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The best ideas don’t always come from upper management, sometimes it is the bottom-up ideas that can help put a company on top.

Whether the next great bottom-up idea will make a positive impact on your company’s bottom line may depend on what procedures are in place to communicate such suggestions.

Ideas from the bottom can sometimes be lost, especially if no process is in place to facilitate communication from all levels of an organization.

If that next great idea is destined to spring from the lower levels of your organization, can you be sure it will reach the proper destination?

Here are five strategies to take to make certain bottom-up ideas can rise to the top:

1. Have the right process in place

If you don’t have somebody assigned to respond to suggestions, typically an executive or a person in a management or supervisory role, it can be harder to facilitate conversations that will keep ideas moving up the chain of command.

Having a point person will minimize costs of the program and avoid possible redundancies or confusion that might occur with multiple persons involved. This person can then prioritize the ideas and steer them to the appropriate departments.

Without an established process, ideas from the lower levels of an organization can get lost. Employees may think, “I have this idea, but I don’t know who to turn to.” If your company has a hierarchical top-down structure, it might be difficult or intimidating for some employees to proceed.

A company culture that supports bottom-to-top ideas and innovations from front-line employees can help facilitate the process for the good of the organization.

2. Seek feedback from the front lines

Suggestion boxes are a common, easy step many companies have in place. If you’re looking to solve a problem or cultivate ideas from a larger collective, it is best to seek out the advice and not just wait for it to come to you.

Management may be removed from the issues at lower levels and may not fully understand the people, processes or technology involved. By taking the time to seek out and place value upon employee input, you begin to foster an environment that openly encourages suggestions and ideas that move the company forward.

When solving a problem, cast a wide net. Increasing the diversity of the talent you ask for help will only increase your chances of receiving an innovative solution.

Be proactive in encouraging more engagement and ideas from employees. Communicate that they should speak up if they see something that needs to be addressed and that an open-door policy exists for constructive ideas and suggestions.

3. Be a good listener

While you want to hear all the ideas that spring from the organization, it’s impractical to implement every suggestion.

It’s important for employees to understand that their ideas are being taken seriously even if they are not implemented. Offer appreciation for their effort in problem solving and moving the company forward.

If employees think their suggested ideas are being pigeonholed or ignored, then the process won’t work.

It is not a bad thing if the idea isn’t used, but you have to manage that two-way feedback mechanism, so it doesn’t feel like you’re not listening.

It’s a fine balance, but if you empower people, they will be more apt to utilize the system to the company’s advantage. And if a company doesn’t truly support empowerment it will most likely have a difficult time cultivating innovative ideas from its employees.

4. Make it part of the culture

There will be turnover within any organization over time, which makes it important to make sure the process that facilitates bottom-up ideas remains in place.

The process should become a function of the culture. It needs to be integrated within the organization and built into the support system. If it becomes part of the culture of the organization, then that process will stay in place through the inevitable transitions.

If it is ingrained, the process is less likely to become isolated. As part of the norm, it can sustain the process and keep innovative ideas flowing and enhancing the company’s prospects.

Google, for example, is very proactive in soliciting ideas from across its 30,000-plus workforce. Employees are encouraged to interact with management within or outside their specific areas of expertise if they have ideas or suggestions. The system has produced positive changes for the company and has been expanded in recent years as a result of that success. Google also offers rewards for successful ideas.

5. Be prepared for setbacks

Sometimes ideas coming from lower levels of the organization can backfire.

What may seem initially promising may later prove to be unfeasible. For example, the costs of implementing the idea turn out to be much more than originally estimated, then you have wasted resources.

Or an idea that works in the short term but ultimately doesn’t align with the company’s long-term goals may have to be scrapped.

Not every idea is going to pan out, but a successful company will learn from mistakes and continue to encourage innovation, empowerment and bottom-up ideas.

Potential of big benefits at a small cost

With the right program in place to encourage bottom-up ideas your company can find ways to solve problems, cut costs, improve productivity and foster improved morale among employees who may otherwise feel isolated from the company’s big picture.

Employees already have a stake in the company’s future. Further empowering them and encouraging greater involvement can help the company grow.

And that is good for your business.

It’s proven that companies that listen to their employees tend to have happier, more productive employees. That often translates into higher profits for the company. If you’d like to know what else goes into a healthy company culture (and the benefits that go along with that), download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to company culture.

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The more time you spend managing employee issues, the less time you have to run your business. But by ignoring your employer responsibilities to employees, you could cause a rift in your workforce and create potentially costly legal battles.

Fortunately, many of these concerns can be alleviated by outsourcing to a Professional Employer Organization (PEO).

Here are seven scenarios where a PEO can come in handy.

1. Your simple employee relations issue just escalated.

You’ve mentioned several times in passing to Joe’s supervisor that Joe seems to be late to work often, and you’ve seen no improvement. Other employees are now complaining that Joe is very careless around equipment in the warehouse. You’re not sure what to do now to correct the situation and keep yourself out of legal hot water.

A PEO can provide help on how to handle disciplinary situations and take the appropriate steps to correct them, including verbal counseling, coaching and proper written documentation.

But disciplinary issues aren’t the only areas it can help you with. A PEO can help you limit your liability by making sure other employee-related concerns are handled properly, including:

  • Safety – From office safety and ergonomics to hazard identification that can reduce exposure and potential loss, the safety team can help you evaluate your current situation and offer practical solutions.
  • Workers’ compensation – These specialists will guide you through the process surrounding work-related injuries, including monitoring the claim and assisting injured workers return to work as quickly as possible.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) – You can receive assistance with charges of discrimination and harassment, including drafting responses to government agencies, gathering the necessary information and deciding how each charge should be handled to minimize your financial risks and business liability.
2. An employee requests leave.

There is a myriad of leaves now available to employees and just as many laws and regulations that surround them. Before you deny a leave or decide this isn’t an issue you’ll ever deal with, you should be aware employees may be entitled to a leave under state or federal law involving:

  • Family and medical leave
  • Victims of crime leave
  • Family military leave
  • First responder leave
  • Bone marrow donation leave
  • Organ donor leave

And these are just a few of the current available leaves of absence, depending on state and federal laws and regulations. Fortunately, PEOs monitor available leaves of absence and the state and federal laws and regulations surrounding them. This increases compliance with applicable law and ensures employees receive what they are entitled.

Nowadays, many states and cities have specific paid sick leave laws in place to watch out. If your business is located in numerous places, a PEO can help you stay up to date on these regulations.

When you work with a PEO, you’ll have access to a leave specialist who will monitor the length of your employees’ leaves and the status of their return to work. This specialist is particularly valuable if you’re a multi-state employer. A PEO can help navigate multiple state and federal laws and regulations to keep you in compliance in every state where you have employees.

3. You need to track COBRA elections, eligibility and payments.

As an employer, you’re required to track whether your former employees or employees on an extended leave of absence, are making COBRA payments, to send written notice if payments are late or missed, and to stay informed on how long COBRA coverage continues for affected employees. We’ve found that these types of benefits are especially important for smaller companies.

Your PEO can help manage administration of COBRA benefits for employees who qualify. Moreover, they will help ensure compliance, saving you time, headaches and limiting potential liability.

