Did you know that Friday, Jan. 29th, 2016 is International Fun at Work Day? This may not be the most commonly known holiday, but it can be a great reminder to consider the culture at your workplace and the benefits of ensuring that employees are enjoying (at least part) of their work day.
Why including fun at work is important:
HR experts like author Bob Nelson (1001 Ways to Motivate Employees) and columnist Steve Strauss, both have a myriad of reasons why employers should incorporate some fun into each work day, including:
Concerns employers may have:
Many find it counterintuitive to incorporate fun into the workday as a way to increase productivity. In fact, they worry it will drastically reduce outputs. Some other top worries include:
Tips for HR managers and employers:
Clear Path's HR consultants have some suggestions for employers to consider:
Ensure that the nature of the "fun" is tasteful and appropriate for your workplace. Remember that what's fun for one person is not necessarily so for another. The fun activity should never be at the expense of an employee or customer. If your company is large enough, it may also be a good idea to allow different departments to design their own activities rather than applying a "one size fits all" approach.
Some additional tips:
How we have fun at Clear Path:
We believe in incorporating fun into our workplace so much that we included "Having Fun" as one of our nine corporate values (see our full list here). Here are the describing statements regarding this value:
Putting this value into practice, we enjoy several special events throughout the year, including a team lunch each month with a different theme (Oktoberfest, Chinese New Year, Summer BBQ), participating in charity events like the Terry Fox Run, and celebrating birthdays and customer victories at our monthly team meeting.
How do you have fun at your work? Share your ideas in the Comments.
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This week marks the 75th anniversary of one of the greatest blunders in communication of all time and serves as a warning for managers who refuse to listen to feedback from employees.
On Jan. 27th, 1941, U.S. ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew cabled the U.S. State Department with information obtained from the Peruvian ambassador that Tokyo was planning a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. His warning was ignored and when Japan did attack on Dec. 7th, it resulted in the loss of 2,403 American lives.
Of course, most businesses won't face the same kind of life-or-death consequences if they ignore feedback from their employees.
But those whose culture does not encourage team members to share their ideas and concerns with upper management (or who routinely ignore comments when they are shared), will almost certainly have to deal with the loss of employee engagement, loss of potentially profitable ideas, and the loss of visibility to important concerns from those "in the trenches." On the flip side, those who do value and implement suggestions from employees will see increased an energized workforce with greater levels of loyalty to the organization, safer work environments, and potentially boosted profits.
Here are some tips on how to develop mechanisms for employees to share feedback with upper management:
1. Management meetings don’t have to be exclusively for management
2. A feedback box can go a long way
3. Reward and encourage the sharing of ideas
4. Understand the value of a finding a "neutral ground" for communications
So those are our suggestions, do you have other unique ways to encourage communication between all the members of your organization? Share your thoughts in the Comments section.
If you'd like to discuss issues your company is having with communication betwen managers and team members or resolving any other people-related challenges, contact Clear Path's Anna Aceto-Guerin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (519) 624-0800. We look forward to hearing from you!
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News of the recent deaths of several well-known celebrities, including music icon David Bowie, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey, and renowned actor Alan Rickman, got us thinking about the touchy subject of death and grief in the workplace.
The way a workplace manages the challenges around grieving employees, whether a fellow employee has died or when a team member has suffered a loss in their personal lives, makes a tremendous difference to employee morale and connectedness to your organization. Mishandling the situation can bring a landmine of HR issues and potentially hurt feelings. The best way to handle it is to plan ahead and take steps to ensure managers treat employees fairly and consistently.
Losing a team member
In the unfortunate event that a colleague passes away, you should not underestimate the feeling of loss and disruption in your workplace. Eyes will be on the management team to see how it reacts and if it allows time for adjustment after such a loss. The sudden, unexpected death of a co-worker will require you to deploy different strategies than if someone has succumbed to a long-term illness. But either way, you should not expect fellow employees to take the loss lightly.
