As a human resources or labor relations professional, you probably see your fair share of employee complaints. Issues that need resolution… and those that just seem like the employee is “overreacting.” How can you tell the difference? How can you address employee concerns and maintain high engagement levels?
Complaints range from an immensely irritating colleague to what seems to be an unbearable supervisor. You’ve likely heard about workplace behaviors that disregarded basic decency or courtesy or even went against rules, policies, and norms.
This is exactly what the new tool called Warble was designed to do – help companies identify and address employee concerns, before those employees turn to an outside third party.
First, we need to understand what happens when employees don’t feel heard.
Terrible managers can cause a lot of damage to employees and the company culture. Bullying co-workers cause their share of trouble, too. These workplace villains create unnecessary tension in the workplace and affect job performance. Worse, that bad behavior can be contagious and have a negative impact long-term on company culture, leading to unionization.
This creates is what experts call a toxic work environment. Stress levels and attrition rates increase; employee well-being, productivity, and retention rates decrease; and eventually the company’s reputation becomes tarnished, making it difficult to hire the best people.
Unfortunately, fear of retribution, bullying or isolation can keep your employees from feeling like they can report such incidents. When team members feel helpless, they either leave – or look to outside, third parties (attorneys, unions, government agencies) to try to solve their problems, costing the company money and time.
Feelings of mistreatment often lead to employees looking to a union to solve their problems. Similarly, employees who feel they’ve been discriminated against but have no outlet to express their challenges may file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) leading to increased cost and time commitment, in order for the Company to solve the issue.
This kind of helpless feeling is what Carolyn Holliday experienced, and it is why Warble came into existence.
Holliday founded Warble Inc. to help companies detect and manage employee problems before they become detrimental to work culture and revenue. Warble is an online tool that provides employees with a direct channel to report bad or illegal behavior.
Employees submit warbles regarding issues they may have with managers or co-workers. Similar to (but often more accessible than) an Alternative Dispute Resolution program, Warble then alerts those who are responsible for taking care of employees and addressing harassment (including bullying) or discrimination claims.
Because they can be submitted at any time (not just during employee surveys), Warbles provide important feedback about the health of the company. But unless you respond by addressing employee concerns with additional leader training or other appropriate action, employees won’t trust the Warble system any more than any other measurement or reporting tool. Employees will feel reassured and appreciated when they see appropriate responses to their warbles.
Now more than ever, your employees are highly sensitive to harassment and discrimination.
Putting in place the tools of a UnionProof culture, such as Warble for ADR, means that you’re fostering an environment of open communication and employee engagement. That culture means that issues can be identified and addressed before they negatively impact your organization. Providing an outlet like Warble for alternative dispute resolution means creating a reputation as an employer of choice – a powerful thing in today’s tight labor market.
The role of Human Resources (HR) professionals has become more strategic due to a variety of factors, including technology and the globalization of the labor force. As such, today’s HR professional must have a range of skills. The contemporary HR professional must know how to be a strategic partner to top organizational leaders, as well as possess the ability to support a culture of engagement through continuous change.
The T-shaped concept has been adapted to various professions. For example, in 2014, Brian Balfour developed the T-shaped description for a Customer Acquisition Expert. In 2017, Kevin Lee adapted the T-shaped description to a variety of marketing positions at Buffer. Over time, the various applications of the T-shaped model names general business knowledge and skills, enabling collaboratively working across disciplines, in the top horizontal bar, followed by the relevant skills foundation horizontal layer and finally the vertical expertise bars indicating an organization’s skills priorities for particular positions.
Your HR function has never been more challenged than it is today. Your HR professional is focused on responsibilities like recruiting global talent, engaging a diverse and multigenerational workforce and adhering to employment law, to name a few. The T-shaped model for identifying the breadth and depth of the HR professional’s skills assists hiring executives and senior leaders with better understanding the value proposition of investing necessary resources into training HR professionals.
The following is a T-shaped model that can be used to guide the hiring of HR professionals responsible for ensuring an organization adheres to employment laws, administering and monitoring communication practices, and enhancing employee engagement to discourage unions.
This horizontal bar consists of the broad business knowledge an HR professional requires to successfully work with leaders. It includes general business knowledge (marketing, finance, production, etc.), as well as behavioral psychology, technology, training and development, organizational performance, business law, and general communication systems and practices, including negotiation. The knowledge found in this layer informs the skills in the next layers.
This is another horizontal bar below the base layer that begins to drill down to the general skills needed to work as an HR professional in any organization. The bar includes skills like workplace performance; organizational communication systems that include technology-based systems like social media; Public Relations to reach employees, families and the press; compensation and benefits; employee hiring, recruitment and retention; employment law; HR specific analytics; and human relations and workplace behavior.