4. You aren’t sure what background checks are permissible.

How familiar are you with laws and regulations surrounding background checks? Do you know if your state allows use of criminal checks, and for how many years previous to the check? Does your state allow you to look at a candidate’s credit and use that score in determining employability?

It’s common for some employers to pick and choose whose background they check with no rhyme or reason. It’s critical to be doing these in a consistent manner based on the type of position. But which positions? A PEO can help.

Also, if you’re moving people internally to a new position, you must know the roles in which people need background checks. For example, if someone is moving from an administrative assistant role to one that handles company cash, a background check should be performed if one wasn’t conducted when the assistant was originally hired.

PEOs usually employ recruiting and employment screening professionals who keep up on the ever-changing industry laws. They can provide you with the guidance you need to make your recruiting and pre-employment screening practices more proficient and cost effective.

5. You’re terminating an employee, and you don’t want to pay vacation hours.

Have you studied your state laws lately? Does your state consider vacation pay to be “wages” that must be paid to an employee upon separation from employment?

Do you know when you must pay an employee who has voluntarily left employment versus when an employee is involuntarily terminated?

Fortunately, your PEO specialist knows what is required in your state and will advise you on what you need to do to avoid potential liability and remain compliant. This may even save you money down the road.

6. Your managers aren’t following company policies or leading effectively.

All the policies you create for your company are for naught if your managers don’t follow them when conducting their daily responsibilities.

Managers are held to a higher standard and considered representatives for your company. They must understand your rationale for policies, their roles in policy administration and the consequences for failure to carry out those roles. Failure to do so creates the possibility of multiple liabilities, from employee complaints and dissatisfaction to lawsuits against your company.

When you work with a PEO, you get access to HR specialists who can help you train supervisors on key policy issues, such as sexual harassment awareness, anti-harassment policies, workplace violence prevention, interviewing techniques, performance appraisal skills, substance abuse prevention and effective employee counseling.

Develop your managers so they have the necessary skills to lead the operation, like engaging and effectively communicating with direct reports. A PEO may offer a learning and performance specialist who can help train, analyze and determine where gaps may exist. Then you can begin to bridge them.

They can also help you develop an employee handbook that outlines company policies and clearly communicates performance expectations.

7. You realize you need to know and understand your workforce.

This is simple. You must know who you’ve employed. Know your personnel.

For example, if you had to lay off staff, it’s important to understand your workforce. Analyze employee demographics and how layoff decisions affect them. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for lawsuits. You don’t want to accidentally find yourself in a situation where 90% of your layoff were people over the age of 50.

The solution is pinpointing the business case that justifies your actions and communicating that to the affected employees — before it becomes a misunderstanding.

A PEO can help analyze your workforce, let you know when there could be a problem and walk you through a plan of action. In the end, these decisions are still entirely up to you as the business owner.

Also, knowing your workforce is about assessing the costs of employee turnover. Many times a seemingly necessary termination leaves a void. Working with a PEO, they can assess where there’s opportunities to address those issues without moving forward with any terminations.

This barely scratches the surface of how a PEO can help business owners reduce their HR burden and focus on growing their underlying business. If you’d like to learn more, then download our complimentary e-book: HR outsourcing: A step-by-step guide to professional employer organizations (PEOs).

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How do you double, triple or even quintuple the size of your staff virtually overnight without making bad hiring decisions? Whether you’re hiring for startups or recruiting for a larger company expanding a burgeoning department, finding the right people can make or break your business.

Time is of the essence, and there is little margin for error. Hiring strong employees is a challenge under normal conditions, and it only becomes exponentially more challenging when a business is scaling rapidly.

The following tips will help you efficiently and effectively recruit, screen, hire and retain the people who will fuel your company’s success.

1. Begin at the end

It may sound simplistic, but to avoid wasting precious time, you must know exactly who and what you’re looking for.

The foundation of any good business is a strong company culture. This should be your guiding light for the type of people you hire and how you intend them to interact with each other.

From there, work backward to identify what the ideal team structure looks like. What are the key roles you absolutely must fill, and what skills must an individual in each role possess? What positions, if any, are secondary? Perhaps those roles can wait until a second wave of hiring.

It’s important to prioritize the required skills to identify what may be strict requirements versus nice-to-haves. Must they hold certain certifications or degrees? Is there a minimum years of experience required? Are you flexible on these criteria?

This helps your company snag as many potential candidates as possible for the initial screening, which hopefully brings more qualified prospects to your door. Don’t drive away good candidates by keeping non-essential requirements in your job listings.

Now go a step beyond the job description and think about how the teams and team members will fit into your desired culture.

What qualities do your top performers exhibit? Does your company adore individuals who work well under tight deadlines with minimal supervision? Or, is your company more team-oriented — with emphasis on collaboration and group decision making?

There are no right or wrong answers. What matters is alignment with your corporate culture. Your goal here is to define success based off your existing and desired employees. Then build a replicable and scalable process for identifying individuals who fit your criteria.

Plus, if an employee works well in your environment, they’ll tend to stay longer and grow with your company as your business needs change.

2. Encourage referrals

You’ve mapped out the ideal team. Now you must put your plan into action.

Finding and hiring more candidates, particularly if you’re searching for in-demand tech workers, will likely require creativity from your hiring team. Simply posting a job to your company site, Indeed or CareerBuilder won’t be enough for high-volume hiring.

Employee referrals are a tried-and-true method for finding good candidates. It’s not full-proof, but it is a good bet that your smartest, hardest-working employees have like-minded friends and relatives.

Don’t just ask your top performers to refer their friends and former colleagues. Encourage everyone in your company to become a recruiter by offering a monetary reward. The amount of the reward should be large enough to motivate your staff into action. That may mean you offer $250 for a cashier job and $1,500 for a professional position if they’re still with your company after 90 days.

Regularly remind employees of your referral program through company-wide emails, flyers and in staff meetings.

3. Take a holistic view of hiring

Managers may develop tunnel vision when it comes to hiring — particularly when a company is growing fast. Each director knows who they need to hire but may forget about other departments and their hiring needs.

In the realm of a rising tide lifts all boats, make sure all your hiring managers keep other departments in mind when screening and interviewing candidates. For instance, an admin candidate may not be a good fit for the accounting department but could be a strong fit for HR.

When your company is growing rapidly, every hiring manager needs to participate in finding excellent employees.

 4. Consider all qualified candidates

Considering all qualified candidates remains an excellent way to scale staff in a short amount of time. Some managers may be drawn to candidates who look and act like themselves or previously successful hires.

To give qualified candidates a chance, it’s important not to make assumptions about age, gender or disabilities.

Focus on the person’s skills, attitudes and whether they’re well prepared for the interview. Are they committed to learning and growing in their line of work? Will they add a positive disposition to the team? Do they have all required certifications and experience?

If you and your hiring managers have preconceived ideas about who is right for a job, you may very well miss an excellent candidate.

5. Try texting recruits

A text campaign can dramatically speed up the initial screening process. To do this, rather than asking candidates to fill out a long online form or to call a recruiter, list a number to text for more information.

Texting works well to vet a high volume of candidates when you need to screen them with simple questions such as:

  • Are you 18 or older?
  • Do you have a valid driver’s license?
  • Are you legally authorized to work in the U.S.?
  • Do you have a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification?

Some candidates prefer to communicate by text rather than calling or filling out a long online form. Once you’ve performed an initial screening, you can move on to a more in-depth telephone call later.