Management must communicate to fellow team members about the loss in a way that is caring and respectful. Take the time to gather employees together to share feelings and discuss next steps, which could include holding a memorial for the individual or arranging for anyone interested in attending the funeral the ability to do so. Ensure that you are consistent in your approach and remember that regardless of the length of time the deceased was with the company or the seniority of their position, the impact of the loss to the organization may still be a difficult one.
Anna Aceto-Guerin, senior HR consultant at Clear Path, encourages employers to utilize their Employee Assistance Program (EAP) during these situations by reminding team members to take advantage of the program. Depending on the circumstances, management might consider providing a grief counselor on the premises to assist with the aftermath following the news of an employee's passing. The benefit of EAP intervention is that employees can speak to a counselor in private and be provided with strategies to handle their loss. The grieving process is different for everyone and you must be patient during the weeks and months following a loss.
Time off for grieving
Things could get tricky when it comes to paid time off for those grieving the loss. In Ontario, there is no requirement for bereavement leave under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), but many businesses have established policies that give a certain number of paid days off as an employee benefit.
However, most policies limit the paid days to relatives (with a higher number of days for immediate family such as a spouse, parent or child). If an employee is requesting time off to recover from the loss of a work colleague, you might suggest they utilize accumulated sick days (if your company offers paid sick days) or a non-paid leave of absence. Be fair and consistent with absences granted for this purpose but also remember that certain circumstances may require you to make exceptions to established policy. Take the situation into consideration each time and it necessary reach out for advice on how to handle a particularly difficult situation.
Replacing an employee who has died
The potential need to replace the worker who has passed away brings with it a special need for sensitivity and respect for those who worked with the deceased. Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the position, your company may be able to delay this process for a while in consideration of the feelings of the person's colleagues. Should you need to delay the process for replacement, consider setting up an internal resource to cover the position in the meantime to ensure that business needs are met and people have someone to go to. If a delay is not possible, proceed with your regular recruitment practice while being as sensitive as possible with everyone involved.
When an employee suffers a personal loss
When an employee loses someone in their personal life, management should be equally as cognizant of the need to be sensitive to their needs at that time. HR should advise the individual of the company's policies regarding paid time off for bereavement, along with recommending the use of an EAP program (if applicable). As mentioned, there is no requirement to give paid time off under Ontario's ESA, but refusing to do so may be seen as a very unsympathetic response during a time of loss.
Encouraging your supervisors and co-workers to be patient with the individual in the period following the death is an important step. Relieving the person's workload on a temporary basis may also be an option for your company.
Need some assistance?
Have you established employee policies, such as one for Bereavement and Absence? If not, or if you would like some assistance updating your policy book, get in touch with Clear Path today. Certified HR professionals like Anna Aceto-Guerin can guide your company through the process and help you manage any people-related challenges you may have. Contact us today at email@example.com or by phone at (519) 624-0800.
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Ontario's Workplace Safety & Insurance Board (WSIB) has proposed a brand new system for funding our workers' compensation system that would change the way WSIB premiums are set and would eliminate the current process of giving surcharges and refunds.
This new system is said to come into effect by January 2019 and promises to be revenue neutral and the most significant change to the WSIB in decades. It would reduce the number of rate groups from over 200 to about 34 and eliminate the current NEER, CAD-7, and MAPP experience rating programs and replace them with one unified system. The updated reform proposal can be found here.
Here are some of the key points you need to know. (Remember that details are subject to change since the WSIB's consultation process is ongoing):
New ways to categorize employers:
Say goodbye to refunds and surcharges, say hello to 'risk bands':
(Possibly the) End of multiple rate groups for one company:
Exception for staffing agencies:
Expansion of experience window to 6 years:
What about the Fatal Claim Adjustment Policy or other punitive measures?
What about SIEF?
How will these changes be implemented?
Want to learn more?
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A job ad posted in a local newspaper for a position at a restaurant in Fergus, Ontario has ruffled quite a few feathers in the small town - and led to charges of discrimination in the restaurant's hiring practices.
