. Maybe they were energized. Maybe they hated the experience and vowed then and there to quit as soon as they could. Whatever the case, eliciting these feelings serves your interests and theirs—yes, even if it prompts their immediate departure from the candidate pool. The last thing you want is to hire someone who either can’t do the job or finds themselves unhappy doing it. You’re not just filling a role. You’re seeking the person who can be the most successful in it.

Don’t ask cute or clever questions. They’re a waste of everyone’s time. You’re almost certainly not going to learn anything useful by asking candidates what dessert they would be, how they’d plan a trip to the moon, or whether they prefer cats or dogs. Asking candidates to solve a made-up problem on the spot might yield interesting information, but unless the job involves a lot of unprompted problem-solving with no time to prepare, you’re better off asking candidates something else.

Keep questions job-related. Okay, we said earlier that the last thing you want to do is to hire the wrong person, but that’s not necessarily the worst thing that can happen. A bigger mistake than a bad hire is a hiring decision that nets you a costly discrimination claim. For example, if the job has a legitimate age requirement (such as operating machinery or serving alcohol), asking “How old are you?” will likely give rise to an age discrimination claim. Instead, just ask if they’re at least 18 years old (or whatever the required minimum age is).

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IRS Increases Mileage Reimbursement Rate Starting July 1, 2022

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that its optional standard mileage rate will increase to 62.5 cents per mile driven for business purposes. The increase takes effect July 1, 2022.

Use of this rate is optional, though it is widely used by employers as a standard rate for calculating mileage reimbursement for employees who use their personal vehicles for business purposes. If your organization uses the IRS rate to calculate mileage reimbursement, be sure to update your systems to account for this change.

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How Paid Family Leave and Related Programs Can Help Your Business

Employment benefits that improve quality of life, increase flexibility, and enable people to attend to their personal needs rank high among both employees and job-seekers. And yet, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while 79 percent of employees have access to paid sick leave, only 23 percent have access to paid family leave. 

What’s the difference between these benefits? Sick leave typically entitles people to take time off work when they or a family member are sick or need to see a doctor for preventative care. State-mandated sick leave benefits often top out around 40 hours per year, but paid sick leave is a common benefit that many companies offer even when it’s not required by law. Employees appreciate being able to rest and recover without a ding to their paycheck. Employers win because employees don’t come to work while sick and risk infecting coworkers and customers.

Paid family leave programs, whether funded by the state or offered by an employer out of the goodness of their heart, generally cover more lengthy illnesses and life events. For example, California’s state-sponsored program provides up to eight weeks of wage replacement benefits in a 12-month period. Benefits can be collected when taking time off for the birth of a child or adoption or foster care placement of a child; to care for an employee’s family member with a serious health condition; and to participate in a qualifying event as a result of a family member’s military deployment to a foreign country.

Unsurprisingly, not many companies offer their own paid family leave benefit. It is expensive, which is why states that provide paid family leave benefits typically fund it through payroll deductions. For employees, unpaid leave is better than no leave, but unpaid leave isn’t always a realistic option. In many cases, people who need time off to care for a family member can’t afford to take it—or they don’t take as much of it as they’d like. They feel they have no choice but to work. Paid leave, on the other hand, gives people a real option to take time off. It makes it possible for them to balance their obligations at work and at home.

Paid family leave can have an upside for your business too. When people feel needed at home, but can’t afford to take time off, they are distracted, extra stressed, fatigued, and prone to burnout. Their mind isn’t on the job—it’s on the loved one that needs them. When a business offers paid time off, it makes an investment in its people, a small short-term loss for a big long-term gain. Paid leave gets people back to work when they’re actually ready and able to work effectively, and it generates feelings of loyalty toward the company that was there for them when they needed it. That’s why employers keen on attracting and retaining skilled people often choose to offer various paid leave benefits when they’re not legally required to do so.