6. Revise processes as necessary

Fast-growth companies must streamline their recruiting processes, invest in efficient HR technology, make offers in a timely manner and focus on finding people with the skills they most need.

Be open to adjusting your hiring processes as your company grows and as you collect candidate feedback. Some common areas where companies make mistakes include:

  • Requiring too long or too many interviews for the position in question
  • Taking too long to make an offer
  • Demanding in-person interviews when a telephone screening or video interview would suffice
  • Listing non-essential qualifications in job descriptions
  • Using cumbersome, out-of-date recruiting forms

You don’t want to miss hiring a good candidate because the person grew tired of endless rounds of interviews or were unable to take half a day from their current job to drive to your in-person screening interview.

7. Focus on retention

Even during hiring crunches, it’s essential your company keep current employees satisfied and motivated. After all, these are the people who’ve made your current success possible, and it will be a significant challenge to grow if you’re busy replacing existing workers rather than focusing on new hires.

To do this, make sure your onboarding process creates a favorable early impression and helps new employees settle in. Invest in the tools, training and development your staff needs to help the company grow. Conduct regular climate surveys to find out what employees think about the growth and whether your corporate culture is changing in an unhelpful direction.

Nurturing current employees ultimately helps support recruiting because happy employees share their experiences on social media and in person with those in their community. This helps advertise your workplace culture, which in turn lets your company become an employer of choice for high-value candidates.

Is recruiting for startups or your high-growth, maturing business getting you down? Let Insperity help. Download our free e-book: How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

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Your company has grown, welcome news to be sure. With that success comes the question: When should you hire a human resources (HR) manager? Or, should you even hire one at all?

It’s best to have a strong HR presence early in your company’s life to establish company mission, vision, values, culture and vital HR infrastructure, which can have a lasting impact on the success of your employees and your business. But that may not always be how business owners approach their business.

When your company is small, you might be able to get away with an informal HR department – a non-expert tasked with HR-related responsibilities in addition to their core expertise. But as your company grows, so does your HR burden.

Around the time your company hits fifty employees, things change, and there are regulations that you must comply with that weren’t previously applicable.

For instance, is your business FMLA compliant? Are you meeting all the regulations and requirements for documentation, insurance and more? Is your company meeting all the legal requirements as an employer?

This is often when businesses begin thinking seriously about hiring an HR director and building out an in-house HR staff.

If HR was an afterthought at your business, it’s also around this time that cracks may begin to show in your culture, recruiting, training and retention strategies.

While it’s best to implement sound HR strategies at the outset of your business, it’s at this time that HR infrastructure switches from highly recommended to absolutely essential.

With such a wide range of issues, it can be difficult for business owners to know where to start.

Broadly speaking, there are three key options to choose from: hire an HR director and build an in-house team; hire a small handful of HR managers who utilize an array of HR technology tools; or outsource your HR needs to a professional employer organization (PEO).   

Here’s a look at the options, with the pros and cons for each.

The in-house team

Some companies opt to establish an in-house human resources team.

This typically involves a team responsible for people management, setting up benefits and payroll, helping with the company’s culture and making sure compliance is being met.

If the in-house team is large enough, you may have specialists for benefits and another for payroll. Or some may serve multiple functions within the structure. It all depends on the size of the human resources staff and your company’s budget and preferences.

Pros:
  1. An in-house team can have intimate knowledge of the company culture, mission and vision.
  2. They may be well equipped to manage big-picture questions regarding recruiting, retention and other human resource issues.
  3. They work directly with management. That may allow them to be nimble and adapt to company needs on short notice.
Cons:
  1. Hiring, training and maintaining an in-house HR team is expensive.
  2. Your company must negotiate its own medical and retirement benefits.
  3. Expertise may be lacking in one or more critical areas of HR. Laws, regulations and best practices are ever-evolving. An in-house team must be diligent to stay abreast of changes.
  4. All compliance, regulatory and other employer-related risks fall on the employer.
  5. A large HR department, like any other growing department, must be managed to ensure it’s aligned with the company’s overall goals and strategies. There is risk that an in-house HR team’s goals diverge from that of the company, which could have broad impacts on other areas of the business.
The technology option

Many companies will employ a small HR staff and augment their knowledge and skills with cost-effective HR tools and software.

This could mean software for payroll, time and attendance, benefits administration or any number of other tasks.

Pros:
  1. A small team (or small company) can leverage these tools to make up for lack of expertise in certain areas of HR.
  2. The employer has real-time access to employee data. Employees can also accomplish routine tasks themselves – clocking in or out, updating benefits, requesting PTO – anywhere with internet access.
  3. Repetitive HR duties can be automated and streamlined, reducing the likelihood of human error.
  4. The cost to maintain a small HR staff and a few HR tech tools may be favorable to the other options.
  5. HR technology often offers additional materials that assist in educating employees. For example, there may be online leadership courses or videos that detail policies on workplace discrimination and sexual harassment.
Cons:
  1. The company must negotiate its own medical and retirement benefits.
  2. All compliance, regulatory and other employer-related risks fall on the employer.
  3. Cost could become an issue if too many different software services are used, which may have individual licensing, maintenance and other fees.
  4. Various HR systems (created and maintained by different companies) may not be compatible with one another. This could cause more work for your HR team.
  5. If you don’t continue to use the technology or if it becomes obsolete, what happens to that data? Is the third-party company responsible if that data is compromised?
  6. Other factors should be considered, such as will the technology come with customer service, and if so, for how long?
Professional employer organizations

Other companies may opt to outsource their HR services through a professional employer organization (PEO).

When you hire a PEO, you enter a co-employment relationship where the PEO takes on many of your employer-related responsibilities. You’ll maintain management of your organizational structure and employees’ core job functions and to-dos.

You will still need an in-house HR representative, but you’ll gain access to the PEO’s expertise, resources and benefits.

Pros:
  1. A PEO can provide access to specialists in payroll, recruiting, benefits and many other HR niches. This level of service and expertise is difficult to build and maintain in-house.
  2. You gain access to plug-and-play HR infrastructure that scales and evolves alongside your business.
  3. A PEO model provides group buying power for medical coverage and also offers additional advantages from a workers’ compensation standpoint.
  4. A PEO assumes responsibility for certain employer-related risks.
  5. A PEO will help instruct your company on how to stay compliant with all laws and regulations.
  6. A PEO does not provide a workforce, but they can supply a level of responsibility that comes with all of the HR services and benefits an in-house staff may provide. Reputable PEOs focus on building strong company culture, which is the foundation for attracting and retaining employees
  7. With a PEO, you won’t need to continually grow your human resources department as your company grows.
Cons:
  1. A PEO assumes certain employer-related risks, which disqualifies certain high-risk businesses.
  2. The knowledge of the internal workings of the company, its strategies and big-picture goals may be harder for the PEO to ascertain.
  3. A PEO may require a larger financial investment than other options.
The takeaway

No matter which option you choose, the goal is to grow your business by maximizing available resources. Sound human resources practices have proven to promote healthy, measurable growth in businesses, while treating employees with dignity and respect. The key to doing that is to understand your options and make smart decisions.

If you’d like to learn more, download our complimentary e-book: How to create a more strategic HR department.

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How to say no to your boss, an employee or a client can be a task fraught with anxiety for some people. But there are times when saying no is unavoidable.

