How Virtual Reality Will Change Human Resources

human Resources virtual realityMost peoples’ experience or knowledge of augmented and virtual reality involves entertainment – for example, the Pokémon GO augmented reality app and the uber popular Epcot attraction Soarin’, which takes “riders” on a realistic virtual journey around the world.

Virtual reality (VR) has obvious entertainment value. And, as forward-thinking companies are discovering, it also has unlimited potential to revolutionize recruiting and training. Savvy human resources professionals are tapping into this technology to woo top talent, overcome geographic recruiting and training constraints, and cement their firms’ position as technologically advanced. The millennial and Gen Z workforces are drawn to cutting-edge technologies, and the “cool factor” of joining a workplace that embraces VR shouldn’t be underestimated. As the following five companies have discovered, VR is more than a gimmick: it’s a genuinely useful tool.

General Mills: Shows Rather than Tells

Most college students are familiar with on-campus recruiting events. Typically, they show up wearing their Sunday best and stroll from one table to the next meeting recruiters and collecting pamphlets or brochures. It’s necessary, but not necessarily exciting. General Mills has stepped up its recruiting game in a huge way. Candidates visiting with General Mills recruiters may be invited to don a headset and goggles and – thanks to a 360-degree GoPro video – take a VR tour around corporate headquarters and the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. They feel what it’s like to be an employee and experience the corporate culture first-hand. That recruiting approach is certain to leave an impression – a very positive one.

General Electric: Virtually Takes Candidates Where They Can’t Otherwise Go

Like General Mills, General Electric has discovered the benefit of using virtual reality in its recruiting efforts. For example, candidates can don a virtual reality headset to journey to the bottom of the sea and explore the company’s oil-and-gas recovery machines.

Lincoln Electric: Reduces Costs of and Increases Access to Training

Lincoln Electric has discovered that combining traditional and virtual training is a win-win for the company and employees. The company offers students the ability to practice on a virtual reality arc-welding trainer in addition to receiving traditional hands-on training. Studies show the combined approach leads to better communication and significantly higher certification rates.

Boeing: Offers On-the-Ground Flight Training

Boeing runs an Immersive Development Center in which its engineers test new parts and products, and pilots train in virtual reality flight simulators. Additionally, Boeing occasionally invites engineering students to the center so they can explore the company’s technologies, thanks to VR. All of Boeing’s engineers began as students, and the company’s recruiters hope that visiting students will one day return as employees.

Fidelity Investments: Researching VR App to Track Employee Benefits

With a realization that many people are visual learners, Fidelity Investments has created a prototype VR app to explain employee benefits. Users who don the headset are transported to a virtual boardroom populated with employees. Some employees are green, meaning their 401K investment strategy is sound. Other employees are red, indicating that it may be time to revise their strategy. The motivation behind the app is that viewing data in a three-dimensional matter makes it easier to digest.

Clearly, there’s widespread potential for human resources departments to embrace virtual reality. Companies are already using VR to recruit top talent, train existing employees and onboard new hires. How do you think these kinds of applications will change the way your HR and recruiting teams manage the future of your company’s talent?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

How Labor Relations Knowledge Gives HR Professionals C-Suite Skills

human resources labor relationsHuman resources professionals know that union organizing presents a variety of complex challenges, and many dread their labor relations responsibilities. After all, the process of educating employees on the drawbacks of voting in a union can be taxing, and participating in contract negotiations is nearly always stressful.

However, there’s another way to look at labor relations: as a unique opportunity to develop strong skills in leadership, decision-making, communication, and collaboration through experience that can’t be gained any other way. In fact, some C-suite HR leaders credit their labor relations work as their most important development opportunity, giving them the extra boost in skills they needed to reach the top of their career ladders.

Increased Understanding of Business Strategies

The cost of labor is one of the highest expenses in any organization, and maximizing the use of people to produce the company’s goods and services is a core function of human resources. However, many HR professionals find themselves bogged down in the details of the HR function: managing payroll, performance, and interpersonal conflicts, for example.