If you determine a paid family leave benefit is something your company would like to offer, here are some of our recommended practices:

  1. Clearly communicate what your paid family leave policy covers—how much money and time is offered and for what reasons. A lot of different benefits can be put under the “family leave” umbrella. To avoid confusion or misunderstanding, be clear about what you offer. Paid leaves to consider include baby bonding, bereavement leave, taking care of an ill or injured family member, and military family leave. Clarify what each leave can be used for. For example, if you offer paid time off for bereavement, your policy might specify that it can be used following the death of an immediate family member or the loss of a pregnancy.
  2. Be sure that you aren’t creating a leave program that’s discriminatory. To avoid a gender discrimination complaint, provide baby bonding leave for both parents in equal amounts. Baby bonding leave should also be available for an employee who is adopting or fostering a child.
  3. Along similar lines, if you also provide paid short-term disability benefits, treat paid leave for baby bonding completely separate. In other words, a pregnant employee would get disability benefits when they’re disabled during and after pregnancy. Then, once they’re no longer disabled (or when their disability benefit runs out), their paid family leave for baby bonding starts. Collapsing pregnancy disability and baby bonding leave together could give rise to complaints of disability discrimination or gender discrimination.
  4. Encourage use of your paid leave programs. Sometimes employees are nervous about taking time off—or too much of it—even when it’s offered to them. They may feel that they’re inconveniencing their coworkers or irritating their boss—as though paid leave is allowed but may be frowned upon. This is a cultural problem, and it has a cultural solution. First, regularly talk to your employees about the importance of taking time off—for whatever reason. Second, when people do take time off, talk about it as a good thing. Third, if the situation calls for it, offer additional support. Let the employee know you’re there for them if needed.  
  5. Ensure that employees aren’t penalized for using paid family leave. Often there is a disconnect between what HR and company executives want to offer and what managers actually tolerate. For example, if you were to see a trend that employees who use the paid family leave benefit are less likely to be promoted, you’d want to look at why that is and take steps to correct it. If employees discover that use of their benefits puts their career development at a disadvantage, this may discourage them from reaping the benefits of paid time away and expose the company to discrimination claims.

You can learn more about paid family leave and related compliance obligations on the platform. Select “Leaves and Accommodations” under the Topics tab at the top of the page or use the search bar if you have a specific question in mind.

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DHS Ends Temporary Policy for Form I-9 Identity Documents

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ended its temporary Form I-9 policy that allows employers to accept List B documents that expired on or after March 1, 2020.

DHS adopted the temporary policy in response to the difficulty of renewing documents during COVID. Since then, document-issuing authorities have reopened or provided alternatives to in-person renewals. Employers must now return to only accepting unexpired List B documents.

Action Item

If an employee presented an expired List B document between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2022, you need to update their Form I-9 by July 31, 2022, as follows:

  • If the employee is still employed, they must present an unexpired document from either List A or List B. If presenting a List B document, it could be a renewed version of the document previously provided, or a different List B document. You should enter the document title, issuing authority, document number, and expiration date in the “Additional Information” field of Section 2, and initial and date the change. USCIS provides an example of how to do this here
  • If the employee is no longer employed, no action is needed.

If the List B document was auto-extended by the issuing authority so that it was technically unexpired when it was presented, no action is needed.

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The Qualities of Great Managers and How to Develop Them

Think about your favorite manager. Now think about what made them your favorite. Was it the success you earned while working with them? Your employer may have evaluated them based on metrics like team productivity or turnover rates. Great managers are usually good at leading productive, low-turnover teams, but those aren’t the things their employees remember.

So what about them left such an indelible mark on you? Perhaps this manager was easily approachable and worthy of your trust. Perhaps they effectively led your team through a major change and had your back the whole way. Perhaps they were always laser-focused on developing their team—on developing you.

In our view, the success of a manager is defined by the success of the people they lead. We rate a manager’s performance based largely on how their team is doing.

Bad Management Practices Are Rampant, But That Can Change

Unfortunately, the terrible manager remains a popular character in our collective consciousness—and for good reason. There’s no shortage of managers unwisely promoted into the role or given insufficient training to manage people well.

You’ve got the micromanager, the bully, the leader who plays favorites, and the boss who emails subordinates in the middle of the night only to not be available for clarification or responses during the workday. You’ve likely met or heard about the manager who frequently blows off meetings, neglects to give needed details on a project, or takes credit for the work of others. Horror stories abound in review sites, online communities, and conversations across the land.

With bad management practices so rampant, it’s easy for people to forget that there are lots of managers who do their job well. Many do it exceptionally well. That’s why we want to look at the characteristics of the best managers and what businesses can do to hire, promote, and develop these leaders.

Qualities of the Best Managers

The best managers work hard to improve the work lives of their team members. A big part of that is setting and communicating clear expectations. Good managers focus on performance, so their people get better at what they do. This includes empowering employees to identify development areas that matter the most to them. Another big part is facilitating cooperation so that their reports work better together and better with other teams. The best managers also recognize and advocate for their people. They listen carefully to know what their people need to be successful, and they aim to deliver it.

These managers are empathetic, understanding, and supportive. They listen to their people and have a keen understanding of what motivates and inspires them. They’re available to troubleshoot problems, brainstorm ideas, and provide guidance on projects. They communicate effectively and correct mistakes in ways that build people up rather than tear them down. They teach what they know and always seek to learn. They have an eye for equity.

Developing the Best Managers

If your managers—or the people you intend to promote into management—don’t have all of these qualities, don’t worry. These traits and behaviors can be taught and nurtured. Managers also need to be managed. Here are some ways you can build more effective managers and nurture the traits that make managers great.

  1. Train New Managers After You’ve Promoted Them
    When you promote a stellar employee into a managerial role, you also must give them the tools to successfully manage people. They may feel ready to lead a team, but it’s up to the employer to be certain they know the responsibilities involved, and how your organization wants them to execute those responsibilities. Also, consider managers that are building a new team. Do they have the resources to successfully interview candidates? Perform tasks in your applicant tracking software? Communicate with HR or recruiting about the process? Your newer or less experienced leaders may have ideas about the way they want to manage based on their experience as employees—but that’s not enough.

    To build truly successful managers, leadership may need to go back to the basics and provide not only base-level training, but clear avenues for answers, guidance, and support. Should new managers go to their own managers first or to HR with questions or problems? These are things that should be spelled out and communicated, even if you think they might be obvious or rudimentary.

    It also doesn’t hurt to prepare new managers for the role before you hire or promote them into it. Talk with them about what the job will be like, especially if they haven’t managed before. Go over what’s needed and what’s nice to have. Be open about the struggles and the stress the new manager can expect to experience. Make sure they have the desire to manage.
  1. Practice Presence
    Most managers don’t want to or have the time to micromanage. They hope their reports have the skills and knowledge to do the job they were hired to do, so they take a hands-off approach and let their reports get to it. Or they’re too busy with their own projects to do anything more than basic managerial duties. But that’s a sure way to see projects or tasks go off-track, especially if managers don’t make themselves available for troubleshooting, or provide clarity on instructions.

    Remind your managers to treat silence from their reports as an opportunity to check-in, offer an ear, problem solve, or simply cheerlead. Check-ins don’t have to be formal, overwhelming, or take more time than necessary. Software programs that allow employees to note what they’re working on or bring up obstacles and share these with their manager can be a great tool and don’t have to take anyone more than a few minutes at a time. Less formal but still as productive, a scheduled check-in call (at an agreed-upon frequency) gives managers insight into projects and helps employees feel heard and celebrated.
  1. Guide the Guiders
    Good managers don’t necessarily have all the answers—but they know where to get them. Company leadership should aim to provide managers at all levels with the resources and training they need to do their best for their reports. Do your people leaders have access to mentors either inside the company or with partners or resource groups and do you encourage these relationships? Mentorship programs, “day-in-the-life-of” presentations, or even informal programs that connect managers from different departments can provide managers with inspiration and support.

    Newer managers might not know immediately how to handle a situation where an employee has a health crisis or family issue that suddenly takes them away from work. Do your managers know where to turn? Is there an online repository for information and guidance for situations managers may be presented with (and do all managers know about it)? Or would you rather they immediately bring the issue to HR?

    Programs can be robust, such as mandatory manager training scheduled throughout the year, or as simple as setting up an internal messaging process (e.g., Slack, Skype, text messaging) or smaller interdepartmental groups of managers that can provide informal support to one another. Whether your company has the budget for a formal training program or not, connections can and should be made to support managers.
    If you’re not sure where your managers could use guidance or development, ask them. They’re more likely to be engaged in their development if they have a say in what they’re learning.
  1. Promote Teamwork Among Managers
    Are your managers operating as a team? Each of your managers has a distinct personality and approach to management that affects their leadership style. One may be highly self-driven while another needs deadlines to motivate action. One may focus on building their team’s strengths, another on correcting their team’s weaknesses. One may communicate a lot, another only a little.

    These differences can work, but they can also cause confusion and inequality, whether real or imagined. For instance, employees who report to or work with more than one manager may not know what is expected of them. Or they may find themselves overworked if managers don’t coordinate workloads. Cross-team efforts may be delayed or even ruined due to misunderstandings or failures to communicate. The company may be guided by several conflicting personalities instead of a single, unified company culture. In extreme cases, inconsistent management practices may lead to discrimination claims.

    To bring managers together, you need something to unite them around. This is your company culture—the personality of the organization, its mission and values, working environment, policies, and practices. Ensure your managers are following consistent management practices, making decisions aligned with the values of the company, and regularly communicating with one another about their needs, obstacles, and workforce changes.

Neither good managers nor bad managers exist in a vacuum. They either have the support or the inattention of company leadership—the latter to dangerous consequences. A culture of poor management can lead to employee dissatisfaction, burnout, and increased turnover, all of which can be costly. An investment in selecting with intention and training your managers is not just an investment in them, but an investment in the company.

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7 Ways to Reengage Your Workforce and Inspire Loyalty

You’ve probably been hearing about the Great Resignation (or however you want to describe it) for months now. Even if you’re not dealing directly with increased turnover, your employees know they have options. Their friends, family, and people they know peripherally or on social media have made the leap and are gleefully announcing it on LinkedIn.

Some job-hoppers may be emboldened by the movement to quit good jobs in the hope of something better—better pay, more flexibility, or more opportunities for advancement. Some have simply been pushed to the brink by dead-end jobs, lousy company culture, or ineffective managers. Others have given up trying to “have it all” and left the workforce completely.

But what if employers could capitalize on this current “I quit” mood? What if you could keep your employees engaged, inspire loyalty, and make it easier to attract and hire those that are looking for that next best thing?

We’ve got some ideas for both prioritizing current employees and making it easier to attract new ones.

  1. Understand and be responsive to employee needs, motivations, and priorities. A paycheck may be the reason everyone has a job in the first place, but it’s not the only reason people choose to work or decide to work for one employer over another. Your employees stick with you because there’s something in it for them besides the money. The job is useful to them. Knowing why it’s useful enables you to keep employees satisfied and, better yet, make their jobs even more appealing.
  2. Prioritize employee development. A work environment in which people gain knowledge, learn new skills, and advance in their careers speaks more clearly and loudly than any marketing message can. People like working where they can grow and develop. According to a LinkedIn report, companies “that excel at internal mobility are able to retain employees nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it.” And a better trained workforce is also a more productive and profitable workforce! 
  3. Invite employees to be co-creators of the organization. Empower them to make decisions about how things are done and where the organization is going. People feel more a part of something when they see themselves in it. They’re more engaged when their decisions bring about real change.
  4. Reward success. In fact, reward anything you want to see more of. Whether large or small, the rewards have to be meaningful. Ideally, figure out what type of reward speaks to each employee. For some, acknowledgment in a company meeting will make their heart sing. For others, receiving a token of your appreciation, such as a coffee gift card, will be more meaningful.
  5. Allow for a healthy work-life balance. Flexibility is a big selling point for employees looking for better balance between work and life. Your employees have other commitments they need to attend to. Some are caring for young children or other family members while navigating daycare and school closures or multiple appointments. Give employees the time to see to those commitments and have a life outside of work, and you’ll get more from them when they’re on the job. Options may include remote or hybrid work, paid time off, flex hours, four-day workweeks, alternative schedules, and reducing workload. Remember, however, that policies are only as good as the practices around them. Ensure that employees don’t need to jump through hoops to request time off. Remind managers to be responsive to requests for time off and on the look out for signs that employees are feeling overwhelmed. 
  6. Conduct “stay interviews.” Don’t wait until people are leaving to investigate what could have inclined them to stay. Talk to employees now about what’s going well, what pain points they’re experiencing, and what could be done to take the relationship to the next level. Stay interviews enable you to address problems and unfulfilled wishes before they drive people out the door.
  7. Let people go who want to go. You have only so much time in the day. Don’t spend it trying to entice people to stay if they really want to leave the organization. That time is better spent ensuring smooth transitions and engaging employees who don’t have one foot out the door.

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Avoiding Burnout When You Work in HR

If you work in HR, you know that employee burnout remains pervasive. You also know that the task of supporting overly stressed employees often falls on your shoulders. But you’re exhausted too. Burnout isn’t just a problem you have to help others solve; you also have to solve it for yourself. Here are seven ways to do that.

Set Boundaries

First and foremost, set boundaries. You cannot possibly be all things to all your people, available at all times no matter the cost. That’s not your job. More to the point, your job is not the supreme ruler of your time. Having a job means that you’ve committed to using some of your time to complete a certain amount of work, but you should still think of that time as yours. After all, it’s your life, your energy, your health. Don’t feel bad about giving time to your needs just because you’re working. The mindset that you can never prioritize your needs while on “company time” is an unhealthy one.