Perhaps you are asked to do something illegal, unethical or against company policy. Or, most common, you may have to say no when the request is not possible to do for practical concerns such as lack of time, resources or personnel.

When this situation arises it is important to address it correctly, especially if ignoring the issue could hurt productivity and make the situation worse.

There are right and wrong ways to say no.

Here are seven things to keep in mind when the prospect of saying no is necessary.

1. Set priorities and expectations

Competing priorities within an organization can undermine employee productivity and time management. When this happens there are keys to properly addressing these situations.

The first thing a manager should do is make sure those orders are prioritized correctly and that employees are working on the things that are most important to the department or organization.

Determine what is important and what is urgent. There is a difference.

Urgent tasks can often take priority, but they might not the most important in terms of the organization’s goals.

Set realistic expectations for what a team can deliver. People sometimes say, “under promise and over deliver,” but setting realistic expectations for what your team can deliver is the best way to avoid misunderstandings later.

2. Define success on new projects

Eliminate ambiguity when introducing new tasks.

There is a difference between saying I need you to do X, Y and Z by this date and defining what a good X, Y and Z should look like. There should be no misunderstanding.

For example, you might need an employee to produce a report detailing an aspect of the company’s first quarter production by the end of the day for inclusion in the quarterly report. The what, when and why is succinct and makes it clear exactly what is expected.

If the employee or client clearly understands what your plan is and why, then both sides are in a better position to give specific feedback. Maybe one side won’t have to say no, or the other side will understand why the initial request might not be feasible and readjust expectations accordingly.

3. Make your point without making an enemy

Many of us have heard the old maxim about the customer is always right, even when they may be wrong. But sometimes saying no is not no, but a not now, or not necessarily.

Explain what you can do for them, not what you can’t. There may be limitations to what can be accomplished in a set time. For example, rigorous laws or regulations may pose an unforeseen barrier to completion. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of available bandwidth.

If there are valid reasons why the answer is not a yes at this time, people understand.

Maybe the project can be adjusted or postponed until a later date. Explain what you think is achievable and offer a compromise that might work well with clients, supervisors or employees.

There’s a right way to tactfully say no and still be responsive to the individual. Be clear, but polite, in your explanation why something may not work. It is okay to disagree, but it’s not okay to be disagreeable.

4. Lack of communication is a no-no

Just saying no without providing any rationale for doing so isn’t going to help things. You don’t have to explain everything, but it is important for people to understand why something doesn’t have to happen.

Explaining the rationale behind a decision allows the person to accept it more readily.

Another thing that is important is the tone of voice. How you say something is just as important as what you say. When you are communicating no, your tone of voice may determine how it is received by the employee, client or supervisor.

5. Manage expectations up the chain of command

When working with a key client or a superior, it’s important to manage expectations by being purposeful as to what you communicate.

For instance, you might be the HR director submitting a budget request to management.

If you present the best information possible, it’s easier for management to make good decisions. It is not just a matter of feeling strongly about something, but you must communicate your opinion in a way that explains and justifies how it should be done or why it is necessary.

Remember: you’re a partner and not a problem in this situation.

Help your audience understand your position from a business perspective. It might just be the differentiator between getting your budget approved or not.

6. When saying no is not an option

There will be times when tasks are ordered from the top where practicality or time constraints are not fully understood by management. Sometimes marching orders are just that – marching orders – and must be complied with.

When a task must be completed under time duress, success can be challenging.

Start by reviewing the project with your team. Break it down to manageable chunks and ensure everyone understands the various deliverables and specifications.

Emergency situations happen. There are times when things just have to get done. If people understand the why and the how, it helps them overcome their objections and doubts.

7. Paint the big picture

One way to keep employees from getting inundated or overwhelmed is to make certain everyone understands the big picture — the organization’s mission and goals. If they understand that, they are better equipped to understand when the answer is no.

Being told no without knowing why can anger or frustrate people. So be as specific as you can be: Here’s the changes, here’s the tools you need to adapt to those changes, and here’s what is expected of you going forward. Seek clarity over confusion, and you will lessen potential productivity road blocks.

About that big picture: It is best that someone high up in the organization, and the higher up the better, does the explaining. That allows an employee to be more fully engaged in the organization and that is critical, because it makes it easier for those times when having to say no is the best option. Your ability to manage difficult situations – like saying no to a client, boss or team member – will play an integral role in the success of the business

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Like spring, summer, fall and winter, an economic recession is a natural stage of an (economic) life cycle. And much like how any season can produce extreme weather, managing a business in a recession can present unique challenges for business owners and employees.

The United States economy is complex and comprised of many industries. Its growth is measured by a number called gross domestic product (GDP). When all is going well, the overall economy expands, which means businesses are making money, growing larger and hiring people. Those people earn increasingly higher incomes (hopefully) and purchase more products, which further drives economic expansion.

At some point, like a rubber band stretched to its limit, those underlying economic factors begin to slow, reach a peak and then reverse. When they decline for more than a few months consecutively, the economy is in a recession.

There have been more than 40 recorded recessions in the United States, and each is unique. Some last for months; others last years. The Great Depression was the worst in U.S. history. The financial crisis of 2007-2009 was the worst of many of our lifetimes. Each happened for different reasons, and the next recession will have a catalyst of its own.

It’s impossible to predict when a recession will happen or what will cause it. But there are some common symptoms of a recessed economy that impact businesses. Once you understand what they are, you can better prepare your business and your workforce for an economic retraction.

Here are five strategies for identifying how a recession might impact your business and how to handle it.

1. Assess your business’s health

In the months leading up to a recession, consumer spending and available capital can both decline, which can cause a business to feel a pinch in their budgets.

This means some difficult decisions may have to be made regarding product pricing, marketing initiatives, hiring, benefits and even new launches. While each business will experience a recession in unique ways, the most common challenges faced by companies of all sizes include:

  • Temptation to cut product size, quality and benefits – or raise prices. When lagging sales no longer pay for the cost of doing business, businesses may look to products to find wiggle room in the operating budget.
  • Not enough capital to pay employees. Companies may feel they can no longer pursue plans to expand operations, pay bonuses or even keep the workers they have.
  • Lower employee morale and productivity. Frequent layoffs and employees asked to do more with less can lead to a culture of apprehension. Productivity can suffer when employees feel uncertain and unmotivated by bad news.

Data is the best way to meet these challenges head on. It’s vital to understand what the metrics say about your day-to-day operations, even when they show that your company may be suffering.

Try to answer these questions:

  • Are there inefficiencies regarding your product or service offerings?
  • How much talent can we afford right now? How far can we really stretch people?
  • What resources do you need to maintain or exceed current output?
2. Implement change

Now that you’ve identified the trouble areas of your business, it’s time to make changes that will make your business more resilient in this (and every) economic climate.

This could include:

  • Realigning your staff or restructuring your organizational chart
  • Evaluating products and services to ensure the market demands continue to be met for your clients
  • Readjusting benchmarks and projected growth targets

Not every problem can be solved at once. Prioritize issues with the highest potential to damage to your customer satisfaction, business culture and bottom line.

Actions to take:

  • Personnel: Can you consolidate redundancies? Can the job of two workers be performed by one? Is job-sharing an appropriate solution? Could the non-essential employee be moved to an area where talent is scarce? While layoffs are never ideal, struggling companies can’t afford to pay for repetitive processes.   
  • Products and services: Consider reducing or eliminating products that don’t generate profits or with low profit margins. Look at the labor required for each product. If most of your employees’ time is spent on low-margin products, then perhaps their time can be better spent on your profit centers.

These changes may not come easy to your staff. And having difficult conversations with employees is, well, difficult. Approach the conversations around downsizing and other sensitive matters carefully.

Things to consider:

  • Tackle the issues head-on: Keeping the news private about layoffs or other changes can do more harm than good. What you fail to tell your workers can end up becoming a PR nightmare. Get ahead of rumors by having an honest dialogue with your team. Be transparent by being honest about hard truths, and your employees will respect you for it.
  • Don’t let work fall by the wayside: Be conscious of the fact that changes to your workforce may make the business vulnerable to inefficiencies. The impact of the recession should be mitigated so that the customer doesn’t feel your internal strife.
3. Maximize your talent

When the recession puts a squeeze on your resources, including your human capital, consider how you can maximize the teams you already have in place.

This could include:

  • Providing encouragement and reassurances to your existing leaders and staff
  • Identifying undiscovered leaders in your organization and calling on them to step up

Actions to take:

  • Rally the troops: Explain that while these may be tough times, the tide will change. If everyone bands together, the company will persevere. Remind them that their hard work is valued and does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
  • Identify leaders: Ask your staff to help identify unrecognized natural leaders. Is there someone that everyone relies on during stressful times? Who is the person who answers questions, provides guidance and acts as a peer mentor without being asked? Once identified, encourage these high producers to take on more responsibility and fill in gaps.  
  • Track everything: Use metrics to track and recognize core competencies. Understand who is on the bench and whether they can assume extra responsibility. That way you can begin to cross train team members.  
  • Always listen: Regularly solicit feedback from your leaders, heavy hitters and regular employees. Their intimate knowledge of the company could inspire innovative solutions to problems both small and systemic. Having this type of buy-in can keep morale high and productivity consistent.
4. Meet the needs of your employees

A recession is hard on everyone, and while it can have a damaging impact on morale, you need your employees to be more efficient and productive than ever.

You achieve this by understanding your employee’s personal needs.

Listen to your employees. If you experience recession-induced stress in the workplace, it’s likely that employees are suffering through financial, emotional or interpersonal strains at home, as well.

This is more important than ever during a recession, especially with employees taking on extra responsibility.

Actions to consider:

  • Offer intangible perks: Knowing how to motivate employees outside of monetary compensation is essential. Flexible scheduling — allowing employees to take time off or work remotely — is one popular intangible perk. As you implement these changes, closely monitor productivity. Don’t let relaxed oversight lead to decreased employee output.  
  • Make every manager an advocate for mental and emotional health: Educate employees on how mental health issues can affect the workplace. Ensure that managers are prepared to offer help, follow wise protocol and avoid developing stigmatizing prejudices.
  • Use your employee assistance program: These programs can be a great asset for employees struggling through various issues.
5. Recession proof your business

Business owners who understand that recessions are normal and should be expected can prepare for them. Those who plan for all possible outcomes are best poised to survive.

Actions to take:

  • Think long-term: Planning can take much of the unknown out of the equation. Give leaders tools for training, productivity, communication and mitigation long before they need it.
  • Conduct regular checkups: Instead of entering crisis mode once a recession hits, use every opportunity to gauge the health of your business. Use data to guide how you build efficient teams, foster new leadership and support your employees’ well-being. Those that are proactive, rather than reactive, may get better results.
In summary

Recessions are unavoidable, but if you plan ahead, your business can survive and grow stronger as a result.

  1. Regularly assess the health of your business.
  2. Readjust your products and services and the resources required as necessary.
  3. Build a lean, efficient team and remind them that you appreciate them.
  4. Listen to your employees’ needs, and they will give discretionary effort for you.
  5. Never stop thinking about how you can accomplish numbers 1-4 better and more efficiently.

If you follow these strategies, your business will be better prepared to survive any economic climate.

However, recession isn’t the only type of disaster that can impact your business. Any number of outside variables could have adverse effects if you’re not prepared. To learn more about how to protect your company from any disaster situation, download our complimentary magazine: The Insperity guide to crisis management.

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Is your company taking advantage of top HR tech tools? If not, you might be missing out on opportunities to not only increase the efficiency and accuracy of your HR department, but also improve employee engagement.

In today’s fast-paced business environment, HR professionals are being tasked with more and more duties – many of which are necessary but time consuming.  

While the list of HR responsibilities continues to grow, employees are also becoming conditioned to expect more from their employer. You want to do what’s right for your company, as well as your employees. The good news is that there’s a solution for both sides of the equation.

With the right integrated HR software and tech tools, your HR department can turn repetitive, labor-intensive work into an automated and coordinated process. As a result, your HR department can multiply efficiencies, allowing for more time to explore new ways to align game-changing projects with your organizational goals.

Let’s take a look at three top HR tech tools that can help you go from feeling like an office manager to being an enlightened business owner.

1. Benefits management software

Running a successful business takes a competitive advantage. One way to achieve that is to offer the best benefits you can to attract and retain top talent. The only problem is now you have a host of benefits to maintain.

As an employer, you’re probably looking to provide employee benefits beyond the bare minimum. Effectively managing benefits and ensuring employees are offered the right coverage at the right time is a complex and time-consuming task to manage. That’s just the tip of the benefits iceberg.

The Affordable Care Act folds in an additional layer of complexity. If you employed an average of 50 or more full-time (or full-time equivalent) employees in the prior calendar year, you could be subject to an IRS penalty if you don’t offer medical coverage to your full-time employees. State and local health care mandates may require you to offer additional coverage or benefits.

From basic benefits like medical and dental coverage, to health care flexible spending accounts and life insurance, the list of benefits you’ll have to manage can grow quickly. That’s before you begin to include benefits such as:

  • Commuter benefits
  • Child care benefits
  • Adoption assistance
  • Employee assistance programs

Having a rich benefits package is a healthy way to attract top talent. But without the proper technology infrastructure, you may be creating a nightmare for your HR department. Not to mention that you may be offering benefits your employees don’t value.

A sophisticated benefits management software can help take the guess work out of your benefit offerings and put powerful knowledge into the hands of your administrators, drastically reducing the occurrence of eligibility oversight and improving benefit usage rates.

Many top HR tech tools in the benefits management realm offer dashboards for a quick glimpse into benefits usage. Some offer the ability to dive into the analytics associated with your employees’ benefits usage, so you explore whether you’re offering the appropriate mix of benefits and begin to predict future costs to stabilize your fiscal planning.

It should come as no surprise that many employee benefits are underutilized. Many times, the case is that employees weren’t aware of the offering or didn’t know how to enroll. The right HR technology can solve both problems, helping build stronger affinity toward your business.

A benefits management system with integrated decision-making tools can provide supplemental education to your employees so they can better understand and see the value in their benefits choices, including the cost to them or their family.

You can also be more proactive in alerting employees to key enrollment periods. Since life events such as marriage and the birth of a child are the norm, easy access to make changes through your benefits management system can provide simplicity toward helping ensure your employees’ changing families are properly covered.

Add all this together and employees can really begin to appreciate all your benefit offerings.