Horizon's Family Restaurant posted an ad this week looking for a "reliable waitress." It also stated that you should "not apply with visible tattoos and face piercings." Since news of the ad broke, TV and radio stations have reported that many have taken issue with the ban and call it discriminatory. Others argue that a business should be able to put reasonable restrictions on the appearance of its employees.
We asked HR professional Michelle Strassburger to weigh in on the controversy:
"First of all, the fact that they have made the position gender specific when they advertised for a reliable waitress rather than serving person is clearly discriminatory."
"As for a ban on visible tattoos and piercings, it's not appropriate to include that in the job ad since it really couldn't be seen as a bona fide job requirement. Therefore, you'd find yourself justifiably accused of discrimination."
"A company can have a policy that establishes limitations on such things as visible tattoos and face piercings, even an acceptable size of earrings. But that policy should be communicated AFTER a job offer has been given, not in the job ad itself."
Want to get some additional insights into best practices when hiring employees? Clear Path's on demand webinar "Hiring Employees Effectively" is jam-packed with useful tips for business owners and managers. You can also get HRPA re-certification points.
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The new film Star Wars: The Force Awakens is shattering box office records around the world. In addition to being an exciting thrill ride, we noticed a number of intriguing HR lessons in the film that can be applied at every workplace. Come take the journey with us...
SPOILER ALERT: Significant spoilers ahead for those of you who have yet to see the movie.
Some background: The movie introduces a new generation of heroes into the Star Wars universe but continues the classic battle between the dark and the light sides of the Force, with a few twists. The story features a disgruntled storm trooper from the First Order (a resurrection of the old Empire bad guys) named Finn. He breaks away and begins an adventure with a young female scavenger named Rey, who is in possession of a droid that contains information the First Order desperately wants. Eventually, the two cross paths with "vintage" Star Wars characters including Han Solo, General Leia Organa, Chewbacca, C3-PO, and R2-D2 in search of a missing Luke Skywalker. Along the way, the unlikely team escapes the clutches of space pirates and destroys a Deathstar-type planet determined to destroy the Resistance.
So what can this movie teach us?
Lesson #1: Management style matters (conformity vs. collaboration)
The First Order, with its military Nazi-type style, demands conformity and obedience to the commands of its leaders, including Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux, and the mysterious Kylo Ren. The underlying theme in both the old Empire and the new First Order is ruling through fear and oppression. They use force (not THE Force) to get underlings to implement their objectives. But the movie demonstrates that at least one of their members (Finn) does not work well under these conditions and ultimately betrays his superiors.
In contrast, the Resistance under General Leia definitely deploy a more collaborative and non-hierarchical approach to decision making - which proves to be much more successful in the end. The Resistance allow new characters to take active roles in planning their missions, are consistently open to new ideas and putting new “employees” on the front lines (no matter how potentially dangerous or questionable it may be).
Businesses need to understand the value that fresh voices can bring to decision-making and not always default to a "top down" management style. This increased employee engagement will not only reduce your turnover but also increase your productivity in your organization. If foster a fear-based culture that demands conformity if employees wish to keep their jobs, prepare to ultimately fail when facing competitors that allow creative thinking and new approaches. Of course, there are benefits to consistent protocols and procedures, but blind adherence to rules will not lead to innovative solutions to problems such as a rebel group that wants to blow up your planet.
Lesson 2: Learn from your mistakes
For fans who have seen Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Return of the Jedi (1983), and now Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), you will notice a recurring storyline where the underdogs are able to defeat the giant by turning off protective shields and literally blowing up their worlds. The fact that a third Deathstar-like planet was destroyed (or even built in the first place) suggests that upper management in the First Order is not very self-aware and have not done their due diligence reviewing areas of vulnerability and managing those risk exposures.
Sometimes upper management can be so focused on following the original plan that is fails to adapt to the ever-changing environment around them. There are dozens of modern examples, including Blackberry, the taxi industry, Blockbuster Video, and more. When a business continues to struggle over and over, red flags should be raised within upper management that they are somehow failing to analyze their decisions effectively.
One could even argue that removing Star Wars creator George Lucas (who sold control of the franchise to Disney for a reported $4 billion) from the decision-making process for this new film was a result of Lucas' own record of focusing primarily on toy sales versus film quality in the Star Wars prequels. This is certainly not the first time that a founder was "put out to pasture" or removed from the business they created (think Apple's Steve Jobs).
Ultimately, make sure that your managers take a sober look at your company's strengths and vulnerabilities regularly, and take action to mitigate any risks you identify.
Lesson #3: Newer isn't always better
You shouldn't keep on doing the same thing over and over. But on the other hand, sometimes all an old idea needs is a fresh approach, one that maybe younger employees can bring! In the film, Rey and Finn tried to escape the desert planet of Jakku with an impressive ship, but had to use the old and battered Millennium Falcon after their first choice became "unavailable." Still, they were able to adapt and ultimately get where they needed to be with the old machine. It also helped them connect with vintage characters Han Solo and Chewbacca.
In today's society, there is often a desire for "out with the old, in with the new." That can apply to ways of doing business or even to team members themselves. Make sure that you don't disregard what has worked well in the past for your company. Don't toss processes or people aside for the newest trend or fresh blood. Take the time to increase the skill set of your existing team members and help the "old guard" take on new challenges
Lesson #4: Ensuring the right people are on the bus
To paraphrase author Jim Collins (Good to Great), you want to make sure that you have the right people on the bus (and that they are in the right seats!).
In the film, storm trooper Finn is horrified by what he is expected to do and traumatized by the violent actions of his colleagues. He ultimately abandons the group and helps a Resistance fighter to escape along with a valuable droid. His lack of "fit" for the organization was clear to bad guy Kylo Ren (even though his immediate superiors didn't seem to catch on until it was too late).
Effective managers regularly assess their team to determine if there are gaps in necessary skills and if existing employees are meeting the needs of the organization. Effective hiring techniques and performance management can help to ensure that all members are the right "fit" for where the company is going. Sometimes it is necessary to remove a person from your team, whether through termination or transfer to another area of the business that might be better suited for them.
Perhaps his supervisor Captain Phasma should have taken some managerial courses to help her decide to keep Finn in waste management, rather than front-line assault teams. She should also have considered the impact of the traumatic mental stress that the position was having on one of her reports. Some intervention and access to an EAP program may have turned things around for the employee. Maybe the First Order needs a better HR department.
Lesson #5: Power of diversity in the workforce
One thing that everyone loved about Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the increased amount of diversity among actors in the film, including gender, ethnicity, and age.
Going against the Hollywood trend of replacing all older actors with fresh young faces (especially white male ones), this film integrated new faces (including a young female protagonist and an African-American actor) along with the familiar faces of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, all who had aged many years since the last Star Wars movies.
Employers need to remember that diversity in the make-up of your team can be a real source of strength. Valuing the input of senior workers in addition to the younger folks in the office is a wise approach. Hiring people of different genders, ethnicities, and backgrounds should be standard in this day and age. Doing this in your company will empower you see all sides of the challenges you face and will increase employee loyalty in the company.
Lesson #6: Don't be afraid of technology (and those who know how to use it)
Not surprisingly, technology plays a big role in a science-fiction movie like Star Wars. Droids such as C3-PO, R2-D2, and the adorable new BB-8 are crucial to the success of the Resistance and "save the day" on more than one occasion. Those characters who value these droids, particularly members of the Resistance like Poe and Rey, seem to have more success.
Businesses are becoming less afraid of utilizing technology in their day-to-day business operations. But the comfort level of each employee with technology varies widely. Businesses should encourage the hiring of employees, notably Millennials and Generation Z, who have grown up with technology and see it as an integral part of every day life. Support efforts of employees to increase their tech skills and reward innovation. Technology may be the way of the future, but you still need a well-trained employee behind the wheel!
What other HR lessons did you learn from Star Wars: The Force Awakens? If you have any others, we'd love if you would share them in the Comments.
If you're having any HR challenges with your employees, contact Anna Aceto-Guerin of Clear Path today for a free 15-minute consultation.
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