Place boundaries around both the time during which you work and what you spend your time doing while working. If you say that you’re done with work at 6 p.m., don’t do any work after 6 p.m. Emails and Slack messages can wait until the next workday. If people at work need to be able to reach you in an emergency, establish a specific way for that to happen (e.g., a call or text to your cell) and make sure the people who may contact you know what qualifies as an emergency and what doesn’t.

You can set boundaries during the workday by delegating tasks that don’t need to be done by you. HR is a big job for one person or even one department. Not every personnel issue even should be handled by you. Managers and department heads should be able to handle a lot of those issues themselves and only come to you for help if it’s actually needed. If they are bringing you so many small problems that you don’t have time to resolve the big ones, you may need to set different expectations or train managers to resolve certain issues themselves. If you’re having to manage employees for them, they’re not doing their jobs (and may need to be developed or replaced).

Know What You Can and Cannot Control

In HR, we often feel responsible for everything related to employees. If there’s an issue, it’s on us to address it. A problem? We own the solution. Something not improving? We’re at fault. This belief that we are responsible for all the things causes stress to mount and leads to burnout. It also isn’t true.

We can’t be responsible for what we can’t control, and so much that happens in the workplace is simply out of our control. It’s vital—both for our work and our mental health—for us to know what is and isn’t in our power to change. If employees are quitting as a result of ineffective workplace policies, and you have purview over those policies, you can probably do something about this attrition. But if they’re quitting because there are better opportunities for them that your organization can’t match, there may be nothing you can do. Spending time trying to solve unsolvable problems isn’t going to have a good return. Or, as the old saying goes, if there is no solution, there is no problem.

Implement Clear and Simple Policies and Practices

The more ambiguous or complex your workplace policies and practices are, the more questions people will have about what they mean or require. If you find that your people often come to you asking what they’re supposed to do in a given situation, look at what you can do to answer their questions proactively. Do you have an employee handbook? Standardized practices for managers? Granted, some employees aren’t going to read any policy documents you give them, but in general, you can save yourself (and others) a lot of time by defining policies and practices so that they are clear, accessible, and easy to follow. Accordingly, you should ensure that leaders are aware of where the handbooks, policies, and guidelines reside so that employees may self-serve whenever possible.

Train Your Colleagues

Being the only one who can do a certain essential task may be good for your job security, but it isn’t good for your health. If no one else can do what you do, you can’t truly get away or be guaranteed to focus on one task to the exclusion of all others. People can only cover for you if they have the knowledge and skills to complete the tasks you need covered.

Realistically, you can’t plan for every contingency, but teaching colleagues the skills and knowledge they’d most likely need when covering for you increases the likelihood that they’ll be able to handle whatever arises while you’re away or focused on an urgent project.

Take Time Off

Speaking of getting away, take time off. You need a break from work as much as anyone—maybe more so—and you don’t need to justify it. You don’t have to feel sick or especially overwhelmed or have something special planned. Breaks from work are good for you, period. If you feel the need to justify a break from work, take time off to set a good example to everyone else that they should be taking time off too.

When employees see leaders in their organization taking ample time away from work, they feel more confident taking time off themselves. That helps save those employees from burnout, which in turn saves their leaders’ time.

Connect with Other HR Professionals

Working in HR can be a lonely profession, especially if you’re a department of one. When you’re in HR, friendships at work range from tricky to ill-advised. You may not have anyone at work you can really open up to or who appreciates the challenges of your job. Fortunately, there’s an active community of HR professionals online who are more than happy to share ideas, answer questions, or just listen. You can find them on LinkedIn, Twitter, and elsewhere by searching #hrcommunity or #hr. They’re a friendly and chatty bunch, eager to converse about the latest trends, specific pain points, and the generally daunting challenges of working in HR.

Consider following a few HR practitioners, participating in a conversation, or just watching from the sidelines until you feel more comfortable. It’s not quite the same as having a close friend at work, but what it lacks in close proximity, it makes up for in shared experience.

Treat Yourself

“I’m going to let you in on a little secret,” Special Agent Dale Cooper says to Sherriff Harry S. Truman in the television series Twin Peaks. “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.”

The present doesn’t have to be extravagant. Cooper’s examples include a catnap in one’s office chair and taking a few minutes to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee. Yours might be a 20-minute walk to get some fresh air and Vitamin D. The point is to be not just reasonable, but generous with yourself every day. The work we do in HR is stressful, emotionally taxing, and tiring. We spend our days supporting others in difficult situations. Our job is to give time, comfort, and care to others. It’s important to give those things to ourselves too.

Article content provided by My HR Support Center