For unionized companies, collective bargaining agreements bring focus back to the purpose of HR, as these contracts essentially boil down to an exchange of quality labor for specific compensation and working conditions. Experience with contract negotiations gives HR staff special insight into their larger role, as well as an improved understanding of business strategies that will optimize the company’s success.

Improved Ability to Integrate Labor and Operations Solutions

When word gets around that there’s interest in unionizing, HR personnel often limit their union avoidance activities to correcting issues that have cropped up with managers’ behavior, application of policies, and similar matters. However, to be truly effective in keeping an organization union-free, smart HR professionals examine all aspects of the business. From basic operations to compensation rates for skilled workers, they look into every available possibility for improving the work environment. This offers an entirely new set of skills to HR staff. Instead of restricting their work to issues directly in their span of control, they learn to develop larger, more integrated solutions that benefit the business as a whole.

Proof Positive Free Download

Enhanced Stress-Management and Conflict-Resolution Skills

Working in HR means you’re regularly dropped in the middle of intense, highly emotional situations. The best HR professionals can handle the stress of these encounters calmly, keeping their own feelings in check while de-escalating tension between others. When labor issues crop up, they tend to be some of the most intense that any HR staff member faces. Greater exposure to labor relations means more practice with this sort of intensity. Before long, you’ll discover that staying composed is second nature for you – an important trait in any executive.

Highly Developed Communication and Collaboration Skills

The foundation of any union avoidance strategy is increased communication, and when a union is already present, collaboration is key to maintaining a productive working environment. Working on labor relations issues is an opportunity to become more effective in both communication and collaboration – skills that are very much on display in leaders.

Of course, not every position has exposure to unions and their related concerns, but you can still work toward improving your skills. Participating in high-quality training such as the Union Proof Certification is an excellent first step in taking your career to the next level.

Posted in Human Resources, Labor Relations, Projections, Training | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Here’s How To Avoid Pay Secrecy Violations

avoiding pay secrecy violationsThe “war” on wage gaps is raging and for good reason: Large wage gaps have historically existed in the United States based on gender and race, specifically when it comes to women and minorities. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, black men have earned 73 percent of white men’s hourly earnings since 1980, while Hispanic men’s earnings increased from 69 percent to 71 percent of white men’s earnings since 1980. Moreover, women — regardless of their ethnicity or race — have historically lagged behind men, whether in their own race or not. Today, women across the nation still make 76 cents for every $1 men earn.

As a result of statistics like these, pay secrecy has become a significant issue with serious ramifications for violations. That’s why it’s vital to practice effective methods of training management and staff on maintaining professional behavior with regard to keeping pay information confidential, while still abiding by the requirements of the NLRA. Here’s how:

1. Put It in Writing

Before communicating what your pay secrecy policies are, make sure you have it in writing. It’s vital to give your management team and staff something solid and concrete to reference should there be any questions. Additionally, ensure that your content is up-to-date. By having clear rules written and current, staff and management can have a better understanding of the company’s stance on pay secrecy and how to act accordingly so that information is kept in a professional manner.

2. Communicate the Law

It’s vital that management and staff understand the law to avoid any pay secrecy violations. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935 protects employees against pay secrecy and penalizes businesses that violate the law. While it may not cost much to violate the NLRA, a violation (and a history of it) can potentially push employees into organizing into a union and take up union card signing. Union avoidance is possible by communicating the appropriate behavior to have regarding pay secrecy and what the law covers.

Employees have the right to talk about what matters to them at work, including compensation, under the NLRA. Therefore, shunning employees for discussing pay is not acceptable. Incorporating a pay policy that penalizes your employees for discussing pay at work is a violation of the NLRA, even if they sign a nondisclosure agreement.

employee engagement
3. Listen First

Educate your staff that acting irrationally, such as terminating an employee, without getting the facts or going through a defined disciplinary process, especially based on pay secrecy, is not the appropriate behavior. It’s important that they listen to what the situation is first. Businesses can be forced to give employees that were wrongfully terminated the option to get their jobs back, and they also may be required to give them back pay for the entire time they were without the job under the NLRA. Therefore, it’s significant that your staff and managers understand the ramifications of violating the NLRA and what constitutes a violation. Certain states also have their own laws pertaining to pay secrecy, including Colorado, Maine and California, so it’s important to clarify state and local laws regarding pay secrecy as well.