2. Learning management system

Unlike the complexities associated with benefits management, the markers of undertrained employees can be harder to spot. While indicators are less obvious, undertrained employees may still be costing your business time and money.

Regardless of the size of your organization, employees are often on the front line serving your best interests. Their knowledge and soft skills are invaluable to the overall success of your business. There is usually more than one way you can support employees in this effort.

Employees crave support and on-going learning programs to further their careers and become more adept in their current roles. In many organizations, the task of ensuring employees continue their professional education often falls under the purview the HR department.

It’s also important to mention that training extends beyond the nice-to-haves of career development into the more serious area of human relations training, including sexual harassment training and other areas. Employers in a growing number of jurisdictions are required or encouraged to provide sexual harassment training. A learning management system can help deliver training and document completion by employees.

From researching requirements and booking specialized instructors to scheduling training courses for employees, this responsibility can place a significant burden on your HR department. By providing top HR software and tools, you’ll provide your HR staff with new-found time, and the ability to focus on other pressing matters.

By implementing a cloud-based learning management system, you can provide a substantial amount of value to your employees and reduce the cost traditionally associated with employee training — something you and your employees will be thankful for.

With e-learning becoming more common, there are many learning management systems available on the market to help your employees earn and renew certified credentials, and keep you compliant. Cloud-based learning management systems are also a boon to organizations with multiple office locations and a mobile workforce. Beyond accessibility, additional advantages over traditional training methods may include:

  • Mobile support
  • Self-paced courses
  • Multilingual availability
  • Progress and reporting tools
  • Real-time grading and scoring

E-learning is certainly not a new phenomenon, but it’s becoming increasingly popular among today’s workforce, and not just millennials. Workers of all ages welcome the benefit of continuing their professional education. Giving them access to the seemingly endless available content of a learning management system together with the ability to learn at their own pace is a bonus.

3. Time and attendance software

A natural extension of automating many of your company’s HR related tasks is implementing a time and attendance system.

This top HR tech tool will allow you to easily monitor hours worked (hourly and salary) and paid time off, as well as help you keep pace with strict labor laws regarding overtime pay.

There’s no need to complicate the process. If your company is still manually tracking this sensitive employee data, you may be exposing your company to the unnecessary risk of human error and incomplete or inaccurate time cards.

In addition to calculating hours worked for non-exempt employees, a time and attendance system can help you allocate your company’s human capital more efficiently. As your company grows into new locations, the challenge of confirming employees are working the hours they are supposed to be working becomes more difficult.

Absenteeism can be one of your organization’s greatest costs. When employees are absent from work, either planned or unplanned, it costs you money.

If the absence is planned, such as vacation or leave, it can reduce the impact. However, unplanned absences, such as sick days, unforeseen extended leaves, late arrivals and early departures are harder to track.

You want to make it as easy as possible for you and your employees to manage this process. Believe it or not, an automated time and attendance tracking system can add to employee satisfaction by simplifying the process on the employee’s end, giving them one less thing to worry about.

By adding automated elements to your time and attendance tracking, you can more easily view and plan around foreseeable absences. And when they occur, you can turn to a system that houses this information and perform proactive workforce planning.

Your key takeaway

What are your company goals this year? With these three tech tools in place, your HR department can spend more time focused on the human element of your organization. As much as software and top HR tech tools can help your business run better, grow faster and make more money, it’s the people who matter at the end of the day.

Learn more about how choosing the right HR technology for your company will allow you to have it all: HR efficiency and business growth. Download our free e-book, HR technology: How to choose the best platform for your business.

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Most people recognize a good leader when they see one – especially if they motivate teams to exceed company goals and create a culture of accomplishment. Performance measurements and outcomes aside, are there routines that make someone more likely to be successful? What are the habits of effective leaders?

The world is awash with buzz-worthy tips for creating good habits in one’s personal life, but creating the long-term foundations for success in the office isn’t often as prominent.

What habits do good leaders follow daily that separate them from lesser leaders? How important is each one to your overall career success?

Habits vs. traits

Remember, effective leadership habits are not the same as the traits of a good leader.

While traits are often natural qualities of an individual, habits are usually made with considerable effort. It can require many tries to commit a habit to your daily routine. Only after you’ve become accustomed to doing something regularly can it be considered a habit.

Since it can take discipline, focus and (sometimes) a bit of stretching outside your comfort zone, building healthy work habits should be managed one at a time. Only after you’ve mastered your primary habit, should you then move on to the next one on your list.

Avoid buying into fad-based leadership myths, and start with these five habits of effective leaders that are making a difference in today’s workplaces.

1. Plan the night before

Effective leaders have set goals that are both short-term and long-term. Being organized is an essential part of leading others, but it’s not enough to simply have a plan for tackling the year or even month ahead.

Your weekly calendar may have meetings and must-dos planned, but revisiting the steps to getting these done takes these goals from a plan to a reality.

To make this activity a habit, set aside a block of time to plan and adjust your schedule and goals to set yourself up for success in the morning. Then consistently do it each day. This could mean that you look over your planner for the next day right before you leave the office. Or it might mean planning your upcoming day the night before.

The key is to find time that fits your schedule and stick to it.

Successful leaders also take time out of the week to think about medium- and long-term goals and the steps needed to achieve them.

Doing this while outside of the workplace has benefits, as it is often easier to prioritize to-dos without the constant pull of office demands.

Ask questions that clarify your next week’s goals, such as:

  • On what things do I need to focus?
  • What do I need to accomplish in the week ahead?
  • Is there anything that no longer makes sense to pursue?
  • What additional resources, if any, should I look to procure before the week begins?

Rather than letting the current office situation dictate what’s important, take a moment on the weekend before the workweek begins to analyze what’s of highest priority.

Whether you reflect in a café or while lounging in your home, use this time to set the tone for when you return to the office.

2. Get to work early

There are many anecdotal reasons why coming to work early works, but it’s strategically a good move for leaders who want to own their time and get command of their day before the rest of the workplace comes alive with activity.

Take a few precious minutes to double-check your schedule, fill up that coffee mug and set up your workspace. It has immense psychological benefits.

It also shows those you manage that you take your role as a leader seriously. This time in the morning allows you to check your emails and voice messages to get on top of any developments in your staff, such as sick leave requests or family emergencies.

Some managers use it to approve budget issues, sign off on paperwork and review employee surveys or feedback. The time alone is free from distraction and is perfect for churning through short, menial tasks.

Making a habit out of showing up early is one of the best ways to inspire others to start doing it, as well.

3. Move when possible

Leaders in every industry have touted exercise as a way to live healthier, but its role in the workplace has been more visible in recent years. With the embrace of standing desks, bike desks and corporate gyms, leaders now have permission to incorporate movement into their workday.

Make a habit of parking further from the front door or taking the stairs.

Better yet, hold one-on-ones with your workers while on a walk around the building. Many of the casual discussions we hold in a conference room could easily be done outdoors. Change in environment can boost creativity and innovation. It’s a win-win.

Combine light exercise with business in a productive way to reap the benefits of overcoming a sedentary lifestyle while still hitting your management goals.

4. Tackle the hard projects first

Handle the most challenging tasks early in the day, while patience, focus and energy are at their peak.

Procrastination of the things that are least appealing, on the other hand, can add to stress and preoccupy your attention until they are finally resolved.

Since you already have your day’s to-do list handy and familiar, prioritize those monster projects, and stop carrying them over to the next day – or even week.

Accomplishing these larger tasks first is a habit that rewards leaders. It builds momentum to tackle everything the day will throw at them and creates a culture of wins that others in the organization can see and be inspired to imitate.

This method is also known as “eating the frog” due to the concept that you get the big, ugly things out of the way before handling more pleasant tasks.

5. Learn daily

Good leaders love to learn and make a daily habit of picking up knowledge wherever they can.

Snagging the latest best-selling book or watching a TED Talk are popular and effective ways to add to your knowledge bank. Interpersonal relationships, however, offer a wider range of opportunities and take nothing from the training and development budget.

Gleaning wisdom and skills from your team can be as simple as making sure every stakeholder at the table has a few minutes to add their input. Or, it can also come in the form of mentorships where you aim to get as much from your protégé as they do from you.

Listening, taking notes and asking probing questions of teams gives you practice in empathy and emotional intelligence (EQ) skills (highly valuable traits for leaders). Making a habit of doing this daily also grows your exposure to those new ideas that you can use to solve everyday problems and recognize the future leaders in your business.

Why good leadership really matters

The importance of effective leadership cannot be overemphasized. Costly employee turnover can usually be mitigated by decisions that managers are directly responsible for making.

Whether employees leave over lack of opportunity, conflict with leadership or other interpersonal issues, effective leaders can change the outcome and keep good employees from leaving.

Leadership skills are developed over an entire career, and using the right resources can make all the difference. Download our complimentary e-magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management, and start making those management improvements that matter.

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Your all-star employee is mired in a rut. It’s a common problem and many may not know how to get out of a work slump. What can you do to mitigate this risk and how can you help?

A once-high performer turned underperforming employee may be the result of many factors. Before you can help the employee correct their situation, you must learn about your employee and work to identify the underlying issues.

Here are seven steps to identify the underlying problem and reinvigorate your newly underperforming employee.

1. Understand the problem

Even the most motivated employees can experience tough times at work and can become disengaged.

Signs of a slump can take the form of customer complaints and partaking in unhealthy activities, such as frequent lateness, high levels of absenteeism or visible changes in attitude. Or simply that their work quality has fallen off noticeably.

Sometimes the reason is clear and other times it might not be so obvious. The causes could be vast, and you may never uncover the underlying catalysts. However, you can try to better understand the employee by encouraging them to be introspective.  

It’s helpful to first understand the various stages of employee engagement.

2. The categories of employees

Employees typically fall into one of three categories:

  • The engaged: They are into their work and are jazzed about their company.
  • The not engaged: They show up and do their work, but they lack the passion and the energy to give discretionary effort. The silent majority are unengaged. They take up the largest percentage of the three groupings, according to several studies.
  • The actively disengaged: These individuals make up the smallest percentage of the three groupings. They are disinterested, distracted and perhaps looking to move on.

The goal is to identify where on the spectrum is your rutted employee and begin to lead them on a path toward higher engagement.

Start by helping the employee remember why they are at the company and in what ways their role forwards the organization. It’s easy to forget that people get mired in their day-to-day responsibilities and can lose sight of why they joined the organization in the first place.

Instead of thinking in terms of solely extrinsic motivators, refocus more on intrinsic motivators and encourage them to reflect on their role.

Is there any project or new responsibility that will allow them to reconnect with the larger why they are with the company? That why can intrinsically drive and motivate us to stay engaged in our day-to-day work.

Most people want somewhere to go, and they want to grow. If they’re not getting that, it can harm productivity and cause an employee to fall into a rut.

Intrinsic motivation has a lot of contributing factors. Does the individual have clear goals that push them slightly outside the comfort zone of their skill set?

For the most part, people enjoy challenges and that leads to increased motivation, increased happiness and increased engagement. You want the goals to be reachable but cause them to stretch.

If someone’s challenge in their role is substantially larger than their skill set, it can be demoralizing and anxiety-provoking. And if the role is set too far below their skill set, it can lead to boredom and disengagement. Read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work on flow for more research on this topic.

3. Communicate regularly

Lack of communication may have contributed to the employee falling into a rut and improving communication in the workplace is a key to reversing that.

A disillusioned employee may find it acceptable to let down a boss if they feel like a pawn in a game. But when you show them that you are partners and equals in the process, then you encourage employees to take accountability in their roles.

It is important for the leader to have regular conversations with the employee. It may be a quick five-minute chat or more formal sessions.

Once-a-year feedback does not cut it. There needs to be regular feedback from both parties, feedback that is balanced with both praise and constructive criticism. Are we moving the needle toward your goal? Why or why not? What barriers can I remove or mitigate to better enable you to meet these goals?

That communication is key, because the old saying that no news is good news is demotivating and can be quite harmful in a work environment. 

4. Make stress productive

A little bit of stress, i.e., eustress, supports performance and stimulates productivity. Our brains are wired for negativity for good reason: to ensure our survival. Then again, too much stress, i.e., distress, is counterproductive.

If you don’t offer employees transparent, authentic feedback, then you open the door to employees buying into secondhand negative information and rumors, which can adversely feed productivity problems.

Having authentic discussions can help with appropriate stress and getting all parties working toward a common goal. These conversations can be uncomfortable, but people need direct feedback and they need to hear the truth.

5. Don’t rely on rewards; feed needs

Practice empathy and compassion in order to cultivate transparency and communication with your team.

People have a personal need to be heard and understood, meaningfully involved and supported. They also have practical needs, for example how to approach a task or project, or plan a change.

These needs are important. Research studies have shown just giving rewards is not the only way to solve the issue. People are much more likely to stay with a company when they are intrinsically motivated in their role. They are given some autonomy and have a say, they are involved and they are trusted to run with their ideas.

6. Cultivate culture

At Google, engineers can devote up to 20 percent of their time to side projects not directly related to their role, which is one reason why it remains one of the most innovative companies in the world. This effort led to the creation of Gmail. The culture made this possible.

There is something self-satisfying about the desire for mastery of your situation. Intrinsic motivation is a powerful characteristic across all cultures and societies, and you can’t cultivate that motivation if you do not have an atmosphere of safety.

The Google engineers knew they were safe to pursue other projects. But if the atmosphere at your company is one that produces social pain, such as public rejection where a leader criticizes an employee in front of an entire team, that’s the wrong kind of culture, and it will have a negative impact on the entire group.

It compromises psychological safety, which has been shown to be the number one predictive indicator of high-performing teams.

In other words, members want to feel safe to take risks and to be vulnerable in front of each other. They want to be able to say “Hey, I have an idea” or “I don’t think that will work” without fear it will hurt their career or tarnish relationships.

Psychological safety produces innovation and creativity. If you don’t have that, people will be afraid to voice opinions. Looking to stay safe, you’ll have crickets in meetings and people looking to leave at 5 o’clock on the dot. And you’ll have people eventually falling into a rut.

7. Bottom line

If you want to elevate the engagement of employees, to get them out of their rut, intrinsic motivation is the answer. And it is an art, not a science.

People want to do things that matter, and if employees do not see how their role is connected to the high-level strategic objectives of the firm, it can lead to stagnation and allow the negativity bias to take over.