These vertical bars contain the specific expertise an HR professional needs to contribute maximum value to a specific organization. These skills can be developed through a variety of channels, such as experiential learning and formal/informal training and development.
The potential expertise areas include social media and mobile communication; relationship building; utilizing people analytics for decision-making; collective bargaining and labor relations to keep union free; software applications and LMS (Learning Management System) for training and on-boarding, like Projections’ custom video, web and eLearning solutions for onboarding and ongoing employee communication. There are hundreds of LMS systems available for personalized training delivery that is job specific and offers performance reporting, like the cloud based Litmos and the Cornerstone Learning Suite platform that automates compliance management processes through continuous development.
The effectiveness of your HR professional or team ultimately depends on their ability to work in multiple areas. HR professionals responsible for discouraging unions, for instance, should be adept in communication practices, NLRA, labor relations, and employee training and development. Likewise, HR leaders responsible for knowing labor law will also need to have a deep understanding of employee engagement practices. Anyone can quote a law, but keeping your employees informed of things like your company’s perspective on unions can help you avoid charges of unfair labor practices.
Regardless of their specific expertise, the ideal HR professional will have a “full stack” of crossover skills that lets the person contribute to a variety of different areas in your business.
Finding someone who has the breadth and depth needed for today’s organization is difficult, and especially in a tight labor market in which people with experience are sought after by multiple companies. A good strategy is to identify the people who have the base layer and some of the foundation skills, and invest the time, money, and energy to train superior HR professionals.
An important part of the process in developing the T-shaped model for HR is zeroing in on the deeper skills your particular company needs. That drives the investment in targeted development and ensures the HR professional efforts are aligned with organizational goals. For example, it’s important for companies to remain union free, but unions are getting more sophisticated as they adapt to technology and changing work designs. That’s why it’s important to invest in training that leads to UnionProof Certification. Doing so will allow the HR leader to develop an engaging culture that makes unions unnecessary.
The deeper skills your organization may need to develop cover a wide range. HR analytics and data-driven decision-making is one area where HR is generally viewed as weak per a number of research studies, and that is potentially holding your company back from meeting productivity goals or from competing in the labor market. Other important skills include things like leadership ability, ability to design and implement strategic human capital programs, recruiting and onboarding, designing effective communication processes for engagement of a dispersed or global workforce, understanding global workforce and business trends, and change management. Deloitte described the need for HR to become skilled business consultants and provided a comprehensive list of deep skills and knowledge the typical HR team needs today.
The T-shaped model allows you to drill down to the specific skills your HR team needs. Once these have been identified, the next step is ensuring you make the appropriate investment in training and development. It is an ongoing process that can deliver outstanding results.
An internal HR audit has the same goal as any other audit: to scrutinize business operations to ensure best practices are in place and consistently applied. Of course, an HR audit is exclusively focused on HR practices, offering an opportunity to identify deficiencies in employment policies and their application, employment-related documentation, and compliance with relevant employment law. Proactively auditing HR practices is the most effective method of addressing small issues before they have a chance to take up time and money that would be better spent elsewhere.
If you haven’t conducted a full review within the last couple of years, let this guide serve as a wake-up call to making an audit part of your Engagement Plan for the coming year.
The job of a Human Resources, Employee Relations or Labor Relations professional is often reactive: investigating employee relations issues, responding to a compliance violation, or searching through poorly maintained records when a legal claim is made. However, it is far more satisfying to take a proactive approach and address small problems before they become major headaches. HR auditing sets businesses up for success, establishing basic HR practices. Audits systematically review whether and how policies are being applied, ensuring consistency among staff members and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
Other benefits of HR audits include:
• Company-wide adoption of best practices
• Identification of potential processes improvements
• Reduction of errors and employee complaints
• Proactive preparation for government investigations
• Reduced likelihood of fines for noncompliance with employment regulations
• Possible reduction in insurance expenses
• Improved utilization of legal budgets
• Increased buy-in from managers regarding HR policies and practices
• Reduced likelihood of successful union organizing
Launching an HR audit is a major endeavor, and it is important to secure the appropriate resources. These subject matter experts are particularly helpful:
Legal Counsel – The results of an audit can be discoverable in future legal proceedings. Consult legal counsel for advice on protecting the business.
Department Leaders – Enlisting the help of department leaders saves time. They can point you towards the relevant records and explain how policies are applied from day to day.
Once your team is assembled, outline the areas you will audit and develop a list of audit questions. Common inquiries for HR audits include the following…
Creating a highly engaged workforce has become a vital aspect of business success. Statistically, employee engagement has been poor in the last few years. According to recent data from Gallup, nearly 70 percent of the American workforce is disengaged; around the world it’s worse, with only 15 percent of workers engaged. When employee engagement is low, it can harbor dissatisfaction in employees, making them susceptible to reduced productivity, turnover and an increased presence of labor unions. Therefore, all organizations must have a system for checking that their labor and employment practices are conducive to a highly engaged workforce.
Our comprehensive guide to conducting an HR Audit can help you form a plan of action for making sure that your company is on the right track. Here are five incredibly easy (and practical) first steps you can take to develop workforce policies that promote improved employee engagement:
The journey to greater employee engagement can be a difficult one, but it is easier to manage with a clear roadmap. This often starts before an individual actually begins work — in the pre-hire stage of their experience. When a company’s brand reputation emphasizes a positive culture where employees feel valued, it sets things up for long-term success.
What you can do now: The applicant tracking system and way candidates are treated throughout the interview, hiring and on boarding process makes a huge difference. Use the audit guide to help you to identify any areas that need to be corrected.
All human resource teams must ensure that employees are receiving the best possible compensation and benefits in order to remain competitive. The 2017 PayScale Compensation Best Practices Report indicated that 32 percent of top performing companies have changed their compensation strategies as a result of employee engagement feedback. More employers are actively listening to what their employees are asking for and taking steps to ensure they get what they need.
What you can do now: Take the time to conduct a brief survey of your employees to find out if your compensation program needs improvement.
In today’s business world, everything from customer data to employee information is stored in a digital format. This often includes the use of scheduling, payroll, performance and benefit platforms. Ongoing monitoring is needed to ensure that data is accurate and up-to-date and that people are paid correctly.
What you can do now: Your organization should verify that all information systems are secure from information breaches, and accessible and easy-to-use for employees. A third-party auditing firm can often pinpoint potential issues.
Working conditions make a big difference in how employees view their employer. There are too many toxic conditions invading otherwise good companies. The aspects that human resources can control include: having clearly written policies to deal with things like employee grievances, anti-bullying, drug use, union card signing, and more.
What you can do now: Review employee handbooks and update labor law posters in employee break areas. For some objective feedback, ask employees during exit interviews what the company can do better.
When employees are recognized for their efforts at work, they tend to stay more engaged in their careers. Having a professional development program to guide employees through the various stages of career growth is one step in the right direction.
What you can do now: Review job types with management and create structured learning paths for each department.
By following this checklist , any human resource team can help to elevate employee engagement, productivity, knowledge and morale.
Looking For More? Download our FREE Guide to conducting a Labor & Employment Audit to help you make your workplace more positive & productive!
Contrary to popular belief, artificial intelligence, or AI, is no longer relegated to science fiction novels and “think pieces” on future innovations. In reality, AI has already arrived and is much more pervasive than most people realize. For HR professionals, the technology is already providing dividends in the areas of recruiting, onboarding, and training procedures by significantly streamlining operations.
As useful as AI is already proving to be, it is already clear that it’s best utilized as an accompaniment to people in the workplace and not a replacement, allowing employees to perform their responsibilities in a much more efficient and effective manner. Despite how the vocal naysayers are reacting, AI’s negative impact on a workforce itself will be negligible, but could instead increase the overall health of many organizations. This is evidenced in the banking industry, where ATMs could have caused job losses but instead streamlined operations and reduced costs, allowing many banks to add staffed locations. This created a positive situation for workers and customers alike
That said, many union leaders are concerned that automation means workers will no longer have the ability to demand higher wages, which will in turn continue the decline in union membership. In the private sector today, just 6.4% of workers belong to a union. Contrast that with 1983, when about 17% of private-sector workers were in a union.
The typical HR professional is being pulled in a thousand different directions at any given moment. In fact, no matter the length of the work day or size of the staff, the work always seems to continue to pile up. This unending accumulation of duties is exactly where AI can positively impact the workplace. Through various platforms, AI automates the bulk of the tedious responsibilities that are important to the organization but a tremendous expenditure of time and effort as well.
In terms of recruiting, an AI-based suite can administer any and all social media efforts, email correspondence and even interview scheduling with an interface that makes it difficult to tell if the communication is coming from a human or machine. Furthermore, all testing and training for onboarding and existing employees can be personalized down to the individual level to adhere to the training method that best fits a particular person. All of this functionality can be synced with current CRM and ERP systems to further streamline the entire process.
Like most technologies, AI will only continue to grow and evolve in the future. As far as impact on overall operations and a workforce are concerned, it will work alongside humans to make them more efficient in their responsibilities. While specific tasks like email correspondence might be automated, it will always be under the watching eye of a human being.
In other words, while on the big screen AI might still enslave humanity in a zombie-like state of perpetual anguish, in reality, it will simply permit us to excel and reach levels we otherwise would never reach. That might not be as dramatic as the Hollywood version, but, at least for HR professionals, AI will undoubtedly be a welcome tool to significantly enhance productivity.