Final Thoughts

Training your staff and management team to avoid pay secrecy involves communicating the correct information and having a plan in place. By taking these steps, you can be proactive and prevent your employees from being pushed away into union organizing.

Posted in Best Business Practices, Projections, Training | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Creating Your Crisis Communication Strategy

crisis communication strategyFrom General Workplace Crisis To Strikes: Creating a Communication Model that Works

Crisis is a part of growth, and could even be said to drive the world of commerce and business, as a crisis most often represents opportunity. Effective communication is essential to keep crisis manageable and prevent the escalation of crisis into conflict. Conflict, on the other hand, is bad for business, can be damaging to employees and can contribute to what human resources professionals refer to as a “toxic” working environment.

When teams work through a crisis and negotiate meaning and progress together in the workplace, they can accomplish goals, and promote the type of creative thinking and action that lead to innovation, prevent workplace injury, and create greater productivity.

Working with crisis models and communication protocols ahead of time, or on a regular basis, is business and workplace best practice.

First: What Does Successful Negotiation in the Workplace Mean To You?

Learning successful negotiation in the workplace means beginning to communicate in ways that are effective in achieving shared corporate goals. We negotiate within our companies every day — when we speak in meetings, when we write or respond to memos, when we “talk shop” on our breaks, and when we write or distribute written materials in the workplace.

Successful negotiation shows itself in action that demonstrates immediate corrective action that creates positive change. Establish what a properly managed crisis looks like for your company. This measure of success can take many forms – the number of team members involved, the length of time it takes to resolve the crisis… even the finanical impact of the crisis.

Next, Identify the Key Players in Your Workplace Crisis Resolution Plan

Successful crisis resolution protocols require sincere acknowledgment of the perspectives and unique voices of everyone affected by the workplace crisis. When sending out newsletters, briefs, tweets, e-mails, letters or press releases, consider as many perspectives as possible:

  • Company executives – various offices;
  • Employees – full-time, part-time, occasional, on-call;
  • Families of employees;
  • Members of the community;
  • Your business competition;
  • The Media;
    and finally
  • Union leaders – various offices, locals and locations.

Please note: Within a company with no union employees, similar crisis, negotiation and conflicts occur over work conditions, expectations and misunderstandings of communications. All of the strategies discussed here are effective for workplaces that are either unionized and union-free.

Remember: The Medium is The Message

“The medium is the message,” declared media guru Marshall McLuhan in 1977. His cryptic message is still a topic of animated discussion, but the truth is, every successful company and corporation must have a strong “mixed medium” communication system — a system of human intelligence and human resources, combined with a video, online and hard copy communications.

Demonstrating in a crisis that the company is prepared to use a variety of mediums to connect with key players can be a powerful way to de-escalate a crisis situation.

Create Your Plan: Stages of Crisis Escalation

There are a variety of “stage”-focused models of crisis development that illustrate levels of escalation and can help you guide effective response at each crisis stage. There are five stage models, seven stage models and a variety of other models recommended by academics and crisis prevention experts that are useful models for organizations to use to guide crisis intervention and communication protocols.

Knowing that there are various models to illustrate stages of crisis intervention can be an important factor in successful resolution of any type of workplace conflict. Learning new models allows you to craft a custom strategy that works for your workplace and your unique culture. Reviewing these differing approaches encourages innovative and creative approaches to crisis prevention.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Strike in Progress Strategies

When a strike is possible, a signal is sent by all parties involved that negotiations have “failed” and “communication is no longer effective.” Moving quickly past that very real situation is paramount to workplace success. All commercial enterprises, regardless of industry and size, thrive on effective ongoing communications.

Re-establishing communication as quickly as possible is essential. A strike in progress affects all key players, families and stakeholders, as well as the broader community.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Agent Provocateurs and Saboteurs

Agent provocateurs and saboteurs are not storybook characters — they are titles for people involved in a workplace for the purpose of damaging the company. Whether they are people in an employee, executive or union role, they have can a destructive impact on negotiations,  communication systems, and overall company success. A well-trained human resources team reduces the chances that these type of people are hired: They identify employees that are present for destructive purposes, and remove them strategically and immediately.