Transparency and authenticity are paramount in building trust between leadership and employees. Without that, the brain’s default negativity bias is bound to take over. Again, this is where communication is key. The common thread is having a two-way dialogue with employees. They should understand that you care and are invested in them.  

You must also allow for some mistakes in the name of growth and development. If the person is making the same mistakes over and over, then that’s a different story. But show them you trust them, give them autonomy and they are less likely to stay in that rut.

Micromanaging elevates stress. In most cases, it drives people crazy. The best employers get out of the way and let their people shine.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can maximize your workforce and improve your company culture, download our complimentary e-magazine: The Insperity guide to employee engagement.

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What do you do when sponsoring a foreign national is your best — or only — option?

The process for a U.S. company sponsoring a foreign national is complex, and not knowing the rules and regulations could prove costly and time consuming.

It’s not simply a matter of verifying a job candidate’s documentation and completing an application. You must satisfy a number of government requirements before sponsoring a foreign national to be employed in the United States.

The type of documentation, the time and the resources involved vary depending on the vacant position and the type of visa sought. Be cautious that the requirements can change as lawmakers update existing immigration-related laws and regulations. Always review with legal counsel to oversee the process and to answer any questions about foreign national sponsorship and the changing laws that affect employment.

Given the time and monetary cost of obtaining a work visa, this may not be the most efficient avenue to pursue if local options are available. But if your recruiting efforts fail to produce a viable local candidate, then there are a number of variables to consider.

What common types of visas are there?

Visa categories cover a broad range of non-immigrant or temporary visas depending on the specific kind of work, but some of the most common are:

  1. H-1B – Non-immigrant, employment-based visa for temporary workers

    Duration: Starts off for up to three years but can be extended for an additional three years with the option to extend to temporary status if the company is willing to sponsor the employee’s citizenship.

  2. J-1 – For researchers, scholars or student/exchange visitors

    Duration: There are different types of J1 visas. The duration of each depends on the program. The work performed must be part of the participants approved program.

    For example, a short-term scholar program may be granted six months, while a professor or research scholar may have a duration of five years.

  3. F-1 – For students

    Duration: The work visa will depend on form I-94 and I-20.

    Grants permission to work part time on campus (20 hours or less per week) and are eligible to apply for off-campus employment – OPT (see below) – in their field of study.

  4. OPT – Optional practical training is temporary employment directly related to a F-1 student’s area of study

    Pre-completion OPT is limited to 20 hours per week while school is in session. Post-completion OPT students may work full time.

    Duration: Per authorization documents

    Typically these are for students in certain science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, who may apply for a 24-month extension of OPT employment authorization following graduation if they meet certain conditions.

  5. CPT – Curricular practical training or temporary authorized training

    Duration: As directed by program and authorization documents

    CPT is very similar to OPT, except CPT work can be either full-time or part-time, and a signed cooperative agreement or a letter from the employer is required.

    OPT and CPT can later be transferred by the employer if the employer wants to sponsor these visa holders for H-1B visas.

  6. H-4 – For the spouse or dependents of an H-1B visa holder

    Duration: Generally, H-4 visas expire automatically if the associated H-1B expires or is not renewed.

    H-4 visa holders may work full time if the associated H-1B is valid.

  7. L-1 – Transfer of a foreign employee to work in an U.S. office of the same employer. For those in management, executive or specialized knowledge positions.   

    Duration: Starts off for three years and can be extendable to a maximum of five years

    L-1 visa holders cannot transfer to another employer. If they resign or get fired, they must leave the country. If employed in a managerial or executive position for one continuous year in the preceding three years (in the U.S. or outside the U.S.), you can apply for green card in EB1C category immediately.
How do I sponsor a foreign national?

Follow these seven steps to successfully identify, recruit, vet and sponsor a non-U.S. citizen:

1. Determine what position the hire will fill

The type of job will have a bearing on how much red tape is involved and the type of visa required by the employee.

First, decide what roles within the company you will fill with foreign nationals. While there are dozens of possible fields, the majority of visas are granted to applicants within six specific disciplines.

Recent yearly data by the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) shows most of the approved H1-B petitions went to computer-related occupations by a more than 4-to-1 margin over the next highest occupations of architecture, engineering and surveying, education, administration and medicine/health.

2. Conduct recruiting process, background checks and verification of documentation

Determine the proper immigration visa program (H-1B, L-1, etc.) for your recruiting needs. The most important question: Will the employee become a permanent resident or is this a temporary hire?

Conduct the same rigorous recruiting process used to identify qualified domestic candidates. Allot additional time for your international recruitment efforts, as it may take longer to verify foreign college degrees and other documentation. This verification process can take weeks to months, depending on the country.

An H-1B visa is the most common, often called a U.S. work visa. These are granted to eligible temporary workers with employer sponsorship. H-1B visa sponsorship cannot be offered until the candidate’s background check is complete.

U.S. companies may hire any foreign national as long as they are already in the country and are eligible and authorized to work in the United States. Federal law requires all employees complete an I-9 form for legal identification. All foreign hires must also have a valid work visa from the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.

3. Apply for a work visa

Consult an immigration attorney.

H-1B visas are very popular because they allow the holder to live and work in the U.S. while seeking permanent resident status. Historically, the quota has been filled quickly.

4. Obtain Department of Labor certification

Before formally applying for a candidate’s visa with the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS), your next step is obtaining a certification from the US Department of Labor.

This is a complex process. In a nutshell, requesting certification means that the employer has made the case to the Dept. of Labor that all efforts to recruit a U.S. worker for the position have been exhausted and that the identified candidate meets the skills and qualifications required for the role.

The certification required will depend on the type of business, but typically takes eight to 12 weeks. Contact USCIS to verify which certification will suit your needs.

Part of this step is the submission of a Labor Condition Applications by the employer to the Department of Labor via Form 9035. The LCA details the conditions employers must meet in the process.

5. Comply with insurance requirements

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, there have been significant changes to the health care industry and some of those changes affect H-1B visa holders.

Foreign nationals are not obligated to maintain coverage, but once they become a “resident alien,” as defined by federal laws, H1-B visa holders are subject to ACA laws.  

Insurance obligations are the responsibility of the employee, but companies may assist in the process or offer company insurance.

6. Meet salary and benefit requirements

The salary for an H-1B employee cannot be less than the typical wage for the position or occupation. The employee must be given the same benefits as other employees in a similar position at the company.

The employer, not the employee, is responsible for all costs associated with filing the application for an H-1B petition. The employer may not charge these costs to the employee or seek reimbursement from the employee.

While some of the fees for H-1B applications are standard, such as the basic filing fee ($460) and fraud prevention and detection fee ($500), others are based on how many workers the filing company employs and can vary from hundreds to several thousand dollars. Typically, the cost to an employer will run between $2,500 and $7,000.

7.   Cross your fingers

The processing time for H-1B visas varies.

Applicants can seek an expedited decision by paying a $1,410 fee for premium processing and have a decision in approximately 15 calendar days for premium processing.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services had suspended this service for three months before announcing Feb. 19 it had resumed processing for petitions filed on or before Dec. 21, 2018.

Don’t let the complexity of employment laws frighten you. Make sure you’ve got your T’s crossed and I’s dotted when it comes to the law. Learn more by downloading our free e-book Employment Law: Are You Putting Your Business at Risk?

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