HR Systems

Sherrie Suski, HR Systems

The choices in HR systems today are mind boggling.  Everyone wants to get on the band wagon and sell you something that will supposedly make your life easier, is user friendly, (read good UX), allows you to crunch large volumes of data in minutes.  HR systems can be as basic as an HRIS or as complicated as a performance management system with 360 review capability and goal planning and accomplishments.

Let’s talk first about functionality and next week about what you want to look for.

HRIS

An HRIS is a Human Resources Information System.  

This is your basic system that tracks all the pertinent information about your employees.  

HRIS solutions typically track:

  • Training of employees
  • Open enrollment and management of benefits
  • Compensation management
  • Human resources reporting
  • Self-service for applicants, employees, and managers
  • Personal information, Pay information, title, job grade etc..

Performance Management Systems

You may also have a separate Performance System.  A Performance Management System normally includes performance appraisal data and productivity information data. Documentation of employee performance and of how the performance was measured and reported is critical to your employees understanding this type of system.  Many of these systems come with the capability to offer:

  • Performance appraisals
  • 360 reviews where an employee is reviewed by the manager, their peers and their subordinates
  • goal planning, setting and accomplishments
  • Succession and development plans

Applicant Tracking Systems

Applicant Tracking Systems are systems that allow you to create a user/applicant experience.

The application process becomes paperless with an applicant tracking system, so it is simple to store, recall, or purge applications from the system with just a few clicks. This helps to ensure that no critical information is lost and all necessary information is readily available for open positions now or in the future.

Compensation systems

Ideally your compensation system should track all aspects of your employee’s compensation including:

  • Base salary
  • Bonuses
  • Incentive comp
  • Long term incentive comp
  • Equity/stock/RSU’s etc..

It is helpful if your Performance Appraisal system feeds directly into your compensation system, meaning less manual input or expensive integration for you.

Be very careful in selecting your systems.  Spend at least 3x the time you allotted to understanding and testing the system before you commit.  On a personal note, we have had a very bad experience with Cornestone.  While their systems have a lot of capability, you would literally need to be a system admin in order to build out the back end which they require you to do.  They are the farthest thing from user friendly with very poor UX design.

Microlearning

Sherrie Suski, Microlearning

Micro learning is the new buzz word in the Learning and Development Community.  It is defined as 3-5 minute short, focused learning sessions that are designed to meet a specific learning outcome.  As with many buzz words, the term is often misused and misunderstood. Many have taken it to mean that all learning should be conducted in bite sized chunks as demonstrated in the graphic below which indicates that humans have only 24 minutes per week to devote to actual learning, and that is based on a 40 hour work week, which is a thing of the past for many of us routinely working 60 hour work weeks.   Others will site the growth of the millennial workforce that will make up over 75% of the total workforce by 2025 and their much talked about short attention span of 90 seconds.

However, it is unlikely that complex new skills can be acquired in 24 minutes a week, but new skills acquired can be reinforced, practiced and lead to a performance gain in 24 minutes a week.  This is where micro learning really needs to be focused.  On the refinement and not on the acquisition.  Millennials, right alongside other generations, can be uber focused for longer periods of time when the content is engaging and rewarding.

Microlearning modules are best focused on moving right to the point without all the history behind the why, which should be captured in the original training.  Video should be an important and engaging component, as should real life scenarios.

Microlearning can be an excellent approach to training for simple tasks as it improves retention and fills in performance gaps and is certainly more cost efficient.  However, it should be used in conjunction with, not as a substitute for, more traditional types of learning as it is not suitable for complex tasks and can easily run the risk of seeming fragmented. 

Creating an Environment of Engagement

Sherrie Suski, Environment of Engagement

With the first quarter of 2017 only visible in the rear-view mirror, as unbelievable as that seems, it’s the perfect time to re-evaluate what we want to accomplish in our organizations by the end of this year.

Employee engagement continues to be the buzz word of the decade. Constituents quote the statistics that engaged employees are more than 3 times as productive than the unengaged or 10x as productive as the actively disengaged.

Creating an environment of engagement and learning

To understand this concept, we need to understand the true meaning of the word empathy.  Empathy, as defined by the dictionary, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.   Borrowing a term from Big Data, it means focusing on the user experience or UX.  It will require designing work for the employee through the lens of user experience (UX) with the goal being able to help the employees feel good about the work they are doing and have a solid understanding of the connection to the greater organizational goals.

It has little to do with nerf guns, skateboards and other “tools” used to sell an environment of engagement and much more to do with spending the time to understand what is important to the individual actually performing the job.  Maybe it’s ergonomic, like a chair with better back support, maybe it’s auditory, like a pair of headphones to tune out the chatter around them, maybe it’s offering a rotation of job duties to stave of boredom and the repetitive nature of the job.

Adopting a Management Style that supports engagement

Equally important to creating the right environment is fostering the right management style to support a team environment. A team is a group of talented people who work together to accomplish something beyond their individual best. In order to work together they need to be supported by managers who allows them to thrive. This style is built by leaders who understand how to communicate the vision of the company in a way that engages and encourages everyone to work towards that goal.

Leaders who are effective communicators, develop a sense of community, and show authentic transparency and concern for others will be able to build high performing and engaged teams of talented people.”

Creating jobs that support engagement

Go beyond traditional training classes that support skills based on-the-job training and look for peer-to-peer opportunities.  investigate ways to allow employees to “try out” another position for a day or even a few hours.   This has multiple advantages.  Not only does it build a more well-rounded and cross trained workforce, but it circles back to our definition of empathy, to understand and share the feelings of another.  A workforce who has had the opportunity to “stand in another’s shoes” is a workforce that is better equipped to understand the full business cycle.

How to Properly Terminate an Employee

sherrie-suski-parting-waysYou may have done everything right.  You may have given verbal warnings, written warnings, worked through an honest Performance Improvement Plan and coached and counseled, but there comes time when it becomes obvious that your employee is either unwilling to or incapable of performing the essential job functions.  

It’s a hard decision to come to as all of would like to see our subordinates succeed and when one fails, it is a failure, of sorts, for you and your whole team. There are a few steps you can take, though to make it easiest on yourself and the employee you are separating.

 

No Surprises

If you have done everything right, it will not come as a surprise to your employee that the time has come for them to move on.  They may be sad, but they will not stare at you with a look of incredulousness.  If you believe your employee will be surprised, revisit your process, because you have not done all you should have.

Focus on Behavior, not the Person

This really does make a difference.  It is not the person you cannot tolerate (or if it is the person, then pretend that it is not) it is the behavior.  Acknowledge that not everyone is good at everything and that there may be positions where this person would be much better suited.

Be unapologetically Truthful

Be matter of fact when discussing their shortcomings.  Outline the reasons you have come to the decision to terminate their employment.  You don’t need to be sorry about it or apologize for your decision.  Although it may seem kind to leave the door open for them to appeal your decision, it really is not.

Offer to Help

Not that someone being terminated will usually take you up on this, but it’s a nice gesture.  You can offer to review a resume, assure them that only dates of employment and title of last position will be released.  Assure them that you will not contest unemployment, assuming you will not.

Don’t give References

Resist the urge to offer or agree to give them a reference.  Although it sounds odd, I have had more people than not ask for references, verbal or written, after hearing they will be terminated.  I usually tell them that they would not want the reference I would give.
Carried out correctly, although never pleasant, a termination does not have to be unduly uncomfortable.  I have gotten plenty of hugs and even a few Christmas cards from employees I have had to terminate.  It can be done with dignity and respect.

The Performance Improvement Process

sherrie suski-employee performanceThere are many philosophies and lines of thought on carrying out a performance improvement process with your employees. Probably as many as there are in terms of how to discipline your kids and, honestly, there is probably some overlap.  The root of a consistent, equitable, defensible performance improvement process is communication and documentation.

Document and communicate what you are trying to achieve

It starts with ensuring that you know what behavior and goals you are trying to achieve and that those are DOCUMENTED and then COMMUNICATED to your employees.  It would surprise you to know how often I hear that Susie is not following the rules or that Tom is not meeting his goals, when, in fact, the manager has never sat down with Susie or Tom to explain the rules to them, help them to understand the goals and ask if they have any questions.

Catch infractions early

The next part that always catches me off guard is when the manager comes into my office and is ready to terminate someone that day.  All of these offenses and infractions have been building up for months and now the manager simply cannot go another minute with this employee.  My first question is always “Have you COMMUNICATED these issues to the employee and DOCUMENTED them in writing.  Nine times out of 10, the answer is “no”.  Conflict is uncomfortable, but a necessary part of managerial life and especially necessary in a performance improvement process.  It doesn’t have to be exceptionally unpleasant or result in a screaming match; in fact it can be very matter of fact and held in a normal tone of voice.  If your employee is not doing what you need them to do, you have to let them know and the sooner the better.  Do yourself a favor and get into the habit of documenting your conversations so you will have notes to look back on.

Stay consistent

Most performance improvement processes consist of some combination of friendly reminders, verbal warnings, first written warnings, final or second written warning and terminations.  Exactly what your process is, is less important than two points 1) that you fully communicate the policy and 2) that you remain consistent.  Inconsistent application of your policy is the easiest way to lose in front of the EEOC or in litigation.  You may not mean to be discriminatory, but if you are not consistent, you run the risk of treating a certain protected class unfairly.

Follow up

Lastly, follow up. Similar to the first time you tell your child to pick up their clothes, unless you have the world’s most remarkable child, it isn’t going to happen the first time you ask and remain consistent for the rest of their life.  Just because you ask your employee to change their behavior, it is going to be necessary for you to remind them.  Compliment them if they are improving and bring to their attention when they start to backslide.

Performance Improvement is all about helping your employees to succeed and become valued members of your team!

Delivering an Effective Performance Appraisal

Sherrie Suski performance appraisalsSo, what you may have thought was the hard part of a Performance Appraisal and Merit Increase process is behind you.  You have written the appraisal for each of your employees and thoroughly thought about and distributed the merit increase amounts and any warranted market adjustments and promotions.  As much as you may want to just ignore this next step or to send your subordinate an appraisal by e-mail, resist that urge.  This is actually the MOST important part of the process. Below are some guidelines to help you deliver the most effective performance appraisals:

  • DO include examples and specific information under each assessment category
    • This will make it easier to stay on track and discuss all the pertinent points
  • DON’T use the canned verbiage- even if it is easy
    • It won’t effectively deliver your points and your subordinates will know that you did not take the time necessary to really think about them and their accomplishments
  • DO take the time necessary to do a thoughtful job on each appraisal
  • DO review each subordinates’ accomplishments
    • not just those that have occurred in the last quarter, but throughout the year.
  • Don’t rate everyone a 5 or even a 3 ( on a 1-5 rating scale).
    • It’s always easier to deliver good news than bad, but take your responsibility as a manager seriously and rate your employees realistically.
    • If you do need to rate someone a 1 or a 2- have specific examples ready to point to as the reason why you feel they are not performing adequately.
  • DO provide a copy to your subordinate and let them review it prior to meeting to discuss
    • This allows them time to digest and process your comments
  • DO leave time for questions and open discussion.
  • DO schedule uninterrupted time, usually an hour, for the discussion with your subordinate.
  • DO provide a summary at the end of the review that pulls all of the components together
  • Do talk about growth opportunities for next year and what you would like your subordinate to achieve, as well as goals they may have for themselves.

Done correctly, the performance appraisal discussion can open the door for better year round communication between you and your team!

 

Writing a Performance Appraisal

 

sherrie suski_performance appraisalWhether they are anniversary review dates or focal review dates, many managers dread sitting down to write their subordinates’ Performance Appraisals.  They aren’t sure what to say, how to say it and don’t want to disappoint or to give undeserved praise.  Below are some tips for writing effective appraisals.

Think- Spend some time thinking about what message you want to deliver.  What were some of their major accomplishments during the last year?  How do they compare to others on your team or to others in the organization?  What would you like to see them improve on?

Use specifics– where you can, give specific examples to support your ratings.  All ratings that are above or below a 3 on 1-5 rating scale should have comments.  State specifically what the positive impact of a project was or the negative consequences of continuously missed deadlines.  Employees need examples that they can relate to before you know that understanding has taken place.

Don’t use generic verbiage– Many software programs today will allow you to pick your comments from a drop down menu.  Resist the urge to do this.  It sends the wrong message to your subordinates, that you didn’t take the time to think of something unique to say about them.  It doesn’t have to be eloquent.  It does have to be honest and professional.

Keep it Professional– This is a document that will live in the employee’s file.  It says as much about you, the manager, as it does about the employee.  Do not use inappropriate language and do not use words like “lazy” or “doesn’t care”.  Those are judgements and do little to help the employee know what to improve upon.

Give honest ratings– not everyone is a 5 on a 1-5 scale, nor is everyone a 5 in all categories.  As a rule of thumb, about 10% of your team could be rated 5’s.  If you have performance issues, now is the right time to address these.  Do not give someone a 4 on a performance appraisal and expect to terminate them for performance the next month.

Be confident– When writing your assessment, be confidant in the thoughts you want to express and the words you use to express them.  You are the manager and your team is looking to you for guidance.  

Offer growth- no one wants to be in a stagnant position.  Everyone deserves the right to have the opportunity to grow either within their position or within the Company.  Let them know what areas you see that they could improve in, or that you could offer to get them involved in, in order to broaden their skill set.

Spend the time to write an honest and thoughtful performance appraisal and you will be rewarded with a staff that is continually improving!

Staying Productive While Working From Home

sherrie suski work from home

Work-from-home days can be something to look forward to without all the distractions in the office. However, for some people, maintaining the same level of productivity that you would have in the office can prove to be a challenge.

The reality is that our brains are generally hardwired to think of our homes as places of rest and relaxation, so it can be hard to focus and be truly productive. But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make your days working from home fully productive, fantastic work days. There a few tricks that you can use to make sure that you’re working at your fullest capacity at home:

Make a “Work” Space

This is especially true if you’re working a remote position. One of the most important parts of getting into work mode, is to make it feel like a place of work. If you have the space to do so, set up a desk or table to operate as your at- home office. Creating a separate space for work will help you to remove yourself from the “relaxation” feel of your home. Whatever you do, try not to work from your bed. Not only will you be tempted to sleep, but you will also be bringing work stresses into your resting space. No good will come from that.

Get into a “Work” Routine

Just because you’re home, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat your day like any other workday. Wake up early (instead of rolling over and turning on your computer at 9am). Take a shower, eat breakfast, drink coffee, and most importantly get out of your pajamas. Staying in your lounge clothes will keep you in the sleepy, restful headspace all day long.

Consider Leaving the House

This may feel counterintuitive to the entire concept of “working from home”, but finding a different space to work could be hugely beneficial, especially if you don’t have the space to create a work station in your home.  Consider setting up shop in a cafe or coffee shop that has wifi. Surrounding yourself with other people who are working will push you to keep yourself on task, and it was found that

“A moderate level of noise not only enhances creative problem-solving but also leads to a greater adoption of innovative products in certain settings.” (source)

Communicate!

Staying in contact with your coworkers when you are out of the office is important. Make sure that you make the effort to touch base with the people that you work with a few times during the day. Every company has a different preferred mode of communication (Slack. Gchat, Skype, email, etc), and you should try to use multiple communication styles throughout the day. Not only will it keep you engaged with your coworkers, and keep you updated on the events of the day, it will also reassure everyone that you are readily available, even when you’re not in the office.

 

For more tips, check out these great resources on working from home: LifeHack.org, Forbes,  Inc.com

Find Success Through Better Time Management

sherrie suski time management world clocks

It’s no secret that time management is an important part of creating a happier, more successful life overall.  Everyone, no matter what their career path, will have a moment where they feel as though their workload is unmanageable or overwhelming. While that moment may be fleeting for some, it could very well be a persistent feeling for others. The key to finding success rests in how one responds to that feeling of inundation at work.

A healthy approach to time management will help workloads feel more manageable, instill a better sense of work-life balance, and ultimately lead to a more successful career overall.

 

Why is Time Management Important for Your Career?

For one, there’s only so much time in a day. Our time is limited, and it’s important to use available time wisely. Deadlines wait for no one, and superiors will make note of your ability to make deadlines within the allotted time constraints. When time is managed poorly, quality of work may suffer, or worse, work may not be completed at all.  It will be difficult to excel in any career path if you’re experiencing difficulty getting work finished.

Time management also allows for you to create a timeline to meet larger career-oriented goals. True success never happens overnight. Rather, success comes from careful planning and small steps that will eventually cumulate to become your end goals. Mastering time management is not only important when it comes to plotting necessary, smaller goals on a timeline, it helps you follow through with those goals in an efficient manner.

 

So How Does One Get Better at Managing Their Time?

There are innumerable lists of tips and tricks available to increase your ability to manage your time. But the most important thing to understand is that true time management comes from a complete change of perspective. In order to be successful at managing your time, you have to make a promise to yourself to remain committed to the changes you make. It’s about changing your long-term habits, and focusing on making a positive change. Keeping that overall change in mental state in mind, start with these two major steps to better time management:

Start Planning Your Weeks

There are certain things that we will always have to do on a daily (or weekly) basis. On Sunday nights, set aside some time to work on your calendar. Schedule out specific chunks of time for checking your email. (Once in the morning, once before & after lunch, and once around 3:30pm is a schedule that may work for you. Tailor this schedule to your specific job.) By setting aside specific times for your email, you avoid the timesink that can come from being constantly connected to your email. Schedule in lunch, coffee breaks, and any recurring meetings as well.  When all of the recurring tasks are blocked in, schedule in all of the tasks that you already know need to be completed that week. This may need to be adjusted based on what happens during the week, and that leads us to our next topic:

Learn to Prioritize

In most work environments, it’s easy to get caught in the revolving door of tasks that land on your desk. It’s important to determine which tasks are the most important, and stick to working on/completing those tasks first. Those crucial projects should never fall to the wayside of the smaller one-off tasks that come your way. Get the tasks with the highest priority checked off of your list of things to do that day, and work your way down to the smaller tasks.

Time Management is hugely important to your overall success. Start with these two steps, and then branch out. Find other tips that work for you, and then, find your success!


For sources and additional resources, please see the following articles: CreativityPost, Career Success , Forbes