This kind of crisis can be avoided with attention to hiring practices. Communicating with the remaining members of a team when such an employee is removed is vital.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Managing the Media

Managing the media should be an ongoing shared corporate goal and protocols for media communications should be in place before a workplace crisis degrades into conflict. This is true during union organizing, particularly when the union undertakes a “corporate campaign,” working to damage the company’s reputation or business. Crisis prevention should be a primary communications goal, and keeping in regular contact with local media is paramount. Regular press releases are essential. This regular contact facilitates communication during any type of workplace crisis, negotiation or conflict.

Finally, Long-Term Planning

Managing crisis in the workplace often involves many people, players in many roles and stakeholders. It also involves families, friends, and neighbors. Creative approaches to establishing your unique “stage”-focused model as well as ongoing development of innovative strategies are keys to long-term crisis prevention and successful intervention in the workplace.

Posted in Best Business Practices, Corporate Communication, Labor Relations, Positive Employee Relations | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Political Activism: Are You Risking Your Job?

politics and protests on the jobThe First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees US citizens the right to “freedom of speech.” Citizens may freely express themselves in a public forum on any subject, including political topics, and rest assured that there will be no detrimental consequences. This is a known fact and beyond contest. Right?

Think again.

The Devil Is in the Details

The First Amendment reads:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Oh, those pesky details. Note the amendment specifies “Congress shall make no law.” Unless a person is an employee of Congress, those precious freedom of speech protections may not apply.

Before You Join In

Before you join in a protest or send that Tweet, there are a few precautions you should consider:

  • Understand your company’s policies on employee speech that could potentially be considered negative;
  • Talk to someone you trust at work about what you’re planning and get their input on possible consequences;
  • Find out if anyone in the company has been disciplined for issues relating to speech or political activism.

Online Political Activism Is Risky Business

When social media enters the mix, the potential risks for speaking one’s mind increase exponentially with each “like,” “share” and “tweet.” Expressing political views on a contentious issue or actively promoting and endorsing a candidate (or even not promoting a specific candidate) can pose a risk. If an employer believes an employee’s stated opinion or supported political candidate reflects negatively on the company, or that their actions fall below an expected level of professionalism, the employee may face disciplinary action that could end in termination.

Those practicing activism via the Internet use email, social media postings, live-casting and podcasts to communicate and disseminate information.

Online political activism is usually categorized in one of three ways: awareness and advocacy, organization and mobilization, or action/reaction. Examples could include:

  • Circulating a call-to-action meme about an upcoming politically themed demonstration
  • Posting an essay arguing for or against one side of a political issue on social media
  • Forwarding an email to family, friends and co-workers encouraging them to donate to a candidate’s campaign
  • Circulating petitions supporting or opposing political candidates or issues
  • Advocating for or against an issue by “liking” a posting or meme about it
  • Forwarding “tweets” to family, friends and co-workers that include statements about a candidate or issue, either for or against.
  • Display of a candidate’s photo, banner or slogan on a website or social media page

Any of these activities, even those undertaken from a private home or public venue, or those taking place during nonworking hours can be grounds for discipline and/or termination.

An online footprint can go so far as to hinder one’s chances in the hiring process. Recruiting expert Alysse Metzler, in her 2013 book “The Recruiting Snitch,” found over 70 percent of recruiters for US companies investigate potential employees on social media before hiring. According to Metzler, an online presence dominated by political views raises warning flags.

We the People

It is human nature to take a “That won’t happen to me” approach to hypothetical situations, such as getting fired for making a post to Facebook. But the reality is that it does happen. There are cases now making their way through the court systems in which employers terminated employees for participating in organized activism, for political statements and affiliations.

In the coming years, the lines between what is and is not protected speech may be more clearly delineated. Employers may revise their company handbook or onboarding materials to clarify definitions of which activities are acceptable and which are not.

Until then, take care in what you do and say. Neither employee nor employer is as protected as they may seem.

Posted in Human Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment